No Longer Weak
Suigetsu's chair fell onto all four legs as the door slammed open, startling everyone in the room.
"She's blind," Sasuke murmured, the words leaving a bad taste in his mouth. He felt like he wanted to be sick and punch through a wall at the same time. All this time, she'd been hiding it under his nose and he'd been so fucking stupid to not realize it. How many moments had he missed it? A couple thousand?
"Really?" Suigetsu didn't flinch at the murderous look Sasuke gave him. "So that's why she had no problem when I created a mist during our fight."
"It explains a lot of things," Juugo said quietly, ignoring Suigetsu's comment.
"You're kidding," Karin said with wide eyes, the bite she was about to eat halfway to her mouth, suspended in midair.
"She's tried to escape how many times?" Sasuke said, but it was so much more than that. She'd kept up with them in sparring and in battle. She'd taken out Juugo on one of his rampages and hit him with a tree. All while blind. How was it even possible to still be a shinobi without sight? Even with her perfect chakra control.
But the biggest question of all was how had it happened?
He was such a huge asshole and he had no fucking clue what to do. She was here to revive Orochimaru, not to be his teammate or friend and yet somehow it had progressed to that and now he actually felt guilty for treating her that way.
"God dammit," he growled and did send his fist through the wall except it did nothing to make him feel better. He looked at the surprised faces of Suigetsu, Karin and Juugo, more so at his display of unrest. It was rare for him to show emotion and yet ever since Sakura had been brought here things were slowly starting to become different in small ways that no one noticed until they really thought about it.
He couldn't stand their stares so he stormed out of the room. A chakra signature followed and in his blind rage, at whom he couldn't tell at this point, he expected it to be Karin. Upon spinning around with words of fire on the tip of his tongue, he found Juugo standing there with a sheepish look on his face.
"I understand how you're feeling," he said, not bowing down under Sasuke's glare. "You want to take it out on someone, but I think in this case it would just be better to apologize."
"For what?" Sasuke asked threateningly, crossing his arms. He was curious as to how Juugo knew what had happened, but then again Juugo was intelligent and not an eavesdropper.
"I'm guessing she didn't tell you willingly," he said and started to walk away, unfazed with Sasuke's fuming mood. "That and your sharingan is still spinning."
Sasuke stared at his back until he turned the corner and disappeared, as silent as he had come. With a sigh, he dragged his hand through his hair and then let it drop heavily to his side. Juugo's words made him feel slightly better because while all he wanted to do was go back to his room and pretend like he hadn't been a huge jackass, the rest of his body screamed at him to go make things right. This wasn't normal when it came to him and it freaked him out.
So he went to find Sakura and instead found a trail of destruction. Part of him had expected her to try and run away and he was curious as to why she hadn't. He moved over the splintered trees and the deep craters that spanned a couple miles and when he finally found her, she was high up in the trees. The sun had set so that it was shadows and small slivers of light on the ground, but at the top the horizon was in plain view.
"If you've come yell at me, pity me or force me to do something then you can go fuck yourself," Sakura said without turning as he climbed onto the branch and walked towards her. She was straddling the branch, directly facing the sun, and he settled down behind her sideways silently.
"I'm not going to do any of those," he started and then stopped because in all honesty, he'd never done this before. There were a million words he could say and yet none of them seemed right.
Sakura continued to ignore him and he clenched the bark beneath him in frustration. "I don't know how to do this, okay?"
"What, be an asshole? You're doing a pretty damn good job if you ask me," she said and then chuckled this bitter chuckle, "oh wait, my opinions along with everything else about me except my medical skills don't matter so never mind."
"Stop, okay?" he said. "I'm trying to apologize and you're not making it any easier."
"It's not supposed to be easy, Sasuke. If it were easy, there'd be a whole lot more assholes in the world," she chided him, but turned to face him anyways, waiting patiently and silently.
He looked at her, swallowed thickly, and said, "You know why I brought you here, why I need your help, and I know I haven't exactly asked you nicely, or asked at all, but that's the circumstance. I know you're not going to do it, but I need him. We're at a stalemate and right now I have no fucking idea what to do because you're as hardheaded as always."
