oroburos69: (Aggy/Jane)
[personal profile] oroburos69
Title: Sakura and The Wolf
Author: [livejournal.com profile] oroburos69 
Beta: [livejournal.com profile] lady_of_scarlet 
Theme: Fantasy
Rating: PG-13/FRT
Summary: There is a wolf in her garden. He is not what he seems.
A/N: My entry for the Kakashi/Sakura AU contest, and my fill for my H/C Bingo square-Grief.

“Get the fuck out of my garden!” she yelled, throwing a rock at the sleeping wolf. Her voice echoed across the neat rows with the force of a hurricane, stripping loose leaves from the branches and sending them swirling to the ground.

It jolted awake, yelping as the rock struck its nose and gave her the most heartfelt look of sadness she’d ever seen, mismatched eyes staring at her accusingly.

The wolf limped to its feet, one paw held gingerly in the air. Holy crap, it was huge, Sakura realized, taking an uneasy step back. Its leg was swollen all the way to the elbow, twice the width of its other front leg.

Sakura dropped the second rock and blushed, “You know. If you’re done resting,” she muttered. That had been rather mean of her. It wasn’t like a wolf was going to eat her potatoes. She shuffled guiltily, wariness forgotten. "I'm sorry," she mumbled. "Okay? You can stay. If you don't eat me."

It whimpered, ears pinned against its skull, and hobbled toward the crumbling stone wall, which, all things considered, did a terrible job of keeping animals out of the vegetable garden.

The poor thing looked hungry, and she shouldn't have thrown a rock at it. Yelling probably got her point across just fine. Sakura twisted the skirt of her habit, then stopped as the worn fabric started to rip.

She had some stew left from yesterday.

"Just a second, wolf," she said, darting through the kitchen door, nearly unhooking it from its hinges again. The stew pot sat on the wood stove, probably long cold, but it wasn't like a wolf would care. Sakura slopped a ladle full into her least favourite bowl--the depiction of the Seven Agonies of Nagato on the bottom was pretty unappetizing--and hurried back outside.

The wolf had stopped between her rows of lettuce and tomatoes, and was watching her with great interest.

Sakura swallowed uneasily, looking at the stew, then at the wolf. One of its eyes was clouded and blind, nearly scarred shut in what looked like an old injury. The other was bright brown, and far too intelligent. "If you try to eat me, I'll scream," she warned it. "And trust me, you don't want that."

It stumbled and nearly crushed her beans.

Sakura set the bowl on the ground, and backed up, hiding in the threshold of the door. "There isn't much meat in it," she said, talking out of nervousness and loneliness. "But Sister Shizune's books said foxes can eat plants, if they have to, so maybe you can, too."

Two furry ears twitched, and the wolf gave her an offended look.

Sakura furrowed her brow. "It's stupid to think you understand me," she muttered. "I've just been alone for way too long. Seeing things that aren't real."

The wolf nodded and dipped its head, lapping up the stew with great enthusiasm.

Right. "I'm going inside until I stop senselessly anthropomorphizing you," Sakura said, unlatching the door with shaking hands. She was not crazy. She’d just had too much sun, that was all. "Feel free to eat the crows or rabbits who try to eat my garden, okay?"

Thankfully, the wolf didn't respond, too focused on licking every trace of the stew from the bowl, sending rattling across the cobbles and into the dirt of the garden.




The next morning there were a pair of dead rabbits on the tiny patio outside the kitchen door, and the wolf--it was a he, Sakura noticed, flushing bright red and looking away--was sleeping flat on his back, all four paws reaching toward the sky and tongue flopping out from between very dangerous looking teeth.

Sakura held her broom in front of her chest, fingers wrapped tightly around the wood, and considered screaming. It would probably drive him off, but his paw was swollen and painful looking. Also, he'd killed the rabbits. Sakura decided that the wolf could stay, so long as he didn't try to eat her.

Until he did try, though, there was weeding to be done. Sakura gathered the rabbits and tossed them onto the nearest counter in the kitchen, then skirted around the big grey wolf and got to work. Wolves or no, she still had to eat.

The sky overhead was dark with tall, billowing storm clouds, and a cool wind slid through the valley. Sakura rolled up her sleeves, enjoying the chill after weeks of unrelenting heat. The scent of coming rain came on the breeze. Her garden needed water.

The wolf rolled onto his side and looked up at the sky. He glanced at her.

Sakura pretended she hadn’t seen, and ripped another weed from the hard baked ground, yanking the long tap root out with great satisfaction. She liked weeding.

