Requested by: Appearance Deceived

Pairing: SasuSaku

Genre: romance/ supernatural/suspense

Disclaimer: Not mineee.

Notes: For you darlingggg. One of like five or six holiday-request oneshots I'm doing. So much to do, so little time. Enjoy and happy holidays!

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untouchable

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"There've been an awful lot of people missing in class lately," Ino says, leaning in conspiringly, twisting a strand of platinum hair around her finger. "Do you think it has something to do with the new guys?"

Sakura rolls her eyes, putting a pale hand against her friend's shoulder to put some distance between them. "There's probably a bug going around. Paranoid, much?"

Ino sighs dramatically, crossing her pale legs, shifting the pleats of her school uniform skirt. Her hands hide underneath the table, texting on the small keyboard of the latest cell phone. "No, just gossip-starved."

"You and your drama," Sakura replies, sticking her tongue out. She pauses and her eyes rove over the teenagers in the classroom slowly, biting her lip, ever the observer. The three new students sit at their own table, as if ostracized from the rest. The many empty seats appear cold and desolate. Her heartbeats turn into echoing warnings, be-careful, be-careful, be-careful.

"Checking out the new meat?" Ino asks sweetly, giggling. Sakura looks at her friend dryly, shifting in her chair.

"Yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing."

"Oh admit it. Sasuke Uchiha is gorgeous." Ino lifts an eyebrow and then turns back down to her phone. She sings, "Eye-candyyy~"

"Shut up," Sakura mutters, grinning despite herself, forest-green eyes lifting to stare at one of the new kids, like he has his own gravitational pull. He's pale and dark-eyed, with a fitting messy head of spiky blue-black hair. Not to mention tall, and well built, and perfect—

"See? Can't look away, can you?"

She hums lightly. "He is pretty gorgeous—"

"Miss Haruno? Is there something you'd like to share with us?" Their teacher gazes at them sharply, hands on her desk. "And Miss Yamanaka, I know you're only on that phone to look up the meaning of an anecdote, correct?"

"Sorry," both girls mutter. Ino snaps her cell shut and slips it back into her bag. Sakura's face grows hot as most of the class turns to look at them, all except for Sasuke.

Naruto, also of the new group, snickers audibly as everyone else turns around. Sakura shoots him a glare, but his grin only grows wider. Hinata, another member of the recently moved students, puts a small hand on his shoulder. He turns back around in his seat.

Sakura gazes contemplatively at the back of their heads, blond and black respectively. Then she looks at the numerous vacant seats, dotting the room emptily, like craters in the moon. Back at the new kids.

Ino mocks their teacher under her breath.

Nah, Sakura thinks. No connection.

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"Okay, so it's really starting to freak me out." Sakura puts her tray down on the lunch table and looks at Tenten, who continues to speak. "Three more people absent in my homeroom today. Weird stuff."

Ino takes a small bite of her fruit salad, eye not covered by hair staring down at the cell phone on the table. "I'm telling you, it's definitely the new kids. They're serial killers!"

Sakura puts her can of soda down. "Ino, that's not even funny. Don't start more rumors."

"Hey, it makes more sense then anything." Her pale brow scrunches in confusion. She picks her phone back up.

Tenten cocks her head. "Something wrong?"

"No… it's just, Chouji hasn't texted me back. He's absent today, I just figured he was sick."

"You can't expect him to text you back every time."

"He always texts me back though."

"Maybe he's sleeping?"

"Maybe…" the blonde shakes her head slightly. "Ugh. When did I get so paranoid? You're rubbing off on me, Forehead-girl."

"The suspicion is all yours, Ino-pig," Sakura shoots back happily.

Tenten smiles. "Aw, you guys are so sweet to each other."

"We try."

Tenten opens her mouth to answer again, but it goes slack. Sasuke and the final member of the new kids, Neji, walk past their table.

