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Dirt and Ashes, or: The One-and-a-Half Body Problem

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There was no light in Sakura's cell. She kept time to the beat of her heart and the angry throb of her ribs. Somewhere just at the edge of hearing, water was dripping. When it rained outside, it sped up to a trickle.

She worried she'd been forgotten. She also worried she hadn't been forgotten. Dehydration was a bad way to die - but she'd heard of worse.

Adjustment wasn't linear. She panicked, calmed, and then panicked again. Sometimes she couldn't hope to contain her racing, distressed thoughts. Sometimes she could shut down all her feelings and think with flat clarity.

Escape from this cell wasn't going to happen. She'd ascertained that within the first hour of being awake. Unless they remembered her and moved her somewhere, she wouldn't get the opportunity.

She didn't know where anybody else was. She didn't even remember who'd captured her. Her head wound had been healed - poorly - at some point, but she couldn't remember anything of it.

Sakura remembered Naruto turning into that enormous fox and beating Gaara of the Desert.

Then, waking here.

The boys had been wiped after the fight, too. The three of them were all easy pickings. She hoped they were all right. Even if the invasion had been successful - and maybe it was, she didn't know - there were rules for prisoners of war and if they'd been captured by Sand there was some chance of those rules being followed. She... rather doubted Sound honoured that sort of thing.

Sakura's worry over the rest of her team lasted right up until Sasuke walked into her cell.

"Sakura-san," he purred, and she knew - she knew - that wasn't Sasuke. The body language was all wrong, and the voice was raspy but languid in a way that raised the fine hairs on Sakura's neck.

"Kai!" she yelped reflexively, flaring what was left of her chakra.

Nothing changed - except the smile on Sasuke's lips.


Sakura's life took a dramatic turn for the worse.

It was the first time Sakura had ever seen a table with drainage channels cut into it. The sight of that gleaming metal, all polished and ready to drain out whatever leaked across it, terrified her.

But then Orochimaru paid her particular and special attention, and Sakura had so many more important things to be frightened of.

"Comfy?" he asked with heavy eyes and a narrow, inviting smile, running Sasuke's pale fingertips over her restraints.

Orochimaru was a conversational torturer. He liked the sound of his own voice. He asked questions, but she didn't know the answers to any of them and that didn't even really seem to bother him.

He frightened her until she soiled herself and he rubbed her face in it and laughed at her. He taught her to beg to eat her own vomit. He broke parts of her she hadn't even known she'd had, and he did it with a fierce and possessive joy.

Sakura had fantasised about Sasuke's deft hands before, and now they were on her skin, just as she'd always wanted. She dreamed about those hands. In the good dreams she cut his fingers off.

"But don't you like it, Sakura-san?" he purred to her once, leaning over her naked body with bloody hands braced on either side of her face.

Orochimaru's words came from Sasuke's mouth and they dripped upon her like poison. She couldn't see properly, but to her dizzy, drugged, dreaming mind they were acid, smoking in the air and peeling away her skin. Noises spilt from her without meaning, and she arched against her restraints.

"Don't you love him, Sakura-san?"

Sasuke's tongue - long, so long, too long - left a wet trail down her jaw. Colours cracked in her vision when she whimpered.

Sakura's eyes rolled into the back of her skull. She seized.


"You'll have scars," Kabuto told her. His chakra was soothing, even though he only healed what would kill or maim her. "Maa," he said after a second, adjusting his glasses with the tip of one finger, "I don't suppose it matters anyway."


"Muscle relaxant," Orochimaru told her indifferently. Sasuke's hair shone dark and glossy under the bright halogen lights, and he flicked a syringe to rid it of any air bubbles. "Among other things. I want to keep you lucid, you see."

She didn't see, not right then, but four hours later there was nothing she wouldn't have given for the freedom to move.

He had a mirror. She could see it when he cut into her, the wet tear of flesh, the gleam of bone. She'd seen bones before, used models in the academy, but - they were bleached white, usually. Hers were stained.

"You have to be careful with vivisection," said Orochimaru, pressing chakra-laden fingertips to one of the biggest bleeding vessels.

Sakura knew that one hard jerk on the restraints would make him cut too deep. She'd never wanted anything so badly in her life. Please, she thought to her muscles, just a little. Give me something.

But her body remained lax and Orochimaru had regrettably steady hands.

"You must be hungry," he said conversationally, much later.

Of course she was hungry. It was one of the ways they were controlling her chakra production. No food, no chakra.

Orochimaru pressed one bloody finger to her mouth. It was slick and bright and the thin rusty taste of her blood burst upon Sakura's tongue.

When she could move and swallow properly again, he hand-fed her something fleshy and bloody in tiny delicate pieces. It smelled like offal.

"You didn't really need it anyway," he assured her.

"Just... stop," Sakura croaked. Her voice was gone. Her eyes wouldn't focus and, frankly, she was edging ever closer to being too tired for torture.

He clicked his tongue. "You know I won't," he said softly, like he was terribly disappointed.

"You're not even asking questions anymore," she slurred.

"Hm?" he paused. He peered down at her. "Poor child," he said finally, with a smile that looked all wrong on Sasuke's face. "There's nothing you could tell me about Konoha that I don't already know. It's not even about you, not really. Sasuke-kun is just... unusually stubborn."

He tapped the side of his head meaningfully.

Sakura hadn't thought she'd had any horror left to give him, but - oh, she did. There was ice in her veins. Sasuke was in there.

Orochimaru made a delighted sound. "Are you crying, Sakura-san? All my hard work, and you still have tears left for Sasuke-kun?" he leaned in so close she could taste the blood on his breath, and she closed her eyes against it so she wasn't looking straight into Sasuke's face.

"If you have tears left, Sakura-san," he rasped quietly, "you should save them for yourself."

"Orochimaru-sama," came Kabuto's voice from the door, smooth and uninflected. His eyes drifted over Sakura without pause or concern, and when he tilted his head toward Orochimaru his glasses glinted in the bright overhead lights.

It was the first time she'd had any hint of the world outside these walls and her own black cell. It smelled of forest and rain, and something particularly rank, like formaldehyde - something Kabuto had been working with, perhaps.

The smells hit her and despair punched her in the gut. She wanted to be out there. Would she ever get there again?

Was this it?

She struggled to breathe through her sudden panic.

"-some losses, and Hidan-kun is in pieces, but -"

"I'm sure he'll be fine," Orochimaru said dismissively. He was looking at Sakura, but his dark eyes were distant. "Bring him to me when he arrives."

Kabuto nodded and then disappeared in a swirl of leaves.

Sakura choked on a sob.

"My, my," murmured Orochimaru, watching her intently.

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly. Let him watch - she just didn't want to see.