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Armageddon

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Day Ten of Infection: The Beginning


Sakura's lungs burned in her chest, and her legs felt like they would give way. How long had she been running? A block? Miles? The muscles in her legs had no strength left in them, but she forced them to move, tears streaming down her face at the realization that if she slowed her pace, even for a second, she'd be dead. Ripped to shreds in the most brutal way like she saw happen to her friends and her loved ones. She tore through the woods, vines reaching out to rip at her legs. They were behind her… closing in. If she didn't find shelter soon…

Her breath came in fast shallow gasps as the wood cleared and what looked like an abandoned building emerged. There was a huge fence around it, the top covered in barbed wire. Without a second thought, she pushed strength into her legs by willpower alone and flung herself against the fence when she reached it, scrambling up as fast as she could. She wasn't quick enough and looked down in horror at one of the disgustingly disfigured creatures staring back at her. Its face was half gone, no right eye in the socket, just a bloody hole where the eye used to be. Blood stained its mouth. It made growling and unintelligible noises at her, the ability to speak long gone.

A shriek emitted from her throat; She hated herself for it, knowing it would bring more of the soulless creatures to her, but she couldn't help it. Fear had her in its suffocating grasp. She kicked hard, trying to free her ankle from her attacker. More zombies tore at the remnants of her lab coat. Sakura ran up and over the fence after freeing knocking it off, the barbed wire cutting the insides of her thighs. Sharp stinging pain accompanied as she threw herself to the ground on the side of safety. She landed on her hip, searing pain from her abrupt stop radiating down to her knee. Sakura ignored the pain out of the desperate need to escape. She was out of their grasp, but not safe enough.

The large building looked uninviting with all the busted windows. Blackness loomed through their shattered glass. As the fence shook behind her, the undead angry that their meal had gotten away, Sakura crept towards the huge double doors, green eyes shifting around for anything she could use as a weapon. A tire iron sat forgotten a few feet from her, and she picked it up. Were there more zombies inside? There was a high probability of more. The medic opened her bag and used the last of her bandages to secure the gashes on her thighs from the fence. If blood from the zombies got into her wounds, her life was over.

Sakura stood and adjusted the small pack on her shoulders before taking another step forward, avoiding anything that would make a noise. Her feet were silent. Slow steps not making a sound, but her pulse beating so hard it felt like it would give her away. A shaky hand reached out while the other held her weapon high. Sakura pulled it open, wincing as the door creaked. If she cleared out any infected inside, she could make this place into a temporary haven.

It was dim inside, but she didn't need to see well. Sakura heard them before she saw them. She held her fighting stance, counting six of them wandering on the warehouse floor. The disgusting growls and retching cries echoed around her as they realized the new food source. Sakura didn't wait for them to attack her first. That's how people died.

She bashed each one of their skulls in. Blood and brain matter splattered all over her clothes and her face. The first time Sakura had to do this, the disgust and fear of infection burnt her alive. This virus spread through body fluids, but it spread faster through skin to skin contact with someone who had Super Ebola. It was that potent. Luckily, none got in her eyes or mouth. If she didn't find a way to kill them without close combat, infection was inevitable. She had goggles and a face mask on for protection, but after killing so many, she would need to take them off to avoid them obscuring her vision.

Sakura stepped over the motionless bodies and explored her surroundings with caution. She killed seventeen more on her task of clearing out the abandoned warehouse. After searching, she found a break room with a full fridge. Sakura never experienced such gratefulness for weeks old food. First though, she needed a shower. The stench of blood followed her every step. Guts splattered her white lab coat and for the hundredth time that day, she cried.

The Ebola virus caused this. It was incurable, but only two cases appeared in Konoha at first. The second case was the fault of a nurse who was taking care of an Ebola patient and didn't remove her personal protective equipment the right way. In the process of taking it off, she infected herself. That was okay; she moved to quarantine for triage. In less fortunate areas where medical care and personal hygiene weren't as precise, new cases arose until the world had to take notice. The Konoha medical team dispatched to help assist with the virus. Sakura had been a part of the medical team and worked with their Science Division with trying to come up with a cure and they found one. Not only that but a vaccine, too. After that, the world burst into flames.

After almost a year of research and development, their first test subjects were given the new medication. They had high fevers, and many of them moaned in agony from the severe headaches and muscle pain. Others complained of severe stomach cramping. Some threw up, others had blood running from their orifices, and others were too tired to even open their eyes. Sakura remembered the glimmer of hope in their gazes from behind her mask as they gave the first thirty test subjects the antibiotic. They waited, the clock echoing and reminding them that time was a factor.

