Revisiting a fic of mine from about ten years ago!
The story of the twisted fate Sakura chose for herself when she decided to follow her love to Orochimaru, this fic will contain disturbing content. Rated NC17 for extremely dark themes, graphic violence, and explicit sexual content. Content and trigger warnings will be posted on a chapter by chapter basis and will become applicable in subsequent chapters.
POV: Sakura's first person; occasional limited omniscient / third person
Canon divergent from Chapter 181.
Damask = pink color of the damask rose.
Jukebox: "Sadness and Sorrow" by Toshiro Masuda (from the anime) / "The Matador" by The White Buffalo
Damned and Damask
"He will come to me, seeking my power…."
My feet took me toward the place I knew I'd find him. I'd felt him slowly slipping further and further away, ever since the Snake first crossed our paths in the Forest of Death. But how was it I was the only one who could see him being eaten alive? How was it those on whom we depended most in the world—our friend and teammate, our sensei—were so blind to his descent, even after the savagery that had hospitalized him…after what had taken place only hours ago?
They hadn't experienced Orochimaru's inescapable will like Sasuke and I had, hadn't heard his screams, hadn't held him as he writhed, hadn't seen him rise like a reanimated demon and gleefully wrench a transgressing arm from its socket….
Somehow, I had pulled him from the darkness then, hadn't I? Perhaps just once more… He'll listen, he'll come back to me.
I was already becoming so adept in self-deception.
As much as I tried to silence it, the Snake's prophecy had never ceased its reverberation in my mind; in wakefulness and in sleep, it ricocheted.
"He will come to me, seeking my power…. He will come to me…. He will come…."
No matter how many times I assured myself that my love, my Sasuke, was strong enough to resist such a perilous promise, my skin would prickle as every particle in me quietly rebelled against its host's deceit.
So when I wound my way to the very edge of the village on that black night, even as those telltale goosebumps stretched the length of me, I allowed my bright, unsuspecting glimmers of hope to outshine that underlying understanding, naïve and incomplete as it was.
I looked at him, just gazed at him carefully. I saw all I ever wanted. He was so beautiful: the dark hair hiding those haunting eyes I saw each night in my most guileless dreams; skin pale and lovely enough to outshine the moon; long-fingered hands I hoped were capable of holding mine, hands I knew were capable of crushing my world. He was my aspiration—to be by his side, I mean. What he was doing would separate me from him, would kill my dearest hopes. No. It wasn't Sasuke's fault. What the damned Snake had done would kill my dearest hopes.
I pivoted as he strode past. "Why…?" I finally asked, pain evident in my voice. "Why won't you ever talk to me? Why are you always so silent?"
"Why should I have to tell you anything?" he snapped. "Don't concern yourself with me."
I recoiled from his venom. He must have known I could never follow that order.
"You've always…hated me, huh?" The words didn't feel quite right on my lips as I smiled ruefully through the tears. "Sasuke-kun, do you remember? It was right here. The first time we were alone. You got so angry with me…." I trailed off, lamenting those immature, hurtful words I had spoken about Naruto's lack of upbringing. How we had grown since those early days, all three of us… How we three would change in the years to come.
His voice was as indifferent as ever: "I don't remember."
My eyes widened, then lowered to my feet. And how quickly the three of us had regressed… "Oh, of course not—it was so long ago!" My too-casual tone hid nothing. "But that's when it all began for us. For you and me, for Naruto and Kakashi-sensei, too." Another nostalgic smile. "All of us trained and went on missions together. It was difficult sometimes, but more than anything, it was fun!" I beamed, hoping he could feel my warmth even with his back to me. He gave no reaction, and my wistful smile faded. I steadied myself and spoke solicitously, "I know what happened to you, to your clan. But vengeance… It won't bring happiness to anyone. Not you, not me…no one…"
I spoke as if I had the right, as if I knew.
He stiffened. "I'm aware of that."
"Bu—" I started and stumbled closer to him.
He interrupted, though not brusquely: "I walk a different path. For a time, I thought I could stay on the same one as the three of you…." He sounded so resigned, so sad….
Do I have it in me to reach this man? I wondered. My hand extended before I caught the impulse.
His tone was harder then: "But my heart decided on vengeance in the end. That is my purpose. I…can't be like you or Naruto."
"Are you truly going to choose to be alone?" I questioned breathlessly.
I knew him well enough then to feel the most basic form of empathy. And for perhaps the first time, I had no choice but to consciously recognize just how far he would go, what he was willing to face.
