Character(s): Sakura Haruno
Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me.
50_shinobi Theme: Theme #46 – Brick wall
Summary: "Haruno, Sakura. Classification: Missing-nin. Activity: Akatsuki. Defection from Konoha: Three years ago. Reason for defection: Unknown. Would you like to tell me why?"
A/N: Lost on the path of life, I was feeling a little angsty…and yes, this is unapologetically my twist on canon. Sakura/Itachi if you squint hard enough…and are patient…but it's mostly Sakura-centric.
Haruno Sakura doesn't know if the rhythmic sound is the water dropping from the stone ceiling or her red red blood hitting the floor of this dimly illuminated room. Hidden somewhere in the depths of ANBU HQ, blurriness creeps from the edges of her vision as she tries to lift her head. But the attempt sends bolts of pain shooting down her spine and in around her head, white stars dancing behind her dull green eyes.
She struggles with a breath and then with a second. She tries to calm her fraying nerves, the nauseous churn in her stomach. Something hot and viscous is sliding down her brow and she blinks, feels the harsh sting and registers that it must be a bleeding, deep gash just above her left eyebrow.
Now she remembers and a bitter smile curves her cracked lips. The steel kiss of a kunai. Chakra depletion. Interrogation. No soul deep consolations. No more pretty illusions to hide behind. Lift the darkened veil and really look.
What she sees is splattered with a carmine so deep it's almost black. What she sees is an inner reflection of what she is now. Broken. Bleeding. But not conquered. Never that. And she tries to smile—maybe it'll help ease the ache inside her chest—but her lip breaks open and she tastes the red metallic flood.
Distantly, Sakura reminisces of days and months and years long lost in the fabric of time, where lies blur into truths and truths melt into stark realities. There are no longer any thin lines of separation, no more denials of what is and what isn't.
No more Akatsuki and Sakura.
Now, it's just her.
"Haruno, Sakura. Classification: Missing-nin. Activity: Akatsuki. Defection from Konoha: Three years ago. Reason for defection: Unknown. Would you like to tell me why?"
"Not really." She replies dryly, voice barely above a whisper.
She knows him and his tactics, his talent for mental torture.
But he is nothing in the face of Uchiha Itachi, of the real masked leader of Akatsuki, Uchiha Madara.
His attempts to get inside her head will always fail because in her two years with missing-nins garbed in red clouds on black, she has honed her ability to protect her mind from unwanted visitors, to block and defend her most secret of secrets by erecting impenetrable, unbreakable walls. He will not get in and obtain what he desires. Her most secret of secrets are all her own and she will not allow anyone to take them.
"Why the defection, Sakura?"
Her tightly bound hands flex under the constant strain of the chakra ties. "Morino-san, I'd like to return to my cell."
As if not hearing her, he continues with his interrogation. "Did you at any time reveal confidential information about Konoha to the enemy?"
"I am the enemy or have you forgotten?" Sarcasm slithers from her words as she watches Ibiki clench his jaw.
"Where is Akatsuki based?"
They have been through this countless times already and like all the times before, cold silence is her answer.
His partner, who has been quiet until now, suddenly seizes her long dirty pink locks and wrenches her head back. She hears a loud crack in her neck, ignores the hard twist of stiff, abused muscle as pain flares white hot through her body.
"You would do well to speak, Haruno." He hisses. "There are always other…less savory methods we could use."
They've already beaten her, tried to probe her mind with chakra as she lay immobilized by a mind numbing, paralyzing drug, submerged her in water where she nearly drowned, and played their little mind games on her where she's died a thousand deaths. She dares them to try whatever method they wish.
He leers at her before thrusting his hand inside her tattered shirt and grasping her breasts.
Ibiki's hands abruptly slam against the wooden table, the sound like angry thunder. "Get away from her. It's bastards like you who make this job unbearable."
He does so quickly, immediately feeling a dark chill that doesn't belong to Morino.
Sakura is frighteningly still, but her calm voice spills like fine, deadly poison. "Touch me like that again and I'll make sure you and this building cave into the ground."
He slaps her hard and her head whips to the side. Blood trickles from her mouth, but she can see the fear in his eyes. He knows she can do it, will find a damn way to do it if she's serious enough.
"Shut up, you traitorous bitch. Betraying your own village to go fuck a bunch of deranged freaks!" He spits on her, disgust twisting his young face. But it isn't enough to hide his fear. She can still smell it on him. "Fucking Akatsuki whore!"