Sakura smiled slightly, but he could tell it was a sad smile. "Sometimes things don't go our way and we have to figure out how to work around that. It's not always a bad thing to create a new path when the old one gets cut off."
"It's not that easy," he muttered and then looked at her with wide eyes.
"I know," she said sadly and then, trying for comic relief, pointed at her eyes with a roll of her eyes. "I'm the poster child for that."
He looked closely for scares, but couldn't find any. It must've been degenerative and yet at her young age it seemed highly unlikely. His mouth was desert dry when he asked, "How did it happen?"
Sakura stared at the prone body on the ground. After everything he'd gone through, all he'd given up and as a result, all she'd been forced to give up, it was for nothing. He wasn't strong enough, still, and he was going to die because of it.
"Sasuke..." she whispered and looked up at Itachi. She had just enough chakra left for one of two things: fight Itachi off and run in the opposite direction or save Sasuke's life. This was what the past couple of years had been for, this split second decision that screamed at her to save herself because dammit he'd made his decision long ago. She wasn't meant to be a part of his world, he'd made that perfectly clear, and all those walls she'd put up were to protect her. But she knew, deep down, she'd waste away with regret and guilt and self-hatred for the rest of her life. She would never stop fighting for him, even if it meant giving up the fight for herself.
Her fingers formed the hand signs for shadow clones and they filled the space between her and Itachi. He cut through them easily as she ran in the opposite direction, making a second set of hand signs that transported her to Sasuke's body behind Itachi. He didn't notice at first and she felt for his pulse, stomach dropping when she couldn't find it. Without thinking, she started the formation for the forbidden jutsu, the very one Tsunade had taught her about with extreme caution. It could very well kill her, but at this point, she was already dead at Itachi's hands. Every ounce of her chakra flowered from her body into Sasuke's, leaving her muscles screaming and her body shaking, but slowly the effects of death were reversed enough for his heartbeat to start again. It was soft under her hands, but with each second it grew stronger. His body was fighting to live. All it needed was a little push from her.
Breathing heavily, the flow of chakra stopped because there was nothing left to give and she sagged over Sasuke's body, feeling nauseous and on the verge of passing out. She kept her eyes open; if she gave up now all of this would've been for nothing. Someone had to watch Sasuke.
A hand grabbed her around the throat, dragging her over Sasuke's body and away, but at that point she'd done enough to save him. She weakly grabbed Itachi's wrist, knees scraping the ground heavily.
"You chose him over your own life," he mused as he stared down at her, katana poised and ready, cold steel already marked with her own blood and Sasuke's resting on her shoulder. It was only a matter of minutes now, Sakura thought.
She licked her dry lips and said, "Someone has to kill a monster like you."
"I think I'm safe for now." His eyes flickered to Sasuke's body. "You gave him a second chance, let's hope he uses it properly next time."
Sakura stared up at him, trying to focus on his face but it blurred in and out of clarity. "It almost sounds like you want him to kill you."
Itachi didn't say anything for a long moment, but she couldn't gage the time as she let her eyes fall to the ground. The steel at this point had heated up against her skin.
"I need to make sure he's strong enough to finish what I leave behind," Itachi whispered. He wouldn't have revealed so much if he weren't planning to end her, she thought bleakly, and sank further to the ground. She wanted to fight, would until the very end, but she was so drained of energy and emotion that it was hard to stay upright. Itachi let her go around the neck and pulled the katana away.
This was not where she thought she'd be when she first set out after Itachi. There'd been rumors of activity in the Land of Wind and she'd just finished another mission in the Hidden Rain Village, a simple one regarding a request for help at their main hospital with one patient. She was well rested, at her peak, and thought it couldn't hurt to check it out. Except it would change everything. She knew that the moment she sensed Sasuke's chakra as well, weak and rapidly fading. She would always be able to sense it, no matter how miniscule, just as she could Kakashi and Naruto's. They were her team.
