To say that things had grown uncomfortable amongst the teenagers would have been the understatement of the year. Their sullen mood had ended up making supper almost too quiet and gloomy for the others. Despite Kakashi’s jokes and Daisuke’s tales and even Hanase’s attempts to tease Sakura, no one could get the three young shinobi to even give a polite smile. They only gave half-hearted replies and hardly looked at anyone…least of all, each other.
It was beginning to irritate Kakashi to no end.
Once the meals were cleared and the rest of the grown-ups ready to call it a night, Sasuke excused himself and wandered off somewhere. Both Sakura and Naruto gave him quick but wary looks though they stubbornly refused to move from their spots…or not. Three minutes had barely gone by, since the genius’s disappearance, when Sakura got to her feet to follow.
“Where are you going to?” Kakashi asked in a deceptively lazy tone. His face was hidden behind his romance novel, successfully hiding his expression from view.
The pink-haired girl tossed her head as if daring the jounin to refute her reply. “I am going to find Sasuke.”
There was a shrug from the older man. “And what if he doesn’t want to be found, Sakura? Did you think about that?”
Yes, she had, but she didn’t need him to tell her about it. “I need to speak to him,” she retorted a bit coldly as her glance went towards the blond shinobi who was making an attempt to crawl into his sleeping bag without being noticed. The image of the naked boy flashed through her mind and she felt the dull currents of anger she had thought she had under control, flow through her being again. There really was nothing to get upset about, she kept telling herself. If one would have looked at the situation, it was obvious that Naruto had been trying to get away from Sasuke in the first place.
/He might be…Sasuke might be the one who’s gay after all./
She sighed and turned back to face her teacher, only to gasp softly in surprise as she found herself staring into those knowledgeable depths. Suddenly feeling defensive, she raised trembling hands to caress her necklace and asked quickly, “Well…may…may I go now?”
Kakashi shrugged again. “I do not like you going off on your own, Sakura, especially at this time of the night…”
“I can take care of myself, thank you,” she snapped coldly. “If I don’t leave now, I won’t be able to catch up.”
“Fine, fine,” he agreed with a heavy sigh. What was the point in arguing with a determined girl who was too stubborn to realize what was going on about her. He spared a glance at Naruto. The kyuubi was still having issues with his sleeping bag and was currently eyeing the zipper as if it were the cause of all his problems. Kakashi felt something lurch in his chest at the almost pained expression on the teen’s face. If there was anyone that needed advice and help now, it was Naruto…
“I said you could go, Sakura, but I expect both of you to be back here in an hour. You each have to keep watch tonight.”
She gave a soft nod and began to move towards the path she had seen her teammate walk through. She would find out the truth once and for all and save herself the grief of having to know that her love was never going to be returned.
Naruto finally figured out why the zipper was stuck. A piece of the sleeping bag cloth had stuck itself into it and with one final hard yank, he pulled it out barely noticing the small cut he had given to himself in the process. The bright red of blood upon his thumb was swallowed within his mouth as he sucked hard on it. It would heal quickly. It almost always did. It was as if the beast within him had an insatiable appetite for his blood and fed off it at any opportunity.
He could hear Hanase and Daisuke giggling and laughing amongst themselves and for the first time all day, he felt an emotion close to envy sear through his being. Why couldn’t he find a normal girl to fall in love with? Any hope of getting close to Sakura was completely out of the question now. Years of being knocked around and given the cold shoulder could make one jaded about such things.
He lay within the warm confines of his sleeping bag and stared blindly at the dying embers of the campfire. Absently, his fingers caressed his wrists gently.
He had to get it back from Sasuke as soon as possible. Perhaps it was the thing causing his teammate to act this…strange. Perhaps the old woman had also put a love potion or something inside of it to make them both act this crazy. On any other ordinary day, Sasuke would never have gone out of his way to…
His mind couldn’t conjure up the word ‘seduce’ and so he settled for something else.
…harass him like this. He bit his lower lip and groaned softly as the lingering taste of Sasuke’s kiss caused him to shift restlessly. The more they did it, the better it seemed to become. Naruto’s face heated up and he burrowed deeper within the bag. Sasuke had ‘stolen’ his first kiss and making it become a habit would have to stop soon or Naruto was sure he would never be able to resist the next time such an opportunity came up.
I think I had just better try not to be alone with him again, that’s all, he thought with a firm nod. It should be easy to do. He would beg Kakashi, if need be, to allow him to lead the group. Besides, Sakura would clearly love the chance to be with Sasuke, wouldn’t she?
He vaguely wondered what she must have been thinking when she had seen them on shore earlier. Naruto had still been unable to look at her and had blindly reached for his shorts from Sasuke to slip into them quickly. He hadn’t even remained to see what would have happened next. Like a coward, he had run back to the camp and ignored the bewildered looks that came his way. The entire situation had been too embarrassing to talk about.