Hours passed, and the first person given the antibiotics fever dropped. Another told them their muscle pain was subsiding and the other their headache was feeling better. They got the second dose six hours after the first and their conditions improved just a hare. At the end of seven days on antibiotics, the patients' symptoms vanished. All their symptoms vanished. Sakura had never received so many hugs and kisses in her life. Through her protective gear of course.

The next step was to create a vaccine. The goal was to give it to all age ranges, like the flu vaccine, only reducing the amount for small children. They saved hundreds of people from the monster virus and the number of cases appearing in other lands subsided. The vaccine, just like the flu shot, had a trial run that exposed healthy volunteers to someone with Ebola to test its potency for quite a substantial amount of money.

Three thousand people total were test subjects to the Ebola vaccine. In a ratio of twenty healthy to two sick, the experimental trial lasted for six months. By month three, they believed they'd done it. Only a little over 10% contracted Ebola. It was proving more effective than the flu shot and had mild complications like a low-grade fever and fatigue. Two patients had an allergic reaction to it; one had hives while the other fell into anaphylactic shock where he required intubation and two Epi-Pen shots. Two allergic reactions out of thousands sounded promising.

Sakura discovered a locker room to her relief. She searched through the lockers until she found a pink tank and some black leggings. It was a little harder to find socks, but she found black ones. Sakura knew she'd have to find another pair of sneakers. Luckily, she found abandoned shampoo and shower gel. They were for men, but who cared?

Sakura found the showers. She turned it on, slowly removed her mediocre protective gear, slipped out of her clothes, being careful not to get any of the body fluids on her. Sakura threw them in the trash, ducked under the warm embrace of the shower, and let the water pelt her sore muscles.

"We were so close!" she muttered to herself. "What did we do wrong?!"

The "healthy" patients around month five got sick with the Ebola symptoms. At first, the scientists and medics weren't worried. That mindset changed when their patients died within 24 hours of showing symptoms. Ebola did not kill that fast, especially not with treatment. In fact, Ebola was a laughable virus, yet here it was worse than ever. The patients showed mental instability, and many were bleeding from their ears, mouth, and nose. The baffled science team worked night and day for another solution, but it was too late.

Every single patient died half way through month five. Their vaccine caused the Ebola virus to mutate after exposure to the real thing. They created antibodies; however, they were not strong enough to fight off a stronger mutated strand of Ebola.

What was scary was that after the first three patients died, they quarantined their bodies and wrapped them to prevent infecting anyone else. To their horror, the dead moved again, trying to tear out of their confinement. Kiani, an RN stationed with them, ran to the bags and unzipped the first one. She shrieked when the dead body of the young man attacked her, biting through her PPE and ripping through her protective helmet. The dead patient bit down on Kiani's neck; she screamed in agony, trying to fight off her attacker as he ripped off her face and ate it.

Four healthcare providers wrestled the deceased man away. They tried to restrain him to study his corpse, but Dr. Tsunade bashed his head in with the blood pressure monitor. Blood gushed from Kiani's neck wound the infected inflicted. She died moments after that. They felt for a pulse… gone. Yet Kiani opened her eyes again. They were sky blue and unseeing.

"Are you okay Kiani?" one of the med techs ventured.

Kiani's head turned to who spoke to her, stringy black hair falling into her face. She reached out, grabbed his ankle, and bit him. That was how the super version of Ebola spread like wildfire. Sakura and the other survivors evacuated before they were all killed. Behind them, the facility exploded as they escaped hoping to kill the virus before it spread further.

Sakura placed her head against the cool tile of the shower. A second later, she punched it, her knuckles throbbing from the blow. "We shouldn't have left!"

They arrived back in Konoha, a mere four of them when there had been at least 75 to begin with. Saru, a scientist, rubbed his temples, blinking hard like he was in pain. Sakura flat out asked him if he had a headache. He insisted it was just from all the stress. Saru had contracted the virus before they left. It didn't surprise Sakura. Someone always corrected Saru on proper wear and disposal of PPE at least once every few weeks. He must have infected himself when he helped clear the bodies of the super Ebola patients.

That man left them at the gates and infected hundreds of people by just encountering a few. He gave it to his wife when he got home and kissed her. When he hugged his children, he also infected them the same way. His youngest daughter left to play with her best friend across the street, infecting her next. Little Hiriki returned home to infect her foster parents, one of which was a public speaker. That night, her father spoke at a rally and shook many hands afterward. Twenty-two to be exact.

Konoha was a city full of the infected in less than three days. Once infected with Ebola, symptoms showed up within a day or two, much faster than the virus's original incubation period of ten to twenty-one days.