So she'd raced to the location to find Sasuke nearly dead, on his knees with Itachi standing over him, just as he was to her now. She wasn't afraid to attack him even though she knew he was on a completely different level. This was what she'd been training for. But on top of that, she would be throwing away her past if she just let one of her teammates die, even if he'd left. Deep down, she knew it was more than that.
"It would be such a shame to kill you," Itachi mused above her and then crouched down. He grabbed her chin, forcing her to face him, but she avoided making eye contact with him. "But I can't let you come after him again. You're a liability to his success."
She closed her eyes and tried to calm her breathing.
"Look at me," Itachi demanded in a soft voice, "or I'll kill him again."
"You need him," she grit out and kept her eyes shut.
"He was dead before you saved him, I don't need him. If our legacy dies with him so be it."
His grip disappeared and she found the space in front of her empty. Turning, she saw him standing over Sasuke's body once again, katana pressed against Sasuke's chest, but he was looking at her. He started to press down and even unconscious, Sasuke groaned.
"Fine!" she said and at first she didn't think he heard her because he continued pressing down but then he stopped and started towards her again. Each footstep made her heart pound harder. She'd been okay with dying because nothing came after that, but whatever he was going to do to her would be worse. To continue living in a comatose state, having lost everything she'd trained for, a shell of her former self. It terrified her.
He grabbed her chin and she let out one last, final deep breath and looked up into his eyes.
She woke up in pitch darkness, curled on her side with her knees to her chest. When she went to sit up, she realized she was in a small box of a room and that she had only enough space to move left and right a couple inches.
Time passed elastically, stretching on and on but feeling only like minutes had gone by. She tried to remember how she'd gotten there. Itachi must've spared her live and put her there to waste away. It was freezing cold at times and impossibly hot at times and she grew hungry, thirsty and eventually tired, but she didn't dare close her eyes. She had to focus or else she'd go claustrophobic and lose her mind.
Some time later, one of the walls opened and she was dragged across the rough stone by her ankle into a bright, blinding room. She squinted, trying to make out her surroundings but her eyes hadn't adjusted yet. When they finally did, she saw a metal table and walls and ceilings of mirror. Her reflection revealed a husk of a girl, ratty hair, skin hanging off her bones, empty eyes. She had no recollection of how long she'd been here but if her image said anything, it must've been a long time.
She could see the scars peaking out from her dirty, torn up kunoichi uniform, not from battle but from something else. Looking away from her image, she stared at the person behind who'd pulled her out of her small confinement.
"Naruto," she whispered through cracked lips, eyes wide. She turned and hugged him as tightly as her weak muscles would permit. Something pricked her in the side of the neck.
"No," she moaned and could feel the tears in her eyes, coming down her cheeks. "Not you too."
"You betrayed the village," he said in a cold tone, so different from the Naruto she knew. How long had she been here? She really wished she remembered.
"If you'd just tell us the information you know," he continued, encouraging her, but she shook her head. She didn't have any information. She wasn't a traitor.
"I'm a kunoichi for Konoha village," she said as her body went boneless. Naruto caught her and placed her on the metal table, strapping down her wrists and ankles with leather straps.
"Don't lie," Naruto warned and pulled a stand of different sized knives over to his side.
"I'm not," she pleaded. "Naruto, please, you know me."
"Not anymore, I don't."
She felt the press of cold metal to her bare skin and a scream bubbling up her throat. It continued like this for what felt like hours. She kept waiting to pass out from the pain and blood loss, but the relief never came. Finally, Naruto set down a knife with a curved blade, perfect for peeling away skin, for the last time.
Sakura had long since looked away so she didn't have to see Naruto's face. She stared at the ground, but her eyes flickered up once to see the reflection in the mirror. Naruto's eyes were shadowed like he was some sort of demon and she saw the smirk of amusement as he started to until her wrist straps. Her body was still weak, but she could wiggle her fingers if she really tried.
This couldn't be happening, she thought as Naruto passed by her face, going for her ankles. He was covered in blood but didn't seem to mind. She tried to tell herself this wasn't real because Naruto could never be this ruthless and she, she could never be a traitor, but it felt so painfully real that it clouded her rationality. Thinking hard, she tried to remember how she'd gotten here, what'd come before, but it was all blank like there'd been nothing.