The girl's follow them with their eyes until they sit at their usual places, across form Naruto and Hinata, and it is only when the volume of the cafeteria rises that they realize it had gone silent. They tear their eyes away.

"A couple weeks in this school and they're already above the social hierarchy," Tenten sighs wistfully.

"Untouchables," Sakura agrees.

"Oh, I'd touch that," Ino interjects crudely, licking her lips.

Tenten laughs, and her and Ino fall into a conversation that becomes background noise for Sakura, who looks back at the so-called Untouchables and thinks. Thinks hard. Her specialty as the resident brain.

Stop it, she thinks, some part of her brain that thrives off rationality. Ino's right. You're paranoid.

She looks uneasily at Sasuke's black eyes, soulless eyes without a speck of light or color, and flinches at their intensity.

A killer's eyes? she ponders darkly, and then wonders where that thought came from.

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A week later, and Sakura is sitting in first period. The seat beside her is empty. Ino is not there yet. There is still another minute or two before the first bell rings, but that does nothing to quell the nervous knot in her throat.

Ino is always one of the first people in class. And if she were going to be absent, she would have texted Sakura last night or even that morning.

(paranoid?)

She bites on the end of her pen like it will absorb her worries. Her eyes flicker from the empty seat to the new kids, lazily hanging around their table.

I swear, she thinks, I swear, if they did anything…

(stop it!)

She swallows.

She adjusts the ribbon sitting under her collar, straightens her blazer, fixes her skirt. She clears her throat.

Kiba Inuzuka walks in. As he passes her table he pauses and asks, "Hey, Ino's absent?"

She gives a quick, disconcerted smile. "Guess so," she answers.

"Damn!" Kiba starts back towards his table, next to his friend Shino. "We had a project presentation in history today!"

Sakura looks back over at the new kids. Naruto Uzumaki catches her eyes and grins.

She frowns fiercely at him, and he lifts his eyebrows before shrugging and turning back around to punch Sasuke in the shoulder and laugh. Hinata looks up shyly at Sakura next, cheeks tainted pink. When she takes note of the angry frown she ducks her head back down quickly.

Sasuke doesn't look at all.

The bell rings just as the teacher walks in.

Ino does not show up for the rest of the day.

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Sakura feels her eyes getting hot as she walks quickly through the hallway, weaving around the other students that are more of obstacles than anything else. First Ino, and now Tenten had disappeared. Even Kiba had stopped showing up.

She doesn't know why she's crying. Except that no one answers their phones anymore, and about half the class is absent now. It's not like the flu wasn't possible. A stomach bug. Anything.

But usually you hear about those kinds of things.

Her stomach rumbles in uneasy nausea. Her head pounds, her chest constricts, her breath—

"Ah!"

—is knocked out of her as she collides with someone's broad chest. She takes in the scent of nature and fire and copper in all of half a second, and when she looks up she is met with a pair of black eyes.

As if her skin has met unyielding fire, she quickly pushes herself off and away. She is suddenly conscious of her heartbeat, deep and swollen against her chest.

"Excuse me," she mutters, brushing past Sasuke, aware of the piercing gaze following her through the crowd, probably on her hands, which are clenched so tight that the fists truly feel like weapons.

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Sakura can hear Naruto Uzumaki from across the cafeteria. And it makes her blood boil. Why, when so many people are absent, have none of the new kids been out? She's prepared to be… be what? Suspicious? Audacious?

Well, whatever it takes.

"So I said to him," Naruto laughs loudly, "I said, 'That's not where you put it!' And he's like, 'That's what she said!' Isn't that funny?"

Sasuke says something shortly, and Naruto's grin falls. Hinata hides a dainty giggle behind her hand. Neji smirks.

Sakura frowns.

"You know what, bastard?" Naruto asks, a cocky grin overtaking his marked face, "Don't be pissy at me just because you haven't gotten your kill yet—"

"Naruto!" Hinata whispers harshly.