Sakura's tears mixed with the water that had run cold. She held her head up, understanding this was now a test of survival. No changes came from sitting and crying. She had to figure out a cure. The virus wasn't just spreading from blood or fluids of the virus. It was contact with the skin from an infected person, too. That's why she made sure the undead or anyone else did not touch her.

Sakura finished showering and returned to the break room. She couldn't stay in such a large place by herself. Other larger groups may come… and they may kill her to take this place. It wasn't worth it. Sakura would have to go somewhere smaller like an abandoned house and board it up. Her legs were throbbing, but at least had stopped bleeding. She would have to get more bandages and antibiotic ointments on them. Her vulnerability to the virus because of her open wounds quadrupled.

From exploring the warehouse, it manufactured car parts. She searched on the first and second floors for a first-aid kit but didn't find one. Luckily, she found more bandages and medical tape to wrap them up in, but no ointment. Her makeshift medical care would have to do for now. Sakura found a back exit. She couldn't re-enter the way she came. Not with the infected raving at the front gates. That meager fence wouldn't hold them for long, but she'd hoped they resorted to wandering out in the front.

With her weapon in tow, Sakura traveled to a mall strip that had a Wal-Mart, clothing stores, and a Dick's Sporting Goods. Maybe she could find a quiet long-distance weapon there. She managed to avoid encountering any zombies. Sakura swallowed, her mouth dry from the constant exertion. She needed to find water. The parking lot looked like a tornado tore it to shreds. The infected dragged themselves around the front entrance. Sakura gulped. She didn't doubt they were inside. The doors were automatic.

Sakura traveled downwind from the infected and stayed out of their line of sight. The dead maintained whatever ability the person did before they died. If that person was fast when they were living, they were fast in death. Shows like The Walking Dead gave people a false sense of security. Around the side was a glass door. Sakura opened it and ran inside, making sure not to get close enough to the automatic doors to trigger them. The disheveled state she witnessed showed she may have been too late. Tipped over shelves lined the floors, torn open bags of food littered the place, and glass crunched under her feet. She'd need to grab a pair of boots. The poor state of her sneakers would get her killed.

The pinkette walked to the shoe department to pick out steel toe boots under the flickering lights. She found black ones and slipped them on. Next, she grabbed a duffle bag to put things she'd need in them. Sakura was at a disadvantage holding the duffle bag if the Infected found her, so she hoped to leave undetected. She searched for essential items like soap, shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush. Luckily, she didn't need feminine products because of her birth control. She had Nexplanon, and it lasted for three years. She'd just had it put in three months ago and didn't have periods anymore. Sakura paused. On second thought, better safe than sorry.

Sakura crouched down at the sound of footsteps close by. With her tire iron raised, she strained to hear, her heart beating a mile a minute. Her eyes widened. She heard voices. Sakura stood to greet them but stopped. What if they tried to attack her and take the things she'd just gotten? That was a possibility. Still, it wasn't safe to be alone like this.

"Someone messed this place up, huh?" That was a man's voice.

"It sure has," a soft-spoken female voice spoke.

"Let's search and leave."

That was another man's voice. Peeking around the corner, Sakura saw five; she only heard the voices of three. Sakura tried to sneak closer and stepped on a piece of glass. A flashlight whirled in her direction.

"What was that?!"

"I don't know, but let's go check."

"Are you crazy?! What if it's one of those dead things?!"

"Then better we attack it first!"

Sakura moved around the corner with her hands up. "Wait! I'm not infected!"

"It's a woman," said a man with bright blonde hair. "Have you had a fever or a bad headache?"

Sakura shook her head. "No, nothing. No one infected touched or bit me either."

There was a man standing with them. She didn't have to ask if he was the leader. His dark eyes said it for him. Ebony shoulder length spikes shifted as he looked at her with cold eyes. "Check her."

A woman with blonde hair stalked toward Sakura along with another lady with the most beautiful lilac-colored eyes she'd ever seen. Both women looked like hell, their clothes torn and dirt smudging their bodies. The woman whose eyes were a strange lilac color smiled at her.

"Sorry about this."

The two women dragged Sakura back behind a shelf and checked her for bite marks. Sakura noticed that they touched her, pulling her shirt over her head, and her pant down to her ankles.

"Wait a minute!" Sakura exclaimed. "You're doing this all wrong!"

"Just shut up," the blonde barked. "We'll be done in a minute." She backed up and yelled, "She's got wounds on her legs!"

Sakura frowned at her rudeness. "You don't know how this virus spreads do you? Because if you did, you'd realize that if I was infected, you just infected yourself!" Sakura unwrapped her left leg to show her wounds. "This was from climbing a chain-link fence that had barbed wire on top."