Sakura has been called worse and dealt with things this little shit can only dream of. His accusations fall on deaf ears as she flexes her sore jaw.
She hears a disgruntled murmur before the door slams shut and she's left alone with the commanding officer of torture and interrogation.
"You'll be executed in three days if you don't talk." He says and Sakura notices how the scars on his face seem deeper and more jagged. "Are you really okay with that? You, the once prized apprentice of Tsunade and one of the best medic nin in all five nations, are you really willing to die a traitor to your village?"
Sakura measures him with green eyes that have seen far too much than her twenty two years should ever see. "Konoha was lost to me years ago."
Surrounded by layers of shadows, Sakura tries to ease her discomfort and hurts, but knows that it is nearly impossible to do so on a cold hard cot with three sides of stone for her viewing pleasure. Time is lost to her. As each day blurs into the next, she's lost track of how long she's been here. Two, maybe three weeks? The iron bars offer no way out, not that it'll matter because they pretty much drained her of chakra anyway, leaving just enough to keep her alive.
And then she thinks back on the past three and a half years because everything began six months prior to her official defection from Konoha. Everything came crumbling down the moment she was forced to accept the mission from Danzo, then the newly appointed Hokage by those senile old bastards five minutes after Tsunade was kicked from her title of Godaime following an unsuccessful invasion by Akatsuki.
A year they had spent rebuilding what was lost and damaged; repairing the foundations of what made Konoha such a formidable hidden village.
She lost most of it in one day. The rest disappeared a week later when hunter-nins, courtesy of Danzo himself, tried to bring her head back.
Sai, as emotionally crippled as he was, didn't have the heart to kill her. Neither did she have the will to keep running, but one hard don't-you-fucking-quit look from him spurred her into a fight for survival. They retreated, two ANBU less, and left her with a cold hard truth.
She had become a Konoha missing-nin the moment her family, her friends were threatened if she did not accept the direct assignment.
It wasn't the failure of the mission. No, she was doomed the very second she read the scroll, detailing her medical integration into Sunagakure, followed by its slow, poisonous death by her hands. She was the perfect person to do it too. Who would ever suspect the loyal and caring student of both Hatake Kakashi and Tsunade?
But how could she decimate a whole hidden village by spreading an incurable, quick, and silent killer? How could she have that on her conscious and not go insane from it all? And so her mission was damned the moment her heart got involved.
A dull echo suddenly thrums through the dingy cell and Sakura realizes that it was her fist crashing against the stone wall. She distantly stares at the knuckles of her right hand, the flesh bruised and weeping rivulets of fresh blood. And as the dark memories crawl back behind that impenetrable wall, she wonders if her family and friends survived the one failure that made all the difference. She thinks they have. Danzo would be inviting too much suspicion if those close to her had all suddenly ended up dead.
Do they hate her, she wonders. Do they believe her a traitor to Konoha? A whore of the Akatsuki? She won't blame them if they do. They don't know the truth after all and she is certain that Danzo has wiped clean any and all traces of her classified mission. No one knows except her and him…and Uchiha Itachi.
Despite her pure intentions in trying to save them, she has seen and heard truths about her once beloved village. The rose colored glasses have come off and Konoha's true colors have been revealed, dark and light, past and present.
And though she realizes that much of it is Danzo's intricate web of lies and manipulation, everyone has eyes and should they decide to lift the veil, they will see bone deep and realize what hidden villages are truly built upon.
Death. Sacrifice. Blood. Ambition. Power. Manipulation.
And even though some will argue—a long ago image of blonde hair, blue eyes, and wide grins flickers in her mind's eye—that that isn't true, that it is built upon love and heart and soul, upon compromise, unity, and understanding, Sakura will not be taken for a fool again. She will not believe in those naïve ideals again because she has lost too much, experienced too much for her to ever have faith in Konoha again.
Three years as a missing-nin has opened her eyes to the thousand shades of gray. It has doused her soul with scalding hot water and burned it permanently with scars of what could have been but never was.
She has made a life with Akatsuki however, and in spite of her initial misgivings, she feels at home with them, happy to treat their injuries or offer comfort. Each and every one of them has their own fascinating, tragic stories. And she is more than willing to drown in theirs' than her own.
