oroburos69: (Octopus)
[personal profile] oroburos69
Title: Freedom in the Eyes of Another (Part 4)
Beta:[info]lady_of_scarlet [info]subtle_shades
Warnings: Angst, graphic violence, 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

Part 1

Part 2
Part 3

They hadn’t been able to find clothes in her size, so they’d just given her a shirt from someone really tall and skinny and called it a dress. It was clean and Sakura was clean, and Kurenai even cut the gross looking stubble on her head to an even length (using scissors because the kunai had made her scream).

Sakura felt better. A lot better. She’d barely even noticed how red Kurenai’s eyes were!

“Do you think they made a decision about Zabuza yet?” she asked, drumming her heels against the bench.

Naruto and Sasuke were only separated from her by a thin piece of fabric, and she could hear them bickering, so she knew they were okay.

The ANBU sounded kind of stressed, though.

“He’ll have been granted safe passage,” Kurenai answered, clipping an ugly shoot of too-long hair. “Why?”

“I want to say thank you. He was nice, even if he was using us.”

Kurenai hummed, cutting off a bit at the nape of her neck. “He’s probably already gone.”

“Oh,” Sakura said. “Perhaps I could write him a letter?” They were lighting lanterns outside. Night was falling.

“Good luck finding a mailing address.” Kurenai put the scissors down and ruffled her stubbly hair. “There. You should visit the medic nins to make sure you don’t scar, though.”

Sakura nodded and drummed her heels against the bench again. There had been absolutely no underwear that could have fit her, so Kurenai had grabbed a pair of boxers from someone (Sakura didn’t want to know who) and tied them on Sakura with a piece of rope. She'd promised that they were clean.

“Do you want something to eat?” she offered when Sakura didn’t reply.

Sakura listened. Naruto and Sasuke had stopped squabbling, so they were almost done. “Okay. Can we see Kakashi after?”

“That’s up to the medics.”

Sakura hummed something that Kurenai could take as agreement if she wanted. They were probably hiding Kakashi in a tent. If she could figure out which one, it wouldn’t be hard to break in.

She jumped to her feet, landing on the wooden slats with barely a wobble. The dress draped down below her knees, and the sleeves were rolled to half their length. It made her feel tiny, like she was playing dress up. “Let’s go!”

***

Sasuke had been wearing shoes and clothes that fit and were clean, so he didn’t look like a homeless refugee, but Naruto was even shorter than her, so the clothes scrounged for him were pretty much tied on to keep them from falling off. It wasn’t a good look.

Sakura dragged the boys toward the medic’s tent (of course she was going to make sure that her scalp healed right, thank you Kurenai), holding on to their wrists so they couldn’t wander off and disappear.

Naruto was too quiet and it was wrong. She had heard him talking to Sasuke, earlier. Why wasn’t he talking to her? She tightened her grip on Naruto’s hand, worried that he’d slip away if she didn’t.

“Sakura?” Sasuke asked. “Where are we going?”

“To see Kakashi.” Sakura stopped, spying Zabuza in the distance. “Actually, we’re going to say thank you to Zabuza and Haku first.” She whirled around, facing the boys. “And don’t say anything but ‘thank you!’”

In their thirteen days of D-Rank missions, they had delivered groceries, during which Sasuke had stared at the woman’s ample frame, then disdainfully eyed the bag of cookies they were delivering. The client had definitely noticed.

They had caught that cat, and Naruto had hissed at it for at least a minute while the Lady of Fire’s eyebrows crept closer and closer to her hairline.

When they babysat a birthday party of five-year old children, Kakashi had asked one mother which one was the target, prompting a horrified look that he had not understood, even when Sakura explained.

Sakura was pretty much the only person on Team 7 with social skills.

There were at least five ANBU standing around Zabuza acting all casual, like they just happened to be in that area, looking at the trees.

Zabuza was talking to Ino’s dad. They watched Sakura approach and got really quiet when she was close enough to hear. Had they been talking about her? Sakura shook off the nagging suspicion and tugged Sasuke a little closer. He kept straying. He needed to not do that.