"You told me how painful solitude is—you told me there is nothing worse!" I cried, no longer able to reign myself in. "Right now, I understand so well what you meant…. I have friends, I have family…but if you were to leave…!" I choked on a sob. "I would know that same pain, that same loneliness!"
"From here on, our paths diverge," he said quietly, almost gently.
Despite the misgivings I'd carried for weeks, despite the vile doubts that had long since sunk into my young flesh, I wasn't prepared to believe what was happening. It was all too surreal, to witness a prophecy so foretold play out before my verdant eyes…. The scene was utterly otherworldly, kaleidoscopic, as my tears glowed luminescent in the moonlight to strangely skew my sight. Perhaps because I longed for nothing more than for it to be a dream, some sort of abominable, horrific nightmare from which I would awaken relieved… But there was no waking from this.
"Sasuke-kun…" I took a sharp intake of air as my vision became more viciously obstructed by cruel tears. I could barely distinguish the beautiful, black hair of the love of my life from the tranquil night sky. "I-I…" I swallowed quickly.
There was no way I could physically prevent him from deserting. He knew it, and I knew it. So what magic words could I weave to persuade him to stay? How could I arrange a sentence to ward off a prophecy divined by a monster oracle so menacing, my mouth tasted of blood at his mere recollection?
In my desperation, I confessed far louder than I should have: "I love you so much, Sasuke-kun! I've always loved you!" I could tell I was babbling, but I couldn't hold my outburst in any longer; tears streamed down my cheeks faster and faster with every word I spoke. "If you stay with me…I swear you won't regret it! Every day, we'll find joy together—I could make you happy, Sasuke-kun!" I clutched at my chest; it ached glaringly. "You'll never have to live with the suffering of loneliness again, I promise you! I can give you happiness! There's nothing—nothing—I wouldn't do for you."
It was true, and I would soon discover the gravity of my promise.
I clamped my eyes shut in an attempt staunch their overflow. "I-I'm begging you! Don't leave me, Sasuke-kun! I'll help you avenge your clan! I won't ever hold you back," I tried fervidly as my eyelids betrayed me and allowed a free flow. "I'll…do anything for you…so please…stay with me! Stay with me!"
I broke down into piteous sobs, for I knew, even as I made them, my heartfelt profession and promises had fallen on deaf ears. I knew him well enough to realize Konoha would lose him then; that was certain. But if there was even the slightest chance that I could hold on to him, that I could keep him from tumbling alone into a hollow so black and horrendous…I'd sell my soul.
"If you can't stay…"
I hadn't allowed myself to consciously consider such an outcome, not once, until that very moment. And the odds of his acquiescing seemed so impossibly low…. After all, what did I have to offer? A quake ran through my lithe frame. I inhaled slowly, clawing at composure as my bleary eyes landed on his backpack. I knew I had to try.
I began my treason of Konoha with an airy whisper, almost inaudible:
"T-take me with you."
I heard him let out a soft, dark chuckle. In that moment, I despised myself and the damned tremble in my voice. How was it possible for me to have been so weak? And then I felt like laughing, laughing at how truly helpless I was. I could feel the beginnings of a climbing, suffocating shame…for being utterly unable to live without him, for being so eager to discard the family and friends I was lucky enough to have. I pushed it down, for I loved him most of all.
The love I had for Sasuke was an ancient one; it wasn't naïve, it wasn't callow. It had grown to be absolute and inescapable. A life without him would have been a life without the sun. And I was a planet, revolving around the shining center of my universe, the luminous core of my world. If he were to defect to the Sound, I would gravitate towards him, no matter the cost. It was a force of nature: I couldn't defy gravity, couldn't escape my orbit if I had wanted to. I could circle around my sun, sure—but I knew if I tried to get too close to him, I'd burn up in flames. Somehow, just one touch seemed worth the prospect of self-immolation.
And I would. I would burn.
"Sasuke-kun… You don't have to face this alone," I entreated tentatively.
He turned to me, his hands casually slipped in his pockets and his shadowy eyes reflecting the iridescent moonshine off in my direction. He took so much more than my breath away.
"After all this time," he smirked with that familiar superiority, "you're still…annoying."
His words wrenched the air from my lungs. He does remember! I recognized this Sasuke. I felt my heart swell for the most saccharine second, before it burst as I lost his eyes and he took yet another step away from me—from his friends, from anyone who cared for him, from Konoha. But he had already sealed my fate. Just then, he had acknowledged me, no matter how slightly, no matter how sarcastically, and I would cherish and cling to this small moment, this tiny exchange between us, and the fragile validation it gave me.