The woman with the dark purple hair stepped away. "Um, can you please show us the other wound too? I don't think you're lying or anything. We have to make sure."

Sakura complied after re-wrapping her other leg. The blonde crossed her arms over her chest. "You don't know squat! This virus spreads through bites from those monsters!"

Sakura pulled her clothes back into place. "Yes, but it's also spread just from touching an infected person!"

"Ino, what did she say?"

That was Miss. Ignorant Blonde's name. "She says the virus spreads from touching an infected person, too!"

The man she believed was the leader came around the corner towards her. He had a katana at his side and Sakura's eyes widened in fear when he held it to her neck. "How do you know this?"

Sakura gulped. She had no choice to tell them about her involvement. "Because I was on the medical team that tried to create a vaccine. I watched as the virus spread and there was nothing we could do to stop it."

"So, you know what caused all this?" he questioned.

The other man, the blonde placed a hand on his friend's arm. "Sasuke, this whole plague isn't her fault! Don't do something stupid!"

"Shut up Naruto," came Sasuke's cold answer. He never looked away from Sakura. "Answer me."

Sakura closed her eyes. "Yes…"

"Do you have a plan?"

Sakura nodded. "I don't know where to start. I'd need a lab and someone who has a scientific and strategic background."

"That'd be me if you want someone to strategize." The third man with him raised his hand. Sakura gazed at the odd ponytail sticking straight out from the back of his head. "Name's Shikamaru. This whole situation has been a drag. Tell me your plan."

"I want to attempt another antidote."

"Another?!" came Ino's shrill voice. She grasped Sakura by the front of the blue tank top she'd stolen at the warehouse. "You know where an antidote is?! You better talk right now Billboard Brow!"

Sakura shoved the woman off her. "Don't touch me, you lunatic!" Sakura looked back at Shikamaru. "Yes, I want to try again. Instead of creating another vaccine afterward, I want to stick with an antidote. The vaccine caused all of this. I can tell you everything I know. I just want to come with you."

"What do you bring to the table to keep this group safe?" Sasuke questioned.

Sakura's expression hardened. "I've killed sixty-seven of the infected just today."

"She's lying!" Ino shouted. "You can't kill that many by yourself!"

Sakura was getting fed up with this woman's antics. "You want to try me and see?!"

Ino tied her hair up into a large bun over her head. "Yeah, I do! Let's do this, bitch!"

She lunged at Sakura and a brawl ensued. The anger, the fear, and the hatred of herself for her role in this epidemic exploded into rage. Sakura overpowered the other woman and smashed her fist into her face as tears streamed down her cheeks.

"You don't know me!" Sakura screamed. "You don't know what I've been through!"

Shikamaru and Naruto hauled her off. Her chest was heaving and the moment they let her go, Sakura planned to continue beating that loud mouth brat into the concrete. How dare she?! Sakura had been through hell on her own, and she would not let a prissy little twat undermine her struggle.

"What's your name?" Sasuke questioned as he stepped in front of her.

"Sakura," she whispered, raw emotion on her face as she looked from him to Ino. "Sakura Haruno."


Day Fifty-Five: Stagnant


Sakura stood in front of an Infected she had strapped to a metal table. It was a young teenage girl, half of her jaw missing, and her ribs exposed from when the dead feasted on her. Gurgles and growls escaped her as she fought for the food source almost within reach. Sakura observed her. She studied the blood of many people who died, and the virus reanimated underneath a microscope. The virus, despite being out of the body, remained active for at least six hours. That meant that if you touched the body fluids of someone infected, even if it was hours later, you could contract Super Ebola.

She recreated the antibiotic they had made. The next part was tough on her. Naruto and Sasuke would bring her infected subjects. Most of them were lucid during the experimentation. All of them were willing help, hoping they would live through it. The old formula for the antibiotic didn't affect the virus at all this time. Luckily, her assistant Shiho was better with chemistry than Sakura. She was an odd woman who wore dark glasses. She looked like a mad scientist. Her dirty blonde hair stuck out in different directions like she'd never combed it. Shiho didn't seem upset about the failed antibiotic; she already formulated the start of a new one.

They'd run into many people who wanted to come into the large CDC sanctuary they had. First, they had to have their blood drawn after being checked for any bites or open wounds to see if they were carrying Ebola. Majority of them were, and under Sasuke's order, they became guinea pigs for the cure. The ones who weren't got accepted and pulled their weight. The stronger ones helped build a ten-foot wall around their fortress and killed off the Infected that were getting too close. They managed to form a small village.

Sakura rubbed her temples then drew another vial of blood from her test subject. The next step was to dispose of the zombie. She'd grown so nonchalant to killing and saw them as things, not former people; that scared her. She needed a break.

