There was something to be said for distance.
It had been over a year since she'd laid eyes on her most recent foster father, apart from his presence at her trial, but Sakura was having a difficult time reconciling the frightening, imposing giant of her nightmares with the sallow-faced individual sitting opposite her in the visitor's center.
Maybe she'd just grown up, and now that she was no longer under his thumb, he wasn't scary to her anymore. Or maybe she'd experienced enough nightmares to last her a lifetime, and this one simply couldn't reach her now. Either way, when she was escorted inside by Kin and Zaku, she took a seat and eyed him fearlessly.
Zabuza Momochi was a foster child's worst nightmare, the kind who took children in purely for the money, on top of being an abusive, violent, psychotic son of a bitch. Other foster children told horror stories of being "raised" by him off and on. When she and her little sister were signed over to him, Moegi had been terrified; so had Sakura, but she knew better than to show it.
She'd always wondered how a scumbag like him could qualify as a foster parent, but the system in that deplorable city was such that people like him were never properly vetted before being approved to house children. He used the information of whichever fly-by-night hussy was warming his bed when he needed the extra cash, most likely. One of her dearest ambitions in life, should she ever escape this madness, was to overhaul the foster system completely, and maybe stick a knife in between his legs for good measure.
"Well hey there, sweetheart," he said as she sat down, grinning so his sharp, uneven teeth were bared unholy white in the fluorescent light. "Long time, no see."
"I'm surprised you're still alive," she said coolly, recalling the number of filthy heroin needles he'd left strewn about the hovel she and Moegi had been forced into.
"Let me amend that: disappointed."
Sakura hated him to her core, and knowing that he couldn't touch her here, she decided to air a few of her frustrations. It had been a long time coming.
"You always did have such a smart mouth," Zabuza replied, letting his dark eyes drift over her from head to toe. She suppressed a shudder, refusing to give him the satisfaction of knowing he could still make her uneasy. "You don't seem happy to see me here, if the way you freaked out out there is any hint."
"I'm not happy to see you breathing. I don't particularly care why you're here. Most likely to gloat."
"In a way," he agreed, amused. "After your nasty little sister got adopted, I thought for sure I'd have you all to myself, but you had other plans, didn't you? Stole a ton of cash from me and ran off. I gotta hand it to you, though, you got away with it for longer than I thought you would."
"Because you were too stupid to know where to look," Sakura shot back hotly.
"But you ended up where girls like you need to be," Zabuza continued as if he hadn't heard her. "First on a stripper pole, now locked up like the animal I always knew you were deep down."
"Better a dropout stripper psych patient," Sakura whispered, her eyes crackling with electricity as she fought to keep her hands steady in her lap, "than living with some crank-addicted junkie pedophile like you."
There was a ringing silence after her accusation. Sakura met his gaze levelly, refusing to cower in front of him one more minute. All of this was behind her, it had to be: the beatings, the starvation…the way he'd sneak into her room at night, his breath stinking of vodka and his chuckle deep and throaty in her ear…
"You know," Zabuza said after a moment had passed, leaning back in the visitor's chair comfortably, "I haven't seen li'l MoMo in awhile, not since she was adopted."
At the mention of Moegi, Sakura's eyes narrowed into dangerous slits.
"Don't even say her name, you son of a bitch," she said softly, menacingly.
"You and I both know that she got the better end of the deal," he replied. He leaned forward instead, almost halfway across the table that separated him, staring her down. "You kept her safe from Big Bad Zabuza…then, she gets adopted on her own, because you and I both know you were never gonna find a nice family to take you in. I bet she's real happy these days. Real safe and happy. Wonder what would happen if I were to, say, look her up?"
Sakura's blood turned to ice in her veins, and any pretense of bravery she'd been clinging to vanished at the threat. The very notion that all of this was for nothing, that every sacrifice she'd made to give Moegi the future she deserved was in vain, made her want to rip Zabuza's eyes right out of his head and force them down his throat. Beneath that, though, was terror.
"You wouldn't dare," she whispered.
"You know I would," he said with a confident grin. "Without you there to take the hits for her, I wonder how she'd hold up?"
"If you want me to stay away from her, and keep li'l MoMo safe and smiling with her brand new shiny family, then you keep your little accusations to yourself. You understand? No jury in the world would believe anything that comes out of your filthy whore mouth anyway."
Sakura's plan had always been to rat out Zabuza once she was established somewhere safe, but now, she was rethinking it. She knew better than to dismiss what he threatened as a bluff, and she would sooner lay down on a live wire than provoke him into finding where little Moegi was living these days.
"I won't say a word," she promised stiffly. "You can get away with everything you to did to us – to me – for the rest of your miserable life but you leave her alone."
"That's not all," Zabuza continued, his menacing smirk horrendous as he reveled in his victory. "I want every penny of the money you stole from me returned the second you get out of this loony bin."
"I don't have any money."