Emboldened, I took a step after him. "I know you're going to leave the village, Sasuke-kun." My voice was soft but measured, despite the little rivulets cascading down my chin. "I-I…" I took another step and inhaled deeply, trying to steady myself again. "I want to go with you." As much as I fought it, my confident tone still wavered and cracked. I kept walking and tried again, "I am going to accompany you."
I waited, suspended.
"I don't give a damn if you want to throw your life away for me," he stated coolly and began walking again.
I couldn't comprehend what he had just said. I didn't know whether to rejoice or bawl harder. He took another step towards the blinding moon and the Sound, and it was suddenly so simple. Everything was suddenly so easy to articulate.
"Neither do I," I said with newfound comprehension and resolve.
As I walked somberly a few paces behind him that stygian-black night, I fought the gravitational pull towards him, my radiant, beautiful sun, for fear of his noticing me and suddenly giving a damn that a little girl had attached herself to his most personal undertaking, his paramount objective. I kept a wary silence and tried to get a hold of myself. But I was staring at the sun, so my eyes watered—for him, for myself; for the past, for what could have been, and for what never would be. How could I have known…?
My childhood was over the moment I spoke those fateful, treacherous words, I just hadn't realized it yet. Or perhaps it had ended earlier that day on the hospital roof, when I had thrown myself between two best friends hell-bent on hurling their most destructive attacks at each other, when I could no longer close my eyes to the darkness closing in on Sasuke. Hell, it had ended long before, as it had and would for so many in this cruel shinobi world of ours….
Undoubtedly, I had gotten a taste of the world's depravity, yet there was still so much innocence left in me to muddy, to devour, to exploit….
We passed a small, insignificant puddle, and I saw myself for who I was: my eyes swollen, bloodshot, and wet; a quivering, taught frown on my pink lips. To me, it held the moonlit reflection of a rogue ninja, a traitor. For it was inarguably wrong, inarguably dishonorable to break our vows as shinobi of the Leaf, to abandon the ones who trusted us, to sneak off in the dead of night. A part of me hated myself for it. Mother, Kakashi, Naruto, Ino—I could imagine all too clearly their incredulous, shamed faces once they realized what I—we—had done.
However, it was Naruto's agonized expression I could picture with the most clarity. His blue, blue eyes would first spark with false hope and determination. But soon enough, he too, would realize the girl he knew was forever lost to him, that I had taken a path he could never stride. A path I would never want him to… He would suffer for me and I would suffer for him, for I had left one friend in darkness to keep another out—to keep Sasuke from being irrevocably consumed by the demons I could no longer deny lurked within him; by the power-hungry, tangible monsters that walked the earth, salivating at the thought of him. There was nothing Naruto could have done: Sasuke was far more important to me than he could ever have been, could ever be. My realizations sent pangs of guilt and heartache through me, pain I knew so well I deserved.
Though a substantial part of me abhorred myself for my actions, there was a larger, more dominant part that believed in what I was doing. That part would become more vocal the further I went down this path—the part of me that believed in the righteousness of going to the ends of the earth for the one I loved. Surely, there is honor in that, I would tell myself. When I couldn't find or face the answer, I would instead wonder, But what is 'honor,' really? Is one any less honor-bound to love than to a village…? Is there somehow less honor in protecting someone precious than in keeping an oath to a village…? I would rationalize.
To presume I knew anything of honor then…
I strode on and bit back the nausea brought on by the clashing of the seemingly ceaseless contradictions inside me. I longed to vomit it all up, to just make it all stop. But that repugnant sensation would only wane with the years and the hardening, the solidifying of my heart, of my convictions…. So I would endure the guilt and self-loathing. I'd endure everything fate forced upon me. I knew I would, so I kept after him.
It seemed like a silent eternity before we reached the first checkpoint of our—our!—long journey, a hill. Just realizing that we shared something, even if it led to our shared damnation, made me feel connected to him, and to be connected to him was my sincerest desire in the world. Every inch I climbed up that incline led me towards a fate I would share with Sasuke yet further away from what was beginning to seem like some sort of alternate universe…. A world in which "Team 7" still existed, still went on missions and squabbled and laughed and ate together and fell asleep watching the stars together and…and…and….
I stood, trembling, a few feet behind Sasuke after we made our way to the top of the tor. There, atop the hillock, stood four shadows. By their attire and insignia, I gathered they were Sound. I'd been too overwhelmed by the magnitude of my choices, too caught up in rumination. I hadn't even considered how we would make our way to the Viper!
