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[personal profile] oroburos69
Title: Freedom in the Eyes of Another
Beta: lady_of_scarlet
Warnings: Angst, graphic violence, gore, child abuse, and the happiest damn ending anyone could wish for.
Summary: The Wave Mission is a failure. Team Seven is captured. Sasuke is gone. They are coming for Kakashi. Sakura has no choice but to be a hero.
Rating: M/FRM
A/N: Written for the Anon Meme Prompt, "There's a fire burning. Literal or figuratively ... do with it what you will :)" and pre-read by the amazing/wonderful subtle_shades / [personal profile] crunchysunrises  (who did an absolutely amazing job of pointing out plot holes).

Part 1


“Wait,” Sakura whispered, lowering Kakashi to the floor. The door was ornate, carved and painted with boats sailing on a calm sea. It stuck out like a sore thumb against the mould-stained wood of the hallway.

Naruto stood shock still, watching her with empty blue eyes. Trusting or apathetic, she couldn’t tell.

She snuck forward, dagger tucked against her forearm, invisible at first glance.

It was the only door. Ornate meant important, and she’d pass it by if she could, but there weren’t any other choices. The trap door had lead to a room filled with half-empty bottles of beer, empty chairs, and food-smeared plates. It had been abandoned and recently so, from the condensation dripping down the sides of the bottles.

The short hall off of it had a plain, ordinary door, blocked from the other side, and this one.

The floor creaked, and Sakura froze. She could hear muffled voices from behind the door. Their conversation had not paused. Sakura inched forward, pressing a hand against the smooth dark wood.

“...foolish!” a man growled. His voice was almost familiar.

The second man laughed, and Sakura snarled silently. She knew that laugh.

It was the man who’d had them captured. He’d watched when Sasuke had been beaten until he couldn’t move. He had laughed when the guards broke Naruto’s fingers—made him cry.

Kakashi had been sick when they’d been taken, so tired he could barely lift his head, but the bastard had made the guards beat him until Kakashi couldn’t move and barely breathed.

He had cut her hair off himself, four men holding her down, even though she was too scared to move. Kakashi had stopped him. He’d wanted—wanted to—Kakashi had stopped him.

“Advice is not what I pay you for,” he said. His voice was squeaky like a rat.

She couldn’t charge in and kill him. There was no telling how many people were in there.

Sakura pushed down her rage, her hate—she wanted that man’s eyes on her hands. She wanted to make him tell her where Sasuke was, then kill him dead dead dead.

“You are a fool,” the first speaker said. “This ninja is not the type of man you can buy off, and Konoha is not a village that will ignore your trespasses. You are courting war with this auction.”

The man giggled, high pitched and evil sounding. “There’s no man or organization without a price, and for what Cloud has offered, I’ll be able to buy Konoha ten times over.”

Sakura shifted her grip on the dagger, imagining driving it through his chest—no, his gut. Leave him to die slow.

“You cannot be convinced?”

“I will buy them the way I bought you. Need I remind you how easy that was?”

A door opened and slammed shut, rattling on its hinges.

He was alone.

Sakura looked back, checking on Naruto. He hadn’t moved.

She held her index finger in front of her lips, and slunk toward him, avoiding the board that had creaked. “I need your help,” she whispered, touching Naruto’s shoulder with light fingers.

He jerked his attention from the door, looking at her.

“The man—the one who—Sasuke,” she whispered, hoping he’d remember, he’d understand her meaning.

Naruto narrowed his eyes, and she felt killing intent radiate off him. The stripes on his cheeks thickened, deepened, sinking into his fragile skin like they'd been carved.

Good. He knew.

“Leave Kakashi here. We’ll go in, get him to tell us where Sasuke is, then kill him,” Sakura said, creeping back to the door.

Naruto followed in her footsteps, his bare feet as quiet as her own. He took his place behind her, the dagger held tight in his hand.

Sakura tested the door handle. It was unlocked.

She glanced at Naruto, and he nodded, alert and there in a way he hadn’t been since he’d left his cell.

The hinges were well-greased. The door opened soundlessly into an opulent office, decorated in plush velvets and shining silk, all of it red.

The man’s back was to them. The door opened from behind his desk. It was built into the panelling, invisible from inside the office. It was secret. Hidden.

He shuffled his piles of papers, stacked over a foot deep on the rare Konohian Hartwood desk, recognizable from the distinctive flame pattern of the wood grain.

Sakura stepped inside, her feet sinking soundlessly into the thick carpet, Naruto close by her side.

He tapped his pen against the desk, humming to himself.

Sakura curled her toes in the carpet. He had no idea how vulnerable he was.