Deranged and freaky some of them might be, but she has grown to love them. And she hopes, in their own little ways, they have grown to love her.
Being interrogated and tortured by those she once called friends, by a place she once called home is heartbreakingly and terribly ironic.
She coughs up blood after a black booted foot connects with her stomach.
"Akatsuki's base? Where is it?"
Their repeated attempts to probe her mind for critical information have all failed. All they can retrieve are childhood memories, when flowers and boys and hair were all the things that mattered to her. So now, they have resorted to physically torturing her within an inch of her life before sending in a medic to piece her back together.
Even though it hurts like hell, this is nothing compared to five seconds caught within Itachi's Tsukuyomi, and so she doesn't say a word.
She can barely open her eyes, but she recognizes the voice. Damn, she must look horrendous to the Hyuuga heiress. She might as well be one of Hidan's sacrificial victims to his Jashin. She knows her blood is everywhere, her clothes in tatters and stained, her face bruised and swelled, bleeding from lacerations. Some ribs are broken, some fingers too and damn, she's still coughing up blood. She's surprised Hinata even recognizes her.
"It is you, isn't it?"
Sakura neither confirms nor denies it. Hell, she can barely move it fucking hurts so much. But then she feels something drip onto her swollen face, followed by more and the gentle soothing touch of healing chakra.
Hinata is crying, but Sakura doesn't know whether to feel angry or guilty about it.
"Don't waste your breath. Just go." Sakura says, flexing her newly healed hands.
"Nobody knows I'm here, do they?"
The Hyuuga heiress shakes her head, lips trembling. "I can—"
"No. It's better this way."
"But Naruto, he'll want to—"
Sakura grabs her wrist, twists it behind her back and pushes her against the iron bars of the cell before she can react. "I'm a missing-nin, Hinata. A willing member of Akatsuki. I know they sent you here to get me to talk, but it won't work. Your job's done so please, just leave."
Hinata bows her head and the iron door swings open. For a moment, Sakura contemplates taking the Hyuuga heiress hostage in order to escape but for some reason, she can't make herself do it. The bars clatter shut, but she has yet to leave.
"Whatever your reasons Sakura, we…we never stopped believing in you…"
It's something Sakura has waited a long time to hear, an affirmation that her former life in Konoha hasn't been completely erased by fabricated lies and failures. But the Sakura Haruno they once knew and loved is gone. She is still grateful however, as Hinata offers a sincere smile before turning away.
Sakura thinks this is the very last time she'll see the Hyuuga heiress and silently thanks her as she secretly stores away the small amount of chakra she has regained.
None of the medics have picked up on her internal technique. Take from them a small, unnoticeable amount of healing chakra, tear it apart, mold and reshape it until it becomes hers. Quickly hide it and no one suspects a thing.
Her last reserves are steadily growing behind her impenetrable wall.
"You'll be publicly executed at dawn."
She is bleeding and burned and she can no longer tell the true color of her hair. It's matted to her face, coated with sweat, blood, and grime. Familiar booted feet pad closer and she purposely spits blood on them before staggering up and leaning heavily against the wall.
His fist drives into her stomach. Harsh and unforgiving. Crimson gushes into her mouth, falls from her cracked lips as she tries to gasp for air.
"Do you have nothing to say?!" Ibiki shouts, a note of frustration making its way into his hardened voice.
"I'll welcome it." Sakura whispers with a bloody, bittersweet smile.
At least they allowed her a quick bath, she muses as she's led out of the maze that is ANBU HQ. The first breath of fresh air is nothing short of exquisite however, and she takes a precious moment to reacquaint herself.
Being locked in a cell, who knows how many feet underground, takes its toll on a person after all.
Daybreak is just over the horizon, casting its light on the figures carved into the mountainside and upon the roofs of Konoha's populace. Already she can see a crowd gathering in front of the Hokage tower, just next door to ANBU, and she quietly wonders about each and every individual reaction when they discover that it's her who's about to be executed.
The Godaime's prized apprentice. Traitor. Team Seven. Deserter. Akatsuki whore. Gifted medic. Haruno Sakura.
Something pulls at the back of her mind before a knowing smile curves her lips.
She's suddenly ushered towards the scaffold, a collection of gasps reaching her ears as her long pink hair flows around her shoulders. She doesn't look at her audience. She doesn't want to know who's there. She simply just closes her green eyes as her knees are kicked out from under her and she's forced to bend over, neck exposed and resting on a wooden plank.
