Cause I'm broken when I'm open
And I don't feel like I am strong enough
'Cause I'm broken when I'm lonesome
And I don't feel right when you're gone away
"Broken" by Seether
Sasuke ran blindly through the forest. He had no idea where they might have taken her but the prospect of him doing nothing, didn't actually helped his mental equilibrium either. With every passed kilometre, with every explored cave or simply a random animal's lair, the hope of finding her was getting thinner and thinner. The chance of her still being alive was close to zero. He should have told Naruto. Probably the blond would have been able to sense her with his Sage abilities. Would he desert Konoha in such crucial time to find Sakura? Even Kakashi gave up looking for her. No, Naruto cared for his friends. He wouldn't abandon her. Dark shadow crept down his face as his thoughts travelled to his former sensei.
"Those who leave their friends behind are even worse than scum, my ass…", Sasuke murmured angrily as he jumped on another tree branch, leaving his chakra footprint on the bark of the previous one.
His reflections wrapped around the image of Sakura that surfaced in front of his eyes. Why was he so fixated on helping her? Wasn't there time when he used her and then planned to kill her? It was true that he was indebted to her, but she owed him as well. Spending so much time in that hut indeed had brought them closer, they became even intimate if you would. There was an undeniable attraction between them. He never thought falling for Sakura was actually a real possibility. She was always the one chasing after him, not the other way around. When did things change? After he walked in her sleeping, cuddled in, what he discovered later, Kakashi's t-shirt. She seemed so vulnerable and…feminine. Not the annoyingly, girly type of feminine, no, she looked strong and weak at the same time. A young woman with a bleeding scar on her heart…
How deep did his feelings run? He wanted to protect her, yes. He worried about her when she wasn't around, yes. Those sentiments were normal between friends. There was nothing suspicious in the way he stared at her when she wasn't looking. He was just admiring her resolve and confidence. The way she smiled at the world made him value his life, not for the purpose of his vengeance but for himself only. He was a person before anything else. Caught up in her contagious desire to protect, he even compromised with the immediate revenge on Konoha – the village, responsible for the pathetic life and death of his brother. That was the thing that put him out of the railing. Was she really that important to him? What were exactly his feelings toward the pinkette? The train of his thoughts was heading in a dangerous direction… Sasuke growled and focused on his surroundings, the Uchiha chased away the intrusive thought that he was simply running away from the truth behind his feelings when the boy increased his speed and put behind his reflections of Sakura.
For a second his sharingan caught a slight movement under the ground in front of him. Someone was moving quite fast through the soil. The Uchiha grinned devilishly and followed masking his chakra. The enemy's chakra signature began wavering as it weakened. Probably they went deeper. Sasuke jumped on the ground and pulled out his katana. Wrapping the blade with lightning chakra, the Uchiha pierced the ground were his sharingan pinpointed the location of the suspicious person. The steel sliced through the soil and the dark-haired boy heard a familiar sound of flesh and bones being cut. When he pulled out the katana, there were still trailed of blood, dripping from the blade. The shinobi placed an explosive tag on the ground near the hole his sword made and stepped back before activating it.
When the smoke from the explosion dispersed and Sasuke removed a few huge rock blocks, his eyes narrowed as he recognised Zetsu's corpse. What were they doing so far up here?
The Uchiha growled as he felt three more signatures closing in. Probably they had escaped from the battlefield. "Great…now I have to clean up after those idiots in Konoha…" he sighed annoyed and made the handseals for Chidori.
Sakura felt a trickle of blood dripping from her chin onto her legs. Her limbs weren't tied up. There was no need for that. She could barely breathe, let alone move. She had regained consciousness a little while ago, unable to determine if and what additional damage had been inflicted on her. Sakura still had clothes on, even if they were ripped almost to shreds, which was good sign, she thought. The kunoichi tried to spit the blood in her mouth but her jaw didn't want to oblige to her commands. Was it broken? Well, it didn't matter anyway…
She scanned the cave with her right eye, the other one was partially closed from the tumefaction around it. There was no sign of Zetsu. Usually the freak would storm right after she had woken up. Sakura accumulated a tiny amount of chakra and sent it to her most hurting areas, to ease the pain and help herself think a little bit more sober. Not able to mould the chakra as precisely as she should made the process hell a lot slower. Her chakra reserves were half way recovered and she calculated that she must have been out for at least twelve to sixteen hours without the monster's vines sucking it out. What had happened during that time? Did that spawn finished what he threatened her would? The kunoichi was glad for once that she didn't remember, that way Sakura could fool herself without worrying she might fall into the insanity abyss and break down completely.