"Shiho," she called to the scientist busy at work. "I'll be back later."

She stood. "Oh, okay Miss Haruno! I'll be here seeing if this new version of the antibiotic can kill the virus!"

Sakura smiled. "Please, just call me Sakura."

"Oh right!"

Sakura placed her notes down on the counter and exited the research lab. She stopped in the decontamination room on the way out, feeling the whoosh of decontaminant against her PPE. She took off her protective gear carefully and threw it in the garbage inside the decontamination room for incineration later. Bounding down the stairs, Sakura headed outside, her eyes adjusting to the brightness of the sun. It was hot. Way too hot with stagnant air. The stench of the dead wafted to her nostrils. The smell used to make her gag, but now, it was a part of everyday life.

"Sakura!"

Said woman turned to see Hinata walking toward her. She grinned at the other woman. They'd grown close and having a friend made this world a little less bleak. She and Ino still didn't get along after their brawl in Wal-Mart. She tried apologizing, but Ino wasn't having it. That was fine. Humanity faced annihilation. She didn't have time to rival with that bimbo.

"What's going on Hinata?" Sakura asked as they walked together.

"Sasuke wants to have a bonfire tonight," she spoke. "Chouji's planning on cooking."

Sakura's mouth watered at the thought of Chouji's meals. He joined them a month ago and was in charge of food scavenging. He and Shikamaru seemed to gravitate towards one another. A bonfire sounded nice. She'd been cooped up in the lab for days working on the antibiotics.

"Sounds like fun."

And fun it was. Naruto and Sasuke brought back beers from an abandoned gas station a few miles down the road. A warm Budlight hit the spot. Sakura sat on a worn tire, watching the festivities. She sipped her beer, feeling like this was just a party and not a ruse to help them cope with their morbid situation. Someone discovered a radio and CDs. Sakura's head bobbed to the sound of reggae music. Was it Bob Marley? She'd never listened to this type music before, but it felt like it was soothing her soul. She just wanted to dance. Not that she could dance.

She saw Sasuke approaching from the east. He sat down next to her, eyes at first watching the scene play out in front of him. Their leader turned and saw Sakura's eyes on his katana. He smirked.

"Does it interest you?"

Sakura nodded. "I've never seen a fight with a katana. It's a cool idea, but only if you know how to use it. I don't."

"You could learn," Sasuke answered. "You are proficient in close combat, although your style is more primitive."

Sakura sipped her beer. "There's nothing classy about killing the Infected. Your weapon gives you a better chance at infecting yourself. I wish you would use something else."

"Hn."

They sat in silence for a moment. Sakura studied his profile. He was handsome. Dark hair down to his shoulders in thick spikes, eyes that matched that inky blackness. His skin had tanned from all the hours spent in the sun, and his muscles shifted underneath it. The gray tank top and hot sun helped her witness the alluring sight.

"Hey Sasuke," Sakura began. She crossed her legs and sat in the center of the tire against the ground. "Can I ask what happened to you when this hell started?"

Sasuke took a swig of his own beer. "It was hell."

That was explanation enough. Sakura frowned with she saw Bimbo, the nickname she gave Ino, sauntering toward them. Her braided long blonde hair hung over her right shoulder. She leaned in, placing an elbow on Sasuke's shoulder.

"Want to dance?" she questioned in a sultry voice.

"I'm talking right now Ino," Sasuke responded. "You've been drinking too much. You reek of alcohol."

Ino sucked her teeth. "I've only had two! I'm not drunk!"

Sasuke got to his feet. "Follow me Sakura."

The pinkette wasn't sure what he wanted, but she shot Ino a smug look before getting up and trailing after her leader. It was childish, but she didn't care at that moment. Where was he taking her? They entered the CDC and walked down the familiar hallways. It was still bright, a bill they would never pay keeping it running. Their footsteps echoed against the walls of the tunnel. They were silent on their walk next to each other.

They reached a metal door. It loomed before them. Sakura realized this was where Sasuke slept. He placed his finger on the scanner. It beeped, welcoming him and sliding the doors open. Sakura's heart was beating a mile a minute. Why would he bring her here? Was he going to try to sleep with her? That wasn't happening.

"What is it?" Sakura ventured while going to sit at a table.

Sasuke joined her and pulled the chair up. He placed his elbows on the table and linked his fingers together. His intense gaze smoldered like dark embers. Sakura didn't think he did it on purpose, but that look was making her turn into a pile of mush.

"I want you to be my right hand," he spoke. "You will assist in decision making while still working on the antibiotic. Once you've completed that, we'll work together to cure those who have not turned yet."

