When she woke, her side was hot and damp. Kakashi's fever had returned. "You aren't going to die," Sakura whispered to the dark, a fervent promise that she couldn't quite believe.
There was a clatter of chains from across the corridor. "Sakura? You're awake?"
Sakura focused on Kakashi's panting breaths, on the way they shook his body and rattled in his chest. She pretended that the moisture on her face was sweat. Shinobi didn't cry.
"Sakura?" A different voice, deeper, though no older than the first.
Kakashi's head dropped closer to her shoulder, so close that his lips brushed over her skin, bare of fabric and frighteningly hot.
"Did he wake up?" the first voice asked hopefully. Metal scraped across the stone floor. He was moving again.
Sakura dried her face with her hand, wiping away the sweat. "A while ago, when you were gone. I think he's getting better."
"He'll get us out of here, right?"
"Did he say anything? When he woke up?"
Kakashi slumped over, draping across her body, his wet skin over her broken skin. Sakura bit back a gasp of pain as Kakashi pressed down on her twisted arm and his sweat slipped into the places where skin should have been. "He—he asked for some water," she choked out.
Kakashi was panting into her ear now, wet hot breath sliding over her naked scalp, stinging at the cuts where the blade had sliced skin rather than hair.
"That's good, right?" the first voice said. "He's getting better."
Sakura nodded, even though they couldn't see her through the dark. "Yeah. It's a good sign."
"He'll get us out." The second voice.
Sakura buried her mouth against Kakashi's neck to muffle her breathless scream. His sweat tasted of things she didn't know how to name and Sakura was pretty sure he was dying.
"He will," she said with the faith of the desperate. "He's got to."
Sakura didn't know how the other two could still have hope. Maybe it was because she kept lying to them.
"Sakura," Kakashi whispered. Her name was barely audible, almost lost to the darkness around them.
"Kakashi?" Sakura answered, wiggling around the chains until she faced him. "You're awake?" Hope rushed through her, curling in her toes and rising into her chest.
"You need..." Kakashi's voice drifted off. His fever had not broken. "...you need to take his eye...destroy it."
Her hope died. "What?" Sakura protested. "I can't."
"You can." The words were firm. "I promise, Sakura, you can do it."
The trap door rattled, and someone laughed. The guards were coming. Sakura slipped her tongue across her cracked lips. They bled.
Kakashi gripped her arm. Their chains chimed, metal clinking against metal. "They're coming. It's our last chance."
Light spilled through the rough wooden slats that separated their cell from the hallway, falling from the trap door in bars of light and shadows. Black mould glistened along the floor, thickest where the water pooled in the hollows of the flagstone floor.
The ladder clanked as the guards dropped it through the trap door. "You have to hurry, Sakura. It's up to you." A bar of light crossed his face, and Sakura didn't like it. Kakashi's eyes were closed as if he was sleeping, and sweat slid down his face in shining droplets. He was helpless.
Sakura bit her lip, forcing the cracks wider.
Across the hall, Naruto stirred, crawling toward the deepest corner, the one furthest from the corridor. He was alone. Sasuke was taken days ago, and he hadn't been returned.
"Do it!" Kakashi hissed, his scarred eye spinning, spinning, spinning. It glowed garnet red in the rising light.
Sakura muffled a sob and nodded. She held her breath until the tightness in her throat died and then she shifted her weight to her knees.
He'd said she could do it, Sakura told herself. Kakashi said.
The guards climbed down the ladder. They were laughing. They always laughed.
Kakashi's red eye was spinning-spinning-spinning. Sakura looked away and dug her nails into the skin of her hands. They were sharp and ragged. She hoped it would be enough.
The single light bulb snapped on, swaying on its wire string. The shadow bars multiplied and danced, playing over the dirty, nasty, gross room.
The key clicked in the lock.
"Get the old guy," someone said. Sakura didn't breathe, listening for the sound of their movements, watching their shadows through the gaps in the rotting boards.
She thought there were only two, today. (Kakashi said she could do it. He said. He said.)
The door squealed as it opened. It was Daiki—he gave Sakura extra food, once. Her hands shook, the chains attached to her wrists shifting link by link in a cascade of sound.
Sakura stiffened her first two fingers on her right hand, and shifted her weight until her feet were under her, hidden by the dirt brown rags she wore. Her legs shook so badly that she felt like she might fall over—but Kakashi said she could do this.
"Do it. There's no time left," Kakashi ordered raggedly, red eye spinningspinningspinning.
Daiki paused. He'd heard Kakashi's words. There was no time.
Sakura lunged forward, barely able to see through her incessant, unrelenting fear. Her fingers stabbed into Daiki's eye, bounced and slid to the edge of the socket and dug in, folding his eyelid into his skull.
He screamed, grabbing for her wrist and missing. Sakura scrambled for the short dagger on his belt with her free hand and shoved with her other, driving her fingers deeper into the too-tight space, through resisting flesh until it stopped being too-tight, and thick fluid spurted from the edges of Daiki's eye.