"Then you get your ass back on the pole till you repay your debt to me, don't you? Those are the terms, Sakura. Or do I need to remind you what happens to little girls who backsass their daddies?"
"You're not my daddy you son of a bitch," Sakura whispered. "I'll give you your fucking money back but you know what else I'm gonna do? Once I get out of here…once I'm sure Moegi's safe and far away from you…I'm gonna shove that money down your throat and watch you choke on it. You're gonna burn in hell someday and I can't wait to send you there myself!"
Deciding to end things on her own terms, Sakura jumped to her feet and hammered on the door ten minutes before her visit was scheduled to end. Zaku and Kin buzzed her out, and as they walked her down to the cafeteria for dinner, she heard her foster father's victorious laughter ringing in her ears behind her.
Sakura lay in bed on her side, sobbing silently into her pillow.
She didn't often allow herself to completely break down like this, but the visit with Zabuza had rattled her.
She'd gone to immense, extreme lengths to protect Moegi throughout their lives. When Zabuza was drunk and angry, she stood between him and her little sister and took the brunt of the abuse. When adoptive parents were shopping around for children, Sakura made sure to distance herself from Moegi to give the younger, more adoptable child a better chance at finding a family who would take her home without the added burden of her teenage sister. She worked odd jobs to help support Moegi if the foster families who took them in couldn't take care of her properly.
Now Zabuza had made a threat – essentially declared war on her – by alluding to the one person in the world that Sakura truly loved. And locked up here, in this awful place which was home to a thousand dark and terrible secrets, there was nothing she could do to intervene. With her history, no judge would believe her if she went to the police, and with Dr. Orochimaru and that shithead Dr. Kabuto monitoring her every move, she wouldn't be able to reach them anyway.
If Zabuza decided to renege on his promise to leave Moegi alone in exchange for Sakura's silence, there was absolutely nothing she could do to stop him. Moegi probably thought herself entirely safe these days with the Sarutobi family. She wouldn't even see him coming.
I have to do something, she thought, stifling a cry with the thin, stiff pillow so as not to attract the attention of the orderlies in the hallway. I can't just…sit around here like this hoping he doesn't do anything…I have to get out of here. Fuck the deal.
She wasn't expected to be in bed yet since it was still rather early, but after Zabuza's visit, and Sasuke's subsequent interrogation during Free Time, she was drained and wanted nothing more than to be left alone with her thoughts. She had things to do, plans to make, and Sasuke was treading all over their tenuous, convenient companionship by asking all the wrong questions. She'd pulled out all the stops to appear unaffected by the visitation, but he'd seen right through her.
"Sakura, it's me," a deep voice said from beyond the unlocked door.
Speak of the devil, she thought bitterly.
"I'm tired!" she called, trying to choke out the sobs in her throat so he wouldn't hear them. "Just…I'll see you tomorrow at Group, Sasuke."
He didn't listen. Before lockdown, none of the bedrooms' doors could be locked, so he merely turned the knob and stepped inside. She stiffened as he paused in the threshold, bright fluorescent light from the hallway pouring inside and drowning the darkness that surrounded her.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
"It's not a good time," she snapped. Why couldn't he just take a hint? Wasn't she allowed one minute to fall apart in privacy?
"That have anything to do with the guy who came in to see you?"
He knows I lied, she thought, eyes snapping open as she sat up to face him. Sasuke looked deeply unimpressed, his arms folded over the black T-shirt they were forced to hear as he leaned against her doorway. Clearly he wasn't pleased with her dishonesty, but was it so much to ask to keep her secrets close to the vest?
"That's none of your business," she said harshly. "Nobody asked you to check up on me!"
"You told me nobody came today for you," Sasuke snapped back. "But Naruto said he saw some guy screaming for you, and you're falling apart here in your room alone…"
"I don't owe you anything, damn it!" Sakura shouted, jumping to her feet. "You don't know the half of what I've been through and you sure as hell don't care so quit acting like you're entitled to all my secrets!"
"It was your foster dad, wasn't it?" Sasuke asked, his tone soft and nearly gentle as he closed her door behind him to discourage eavesdroppers. "Who came today for you, right?"
The thought of relieving her mental burdens on someone else was so tempting, but Sakura kept to herself for a reason. There was no one in the world besides Moegi who she could trust, and even that was a pipe dream, given that Moegi was so happy with her new family that Sakura doubted she even missed her. None of her friends back in Kiri or any of the foster homes ever bothered to try and find her, the girls at the strip club were all far older and kept to themselves, and every law enforcement official she'd ever met was corrupt. Now, just because he came in to her room guns blazing, eyes all patient and understanding, she was supposed to unload her suffering on this boy she knew nearly nothing about?
"It's none of your business," she hissed. "Get out. Just leave me alone!"
