I'm guessing everyone is used to chapters not coming quickly by now. My chapters are pretty long now though, so I partially blame that. I've honestly been having problems with writer's blocks a lot of times, which seems to always happen when I reach the end of chapters. I'm usually done with 75% of new chapters after about two weeks, but then it takes me a few more weeks to wrap them up. I run into a lot of trouble in that period of time, but there's really nothing I can do about it. I'd have to shorten chapters, but I'm not gonna do that cause that's gonna mess up my plot stuff. You don't want chapters without my evil cliffhangers, right?
– Blurred Realm –
Frayed at the edges, the blurred sound of agitated shouting and the clattering of metal wheels against tiled floor startled Sasuke out of his sleep. He slowly sat up in his bed, feeling joints click into place and his muscles aching from lying on this uncomfortable mattress for so long. The noise outside didn't ease up and seemed to only grow louder. Scowling to himself in annoyance, Sasuke carefully eased himself out of bed to walk towards the door of his private room. The cold tiles against his bare feet sent uncomfortable little jolts up his legs and the wide open window to his side suddenly seemed to mock him.
It was with a sense of agitation that Sasuke finally found and turned the cold metal knob to swing the door open. He almost let out a growl of frustration when he realised why Tsunade had given him that smug and cocky smirk when assigning him his room: his room was apparently right across from the emergency room. The brunet recalled waking up in the middle of the night to similar noise, but it had been so brief that he had immediately gone back to sleep. This, though, was different. Whatever had happened at night couldn't have been as severe as this. This was so grave that even the doctors and nurses, who were wheeling in what sounded like two stretchers, seemed panicked. And since the ER had no doors, Sasuke could hear very clearly what was going on inside.
There were at least three doctors and five or six nurses taking care of the two newly brought in patients. There was an incessant beeping, the clinking of metal utensils, shouting, shuffling. Screaming babies, sneezing, coughing, weeping, mumbling, the sounds of an ER, were the backdrop to the frantic struggle to save two lives.
"Hang the next two units on the infuser!"
"Where's the critical care surgeon!"
Countless machines going off with monotonous beeping.
"Get outta the way!"
"I'm tubing him!"
"His pulse pressure is too narrow!"
"Get this blood out of his abdominal area!"
"BP is nine over fifty!"
"Right pupil is five millimetres and reacting! Left pupil–"
Sasuke quickly shuffled back into his room and shut his door. He didn't have to hear all this. He couldn't. Hearing those things made him ponder things he couldn't handle at the moment. Too many What if's and If only's.
The muffled shout reached Sasuke even through the door, making him freeze in place in horror.
"He's conscious!" that same voice exclaimed again. "Hatake Kakashi? Can you hear me? Please stay awake!"
As though his heart had stopped beating, Sasuke stood rooted in place, the blood that had just been rushing through his veins now motionless. Anxiety's frigid claws closed around his chest, squeezing relentlessly and taking his breath.
Why is Kakashi here?
Shaking his head in confusion, Sasuke suddenly turned to quietly and very slowly open his door back up. But as soon as his hand touched the door knob, he halted. There were two stretchers. Two stretchers with two severely injured people on them. If Kakashi was on one of them, who was on the other one?
Gulping, Sasuke tried to banish these unsettling thoughts, but no matter how much he tried, the image of blood-stained blond hair and lifeless sky blue eyes wouldn't leave his mind. And judging by the shouting outside, the second person's chances at survival didn't seem very high.
As he felt the heart in his aching chest come to a startling halt, Sasuke decided it would be best to simply catch a glimpse of what was going on. It was the only way he could calm himself at this point. So with a deep breath that he noisily released through his nose, he changed into his clothes from the day before, which were thrown over a chair, and began to unwrap the bandages around his eyes. Inch for inch, he could feel the pressure of the bandages around his head lessen with each pull. The material felt painfully rough against his finger tips, so it was with a satisfied sigh that he pulled off the last bit. He kept his eyes shut, only slowly opening them little by little. First his right eye, then slowly his left one. He rubbed at them, blinking. Luckily, the room wasn't too bright so he wasn't immediately assaulted by blinding light.
He could see. That was the first thing he noticed.
Sasuke eyed his surroundings and immediately his heart sank. Everything around him was only a blur. Fuzzy blotches of colour and barely visible shapes. This was when he realised that the light didn't bother him because he couldn't exactly see much of it. He knew it was daytime, but to him it looked as though the sun had just set, dipping the room in semi-darkness.
After releasing a frustrated sigh, Sasuke finally heard the obnoxiousness that was the ER again. People were still shouting over each other, agitated voices mingling into a loud, indistinguishable ruckus. Just so finding the door, Sasuke wandered towards it again and wrapped his hand around the knob. With a curt gulp he turned it, almost flinching when the wooden door gave a long, eery creak. Although quiet, it still caused a Sasuke's shoulders to slightly tense up. Slowly inching the door open a little wider, Sasuke at first couldn't make out much. He could vaguely recognise the corridor in front of his room, then the large entrance to the ER and the frantically moving forms clad in greens and blues inside. They stuck out like sore thumbs against the bland colours of their surroundings.
A hand against the frame of his door, Sasuke remained standing where he was, trying and failing to see what was lying at the centre of the moving forms. He could vaguely make out two silhouettes lying on tables, but other than the glistening bright red colour splotched across their bodies and the white of pale skin, there wasn't much he could see for sure.
Sasuke heard more than saw a nurse quickly approaching from the right and quickly ducked back into his room until he heard her pass him. Once he was sure she was gone, he carefully inched back out, trying another time to find radiant gold among those blotches of bright red, pale white and dull green.
"Get Tsunade! His lungs are done for!"
A green blur came racing out of the ER and Sasuke realised that it didn't matter if anyone saw him out of bed. People were currently too busy trying to save those two people on the tables. Frowning, Sasuke finally noticed how hard his heart was hammering in his chest. When he reached up to clamp a hand over his chest, he also noticed his trembling fingers. Bringing them up to his face, he almost laughed a bitter laugh when he could just so make out the shaking of his own fingers. So anything that was more than an arm's length away was indistinguishable?