Sakura choked back a sob, utterly repulsed, and hooked her fingers. He screamed again, slamming his fist into her side, hitting the old and new cuts and bruises. Sakura yanked the eye free and threw it as far away as she could, then drove her new dagger though his other eye.
Daiki shook, mouth gaping in silent shock and then pissed himself. Sakura scrambled off his chest, barely avoiding the second guard's attack. She stabbed him, the dagger cutting a bright line across his face.
The second guard—Kenta, his name was Kenta, Sakura remembered—edged toward her, knife awkwardly held in his hand. Clumsy clumsy, not a ninja. Sakura bared her teeth, acting more on instinct than reason—a man's eye was all over her hand, it was on her hand.
Kenta's eyes were wide, flickering between Daiki and Sakura. Back and forth.
The stolen dagger warmed in her hand. It was sharp. She could do this. Kakashi said.
"Fuck this, I'm getting backup," he cursed, backing toward the door.
Sakura snarled and lunged again, bending herself around his clumsy swipe of the knife. She could not let him leave.
Kenta made a soft, weak gasping sound, eyes wide, afraid, and ready to be ruined.
Sakura used the dagger, unwilling to jam her hand into the slick heat of his skull. It sliced across the skin and soft tissue, hiding his eyes behind a curtain of blood.
Kenta dropped his dagger in shock—fool, a cold voice from deep inside whispered—and clapped his hands to his face. Sakura sobbed and drove the knife through his hand, angled to avoid the bones. The blade sank deep, even deeper than it had in Daiki.
He dropped slowly to his knees, shaking like a leaf in the wind.
Another sob shook her, terror, fear, guilt—Kakashi said, Sakura reminded herself sharply. You have to. She peeled the guard's other hand away from his face. The bleeding had slowed, almost stopped.
Sakura dragged the dagger from his eye. The hand she'd pierced was stuck on the blade, flapping limp and useless near the hilt. She over-rode the horrified protests of her morals and sanity, and jammed the knife into his other eye, his hand slapping against his blood streaked cheek.
Sakura pinned the guard's hand against his face and pulled the weapon free. Liquid welled up through the hole in his hand, too thick to be blood.
"Kakashi?" she whispered uncertainly.
Her hands were covered in blood and eyes. She bit her lip to keep from screaming. Sakura didn't think she'd be able to stop if she started.
He didn't respond. Sakura glanced up, heart jumping frantically in her chest. His eyes were closed, fever bright on his cheeks. Kakashi wasn't awake. Sakura's lips trembled and tears spilled down her cheeks. She couldn't do this. She couldn't!
You can, Kakashi's voice whispered from her memory, bringing back her resolve.
You have to do this. No one else can. It didn't make her feel courageous. Sakura was terrified, cold, and she had no idea why Kakashi told her to destroy their eyes and even less idea what she was supposed to do now.
She prodded Kakashi shoulder, hoping he would get up and do something. Like tell her what needed to be done now that the eyes were ruined and the guards were dead.
He did not respond.
Sakura looked at the guards, studying the bodies, avoiding their faces, and tried desperately to think. She was good at figuring things out. She should be able to figure out why Kakashi had told her to take their eyes. Figure out the plan.
"Sakura?" Naruto's whisper was so quiet. He didn't sound like himself anymore. "What happened?"
It didn't make any sense. Why?The other guards would come soon, looking for Daiki and Kenta. They'd see what she had done and punish all of them for it. Kakashi wouldn't have a plan like that.
...there were two sets of keys on Daiki's belt. The light from the trapdoor sparkled off the gleaming metal.
She lifted the rings of keys, her hands shaking and bloody bloody-bloody—Sakura held her breath until stars danced in the corners of her eyes.
"Sakura?" Naruto was louder now. He pressed against the bars, a dirt smeared, blood smeared face with bright blue eyes.
She had never seen such blue eyes on anyone else. How did she never notice them before?
...why was she thinking about his eyes? Sakura crushed the thought, terrified by it, by the idea of the guards' broken faces becoming Naruto's (her hands, her hands had done that. What if they did it again?). She couldn't think about Naruto like that. He was her friend.
"I have the keys," she whispered back. There were small silver ones that looked like they might be the keys to their chains. The guards only brought those down when they were taking someone away.
Kakashi must have known, must have been planning an escape. Pity he'd passed out.
"Can you walk?" she asked. Her heart skittered in her chest. Anxious. How was she supposed to get them out if Kakashi was unconscious?
"Can Kakashi?" Naruto replied. One of his hands curled around the iron bars. There was no blood on his hands, only on hers. "Is he going get us out of here?" There was so much hope in his voice and it's all her fault. Sakura can't let him down again.
Sakura shook her head, hidden by the dark. Naruto could not see. "He's asleep," she said. "But he told me I had to do it."
Water dripped, three times.
