Work Hazard: Chapter 11
When Sasuke opens his eyes next, he blinks hesitatingly at the room, much more careful this time around than the first two. He takes the time to examine his state, the small lag in his reflexes and his louder than usual breathing. He immediately identifies that last as the need to overcompensate for the choking feeling he went into unconsciousness with. Once that has been corrected and once every toe and finger has been properly accounted for, Sasuke lets his gaze travel over the richly furnished room.
The first thing that hits him is that he's finally and blissfully alone. No snake eyes to spy on his nakedness, no insane smirk to welcome his fear. He's free to explore his captivity.
When Sasuke manages to raise himself up to his elbows, he hears the telltale rattle of chains and a flash of outrage comes back to color his cheeks. He grabs the cold chain that serves as a leash and growls, giving it a vengeful tug. He fully understands how futile the action is but it calms him enough, gives him enough control over his fear to shift it to anger.
Sasuke stands carefully, slowly testing the exact range of his freedom. The slowness of the movement is the only thing that saves his dignity because as soon as he's upright, his body tells him in no uncertain terms that it needs to be fed. Dizziness springs on the boy and he clings to the nearest thing to stop himself from crumbling to the floor. His hand encounters a solid wooden desk and when his vision returns, Sasuke sees himself in large mirror overlooking said desk.
His hair has been washed. That's the first thought and Sasuke shivers with it. Washed while he was unconscious and powerless. He was washed. Uchiha Sasuke was bathed like a child. The humiliation and fear mingle together and Sasuke looks intensely into the mirror, looking for things that changed, hints of taint. To his utmost horror, he finds them. His lips are redder, seemingly endlessly wet, the contours of his eyes have been traced with dark black eyeliner. But most horrifying of all, the collar is stunningly beautiful.
It's pure silver, gently dipping into the hollow of Sasuke's collarbone with an intricate mix of leather and chain. It's flexible and cool; graceful. Sasuke's hand reaches to touch it before he can stop himself and he can see his nails painted a deep blue.
Someone took the time to fucking paint my nails...
That's what shatters the fascinated horror that had previously kept Sasuke relatively still. He forcefully wipes the lip gloss away with the back of his hand, digs his fingers against his eyelids, trying to rid himself of the grotesque make-up.
When he looks slightly more like himself, Sasuke devotes his energy to the chain. Despite the weakness still present in his body, both hands fist around the smooth chain and Sasuke uses his (fucking bastard!) silk-clothed legs to lever himself and use his weight against the chains. All of his efforts only manage to get his neck bruised, his hands sore and his body craving nourishment more than ever.
Exhausted, Sasuke rests his head tiredly against the floor. He takes a deep breath, then another. He's an inch away from spending more energy uselessly, screaming at the emptiness that he's not a fucking doll. A new and deeper breath has Sasuke calming his racing heart and his eyes fall shut.
Okay. Now think.
Itachi will be looking, that's undeniable. He'll probably drag along Neji and Naruto too. And Sasuke's breath gets a little shuddery when he remembers Kakashi's running down the stairs to come to his aid. It makes Sasuke feel warm and he has to work at holding back a smirk. He'll look for me too.
With such a competent team, all Sasuke has to do is wait it out, right? They'll eventually figure it out and find him... somehow.
With a sigh, Sasuke wonders how long it's been since he disappeared. He wonders what Itachi is doing, deprived of his only sanity. He wonders if Naruto will ever forgive him for that disappearing act that will no doubt cost him his career. Most of all though, he wonders why Kakashi will be looking for him.
He wonders if the man will really want to see him again. Maybe Sasuke's the only one who's felt this powerful need to be with the older man. Maybe he'll find a better lover, someone with experience... maybe... maybe Sasuke's just not all that important to him. They've known each other all of two weeks, after all. Maybe it's his teenager mind crushing on the nearest role model.
Clarity of mind is clarity of passion. Sasuke remembers throwing that phrase at the other man. He remembers the softening of those killer fingers on his skin. The care, the laughter, the comfort...
“Like I've got time to be thinking about you...” Sasuke shakes his head to himself and he makes the promise that when Kakashi finds him, he'll find a whole person, not some doll twisted and broken by the insane fuck behind the walls.
That promise gives Sasuke strength enough and he smirks. Judging from his stomach, he's been a captive for more than two days. Uchiha Sasuke does not sit around waiting to be rescued. Especially not in the hands of a maniac who treats him like a fucking porcelain doll.
