Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or its characters. I own only the plots/ideas/situations I have placed the characters in.
The first thing he recognized of his surroundings was the gray bark on the trees. The second, and most alarming, thing was the oppressive weight of Orochimaru's killing intent; he knew damn well the snake was hiding in a dank hole very far away from Konoha. The third and final thing he noticed, he was translucent like a ghost. “Oi bastard.”
For a fleeting moment he was relieved to hear Naruto's voice, and when he turned to locate his idiot, all the color drained from his face; Naruto was also translucent. This could only mean one thing, they were part of a triad and their third has turned 21. It also meant there was only one possibility as to who their third was. He bolted in the direction of Orochimaru's killing intent and as he passed Naruto, he snagged an arm and dragged his idiot along behind him, ignoring his protests.
“Please no,” He chanted under his breath. “anyone,” He knew it was pointless, but he still held out hope until he burst through the trees and stopped dead. “but her.”
“W-What am I supposed to?!” Her voice cracks as her bottom lip wobbles. She takes a deep breath, pushes back her tears, and focuses on her surroundings. Sasuke's body was radiating heat and his chakra was fluctuating wildly, fighting with a foreign chakra infecting his coils. She was going to have to cool him down and do something about that other chakra.
Her attention shifted from Sasuke to Naruto, she was honestly surprised to see him still pinned in place; her throw was out of desperation and poorly aimed. Her eyes flicked back to Sasuke and then to Naruto. She needed to get her team out of the area fast or other teams might come to investigate.
“I can't carry both of you at the same time,” Another wave of tears spilled over, but she refused to give into the well of despair. “and I can't leave one of you here.”
'Make a clone'
She shakes her head and carefully lays Sasuke down on the tree branch. She could at least get Naruto down while trying to come up with a plan to get them somewhere safe. “What good would that do?”
“Whose Sakura talking with?”Naruto's question disrupted the memory and caused it to freeze.
“I don't know,” He says, at a complete loss to yet another mystery surrounding their teammate. He shakes his head and with frustration mounting,“maybe we should stay quite and we'll find out.”
“She's talking to me,” They both jump at the sound of her voice. His mouth hangs open at the sight of her as she lands in front of them, she was solid black with a faint white outline, hands on her hips, and sporting a sweet grin. “I'm Inner Sakura.”
They gulp as she grows larger like she used the Akimichi clan's Multi-Size jutsu and towers over them. “No I will not answer any questions, just shut up and pay attention to your third. ”
Neither him or Naruto catch the quiet 'for once' Inner mutters, when they turn back to their third's memory.
'Trust me, please make a clone,' After laying Naruto beside Sasuke her hands moved through the familiar signs. 'hold the last hand sign and concentrate our chakra for a long as you can stand too.'
A bead of sweat slid down the middle of her forehead as her chakra built up, and up, and up until it was ready to burst. 'Now push it outward and spread it over your chakra network like a layer of skin tight clothing.'
More sweat trickled down her back as she followed Inner's instructions. A wave of exhaustion threatened to break her concentration, but the burning chill of her chakra as she pushed it along her tenketsu chased it away. 'You're ready.'
Sakura almost growled at Inner's sudden withdrawal before whispering softly, instinctively, “Restraint Release: Chakra Clone”
A gust of wind raised goosebumps along her arms and as she exhaled, her breath fogged in the air. There was a harsh clicking in her ears, a moment later she realized she was shivering; the clicking was her teeth.
“Cycle your chakra through your body to ward off the chill.” She was too tired to scream, but her body jerked forward. Her foot slid along the bark, she would have tumbled over the edge if Inner hadn't grabbed her arm.
“W-Why am I so c-cold? And w-what the hell i-is g-g-going on?!”
“My mentor wasn't clear on why the first separation was so chilling for my Restraint,” Inner shrugged as she bent down to toss Naruto over a shoulder. Once she'd gotten him settled, “and as for whats going on...I'm the Haruno bloodline. Come on, we should get our idiots out of here before that creepy ass snake traitor comes back.”