The steady clicking of shoes against tiled floor alarmed Sasuke of the arrival of the head physician of the hospital. He could hear her animatedly conversing with another person, juggling around options and discussing further actions. Once she came into view, Sasuke was sure Tsunade locked eyes with him, judging by the way her silhouette turned into his direction and he could make out her lipstick tinted lips.
She turned towards the green blob beside her and mumbled something about preparing the operation room, to which the other – by the looks of it – nodded and ran off. "Uchiha," she addressed the teen in a commandeering voice, "I have a favour to ask you."
Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her, aware that his fingers were still trembling. He clenched his hands into fists, trying to force his hands to stay still. "What kind of favour?" he returned in a steady and even voice. So unlike what he actually felt.
"There is a person inside the ER that has lost a massive amount of blood, whose lungs are just about finished and who will die if he doesn't get a shiny new pair of lungs within the next hour."
Sasuke had to stop himself from asking what he so desperately wanted to know. Coldly glaring into the general direction of Tsunade's eyes, he scoffed. "What does that have to do with me?"
"Your brother," the blond dead-panned.
Gripping the door frame a little tighter, Sasuke gulped again. "You want me to agree to…" Then it dawned on him. It dawned on him and massive relief washed over him like a tidal wave that almost swept him off of his feet. He almost sank in on himself, but held himself up.
After all, Itachi was an AB blood type.
"You know the person," Tsunade murmured in a low voice.
Slowly, Sasuke's grip on the door frame weakened. Until his hand bonelessly slid down the smooth expanse of wood.
What would he do?
What would he say?
Would he even hesitate?
Sasuke didn't have to think long to find an answer. The answer already existed clearly in his mind, easy to be found. Loosely placing his knuckles against the door frame, he slightly cocked his head at the blonde in front of him. "Do it." He didn't have to actually see to know that Tsunade was smirking at him. In fact, the way the bright red blotch that was her lips shifted indicated just that.
"Good," Tsunade mumbled to herself. And for the first time, she seemed to regard Sasuke with something other than disdain and suspicion. Suddenly, cocking her head, she seemed to shoot him an angry look. "Why are you out of bed?"
"I was getting cramped up."
"Why are your bandages off?"
"They fell off while I was sleeping. I'm a very restless sleeper, you see."
Tsunade shot the taller teen a seemingly disbelieving glare, her jaw slightly agape. "Have a nurse redo your bandages," she huffed out eventually. "And get back to bed." She briefly patted the brunet's cheek, before turning on the spot and leaving the way she came, heels clicking and blond ponytails swaying with her purposeful steps.
Sasuke watched her leave until she was out of sight, slowly returning into his room. The door clicked shut behind him, blocking out some of the ruckus outside. Kakashi had apparently fallen unconscious again and it still didn't look good for the other person by the sounds of it. If this person was to receive an organ donation from Itachi, they would have to be an AB blood type like him. Another relieved sigh slipped through Sasuke's dry lips at the thought. Bonelessly swiping a hand over his face when Sasuke noticed the smile that had stolen across his face, he dropped his head back to stare at the ceiling he could barely see. A dry chuckle burst out of his throat, a tired and worn out sound.
He was exhausted. Not just physically. Mentally he was completely drained. Too many things were happening one after another, with no time to reflect and deal with all these issues. What is going on?
Sasuke could suddenly hear someone come running down the corridor outside of his room. Only seconds later, the person came to a halt right in front of his room.
"How are they?" a soft voice inquired hesitantly, with an edge of panic.
Sasuke immediately recognised the voice. A million thoughts suddenly raced through his now frantic mind, his tired body suddenly wide awake after a zap of energy seemed to have flashed through his limbs. She could know something.
"So far their conditions aren't good," a male voice responded quietly, remorsefully. "Kakashi isn't stable yet, so it's hard to say if he will make it. The next few hours will be critical. The other one…"
The man – Sasuke assumed he was a doctor – trailed off, letting his dreadful words hang in the air.
"How is he?" the soft voice insisted.
The doctor released a heavy sigh, probably shaking his head. "The other one is barely hanging on and much too close to flat-lining. If he doesn't get a lung transplant immediately, he has no chance."
"Doctor!" another voice chimed in from farther away.
"Coming! I need to leave."
"Okay," the girl mumbled quietly.
Sasuke could hear the man run off, shouting orders and only adding to the ruckus. He waited until he was sure there was no one else standing in front of his thin door, before suddenly flinging it open, blindly grabbing the arm he could vaguely make out and yanking the person inside. Once the girl was inside, he shut his door and positioned himself in front of it.
Looking up to meet green blobs of colour, Sasuke straightened up. "Sakura."
The pink-haired girl sputtered for a moment, before seeming to regain her bearings rather quickly and slowly taking a step back. "So you were in this room," she murmured to herself.
"What's going on?"
Sakura didn't answer immediately, opting to stay silent and eye the room for a moment. Eventually though, she seemed unable to continue ignoring Sasuke's piercing gaze. "Kakashi-sensei and Gaara were attacked. They're both in pretty bad condition."
"How do you know about this?" Sasuke couldn't see, but he was sure Sakura didn't want to tell him what he was asking for. Something was seriously wrong with this situation. And it was unsettling him. Unsettling him so much that his damn fingers wouldn't stop trembling.
If only he could see her face properly and read her expression. "Naruto what?"
A sharp sigh. "He texted me. He said I should come over to Kakashi's apartment and take care of them." She seemed to cross her arms, posture instantly becoming defensive. "I had to let the paramedics in with the spare key."
"Where is he now?"
Sakura turned away from him. What little understanding Sasuke had of her feelings was now gone. "I don't know."
"You don't know?" Sasuke repeated with an edge of accusation.
"He won't answer any of my calls or texts," she replied quickly. "No one has seen him since he left school early. He said he didn't feel good. I guess he got worried when Kakashi-sensei didn't show up for practice and went to check if he was home. Must've found them then. You can imagine what he's doing now."
