Prequel to Spiral Out. This is what Sakura has seen and done over the dark years before the story begins.
She got her confirmation when she walked into the living room and saw, without even turning on the lights, his silhouette like a hole into darkness in the wall. She stopped, and she fought the tears in her throat until they were buried as deep as the ache in her heart.
He did not turn to look at her, but he knew she was there. He said, "I had an idea...I convinced him not to be satisfied with merely possessing me. It was hard--he's not /stupid/, you know--but I appealed to his bitterness and his resentment of the Leaf. And his curiosity and his need for power. Instead of simply taking my body, he planned to launch an attack on the Leaf and use the power in all the blood that was shed to take my body--and stay there. Forever. Without aging. But I found a way to counter it, to take his power and run instead of letting him take me."
"Why are you talking about Orochimaru now?" she said. "He's dead. He and Jiraiya killed each other in the battle."
Sasuke turned slightly, but fell short of actually looking her in the eye. "I manipulated him into attacking the Leaf to save myself, and to gain his power."
"Are you here because you want my forgiveness, Sasuke-kun?" she asked.
"No!" His voice was a little too sharp and raw.
"Or do you want me to hate you, swear you off forever, cut you loose and kick you out so you don't have to do it yourself?" She smiled at him.
"I--" He cut himself off. "How did you know?"
"Because I love you, Sasuke-kun," she said.
He finally turned to look her in the eyes, and there was hurt and anger and longing and fear in his gaze. "You weren't supposed to say that."
"I'm not going to apologize," she said.
"I'm leaving as soon as I'm done here," he said.
"And what are you here to do?" she asked.
He lifted his chin and conspicuously failed to look straight at her. "You've been learning healing techniques for the past four years. You've taken one and adapted it into a jutsu to ensure that sex results in pregnancy, haven't you?"
She looked at him. He did not meet her gaze. After a moment, she said, "That's a pretty strange thing to ask a girl on a first date."
He made a small choking noise, and red rose on his cheeks. On the inside, she crowed with triumph. She'd made him blush! After a moment, when the blood had faded from his face, she said, "Yes. After all, you're going to want many children when you marry me."
"I can't marry you," he said. "You have to know that by now. I have to kill my brother."
"There's no reason you can't do it as my husband," she said, "with me and Naruto at your side."
He rocked forward on his feet abruptly, his hands going up in front of him like a shield. "You make me /weak/," he spat.
"You're wrong, Sasuke-kun," she said.
"Don't talk," he said, and he reached for her.
For a second, she just looked at him, her gaze steady. Then she took his hands, knitted her fingers together with his, and pulled him to her.
Most girls would probably have thought it terribly romantic to be kissed for the first time by the boy they'd loved for years, and Sakura had entertained a few fond dreams along those lines herself, but she was hardly surprised when it was more awkward than anything. After all, the only person he'd practiced on was Naruto. Or at least, she hoped Naruto was the only person he'd practiced on.
She caught him by the arm. "Sasuke-kun," she said, "are you really only doing this so that you'll have an heir even if Itachi kills you?"
"Yes," he said stubbornly. "I have no other use for you." He paused. "But it's--I thank you for doing this for me."
She untied the sash around his haori jacket and slipped it off him. She hadn't noticed before, in the dim light, but on the black fabric of the jacket, a slightly more silvery shade of black laid out a pattern of flowers. "I think you're lying," she said.
He'd already unzipped her shirt and pulled down one sleeve. Now he leaned slightly into her, the tip of his nose touching her breast. "No," he insisted. He tugged at her shirt, fumbling rather pathetically until she took pity on him and pulled it up over her head.
"It comes off like this," she explains.
He flushed (again! She felt another small sense of triumph) and turned his head slightly away from her. His hair brushed against her throat, and she shivered.
He looked up in alarm. "Now you're cold. Shouldn't we do this under blankets?"
"I'm not /cold/, Sasuke-kun," she said, exasperated.
"I am," he said suddenly, and he pressed his head between her breasts.
She pulled off his shirt. "I know," she murmured.
"I mean--" He jerked away from her, looking away stiffly. "This is only so that I can ensure an heir," he said.
She smiled at him. "You keep telling yourself that, Sasuke-kun." She leaned in, slipped two fingers beneath his chin, and set her lips on his. After a moment (during which she could feel him trembling against her), she pressed her tongue into his mouth. He went stiff for an instant, and then he snapped, melting against her. The kiss turned equal measures awkward and passionate, and he began to work at her skirt with shaking hands.
Afterwards, with both of them lying half on the couch and half on the floor, she took him by the still-bare shoulders and said softly, "Now tell me why you're really here."