Somehow, it all boiled down to Sasuke. Everything always seemed to boil down to Sasuke. The guy was making everyone’s life a living hell without even trying.
“Stop mumbling and try to get some rest, Naruto,” came the low drawl that had the blond stiffening in surprise. Had he been saying all of that aloud? Or was Kakashi-sensei just being obnoxious again? He turned around to glance at the teacher and to his chagrin, the jounin still had his nose stuck in his book. It was a bit annoying when you really thought about it.
Fine. He would stop thinking about anything and just sleep it off. He would wait until everyone was fast asleep before searching through Sasuke’s things for his bracelet. The sooner he got it, the quicker he could get rid of this curse that was ruining both their lives.
Or so he thought…
Sasuke sat upon the rather huge boulder and raised the silver jewelry a bit higher to take a good look at it.
It was rather simple - just a plain amulet-type thing that wouldn’t have caught anyone’s eye at first glance. But underneath the pale evening moon, it glittered and glowed like something ethereal in his grasp. It also felt incredibly warm and he knew it wasn’t just from his body heat. The letters of Naruto’s name were still etched on the inside and they seemed even more pronounced than they were earlier this morning.
Just what was Naruto doing with a bracelet like this? He wouldn’t have thought that the blond shinobi was into jewelry. Or perhaps this was something special to him.
A frown creased his handsome features. Naruto had looked rather desperate to get it back, so it had to mean something more than just an ordinary piece of…
“What are you looking at?”
He tucked the bracelet away quickly and spun around to face the pink-haired girl that stood beside him with her hands behind her back. Thanks to the brightness of the moon, Sasuke could make out the faint blush on her cheeks, but there was a look in her eyes that told him otherwise. She had still not forgotten what had happened by the river. Not that such a thing could be forgotten so easily.
He didn’t care…did he?
“Nothing,” he finally replied as he turned back to face the lush landscape before them. “Shouldn’t you be resting?” he asked a bit too curtly, still cursing himself inwardly for letting his guard down so easily. He should have been able to sense her coming or worse, any enemy approaching. Thinking about Naruto this much was beginning to affect him in more ways than one.
“It wasn’t nothing,” Sakura muttered and inwardly they both knew that the reply did not just apply to their current position. Her hands reached for the necklace to caress it again. She really didn’t know why she was doing this but it gave her a sense of comfort and security…somehow.
“Why…” she swallowed tightly and tried again, unable to stare at the strong and unyielding back of the boy she had always loved. “Why won’t you talk to me, Sasuke?”
“I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say, Sakura,” he replied smoothly as the hairs at the back of his neck began to prickle in awareness.
Someone else was watching them.
“Yes, you do know, Sasuke,” she continued persistently as she walked around the rock to stand before him. She lifted her gaze to stare into the passive expression on the handsome visage above her. Her eyes shimmered with unshed tears as she recognized the stubborn look. He wasn’t going to tell her anything as usual. He was going to ignore her or worse insult her again.
“You are cruel, Sasuke,” she said in growing desperation. “You are cruel! To me, to…to…Naruto…to everyone!” The tears were beginning to fall now and she was powerless to stop them. “You think you seek revenge for what your brother did to you, but you are turning out to be just like him! Selfish and cruel!”
He felt his blood run cold. His hands tightened into fists as he grit his teeth at the comparison. For one wild moment, the thought of wrapping his fingers around the pale neck before him and choking the life out of her, consumed him to the point of insanity. He growled and closed his eyes, trying to calm himself before giving in to his anger. He was not Itachi. He could never be like his brother. He would make sure of that. He stuck his hand within the pocket of his uniform and his fingers came in contact with the cold and then warm bracelet. Like a lifeline, he grasped it as tightly as possible, feeling a slow but welcome rush of rationale and serenity flow through his being.
He would be okay now. Sakura was obviously distraught. She really did have to go and get some rest.
“I am not distraught!!”
The vehement cry had Sasuke opening his eyes in surprise. He had not been aware that he had said his thoughts out loud, but from Sakura’s obvious response, he guessed he must have. He stared at her tear-streaked face and felt a rare but undeniable feeling of pity for her.
“Why don’t you go ahead and ask me the question, Sakura?” he murmured softly. “It’s practically burning a hole on your tongue.”
The girl shuddered and covered her face with her hands. She sobbed helplessly knowing it was inevitable. She didn’t need to ask. She had already gotten her answer and she would have to deal with it whether she liked it or not.
Naruto. Of all people, it had to be Naruto.
“Lee…Lee likes you, Sakura,” Sasuke continued quietly as his fingers continued to caress the bracelet gently. “He gave you that necklace you keep touching all the time.” He smiled softly and Sakura, who had lifted her head to gape at him, noticed the lazy action with a swelling sense of jealousy. That smile was not for her. That beautiful smile that seemed to light up his entire visage was never going to be for her.