Sasuke wanted to yell at her. Yell at her about how much of a shitty friend she was being for letting Naruto go like that despite knowing what he was planning to do. But hearing the way her voice wavered and occasionally being able to make out the red colour rimming her eyes, he bit his tongue to not lash out at her. What was she supposed to do in this situation? What was anyone supposed to do? What was he supposed to do?
She was shaking.
For a second, Sasuke remembered all the things that had led up to him being in this hospital. Stalking around the cold town for several days without resting, arguing with Naruto over and over again, the excruciating pain. Danzo resting only a few doors away. Now that Sasuke was a patient and most people were distracted by the commotion anyway, he had the best chances to get to Danzo. Finding a way to distract the guards would be easy with this much chaos. Was Naruto really worth giving up this chance of a lifetime?
The medications must be getting to me.
"I'll find him." When Sasuke laid his hand on the Sakura's head, he could feel her flinch, before she lifted her head to meet his eyes. "Everything will be fine." Now he could clearly see her puffy and red eyes, features weary and pale. Her pink hair suddenly seemed unbelievably dull. But maybe that was just his messed up sight.
Sakura suddenly giggled to herself when Sasuke dropped his hand, a small smile spreading across her face. "Naruto said the same things."
Figured the dumbass would promise her something like that, Sasuke mused with a barely there smirk.
With the next words, Sakura's voice cracked slightly. "And he kept his promise." Sniffling, she quickly reached up to wipe over her red eyes. "Mostly, at least," she laughed quietly. "I'm so glad."
Sasuke stared at the floor while Sakura regained her bearings, sniffling occasionally. At the moment, the white tiled floor was the only thing that he could make out easily; that wasn't causing him uncertainty and insecurity. The only constant.
"What do you want to do now?"
Sakura's sudden question snapped Sasuke out of his staring. He shot the girl a quick glance, before staring at the floor again. "I need to start somewhere. Kakashi's apartment, I guess." Without another word, he left the room, hearing Sakura sputter and quickly follow after him.
"But–" After a brief glare from the brunet, Sakura lowered her voice. "But you can't see," she whispered. "How are you going to get there without getting run over by a car? Or walking into walls?"
The brunet immediately turned his head to hiss a response. "Sakura, I won't walk into–" Sasuke's sentence was suddenly interrupted by something solid and cold. Something flat. A wall. The muffled snort behind him didn't go unnoticed by the teen. "Not a word," he growled through gritted teeth.
"I'm not saying anything," Sakura murmured in a clearly mirthful tone.
Clenching his teeth in annoyance, Sasuke couldn't help but wonder if things were going to work out like this.
Sakura's hand around his arm just so stopped Sasuke from walking into a speeding car. How had he not heard it come screeching his way?
"You need to be more careful," Sakura chided softly, probably giving him a concerned yet annoyed look.
Sighing to himself, Sasuke shoved his hands into his pockets, a frown curling his lips. He suddenly felt like a little boy being scolded by his mother. "Aren't we there yet?" he questioned in a low voice. He knew where Kakashi lived but he couldn't make out his surroundings, so where exactly they were at the moment was a mystery to him. "Didn't you say we only had to take one bus?"
"Yeah, were almost there."
Sasuke felt a light tap against his elbow and began walking across the street. Shortly after they had exited the hospital, Sakura had started tapping his elbow whenever they were about to cross streets, signalling him when it was safe to go. Whenever he tried going anywhere by himself, he ended up almost walking in front of driving cars or bicycles, even when he relied on his ears to guide him. Doing this without Sakura's help probably wouldn't have ended well.
"Now left," Sakura murmured.
Sasuke followed her voice, letting the pink-haired girl go ahead so he could simply follow the light pink blob of colour in front of him. Somehow he thought she would notice him lagging behind and immediately walk closer to him, but even when she noticed she didn't say a thing and simply continued forward. She kept her distance. "Sakura…"
The girl shifted her head towards him slightly, but didn't turn around.
"Weren't you infatuated with me a few years ago? What happened to that?" Sasuke knew he sounded arrogant and snarky, but he was asking out of genuine curiosity. And he knew Sakura would understand that.
Sakura laughed to herself a little, before dropping her head a little. "A lot changed the past few years," she mumbled, hunching her shoulders a little. "I guess you could say that I grew up a bit. All of us did. Especially with all the things that happened to Naruto, I realised that my friendship with you is way more important to me than pursuing some one-sided… crush. Thinking back to it, I feel a little embarrassed about how much I harassed you. Sorry for that."
Sasuke remained silent after that, staring at the asphalt in front of him while keeping Sakura in his field of vision, so he would continue going the right way.
Indeed, a lot had changed the past few years. If only he had been there. Maybe things would have gone differently.
What if I hadn't left?
"This is it."
Woken out of his thoughts by Sakura's voice, Sasuke glanced up to see a big grey block in front of him. Probably the building Kakashi lived in.
"Looks like the police is gone," Sakura mumbled absent-mindedly, briefly stopping in front of the building. "They came right when I arrived." Walking towards the big grey block, she suddenly chuckled in a hollow manner, dropping her head. "I couldn't even answer any of their questions. Did you see anything? Does a possible perpetrator come to mind? Do you know the location of the person that called the ambulance? I couldn't answer any of those questions. All I can ever do is stand by and watch. It's been like this for years. Naruto won't ever rely on me with problems like this."
With how dark the staircase of his building was, Sasuke had trouble seeing the girl in front of him clearly and more than once nearly tripped over nonexistent steps.
"He used to tell me everything, you know," Sakura laughed softly, "back in kindergarten. Even when he had his first crush on me, instead of keeping it a secret, he immediately told me and was really excited about it. He even proposed to me. And that's when I thought I wanted to marry him. My parents always told me to marry someone I love a lot and Naruto fit the bill. I love him a lot. But Ino became my first female friend when I was ten and she told me to not give in to a guy too easily. So I rejected Naruto. It was meant as a childish joke in the beginning and none of us really took it serious. But then you came along and I also had my first crush."
Keeping his eyes trained on the floor now, Sasuke merely followed the motion of the body in front of him. Listening patiently. With only a hint of curiosity. Or was it something else?