Forcibly swallowing back the thousands of questions whirling around her head, she once more followed Inner's instructions. The heat rolling off of Sasuke as she tied his wrists together and pulled them over her head was divine. Her hands shook when she pulled his legs up and across her waist. Her teeth were still chattering as she pressed her chin down on top of his bound wrists, to keep his dead weight from strangling her when she moved. With one final re-adjustment and a firmer grip on his legs, Sakura leapt across the fifteen foot gap and kept Naruto and Inner in sight as night fell upon the Forest of Death.
They travel in silence for what feels like hours her neck is killing her, as despite her best efforts, she slipped a couple of times when Sasuke's chakra spiked sharply. The fluctuations threw off her concentration and she lost her grip on his arms and the tree; she wrenched a muscle in her back after throwing herself forward to avoid getting dragged to the forest's floor. The first few times she ignored it. When it kept happening she tried to get a feel for the other chakra's density, speed, and frequency. Trying to match her chakra to it and draw the other chakra out to use it for a jutsu or something.
She nearly succeeded when Inner dropped out of sight. She didn't hesitate to follow after her. A sigh of relief gusted out of her when she landed beside Inner. Her eyes scanned the small clearing and landed on the massive tree root Inner was examining,“As soon as we get them settled under the root, we're trapping the ever loving fuck out of this place.”
“Put Naruto down and go get started on that,” She brushed past Inner as she moved under the root. “Sasuke's f-fever is getting worse. I need to f-figure out how to draw out the chakra corrupting his coils or whatever the hell chakra the b-bite gave him, will kill him.”
Only vaguely did she register Inner laying Naruto down and liberating him of his weapon pouch, she did the same for Sasuke before gesturing for their pouch too. With zero hesitation she detached it, paused briefly to free her storage scroll, and handed it over. Her focus was pulled away from her teammates upon hearing Inner clear her throat.
Inner spoke as soon as she looked up. “I'm not like Naru's shadow clones or other standard clones. I'm...a chakra construct made almost entirely from yin chakra, but I am you and you're me, I can perform any jutsu you can without dispelling so long as the chakra that created me doesn't run out. Don't worry, my chakra pool and your reserves are separate so you won't feel any drain from my actions.”
“How much chakra did you con me into giving to you?” She sucked in a breath as a wave of guilt crashed over her when Inner flinched back. “Sorry, I- its not like...,” She clamped her mouth shut over the rising tide of confusion, terror, and despair threatening to spill out in a jumbled mess, they didn't have time for her to fall to pieces. “you aren't my enemy even t-though you've been a pain in the ass my entire life.”
“Two thirds, I'm sorry for taking advantage. We're in a bad way here, Saku. You are in no condition to protect our idiots on your own nor remotely ready for this long of a separation, but its what we have to do. After I set the traps, I'll come give you a run down of them and hide out along the outer perimeter and lure away any teams that get too close.” With that she watched Inner get swallowed up by the shadows before once more focusing on her teammates.
His stomach is churning with shame as he watched memory Sakura unseal a medical kit, albeit a standard genin first-aid kit, but a kit nonetheless; he'd had no idea she had brought it with her when they took the Chūnin exams. It was difficult to watch his teammate, the decisive, calm, collected, and prodigious medic-nin Sakura became, fumble with the supplies and tear up as she tried to assess his and Naruto's wounds.
To him, she looked so small and pale, her hands were trembling with the tell-tell signs of borderline chakra exhaustion. The churning in his stomach ceased as icy dread replaced it when he saw his younger self start convulsing, toxic purple chakra bubbling up from the curse seal. His convulsions devolved into thrashing and he saw her throw herself on him.
Sasuke forced himself to watch the first time he raised a hand to his soulmate, the punch was loud as it hit her jaw, his own jaw ached in sympathy. He tried to move forward, to place a hand on her shoulder, to tell her to leave him at the curse seal's mercy. His hand stops just shy of touching memory Sakura as silent tears spill down her face. She grunts with the effort to keep him still.
He desperately tries to block her hand from touching the purple chakra when she places her left hand on his neck and her right hand forms a seal. “I don't know if this will work, but if I don't do something, it will kill you. Hang on just a little longer Sasuke.”
A moment later his jaw hits the floor as she molds the excess chakra and creates several dozen academy bunshin. The thrashing lessens as she creates more and more bunshin until it stops altogether. His eyes scan her form looking for any signs of damage or injury. Bile rises in his throat upon catching a glimpse of the chakra burns spiraling up her left arm; they resemble the exact pattern of the curse mark's first stage.