Something small flickered in the back of her mind: a set of swirling eyes, a prone body on the ground. Her inner voice appeared from wherever it'd been hiding and started screaming. At first she couldn't make out the words, but then she realized she was saying 'THIS ISN'T REAL'.
Naruto was undoing the last strap. She had one moment to make a choice, the right choice between all the wrong ones. Running wasn't an option, fighting even less so. She had to remember what had come before this mind control. In the other world, the real world, she had one last kunai hidden in her boot.
Taking a deep breath, she sat up and simultaneously reached for the kunai she couldn't see. She had to believe it was in her boot, had to understand that this wasn't real. Her fingers wrapped around something cold and hard and she flipped the metal around in her hand and slashed the sharp edge across her eyes.
What came after that was gut wrenching. She clutched at the hair at her temples, her entire false pulsing with searing pain. The world was black and she tried to get up but was having a hard time telling up from down. She had the sensation of crying but all she felt was blood rolling down her face. Her fingers tried to pump chakra into her eyes, but she was completely drained.
Someone shifted in front of her and she flinched back, one hand fleeting across her face like she wanted to do something to stop the pain, the bleeding, the choice she'd made, but didn't know how. The person wrapped their fingers around the back of her neck, pulling her in close like a caged bird.
"You continue to prove yourself," Itachi whispered in her ear, his cheek smearing with her blood. She tried to pull away from his grip so she could curl into a ball and waste away from the pain, but he didn't let go. "Perhaps I was wrong, maybe you could be an asset to him after all."
And with that, he whispered the location of where he was going into hiding before he disappeared, leaving behind a small gust of wind and a broken, blind girl.
It didn't take long for Sakura to realize she had to get to a village and fast. She tried to think of which way to go, which direction was which, but it was hard to tell without sight. Getting to her feet unsteadily, she stumbled along while trying to hold in her moans. She was becoming light headed from the blood loss.
Her feet hit something soft and she tripped over Sasuke's body. Sighing with relief, she felt around until she found his sleeve and ripped it off. She swore and moaned and cried through gritted teeth as she tied it tightly around her eyes and then searched his pockets. The gods were with her because she found a packet of soldier pills and took a couple before tucking the rest in her boot. She'd hidden her medical/traveling pack before confronting Itachi, but it would be impossible to find now. She took a few kunai from him and then stood.
She knew she couldn't stay. It would be wise to try and make her way to Sunagakure where she could get Gaara to send a messenger to Konoha rather than stay here and hope Sasuke didn't kill her when he woke. Even if she'd saved his life, she was useless now. What was there without sight? Nothing for a kunoichi.
The wind was at her back. It did nothing to cool the sweat and pain coursing through her body, but she had a faint idea of which way she should go. She turned around and walked away from Sasuke with slow, careful steps. The pill was taking affect and she could feel some strength coming back to her. It was too little for her to do much, but she was able to take an edge off the pain and slow the bleeding. The rest she sent out in a steady pulse, something Tsunade had taught her long ago in case she was ever in a jutsu that hindered sight such as a mist jutsu.
From there she made her way to Sunagakure. Sasuke's chakra pulsed against her back and faded the further she got. He would most likely be out for another day or two and she hoped no one would come across him in that time because then all of this would've been for nothing. She hated herself, not as much as if she'd let him die, but enough for letting him still have a hold over her. He had made her into this.
"No," she whispered. "I did this."
In that moment, she promised herself she would never let herself chose emotions over rationality again. She'd barely survived this time, she wouldn't be so lucky if she let there be a next time. All those years, putting up those walls, just for them to fall so easily and lead to this had taught her a powerful lesson about what it meant to be strong. But she didn't want to be weak now, blind and useless.