He buried his head in the crook of her neck and mumbled something. She sighed at the feel of his lips moving on her throat. "Sasuke-kun...tell me."
He looked up, blinking as if he were fighting tears. "I'm not scared to die," he said, "not anymore. Not if I can take him down first. But--" He hesitated, looked away. "But I'm scared of never seeing you or Naruto again."
Then there was silence. In the darkness, he got up and started gathering his clothes up. It wasn't until he'd started putting them on that she spoke up. "And you came to me instead of Naruto because you were afraid he'd beat you down and make you stay."
He said nothing, merely continued getting dressed.
"I've been training, Sasuke-kun," she said. "I haven't been sitting home, pining and waiting. You won't find it so easy to knock me out this time."
He tied his jacket closed. "No," he said.
She stood up.
"You're wrong," he said. "I've already been to see Naruto. I left him unconscious on the floor."
She caught her breath, felt her eyes widen.
"I told you: I stole Orochimaru's power. Neither of you can stop me now." He tipped his head back, his eyes swirling into red as he stared off into the distance. A faint smile curved his mouth. "I'll be strong enough to take him down now."
Sakura lunged for the sheath that had been shed on the floor with the rest of her clothing, and she pulled out the strange sword from inside it.
Sasuke blinked as he looked back at her. "What is /that/?"
"Kakashi-sensei taught you Chidori," she said, "and Jiraiya taught Naruto Rasengan. Tsunade-shishou taught me many things, but I came up with my own ultimate move." She held out the sword. "This is a chakra sword, Sasuke-kun, and I will take you down with it." She looked up, lifting her chin in stubborn defiance. "I'll hurt you as much as I have to, because I can heal you afterwards."
"You can try," he said. There was a strange mildness in his voice and eyes, like he'd gone somewhere far away where she didn't matter anymore. It took her a moment to realize where she'd seen that look before.
She'd seen it on his brother's face.
"/Tamashii no ken/," she said, and she felt the chakra race out of her body, as precise as always, and lock around the blade of her sword. It hummed and glowed.
"That's interesting," Sasuke said. "I'll have to have a sword like that made for me, now that I know the jutsu." He darted forward and grabbed her by the arm, drawing her close to him. She could feel his warm breath on her ear as he murmured, a sneer creeping into his voice, "Thank you." It felt like a parody of everything he'd said to her before.
"You can't drive me away from you, Sasuke-kun," she said. "It won't work."
He jerked away from her at that. For a moment, he seemed human again--human, angry, and not a little defeated. Then he twisted away from the blade of her sword and looked at her. In an instant, her legs went out from under her, and she sank to her knees.
In that moment, there was nothing she could touch about him. He was a star, far beyond her reach and /cold/, colder than any star was meant to be.
(he'd burn himself out and there was nothing she could do about it)
He knelt beside her while she was still shaking too hard to move, and he looked her straight in the eyes. "Good night," he whispered, and he didn't even have to touch her. The lights went out in her head, and there was darkness.
Kakashi, like Sasuke, learned tamashii no ken just from looking at it. Sakura seethed quietly.
Naruto had a chakra sword made, and he spent the entire forging process hovering over the smith's shoulder until he was forcibly shooed away. Once he got the sword, he more or less vanished for a week. Sakura only saw him flickering in and out of the Ichiraku Ramen occasionally, tearing into a bowl of ramen and then fleeing to whereabouts unknown again.
After a week had passed, he proudly declared himself a master of tamashii no ken/. He looked exhausted, his strength spent by the days of intense training--but he was right. He /had mastered the chakra sword.
It was always that way, with Naruto.
After that, they trained together, right up until the message came: the remnants of the Akatsuki--already badly depleted by the disaster that had become of the attempt to rescue Gaara--had been shattered. The attacker was identified as Uchiha Sasuke. The first Akatsuki member to go had been Itachi.
Kakashi, Naruto, and Sakura set off immediately.
They found him in a cave, in the process of having it redecorated to better suit the darkness of his current state of mind. He was wearing an Akatsuki cloak, and Sakura had a nasty feeling it had once belonged to Itachi.
"Too bad about you finding this cave so soon," he said, quite conversationally. "I'm going to have to find another one. I've taken over the Akatsuki, you see. I'm going to turn it into an anti-village. A place for people like me, who've been forsaken by their villages."
"Forsaken by their--" Naruto glared at him. "It's the other way /around/, dumbass."
Sasuke made a dismissive little gesture. "/You/ three don't count; you're just idiots."
That was when Naruto lunged at him. After that, it was just a matter of minutes before the battle was reduced to its simplest components, because it was always like that.