He tastes salt on his lip and with stilted movements, his finger tips brush away his tears. They refuse to stop when it takes his other soulmate ten minutes longer than it should to bandage her left arm. Her left arm is shaking as her right hand tries to spread a bright red paste over the chakra burns. It feels like Naruto's Rasengan is eating away at his stomach with every little hitch, swallowed whimper, and breathless gasp of pain he ears from her.
“Sasu, that's how she got those s-scars.” Naruto's voice breaks on the last word. His heart lurches, more tears flow with each beat thudding painfully into his sternum. With the same stilted movements and uncoordinated limbs, he reaches for Naruto and pulls him closer. Golden spikes tickle the left side of his jaw as Naruto's arms wend around his waist. The two of them hold each other as they witness their soulmate's battle against the curse seal's chakra; wishing they could hold memory Sakura too.
Her bandaged left arm is shaking as she lay the freshly soaked compress to Naruto's forehead, it was his turn for it. Sakura worried her bottom lip as she pushed her senses to Sasuke's chakra coils. She nearly fell over with relief when she couldn't sense any fluctuations. 'Seems as though that bite has finally calmed.'
'For now anyway.'
Before she can acknowledge Inner's point, a faint scurrying reaches her ears. Her eyes snap up, scanning for the source of the sound as her hand palms a kunai. Everything is silent for a few moments. At the edge of her vision she catches a flash of brown and white, the kunai flies from her hand with zero hesitation. There's a squeak from the brown squirrel as it flees the clearing.
'Is the sun rising yet?' The wave of exhaustion creeps up as she waits for a response from Inner. She felt inordinately proud of herself when she made contact with Inner after calming the influx of the toxic chakra as it ravaged Sasuke's coils.
Apparently her family's bloodline developed differently for each member and depending on outside chakra impressions they encountered during their childhood...there was no telling what her Restraint Release would be capable of; with a chakra impression from the kyuubi's attack twelve years ago helping to form Inner. In addition, Inner's mentor had primarily been a slowly degrading chakra impression from some ancestor of theirs and left her with a basic understanding of what her and her restraint could do when they were in sync. Which was absolutely no help whatsoever and left them both floundering in uncharted territory.
So far, from what they have experienced first hand, they could communicate with each other in real time, and if Sakura channeled a tiny bit of yin chakra she could even see through Inner's eyes. Though the drawbacks, a persistent icy chill, releasing Inner took almost all of her chakra, and any yin chakra she used was transferred immediately to Inner. It made her wary of using her bloodline; at least until she had a better understanding of it.
Her vision was darkening as her eyes slid closed, she gave herself a shake and slapped her cheek with a hand, but it was lack luster at best. Sakura's body slumped over Naruto and Sasuke, a moment later pale jade snapped open as what felt like a bucket of lava was poured over her head. Her posture straightened as the heat spread from the top of her head to her toes and then back up, a ripple of agony zinging up her spine. She curled into a ball as she fought to keep the heat from melting her brain.
'Fucking Ame cowards-' Inner took a deep breath and shot Sakura a smug grin, '-joke's on them though, I liberated their heaven scroll and hid it when they weren't looking.'
“An all-nighter, huh?” Between one blink and the next, she was out from under the root and staring down the three genin from Oto with a kunai in both hands.
“Oh,” His voice wasn't muffled, despite three quarters of his face covered in bandages, as he stood from his crouch. “there is no need to get involved Candyfloss.”
The two other genin snort, before the other boy says, “Good one, Dosu. Now wake up Sasuke. We want to fight him.”
“Fuck off,” Her voice was hard and her chakra exploded outward. “and tell the snake traitor he'll never get his hands on Sasuke.”
Their kunoichi paled, her teammates appeared unaffected as the boy with spiky black hair grinned, sharp and vicious. “Tch, how dare you insult Orochimaru-sama. I'll kill you first and then your precious teammates...” His eyes glinted with malicious glee. “Or maybe I'll save you for last and make you watch.”