Sasuke's back is to Sakura, but she can see his shoulders tense with something akin to irritation. Neji is seething.

"Goddamned fool," the pale-eyed boy hisses, and Sakura feels an unrecognizable terror rise in her throat and paralyze her blood as she watches. "People can hear you!"

Sakura stands up and runs out of the cafeteria. Sasuke looks up as she passes their table, Neji and Hinata too preoccupied with berating their blond companion.

Oh, she hates those dark eyes more than she can put into words.

Her heels make a small clicking noise as she races down the corridor. When she makes it to the girl's bathroom, it is thankfully empty, and she sinks down to the floor in one of the corners in solitude, hot tears leaking out onto her face.

It's not just suspicion anymore.

Her heartbeat pounds very clearly. When the initial panic subsides a bit, she gets up to wash her face, but then she thinks of Naruto's words again and the crying restarts.

(because you haven't gotten your kill yet)

(haven't gotten your kill yet)

(your kill)

She sobs once, twice, and then takes a paper towel to wipe her face, going at it until her skin blossoms with scratchy red.

(kill)

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The next day, after school, she follows Sasuke Uchiha home. She's on the student council, so she is forced to stay after school for a very dry and very pointless meeting. Their Treasurer, Shikamaru, is not present.

As she walks towards the front door from her locker, her eyes catch Sasuke walking out of an alternative exit. Without even thinking about it, wondering what he had to stay after for, she goes out the same door, glaring hatefully at the far-away black spot that is his head, lightheaded with disbelief and resentment.

He walks in the opposite direction from where the path to her house is. She pauses, considers, then goes down the same block as him.

Audacious it is, she thinks firmly. And yet, deep down, she knows the bravery is really just a front, a lie to herself, a weakness hiding in knight's armor.

Sasuke makes a right.

Sakura follows.

The sidewalks are not very empty, quite the opposite, at this point. This is good, she thinks, this helps. A cloak.

(off to the lion's den)

A smooth, bone-chilling breeze passes by, whipping her blazer and skirt and short pastel-colored hair. She shivers. A man walking by knocks into her shoulder without so much as a muttered apology.

"Excuse me," she mutters darkly after he has passed.

Her stomach feels like it has disappeared.

Ten minutes later, Sasuke crosses the street. She follows quickly. The light changes to green when she is halfway across, and she thinks the cars will still wait, but one anxious sports car rumbles in warning before it shoots forward.

(oh oh god i'm going to die flat like a pancake oh god)

She freezes with a shout, throwing her arms across her face.

Someone pulls harshly on the back of her blazer, and when she opens her eyes again she is on the sidewalk, hands scraped, knees a bit bloody.

She falls back onto her butt, breathing harshly, heart still gripped with the angry curled hand of panic and adrenalin. Then she looks up. Sasuke stares back down at her coldly.

"Idiot," he sneers, yanking her up. The small crowd of people on the sidewalk backs up unsurely. The sports car is long gone.

"You… but you…"

He grabs her wrist, shaking his head, blue-black strands of hair dancing in the breeze. He yanks on her arm, pulling her forward with him, and she has no choice but to follow his steps, his grip like an unrelenting vice.

They walk all the way to the end of the block. When they turn the corner, he stops, and she almost trips over the backs of his heels.

He drops her arm.

"Stop following me."

Her confusion melts back down, and cautious dislike gains control once more.

"Screw you," she hisses, glaring up at him defiantly. He's at least a head taller than her, and he bends his head down a little to look her in the eye.

He mutters something under his breath, something like a curse, then looks away from her, over at the street.

Her hands curl into fists. She lifts one and jabs a finger into his chest. He looks at her again, but there is no anger or surprise or… anything, really, in his face or his eyes. His dead eyes.

"You…" She starts, then trails off, because his hand gently takes hers away from his chest and drops it back by her side. Her fingers wiggle, tingling, of their own accord.

He cocks his head a little. "Have I offended you somehow?" he asks, voice rich and deep but emotionless.