Naruto and Sasuke glared at each other with a fierceness that drowned out all other emotion. Sakura hadn't been able to get close enough to either of them before the fight had started, and now she was like the far point of a triangle.
"I've found a new jutsu, Sasuke," Naruto said. "Don't make me surprise you."
Sasuke sneered. "Like you could, dead last." His chakra sword at the ready, he prepared to lunge.
When they got like this, they might as well have been in their own world. It seemed like there was nothing Sakura could do to make them see her. But she was about to test that theory. She tensed to run at them, between them--
--and suddenly there was an arm around her and a hand over her mouth. Before she could move to stop her teammates from killing each other, Kakashi was carrying her away from battle. He was rescuing her.
"I have some new tricks, too," Sasuke was saying.
Sakura struggled uselessly.
The last thing she heard from Sasuke was, "Amaterasu," and then Kakashi rounded a bend in the cave tunnel and sound faded.
He carried her all the way outside of the cave, and when he took his hand from her mouth, there were bite marks on it. "Ouch," he said without feeling.
She spat. "You deserve it. Put me down! Let me go back to them!"
"I'll go back now," he said, "but there's nothing you could do now other than get yourself killed."
Rage burned in her like coals. She'd never been so furious in her life; the way this kind of anger felt was almost shocking. "You left them!" She struggled in his grasp. "You left them both to die! You're a failure, Kakashi." She felt him flinch at the way she used his name. "A failure as a ninja, a failure as a teacher, a failure as a man. A failure and a /disgrace/."
"That'll be enough," he said calmly, and he turned her to face his uncovered Sharingan. Before she could protest, she felt herself sinking into unconsciousness.
When she woke up again, she was on his back as he fled through the forests of Fire Country. "Naruto and Sasuke," she said in a low voice.
"Sasuke was still there when I got to him," Kakashi said tonelessly. "Naruto was missing. All I could find was his chakra sword." He offered it up to Sakura.
"No body," she said, clutching fiercely at the sword hilt. "He must still be alive."
Kakashi shook his head. "As I was taking you away--Sasuke was using some terrible jutsu on Naruto. There's no way he could have..." He trailed off.
"No," Sakura said.
Kakashi said nothing.
"You should have died instead," Sakura said.
"Sorry," Kakashi said.
It was several months before Sakura began to consider forgiving him. That was around when he got killed.
"It's Naruto's, isn't it?" Tsunade asked not long after the jounin massacre.
Sakura started, dropped the bowl she'd been holding, watched it be dashed to pieces on the floor.
"Well?" It was the first time Tsunade had said anything about Sakura's increasingly visible pregnancy.
Sakura knelt and began picking up the pieces of broken pottery. "Of course not," she said.
"Whose is it, then?" There was a pause, and then Tsunade's voice took on a distinctly disturbed tinge. "You haven't been fooling around with /Lee/, have you?"
"No!" Sakura stopped attempting to deal with the shattered bowl for now and stood up. "It's Sasuke's."
Tsunade stared at her. After a moment, she spoke, and her voice was quiet. "You're going to explain that. Now."
"He came here, once, a little over a month before he killed Itachi," she said matter-of-factly. "We had sex."
"I'm pretty sure I suggested coming up with a contraceptive jutsu," Tsunade said, "as an exercise in body control. And you passed that assignment just fine."
"I didn't use it," Sakura said.
"Actually," Sakura said, "I made an opposite jutsu, to ensure conception. I used that one."
"It was what he wanted," Sakura said. "In case he died while trying to take his brother down."
"Sakura," Tsunade said, "he's our village's enemy now. He just had Akatsuki agents slaughter nearly all the village's elite jounin--Gai is the only one left. And they tried to take out /me/."
"Before you even suggest otherwise, Tsunade-shishou," Sakura said, "I will say this: I'm keeping the child."
Tsunade stared at her for a long moment, and then she sighed. "This," she said, "is not going to be easy."
And it wasn't.
It isn't easy at all.
Her son is ten now. Sakura watches him when she can, and loves him, and is afraid for him, but she can't be there for him the way she should be.
She's too busy thinking about his father, who can't possibly be beyond redemption even though to everyone else it goes without saying that he is.
She's too busy thinking about her other teammate, the one who can't possibly be dead even though everyone else has long since accepted that he is--even Tsunade, who once pinned her hopes on him like medals.
(Sometimes she even thinks about her teacher, who saved her and then abandoned them all before she could forgive him for it.)
Even now, she dreams of finding her teammates and saving them both. When she wakes up, she polishes that dream and hides it in her heart.