Up to now his atrocities had left rather deep scars on her physical condition and mental health. As a medic, Sakura was aware that she would suffer an acute form of post traumatic stress in case she survived this whole ordeal. It might be hidden for now but in time the nightmares, the paranoia and the fear would permanently nest in her mind. And when that happened she would be deprived from her ability to live alone, to rely on herself. Even the dearest of her friends would seem out to hurt her and the girl would find their closeness repulsive. The simple touch on her hand, the pat on the shoulder or ruffling of her hair… Those simple gestures of affection would be associated with her torturer, in her case that white-skinned weed-freak. It was understandable and the kunoichi knew she would need a professional help to overcome this whilst it was only a seed in her brain…not allowing it to bloom.
It wasn't just once to twice when she consulted Konoha shinobi after they had been kept in captivity and hence tortured. The girl knew the process, knew the questions she had to ask and the way to evaluate the victim according to their answers. But it was the first time she would need to be told to lie on the couch and to relax. Sakura would be the one observed with compassion and perhaps a little pity? People would be condescending and would try to "understand" what she would be going through.
Or maybe not…
She might avoid all that and just die here. After all, nobody would search for her. Even if Zetsu was tired of playing sick games with her broken body and mind, there was no hope for someone to find and save her. Sakura closed exhaustedly her eyes and tried to relax her, numb from the chakra, body. She felt light-headed from the blood loss. Wouldn't it be better if she just gave up? Put an end of all this tormenting, all this pain? Something inside her agreed to the idea but the shame quickly shook off her suicidal thoughts. Sakura was a kunoichi and she once had been Tsunade-sama's student. Even in her state the pinkette felt embarrassed from her weaknesses. Shouldn't she try to heal herself bit by bit and escape the cave? And then? What came next? She couldn't return to Konoha, she would be a rogue shinobi again but this time she would be all alone. Who knew if she would be able to cope with her cracked mentality?
A sudden explosion above her, shook the cave, forcing few pieces of rocks to break off and fall near her. Her eyes shot at the ceiling, wondering if she was still close to Konoha and that the fights might have reached this part as well. A spark of familiar chakra filled the air with tension. The green iris widened at the realisation that the feeling of electricity on her skin was definitely left by Chidori and she knew only two people who knew the jutsu in this particular form. The chakra signature became clearer and she recognised Sasuke. His energy was spiking and emitting a dangerous feeling. He was in the middle of a fight. The girl stopped the numbing process inside her body and let her chakra to flow out freely, filling up the cave, trying to catch the Uchiha's attention.
Soon Sasuke's chakra eased down and Sakura nearly lost it. The medic's eye glared at the empty space in front of her and tried to move. The action sent a jolt of pain throughout her body. The legs couldn't withstand her weight and she collapsed on the stone floor, crawling at the wall behind her toward the sense of the chakra on the surface. Sasuke was drawing further and further away from her. Didn't he sense her?! Sakura opened her mouth to scream, choking on the blood in her trachea. A wave of panic washed over her. He was so close yet so far.
Sakura had thought that there was no hope for her. That nobody would find her here. The hope of salvation had disappeared somewhen during the hours of torture, or so she had thought. Now when her friend was so close, the will to live crashed upon her with its full force. She wanted to get out of this hole. She wanted to see his face, Naruto's, Kakashi's, everyone's. She wanted them smiling back at her. Even if she was meant to spend the rest of her miserable life in Konoha's prison cell, even if it was only for an hour before they carried out her execution. Everything was better than dying here alone and probably somebody finding her rotting body years later or not at all.
The girl endured the pain when she screamed on the top of her lungs. She screamed and spitted blood and then screamed again. Even cried ignoring the stinging feeling her salty tears left on her cheeks. Even long after Sasuke's chakra had disappeared. She begged someone to send him back. Or to send anyone here. Just somebody to get her out of this dungeon.
The walls seemed closer as if with the clenching of heart, the room shrank as well. The air seemed not enough for her to breathe. She was suffocating. The light from the candles nearly died when all the wax had burned. Zetsu hadn't come back. She didn't care. Salty tears were flowing on her cheeks, burning when they came in contact with the cuts on her face.