"I just, I heard… what your friend said today, in the cafeteria. And all these kids have been absent!" Her eyes harden again. "I want to know what's going on!"

He lifts an eyebrow. "I don't understand."

Her cheeks get hot, her eyes feel swollen. "I… you know exactly what I mean, so don't play dumb."

"Are you blaming me for your classmates' disappearances?"

Her eyes narrow. "They're your classmates too."

Sasuke gives a thin smile. "True."

Another gust of wind flies by.

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Sakura numbly undoes the locks on her front door. When it swings open, she turns around and calls out a hesitant "Goodbye."

Sasuke turns around and lifts a hand in farewell.

He had looked at her on the corner where the sidewalks met and insisted on walking her home. Of course, it didn't take much insisting.

The walk had been silent.

It is when she shuts the door behind her that she realizes he now knows where she lives.

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More kids gone in the next week. At this rate, the school will be empty by Christmas.

Sakura sits alone at lunch again. That Naruto kid keeps shooting her looks across the room, curious ones.

Who would've known that Sasuke Uchiha had a big mouth.

Yesterday she had been looking for answers. All she got back in return was more questions and the heavy weight of paranoia. It had been hard to fall asleep.

Sakura shoots the blond boy a dark glare and relishes his slight recoil. Then she gets up, and leaves.

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"Ne," Naruto moans, "I hate this uniform! Why couldn't they choose a public school this time?"

Sasuke closes his eyes, leaning back against the bleachers. "It raises less questions."

"Bah," the blond yanks off his blazer, glaring hatefully at the red and white crest. Then he looks around, furrowing his brow.

"Where are Neji and Hinata?" he questions, voice laced with confusion.

"He took her home."

Naruto sits down heavily beside his friend, gazing across the high school's vast, well-kept field, a sea of fake green that makes him frown. "She hasn't been looking too great lately," he mutters.

Sasuke shrugs.

"She needs to feed," Naruto continues. "It's not good for her to—"

Sasuke opens his eyes sharply. "You know the law."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. Don't have a cow, asshole." Naruto stops, perking his head up, ear practically twitching, nose scrunching.

"If you only just sensed her now, there's still no hope for you," Sasuke drawls amusedly.

Naruto grimaces. "She really doesn't get what's going on, does she?"

Sasuke sits up, sighing. "No. But she knows more than she should. And all thanks to you, bigmouth."

Sakura Haruno glares at them from across the football field, pink hair bright against the gray overcast in the air.

"Oh," Naruto says laughingly, grinning at the girl, "She looks pissed."

Sasuke remains silent.

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When she reaches the two boys, she shivers, despite her heavy coat and gloves. Sasuke has his sleeves rolled to his elbow, forearms bare, and the top few buttons of his shirt undone; Naruto is only wearing the thin white uniform shirt, blazer-free.

"What's the matter, precious?" the blond grins, "Cold?"

"No," she shoots back angrily, blood boiling hotter than ever.

The boy laughs; her muscles tense. Sasuke's blank look is unreadable.

It is silent other than the dim whistle of wind, and Sasuke eventually sighs.

"Is there something we can help you with?" he asks.

"I…" She looks away from Naruto to lock her eyes with Sasuke's instead, sure that the determined gleam is trembling, the armor is breaking. "I just want the truth."

"Oh, bastard, just tell her," Naruto exclaims, throwing his hands up. "She's marked anyway, you can sense it. She won't tell anybody."

Her eyes narrow, but do not stray from Sasuke's pale face. Something wet touches the top of her head and runs in tiny icy rivers. It is snowing. Another flake lands on her nose and melts.

"Tell me."

He looks over at Naruto. "You truly are an imbecile."

Naruto laughs again, rubbing the back of his head. "I try."

Sasuke sighs once more. It is an eternal sound.

A snowflake lands on his eye and runs down his face slowly, in jerky, detached movements, a mockery of tears. He doesn't bother wiping it away.