She drowns out her executioner's voice and tests the chakra ties binding her wrists. They're strong, but not unbreakable.
Her offenses against the Hidden Village of Konoha are loud and clear.
So is the sudden explosion that rocks ANBU HQ.
Sakura whips up and is on her feet in an instant. She kicks up the wooden plank and sends it flying at her would be killer, knocking him to the ground in a daze. And then she is being converged upon by ANBU, cornered like a wild animal and in some ways, she feels like one. Her eyes are bright and fierce as the civilian crowd scatters, as the ensuing chaos draws out Konoha shinobi.
She snaps the bindings with some of the chakra she's managed to regain and conceal during her many healing sessions. It isn't much, but hopefully it'll be enough.
"Haruno Sakura, come peacefully and—"
She makes the ground tremble with the barest of touches before she's flying like a spinning shuriken and engaging Konoha ANBU in a brutal, bone crushing fight for survival. But she holds the weaker card and knows at this rate she won't be able to last for long.
A ninjaken pierces her shoulder, but she disregards the blinding pain and quickly shatters its wielder's jaw. She spins around then, catching several flying kunai and releasing them in a sharp torrent the next. She dodges an earth jutsu, jumping into the air and propelling herself to a nearby rooftop where she takes off, heading towards the gates where another battle is waging.
But Sakura isn't fast enough. She's falling, blades of wind cutting across her black clothes and biting deep into her skin. The air is knocked out of her when she hits the ground hard, but she struggles to stand, to keep on moving. She will not be conquered so easily and swears to make it out of these gates which hold her life captive.
She wipes the blood from her mouth, from the large gash marring her brow and blurring her vision. And then her hands are tearing through a series of intricate symbols and a raging inferno is engulfing everything and everyone around her, fanned by the accompanying wind storm jutsu.
Sakura disappears underground and reemerges at the gates.
Her chakra is nearly gone and she's breathing harder than normal. Her vision is misting and she's losing a lot of blood. It's like a torture session all over again.
She hears a voice she has only heard in her dreams for the past three and a half years and instinctively turns around.
He isn't alone. Kakashi is there also, posture tense and unsure. What will you do?
She looks up and Itachi is there, framed by the break of dawn.
She is a missing-nin.
Not by choice, but fate is a devilish trickster and she has fallen one too many times to go back now.
Sakura smashes the gates open in a shower of colored wood as the Uchiha is drawn into the battle once again.
But she gasps when a sword impales her through the chest from behind. Naruto and Kakashi's shouts cut through the air as several ANBU are ordered to hold them back. The cold hard steel is ruthlessly ripped out, but she has recognized it. A tanto. Double edged and with no tip.
Before the Root member can withdraw, she is slamming her chakra against his chest, heart stopping and mortally precise.
A katon no jutsu suddenly separates them and she is stumbling out, stalling the effects of the fatal blow. She blearily hears shouts and curses, the roar of fire and panic, of steel on steel and jutsu against powerful jutsu.
An arm wraps around her waist, familiar and steady. She looks at him, unafraid of his red Sharingan eyes that never fail to drown her.
He understands and lets her carry through.
Kisame and a flying Deidara retreat ahead of them and summoning the very last of her chakra, she demolishes the ground between them and Konoha, creating a wide, twisting rift that will not allow ANBU to pursue. Itachi sets it ablaze with the untouchable black violet fires of Amaterasu and she imagines it must look like a beautiful dark river from above.
Through the haze of flames, she sees shadows moving and silently murmurs her final goodbyes.
Her slowing heart, the flowing blood, the shallow breaths…she is dying and she knows her life cannot be saved.
But still, she holds on as tightly as she can to Itachi as he sprints through the trees, strong arms firmly gripped around her legs.
Her eyes flutter shut as she rests her head tiredly against his shoulder. The pain in her chest deepens and bleeds a little more. A tear escapes.
"You will not die." The empty reassurance is so unlike him that it makes her smile. She is reminded of their spider silk nights and butterfly mornings, when being a missing-nin was just a fading dream on the edge of sleep.
Sunlight and memories dance across her dimming vision, but wrapped in rainwater warmth, she is too tired to chase them.
But she is content. She is unafraid.
The whisper of a soft breath. The ghost of a gentle kiss.
And her hold slowly loosens.