disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to les and chloe. this is all your fucking fault.
notes: sonya, I'm always waiting for you to come home, baby girl.

title: little girls that got swallowed up
summary: They all eat each other, in the end. — Karin, Sakura, Ino.






Konoha ended in a flash of bad luck and white light. Just like that. It was simple, really—what little they had left was too shoddy to build on, and the entire populace was too displaced to begin to deal with the repercussions of a lack of government.

Karin looked down from a ruined Hokage mountain, smoking cigarette between her fingertips, and sighed out something between exhaustion and resignation.

She'd always known this was probably going to happen.

Sasuke would never have let this city stand, not when he'd sworn to take it down brick by brick. Not that Karin had wanted him to, but she'd been young and stupid and in love with the idea of him, so it made something like sense. Konoha had been good to her, at least a little, and now she stood atop the ruins of the place like the last princess of ash and regret as though she had any right to it.

That was Sakura's place, not Karin's.

"What are you doing up here?"

Speak of the devil.

Karin didn't look behind her to survey her girl, but only because she didn't need to. Sakura would look run ragged with holes in her skirt and deep dark shadows beneath her eyes—it was how they all looked, these days.

She took a long deep drag on her cigarette, and replied on the exhale. "Better than being down there."

"I know what you mean."

Karin turned just enough to shoot Sakura an amused look out of the corner of her eyes. "I don't think you have a clue, Sakura."

"Don't be a bitch."

"You're talking to the wrong girl if you don't want bitch."

"You're ridiculous," Sakura said, fondly exasperated.

"Of course. You wouldn't have me any other way," Karin laughed, and the smoke curled out of her mouth and around her face, more intangible than mist. She looked down at the village—they could say what they wanted, but Konoha was never going to heal. It was never going to be the glory of Hi again.

It was a divine joke, now.

Nothing more.

Karin thought that wherever her ex-lover was, he was laughing. Fucking Sasuke, like he'd ever known anything at all.

Sakura barely caused a ripple in the air as she moved up to stand next to Karin. Maybe her quiet was the product of her upbringing; because she was born and raised in Konohagakure, a place where the trees were always green, Sakura bent with the wind and never broke. But Karin thought it was more than that. There was a stillness to Sakura, a warm simplicity that only ever gave and never took. A calmness.

Karin hadn't an idea of what calmness really was. She pulled the still-glowing cigarette butt from her lips, held between two callused fingers, and tossed it over the edge of the mountain like a swan dive. She watched the smoke trail all the way down until it disappeared into the muck and the mire of the evening.

They flopped down to the cold stone in unison, without any prompting. The world went on below them, the hum of construction a terrible orchestra in both their ears.

"God doesn't live in any place like this, Sakura," Karin said distantly. Her hands folded themselves into fists.

She didn't want to know what Sakura thought. It wouldn't be anthing good, anyway.

"I think we killed God a long time ago," Sakura murmured.

"...I need another cigarette."

"I never should have let you and Shika hang out, that was so the worst decision I have ever made."

The pair of them looked up past the bleeding sky to their third. Ino looked like murder in the sunset's red light, her hair wheat gold and loose over her shoulders.

Karin smirked. "Like you could have stopped me. Your boyfriend is good for bitching at."

Ino wrinkled her nose at the thought. "Ew. That would be like. Incest. Besides, that's why he and Temari have such kinky sex, I'm pretty sure they're into all kinds of—"

"The phrase you're looking for is 'freaking weird illegal shit'", Karin said delicately. She and Ino only managed to keep it together for another minute before they both burst into hysteric laughter.

But it turned weak as Ino settled down on Karin's other side, and they sat in silence. As though it was always going to end up like this, the three of them with a killer's survival instinct.

"I don't even know why they're trying," Karin muttered around another cigarette as she fumbled with the lighter.

"Give that here, you look like an idiot," Ino said. She pulled the cigarette from Karin's mouth, and lit it herself.

"Since when do you smoke, Pig?"

"Since Shikamaru sucks at using a lighter, Forehead. And why do you care, huh?"

They all ignored Ino's glassy eyes, because this was they had left—they had each other, but Sakura's team was dead, Ino's team was gone, and Karin never really had a team to begin this.

Karin sat back with her palms flat against the ground behind her for support, shaking out the long red length of her hair. She shook her head, a funny little smile on her lips that didn't quite falter around the edges of her cancer stick.