She stumbled out onto what she thought was a dirt road. Kneeling down, she felt the groove marks of wagons and horses. She stood and followed them towards Sunagakure, knowing this would take longer but also accepting that she stood no chance trying to cut through the forest. It would take over a day, walking at this pace. She felt the pain start to grow again, pulsing like a large, iron hot hammer. Small doses of chakra wouldn't do much for this type of wound. She needed a medic. After another couple minutes she started to grow light headed again and stopped. She threw up, emptying the little content in her stomach from the pain and overexertion. At this pace, it would take more than a day. It would probably take a week.
Something was coming, something with hooves and creaky wood. She turned towards where she thought the sound was coming from. Whoever it was sent off the faint chakra signature of a normal person, untrained in the art of the shinobi. She waved her hands even though she knew she was in the middle of the road so they would have to stop anyways.
"What the..." she could faintly hear as the wagon neared and slowed, finally stopping when she didn't move.
"Sunagakure," she said, her voice cracking and weak. She realized the voice was behind her and turned around, trying to address the person it was and stay on her feet at the same time. "I need to get to Sunagakure."
She stepped towards the wagon, but caught her foot on one of the grooves and stumbled. Her hands came out to catch herself and she regained her balance, afraid to move again and break and ankle this time. The person got off the wagon. She could tell he was male from his voice and the way he walked.
"I'm a shinobi of Konoha," she said to identify herself. Most people would've known her by her pink hair, but he wasn't a shinobi so he probably had no clue who she was other than a wounded, blind woman wandering around on the trail.
"You look like it," he mumbled and took her arm, guiding her to the wagon. He practically lifted her into the back and she settled down. The wagon started to move again and she started to cry with relief or maybe her wounds were started to bleed again as the chakra wore off. Unconsciousness took her easily, blocking out all the pain both physically and emotionally.
Sakura focused her eyes on where Sasuke's chakra signature was. She'd known this question was coming and yet she couldn't possibly tell him the true story, not yet. It wasn't because she was angry with him still. Even though he hadn't given her a verbal 'I'm sorry for being a complete douche' it was close enough.
No, it was the fact that Sasuke still needed to grow as a person. He wasn't in the right mindset yet and if he knew what had really happened, he wouldn't hesitate to tear her down to take what he needed from her. They were friends, yeah, and they'd kissed, but that wasn't enough to protect her from his determination. He needed to value her as more than a tool for power. He needed to truly accept what she'd just said about finding a new path.
"I'm not ready to share that yet," she said softly and turned her face back towards the sunlight. He didn't protest, probably because he still believed he was treading on thin ice with a fresh apology still hanging in the air or maybe because he respected her space. She'd never know.
"Naruto used to describe the sunset to me," Sakura reminisced with a small smile. "He was awful at it, but at least he tried. He's always trying, even when he hits dead ends."
"It looks like the grass is holding it," Sasuke said after a while of silence.
"Hmm?" She tilted her head towards him.
"The sun is so low it looks like the grass is holding it. There's pink and orange and red in the sky too, all mixed together like someone's hand smeared them like paint."
"You're a lot better at this than Naruto is," Sakura said as she closed her eyes. "It was almost like he was blind too with the way he described things."
"I'm always better than him," Sasuke mused in a fond sort of way.
"Are there birds?" Sakura asked, urging him to continue.
"A couple. You can hear the ones in this tree, they keep coming and going," he paused, shuffled around to get a better view and then continued, "They're black with yellow stomachs."
"I can hear them," she whispered, smiling as she tilted her head towards the rustle of wings and the small chirps. "It's beautiful."
He stared at the back of her neck, her hair twisted up in a bun with a few pieces plastered to the cooling sweat on her skin, and wondered how she could still be the same optimistic, cheerful person she'd always been and yet be so different in so many ways. Narrowing his eyes, he shook his head because Sakura was a puzzle he didn't think he'd ever fully understand. But he closed his eyes anyways to try and experience what she was experiencing because at least he could try.
This isn't a super long chapter, I know, but hey, it's an update! I hope this eased some questions you all have.
Check out my other story Unwilling Juliet, Unsuspecting Romeo which is an anthology of Sasuke and Sakura oneshots/multi-shots that I update more frequently and has a lot of variety in terms in both rating and story lines.