She snuck forward until she was close enough to touch his wrinkled suit, pulled tight over sloping shoulders. Naruto crouched low, sliding through shadows to stand behind the man's right shoulder.

She licked her lips. Do or die, Sakura thought with a touch of morbid humour. “Where is Sasuke, Gato?” she hissed.

Gato jerked, pen falling from his fingers and clattering on his desk, ink staining the blotter. Messy.

Naruto tucked his dagger under Gato’s chin, trails of blood dribbling from where his blade touched. Sakura could just see them, staining the collar of his starched shirt as crimson as the curtains, carpet, and walls.

“Don’t kill him,” Sakura warned. They didn’t have their answers yet.

“There’s a safe behind the panelling—I can give you money—” Gato choked, going very, very still.

Sakura dug the tip of her dagger a tiny bit deeper into his eyelid. “Shhhh,” she said. “We don’t want money. We want to know where Sasuke is.”

A hissing, angry growl rose from Naruto’s chest. “What did you do with him?” He hardly sounded human.

“I sold him,” Gato whimpered, despicably cowardly when he didn’t have someone else to hide behind. “To—to a village—”

“And what village was that?” Sakura asked, twisting her blade. She couldn’t see his face, but she imagined that his eye was bleeding, red dripping down his cheek.

Her hands were smeared darkly and they glistened in the light. She wondered if he saw the stains, or if Gato had closed his eyes out of fear.

“The Hidden Village of Sound!” Gato gasped. “They outbid the others—took him away a week ago!”

Sakura met Naruto’s eyes, mouthing, Sound?

He shook his head.

“If you let me go, I’ll pay you—I’ll—” Gato’s voice rose, getting louder—too loud.

Sakura jammed her blade into his eye at the same time as Naruto ripped his across Gato’s throat. A bright spurt of blood painted the white papers, the white shirt, darkening them to match the Hartwood desk.

“We don’t want your money,” she whispered into Gato’s thinning hair. The dagger dripped on the fine carpet when she ripped it out.

Naruto looked at her, some unnameable darkness in his cornflower eyes. Sakura licked her lips, wondered if the same darkness was in hers.

“I’ve never heard of a Sound village,” Naruto said. “Have you?”

She shook her head. “No. We’ll have to go back to Konoha, tell them what we know.”

“What about Sasuke?” Naruto asked. “We can’t just leave him—”

“He isn’t here. We aren’t leaving him behind, we’re leaving to get information so we can find him.” Sakura dumped the bloody papers on the floor and wiped off the desk. Hartwood was stained red by the blood of heroes. Gato’s blood was unworthy of it.

Naruto wiped his dagger on the back of Gato’s suit. “You promise? We’ll come back for Sasuke?”

“Once we know where he is,” she reassured him absently, opening drawers. Alcohol, staples, keys, and an entire drawer full of empty envelopes. Sakura took the keys, just in case.

The other side of drawers had a better bounty—hand sanitizer, cigars, lighters, and a bonafide cornucopia of candy. She scrubbed with hand sanitizer three times, but couldn’t get the blood off, just streaked it.

“Come on. Let’s get Kakashi before anyone comes.” Sakura said, dragging Gato’s suit jacket off his corpse and dousing it with hand sanitizer. It smelled flammable.

She paused by the window and hacked off the bottom of one of the bright silk curtains. Kakashi would want his face covered.

***

The blade was taller than her, taller than Kakashi, even. Sakura stared at her reflection in the bright polished surface. She barely recognized herself, pale and shorn and scarred. Her lips were striped black with bleeding and bitten cracks. Ino would be appalled.

“I think you killed my employer,” Zabuza told them, when both she and Naruto failed to react to his entrance.

Sakura glanced through the window behind her, at Gato’s smoking corpse. The fire jumped to the curtains, hissing and crackling as it fed on his fine things. “I think there was a safe in there,” she said. “You could probably grab it before anyone else does, escape with whatever money he had on hand.”

“Do you know where Hidden Sound Village is?” Naruto asked when Zabuza didn’t respond.

Sakura had to fight back a fit of the giggles, because eyes. “Well? Do you?” she asked, her breath hitching in an unsteady laugh.

“No.” Zabuza lifted his sword and slung it over his shoulder. He looked them over, head to toe, toe to head. His eyes were dark. The sun refused to shine through the clouds and fog, so Sakura couldn’t tell if they were brown or grey.

Sakura shifted Kakashi higher on her shoulder. His hand grasped her shirt, tugging on it. Alive, she noted. Breathing quieter, less hot than he'd been.

“Oh.” Naruto frowned. “Do you know where Sasuke is?”

Zabuza shook his head. “There’s a rumour that he never made it to Sound,” he offered. “The group taking him there was found dead, torn to shreds.”