She noticed the hardness in his voice, and that was when she realized something: the times Sakura had seen Sasuke kill a zombie, there was no remorse in the swing of his blade. He seemed… angry. She was positive that something had happened to those close to him.

"What about Ino or Hinata?" Sakura questioned. "They've been with you longer than I have. Or Naruto and Shikamaru?"

"Ino loses focus because of her infatuation with me," Sasuke began. "Hinata can't focus because of her infatuation with Naruto. Naruto, I consider one of my officers, both him and Shikamaru. I need you on my team because of your strength and your medical knowledge. They have come in handy so far."

"If you already have two officers, why do you need a third?"

Sasuke leaned forward. "Someone is putting the group at risk."

Sakura crossed her arms underneath her breasts. "What do you mean?"

Sasuke shook his head. That simple movement made Sakura bite her lip. "We have an infected person among us, and I want you to tell me who it is."

Sakura jumped up from her chair so hard it topped over behind her, landing with a loud clang on the floor. "We need to search everyone now! How are you so calm about this?!"

Sasuke stood. "That's a wonderful act Sakura. When are you going to come clean?"

Sakura paused and swallowed. "What are you talking about?"

In a flash, Sasuke moved around the table and shoved Sakura against the wall. The breath whooshed out of her and her eyes widened at just how close he was. Her heart pounded in her chest as his hand brushed against her right inner thigh, ghosting its way up. Sakura pushed him away.

"What the hell are you doing?!" she raged. "You tell me you want me to be your right hand then pull this?! I'm not sleeping with you Sasuke! You can keep your title!"

Sasuke advanced. "I'm not trying to sleep with you Sakura. I know what you're hiding. I expect you to come clean right now. It's the only thing that's stopping your progression in rank and my full trust in you."

"We're not in the military or ninjas," Sakura scoffed. "That rank means nothing."

Sasuke placed his hands in the pockets of his jeans. "You didn't deny that you're hiding something."

Sakura reached down to where his hand almost touched out of instinct. He knew. There was no getting around it. Tears pooling in her eyes, Sakura lifted the right side of her shorts, showing a bandage strapped to it. She suffered an attack while going into town two days ago. It was an infected elderly woman. Sakura made the stupid mistake of thinking because she was at least in her early nineties, she wouldn't be able to move as fast.

She and Shiho left for town with Chouji, Naruto, and Shikamaru to gather more medical supplies for their studies. They were in the pharmacy of an abandoned hospital while Shikamaru searched for needles, blood tubes, syringes, IVs, and all the preps needed from the lab of a hospital. The elderly infected she ran into was still bedridden. Sakura stopped and stared at her for a moment, feeling sorry that she got attacked while she couldn't move. Sakura moved in closer to put her out of her misery. She leaned over and held the nail gun to her forehead. The old woman took Sakura by surprise when she leaned over and chomped down on her thigh. She snatched herself away and shot her right between the eyes.

When Sakura built the courage to look, tears streamed down her face. "How could I be so careless?!" she berated to herself.

She rummaged through a medical dresser by the bathroom and wrapped the bite up. Death would knock at her doorstep within 24 hours, only death never came. No symptoms appeared either, a result that shocked her. Was she immune or would it just take longer for the virus to kill her?

"I…" Sakura began with her breath hitching. "I shouldn't have put you all at risk! But I-"

"You're selfish, Sakura," Sasuke pointed out. "You could have killed our entire group."

She hung her head. "I know Sasuke. Death scares the shit out of me. If I told the others, they'd have to kill me and… I couldn't bring myself to do it. Also, I believe I can reverse this epidemic. I'm not ready to quit yet!"

"You're a coward and you should be dead by now," Sasuke deadpanned. "Why aren't you?"

Sakura wrapped her arms around her body. "I think maybe I'm immune. I've tested my blood, and the virus is not visible under the microscope."

Sasuke walked a short distance from her to a mini fridge. He pulled out two Mike's Hard Strawberry Lemonades and handed her one. Sakura looked at it then to Sasuke. "I never would have taken you for a fruity drink person."

"Never judge by appearance Sakura," Sasuke began as he sat back down at the table. "I am not judging you. I should cut you down where you stand for this treason."

Sakura nodded, shifting her weight from foot to foot. Sasuke continued. "I want you and Shiho to figure out why you are immune. Perhaps you are the key to ending this."

Sakura hugged Sasuke. "I won't let you down."

He held still as she embraced him before brushing her pink locks away from her face. "You can't fail me Sakura, because if you do, I have no choice but to eliminate you."


Day Seventy-Four: A Loss and a Gain


Sakura wasn't dead yet and it had been over two weeks. She still was symptomless, and her bite had healed. Shiho knew the situation. The odd woman didn't seem surprised at all that an Infected bit Sakura.