"Naruto got jealous, Ino got jealous, I became obsessed and meanwhile you didn't really care. Looks like we were stuck in a love square all by ourselves. Now that I think about it, I'm actually really glad you took no part in it. I'm not sure if I could have stayed friends with Naruto and Ino if you had. No matter who you would have chosen, it would have destroyed years of friendship. In the worst case, I would have lost both Naruto and Ino."
Sasuke nearly stopped in his tracks when he suddenly heard Sakura gasp in surprise. When he looked up from the floor, it was just in time to catch Sakura turning around to him.
"Is that why you never showed any interest in us?" she questioned animatedly. "Because you didn't want our friendship to fall apart?"
He knew it would have no effect, but Sasuke shot an uncaring look in the girl's general direction, hoping to convey his thoughts that way.
"I guess that's not it," Sakura chuckled, facing forward again with a slight skip to her steps. "It would have been much easier if you and Naruto had just gotten together."
This is when Sasuke choked on his spit a little. "What?" he forced out.
"You know…" She trailed off, turned her head towards him but not meeting his eyes, "in middle school. Maybe he would have succeeded in stopping you from going. He could have played the pregnant card on you and forced you into staying to take care of the baby. Now I wonder what kind of baby you would get when mixing you guys' genes. An obnoxiously loud kid that scowls and glares at people all the time, but is really happy? Or a really jumpy and energetic kid that never talks and hates everything? It's both pretty bizarre. Gives me the creeps."
"Naruto's a guy."
Sakura shrugged, walking down a corridor now instead of climbing another staircase. "Who knows," she murmured. "A lot is possible with today's technology."
Sasuke could deny it as much as he wanted, but it was a fact that at this point in time, he couldn't suppress the small amused snort that escaped his mouth. And Sakura heard it loud and clear.
"This is Kakashi-sensei's apartment," Sakura suddenly announced, stopping in front of a bland door that easily blended into the rows of entrances to both sides. She pulled a shiny silver key from her bag and unlocked it, the door swinging open with a dragged out sigh of a screech. "It still smells," she mumbled more to herself.
Sasuke didn't even have to ask what smell she was talking about. He could smell it just fine. And it was making things flash before his eyes that had been locked away years ago. Somewhere in the deep crevices of his mind, these memories had been buried. Until now.
"Are you okay?"
He should have guessed that Sakura would figure out what was wrong. She was way too insightful on other people's mood changes and thought processes. "I'll manage," Sasuke murmured begrudgingly. Sakura knew what was wrong, so there was no point in lying. "So where did it happen?" he immediately urged, trying to change the subject.
"In the living room."
Following the girl as she walked into another room, Sasuke could feel the overwhelming stench of death enter his nostrils and seeming to poison his thoughts. The smell infested his mind, forcing him to go through all kinds of scenarios. Scenarios where he soon had trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy.
"Kakashi-sensei was lying here, between the couch table and the TV," Sakura explained. "Both were shattered to pieces. Looks like they cleaned up most of it." The girl then stepped away from the big patch of red on the carpet and moved towards the couch, kneeling down in front of a second big patch of red. This one was much, much bigger. She curled in on herself a little, arms around her middle, shoulders hunched. "This is where Gaara was. The police searched the entire apartment and probably came up with some theories, but they wouldn't tell me anything."
Slowly calming his mind, Sasuke tried to eye the room for anything that struck him as strange, but this turned out to be useless since nothing struck him at all. Everything was a blur after all. "Is there blood anywhere else but on the carpet?"
"Huh?" Sakura initially met the question with surprise, but then seemed to ponder and examine the room. "Doesn't seem like it. There are some splashes on the glass shards, but that's probably because Kakashi-sensei was on top of them. Does that mean they weren't actually attacked in here?"
Nodding, Sasuke crossed his arms and eyed the big patches of blood again. "Gaara's injuries are severe so he must have been bleeding very heavily."
"So he was brought here in a… probably… in a bag of sorts," Sakura continued hesitantly.
"In a body bag," Sasuke dead-panned, arms crossed. "Did the police say anything about Kakashi?"
"Looks like most of his injuries didn't come from falling into the glass table. In the ER I saw that he was stabbed in the torso multiple times. But apparently no major organs were pierced, since the wounds were pretty shallow."
"So the attacker wanted Naruto to find them like this?" Sasuke concluded. "Looks like he didn't care much whether they died or lived. Seems like a warning. But why use them?"
"Someone is stalking Naruto," Sakura suddenly blurted out, flinching a little when Sasuke turned towards her with a murderous look in his dull eyes. "Has been for a few months," she added quietly. "Naruto thinks it's someone other than Mizuki. I didn't want to tell the police because Naruto told me not to tell anyone, but this guy has been becoming bolder and bolder in approaching him. Naruto was afraid of something like this happening all along. That's why he didn't tell anyone. Maybe Kakashi-sensei and Gaara found something and that's why… they're like this."
Sasuke released a breath full of pent up frustration and anger, visibly tense. "I know," he eventually sighed, nodding. "I know about the stalker. Initially I thought it was just one of the many people that hate him, someone that only wanted to frighten him, but later… it got pretty obvious that this person is playing with him. That he wants him terrified. But I didn't think it was this kind of stalker. That it was someone that would go this far. If I had know this sooner, I would have…"
When Sasuke didn't elaborate, Sakura finally got off of the floor to send the other a questioning look. "You would have what?" she asked in a biting tone. "You would have stayed? You would have cared more about him than your revenge? You would have thought twice about hurting him– us like tha–"
"This isn't the time for this," Sasuke cut in, taking his phone out of his pocket and dialling a number he could recall briefly seeing once. Without even letting Sakura object, he hit the call button and raised his phone to his ear. While he waited, he tapped the device impatiently, burying his free hand in his pocket and just so refraining from tapping his foot as well.
"What the fuck–"
"Kakashi and Gaara were attacked and Naruto is missing. Find out where he is."
"Am I your fucking secretary? Goddammit… It's too early for this shit."
"It's three in the afternoon. Find him and then call me back. Be quick." Sasuke hung up, again, before the other could object. The Uchiha knew well that Sakura was probably glancing at him with a mix of anger, annoyance and curiosity. "Don't ask."