Zaku shot a quizzical look Dosu's way, but remained seated on the tree branch as he watched Dosu step forward. Coming to a stop a few feet from the lone kunai, he knelt to inspect the grass. “Grass doesn't grow in this clearing, there's freshly turned dirt, and a dirt smeared boulder which suggests,” With a dramatic flourish of a metal clad arm, he reveals a trip wire. “a pointless booby trap.”
“This girl's useless and weak,” The kunoichi drawls visibly relaxing and brushing off her earlier reaction to the weakling. Zaku nods in agreement, glee still present in his eyes.
As one they leap into the air toward her. Her lips twitch as she slashes the kunai in her left hand, severing the wire running along the tree's bark. The airborne Dosu, being the closest, is the one who sees the flash of metal and hears the ominous crackling of branches. “A trap above?!”
Naruto's grip on him turns bruising, his grip is just as punishing. He had no idea the extent of what Inner Sakura and Sakura had done to keep them alive. It had been quite a shock when Inner had started a running commentary whenever her and Sakura had a conversation; he'd just assumed she had help attaining their heaven scroll. Sasuke was drowning in a bottomless abyss of guilt, shame, and utter self-loathing at what he's put their third through. He wasn't sure he could survive the memories to come, he wasn't sure Naruto wouldn't kill him before the end.
They're on a collision course with a giant log, but from the shifting wind current and the whistling, he could tell it was hollow. He brought his hand up and with a trickle of chakra to his arm contraption, shattered it into chunks.
“Still not good enough, Candyfloss.” He said, a touch of annoyance coloring his words. His eye went wide as he felt a deluge of liquid splatter across his body. From the grumbling of the other two, they'd been hit too.
“What was the point of-” Zaku's shout was cut off as a shock wave of flames knocked them back.
His back thudded painfully into the tree they'd been using to spy on Sasuke's teammate all night. A few moments later he slid down the trunk and grunted upon impact with the ground. The heat licking at his face spurned him into action as he flopped face first into the dirt and rolled until the flames were all out.
As soon as he was no longer on fire, he jumped up and ran to help Kin, whose entire body was shrouded in flame. He was forced to dodge a barrage of kunai, and another of shuriken, before reaching her. He breathed a little easier upon seeing the loose articles of clothes. It seems he'd underestimated his teammate.
“Leaf Whirlwind!” All the breath in his lungs whooshed out of him as a kick connects with his face. He's sent flying back again, but this time he skids along the ground and hits the base of a tree so hard it shakes.
“Who the fuck are you?!” He snarls at the green freak standing protectively in front of Candyfloss.
“Rock Lee,” He gently scoops a squirrel off his shoulder and shoos it away before glancing behind him to check on Candyfloss. “the green beast of Konoha.”
“Why are you here?” She's too tired to worry about how rude she must sound. There's a beat of silence as the Oto-nin regroup. Sakura's grin is wide and borderline vicious upon seeing singed clothes, blistering red skin, and the absence of suitable attire for one of the genin.
“I promised to protect you,” He gives her a thumbs up. “but we are also shinobi of Konoha, and we don't abandon our comrades.”
“Thank you, I don't have much chakra left, but the area is trapped. I'll provide support when I can.” He gives her another thumbs up before becoming a green and white blur.
She's in awe of Lee's speed and strength as he sends Dosu flying with a kick and vanishes, only to reappear behind Dosu. The loose bandages cocoon Dosu in seconds before Lee grips either side of the cocoon and spins. “Primary Lotus”
A cloud of dust is kicked up as they hit the ground, she shields her eyes with a hand and squints, Lee lands a few feet to her left. Dosu's legs stick straight up from the impact site. She notes how Zaku's is crouched low, hands wrist deep in the ground, and her stomach drops. Sakura's knuckles are white as they grip her kunai, none of the Oto nin are in range of her traps. Her unease is amplified when Dosu twitches before pulling free from the dirt. “Your technique is terrifying and quite effective, despite my soft landing...” Dosu's shakes off the excess dirt. He's already closed half the distance between him and Lee. “My turn.”
She watches in slow motion as Lee collapses. Heart in her throat and hands slick with sweat she aims for the tripwire. Another kunai knocks hers off course. Her gaze snaps to Lee, she looses a relieved breath when he doges, but her relief is short lived when he pitches forward and pukes. Sakura tunes out Dosu's patronizing explanation, she'd figured out his trick during the first stage, as she tried think of a way to use her remaining traps or to get the Oto nin in position.
