A/N: This is a roleplay between myself and the wonderful Skele Fiction. She played Kabuto; I played Orochimaru. We kind of NPCed everyone else, lol. Chapters will be posted slowly, as we roleplay them and I edit them. But they will keep coming!! \m/ -_-
He couldn't put his finger on it, but little Yakushi Kabuto knew that something was wrong. Yet, at the same time, it was also right. It was right because Sasori-sama said that it was right. It was wrong because of that nagging feeling deep in the pit of Kabuto's stomach-that feeling that often plagued him whenever the Indecision struck. The Indecision didn't happen often, but every now and again he questioned what his master ordered him to do. Those questions, the Indecision, sometimes led to disobedience, which led to severe punishment and bruises that didn't go away for weeks. But even before the beating which would surely ensue, Kabuto would feel a funny nagging in his abdomen, almost like nausea. He guessed it had something to do with the chakra strings, but he was never sure.
That feeling was back, now, in full swing, but it was not the Indecision that plagued him. Kabuto had no problem following his master through the forest. He had no desire to disobey at the time. So what was wrong? Something was just not right.
It had been awhile since the poison master and his puppet had left the Akatsuki's headquarters, so the boy's eyes were becoming more and more adjusted to the darkness of the early, early morning. But when the nausea in his stomach turned to pain for a moment, he tripped over the debris of the forest and fell into the mud for the fourth time that night. His hands had been scraped from the last time, and his shirt was torn in one place from a thorny bush. If Sasori hadn't been going so fast, effectively pulling Kabuto along with him via chakra strings, the boy could have managed just fine. The way it was, his legs couldn't keep up.
Sasori hissed something through his teeth and yanked Kabuto unceremoniously from the ground with a flick of his hand. The invisible string attached to Kabuto's neck pulled and snapped his head back with a pop. If he had been any other boy, he would have been dead a million times over. Luckily, his cellular regeneration prevented major injuries from killing him, and the snapped vertebrae popped naturally back into place as if nothing had happened. The regeneration, however, did not prevent the blood-curdling scream that exploded from Kabuto's throat. It doesn't feel good to have one's neck broken, after all.
Sasori showed not a hint of remorse and only dragged Kabuto the last few feet out of the dense trees and into a moon-lit clearing-the meeting place.
Orochimaru could hear the child screaming as Sasori quite literally dragged him towards the clearing they had arranged to meet in. Orochimaru had scarred one tree with a crude snake carved into the dark brown-gray bark. Sasori had done the same with another tree a few feet away, knifing out a tribal-style scorpion. Orochimaru leaned against the tree he had clearly marked, drumming his fingers against his bicep. The fabric of the half-fishnet shirt clung to Orochimaru from moisture; he had had to trek through the rain earlier, and he was still drying off. And snakes didn't like to be wet. At all.
Orochimaru was still in a splendid mood when Sasori finally showed up a good thirty minutes late. Orochimaru supposed the puppet would simply blame the kid for slowing him down, or something to that extent. But, to the boy's credit, he was bruised, bloody, cut up, and covered in mud. Orochimaru felt a shiver go down his spine; come hell or high water, there was no way he was touching that kid until it at least started raining again and washed all the mud off. Orochimaru's caramel-stained hands and summoning-tattooed forearms unfolded with serpentine grace; Sasori approached warily, as if he expected those golden eyes to hold a genjutsu in them. Orochimaru could laugh at the fool's folly.
"Sasori, my friend," Orochimaru purred. "I see you've brought someone with you?" The statement was simply meant to break the silence; Orochimaru disliked the awkward small talk that usually accompanied meeting someone for the first time in a while. Sasori grunted some unintelligible response, and Orochimaru caught the word "tattoo" in it. "These?" he commented, holding up his hands. Tracing up his fingers and entwining around his wrists were a series of snakes, all done in a deep orange ink. "They will fade," he assured Sasori. Orochimaru had recently discovered the joys of henna; a tattoo that would stay for a few weeks, and then fade away. Orochimaru might end up doing this one for real. But, he would probably need a medical ninja to do it. They tended to be good with needles. "Anyway, I am not here for small talk. We have a deal that needs to be fulfilled."