Sasuke glared her way, before releasing an agitated sigh. He wouldn't even grace that with an answer. "Let's go." He began walking out of the room, hearing Sakura follow after him.
"Where are we going?"
"I don't know yet," Sasuke replied honestly, flipping his phone over and over in his pocket. "We'll know within the next ten minutes though, so it's best we leave now."
Sakura didn't respond and simply went ahead so Sasuke didn't have to pretend that he could see where he was going. "I'm never going to hand Naruto over to you if you don't work on your personality," she suddenly warned in a clipped tone.
A smirk slowly broadened on Sasuke's features, pushing away the stoic expression on his face. "What exactly?"
"Hmm…" Humming thoughtfully, Sakura took her sweet time answering. "Everything."
Sasuke merely responded with a small, amused "Hn".
They walked in silence for a moment, Sasuke relishing in the lack of sound and leaving Sakura to her own thoughts. He contemplated what he would do once he found Naruto, what he could do in his current state. He couldn't barge in, rampage through enemies and successfully save the damsel in distress. Not easily at least. Technically, he was close to being legally blind. When examining him, Tsunade had told him that with his vision he shouldn't be walking around by himself at all, but now that his eyes had recovered slightly, he didn't count as blind anymore, did he?
"What's it like to suddenly lose your vision?"
Sakura's sudden question stunned Sasuke, mostly since it matched with what he had been mulling over in his mind just now. He silently followed Sakura's lead for a while, beginning to see the bright light streaming in from the windows at the building's front entrance. "You want an honest answer," he dead-panned with a slightly accusatory tone.
"Of course," Sakura chuckled, her small laugh sounding strained. "You're not the type to show it, but I know that you're scared. Talking about it might help."
I don't need your help. That's what Sasuke wanted to say. He wanted to snarl the words at her, spit them in her face. But the words died in his throat, long before even coming close to being uttered. He knew those words would be a lie. And Sakura would know too. "It's scary," he finally admitted, sliding his hands into his pockets as he followed Sakura through the front entrance. He heard the heavy door slam shut behind him, the weathered wooden frame moaning slightly, the lock clicking with a metallic clink. "You start thinking about all the simple things you will be missing out on. Reading, writing, being able to see the world, being independent. Those are all things that will be either very difficult or impossible in the future. And I'm not sure if I want to live like that." Sasuke simply knew that when Sakura shifted her head towards him slightly, she was wearing that teary-eyed expression of concern. "Being dependent on others just to live… That's something I couldn't live with."
Sakura stopped all of a sudden, turning around to fully face the brunet. "What are you going to do?"
Even though he couldn't clearly make out her expression, Sasuke stared at the girl as though reading her every thought and emotion. As though he wasn't nearly blind and she wasn't just a dimmed mess of blurred colours in front of him. "I don't know."
The pink-haired girl heaved a heavy, dragged out sigh, crossing her arms and slowly turning back around and continuing to lead the way. Obviously, that wasn't the answer she had wanted to hear.
Before Sasuke got the chance to follow the girl, his phone buzzed in his pocket and the brunet halted. Upon taking the call, he wasn't even greeted by the caller.
"The runt's in deep shit," the rumbling voice hissed, sounding slightly demonic through the distorting speakers. "I can't find him anywhere, not even a trace of him. Whoever is behind this knew I would be searching for him and took precautions."
"Then it's someone you know?" Sasuke returned coldly, not particularly happy about the revelation.
"That's not what I'm saying," Kyuubi grumbled in an annoyed way. "But this person knows me. A lot of people know me, you know. It's some bitch that thinks he can trick me."
The following words were too muffled to be distinguishable, but Sasuke could make out some murmured insults that made even his eyebrows rise. "So you can find him?"
"Of course, you emo little cunt! What do you take me for?"
Eyebrows rising even more, Sasuke released a small huff, a lop-sided snarl smeared across his face. "What? Emo little–"
"Get in the car, loser! We're going pervert hunting."
Clenching his teeth and swallowing down the burning hot lump of anger in his throat, Sasuke evened out his strained voice as much as he could. "What car?" he growled.
"The one right in front of your face, you blind turd."
Narrowing his eyes, Sasuke could still make out Sakura's vague form in front of him, but anything farther away from that was just one big blur. He noticed Sakura stepping closer to him and pulling at his sleeve slightly. He ended the call, still fuming, and walked forward, keeping his focus on Sakura. The sound of cars rushing by, honking and tires screeching grew louder by the second and soon enough he could make out the cars creating the sound. He noticed one in particular that stood parked on the sidewalk. Right in front of his face.
No way parking that way is legal, Sasuke snorted to himself, ignoring his suddenly painfully dry throat. He didn't have to see clearly to know that the way Kyuubi was parking could only be described as either evil or retarded. There was no in between. It honestly looked as though Kyuubi had made an effort to block the sideway as much as possible.
The car's rear door swung open and after hesitating a moment, Sakura got into the backseat. Releasing a silent sigh, Sasuke followed her and shut the door behind him. Without even seeing it, he could feel how tense Sakura was next to him. Figured. She must have had a few encounters with Kyuubi before, being Naruto's best friend and all.
Kyuubi suddenly turned around in his seat, probably sending them either a smirk or a scowl, judging by his character. All Sasuke knew for sure at this point was that he didn't like the redhead.
"We're gonna visit a few places," Kyuubi announced without further explanation. He returned to his steering wheel and started up the car.
All Sakura and Sasuke could do now was let the redhead drive wherever he needed to go. They wouldn't find Naruto without his help. Knowing this, they both gulped down any questions and doubts they wanted to voice and remained in the backseat silently. After only a few minutes of driving though, they regretted ever entering the car.
This regret came with the realisation that Kyuubi was a lunatic driver. He ignored traffic lights, speed limits and any form of traffic etiquette as he sped down heavily packed streets, navigated past other cars, only just so avoiding colliding into others, and used sidewalks as shortcuts, as he would call them.