Sakura tensed, her heart near breaking. “Was Sasuke among them?” she asked, voice wavering traitorously. “Is he dead?”

Naruto made a sound, low in his throat. His face turned soft and distant again, life fleeing it.

“Rumours...” Zabuza laughed, sharp and loud. “Things are coming to a head. The last of the Uchiha are together and Konoha is marching to war.”

Her eyes met Naruto’s over the breadth of Kakashi’s shoulders. “War with who?” she asked, turning over the words ‘the last of the Uchiha’ in her head. Did that mean he was alive? Sasuke was the last Uchiha, singular. Right?

Zabuza studied them. “Wait here,” he said, not answering. He ripped the window from its frame and went through. Smoke poured through the hole, black and reeking.

Sakura brushed the shards of glass from her neck and started walking, Naruto a half-step behind her.

“Zabuza asked you to stay.” The voice was androgynous, the speaker’s face hidden behind a Hunter’s mask. Sakura recognized it from the disastrous fight on the lake. There had been the gleam of silver flying through the air—Kakashi had said senbon, when they described it—and then they had woken in the dark.

The person behind the mask was young, not much older than her. Sakura clutched the dagger in her hand and wondered what color their eyes were.

“We don’t want to stay,” she said, loosening her grip on Kakashi’s wrist. If she moved fast—

Kakashi shifted, the muscles in his arms tensing. His shirt was soaked through with sweat. Sakura didn’t look. He moved in his sleep a lot. He probably wasn’t awake.

Zabuza stepped out of the window, dropping a smoking cube of metal at their feet. He drove the blunt edge of his sword into it, cracking the safe in two. Paper—more money than Sakura had ever seen in her life—slipped out, bound in bundles.

“Grab it,” Zabuza ordered the masked ninja before he returned his gaze to them. “I suppose you’re right. No use crying over spilt milk.”

She nodded when it became apparent that he was waiting for a response.

“But it is a bit of a dilemma, you understand.”

Sakura didn’t understand. She was pretty sure Naruto didn’t either.

“There are wolves at the door, and I’ve got no way past them but you,” Zabuza concluded pensively, his fingers drumming along the hilt of his sword. “Which means, of course, that you’re coming with me.”

“I’m done,” the other ninja said quietly. The safe was empty and covered in a layer of frost, the coating of soot nearly hidden by ice. “Perhaps we should move on?”

Sakura studied the glint of ice crystals on metal, trying to make sense of her situation. There was very little to be found.

“Come,” Zabuza ordered her, trying to take Kakashi. Sakura reacted, driving the dagger toward his face with all her strength. She missed, Zabuza shifting inches to the side, the blade whistling past.

“He is ours,” she said, her sharp tone lost in the deadening mist. “You can’t have him!”

“Gato’s employees will see the smoke soon. Do you want to fight them?”

“How many are there?”

“Upward of a hundred,” Zabuza said.

Sakura wrapped her arm around Kakashi’s back. “Then we had best get moving,” she replied. “Lead on.” In a choice between death now and death later, she would always choose death later.

Zabuza snorted. “At least we don’t have far to go,” he said, twitching his shoulder. “Haku? Watch them.”

“Yes sir.” The masked ninja disappeared and the fog thickened.

“Follow me, and hurry if you can.”

You can, Sakura remembered, ducking her head and squaring her shoulders. It was hard to get moving again, Kakashi's feet and knees dragging on the ground like anchors, but with Naruto’s help she managed. They entered the mist, the silent movement of Zabuza’s feet their only guide.

***

Kakashi weighed as much as the world, draped over her shoulders. He shivered near constantly, even though Sakura thought she might melt where he touched her.

Waves lapped at her toes, splashing over fine grey gravel. It felt smooth and cool under her feet, even as the salt stung the scrapes in her skin.

Through the mist, Sakura could see a ruined bridge, bowed, half-melted, and crumbling into the sea. She shifted, brushing her fingers over Naruto’s arm to make sure he was still there.

“Can you walk on water?” Zabuza asked. Half-forgotten memory sparked, and she remembered seeing Kakashi standing on the lake.

“No,” she answered.

“Trees?”

“Climb them?” Naruto asked, a trace of scorn in his voice. They’d grown up in Konoha. Tree climbing came about a week after learning how to walk.

“Walk up them.” He pointed to the forest behind them. The masked ninja waved, standing sideways on the trunk of a sapling.

“No.” Sakura shook her head, and looked at the ground, wondering just how far behind they were, compared to other genin.

Zabuza crouched, looking at Naruto, then her. “How long have you been out of the Academy?”

“Before?” Sakura thought back, the memories of doing D-Ranks blurred and distant.