'Inner, give me something, anything, to help Lee.' Unfortunately, Dosu is done playing with Lee and is rushing at her like a lighting bolt. 'You don't have enough chakra to create another clone for me, nor are you completely recovered from the first separation...get them into position with your plan. I'll wait for an opportunity to strike.' All she could do is brace for the collision. Restraint Release'
“Leaf Whirlwi-” Dosu bats Lee's leg aside and thrusts his arm forward. Its intercepted by bandaged hands, her ears ring as chorus of pops fill the air. Lee is face down, screaming into the dirt and clutching his right ear, blood leaks from between his fingers; staining the bandages on his hands red.
“Now,” She lets her kunai fall to the ground and tenses. Dosu's arm is raised high, the metal glinting with sunlight, “I'll gut a green beast.”
“Over my dead body, asshole.” The cool metal of her shuriken and kunai sooth her overheated skin. Her right wrist snaps forward.
Shuriken bounce off the metal contraption on his arm. “Oh geez.”
She gathers the last dregs of her chakra into her arm as she steps into her throw, she concentrates on the holes in the metal contraption and releases her kunai.'Inner Control: chakra Corkscrew' All, but one of her kunai are deflected by a wave of air courtesy of Zaku. She shields her face with her arms as best as she can, two of her kunai nick her left arm and the third slices through her dress and the mesh lining, blood slides down her side.
There's a faint crack as her chakra laden kunai strikes home. Dosu's arm contraption fissures with arcs of solid black and white sparks. He flails his arm and holds it as far away from his body as he can. Half of his arm falls to the ground in a fountain of blood and metal fragments as her kunai finishes drilling through it. His scream slams into her ear drums like a hammer on a nail. With shaking fingers, his right hand holds what remains of his left arm. Each breath is ragged and he gasps. “Zaku, Kin, stop-”
Her vision goes white when there's a sharp tug on her hair. She swallows her scream as her knees buckle and the grip on her hair tightens. The person holding her twists their hand, tears pool in her eyes as a few of her hairs are ripped from her skin.
“You little bitch, you'll pay for what you did to Dosu.” Another tug, far more vicious than the other two, and Sakura doesn't feel it. As the toxic chakra from Sasuke's bite hangs in the air. Involuntarily her head jerks to Sasuke and Naruto.
“Your hair's way prettier than mine, I bet you spent more time playing dress up than training, you make me sick.” She grits her teeth and forces her fingers deeper into the ground.
“Zaku go kill Sasuke and then her other teammate. Let's,” Kin's foot stamps hard on her right hand, she hisses through her teeth, but doesn't make any other sound. “teach this vile worm a lesson.”
“Hey, hey, don't be s-stupid-” Dosu sways before toppling over, blood gushing steadily from the mangled stump of his left arm.
As Kin and Zaku focus on their injured teammate, she uses the distraction to draw a kunai with her left hand and uses it to slash through her hair. The moment she's free, she stabs Kin's foot, anchoring her in place, tosses a hand full of dirt in her face, and lunges for the long forgotten kunai. When her hand wraps around the hilt, she turns her lunge into a roll and as she rises from her crouch, slashes through the exposed wire of her 'failed' booby trap. An even bigger plume of dust, than Lee's lotus, erupts as a massive boulder hits the ground where Kin was standing, hands rubbing her eyes.
Silence descended on the clearing for a moment before she is dodging Zaku's wild swings and his Zankuuha. Her mind races for a viable strategy as her last big trap was used on Kin. 'Kawarimi' She shakes off the disorientation as she appears on Zaku's left, the edges of her vision blacken, she knows she can't use any more jutsu. The toxic chakra thickens in the air, a suffocating blanket of malevolence and she reaches for it. 'Inner, get ready.'
Her kunai whistle through the air toward Zaku, his sneer is ugly and his eyes burn with rage. “That jutsu you hit Dosu's arm with was probably a fluke and unless you have any more traps, you are so dead. Zankuuha.”
'Kawarimi' Her left arm is being eaten by acid as wind rushes past her as she falls. Those burning eyes lock with hers as she see's Zaku reach for his own kunai and flings them at her. She brings her hands up to form the seal for the last time. “Is cowardly and weak jutsu, all you know? It's useless.”