"I think I'm gonna throw up," Sakura forced out weakly next to Sasuke, hunching over slightly. Her hands were tightly clutched around parts of the car's furniture.
"Don't even," was all that Kyuubi returned, albeit in the most threatening way those two words could possibly be uttered.
Sakura suddenly sat up straight in her seat, grumbling a quiet response.
"What was that?"
Huffing to herself, Sakura crossed her arms. "Where are we driving?" she questioned hesitantly.
Kyuubi didn't answer. It seemed as though he hadn't even heard the question. Staring at the vermillion blur of colour in the front seat, Sasuke kept his eyes trained on the enigmatic man.
Suddenly, a thought crossed Sasuke's mind that made him sit straighter in his seat, the temperature in the car suddenly seeming to drop to a painful cold. "Where are we going?" he questioned, barely hiding the urgency in his voice. "Why aren't you telling us where you're driving?"
Again, no answer.
Clenching his teeth in frustration, Sasuke dug his fingers in the car's upholstery. The leather creaked between his tense fingers. "What are you trying to do?"
He was wrong to assume that Kyuubi was trustworthy.
"Where are you driving us?!" Sasuke roared, slamming a hand against the headrest of the driver's seat. He could vaguely see Kyuubi turn his head towards him.
And suddenly crimson pierced through him. Through the blur of colours and fuzzy darkness, blood-red eyes stared at him, visible clear as day.
"Don't misunderstand." Kyuubi's voice cut through the thick air like blades through murky water. "If I wasn't on withdrawal and being my usual sanguinolent self, you guys wouldn't be talking shit anymore at this point, no less yelling into my ears like beef-witted little mongrel bitches. My self control right now is pretty impressive, so don't egg me on."
Narrowing his eyes at the redhead, Sasuke pondered whether that exchange was reason to feel more suspicious or more safe. Concerning Naruto, Kyuubi was a suspect too after all. Kyuubi was their biggest hope at this point, but later could turn out to be their demise.
"Wait here," Kyuubi ordered, suddenly stopping and then leaving the car, throwing the driver's door shut with a bit more force than was necessary. He strolled towards a shabby-looking house with a front door that seemed highly out of place, its colour and surface looking simply off. As though only recently it had been carelessly replaced.
"What's going on?" Sasuke couldn't tell what was happening at that front door, only able to see the bright colour of Kyuubi's hair and the front door opening.
"He's talking to someone," Sakura murmured, leaning towards Sasuke's window. "I can't see who the person is. Those trees are in the way." She went silent for a moment, eventually releasing a small sigh. "You think he parked the car like this on purpose? So we can't see who he's talking to?"
"I wouldn't put it past him." Arms crossed, gaze focused on nothing in particular, Sasuke wondered if it was really such a good idea to stay in the car. On one hand, absolutely everything in his body resisted the thought of trusting the redhead, but on the other hand, there really was no other way to find Naruto. They had no leads on who was the stalker, when or where exactly Naruto had been taken or even if Naruto had really been kidnapped. Anything could have happened. They couldn't be one hundred percent sure that the moron hadn't been hit by a car or hadn't fallen into a ditch. "Sakura." Sasuke waited for the girl to part from the sight of the barely visible Kyuubi and his companion outside, before focusing his gaze on her face. "Call the hospital and ask if Naruto has been brought there. If something happened to him after leaving Kakashi's apartment, he should be there by now."
Sasuke couldn't see it clearly, but he was almost certain of the mix of doubt and concern on the girl's face.
"Do you really think…" Sakura trailed off with an almost inaudible sigh, shutting her mouth and silently pulling out her phone.
Listening to the dial tone as Sakura waited for someone to pick up, Sasuke slightly clenched his fists. Somewhere deep down he knew that Naruto wouldn't be in the hospital. Still, he hoped that perhaps the moron had been involved in some car accident or tripped and broken his face or something. That would be far better than anything Sasuke was imagining at the moment. Far better than all the horrid scenarios playing out in his mind.
If only he could at least put a face to the bastard causing all this turmoil in his heart and mind.
"Hi, Otoha!" Sakura suddenly piped up in a convincing cheery tone. "I just wanted to ask if my friend Naruto was brought in recently. You know him! He's the little brat that peeped on you with that really old guy when you were in the bath house a few years ago." She paused, listening to the woman on the other end. Soon enough, an exasperated smile appeared on her face. "Yeah, him." There was a small pause and the faint sound of typing, then a curt answer. "Are you sure?" Sakura's smile became strained, slowly vanishing. "No, it's just… nothing, really. Don't worry about it. Let me know if he shows up." A dry smile curled the girl's lips. "Yeah, thanks. Bye." When she hung up, she released a quite loud sigh. "He's not there."
Before Sasuke could even reply or take the time to deal with the sudden sinking feeling taking over his chest, Kyuubi returned. The stony-faced redhead threw himself into his seat, wordlessly starting the car and driving away from that shabby-looking house. He seemed more stressed than before.
They drove around Konoha for a long time after that, stopping at houses, Kyuubi leaving to speak with the people inside. Sakura and Sasuke were never able to see who he was talking to. Minutes passed, hours passed and soon, Konoha's sky seemed to be going up in flames. Bright orange and red hues took over the evening sky, dying everything in colours that made Konoha seem as though it was on fire.
Kyuubi was standing at yet another door and talking to another person the two teens in the car couldn't make out.
"It's been five hours," Sakura grumbled, staring at her slender wristwatch. "For how long is he gonna drive us around Konoha?"
Sasuke's already little trust in the redhead was dwindling fast. What if he was stalling? What if the stalker was someone he knew? What if they were accomplices?
Shaking his head, Sasuke immediately banished the thoughts from his mind. It wouldn't make sense that way. Kyuubi would have gotten rid of them instead of driving them around Konoha for five hours. Kyuubi also had no reason to have Naruto kidnapped since the blond sought him out by himself anyway. But what did Sasuke know about Kyuubi? Sasuke couldn't tell at all what the man was thinking. He couldn't even tell how old the man was. He could easily be in his early twenties or his late thirties. And it was not because of his eyesight that Sasuke couldn't decide. All he could tell for certain was that there was something odd about the redhead.