What are they doing here? Did Sasuke have some line of communication with Orochimaru?
I had assumed that Sasuke hadn't planned his defection, that his recent encounters with his brother and Naruto had combined to spontaneously push him to the breaking point. I couldn't make sense of it, but I didn't dare question him. I would continue to refrain from drawing any unnecessary attention to my presence.
Vaguely, I wondered where Konoha's barrier and security specialists were. Yes, the Leaf was running low on available shinobi after Orochimaru's attack, but surely someone should have noticed fourtrespassing Oto nins…. Unless they were just that skilled.
"We've been waiting for you, Sasuke-sama," said one.
So Sasuke had met these people before….
Of the four, there was a female, with hair similar in color to mine; a gigantic male; a male with two heads; and another male with eight limbs. They all scrutinized me with deadly leers, and terror seeped into my soul faster with every moment I had to take in their appearances, to glimpse only a fraction of the horrors awaiting our arrival at the Snake's lair. They were all so eerie; I didn't trust them for a second. Yet Sasuke stood in a confident composure that kept me from caving in to hysterics.
"When we left Oto, it was decided you would become our new leader. Please forgive our rude behavior." The two-headed one paused and gave me an appraising, hateful glance. "Orochimaru-sama never mentioned there being…another."
"Does it matter?" Sasuke scoffed without even a look in my direction.
Perhaps only to me, I responded silently. He hadn't so much as glanced back at me, while my mind had exhausted itself trying to riddle out the gravity of what we'd done. Maybe he's right, it doesn't matter, I decided. For now at least, maybe all that matters is that I'm with him and, for whatever reason or no reason at all, he's allowing me to stay with him.
"Let's move," Sasuke ordered before closing his eyes and finishing with a casual vindication, "Now it begins."
And so it did.
So long as Sasuke didn't explicitly tell me to get the hell away from him or do something to indicate that sentiment, I would follow quietly, would walk in his shadow, would silently trod his trail of hatred. I couldn't have gone back to the village at that point if I had wanted to. I longed to dismiss the idea, but I wasn't completely blinded by him. I could still see the blatantly obvious, even though my eyes remained glued to the sun. I knew that any one of the five shinobi in front of me would take me out in a second if I dared to jeopardize their goal, and that was the only thing I knew with any certainty.
It was very much a blur. We traveled so quickly, further and further away from the village, and no words were spoken. I tripped and stumbled in my efforts to maintain the group's speed, the wind and branches lashing at my skin, as if my conscience had somehow animated my surroundings…. How long, I wondered, would I be able to keep up this pace? How long, I wondered, did we have before the Leaf realized its prized Last Uchiha—and a comparably insignificant kunoichi—had left the village? They'd lost their last complete Sharingan set in losing Sasuke—the Uchiha's legacy was now a limited-edition collector's piece, after all. At thirteen, of course, I didn't know enough to be bitter. But I did know Konoha wouldn't take such a loss lightly, even with the village being so low on manpower.
It would likely be Naruto who would put the pieces together, I supposed. I felt oddly disjointed and cold as I pondered. My mother was a ninja, too. Therefore, she didn't concern herself with my frequent, unannounced absences due to unpredictable mission schedules and training. But Naruto… He'd looked at me with so much concern when we departed Ichiraku. As dense as the boy could be, he'd grown more understanding of my feelings toward Sasuke. Somehow, I knew that walking ray of sunshine would come calling in the morning to check on me. It would be only a matter of hours, then, until they connected the dots from me to Sasuke to Orochimaru, and the hokage sent some sort of team to find us. A disgusting chill tingled down my spine as I considered the practicality of our situation. At least we'd have the advantages of a several hour head start and their confusion as to what had caused our mutual disappearance, I reasoned. They likely wouldn't assume we'd run off of our own accord. The village higher-ups knew the degenerate Snake of the Sannin had set his sights on Sasuke, and that fact would probably trump even Sasuke's recent outburst. Considering Orochimaru's history of turpitude and his burgeoning obsession with Sasuke, they'd likely assume we'd been taken. It followed, then, that the rescue team would also mistakenly assume they'd only have to create a momentary opening for escape before their mission would gain two allies….
Abruptly, we stopped, cutting off my brooding. Panting, I inched my way closer to Sasuke and away from our menacing escorts, but I was careful not to venture too near.
The two-headed one began to speak: "This looks like a good place, ne?" He waited for his teammates to nod, and Sasuke eyed him carefully. His tone told me he was hiding something, and I didn't like it at all.