“Zabuza! Haku!” she greeted them. “...and Ino’s dad.” She accompanied the moniker with a sweet smile.

Sakura let go of Sasuke and Naruto’s wrists and bowed, hoping the boys would follow suit. “Thank you for all your help,” she said, pleased by the softly muttered echoes at her sides.

“I believe we benefited equally,” Zabuza replied. “So I thank you in return.”

He nudged Haku forward and they had an entire conversation with their eyes. Haku frowned and looked away, only to be poked again.

Haku sighed and bowed. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Sakura.” Haku straightened, and looked at Zabuza with a slightly quirked eyebrow, as if to say, satisfied?

Zabuza was watching her a little too intently.

“Um. You as well?” Sakura offered. Haku hadn’t exactly spoken to her at any point. She wasn’t sure they even qualified as having met. And what were her teammates? Chopped liver?

Zabuza’s shoulders slumped. “I suppose it’s just not meant to be.”

Inoichi snickered and Sakura was certain that she’d missed something.

“Could you direct us to the medic nin’s tent?” she asked. “Kurenai said it was on the west side...”

“Next row over. It takes up the entire row, you can’t miss it,” Inoichi answered. “You wouldn’t be thinking of finding Kakashi in there, would you?”

“Well, no,” Sakura replied, pretending she’d only just thought of it.

“Though if you wanted to tell us where he is,” Sasuke added, “we could certainly visit once we are done.”

“Do you think we should?” Naruto asked innocently—he was actually really good at that.

“I don’t think he’s being allowed visitors,” Inoichi said, peering into the deepening gloom. There were a lot of people dressed in regulation uniforms, coming in from the forest. Some of them were wearing bandages, but most weren’t.

“Why don’t I accompany you? In case you get lost, you understand.”

Foiled.

***

It wasn’t until the medic started alternately scolding Inoichi and her that Sakura realized she was hurt. It was mostly just scratches and bruises, but the cuts on her wrists were infected and she’d cracked three ribs at some point. She didn’t really feel it.

“Are Naruto and Sasuke all right?” she interrupted, bored by the medic nin’s ranting. He couldn’t be a very good medic if he got all hysterical over such tiny injuries.

He snapped his mouth shut and glared at her.

Sakura stared at his nose to keep from looking at his eyes.

The medic huffed, stomping over to the corner where Sasuke and Naruto were sitting, whispering to each other. Naruto looked more interested in the world, Sakura noted, pleased.

They were in a big room filled with chairs, a few bored looking ninja scattered here and there. The tent extended both north and south in long corridors, lined with narrow beds that were mostly empty.

Sakura took advantage of the medic’s distraction to wander toward the south wing, peering down the rows of beds for Kakashi. They must have put him in here somewhere.

Inoichi cleared his throat.

Sakura ignored him. If he wasn’t actively going to stop her, it was like he was giving permission.

There were only four filled beds to the south, and none of them held Kakashi. Three of the ninja were asleep, and the fourth was obviously bored out of her mind if she was reading Unabridged Codes and Ciphers willingly. Sakura had read it for extra credit in the Academy and the monstrous tome had been the greatest defence against insomnia that she had ever found.

“Sakura?”

She shrugged out from under Inoichi’s hand. “Yes?”

“Kakashi is fine, I promise. Sit down and let the medics take care of you.”

Sakura looked past him, toward the north wing. There were around twenty people there, most with IVs hanging by their beds. Maybe they were keeping the really sick people over there? “That guy—”

Inoichi sighed. “Jiro?”

“Yeah, him. He said I was fine. Didn’t you hear?” She squinted, looking for grey hair. It was hard to see from this distance—the medic nin tent was huge.

“Did you miss the part about cracked ribs, malnutrition, worms, chakra depletion, infections, open sores, frostbite, and minor internal bleeding?” Inoichi asked her. “Or was it just me who heard that?”

She refused to think about it.