"Super Ebola could have killed you before," Shiho informed her. "Remember the time the man missing an eye ripped through your suit in his delirium and went into a coughing fit."

That was true. Sakura zeroed in on a cure so hard she missed all the signs. She should have died before she met Sasuke and his crew. Her way of killing the Infected had a high probability of given her the virus. Yet nothing happened. They'd gotten to work right away and found that Sakura had Type O Negative blood, the universal donor blood. They'd introduced some of her blood to the Super Ebola virus and underneath the microscope; her white blood cells destroyed the virus. It was a huge step for humanity.

Next, they would create artificial blood that mimicked Sakura's. They would experiment on infected, but lucid subjects. Sakura and her team were having a tough time finding someone. Sakura was in Sasuke's room again. She found herself there a lot, giving him information what was going on in the lab or just talking about different things. He'd revealed to her that his older brother got infected first and killed off all their family before dying himself. Even while in his zombie, blood-thirsty form, he didn't attack Sasuke.

Sakura was lying on the bed with Sasuke's head in her lap, stroking his soft raven hair. "I think his consciousness came back for a moment and forced him not to attack you."

"That's nonsense," Sasuke murmured.

"What other explanation could there be Sasuke?" Sakura questioned. "Those mindless things only care about eating flesh. You told me he looked right at you, reached for you, and then ran off. There was a part of him that refused hurt you."

Sasuke rolled over, wrapped an arm around her back, and remained silent. Sakura grew attached to this man. He was attractive and a great leader. He had his faults like being cold to those who worked for him, but Sakura believed he valued their contribution to the group. Green eyes admired the smooth skin of his cheek, and she couldn't stop herself from reaching out to touch it. His skin was as soft as it looked, not a blemish marring its perfection. Sasuke's dark gaze washed over her before he sat up.

"Sasuke," she whispered, wrapping a hand around the back of his neck.

She wanted to kiss him so bad. No, she wanted more than that. Sakura wanted to give herself to him. Her feelings were growing stronger by the day and each moment they spent together. Sasuke grasped the back of her head and pulled her to him. Their lips touched the first time. They pulled away as if experimenting. Then their mouths crashed together, each wanting to devour the other. Sasuke pulled Sakura into his lap, making her straddle his waist while he sat cross legged. His hand wandered over her thighs, moving to her toned ass. He squeezed the perfect globes and pulled her against him.

They broke their kiss for Sasuke to pull his shirt off. Sakura had seen him shirtless before, but now she got to run her fingers over his muscled chest and feel the different textures of scars lining his abdomen. Sakura leaned down to kiss his shoulder. She heard his intake of breath and grew bolder, running her tongue along his neck. His warm hand ran up her sides and underneath her T-shirt. Sasuke wanted it off now and pulled it over her head. His hands cupped her small, but full breasts. A gentle moan escaped her lips as he kneaded the soft mounds. Sasuke pushed her forward she felt herself falling until the bed caught her. He was over her, hot mouth exploring from her sternum to her right breast. The days of wearing bras were long gone. It wasn't like she needed one, anyway. Today, it was a good thing she didn't wear them.

Sasuke ground his hips into her core, eliciting a delicious moan from his partner. This woman, there was something about her he didn't quite understand. He had to have her. Her pink hair fanned out around her head as those deep green pools gazed at him through half-open eyelids. Open mouth kisses dropped on her abdomen. Just as he was about to unbutton her shorts, there was a loud crash and screaming sounded. The two of them jolted to their feet as gunfire echoed around them.

Sakura threw on her shirt as Sasuke did the same, and they raced outside. Sakura couldn't believe her eyes. The Infected were pouring in through their destroyed main wall and taking out everyone in their paths.

"Who could have done this?!" Sakura cried.

"Obito," Sasuke growled.

Obito caused nothing but trouble. They'd even gotten into an all-out brawl with his minions one time over a drum of water that went unnoticed at a rundown gas station. Sakura still remembered slamming her fists into that ditzy red head's face, shattering her glasses. She smacked one fist into her hand, ready to take on anything. She picked up a metal bat that was lying against a tree. Sasuke was by her side and together, they slew the Infected. There were too many, and they got overrun within minutes. Sakura screamed as a zombie bit Hinata's side. Naruto ran forward and shot the creature in the forehead. It slumped to the ground and gave him only half a second to catch Hinata.

"Get her inside!" Sakura yelled.

"She'll infect everyone," Sasuke called. "She needs to stay out here."

"No!' Sakura shouted. "I can help her. I won't let her die!"