Sakura was flat on her stomach on the floor, openly squalling and cussing at herself, at her fate, at Konoha, at the world. What had she done so bad that she had to go through this hell? Her mind went blank as the clenching of her heart became too strong. Fuck the world. She would be better off dead anyway. The blackness pulled her in and the crying sounds ceased.
Cautious steps filled the newly occurred silence. A cloaked figure stood in the darkness of the cave and observed the passed out kunoichi for a second before drawing closer and kneeling next to her.
Naruto knelt next to the futon where Hinata was sleeping. The Jinchuuriki fixed a tiny lock of dark hair which had fallen over her face. At some point of the night he heard her breathing getting harder and irregular. When he lit up the tent Naruto realised she wasn't feeling well. Was it a nightmare or something else? The blond pressed a forefinger over a small wrinkle on her forehead between her knitting brows. Under the touch Hinata relaxed a bit but the tension didn't leave her body and Naruto felt her shivering under the blanket. That's it. He'd go and call a doctor. No matter that Hinata told him it was simple spring tiredness.
He was just about to stand up when Hinata grabbed him for the wrist, "Stay." Tiny drops of sweat were glistening on her face under the light of the candle.
Naruto sighed and bit his thumb, summoning a small frog. The animal looked at him expectantly with curious features on its face, "Bring me a doctor." The Jinchuuriki whispered and watched as his summon jumped up and down as it left the tent.
The voice of his girlfriend brought him back looking at her, "Yeah?"
"I have something important to tell you…", she began but stopped in the middle of her sentence as an obvious jolt of pain passed through her body and she frowned, trying to suppress it.
"Don't worry about that, dattebayo! We'll talk when you get better.", the blond smiled and bent down giving her a soft kiss on the tip of her nose.
"No, Naruto…you don't understand…I…", her words were interrupted by Shizune who walked inside still wearing her shinobi uniform.
"Ah, Shizune-neechan!", Naruto shot upright and went to the young woman with concern in his blue eyes.
"It may be a just simple cold or food poisoning. It's quite common these days, Naruto."
"I see.", the boy nodded and opened his mouth to say something when he noticed through the aperture of the tent a small colourful bird chirping on the nearest tree branch. It was one of Sasuke's summons. He sensed his chakra stamp all over the animal. "I'll be right back."
The Jinchuuriki looked at Hinata and smiled as he realized she had fallen asleep again. He slipped out of the tent and saw the bird flying away. The boy sighed and chased after it.
Tenzo jumped from the roof of the building, panting. She was nowhere to be found. The former ANBU cursed and ran through the dark streets. Ino had been missing for a few days already. When he finally mustered the courage to go and speak with her father, the older shinobi seemed as concerned and worried as him. He had ordered few of the members of his clan to search for his daughter and help Tenzo. He didn't ask what their connection was and even if he suspected them being involved in a love relationship, the blonde man said nothing.
The wood-user noticed the ruins of what once had been an apartment building, near the Hokage tower. The initial attack of the enemy had occurred somewhere around here. Now the area was deserted and covered in ashes and dried blood. Few stray dogs wandered around in the shadows staring at him viciously. They were probably famished. It was a war time. The food supplies were limited, there was no way someone would feed the stay animals whose owners were probably killed. As he walked on the waste streets, the dogs followed him closely. He wasn't scared of them, as an ANBU he had faced much more dangerous opponents, but their bony shadows gave him the creeps. Tenzo lifted up his gaze at the moon. Soon he had to go back if he wanted to have some rest before tomorrow.
Suddenly an odd feeling of something missing crept up on his back. He turned around and saw the dogs tripping toward the nearest bushes in the park. He was no longer the object of interest. Their tongues were hanging from the mouths, dripping saliva on the ground. Tenzo stopped in his steps. They must have found something to eat. Two of them growled and barked at each other, baring their fangs. A third one passed them by and bowed its head. The sound of ripping flesh reached Tenzo's ears. Were there any dead animals around here? Just as he was about to turn around and continue his searching the sound of something being dragged on the ground made him stop and throw a curious glance over his shoulder. When the corpse of the victim appeared out of the shadows, the blood in the young shinobi's veins froze.
It was a human.