“Pfft. Whatever happened to confidentiality?” Sakura asked, strolling toward Sasuke and Naruto. If they happened to be sitting by the north wing, that was just coincidence. “He said they’d give me medication or something and I’d get better. I’m fine. I mean, I'd kill for some lip chap, but other than that, I'm doing great.”

A silver-haired medic bumped into her, nearly knocking her over. Sakura muttered an apology, ignoring how little force had been involved in nearly knocking her over.

“If you want confidentiality, get promoted. It doesn’t apply to genin,” Inoichi said. “And you are not fine.”

“Sasuke. Naruto.” Sakura nodded in greeting, breezing past the worrywart medic. “Anything interesting wrong with you?”

“Miss, will you please sit down?” The medic again, Jiro or whatever. He should really give up. Sakura wasn’t going to rest until she was certain that Kakashi, Naruto and Sasuke were okay.

“No.” Sakura crossed her arms across her chest and glared back. “So? What’s wrong with my teammates?”

“Much the same as you, though they are somewhat better healed and significantly more cooperative.”

Geez, what a dick. “And by ‘much the same’ you are referring to...?”

“Internal parasites, infections, abrasions, cuts, malnutrition, bruises, and a multitude of fresh scars.”

Sakura hummed critically. “And what are you doing about that?” He had better fix them quick. Those injuries sounded nasty.

“The same damn things I’d do for you if you’d sit down and accept treatment,” Jiro growled. He reached out like he was going to grab her and Sakura skittered away.

“Are you feeling alright?” she asked, shifting until she could see past him and into the north wing of the tent, searching for grey hair. “You’re getting all red in the face.”

“Sakura!” Inoichi snapped. “Settle down!”

She twitched, meeting his eyes. They were like Ino’s, near black around the edges and turning to bright, lively blue in the centre. Even though it looked like his eyes had no pupils, it was more accurate to say they had minuscule irises. An old mutation had left the Yamanakas with huge (blue) pupils and fantastic night vision.

Sakura couldn’t look away, even though her hands were twitching, fingers tightening to spears, hooking, ripping. Again and again, watching Daiki scream under her, beg pitifully until she killed him.

“I see...” he said.

You won’t if I take your eyes. Sakura buried the thought frantically, sickened and repulsed but wanting to do it.

Fuck, she was going crazy. There was something wrong with her and she was nuts and there were worms inside of her.

“You aren’t going crazy,” Inoichi said. “Kakashi used the sharin—”

The ground pitched and rolled. An alarm sounded from the north wing, high pitched beeping that sent the medics scurrying.

Every drop of warmth drained from her, pouring from Sakura’s body into the dark cold earth below in a really half-assed burial.

Sakura fell to her knees, a high pitched whine sliding through gritted teeth. It felt like her soul was being ripped out, leaving her desiccated and hollow.

“Sakura!” Sasuke called out, his hand reaching toward her.

Can’t talk now, too busy dying, she thought, displeased that the first time Sasuke bothered to show that he cared was occurring a) as she died, and b) without Ino around to witness it.

Damn it.

***

She woke up in one of the narrow beds, alerted by something indefinable. A needle was stuck in the back of her hand, attached to clear tubing that led to an equally clear bag of fluid, hanging from a gleaming metal pole. They'd wrapped her wrists up, and they felt hot and itchy under the gauze.

Sasuke and Naruto were asleep beside her, their soft breathing nearer to her than usual, but still familiar enough that it could not have caused the strange unease she felt.

The lanterns were turned down, swinging gently as the tent moved in the night breeze. Frogs croaked enthusiastically, and tree leaves rustled. Neither sound had woken her.

Sakura sat up, ignoring the dizzy rush her body insisted on, and looked around. It was quiet. Too quiet, she thought mockingly, rolling her eyes. There were at least thirty ninja in the tent. It was highly unlikely that she'd sensed something that they hadn't.

Something moved. Sakura muffled a gasp, jerking her feet off the floor, her childhood fear of monsters suddenly revisited in detail.