If Sasuke could see properly, he would be checking his wristwatch over and over, watching the seconds tick by, trying to not think about what was happening to Naruto at the moment. Was it really better to trust Kyuubi rather than search by themselves? Granted, Sasuke was legally blind and Sakura only had a very limited knowledge of the situation. Not to mention they both had no idea where to even begin searching.
Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Sasuke suddenly pushed the passenger's door open, careful not to make a sound.
"What are you–"
"Shh." Sasuke turned around to the bewildered girl, keeping his head low as he stepped out of the car. "I'll listen in on what they're talking about." He left before Sakura had the time to protest. Using trees and cars as cover, he quietly stalked towards the house Kyuubi was at. His heart began to pound as he dashed towards a cherry red car parked in front of the house, far away enough for Kyuubi not to notice anything but close enough to hear the words exchanged. Sasuke released a silent sigh of relief, before settling into a more comfortable position.
"So you didn't actually see him around?" Kyuubi asked the man in front of him.
When Sasuke took a quick peak, he couldn't make out the other person's features. All he saw was an obviously male figure shaking its head. The man stood in the shadow of his house, the disappearing afternoon sun not helping in making him more visible. All Sasuke could make out was how tall and buff the man was.
Kyuubi loudly released a puff of breath, slipping his hands into the deep pockets of his long black coat. "So far I can't tell for sure if it's him or someone else. We have a pact with the blue-blooded bastards, so it's not any of them either. Not that they would benefit from it, few as they are. He's really the only guy that comes to mind and all that's known about his current whereabouts are rumours."
"You can't track down that other guy either?" an unsettlingly deep and rumbly, yet smooth voice questioned. "He's usually not as careful about hiding his whereabouts. He thinks no one will be able to find him as long as he returns to their bases."
"If only we could find one of those bases," Kyuubi grumbled. "We know of some inactive ones that are completely cleaned out." He suddenly paused for a moment, going oddly silent. For a moment, he seemed to turn his head towards the street where Sasuke was hiding, but returned his attention to the person in front of him soon enough. "How the fuck do we have no one slipped in his system? If we had someone with real intel this wouldn't be such a problem. I've been driving around for hours trying to find someone that actually knows shit. Since when is this fucking lunatic so hard to find? When he's around he usually leaves a pretty obvious trail of people disappearing around him."
"The last time someone actually saw him in the flesh was over in Kusa when someone busted out all the people he was keeping in his creepy little prison cells. That was eight months ago, I think."
"He could be anywhere by now."
Sasuke had heard enough. Careful not to make any sound, he rushed back to Kyuubi's car, the sounds of leaves crunching beneath his shoes making him jump a little. Once he stood next to the sleek car, he signalled Sakura to come out. She did so with a look of clear doubt.
"What are you doing?" she hushed with concern lacing her voice.
"We're leaving," Sasuke dead-panned, marching into the opposite direction of where Kyuubi was standing. He heard Sakura sputter behind him, struggling for words but eventually following him.
"Where are we going?" she asked the second she caught up to the brunet. "Do you know where Naruto is?"
"I have an idea where he could be." Clenching his fists, Sasuke turned into an alleyway and briefly came to a halt. "We need to go to this old office building. It's been unoccupied for decades and if the stalker is the guy I'm suspecting, this is the only place he could be. All his other bases in Konoha were found the past few years, so he must have emptied them all out. All except for this one."
"How… do you know it's him?" Sakura mumbled in a steady, yet slightly threatening tone. "What if he's the wrong guy and we end up wasting time that we need to find Naruto? What if while we're going to this old factory, Kyuubi finds him instead?"
"Kyuubi doesn't know where he is," Sasuke immediately countered, walking further into the alley. "Right now, we're the ones most likely to find Naruto. If we stick with Kyuubi, he'll just keep driving around trying to find the information he needs."
"Then why don't we just tell Kyuubi? He's not all that trustworthy, but I'm pretty certain he doesn't intend to hurt Naruto. And he has a car, so going with him would be much faster."
"I can't trust him."
"That guy's not human," Sasuke murmured, voice lowered, posture suddenly unusually repressed. "Something's off about him. It's impossible for me to be at ease around him. I can't tell what he thinks or what his intentions are. I can't trust people like that." Sasuke immediately cut Sakura off before the girl could utter another retort. "I've been with people like that before and what I learned from those experiences was that being with people like that for longer periods of time always ends up badly in the end. It's better to avoid him, trust me."
Sakura remained silent behind the teen for a while, only the sound of her steps echoing through the narrow alley reaching his ears. She was probably thinking of some way to keep arguing against Sasuke's decision. At the moment, she was only following since Sasuke's claims seemed fairly sound. It wasn't like the had blind faith in Kyuubi either.
A gust of wind suddenly howled past them, whistling as it threw up a few shreds of paper from the floor, twirling them around in idle circles.
"Fine," Sakura eventually said, catching up with Sasuke to give him a sideways glare. "Be happy I'm trusting you so willingly after everything you put us through. Others would have left ages ago."
"I know," the Uchiha smirked, meeting the girl's eyes. "Thank you." He almost snickered at the embarrassed blush instantly blooming on Sakura's face. Usually, he wouldn't have held back. But this wasn't a situation where he could snicker.
It was getting dark.
We need to hurry.
"Do you see a blocky building with three chimneys anywhere?"
Sakura slowed her pace slightly, looking around and sighing quietly. "Only one with one chimney."
"What does it look like?"
"Hm…" The girl went silent for a moment, walking from left to right, eyeing the building closely. "It's a rectangle building with a flat roof and a lot of windows of the same size. Seems to be from the late 1800s."
"That can't be it," Sasuke interjected. "The factory we're searching for is newer. It's not older than a hundred years."
"Anything else?" Sakura insisted. "If it's from the 1900s, there's no specific style I can look for."
"Look for a building with faded red paint," Sasuke said, pacing around impatiently and eyeing his surroundings even though he probably couldn't see much. "It's old, so the paint looks pretty shoddy. But the red should still be visible. It used to be pretty bright and obnoxious."