"If we try to get out they'll hurt us worse," Naruto murmured softly, fretfully. "Did you try...? I did. They hurt me."
Her throat tightened, tears close to spilling. "If we get out, they'll never hurt us again," Sakura promised him. She can do this. She can. (Her hands, her hands.)
"But it'll hurt so bad," he said. "Are you sure Kakashi isn't awake?"
Sakura skimmed her eyes across the guards' corpses. They're dead. She killed them. "Our escape attempt has already begun," she whispered, eyes drawn to the ruined mess of their faces. She killed two men. Their eyes were on her hands.
"Sakura?" Naruto sounded scared.
They were out of other options. "Can you help me carry Kakashi?" she asked. "I don't think he weighs too much anymore." Sakura tore her gaze from the dripping, trickling, oozing bodies. Kakashi hadn't moved.
"Kakashi?" Naruto asked.
She pushed the first key into the lock.
"I think so," Naruto said.
Click—her manacles were gone. They clattered to the floor. Something—something poured through her like water, flooding into her hands and feet, tingling along her bare scalp. Sakura shivered, watching as her shiny chains turned dull grey, up to the ring that connected her to Kakashi's bonds.
Her eyes flickered to her wrists. A red band wrapped around each of them, and she thought it was the guards' blood until she realized that it was her own. Her skin had rubbed raw under the chains.
Sakura wiped her hands on her pants and took Kakashi's wrist. Her hands smeared dark stains on his skin, not clean enough.
The first key she tried didn't work. Neither did the second.
"Sakura?" Naruto whispered.
"In a second, Naruto," she answered. There were only five keys small enough to fit into the shackles. Sakura tried a third one. It didn't work.
The fourth got stuck in the lock. Sakura jiggled it, Kakashi's hand limp as Kenta's had been. Something clicked, and the cuff slowly opened, resisting like something had gummed up the hinges. It slid off his wrist and fell to the ground, crumbling into grey dust on impact.
Something invisible rose, tasting of storms and hot tea, feeling like summer heat on winter bones. Sakura's hands stopped shaking.
"Sakura!" Naruto sounded slightly desperate.
"I'm coming," Sakura said, prying open the other cuff. It crumbled into dust, too, and the warmth doubled, accompanied by lazy reassurances and surprised laughter that came from her memories.
Kakashi's breathing deepened, losing its frantic rhythm. Hope unfurled in her chest, and Sakura would have broken into tears, had she the time.
He was too heavy for her to carry, so she wrapped her arms around Kakashi's chest and dragged him out the still open door, locking it behind her so Naruto couldn't see what she had done.
"Where are the guards?" Naruto asked, peering into the darkness of her cell. Shadows were so much harder to see into than to see out of.
Sakura shook her head, not looking at his butterfly-blue eyes. She didn't dare risk it.
She had seen the guards unlock the doors often enough to know which key opened Naruto's. There was a bright shiny scratch down the side where Sasuke had attacked a guard with a rock.
It had been days before he could walk again.
"Is Kakashi alive?" Naruto whispered. He should never sound so scared, Sakura decided. It wasn't right.
"He's still breathing," she replied firmly. The Academy had taught them that breathing meant nothing if they never woke, but she doubted that Naruto remembered that. "And he was awake just a few minutes ago."
"Why does he never talk to me?" Naruto asked plaintively, shuffling away from the door so she could open it. "He never..."
Guilt twisted in her chest. Kakashi had almost never been awake. Sakura had lied and lied and lied to them because she couldn't bear to see them hurt. "His voice was very weak," she said.
"But you could have—"
Naruto's shackles burst into dust before she could even get them off. A wave of heat rose from his skin, like the shimmering air over hot pavement. Sakura's hair stood on end, prickling her half-healed scars. It felt like home—forests and creeks and moss-covered stones.
"What was that?" Naruto's voice was hushed.
"I don't know," she whispered. It felt almost like it had when she'd taken Kakashi's cuffs off, but stronger, so much stronger.
"I think maybe the chains were suppressing our chakra," she said after a moment's thought. Sakura had never felt chakra before. Or maybe she had always felt it, and only noticed its absence once it had returned.
"What's on your hands?" Naruto asked, staring at the gore on her fingers.
Sakura giggled, then clamped her lips shut. She did not say eyes. "Nothing. We have to go," she said, pressing Kenta's dagger into Naruto's hand, keeping Daiki's blood-slick blade for herself. "Help me carry Kakashi?"
"I thought he would look different," Naruto said.
It took her a long time to realize that he was talking about Kakashi's face.
"We have to get out of here," she said, repeating herself. Sakura swallowed hard, scared that maybe Naruto was too broken to help.
Naruto snuck out of his cell like he expected to be hit, but pulled Kakashi's arm over his shoulder. "He's hot," Naruto murmured anxiously. "Is he okay?"
"It's just a fever," Sakura reassured him, taking Kakashi's other side. His warmth poured through her like safety and shelter. He wasn't dead yet. She could do this.