There was a low chuckle, and a shape stepped out of the shadows. A Konoha headband and wire-rimmed glasses gleamed in the lantern light, reassuringly familiar and not-monster-like. It was only the medic nin she'd bumped into earlier. "Awake already Miss Sakura?"

Sakura smiled tentatively, licking her lips. They didn't bleed for once, but they did taste (and feel) like someone had slathered petroleum jelly on them. "What happened?"

"You collapsed. It was very dramatic." He chuckled again, pushing his glasses higher up his nose.

"Oh." Embarrassing. "What time is it?"

"Four in the morning. Did something wake you?"

Sakura nodded, raking the grease off her lips with her teeth. They felt sticky. It was gross. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Since about eight, I suppose."

Eight hours. She probably was just done sleeping, then. "Okay. What are you doing?" Sakura yawned, hiding it behind her hand. For being done with sleep, she was remarkably tired.

"Hmmm, me? Just doing rounds." His glasses glinted in the lamp light, startlingly shiny. "Are you going back to sleep?"

Sakura yawned again, scratching at the needle in her arm. If she took it out, would he notice? "Maybe. I'm tired."

He hummed approvingly, sinking into the shadows.

Black stars were falling from the lanterns, slow like autumn leaves dropping from dying trees. Sakura blinked. The stars swayed, dancing to the music of frogs.

She really was tired.

Suspiciously tired. And lanterns didn't shed stars.

"Kai!"

It was brighter, for one. For two? What the fuck was that medic doing with Sasuke?

"Hey!" Sakura scrambled out of bed, jerking the IV needle from her wrist. "What are you doing?"

"You should have gone to sleep." He sounded gently amused as he gathered Sasuke in his arms.

"What are you doing?" she snarled again. No one was waking up. A tent full of fucking ninja and not a single one was waking up.

"I'm taking Sasuke to his rightful owner." The medic nin sighed and shook his head sadly. "I suppose I'll have to kill you now, though. Pity."

Sakura bared her teeth and grabbed the IV pole. It was light, hollow inside, and lacked a single sharp edge. She deeply regretted letting them take her dagger.

"Really? You think you can...?" He chuckled, shaking his head, but set Sasuke down, stroking his hair affectionately.

Pervert, Sakura thought, cementing her resolve. If she didn't succeed...she narrowed her eyes, an old extra credit assignment coming to mind.

Area genjutsu, those used to affect multiple targets, were incredibly draining, and the chakra needed increased with both distance and number of targets. The medic had cast one over at least thirty people in the tent...but what about outside?

He shook his head again, drawing a scalpel. "Really Miss Sakura—"

She screamed, "Fire!" as loud as she could and smashed the IV pole into the closest lantern. "Fire! There's a fire!" The burning wick landed on an empty bed and caught, sending flames rising lazily toward the tent wall.

The medic looked really surprised. She could see the edges of his eyes behind the reflected flames in his glasses, and they were grey like his hair.

Sakura smirked. Over the soft crackle of sheets turning into ash, she heard the call being taken up, the rush of footsteps.

But she wasn't done yet. "Traitor!" she screamed, loud enough that she hurt her own ears. Not a single patient stirred, still under the genjutsu. His grave was dug.

Sakura gasped, darting toward Sasuke, slamming the pole into the medic's head before he could take him.

"Traitor," she screamed again, yanking the top half of the rod off. The part where the two halves connected was rough-edged. It wasn't sharp in the least, but it was better than the gently rounded end on the other part.

"You really are becoming tiresome," the medic hissed, the scalpel in his hand bright and fire-lit. Smoke, thick and choking, billowed from the burning bed. The tent hadn't caught—Sakura suspected it was fire-proofed.

The scalpel was in her shoulder.

Sakura shrieked and slammed the rough edge of the pole into his face, slicing a divot of flesh from his skin.

He chuckled scornfully. "It'll take more than that to kill me, little girl." The waterfall of bright blood stopped, the wound sealing and healing in an instant. "I'm going to take you apart, piece by piece." The medic drew another scalpel, sliding it into her other shoulder before she could react. "And I'm going to enjoy it."