A low growl distracted her. Sakura clutched a dandelion defensively, holding in front of her chest like a shield. The wolf limped toward her, his ears pinned back and teeth--big, big teeth--bared.

She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out.

The sun disappeared behind thunderhead clouds.

Sakura turned and ran for the door, throwing the dandelion at the wolf as she jumped over the sprawling potatoes, toes brushing the purple tinged buds. The wolf howled, an eerie wail that reminded her of her mother’s singing, and Sakura slammed the kitchen door shut, throwing the latch bar across it.

Fur rustled against wood, and the light from the gap between the door and floor disappeared. The wolf had laid down in front, the ungrateful beast. Sakura tip-toed toward the knife rack, determined to get him out of her garden, once and for all.

Something cracked against the roof.

Sakura gasped and checked the door, fairy tales of wolves crawling down chimneys springing to her mind, but the wolf hadn’t moved. Another thud rattled the roofing tiles, and Sakura looked up nervously.

Outside, the wolf yelped pitifully, and a thunderous barrage of thuds and snaps and crackling roof tiles began.

Sakura snuck over to the narrow window, peeking through the grating. A white ball the size of her fist landed on the three foot wide windowsill, shattering on impact, and Sakura squeaked, leaping back.

Hail!

Sakura leaned out, checking on her garden, then swore glumly. A layer of white ice covered the entire plot, and showed no signs of abating. Her harvest was going to be ruined.

The wolf whimpered, barely audible over the cracking ceiling tiles. Sakura ran for the door, throwing aside the thick board that she’d used to lock it. “Get in here, you silly wolf!” she snapped, grabbing him by the ruff and dragging him away from the plummeting hail stones.

Light poured through a newly created hole in the ceiling, and balls of ice started bouncing off the stone floor underneath. “Come on,” she said, half-dragging the wolf. “We’ll be safer in the cells.”

The wolf leaned against her side, so big that he nearly reached her shoulder. His fur smelled like smoke and blood, Sakura noticed, the smell far too familiar for her to miss it. She pushed open the inner door and led him into the living quarters. There was a second floor above them now, made of thick slabs of slate that no hail could penetrate.

Sakura closed the door behind her and sank to the ground.

The wolf panted, shaking on his three good paws, then flopped down.

“I really hope I was right about you trying to get me out of the hail,” Sakura said. Either he understood or he didn’t. She was going to find out. Possibly by being eaten, if she was wrong. “If so, thanks. It looks really bad out there.”

He tilted his head inquisitively, then crawled forward in the most unwolflike motion she’d ever seen and placed his muzzle on her lap. His skull was as wide as her shoulders, but his one eye stared soulfully up at her. The wolf nudged his nose under her hand, begging for scratches like any of the convent’s dogs would

Sakura scratched behind his ears, smiling. He reminded her of Kiba, a half-grown puppy who had followed anyone with food.

She had buried Kiba last, so long after the attack that he wasn’t much more than scraps of fur and bones. Sakura blinked, tears springing to her eyes. She had so many to grieve for that she could hardly remember them.

“Are you really a wolf?” she asked as he moaned low in his throat and pressed his head against her hands. “I thought most of the old stories were rubbish, you know. Sister Shizune said there was something to most of them, grains of truth like sand in pearls, but I didn’t want to believe.”

He panted, tongue falling out of the side of his mouth, looking like nothing so much as a very large puppy. Sakura pressed her thumbs into the base of his ears, rubbing vigorously, prompting a look of closed-eye bliss.

“Until I saw the dragon, I guess,” she mused. The wolf stopped moving for a second and stared at her. “Yeah, I know,” she said, deciding she had her answer. Either he was a lot more than a wolf or she was completely insane.

He licked her hand, tongue long enough to almost wrap around her wrist. Sakura sighed. “It was supposed to be foolishness, old wives’ tales--I mean, magic is one thing, but who has even seen a dragon?”

The one brown eye blinked at her, solemn, then closed as she scratched gently around the back of his skull. “Other than me,” she eventually whispered, swallowing around the tight sorrow in her throat.




“Do you know the way to the Convent Hidden in the Leaves?” Sakura asked the wolf, standing over the wreckage of her garden. The green tomatoes were torn to pieces and the high walls of beans and peppers were battered into the ground, broken vines and stalks barely visible under the melting ice.

“I know someone who went there. She wanted me to come with her, but I didn’t want to leave.” Sakura paused and rubbed at her eyes, her chest so hollow and empty that she could hear it echo.