“Why don’t you go to him, Sakura?”
“You are insane,” she retorted in a trembling voice. “Lee-san is a good friend to me! I cannot abuse that trust!”
“Is he…really?” The bracelet was so warm. It felt like he was touching Naruto all over again and much to his surprise, he felt himself getting hard down there again. He shifted restlessly and lowered his head, trying hard to stop his cheeks from burning at the image that was now filling his mind.
Sakura, too distraught over Sasuke’s comment, failed to notice the quickened breathing or the flushed look on the teen’s face. “Yes, he is really! Lee-san would never do anything like…like what you did to me!”
Sasuke was having a very hard time thinking coherently now and somewhere at the back of his mind, he had the feeling that the damn bracelet was causing him to feel this way. He wanted to release his grip on the jewelry but the sensation he was feeling now was too good to let go of. He groaned and closed his eyes.
Sweet, Kami, but Naruto’s hands on his skin was just too much for him to take. He was practically burning up now.
“Sas…Sasuke?” came the trembling whisper from Sakura as she finally noticed the teen’s odd behavior. Sasuke seemed to be swaying. “Sasuke?! Are you alright?”
The blond’s brows furrowed. Had someone called his name?
No, that was impossible. It was probably just him imagining things again.
And with a soft sigh, he rolled onto his back and went back to dreams that were filled with thoughts of eating Ichiraku’s ramen.
It was like fire burning through his very soul. He was so hard now, he knew he was bound to explode at any minute.
“Sas…uke…” She reached out tentatively to touch him, only to stifle a scream of terror as his hand gripped her wrist tightly to hold it prisoner. She found herself staring into blood red eyes that blazed with an emotion that bordered on madness.
Sasuke was breathing extremely hard at this time. A light sheen of sweat had broken out on his brow and for a moment, Sakura was sure she was seeing the same Sasuke that had been cursed by Orochimaru’s seal, five years ago. She could sense that feeling of lust for blood and death around the teenager and for the first time in a long while, she felt her skin grow cold at the thought of losing her life like this.
“Sasuke!” she screamed as she felt her wrist being crushed within his grasp. The pain was blinding and she almost lost consciousness as she struggled to maintain her wits about her. “It’s me, Sakura! Let me go!!”
She futilely tried to push him away, knowing full well how useless it was as he was so much stronger than she could ever be, but the push seemed to be enough as he suddenly released her with a light grunt. His hand had slipped away from his death grip on the bracelet and as he staggered backwards weakly, he blinked slowly as if trying to get a sense of orientation again.
What the hell had just happened?
“Sakura?” he called out softly as he lifted his gaze to meet the fearful ones of the girl who was now holding her wrist and moving away from him. “Sakura…did I…?”
“Is the curse coming back?” she asked softly, trying hard to squash down her panic. “Is that it? Is the curse coming back?!”
He shook his head slowly, his fingers reaching to caress the now sealed curse upon his neck. No, it definitely wasn’t the seal’s fault this time. He glanced at the slight bulge within his jacket.
“Is everything alright here?” Kakashi asked as he suddenly appeared before the silent teens with a raised brow. He was no fool for he had sensed the uncomfortable tension in the air. He eyed Sakura with a light frown motioning for her to show him the damage done. Knowing that trying to explain what had happened wouldn’t help matters, she did as she was told and held up the broken wrist for the teacher to inspect.
Sasuke spun on his heels and began to make his way back to the camp, his hand still placed against his head as if trying to stop a pounding headache or worse.
Kakashi and Sakura watched him, both with wary expressions on their faces. Once he was out of sight, she asked softly.
“Is it the…?”
“No,” the jounin replied quickly as he tried to heal as much of the wound as possible. “It could be just a…relapse.”
The girl raised a brow in skepticism. “Relapse? What in the world are you talking about?”
“It could be something you said to him to make him feel that way, Sakura.” He moved her wrist a little. “How does that feel now?”
“Good,” she responded and then continued softly. “I did compare him to Itachi…maybe…maybe that was what got him upset…?”
Kakashi stared at the lowered head and thought carefully on a suitable reply. He had a feeling that it wasn’t just because of that. But to appease Sakura, he would have to agree with that logic.
“Yeah,” he finally replied with a reassuring smile. “That would probably be it. You shouldn’t have compared him to his brother. You know the way he feels about that.”
If it were anymore possible, she lowered her head and sniffled softly. “I just screw things up all the time, don’t I, sensei? Maybe I shouldn’t even be around here anymore…”
Her eyes flew open in surprise as she found herself suddenly engulfed in a warm hug.
A hug. That was what she had really needed all this time, wasn’t it? For someone to hold her and to tell her that everything was going to be all right, wasn’t it?