Where were the guards? Sakura gasped, the smoke drawing tears to her eyes. "Fuck you!" She dropped the IV pole and jerked the scalpels from her shoulders, using them to slice his face again and again. She could feel the knives going through flesh, the tug and resistance of skin, but he didn't bleed.

"You can't—"

Sakura braced the scalpels against her palms and jammed them up through his eyes, past the resistance of bone and into his brain.

He grabbed her wrists, and yanked her hands away. The scalpels quivered, and his eyes stared blindly at her, the hilts protruding from the pale skin under his eyes.

The medic plucked one blade out, dabbing his sleeve at the hole.

"You can't kill me." He drew the second scalpel out, and adjusted his glasses. A few droplets of blood marred the polished lenses.

Sakura swore. "I'm not going to let you take Sasuke, and neither will anyone else." If she could wait him out, someone would come.

"You don't have any choice. He is bought and paid for. You are harbouring stolen property."

"And you're lingering in a burning hospital tent while an entire fucking army gathers outside, asshole!" Sakura coughed, her eyes and throat burning. Whatever they'd made the blankets out of, it was not burning cleanly.

"Would you like to know a secret?" the medic whispered, smiling genially. "I expanded the genjutsu. There are fifty people asleep out there, and more joining them every minute. It's just you and me, Miss Sakura."

Shit. She was going to die.

"And us, I'm afraid."

A wave of water doused the burning bed, sending a cloying cloud of smoke and smouldering ash spraying outward, splattering on the medic's uniform.

Itachi waved the smoke from his face. "Tell me. What was it you said about Sasuke?" he asked the medic, strolling closer.

"He said he was going to take Sasuke to his rightful owner, and that Sasuke was property, and he touched Sasuke like he liked him," Sakura said, just in case Itachi had missed some part of the whole exchange. She gasped, catching her breath and put pressure on the holes in her shoulders. They hurt a lot more now, compared to when they happened.

"He what?" Itachi's pleasant tenor dropped to a furious growl, his eyes lighting up like red lanterns. Sakura hadn't known that eyes could glow.

Blue Man laughed as the medic burst into purple-black flames that cast no light. "Playing with your new trick, Itachi?"

Itachi didn't respond.

"You think you can kill me with flame?" the medic asked Itachi. He lifted his hand to show burnt skin sliding off, fresh, whole skin underneath. The fire crawled over his wrist, leaving charcoal and brilliant red in its wake.

Sakura slunk back toward Sasuke and checked his pulse, just in case. He'd been really...limp. And useless. He damn well better be impressed that she rescued him.

His heart beat slowly, but strong. Sakura sighed with relief, then checked on Naruto.

Naruto snorted and rolled over before she could take his pulse, so Sakura figured he was alive. There was really a lot of blood soaking the front of her borrowed shirt, she noticed, crawling back onto her bed. If Itachi and Blue Man decided to try and kill them, then she was just going to let them.

"Can you heal your lungs as quickly?" Itachi asked, and the medic made a muffled sound. "It's a very interesting trick you have. Tell me. Does it take much chakra?"

She wadded up the sheet and pressed it against her shoulders. The acrid scent of burning cloth was slowly being replaced with the smell of burning meat. The medic's hair was gone, and his face was pitted and melted looking. The wires of his glasses melted through, the scorched lenses clattering to the ground.

His skin shifted like snakes, healing and burning, healing and burning.

Sakura swallowed and looked away. He didn't have any eyes, they were burnt and gone.

Her head felt like it was going to float away.

Sasuke stirred, rolling over. Three beds over, a woman yawned and stretched.

"You're losing control of the genjutsu," Itachi observed. "Are you running out of chakra? Or is the pain getting to you?"

The medic laughed and it was a horrible broken crackle. Sakura pulled her knees to her chest and closed her eyes. He was a bad man, a traitor, and he'd tried to take Sasuke away from her. He deserved this.