"Fine—"

A flash of black, and all of a sudden there are several cloaked figures between the three teenagers, and a paper-pale man with black hair and a mask pushed to the side of his head.

The cloaked figures have Naruto by the arms, Sakura around the middle, and Sasuke by the neck. Naruto shouts loudly and a gloved hand is pushed against his mouth. He thrashes against his captors, and Sakura panics hotly, eyes jumping from person to person to person.

Each cloaked figure has a white and red mask to cover their faces.

Sasuke's eyes are deadlocked on the man in the middle, who is smiling unnervingly.

"Sai," comes his voice, dark with hate.

Sai cocks his head, fake smile making Sakura's stomach turn.

"Sasuke Uchiha and Naruto Uzumaki, you are hereby detained for high treason against Konohagakure's ROOT division—"

"Assholes!" Naruto's gotten his mouth free, thrashing with new vigor. "Motherfu—"

The hand is shoved over his mouth again.

Sai smiles. "—and for the unlawful passing of privileged information."

"What's going on?" Sakura demands, teary eyes fixed on Sasuke. Sasuke looks at her and the arms around his neck tighten.

Sai walks towards her like a predator, stalking prey. "Your friends have done some very bad things, and now they must be punished."

Sakura leans forward against the grip on her. "They aren't my friends! And they didn't tell me anything, so you can't punish them for that!"

"Ah!" Sai wags a gloved finger in her face, his other hand motioning to the cloaked figures behind him. They shove Naruto and Sasuke down against the bleachers, faces hitting the hard metal. "But they had the intention to, and that's what counts."

She bites her lip harshly, turning her face away, down towards the grass, paled by a thin frosting of new snow.

"And you've heard some things you shouldn't have, haven't you?"

She looks back up at him sharply.

"Wha… No!"

Sai hakes his head. "Don't lie."

"But I'm not—"

"Even if you're not lying," Sai continues, half-turning to look at his capture on the bleachers. "You still obviously mean something to them, and that could be worth something."

"Mean something?"

"Well, these two could have escaped minutes ago. But then they know we'd kill you." He shrugs, lifting his hands. "An unfortunate moral dilemma."

He steps closer to her and places two fingers on her temple. She flinches away, but his other hand comes forward to grab her strongly by the chin and keep her in place. "Now, now," he mutters, and warmth spreads from his fingers over her head and face and body. "Don't worry. Just… sleep."

The world goes black.

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Sasuke's cough is hoarse as he spits up dark blood. Naruto doesn't even flinch next to him, too tired and beaten to do much other than stare at the wall of their prison. Thick metal bars separate their cells. They burn when touched.

Naruto stares at his fingertips dully. They are burned and bloody and blistered pink from trying to get free, his initial freak out when thrown into the dungeon.

Sasuke's coughs calm, and his dark-haired friend sits back, breathing heavily and wiping red stains from his lips.

Their school shirts are ripped and dirty, stained with blood and dust, and oh god, he hates this, his and his goddamn big mouth, Neji and Sasuke and Hinata always said it would get him in trouble some day, they just didn't mention they'd be in this mess too—

"Neji knew."

Naruto rubs his tired blue eyes. "Huh?"

"Neji. He took Hinata away on purpose… He saw what was going to happen."

"Fuckin' asshole." Naruto draws his knees to his chest. His voice is no more than a raspy whisper. "Fuckin' psychic asshole."

"You can't," Sasuke stops for another coughing fit, and Naruto flinches, wrapping his arms around his drawn-up legs.

"You okay bastard?"

Their guard, a man hidden by a black cloak and white mask, smacks the bars with a metal rod in his hands. A coil of smoke rises with the clanging noise. "Quiet down in there, traitor!"

"Fuck you, you brainless drone! Go kiss the boss's ass some more, eh?"

Sasuke's coughs turn into dry chuckles. "Idiot," he chokes, wiping more blood form his mouth, "They hate you enough already."