More gunshots sounded, and that was when Sakura realized that one of Obito's main thugs, Kisame, was shooting at them from atop the broken barrier. His crazed smile was terrifying and Kisame's sharpened teeth enhanced his menacing appearance. Ino hid behind a tree and pointed her gun at him.

"You're dead!" she shrieked before pulling the trigger.

Half his face dissolved as his lifeless body dropped to the awaiting mouths below. They weren't interested long. Once the body went cold, it was useless. Sakura killed three more of the Infected and looked over her shoulder, expecting to see Sasuke chopping them down left and right. Instead, he was holding his shoulder. Blood the brightest shade of red poured through his white shirt. He must have gotten shot by Kisame. There were four Infected surrounding him. The first one, a young teen lunged at him, and he cut it down. The next two were on him. Sakura ran to him, knowing he might not overpower what looked like a former bodybuilder grasping at his arm.

Sakura screeched in terror when she saw the zombie bite down on his neck. It ripped his flesh open, blood spurting from the wound. She ran towards him as fast as she could.

He's infected, what do I do?! We haven't finished the antibiotic!

Sasuke opened his eyes, his head throbbing. He tried to sit up in the small bed he was in, but the lightning that spiked through his temples convinced him otherwise. He let out a deep breath. Migraines were one of the first and most common signs of Super Ebola. The leader glanced at his left shoulder and saw the bandage on it. He scoffed. Sakura brought him back inside.

"Sakura," he called. He cleared his throat. His voice sounded raspy and hoarse from dehydration.

She moved to his side. A curious expression crossed his features as she teared up and ran to him, throwing her arms around him. He hissed when she hit his wound by accident. She sat back and wiped her face.

"I'm sorry. I'm just so happy."

"For what reason?"

"She did it."

His eyes turned over to Shikamaru. His hands were in his pockets as usual. The grin on his face didn't seem to fit his features at all. Sasuke looked between them. "She did what?"

"She found the cure!" Shiho squealed while adjusting her glasses. "But you were losing too much blood before we could finish it. The virus had transmitted to you from that bite. She gave you two-and-a-half bags of her own blood. We checked your blood this every hour for the last four days, and there is no trace of the virus!"

"It's the same for Hinata!" Naruto cheered while throwing an arm around Sakura's shoulders. "She gave her blood as well!"

Sasuke studied Sakura more and saw she looked exhausted. Her skin was pale. She smiled. "It's nothing. I had to save them."

Shiho grabbed Sakura's arm as she swayed. "You need to sit down! It's been four days, but that was still a lot of blood you gave!"

Four days? Sasuke thought. He'd been out of it longer than the time frame it took for the virus to kill its host. She did it, but she couldn't give her blood to all the infected people.

"How will you help others?" Sasuke questioned.

Sakura sat down, her breath coming in gasps. "We'll do radio broadcasting, telling everyone within radius to come here if they have been bitten. Shiho has created artificial blood with the same genetic makeup as mine. Then we must kill off the already dead ones. There's no hope for them."

Sasuke stared at this woman. She saved humanity. They couldn't help those who turned but hope still gleamed. He watched her cheeks turn a rosy shade of pink and sat up, ignoring that sharp pain in his head again. Sasuke swung his legs over the bed and ignoring the protests from his group, he stood on shaky feet and walked to the woman who saved his life. Once he was in front of her, he lifted her chin with his finger.

"You are incredible Sakura Haruno," he murmured.

She smiled. "I'm glad you think so. So, you won't have to eliminate me?"

He brushed his fingers through her hair. "Not today."

Sasuke leaned down and pressed his lips against hers. Naruto hollered in approval. "Are you settling, you bastard?!"

"We'll see, dumb ass."

It took five years, but the world eradicated the zombies and virus. The smell of death hung in the air as they burned the bodies, too many bodies to count. It took months to burn them all, but the world was getting back on its feet. Sakura washed the plate in her hand and placed it on the drying rack while listening to the drone of the news anchorman on TV. She realized that she liked it better without it on.

Sasuke entered the kitchen, wrapped his arms around her waist, and dropped a kiss on her neck. Sakura sighed and leaned her head back against his shoulder. Who would have thought such a horrible, tragic, and terrifying situation would bring the man who stole her heart?

"Naruto and I are going to the bar," Sasuke said as he exited. "I'll be back later."

The bar. Such a simple thing that didn't have meaning just five years ago. To hear a phrase like that, one of simplicity and her previous life brought a smile to her face. They made it. They could only go forward from here. Gazing through the window over the sink, the hue of the evening filtered in. Her eyebrows furrowed, and she blinked then realized her nose was running. Leaning further into the window, she could see in her reflection blood seeping from the corner of her eyes and her nose.