The tent smelled awful. Sakura coughed and it made her whimper, because who knew being cut could hurt so bad? Actually, it was kind of weird that she was in so much pain. She'd been hurt a lot when Gato had them, but it had never been quite as agonizing as the wounds in her shoulders.

It was probably a bad sign.

"Mr. Blue Man?" she asked, as he seemed less busy than Itachi. Her voice was blurred and far away sounding, even to her own ears.

"My name is Kisame," he said, the deep rumble of his voice changing pitches at odd intervals. She was almost certain that the problem was with her ears and not his voice.

"I'm sorry, I forgot." Sakura took a deep breath and tried not to throw up. "Did the medic drop a scalpel or possibly two?"

"Yeah." Kisame sounded amused, if nothing else. Hopefully it was a good sign.

"Could you possibly, maybe, if you didn't have anything better to do, please move it away from the human inferno?" It took her three tries to say 'inferno' right. Her tongue felt like it had been replaced with a rock. "Pretty please?"

He snorted. "You think he poisoned you?"

"Yes? Maybe something with...blood," she finished, after having forgotten the last word a couple of times. "There's lots of it on my outsides. It's supposed to be inside."

"You get cut, you bleed," Kisame said.

The bed creaked and sank down in the middle, knocking Sakura off balance and into a really broad back. The movement was not good. Really, truly, deeply not good.

Sakura let go of the sheet and puked over the side of the bed.

"Ugh." Kisame sounded disgusted. She hoped she hadn't hit him.

"Sorry?"

"I liked these sandals," he answered, sounding resigned, not pissed. "I found your scalpels, put them over by the head of your bed. It's probably just blood loss, though."

"Medic nins play with poison," Sakura said, reciting part of an Academy rhyme. She dropped her head against the bed and moaned, feeling utterly miserable.

"Yeah, but not on medical instruments." Rough hands shoved her on her back and pressed a new sheet against her cuts, much harder than she'd managed.

Sakura whined low in her throat, blood-slick hands grabbing at Kisame's wrists.

"He nicked an artery or two here. Without pressure, you're going to bleed out damn quick." Kisame paused, looked over his shoulder.

Itachi was talking again. "I'm impressed by your desire to live. Did you know that this jutsu causes an eternal flame? Even if I die, you'll still burn. It won't spread, won't leave, won't do anything but burn you. Forever. Why don't you let your jutsu end? The pain will stop, I promise."

"Another medic would be able to fix you up, pretty quick," Kisame continued. "Even if there was poison."

Sakura blinked and tears dripped down her face. Damn it. He was going to think she was some kind of weakling. "m sorry. It hurts," she tried to explain.

Kisame nodded. Up close, he kinda looked like a shark. "Being cut does. You'll get used to it."

She shook her head, glad for the distraction of talking. "Nope. I'm gonna retire. Become a watchmaker like my dad, or maybe an accountant like mom. Imma have a ton of dogs, too."

"Eh?" He seemed surprised. "Retire? You're what, twelve?"

"I might be thirteen. What month is it?"

"October."

"Nope, I'm still twelve. It seemed longer," she said, yawning. "Does this feel really surreal to you? Or is it just me?"

Kisame grinned at her. His teeth were really big. "Yeah, well—"

Someone yelled, "Fire!"

The faint crackle of flames died down. "Very good," Itachi said to the medic. "I think you've made the right choice."

"He dead?" Kisame asked.

The other patients started to stir, most of them coughing.

"He's ashes," Itachi said with satisfaction. "Sakura? When they question you, please mention that he worked for Orochimaru."

"Okay." Sakura felt fuzzy. Like a bear.

People started rushing into the tent, shouting really loud.

"That's our cue to leave. Think about staying in the business, kid. You're going to be a good fight someday," Kisame told her, standing up. A moment later he and Itachi were gone, and her shoulders were merrily oozing hot blood all over the place.

For the second time in 24 hours, Sakura passed out.
 
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