Naruto shrugs.

"Little traitorous ants. I can't wait for your next interrogation. I hope they beat you to death." The guard turns away once more. Naruto gives him the finger but is still left feeling ungratified.

Sasuke leans his head against the cracked wall behind him, sighing. "Anyway," he says, "You can't blame Neji for what he did. He's charged with taking care of Hinata no matter what. He saw we were going to get arrested, and he left with her."

"Yeah, well. I don't have to like it."

A door in the distance opens; footsteps echo across the walls. Sasuke and Naruto both tense.

Sai comes in, smiling, two of his cloaked minions behind him. They are holding Sakura by her upper arms.

She looks unharmed for the most part, just harried. Messy hair and clothes and eyes glazed over in panicked confusion. Naruto and Sasuke glare darkly as they lock her in the cell beside them.

Then Sai comes to their cell. It is unlocked, and he walks inside, still flanked by his obedient little dogs.

"It is your turn for questioning, Mister Uzumaki. I'm sorry, Mister Uchiha, but we can spend more quality time together when it's your turn."

They yank Naruto out, and the blond boy happily spits at Sai's smiling face as he passes him, laughing as he is dragged off to the door and stone steps. Sai wipes the saliva off with unveiled disgust. "Animal," he murmurs.

Sasuke smirks at him. Sai backhands him across the face.

"I don't like that look," he explains, flexing his reddened fingers. "Not at all."

The cell door locks behind him with a sharp click. Sasuke works his jaw gingerly.

"Please," comes the whimper to his left. "Please, tell me what's going on!"

Sasuke looks over at Sakura indifferently, but his eyes lack the sharpness with deep purple circles under them.

"Well," he answers slowly, "It's a conspiracy. Obviously."

She gets up onto her knees and shuffles as close to the bars as possible, searching him, roaming over his injuries and his emotionless face with her eyes.

"Tell me everything."

"This," he begins, resignation in his voice, "is a vampire organization."

"A… vampires?"

He shrugs. "Yes. Well… Primarily vampires. We band together to track down any rogues. They call us ROOT."

"Rouges?"

"They're vampires that don't follow our laws. They attack any humans they can get their hands on to satiate their thirst."

"So, you… they drink blood?" She stares down at the cold stone floor and shivers. Sasuke wonders if she knows she has cobwebs in her hair.

"Yes. Lots of it, too. Rogues are usually newborns." He brushes some hair off his face. "They're uncontrollable. There are a whole band of them in your town. We got most of them, but then this happened…" He gestures vaguely to the cells.

"So," she asks softly. "You only moved there to help?"

"Yeah," he answers, smirking.

"And those rogues… they're the ones that killed my friends."

He nods gravely. "They were planning on killing you too. Tonight, if this hadn't happened. They put their mark on you. Probably that day you were out following me."

She remembers the man brushing against her on the sidewalk and shudders. "But Naruto said… He said something about you not getting your kill yet…"

Sasuke closes his eyes briefly. "He meant the rogue's leader."

Silence.

"I don't like this," her voice says, childlike and small. She looks up at him again, wringing her hands. "I don't know if I even believe you."

He sighs and opens his mouth, and his canines are long and razor-sharp.

She recoils and he closes his mouth. "Believe me now?"

"… Why are we here?"

He looks up at the darkness, so dim that the ceiling cannot be seen. A window, even a barred one, would be nice. The darkness makes his hunger worse. For any vampire. It's an intentional form of gradual torture.

"Because it's just one big conspiracy," he mutters lowly, eyeing the unmoving guard.

"What do you mean?"

"The leaking of privileged info is a sham. It's an excuse to get me and Naruto in here. They were waiting to leap on us the first chance they got." He feels a cough coming on. "They would've gotten Neji and Hinata too, if they hadn't escaped."

"Why?" she asks softly, looking on in concern as the boy falls into a coughing fit.