She waits for him to look away, keeps her arms up to block the kunai, before drawing on the toxic chakra again and speeds through the signs Inner's calling out, on the last sign, Inner invokes. 'Inner Control: Distortion'
Hot splashes of liquid on his face drag his attention to the sky. 'She stayed this time...' His face pales as his pants grow wet, and the warm liquid runs down his thighs. The kunai in his hands slip from limp fingers as the scent of urine tickles his nose.
The sun bathes glittering pink and black wings with its light as they flare out. Razor sharp teeth pull back in a snarl, and a stream of black kunai pour from its wide open maw. Two emerald eyes flash with cunning as its claws extend toward him. The dragon's roar rattles his bones and his throat is raw from screaming as his insides spill out, hot and cold sensations fighting a war in his brain, then everything stops.
Her legs threaten to drop her on top of Zaku's disemboweled body, but she stumbles two steps away and vomits up everything she's ever eaten. She takes another few steps from her bile, wiping a hand over her mouth, and collapses in a heap. Sakura's limbs are heavy with fatigue and are trembling, but she crawls back over to Naruto and Sasuke; the bite is still spewing toxic chakra.
“Take it easy there.” She flinches away from the voice, an involuntary whimper escapes her. She curls into a ball, trying to make herself as small as possible.
“Whoa kid, its...” The voice trails off and she hunkers down even more, knowing beyond a doubt they've spotted the bodies. She hears a distant shout, a muffled curse, and shifts away from the chakra signature she feels coming closer to her.
“Sa,”She freezes at the sound of her voice, its been a long time since she's heard it without a tinge of malice. “ku,” Her muscles relax as a hand cards gently through her hair. “ra. Its okay, I know it isn't really okay, but right now and especially in this moment; you are okay. And that is the only thing that matters.”
“Ino.” It is a breathless exhalation and a sob as she throws herself at her friend, trusting Ino to catch her, to hold her.
His eyes closed, but it did nothing to block out the sound of his soulmate breaking apart after her first kills, he had always wandered about them and tried to coerce the story out of Sakura with all the means at his disposal, including genjutsu. He's never felt so dirty in his entire life, sure he was an all around bastard and grade A asshole who made shitty decisions, but knowing she'd killed the Oto team to protect him and Naruto...
Sasuke let go of his idiot and glared down his protests as he sat watching the last few moments of the memory as Anko, team 10, and team Gai helped cart team 7 to the tower; stopping briefly to collect the Heaven scroll, Inner Sakura procured from the Ame team.
“Naruto,” He said, trying to find the courage to voice some of his deepest, darkest, and most haunting regrets. “I want to w-”
“-Ah, ah, ah.” Inner Sakura was in his face, wagging her finger back and forth, “There are rules of conduct when Dreaming your soulmate's memories, even more so for triads, and you are not exempt, Mr. High and Mighty Uchiha.”
“What kind of rules?” Naruto's voice was unusually subdued and soft. Sasuke was worried for his idiot's well-being and how this would affect his friendship with Sakura, not to mention any potential relationship going forward. While Naruto understood that killing was unavoidable in their profession, the goofy ball of sunshine had a strong distaste for it and until recently, had believed Sakura to be free of such a heavy burden.
“The two of you will be incapable of voicing any memories or warnings, pertaining to either or both of you before the bonding memories have run their course.” When two quizzical looks were sent her way, she elaborated. “In other words, if Sasuke has had a profound interaction with Sakura and you, Naruto, were not present for it; Sasuke can't tell you anything about it before the both of you view it and vice versa.”
He refused to believe it, refused to accept it, and opened his mouth to deliver a warning, “Naruto, I've-”
His mouth was moving, but there was no sound. He activated his sharingan to craft a genjutsu to trap Naruto in, but a sharp spike of pain behind his eyes forced him to cut off the chakra flow. When he tried using field signs, his body froze, and he suspected any writing materials, if they'd had any, would catch fire. With a grunt he lashed out at the nearest tree and squawked when his fist passed through the tree. As he fell face first to the ground, a brisk breeze ruffled his hair and his blood ran cold. No, not this night. Sage's shakujō please not this night.