Without a word, Sasori flung the boy forward face-first onto the ground and, once again, sloppy mud welcomed him. Kabuto could have cried, but he didn't. He could have screamed again, but there was no sound. Instead, he laid very still, frozen in fear like a mouse just waiting for the snake to strike. After a few seconds of silence from the older men, he dared to raise his head, only to find that the grime had coated his glasses so heavily that sight was nearly impossible. He wanted to move so badly, just to wipe the mud off his glasses, just so he would know what was going on, but he felt paralyzed. Sasori's mind-controlling puppet jutsu was still going full-swing, which severely hindered the boy's ability to make any decisions of his own. He let his head fall back to the dirt as a single salt tear cleared a path down his cheek. What was going on?! He felt like he was about to be sacrificed...maybe he was.
He had been graced with only a glimpse of Orochimaru before being thrown down, but what he had seen had been simultaneously terrifying and entrancing. Not terrifying like the monsters of the Akatsuki, but terrifying in that even the pale man's chakra signature seemed to demand respect. At the same time, Kabuto wasn't sure if he had ever seen anyone like him, although his memories weren't exactly perfect. No, far from it. Orochimaru could have been the boy's father and he wouldn't recognize the face. Whoever the man was, Kabuto wasn't sure if he was human. He seemed more suited to be a god. What had been the worst though, like something out of Kabuto's nightmares, were those golden eyes-the eyes of a snake.
All of those thoughts only intensified the boy's fear and uncertainty. He wanted so badly to move from the helpless position he was in, but he couldn't bring his muscles to create any form of movement while Sasori's jutsu still had a hold of him. Another scream escaped his throat when Sasori popped the boy's head backwards again to allow Orochimaru a look at his face. The rest of the small, abused body was still sprawled on the ground.
"Let him go, Sasori."
Orochimaru's voice was soft, fluid, and cool as the puppet master continued to abuse his puppet. "Eventually, if you play with them too hard…they break." Orochimaru knew exactly how to win the boy's loyalty, and he had only been with him for less than a minute. He could see exactly how Sasori treated the boy, the spell he was under, and the hopelessness the child felt. Orochimaru could also see all that swirling, restrained, untapped chakra, a soft white-blue: beautiful potential for healing. There was a touch of something else, though...something else no one he had ever seen had. The boy had potential, certainly, and Orochimaru wasn't about to let that fall to Sasori. Fixing his face in a mask of compassion, he calmly approached the child.
He was certain the boy had learned to fear human touch; he knew he would shy away or at the very least, flinch. It was like dealing with a skittish horse: gentle, but firm. Insistent, but forgiving. Orochimaru slid a hand under the boy's face, pulling the muddied glasses off his nose and delicately wiping the grime off his eyes and allowing him to see. Orochimaru knew the boy had seen him, but he needed to start right away and make a good first impression. He wanted loyalty which, unfortunately, had to be worked for.
"What's your name?" Orochimaru asked quietly, wiping the glass on the grass next to him. He was sure the boy would answer right away, even the answer was, "I don't remember." At all costs, this child would want to avoid abuse. "Can you read and write? Can you use your chakra? Can you throw a shuriken?" Orochimaru made sure to leave time between each question for the child to answer, trying not to make him feel pressured. It would be a short process to earn this loyalty, he knew: he was sure if he refrained from kicking the boy like a stray dog for more than a day he'd have more loyalty from him than Sasori did. But no one needed to know that: especially not Sasori.
That smooth, cool voice washed over Kabuto like a refreshing rain. Had the god just spoken? It certainly wasn't Sasori's voice. No, this new voice was so much more beautiful. The boy had never heard anything like it. More and more he was convinced that this pale man with the golden eyes was not human. He was simply too...perfect. Kabuto thought for only a moment that the man might be his angel, but that idea was quickly discarded. The dark hair Kabuto had glimpsed, along with that sour expression and a tinge of a mysteriously dark aura, suggested that he was a fallen angel if an angel at all. The idea of sacrifice returned to the child's mind. A savior or another master. Which would he be? Good or evil? Both?
