Chapter 6: Broken Thorns
Recommended Song: Somebody To Die For by Hurts
The pain wouldn't go away; it was unending, constant. Nothing compared to it. Kiba had been feeling the agony within his chest for two weeks now, nothing seemed to appease it; it was like a wound that was festering and killing him slowly. Rotting from the inside out, Kiba hadn't thought he would die in such a manner. None of Kabuto's techniques helped either, the first time the silver haired medic had tried, Kiba had almost taken his head off from the sheer backlash of his body rejecting Kabuto's chakra.
No; the pain didn't appear to be leaving anytime soon but what alarmed the brown haired man the most was the fact that he felt his bond with Sakura fading. The more the pain increased the further away Sakura seemed to slip from Kiba's grasp. Kiba was on the verge of losing his mind completely; he had come this far, traveled across worlds, only to have Sakura taken from him once again? He wouldn't be able to bare it this time.
"Kiba, this one is worried," Cheza's soft voice pulled him from his self destructive thoughts and he lifted his head to look at the Flower Maiden. Kiba was sitting on a thin cot in a cell that Kabuto had placed him in for the time being due to his 'unstable' status. Cheza stared at him with concern shining in her scarlet eyes; she had one hand wrapped around the metal bars of his cell and another reaching through as if she wanted to touch him.
She more than likely did want to touch him. Wolves were physical creatures by nature and Kiba hadn't physically connected with any members of his pack since the pain had started up. Tsume stood behind Cheza protectively, Kiba didn't blame him, he hardly trusted himself not to lash out at Cheza and he knew Tsume was only looking out for the well-being of his mate.
"I'm sorry," Kiba's voice was low and raspy; those were the first two words he had spoken in the last two weeks, usually all everyone got from him was growls and snarls. Even now his eyes had yet to return to their blue-green hue, it was as if they were trapped in their wolf form to signify just how close to the edge he truly was. He was slipping, one wrong step and he'd be gone forever.
"I think….I think she's dying," Kiba choked out the sentence as his nails ripped into the fabric of his jeans; his body was shaking so hard that it was visible and Tsume stepped forward to place his hand on Cheza's shoulder to guide her back away from the cell bars.
"It can't be true, right? We didn't come all this way….lose all that mattered….everything we fought for, it couldn't have been for nothing...right?" Kiba's words were fragmented and choppy as he looked at Cheza and Tsume as if they held all the answers he needed.
"Kiba," tears sparkled to life in Cheza's eyes as she looked at the broken wolf before her; she would always see them for what they were. Wolves in the shape of men, wolves who needed her and who she needed just as much. A family. A pack.
"If she's gone...what else is there…? There is no Paradise without Sakura," Kiba raised his hands to grip his hair as he doubled over and keened in pain. The pain was back, it was sucking the life out of him, maybe it was. Maybe it was taking his energy to sustain Sakura? If that was the case, then he'd gladly give it all for her sake.
"I'd rather die than live in a world without her," Kiba whispered through his haze of pain before he closed his eyes and tilted his head back. He howled. A long, sorrowful sound that made the tears fall freely from her eyes, she brought her hands to her mouth and cried softly. Tsume's howl joined Kiba's only to be joined soon after by the rest of the pack.
Sakura was drifting. She had no focus, no drive, no motivation. They had returned to Konoha, there had been tears, denials, displacement of blame, lots of grief and a funeral with far too many people that just simply didn't know what the meaning of loss was. Sakura was silent. She didn't speak, she didn't eat, she didn't think. But she did sleep and she dreamed. Horrid visions of the Shinigami taking Naruto from her, from everyone, with a single cruel message: "No one cheats death."
She woke up screaming. Her parents attempted to comfort her but to no avail, they didn't understand that nothing would help, she could never unsee what she had seen. Sakura didn't want to try anymore, if the creator of the universe could take someone as kind and selfless as Naruto from them, then who's to say that anyone deserved to be there? Especially her?
"He'll die, little one. Is that alright with you?" Sakura was sitting in her hospital bed staring blankly at the wall; she was hearing voices now? She understood catatonia, was insanity a side effect? She had taken Naruto's headband as her own, she clutched between her hands now.
"Once you die, he'll die too. And the others will soon follow; is that what you want?" the motherly voice continued and Sakura remained despondent. Naruto was already dead. How much worse could things get? She was dying, that was alright. Would there friends follow? That's alright too; the Shinigami had made it abundantly clear, there was no coming back, no second chances.
Sakura closed her eyes; she was ready.
"Not your sun, little flower. All suns eventually burn out. Will you kill your moon? Will you let it die?" Sakura was confused; what was this talk of suns and moons? Wasn't this the precipice? The moment of absolute clarity before she took the plunge and simply let go of everything?
A loud, sorrowful howl filled her ears and Sakura's eyes snapped open. She knew that sound, it was beautiful and tragic; it was important. It resonated deep within her and brought fresh tears to her eyes; a wolf's howl, someone was hurting, someone was crying. Sakura couldn't remember who, she couldn't see pass the haze of her own sorrow and desolation.
"Live, little flower. Live for your wolf."
Sakura brought her hands to her face and screamed.