“Sen…sei…” she mumbled thickly as she wrapped her arms tightly around his strong form to sob silently into it. It wasn’t Sasuke, but for now, she would take just about anyone ready and willing to help her out of her predicament. She had never felt so alone in her life before.
As for Kakashi, he could only offer her this small sense of comfort. He glanced at the object hovering a few but rather indiscreet feet away from them, with a light frown. He, too, wasn’t really sure of what had happened to Sasuke, but one thing was for sure – things weren’t going to get any easier for any of them.
Gaara frowned lightly at all he had seen.
It was obvious that the girl had feelings for the Uchiha survivor, but Sasuke for his part had shown no interest in pursuing those feelings.
And then there had been that odd moment when the chuunin had tried to kill the girl. Gaara had felt a similar and all too familiar rush of adrenaline flow through his body at the thought of eliminating the female. His fingers had tightened into clenched fists on his lap, his body trembling slightly as his breathing quickened with each movement from the couple.
He still wasn’t sure of what had brought about the sudden change in Sasuke, but whatever it was, Gaara knew he wanted, no needed to have a bit of it. He had never felt such a rush of ‘power’ before…well at least for a long time now. He almost missed having that sense of invincibility and wanted to reclaim it back by all means possible.
He needed to go to sleep, but his curiosity had him following the genius chuunin again to see what he could be up to now. And so settling back against the wall of his bedroom, he closed his real eyes and allowed his third to do the ‘seeing’ for him all over again.
Sasuke stumbled back to the camp, groaning softly as he fell to his knees. He still felt a bit woozy, but was otherwise fine. Thankfully, the bracelet had stopped burning a hole in his pocket and his urge to touch it again had dwindled to nothing – which was a good thing or he wasn’t sure he could explain his sudden need to screw Naruto to the ground to anyone.
The Miura group had all fallen asleep and as he pulled his bag open, he spared a glance at the object of his thoughts for the past hour or more. Naruto was sprawled halfway out of his sleeping bag. His mouth was wide open and a thin line of drool trailed down his chin. Sasuke shook his head in disbelief and rubbed a hand over his eyes, idly wondering why those images of he and Naruto doing the most unimaginable and rather obscene acts of lovemaking had come to his mind on that rock.
He shook his head again and slipped within his sleeping bag, forcing himself not to think of anything else anymore. The dull sensation of being watched still hadn’t let go of his thoughts as well, but he would deal with that in the morning.
Right now, he was so tired…he could barely…think…
Gaara’s eyes flew open and he stared blindly at the wall before him.
There was an attraction there. That was what it was. He had been so excited at seeing the two boys the first time around that he had failed to notice the tension between them. But now, he had noticed it from the look the Uchiha boy had given to the one called Naruto.
His frown deepened.
What did that look mean? Could it be that the Uchiha boy had a liking for the blond one? Perhaps they had already done that thing that Kikaida had done to him? Was that why the Uchiha boy was acting so…strange?
He bit his lower lip and lay back on his futon with his eyes wide open. There was a dull flame licking away at the pit of his stomach. He did not recognize it as jealousy, or perhaps it was that he refused to acknowledge it. But still, he didn’t like it. He didn’t like that look at all.
He turned to his side and tried to will himself to sleep. In a day, they would arrive in his village. And as he closed his eyes, he vowed to himself to gorge out the eyes of the Uchiha boy if he even dared to look at Naruto in that way again.
In over fifty years of practice, Ojou-san wasn’t one to make silly mistakes, especially in her line of work. She had counseled many troubled marriages and relationships. She had healed many ailments and wounds with her wide range of medicines and herbs. Her healing jutsu was the most respected in the village and even the Hokages had come to her for help on more than one occasion.
But as she stared at the simple, plain bracelet on the table before her, she couldn’t help wondering if for the first time in over fifty years, she might have actually made a mistake.
Her intentions had been to give the kyuubi a bracelet that would have set his restless heart at ease with the finding of true love. If it had been a girl, then perhaps things would have been all right. Romantic interests between a boy and a girl were usually sweet and blossomed over time. The bracelet would bloom along with the couple and might make them both fruitful in the years to come.
No one had told her about the love between two boys or men and its effect on the bracelet. It was all well and good that she had known that Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke had feelings for one another and that the bracelet would naturally show who they cared for…
What could happen to a bracelet that was influenced by intense emotions from not one or two, but three people? Jealousy? Need? Lust? Desire? Would it lead them to madness? To the depths of hell and back? To the very brink of insanity, so consumed with their need to be with each other that they lost all sense of being or worse their humanity?
Her hands trembled slightly as she watched the flame from the candle flicker back and forth in the silent room.
Three boys. Each with restless demons within them.
The flame flickered a bit faster.
Ah…perhaps she had made a mistake then…
The flame went out and darkness fell suddenly like a cloak of the very demon itself.