Kabuto noticeably tensed when Orochimaru took a hold of his face. The hands were gentle yet firm, amazing smooth and delicate for a shinobi who spent his spare time fighting and training. Yet another thing to add to the list of godlike qualities. The boy added a whimper to his tensing muscles the instant the glasses were removed from his face. He couldn't see very well with the glasses, but he could see hardly at all without them. Kabuto felt even more vulnerable when he couldn't see, and he suddenly became certain that he was going to die.
His crazy roller coaster of emotions only made more tears form in his blank eyes -- completely black with a single rim of red around the edge. First he felt like he was going to be saved, then die, then saved, then die. When the man put the glasses back on Kabuto's face, the metaphorical roller coaster had reached the top of its highest hill. Now the boy could actually see this god for the first time, and he unashamedly did nothing but stare. The black holes in his eyes widened, and despite the mind control, it was obvious that the boy was surprised. His usually blank mask, free of emotions, suddenly was overcome with awe, fright, hope, and a mix of a billion other emotions Kabuto had not felt in a very long time.
He considered Orochimaru's first question for a moment and then just shook his head, signifying that he couldn't remember at the moment. It would come to him, eventually. The rest of the questions were a bit easier, and Kabuto nodded once in reply to each one. A bit more hope overshadowed the fear on the boy's face. Why would the man be asking such questions if he meant to kill him? Perhaps Kabuto would be able to live, after all. Of course, he could never really be sure if the thoughts in his head were even real or if they had been put there. He thought that he thought he could live, but anything that went on in the boy's mind was never a guarantee. Mind control was a tricky business, after all.
Sasori only tapped his foot impatiently as he watched his partner with his puppet. "Well?" he asked in a bored fashion.
Orochimaru could see the boy's eyes when he took the glasses off, and recognized what was happening at once. The child was under mind control. Now, should he remove it at once and rub it in Sasori's face, or wait and remove it later...? The boy might make a good double agent, and Orochimaru always did need a spy. Hopefully, the boy was a good spy. But then again, he was Sasori's: he would be a top quality spy. And Orochimaru could train him, building on the foundations Sasori had set...oh, the boy would be perfect, he really would be. Orochimaru smiled softly, pushing the boy's shaggy bangs back from his face. Upon lifting the hair, he could see the true color: a mystique silver Orochimaru was sure could shine with a radiance to rival his own. He wondered what the boy's eyes looked like, though: that mask of utter blackness with a red ring wasn't very appealing.
"I'll take him off your hands."
Orochimaru nodded once to Sasori by way of excusing himself, and then set his hand firmly around the boy's shoulders. He guided Kabuto away from the clearing, leaving Sasori without another word and without any further indication as to his intentions. Sasori didn't need to know, anyway. Orochimaru planned on removing that mind control first thing, though: five miles should be safe enough. He didn't want to give the child any opportunity to learn anything about him that could be reported back to Sasori. Maybe he should do it the second Sasori's chakra disappeared...which would be in less than a mile, if he moved quickly. Orochimaru carelessly swung the child up and onto his back in one fluid motion. He would need to carry him if he wanted to move quickly. "Hold on," he instructed, and then took off at a run.
Purple chakra licked at his heels; soundless feet moved over the muddy landscape, throwing up mud and sludge. Still, nothing touched the sannin, save for the very edges of his sandals. He could feel the mud on the child seeping into his shirt, besmirching his hair, and inwardly grimaced. He would need to clean himself up, now, too. And he would need to wash his hair twice to get that crap out! Still, it would be worth it, Orochimaru told himself-just as Sasori's chakra disappeared. Orochimaru leapt up into a tree to stop his forward momentum, and swung Kabuto down off his back. Orochimaru set a hand on top of the boy's head, searching for the chakra he knew would lead right back to Sasori. He had been keeping track of it ever since he had gained physical contact with Kabuto. With a single sweep of his hand, Orochimaru severed the strings. Another sweep exterminated the roots of the strings-and the black faded from Kabuto's eyes.
Orochimaru caught Kabuto's biceps in his hands, supporting the child's weight in his hands and bringing his eyes to meet his new servant's.
"What's your name?"