Disclaimer: Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto and various other companies, etc.

Ghost of Love: Chapter One

Cool night air frosted over Sakura's pale skin, lifting tiny goosebumps in its wake. She shivered, closing her sea-green eyes to the moon silvered clearing around her. Fear and doubt bubbled, a choking wave of paralysing uncertainty rising in her throat. I hope they can forgive me for this… They will, I'm sure, if it works.

If it works.

It will work. Because it has to.

I'm going to get Sasuke back. I'll bring him home if I have to drag him kicking and screaming back to Konoha.

She shuddered and buried the resounding he is where he wants to be that kept popping up in her mind. He's confused and… he doesn't know what he wants.

Yes he does. He wants power. And he doesn't want you.

The pink-haired kunoichi groaned aloud and clenched her fists, digging her short nails into the soft flesh of her palms. There's no way I'm going back now. I've finally found a way to bring him home. I can't just give up after all these years.

Abruptly all the uncertainty drained out of her and Sakura opened her eyes, fears successfully subdued for now. With renewed energy she withdrew a heavy scroll from the drawstring bag before her. She regarded the simple, weighty artefact in her hands for a moment, testing herself for hesitation, for weakness. A burst of fear ignited in her chest but she ignored it valiantly. I've come this far. If I back out now everything will have been for nothing. I will have betrayed Lady Tsunade's trust for nothing. Sakura wrestled her nerves back under control, pushing the memories of her treachery to the back of her mind. It's done and I can't go back and change my actions. I have to look forward. I have to stop second guessing myself.

Sakura slid her thumbnail beneath the seal that held the scroll closed and slowly began to unravel it. All I have to do… is sign this contract in my blood. That's it. And the power of the entire Matsumori clan will be given over to me for a total of twenty-four hours. It's not very long, but it'll have to do.

The scroll was relatively short once it was laid out on the damp earth; perhaps three metres in length. But the silk-parchment it was made of was very thick and obviously valuable. It occurred to Sakura that this was a dangerous heirloom she was dealing with, the remnants of a damned clan full of murderers and power-hungry monsters. Too late, she reminded herself as her fingers traced over the complex kanji with deep, fearful reverence. Her skin tingled where it came into contact with the ink, sending an odd thrill of anticipation up her spine. So much power, just waiting to be unleashed. A vague, distant uneasiness writhed at the back of her thoughts, but Sakura ignored it, too enthralled by the rising euphoria that her proximity to the unsealed scroll was producing.

In a rhapsodic haze, the girl pulled her hands away from the parchment long enough to inflict a shallow slice across the pad of her right index finger, discarding the kunai carelessly as she rushed to answer the call of the scroll. She didn't feel even the faintest twinge of pain as she scraped her lacerated finger over the aged and mouldy silk-paper, didn't feel the scratch and pull as her minor wound was opened further in her desperate haste. In moments, her name was signed and the strange, frayed heirloom began absorbing her blood hungrily, needily, until all that remained was an indistinct, rust-coloured stain on its porous surface.

Sakura sat back on her heels, confused. The compulsion was gone; evaporating the very second her name was complete. She blinked blearily, feeling like she had just awoken from an incredibly deep sleep. Weird…

"Ungg," Sakura grunted reflexively and tried to scramble to her feet as a ghostly arm wrenched itself out of the ground and wrapped around her calf. The hand gripped her leg mercilessly, holding her immobile as more and more arms shot out of the earth and wrapped icy, dead fingers around her frozen form. Terror shot through her, her heart thundering painfully in her chest as the spectral limbs climbed higher, hauling themselves up her petrified body. Whole carcasses began tearing free from the damp ground, cold and blue, wavering like heat in the distance on a summer day. Sakura cried out, unable to move and entirely unprepared for the sensation of wrongness as the chakra of a hundred dead ninja forcefully invaded her body. The pathways that crisscrossed her muscles and encased her organs pulsed with new power, inflamed and growing more swollen by the second. The smell of fertile soil reached Sakura's nose and she wondered distantly at her ability to even notice such minor things in the midst of this whirlwind of pain and power. Hands wrapped around her chest, around her throat, squeezing until she thought they would crush her. At just the point when she thought her body could take no more pressure it was as though her skin and muscles and bones just gave way and the chakra rushed inward, blindly delving into the network of power, absorbed completely into her own power.

Gradually, after what seemed to be hours of agonising invasion, the stream of bodies breaking free from the forest floor began to ebb and control of her own limbs was returned to Sakura. The chakra ghosts finally settled in her skin, still giving off the occasional burst of energy, but otherwise remaining under control. Oh thank god. I thought it was never going to end! The girl sighed shakily and slumped to the ground, trembling with an overload of energy. For the moment her mind was completely blank, devoid of all thought. Indeed, devoid of all capability for thought. A chilly breeze danced over her skin, tangling in her long coral-tinged mane and sending the fine hairs that dusted her arms rising. The moon glowed and the stars glittered fiercely from their place in the heavens. Small nocturnal animals went about their nightly business, owls hooting and mice scurrying. And Sakura sat, still and empty, yet impossibly full. I should move...

AN: Rewritten 17/12/2010 more detail added. I adore this pairing, though there seems to be only a few fics about them, so I'm attempting to remedy that. Kind of . I guess we'll just have to see if I manage to make this any good lol!

Please note, before you jump up and down and yell at me out of sheer disgust: Sakura is 20 here. Orochimaru's missed the two windows of opportunity to take over Sasuke's body since he first joined the Sound at 13. This is mostly because Sasuke isn't an idiot in this fic and makes himself very, very scarce whenever that time rolls around.

Please let me know of any mistakes/inconsistencies or if there is anything you would like to be improved. Thanks! 3