Sakura watched the other teen walk around for a moment. "Sure." She eyed the surrounding buildings another time, still unable to make out a building fitting the description. "I don't see anything. Are you sure the building wasn't taken down?"
"It has to be here. It's the only base left in Konoha. He wouldn't be so careless to let his last base be destroyed."
"And you're sure it's around here?" Sakura couldn't help but worry. Sasuke was technically blind, so them coming to this place could have been a mistake on his part, a miscalculation. After all, they hadn't used any maps to get here. Sasuke had insisted that using any wouldn't get them anywhere. Maybe it had been naive to think that Sasuke would find his way even while unable to use his eyes.
Sasuke suddenly stalked away, kicking up a small cloud of dust. Sakura pondered whether to follow or stay. What if Sasuke was deluding himself into something? She couldn't tell if he was in his right mind at the moment. All of a sudden, she didn't feel so sure about Sasuke anymore.
"It's over there," Sasuke suddenly said in a harsh tone, pointing at something in between two building.
To Sakura's shock, Sasuke was already staring straight at her when she spotted him. From that distance, he shouldn't have been able to see her clearly enough to lock gazes with her like this. From that distance, she should have been nothing but a blur among blurs. Too indistinguishable for him to focus on something as hard to spot as her eyes.
The second Sasuke took his eyes off of the girl, he turned and headed into the direction he had pointed out.
Sakura stood rooted in place for a moment, only able to clench her teeth and release a nervous breath. She had a bad feeling about this. They should have stayed with Kyuubi after all. What were they even going to do once they found Naruto? Whoever this stalker was wouldn't have problems dealing with one girl and a legally blind boy. Granted, Sakura could defend herself well enough against people twice her size, but defending herself and two other people was an entirely different thing. "Sa–"
"Are you coming?" Sasuke suddenly called back, about to enter that area between the two buildings.
"I…" Hesitating, Sakura eventually released a heavy sigh, beginning to slowly walk towards the other. As she closed the distance between them, doubts and fears assaulted her instantly. What if Naruto wasn't here? What if Kyuubi couldn't find him either? What if he was injured and no one would find him in time? Wouldn't it be beyond cruel if they lost Naruto now that Sasuke was back to normal?
"You didn't used to do that," Sasuke suddenly noted calmly.
Surprised by the statement, Sakura eyed the other, unsure about what he meant.
"You hold your arm whenever you're nervous," the brunet elaborated upon seeing her questioning look. "You didn't used to do that."
"Oh, that…" She had been holding her arm unconsciously and once she realised that, she dropped her arm to her side. "I think I started doing it when Naruto was acting weirdly. He keeps calling me out on it now. Usually, he was too dense to notice when I was concerned, but now he realises each time."
Sasuke stared at the girl for a moment, seeming to examine her closely, but eventually faced forward again.
"Can you see better now?"
"A little," the Uchiha replied curtly, burying his hands in his pockets. "I can make out shapes more easily now, so I'm not likely to bump into things any longer. But I guess it's gonna be worse than it was before later on. I'm gonna go completely blind sooner than Tsunade predicted, but I'm willing to accept that."
Sakura wasn't even going to argue with Sasuke about that, since she knew it wouldn't have any use even if she tried. Although she couldn't help but worry, she also wanted to save Naruto. Sasuke knew what he was doing and wouldn't back down at this point. Trying to stop him now would be nothing short of an insult.
"That's it," Sasuke eventually murmured quietly. They now stood in front of a dilapidated building covered in faded red paint that was peeling off in some places. "You stay here and hide in one of the buildings in a place where you can see the entrance of the car factory. If I don't return in an hour, call Kyuubi. Don't call the police until he gets here."
"Police would only alarm the guy. He would probably find some way to escape them. Kyuubi would be more likely to get in without him noticing."
That's not what I'm worried about. Gulping, Sakura tried to swallow down the burning lump in her throat. "I thought you didn't trust Kyuubi."
"I still don't, but if worst comes to worst, he's our best bet."
The plan seemed sound, even though so much could go wrong. So many things were unclear. They didn't know if this was the right place, they didn't know who they would find, they didn't know anything at all. The plan was sound, but only since it was the best possible strategy at the moment. If the conditions were different, Sakura would have objected to such a dangerous plan, but there really was no way of dealing with this without taking a risk. "You have exactly an hour," she eventually said. "If you don't come back before 3600 seconds are over, I'm calling Kyuubi. If he takes longer than fifteen minutes to get here, I'm calling the police. Got it?"
The hint of a smile appeared on Sasuke's face. "Got it." He nodded and before Sakura could find the time to doubt anything, he snatched her phone and typed something in, before taking off.
Sakura could only watch as Sasuke left. It left a bitter taste in her mouth and a dry feeling in her throat. She knew this strategy was based around Sasuke's pride. They would have better chances going in together, but she also understood that someone had to stay back in order to be able to act in case anything happened. It lowered their chances of succeeding, but it was overall more effective. She had to hand it to Sasuke to come up with a plan that prioritised effectiveness over success rate, just to have a reason to be selfish and act based on his pride.
She would have to give him an earful later.
Not only for this stupid plan, but also for leaving her behind trembling and afraid in between these abandoned hunks of stone and cement. For leaving her when she couldn't shake off this bad feeling. This fear that something was going to go horribly wrong.
Let's all just pretend that lungs can last for longer than six hours outside of the body, okay? This is fanfiction and sometimes shit doesn't make sense so don't come telling me stuff like But donated hearts and lungs can't last for longer than six hours outside of the body. SHUT UP I KNOW THAT.
You can also blame VIXX coming to Berlin and the various games that came out the past few months for this chapter taking so long to finish. Goddamn Pokemon… At least I'm done with most of the stuff that kept me so busy.
And I'm not going to make any promises about when I'll upload the next chapter. Writing honestly has dropped a lot on my list of priorities. I need to enrol into a school to study game design (digital art, actually) soon, so I'm drawing a lot nowadays. More than I'm writing. It could take over a month again or longer till the next chapter is out and it could stay like that till this story ends (which is pretty soon). So be prepared for that.