He turned around completely and observed as one of the dogs buried its muzzle in what once had been the chest of the person. He felt like throwing up. Tenzo pulled out a kunai and ran at the dogs killing two in an instant as they were distracted by the found food. The third made an attempt to run away but the shinobi threw the weapon and killed it off as it was about to hide behind a corner of a building.
The ANBU slid his gaze over the corpse. His breath hitched, brown eyes widened and he collapsed on his knees, unable to utter a word. His hand wiped some of the blood and the dirt off of the face, feeling the familiar stinging in his nose as tears welled up in his eyes. Blond hair, once tied in a ponytail, was now free, tangled and dirty from the blood and only god knew what else. The clothes were burnt and ripped. The ribs of her chest were sticking out horrifyingly, stripped of the flesh that was supposed to cover them. There were jagged marks on them, probably left by the animals that had been feeding on her. Wherever there was flesh, it had been badly burnt and it had begun peeling off. Tenzo turned around and threw up as the image of dogs gnawing at her bones emerged in front of his eyes. Her face was the only thing that was left almost unscathed except the cuts and bruises. The ANBU choked on the pain in his chest, not allowing it to take the better part of him. He was a shinobi; he wasn't supposed to emotionally react over something as trivial as loosing a dear person. Death for the ninja was like a ghost, haunting them, following them wherever they turned.
He looked around and noticed a store with broken glass window. He went there and ripped the scratched curtain. Walking mechanically, the wood user wrapped the corpse in the cloth and stood up with her dead body in his arms. His face was blank; the light in his eyes was gone, only the shimmering hope that she had been dead when the animals found her, resided in them. He walked silently through the deserted streets as a dozen pairs of glowing yellowish dog-eyes followed his movements from the shadows of the buildings he passed by.
None of the animals made a step after them.
Naruto frowned at his friend, sitting before him, and ran fingers through his blond hair. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?", he said, exhaling the breath he had held.
"You had other things to worry about.", Sasuke shrugged.
"But this is Sakura-chan we're talking about! She's family, dattebayo!" the blond sighed again. As much as he wanted to rush and look for the kunoichi, the boy couldn't leave Hinata. Not when she wasn't feeling well. "Does Kakashi know about it?"
The simple answer was definitely not the one Naruto expected to hear. Did really his sensei manage to ignore Sakura being kidnapped?
"He searched for a while but then gave up as the enemy gained ground.", Sasuke shook his head in disbelief as he remembered the Copy nin behaviour.
Naruto knitted his brows. Those weren't the actions of a man in love with Sakura. He had dug her grave out with the possibility of desecrating her rains only to prove that she was alive. He had put behind his back direct orders from the Hokage to protect her. And now he simply gave up? It was a bit odd at least, "Sasuke.", the Jinchuuriki looked at him with determination shimmering in his blue orbs, "When I make sure Hinata's life is out of danger and it's nothing serious, I'll search for her as well. Tsunade-baachan can beat me up after I've found Sakura-chan. In the meantime take some rest to cool your head a bit and I'll pour some sense into Kakashi's brain."
Sasuke smirked. Naruto indeed had changed. The actual fact that he was thinking before acting was a proof enough. The Uchiha nodded, turning up the corners of his mouth.
Kakashi sat on a wooden log next to the campfire only few meters away from his tent. He was tossing up an empty metal jug in his hands, the contents of which were currently warming up the inside of his stomach. The Copy nin was more like the sake-type of drinker but under those circumstances something light and not so prone to hangover in the morning was the better choice. The sweet bitterness of the wine relaxed him enough so that he would let his thoughts travel into the not so pleasant events.
Watching the blazing flames carried him away to the past when he stood around a campfire, much similar to this one, with Obito, Rin and Minato-sensei. It seemed like an eternity since the four of them had been together. The three had died leaving him alone to reminiscence. The sole survivor who bore the burden of the responsibility to remember them, reincarnated in his mind. Weren't they selfish? He had asked himself the same question again and again. But the answer remained unchanged – of course they were. But it was him who couldn't protect them so it was only fair for him not to forget.
