perish in the flames


This one laughed as he died, laughed and gagged on the wet-bright blood, shook his head and said, foolish boy, foolish boy. And this one begged for mercy in a whisper that still lurks in the air and calls in silent moments. And this one didn't do much of anything, but still stared when his head fell from his shoulders and into the dead-dry dust. And this one was a mother, he thinks, and this one a child. And there is a father, hand reaching for weapon, protecting son, who is also dead, quick and easy and with a scream forever filling the rotting flesh of his throat.

(And he has such soft hands, sticky red from trying to swing a sword; he is so delicate and foolish and he was doomed from the start. And they are all like that, all doomed, all hopeless in the face of true fury, and they are all damned and they are all dead and they all hate him.)

And they are still here, all around, rising from the ground and reaching towards the sky, dead and dead but never gone, never silent, always there and ever present and he cannot sleep without their hisses, cannot eat without there damnations, cannot be without their anger.

Leave me alone, he tells the hands that run through his hair, the voices that coo in his ear. Leave me alone.

And this is how Sasuke goes insane.

He leaves the Akatsuki as he joined them: without thought, without care, without reason.

He leaves them and he finds Sakura.

She strikes the first blow, a glancing punch that snaps him head and hurts more than he thinks it should. The fight last longer than he thinks it should. Sakura is wild, mad, insane in her dogged determination, feral in her rage. "I hate you," she tells him, from across their battlefield, from a breath away. "I hate you."

In the end, he is broken in the mud, and she is standing over him, shattered into a million pieces. Sasuke knows he is about to die. She falls to her knees at his side, and presses the razor-edge of a kunai to his throat. "There's nothing left," she says, and starts to cry.

Sasuke's eyes roll to the back of his head as a warm green light begins to run over his battered body.

Kakashi is dead and Sasuke is glad.

(I win, sensei.)

Naruto is dead and Sasuke is amused.

(I win, dobe.)

Sakura is not dead, and Sasuke is trying to figure out why.

(I loose.)

"Why are you following me?" he asks.

"Why haven't you killed me?"

He glares. She smirks, cold and hateful and not at all familiar. She spits at his feet.

"You're all I have left," she sneers.

And his mind echoes his reply.

This one screamed loud enough for her to hear, screamed and was saved by pink hair and a swinging fist strong enough to scare the devil. And this was didn't even have to scream, because Sasuke sensed her coming and thought that maybe the silver wasn't worth the blood. And this one tried to kill him with a heavy rock and blunt sword, with pure determination and absolute ineptitude, but fell unconscious into the long, wet grass. And this one smiled wide and bright, squealed and twisted an awkward circle when she dropped coins into his bowl. And this one was given food and this one was given protection and this one gave him a hug, tight and unwelcome, warm and unsettling, because you helped my mama.

(And it felt good, he thinks underneath his unconscious. He felt right and he felt good and maybe he is not damned, maybe he does not have to be doomed, maybe there is some truth to the Phoenix that rises from the ashes. Maybe the story doesn't have to start until after the end. He dreams in shades of desperate hope.)

And Sakura smiles at him, occasionally, small and tempered but bright and true. And the ghosts are quieting, retreating, settling into their graves to wait for the end of the world. And when they are there, huddling in his air, they are not so scary, because they are not so angry, he thinks.

And one night, beneath the stars that never seem to change, he kisses Sakura and she kisses him back.

And this is how Sasuke is reborn.

note: Darkest thing I've written. Ever. Title is reference to phoenix legend. Some of you might know that I fell off the face of the earth and stayed there (off the face of the earth, I mean). If you do know and care, see my author homepage. All once-maybe-possibly writing ability has likely atrophied into dust.

And, um, I missed you, fanon (and fannonizers [??])