The wolf leaned against her and rumbled. Sakura glanced down, and he nodded.

“That’s good,” she said, dragging herself out of the memories. “Come on. You should lie down and get some rest. I’ve still got those rabbits, the larder isn’t empty yet and I can drag one of the mattresses out for you to sleep on.”

She knelt beside the potatoes, and picked one of the battered leaves from the dirt. “You wouldn’t mind leading me there, would you?” she asked, peering at the wolf through her eyelashes. Sakura hadn’t really thought of that before.

The wolf nodded again, and sat down, panting, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. The sun had come out and the air was already warming up.

“I don’t know what you are,” she said carefully, wary of insulting the wolf. “But I don’t think you are a wolf. The Mother Superior is supposed to know more about healing and magic than anyone else alive. Maybe she can help you?”

He snorted and Sakura could have sworn that he was laughing at her.




It took a week before the wolf--by then he was just Wolf--could walk without favoring his paw. By then it was clear that the garden was a hopeless cause, her plants withered and dead in their neat little rows and the larder was too scant to carry her through another winter.

“Are you ready to go?” Sakura asked Wolf, tucking the potatoes she’d scavenged from the ruined plants into an already over-stuffed pack.

He jumped down from the side bench and near pranced around her before poking his nose in her rucksack.

“Come on, Wolf! Nose out!” she ordered, pulling it away. “You might be able to find food out there, but I haven’t left the Abbey since I was six!” Sakura paused, pushing down the thought of leaving home until she could pretend that they were just going for a totally non-scary stroll in the woods.

“I don’t want to have to rely on you for food,” she said, stroking a hand over his back.

Wolf snuffled at her, eye narrowed.

“I know I could,” she said. “I just don’t want to, okay?”

He ambled toward the door and lay down with a mighty groan.

“Fine, fine, I’m ready to go,” Sakura told him, tightening the ties on her pack and throwing it over her shoulder.

His ears pricked up and he scrambled to his feet, panting eagerly.

“I want to go to the chapel first,” she said. “Do you want to come?”

Wolf nodded, and trotted over to her side, his nails skittering over the slate floor. It was loud in the usually quiet hall, and Sakura felt a pang of homesickness.




The chapel was filled with a year’s worth of dust, mold creeping up the plastered walls and pale water stains washing soot from the walls. Scorch marks painted the floor and walls.

“I haven’t been in here since the dragon,” Sakura explained, wondering why she cared if Wolf thought she was a good housekeeper. She wasn’t, after all, and he was a wolf. He probably ate mold for breakfast. “It came during the evening prayer,” she added.

Even after a year without seeing it, the chapel was more familiar than anything she’d ever known. “A week before, Karin and I snuck Kiba into the Spring Solstice celebration, and set him loose. He got into the Summer Banquet and ate all the sausages.” Her voice cracked.

Sakura closed her eyes, almost able to pretend that everyone else was in the fields, that they’d be back soon. “We got in so much trouble,” she whispered. Wolf leaned into her, nearly knocking her off balance. It was oddly reassuring.

She approached the broken alter and the Whispering Bowl, it’s endless flame long since dead.

“I...I got sent to Sister Hikari for punishment. She had me working in the garden, and I was running late,” Sakura said, lifting the bowl and placing it on the ground. The stand was broken, burnt to grey ash in the middle.

Sakura took the flint stone she’d found in the kitchen, and struck it against the edge of the bowl. The enchantment held strong, flames curling from her flint and down into the cup of the bowl, glowing pure orange.

She sank to her knees, vaguely aware of Wolf sitting beside her, watching the Whispering Bowl’s flames with the same intensity she did. Sakura wondered if wolves were religious, if they worshiped the Will of Fire, too. It seemed unlikely.

“I wasn’t in the chapel when the dragon attacked. That’s why I’m alive,” she spoke into the flames, her breath making them curl and dance. “Everyone else died. I saw it killing them and I hid in the cellar.”

That secret was easy. Sakura rubbed her sleeve over her eyes, and forged onward.

“The day before the dragon came,” she whispered into the flickering fire, “I couldn’t stop singing. I’m not supposed to because my voice breaks glass on the high notes, but I couldn’t stop.”

Wolf shifted restlessly, his flank brushing her side. Sakura wrapped her arm around his neck, and blinked away the tears. “I think...I think my parents were right,” she confessed.

Wolf butted his head into her chest. Sakura laughed, voice strangled by her guilt. “I think I’m a Harbinger,” she said, and the confession was a weight off her shoulders. “I really wish I’d figured it out before everyone died."

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