"He hit you, didn't he?" Sasuke guessed, and she was astonished at his persistence, even more so at the kindness in his eyes as he studied her. If he knew how close she was to hitting him and screaming for an orderly, he didn't show it. "Is that why you ran away? Got involved in all that other shit?"
There was no judgment in his voice, no condemnation, and it completely threw her off. Everyone who knew what she'd done – dropped out of school, ran away with stolen cash, lied about her age to work at a seedy strip joint – looked at her with disdain. No one understood her and nobody tried to, either. But Sasuke looked at her like a friend, nothing in his eyes but curiosity and patience.
"Why are you doing this?" she whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks unchecked. "Why are you asking me all of this? You don't even know me."
Sasuke considered her words for a moment, then smirked. "You're the only one here besides me who hasn't given up on life completely," he said with a shrug. "If you check out like everyone else, I'm on my own."
"We're friends, Sakura. Just tell me, you're being annoying."
Sakura hesitated, then quickly remembered who Sasuke was. More importantly, what his brother did for a living.
"I need a favor from you," she said hastily, grabbing the front of his shirt, her eyes wide and almost manic in urgency. "I'll tell you some about what happened today, but you have to promise me you'll help me out with something. Please, Sasuke?"
He frowned, a bit confused. "A favor?"
"Your brother's a cop, right?"
"Aa. So what."
"I need him to check on someone for me," she said quickly. "My little sister. Her name's Moegi Sarutobi."
"Your little sister?"
"We're not blood-related. I met her at the orphanage and we were shunted around foster homes together off and on. The last one we stayed with was…that was the guy who came to see me today."
Sasuke's face still showed confusion, but he seemed to be piecing together the information little by little.
"His name's Zabuza Momochi," she went on. "He's a foster father horror story. Moegi was adopted last year and she lives in Konoha with her new permanent family…Zabuza threatened to go after her if I tell anybody what he did to me."
"What was that, Sakura?" Sasuke asked quietly, but firmly.
"I'm sure you can imagine," she replied darkly. "Anyway I need you to let your brother know about this. Someone has to tip off the Sarutobis in case he comes around."
Sasuke frowned, deep in thought, and without invitation took a seat at the edge of her bed, arms folded. "My brother works for the Konoha Police Department," he revealed, and Sakura couldn't believe her luck. "Where's this…Zabuza Momochi from?"
"He was living in Kiri when I left, but that could've changed. I didn't keep tabs on him or anything after that. God, Sasuke, thank you so much for doing this."
She sat down beside him and bit her lip to try and stifle another wave of tears, but it meant indescribably much to have someone there with her who was genuinely willing to help. With a little gasp of surrender, she threw her arms around him and buried her face against his neck.
Sasuke stiffened at the contact, but he didn't push her away; instead, she felt a warm, slight pressure on her back from his large hand.
"I know," she sniffled, "that…you and I are only…friends because there's…there's nobody else around. It's all convenience, yeah? I get that. But thank you, Sasuke."
"Don't thank me just yet," he murmured, his voice deep and a little exciting in her ear. She felt his breath fan against her skin and her heartbeat quickened in response, something she refused to examine in any further detail. "I have to figure out how to get in touch with my brother. We're not scheduled another visitation for two weeks. If this guy's as serious as you say he is, we can't wait that long."
Sakura knew that Sasuke's circumstances were similar to hers – they were both locked up in this cesspool after all – but the very fact that he was making an effort to help her out meant the world to her. She didn't trust anyone these days, but Sasuke, for as tenuous as their friendship was, was looking more and more like someone to place her faith in with every word he spoke.
I'm so desperate for a real friend, she thought with a little self-deprecating laugh, that I'm putting all my eggs in one basket. God I'm still so naïve but he's so warm…
She could tell that Sasuke wasn't crazy, the victim of unfortunate circumstances same as her, and no one would ever accuse him of being overly friendly or incredibly cheerful. He had a bad attitude, no doubt made worse by this horrendous place, and their shaky bond was forged purely out of necessity. There was still so much they didn't know about each other.
But there was something about him that compelled her to lower her defenses. Something strong and capable that she admired; having had to take care of herself for so long, she wondered what it would be like to have someone in her life to help her along.
There was much to be said for circumstance.
Without so much as another word, she lifted her head and pressed a sweet, chaste kiss to his cheek. Sasuke didn't move, still kept one hand comfortingly at her back, and she didn't look up to gauge his reaction.
If she did, she would have been rewarded with the rare sight of a fierce blush, and an even rarer smile.
note.. been gone for like six months on this haha but there's something to be said about absence making the heart grow fonder and whatever. this story is probably the darkest one i have going at the moment but i like the idea of having sasuke and sakura build up a relationship out of something horrible.
anyway the hotel i'm at has an indoor pool and free wifi and my husband's in a meeting so i'm just living the good life right now. nothing makes me happier than traveling. and wearing a bikini two weeks before christmas.
let me know if you liked it, y'all know the drill! have a good week :)
xoxo daisy :)