"What is it?" Sasuke demanded, plainly irked.
"We have one final order from Orochimaru-sama…." the one with two heads said, obviously enjoying his little information power-play.
The other three moved forward to form a circle around Sasuke and me; tremors shook me as I began wondering what the hell was about to happen.
Sasuke's tone made it clear their games did not amuse him: "Spit it out, then."
The Sound nins smiled, bearing their angular teeth, and the vocal, two-headed one answered with a sinister grin, "You must die once…."
I gasped in horror, there was no stopping it, "W-what?!"
I had to have misheard. Images of Sasuke's bloody, beaten corpse cavorted through my mind, mocking me with their realness. With every moment, my punishing imagination produced more and more sickening ideas. I couldn't let it happen. I would not allow him to die. I would throw myself in front of him like I had with Gaara's monster, if it came to that. Thankfully, it wouldn't, as the payoff of my efforts likely would have been the same….
"You're telling me to die once?" Sasuke sounded almost intrigued by the proposition, still seemingly unaware of my timorous form standing right next to him.
I watched, aghast, as the one I decided I disliked the most—the one with two heads—yanked a tiny glass vial out of his pocket.
"Seishingan," he said. "You need to take one of these, Sasuke-sama."
"What the hell is that?" Sasuke had finally grown wary, as he should have been.
They explained that the capsule would forcibly accelerate the Cursed Seal's contamination of his body, that he would most likely survive, that he would merely be in a coma for a few hours, that they would place him in a special barrier to prevent his death, that they were incredibly skilled in this area of jutsu, that his power would increase dramatically as a result.
"In other words," the two-headed one continued, "with the second level of the Cursed Seal, your power would roughly equate ours." He chose that perfectly opportune moment to hand Sasuke the vial.
Eventually, my shock at the things Sasuke would be willing to do for power would wane. Eventually. But at the time, I was floored. This all sounded absolutely mad to me, yet there Sasuke was, eagerly going through with it. Because the Sound nin had spoken that one magic word—power—and I saw a ferocious glint, a startling glimmer appear in Sasuke's eyes. I would grow accustomed to that flicker, and a similar hunger would, in time, appear behind my own gaze.
Sasuke flipped the cap off the bottle.
Don't cry! Don't cry! Don't cry! I told myself not to, but a tear slid down my cheek; I heard the pink-head cackle at me. Damn it! I cursed myself for not being able to control my emotions, and the ruthless trembles returned to my body. Sasuke's hand neared his mouth, and I couldn't help but whisper, "Sasuke-kun, …be careful."
That pathetic sentence caused the entire Sound Four to burst into an odious laughter. That pathetic sentence was enough to make Sasuke finally remember I was there, and he looked at me with sheer contempt.
"Be quiet, Sakura."
It was a cold directive, and it stung. My eyes fell as my face flushed in shame. Our escorts were eating it up, of course. Their laughter at my humiliation pealed around the woods.
As if our brief interaction had never happened, his attention flickered back to the bottle in his hands, and he dropped a tablet in his mouth. Almost immediately, I thought my worst nightmare was happening right before my eyes. The horrific visions that were dashing through my head just moments before were occurring in reality: Sasuke promptly fell to the ground, convulsing as bizarre gurgles and groans flew from his throat.
"Sasuke-kun!" I shrieked as I fell to my knees beside him.
Before I could comprehend the situation any further, the female stepped forward and backhanded me with enough force to send me flying back into a distant tree. My reaction time had been far too slow for me to dampen the blow with chakra, so, like an untrained civilian, I took the full brunt of her strength. The impact knocked every trace of air out of me. I wheezed and slumped over, barely clinging to consciousness as blood flowed from the base of my head, as blackness swiftly encroached upon my vision.
Sasuke wasn't the only one who needed the power Orochimaru promised.
I've been away from this site and Naruto in general for quite a while. I recently got all sentimental about Naruto and decided to go out on a limb here and give Damned and Damask (and a few of my other deleted fics) another shot. So if you find yourself thinking, "Wait a minute! This fic seems pretty familiar…."—you're not crazy! (Long story.)
Anyways, this is a sort of trial run to see if there's interest in this fic and I should revisit it or just let it be—so please let me know your thoughts!
Lastly, it may not seem like this story would be a dark one with just this chapter, but it eventually goes riiight down the rabbit hole. (Anyone remember the OG D&D posted on FF?)
Hope you'll take the time to leave some feedback either here or on FF! :)