“Two weeks?” Naruto guessed.

“Thirteen days, before we left for Wave,” Sakura corrected him, remembering ticking off a ‘Two Weeks!’ anniversary on the second day of the mission. It seemed incredibly silly, now.

Nothing about Zabuza’s face changed, but he felt angry. “You were sent on an A-Rank Mission thirteen days after graduation?”

“It was supposed to be a C-Rank,” she replied. “Kakashi said that the worst we might face would be angry squirrels.”

“So the bridge-maker lied,” Zabuza said. He stood, stepping back onto the water. The tiny waves went glass-like and smooth under his feet. “Gato impounded all the boats, and we don’t have time to find them. You’re learning to walk on water.”

“How?” Naruto asked. Sakura hoped it was the mist that made him sound so lifeless.

“Can you channel chakra?”

“Yes,” Sakura answered.

Naruto shifted restlessly, pressing more of Kakashi’s weight on her. “What’s chakra?”

Really? Sakura wondered how the hell Naruto had ever graduated.

“You can use ninjutsu?” Zabuza asked, after a subtle pause.

“Yeah.”

“Chakra powers ninjutsu.”

“Oh. That stuff. It’s called chakra?”

“Yes. Direct it to your feet, and use it to ride the surface tension of the water.”

Gravel exploded from under Naruto’s feet, pelting their legs.

“Not like that,” Zabuza said. He looked up, peering into the cloud-like fog. “We don’t have time. Haku!”

Sakura held her foot over the shallow waves, shifting her chakra until the water under her looked like the polished gleam under Zabuza’s feet. Her toes touched, but did not get wet. She stepped forward and stood solidly on the waves.

“I’m taking Hatake. Haku will bring the two of you over—” Zabuza looked back and paused. “Quick learner,” he said. “Haku will take blue-eyes over. Green-eyes, you get to walk.”

Sakura clutched Kakashi’s hand and thought of stabbing Zabuza. Kakashi was hers, and no one was taking him away.

“Kid, either you’re with me, or we are all are going to the bottom of the sea. Make your choice.” He was nervous, she thought, watching a wisp of fog dance around their legs.

Die later, she decided again, meeting Zabuza’s eyes. “If you harm him, I will find a way to make you pay for it.”

“Me too,” Naruto added. Had he ever been so serious before? She couldn’t remember.

“Trust me, last thing on my mind.” Zabuza lifted Kakashi easily, draping him over the shoulder without his sword. “Come on, we’re running out of time.”

The water in front of Naruto froze, the mist thickening above it. “My ice is solid,” Haku said, skimming over the water easily. “Hurry!”

Naruto shivered, but stepped onto the frozen path. He looked back at Sakura, waiting. “Hurry?” he asked, his legs hidden by opaque mist. “It’s cold.”

Sakura bit her lip, sucking the blood from the cracks. How hard could it be? She took a step, nearly fell. Another, and another, and she found her balance. “Let’s go,” she said breaking into a run. She could hear Naruto’s bare feet slapping against the ice as he followed.

Ten meters from the other shore, she heard Zabuza. “They’re at the shore. Melt the bridge.”

The ice under Naruto started to wobble, tilting wildly. Sakura grabbed his wrist, yanking him over her shoulders, and kept running. He was heavier than half of Kakashi had been, but not by much.

“Sakura?” he asked, his voice wavering in time to the bounce of her shoulders into his stomach.

She didn’t respond, too focused on the shore to speak. The warm current she was using to keep herself above water was weakening, losing power. Her feet sank into the water and it felt like running in dry sand.

The shore was too far away.

“Relax.” Big hands lifted Naruto from her shoulders, then plucked Sakura from the water, her feet wet to the ankles. “Haku was melting the bridge on the other end, not this side.”

He braced her against his side, one arm under her butt like she was all of four years old. Sakura wrapped her arms around Zabuza’s neck instinctively and felt even younger. Naruto grabbed on from the other side, his hands nearly smacking her.

“Just kids,” Zabuza grumbled. Sakura barely noticed, because he was blissfully warm. “Don’t know what Konoha was thinking, sending you into this mess.”

He dropped them on the shore. “Are you going to protest if I carry Hatake again? Trust me when I say there are four squads of Lightning nin and six from Rock hunting us who are dying to take him off our hands. We need to run.”

Sakura looked back. The opposite shore was obscured by a thick haze. “Is it your fog?” she asked, digging her toes into the pebbles to find the water underneath.

“Yes.” Zabuza shrugged and threw Kakashi over his shoulder. “You can walk?”

“Yeah,” Naruto answered for her. The mist on the other side grew thicker.

“Then let’s take you home.”
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