Kakashi dropped the jug on the ground with a quiet thump and ran fingers through his messy silver hair. The image of Obito from the battlefield seemed like a mirage, a blurry vision – distorted yet familiar enough to be recognised. The bitterness and the venom in his voice were the ones that gave him the creeps. Should he had witnessed Rin's death, he must have misunderstood where Kakashi came from and his actions must have seemed unjustified in Obito's eyes, even cruel. The boy from the past that Kakashi knew – his strongest ally and closest confidant – wasn't like this. He was more like Naruto – acting on impulses, thick-headed and good-natured; used to see the good in the people standing in front of him; possessing self-destructive loyalty to Konoha. None of those were suitable characteristics for a shinobi, let alone an Uchiha who carried themselves with pride and distrust towards others.
The ripping of Kakashi's soul between the loyalties he felt toward Konoha and keeping the oath he gave his best friend at his deathbed had nearly driven him insane. Deep in his broken mind the Copy nin pitied his father and no longer felt shame, nor resentment at his deceased parent. Should the rupture of his soul had been anything like the one Kakashi experienced then his old man's decision to take his own life was understandable. The sole idea of escaping the hurtful reality around him had been appealing, not to say, even tempting. But he somehow withstood, maybe joining the ANBU helped him? Kakashi never thought that suppressing one's emotions could possible save their live but time proved him wrong. It might never fix the cracks in his heart but time did manage to stop it from falling apart and that was enough for him.
"I suppose you don't have any more of that, do you?", the voice of Jiraya startled Kakashi and the Copy nin sat straight on the log with one-eyed gaze, searching for the Sanin's face. When he found it, noticed nothing but warmth in his smile.
"I wasn't expecting a drink buddy." Kakashi tried to give him an eye crease but the result came out as something between baby, tasting lemon for the first time, and a dog about to sneeze.
Jiraya raised his brows amused at his expression, "Never would have guessed…"
"So, what brings you here? I doubt you came for the alcohol considering you're currently residing with the Hokage.", Kakashi stared at the fire again.
"I thought that you needed someone to talk to.", Jiraya sat on the ground next to the younger man, "I heard about Obito.", the Sanin glanced at the Copy nin to see his reaction but there was none, so the man pressed on, "I know you two were close."
"Or so I've heard…"
"Do not bottle up your thoughts and emotions, Kakashi, when the cap sags and eventually belch forth from the tension under it, you won't be able to control your feelings and rationalize your actions. And that's never a good thing." Jiraya reached for a stick and began poking the ground between his legs, "It's been a long time, since you've faced an opponent at this level, and I'm not talking about power only, I mean your personal connection with him…", the Sanin paused, "What do you see when you look at him, Kakashi?"
The Copy nin thought for a second before answering quietly, "I see Obito, my friend and former team-mate."
"That's exactly what I'm talking about. He's not Obito anymore. At east not the one you remember.", Jiraya said calmly, "He's an enemy. How many lives had he taken – civilian's and shinobi's? His goal is to steal the Kyuubi and thus murder your student…my student. Is this something your Obito would have done?"
Kakashi shook his head in reply, not trusting his voice to come out as stable as he would have wanted.
Jiraya continued, "Look at him for what he is, not for what he was…", the older man patted him on the shoulder and stood up to leave.
Kakashi exhaled, "What I did to Rin…", his voice stopped Jiraya in his walk and made him glance at the younger man silently. "…I've never talked about it with anyone but Minato-sensei. He understood but I…I…"
"You don't know if what you've done is right…", the older shinobi smiled slightly.
"I know everything that happened that night, Kakashi.", Jiraya looked gently at the sitting man, "You protected your village, nobody should blame you for that."
"But I betrayed my friends. She had feelings for me…and I…", Kakashi choked on his words.
"Had she really? Did Rin actually love you? If she did, then why betraying Konoha? She committed treason against the village. But I'm starting to think that if Rin had seen in how high regard you held her she might have as well asked you where your loyalty lied! And before you know it, you might have let her escape…", for the first time the Copy nin heard the older shinobi talk with such harsh tone. It sounded odd and uncomfortable in his ears. "You did what you had to do…", Jiraya finished with a little bit gentler tone.
"Would you do the same if it was Tsunade?", Kakashi asked without looking at the man.
"Would you do the same if it was Sakura?", Jiraya's question took him by surprise and the Copy nin glanced with wide open coal eye to the Sanin. The older white-haired man only smiled and turned around with hands in his pockets, walking away slowly.
I'm having a little break from writing, folks. When I get my inspiration back I'll continue the story. Sorry to keep you in suspense :(