When it subsides, he answers through the thick taste of copper, "We figured out their secret."

She leans forward cautiously. "What…" She pauses and licks her lips, calms her rapid heartbeat. "What is it?"

"ROOT hired the rogues," Sasuke reveals coldly. "The hire-ups got greedy; they hired a gang of them to grab some humans. They got sick of the laws."

"They wanted more blood," Sakura states, not a question. "What are the laws?"

Sasuke rubs a hand across his face. "There are a ton of them—"

"Tell me."

He finally looks into her eyes again. They are glossy with tears.

"Fine."

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"Sasuke," Naruto moans hoarsely, throwing his arms around his middle and doubling-over. "I-I can't take it anymore. I haven't had any blood in… in…"

Sasuke sighs and rubs a hand against his neck. His throat has an insatiable itch. "A long time," he offers.

"I c-can smell her over there. They're… Those assholes are doing it on purpose. They want… want us to kill her."

Sasuke nods, looking over at Sakura's sleeping form in the corner of her nearby cell. "So they have a legitimate legal reason to execute us."

Naruto stills. The door in the distance has opened.

"It's your turn," the blond whispers furtively.

"I know," Sasuke says.

"I think… I think we're gonna die soon, bastard."

Sasuke sighs and stands up shakily. The footsteps stop outside his holding cell.

"I know."

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"What did you tell the human?"

Sasuke almost rolls his eyes. This game is getting old. "Nothing."

"I'm getting tired of that answer."

Sasuke shrugs against his bindings. "Then ask a different question."

The blood that fills his mouth with the hit is a familiar taste.

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Naruto's eyes widen as the guards drop Sasuke back into his cell, unconscious.

"Fuckers," he mutters, muscles tensing, the blame weighing heavy enough to bow his back.

One of the guards gives Sasuke's side a nice kick before leaving. Naruto bites his lip hard enough to draw blood, control, control, control.

Sasuke's eyes open as soon as their footsteps fade away. Sakura is groggily waking up with all the noise.

He sits up slowly, hissing at the pain in his ribs. "Damnit," he mutters, hand ghosting over his side. At least two ribs are broken. It's in these moments that he wishes vampires were really as indestructible as Hollywood depicted them.

"You okay?" Sakura asks, fatigue forgotten.

"Yeah, bastard, those assholes really did a number on you," Naruto adds. The hunger is still gnawing at his stomach, a hand still on his middle.

Sasuke smirks, swiping a line of blood from his face. "Joke's on them," he mutters huskily. "I stole the keys."

Naruto and Sakura share a sobbing laugh.

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It takes them exactly one full hour to reach the exit. Sasuke and Naruto seem to know the layout of the place rather well, Sakura notes. They are forced to take the longer routes because they are more deserted; they had taken out the guard by the dungeon door, but were not up to challenging any more.

They shove through the final door and the sun hits them like a slap to the face.

Naruto throws his arms up with a joyous shout. But he stops, because Sasuke's body is tense, and his eyes have turned red. Sakura gazes at this new development with fear.

"Sasuke…?"

"He's nearby," Sasuke murmurs, red eyes darting around.

"Wha…?"

"Shit," Naruto hisses, whipping his head around. "Sai?"

Sasuke nods. "He's moving fast. All over the place." He looks over at Naruto. "Take Sakura and run."

"What?!"

"Take her and run, idiot. Neither of you would be able to keep up with him; his movements are too fast. My eyes can track him."

Naruto curls his fists and shouts, "How do you expect to fight him if he's so fucking fast, huh?"

"He's fast," Sasuke mutters "But I'm faster."

Naruto looks at his friend's eyes and clenches his fist. "I don't like it. But… Fine."

Sakura screams as Naruto tosses her over his shoulders. "Don't!" she shouts. "Don't! We can't just leave him here!" She starts sobbing, pounding her fists on Naruto's back. "Sasuke! Don't do this! It's not fair!"