~. . . . . .~
A wolf bit and scratched at its body. Blood leapt forth coating the once pure white coat a sickly shade of scarlet. The wolf snarled and growled, gnawing at its own leg before its claws ripped at the flesh of its snout. Blood splattered from its wounds onto the white flowers that littered the ground beneath it; staining the white a brilliant crimson. A wolf was a strong noble creature, this one had been reduced to nothing more than a rabid dog. It wanted death; it craved it.
It rolled and ripped and maimed and destroyed itself and all the flowers until only one remained. The wolf staggered to its feet as it bared its teeth at the single untouched flower; just one more then it would be done. The wolf was tired and weakened, it was so close to what it desired but it needed to devour the flower first. The single white flower that was beginning to wilt and rot of its own accord; he had to destroy it first before it destroyed itself then the wolf would be content.
The wolf stumbled forward, blood leaking from its gruesome wounds, its gold eyes blazed with heated purpose. The flower was wilting, rotting, dying just as it was; he'd put it out of its misery then he'd go peacefully as well. The wolf fell inches from the flower; its body refused to go on, but it was so close. Close enough that its breath visibly shook the flower on its weak stem. The wolf whimpered. The flower's petals began to crumble. The wolf whined. The flower's stem turned a dying brown. The wolf howled. The flower fell.
The world exploded in a burst of white and the wolf transformed into the man. The bruised and battered man with cuts and lacerations lining his body and the flower became the girl. The girl who rushed forward and took the bloodied man into her arms. The girl who cried and held the man together so he wouldn't shatter into a million tiny pieces. And the man held her back. He held her so tight that he was afraid he would break her, but he didn't relinquish his hold.
The girl kissed him. She kissed his forehead, his eyes, his cheeks, his chin, his lips. She kissed him and bathed him in her love and purity; her untarnished innocence. And the man touched her. He touched her face, her shoulders, her sides, her waist, her legs. He touched and caressed her showering her in his devotion and warmth; his unwavering loyalty. They gave and took from one another with seamless synchronization, blurring together that it was hard to tell them wolf and the flower. The man and the girl.
"Please. Please, don't leave me," the man was begging as he wrapped his arms around the girl and buried his face into her stomach. He was so badly hurt; she could see it, he had been dying so she could live. He had been suffering for her.
"I remember. I remember, I love you. I love you so much," the girl held him as she ran her hand through his hair; thick and coarse like wolf's fur. She had been ready for the end, but it wasn't time yet, there was still so much for her to do. Someone who needed her more than anything else in the world.
"I'm not going to stop fighting until I find you. Believe in me. Believe in us," the man raised his head to look at the girl and she placed her hands on his face as she met his gaze. She knew he was serious; she knew that nothing was going to stop him, no force in this world or the next. He had showed he was willing to die for her, to die with her.
"I know. I believe you, Kiba. I love you," the girl pressed her lips to his once more and the man responded to her kiss with passion and adoration. He'd swallow all insecurities, all her fear and doubts, her pain and sorrow; he'd take it all until she was stripped bare to him.
"I'm yours, Sakura, always. Never doubt that, never forget that," the man whispered against the girl's lips before he pulled her towards him and they both fell back into the whiteness with his arms clutching her in a tight embrace.
They were one.
~. . . . . .~
Sakura awoke with a gasp and she stared up into the concerned faces of Shizune and Tsunade. The busty Hokage had tears gleaming in her eyes as she pulled Sakura towards her in a tight embrace much to girl's confusion. Shizune's eyes were also red rimmed from the telltale sign of tears and Tsunade eventually pulled back as she seemed to check Sakura over taking note of the girl's confusion.
"We….we thought we lost you, Sakura. Your heart stopped and you flatlined for ten minutes, we didn't know...we couldn't…" Shizune trailed off in a choked tone and Sakura's eyes widened. She had died? She had really died? Her heart had stopped?
"How are you feeling? Anything feel out of the ordinary to you?" Tsunade filled in for Shizune when the woman became choked up; Tsunade had returned to her full medic mode once her initial happiness and immense relief had passed for the time being.
"I'm just sleepy...but I feel fine otherwise," Sakura replied in a hoarse tone after a moment of silence and Tsunade nodded her head before she began to run her hands over Sakura's shoulders and neck; the pink haired girl sighed at the soothing feel of her mentor's chakra.
"I don't think I could handle losing both you and Naruto," Tsunade seemed to be speaking to herself and at the mention of Naruto, Sakura felt her heart begin to ache terribly as tears filled her eyes. This was the proper feeling; the pain and loss. Sakura hadn't felt it before, she had been resigned, she had been ready to die. Hollow and bereft. Now she hurt and pain had never been so welcome.
"I'm sorry….I couldn't save him….I couldn't bring him back….Naruto….!" Sakura apologized as she shook her head with tears rolling down her cheeks and she welcomed the embrace that Tsunade pulled her into. Everything was hitting her at once; the guilt, the regret, the pain, the sorrow, it was all overloading her and Sakura was thankful for Tsunade's presence.
She'd need someone to help keep her centered through all the emotional overload. She wasn't ready to die, but it didn't mean she was ready to deal with the pain alone. She believed in her wolf. She believed in their bond. Suns burned out, but moons? Moons were forever.