But it wasn't very happy, either.

"I don't even know why you losers are trying," she said.

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked. The hollows of her eyes were haunted shiny holes in her face.

Karin blew out smoke like she'd been born doing it, chuckling over the ash that clung to the insides of her throat. She raised a hand and waved down at the trying-to-heal city. "You have eyes. Look. I dunno why you're trying. It's never going to be the same."

"Why do you say that?"

"One of your own destroyed this goddamn place. He took it APART, Sakura, and I get it, okay, I get that you loved him or whatever, but Sasuke? He didn't love anyone. He didn't even love himself," Karin said. Her eyes were hard. She didn't look at either of them. She wouldn't have even if she had the courage to do so. "He didn't love you, and he sure as hell didn't love me."

It was true, but Sakura would never blame him for it. Childhood love was a powerful thing, and it washed away any grievances the girl had with the boy they'd all once loved.

Sakura didn't blame him.

Ino did, though. Karin could feel the shift in her through the cold stone beneath them, as though she was connected to this land and this place, and Ino was just another off-shoot of the same tree. Ino blamed Sasuke for Konoha's end.

Karin didn't blame him, but only because she had SO seen it coming. Morons, the lot of them.

The sun set on Konoha, and the three of them stayed there long after the last of the light was gone. They didn't have anyone to go home to—war orphans, they were, all of them. Karin laced her fingers through Ino's just because she could, and Sakura sat close with her knees up to her chest.

They watched the lights go on in the tent-cities that the remaining civillians had constructed. The dark lit up with golden pinpricks of light that were probably fires. From this distance, they only looked like stars.

"What do you think we should do?"

"Nothing. We can't do anything."

"Except clean up the bodies," Sakura said.

"They don't want my help for that. I don't belong here, remember?" Karin's grin was crooked and too bright to be real. "No Leaf nin here, no sir."

"There aren't enough of us left," Ino whispered. Her mouth twisted up, heart in her throat, and she wasn't, she wasn't going to cry. She wasn't.

They didn't talk about it.

Instead, they just sat together and tried to breathe. The world was always eating things; childhood, truth, love. The good things in life always got killed the fastest.

(The bad things in life, too. Karin thought viciously that if there was any justice in the universe, Uchiha Sasuke would have drowned in a river long before he ever had the chance to kill a city.)

Sakura and Karin and Ino?

They were just leftovers.

"Huh," Karin said softly. "Would you look at that. Fireflies."

"You think we'd be better off gone," Sakura said. It wasn't a question.

Karin had smoked her cigarette right down to the butt. She flicked it off the edge of the mountain again, and watched it go like it was a sacred thing. "Of course I do. I think you're crazy for staying as long as you have."

"You stay here," Sakura said, quietly as a ghost in the sunlight.

"Do you think I'd be here if I had anywhere else to go?"

"I don't know. Would you?"

"Don't even—" Karin's retort was acid on her lips and about to spew everywhere when Ino leaned gently against her shoulder. "Hey, pretty girl, it's okay. You're here, now."

"I know," Karin said. "It just was never my choice."

"Never any of our choices," Ino said flatly, and Karin thought of how her summer girl had been for weeks after the end—empty-eyed and lifeless, living in a lonely house with no one had taken them days to get her out to see the sun. When she'd finally acquiesced to face the cityscape, she'd been hollow inside and out. It had taken Karin sleeping next to her for weeks to get Ino back to something like normalcy.

That was the thing about Konoha. It had never prepared its nin for war. Not real war; the way Karin had been brought up, she'd fought for every meal she'd ever eaten, fought for her life and learned early on to sleep with both eyes open. Neither Ino nor Sakura nor any of them had been prepared for the realities of war.

Karin spat a little glob of heretical spit off the top of Hokage Mountain, and thought of eating and eating until there was nothing left. The world ate the war and the war ate the people. Konoha had been eaten alive, too; stripped of its flesh, marrow sucked out, bones crunched under the teeth of the war machine. That was what had happened to this place, and she'd seen it before.

Konoha didn't have long, now, and Karin wondered bitterly whom it would take with it when it went.

Ino and Sakura would be swept up, and she would be left all by herself.

Just like always.

Karin searched for another cigarette and knew, without a burning doubt, that she was going to survive them alone.