"Don't die, bastard," Naruto says, grinning. And then he is off.

"Yeah," Sasuke mutters, readying himself.

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"I swear," Naruto exclaims, gripping Sakura's shoulders with harsh fingers. "If you run off one more time, I might have to sit on you."

She struggles against him, sobbing. "You just left your friend for dead, you asshole! I'm not even a monster like you and I can feel how strong Sai is!"

Naruto rolls his eyes. "That's about the fifth time you said that you know."

"You could still go help him!"

"There are rogues in this forest. I can't leave you alone with those things crawling around."

She suddenly deflates. He cautiously lets go of her, and sits on the dirty ground. The forest around them thrums with life.

"You gotta chill," the blond says, rubbing a hand on the back of his head. She rests against the tree behind her and closes her eyes. "Sasuke can take care of himself."

"How did you become vampires?"

Ha looks at her and blinks, scratching a spot on his ear. "Well I've been one since I can remember. My dad changed me when I was a baby."

"And Sasuke?"

"His brother bit him when he was seven or eight." Naruto yawns, stretching his sore muscles happily. "Long stories that we don't really have the time for right now."

She nods slowly. "And… What about the sun? Crosses? Cof—"

"Coffins? Garlic? Holy water, churches, and bats, oh my." He chuckles to himself. "All myths. Just like you humans can't really fly like Superman or walk on water."

"That sounds blasphemous," she mutters dully.

"Hey, I'm not all that religious. Damned soul and all." He taps his chin, considering. "When it comes down to it, though, we're pretty much like humans. We can get hurt like you; we're just better at preventing it. We've gotta sleep, and we don't enjoy living in caves anymore than you would."

She nods uncomprehendingly, eyes trained in he distance, the direction where the fight is going on.

"Minus the blood-sucking," he adds, and she shoots him a narrow look, to which he only grins.

She notices his copious amount of injuries and her eyes fall back down to the ground.

"Hey," he says, placating, lifting his hands, "Don't worry. We don't feed all that much. Sasuke and me, our whole group really, just feeds off the rogues we kill."

"Oh," she mutters softly.

"I wonder if that makes us cannibals by human standards," he considers, looking up at the branches above them. For some reason, wherever they are, it did not snow here.

He's really only talking now to take their minds off what's happening by the exit they had sprung from. But he figures she doesn't need to know that. He looks over at her.

"Hey," he calls, and she finally tears her eyes away from that spot in the trees.

"Huh?"

"You really like the bastard, don't you?"

Her cheeks grow pink. It reminds him of a lesser version of Hinata.

"I don't see how that's any of your business," she replies hotly, wrapping her arms around herself.

He shrugs. "Maybe it's not. But I think he likes you too. That's all."

She stares down at the ground, cheeks growing hotter.

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"And then, I have to rescue him again, and he thanked me like a million time—"

"I don't believe you," Sakura sighs, letting her chin fall into the palm of her hand.

Naruto pouts. "You should."

"No," a rustle comes from behind them, through the bushes and trees, "You really shouldn't."

They both shoot up, watching as Sasuke walks over, bleeding and bashed in some places, holding his arm with his opposite hand.

"Bastard!" Naruto shouts gladly, clapping a hand on his friend's shoulder. "You kill the asshole or what?"

Sasuke snorts. "Almost. Ran away."

"Pfft, chicken. And he won't come back?"

"Not for a while." Sasuke smirks. "He's pretty messed up."

Sakura merely bites her lip, watching as the two friends banter good-naturedly with each other, feeling the overwhelming relief sit in her heart like a warm stone.

As if her body has a mind of its own, she steps forward and throws a hug around Sasuke. The conversation stops cold.

She coughs, quickly stepping back, wringing her hands together.

"Glad you're safe," she mutters lowly, and Naruto gives her a knowing look.

Sasuke only stares levelly at her, unreadable.

"Let's go home."

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-PM-