With another effort, Sasuke puts his thoughts back into proper order. He needs to escape. Itachi will do what needs to be done, Neji and Naruto will strive to find him and Kakashi... Kakashi won't give up. Kakashi will come for him. Sasuke has to do all he can too. Fair's fair.
Feeling around his neck, Sasuke locates the lock on the back of the collar. So there has to be a key for it. He follows the chain up to the headboard of the bed. It can move laterally along the pole until it stops at each side. Methodically, Sasuke begins to explore what furniture he can reach. The bed yields nothing and the window is both out of reach, and darkened by shades. So Sasuke looks in the drawers of the desk he can reach. There are books and soft clothes. A tight line of annoyance curves Sasuke's lips. He empties everything, looking for a piece of metal or something sharp enough to use as a weapon.
He finds a passably decent white shirt which he immediately puts on. It's too big for him and the buttons too small for Sasuke to bother with all of them. After snapping two of them over his chest to keep the shirt relatively decent, Sasuke scrolls through the titles of the books. If nothing else, he can learn about his captor. He goes over the copies of 'The Art of War', 'The Prince' and 'Study of Insanity'. He'd somehow expected the first two, but the last title has him frowning worriedly. The most dangerous kind of maniac is the maniac who knows that he's insane and embraces it.
The bottom of the drawer is old and worn. Face scrunching up in that unconsciously adorable manner of his, Sasuke feels the beginnings of an idea form in his brain. He looks from the solid material of the clothes then back to the rough wooden shards of the drawers. A solid purple scarf gets his attention first.
Sasuke works a few splinters of the drawer bottom free, testing their resistance. They're sharp enough, but frail and easily broken. Gathering the scarf and the most solid of the shards, Sasuke crawls in under the bed to work. Just after splitting the purple material in half, a soft threading sound makes itself heard.
Immediately, Sasuke pushes all of the soon to be weapon as far under the bed as he can and he crawls out to lie on top of the mattress.
By the time the door swings open, Sasuke is properly feigning sleep.
“You can stop pretending to sleep.”
The voice doesn't have that slithery edge of the snake's and Sasuke cautiously opens one lid to take in the new arrival. The two red dots on the man's forehead are the first thing Sasuke really notices. Next comes the tiredly red eyes, too-large clothes, white hair and sickly frame. Feeling relatively safe in the presence of obvious weakness, Sasuke pushes himself up on his elbows and watches the man come in with a tray.
Wracking his brain for something to say, some way to learn about where, why and who, Sasuke's stomach settles the matter with a loud growl.
The white-haired man walks closer and sets the tray on the bed. For a moment, Sasuke considers the possibility of attacking him, but when the other man's eyes find his, Sasuke frowns at the look in them. They're sad eyes, tired eyes, needful. The man settles himself by the door and watches Sasuke, waiting patiently.
Ignoring the tray is harder than it looks, but Sasuke doesn't want the man to leave yet and since he's obviously waiting for the tray to be emptied...
“Eat.” The stern order is given and enforced with a glare.
Sasuke glares back just as intensely, “I'm not hungry.”
The staring continues for a few minutes before the white-haired man begins to cough. His entire frame is wracked with the fit and Sasuke can see it's a painful episode of something chronic. When the man's done, he gathers himself into the exact same position he was in before.
Sasuke frowns, “What's your name?”
Undisturbed, the white-haired man stays quiet.
“If you give me something I can call you by, I'll eat.” That gets a blink from the man, which in turn, earns a smirk from Sasuke, “It's not like I'm going to get out of here anyway, is it?”
“You may call me Kimimaro.”
Inclining his head, Sasuke acknowledges the man's presence politely. “Uchiha Sasuke.” He gives another small smirk before reaching for the tray to keep his part of the bargain.
The food is quickly consumed and Sasuke can only hope that it wasn't drugged again. He can't identify the type of meat but it's tender and juicy enough.
When the tray is emptied, Kimimaro gathers the remains and exits the room quietly. He comes back not a minute later, dragging behind him a heavy shopping cart. Sasuke frowns at the look of it. He can't quite tell what's in it, but it's leaving a liquid trail behind. A paranoid feeling grips Sasuke's stomach as he takes a look into Kimimaro's hurt eyes.
How fucking paranoid is doubting the man who kidnapped you?
“If you are still hungry, there is more.” With that, Kimimaro kicks the shopping cart and Sasuke watches with horror as it tips over and a human body tumbles from it, rolling once before it settles on its back, dead eyes seemingly staring straight as Sasuke.
Distantly, Sasuke registers that part of the man's stomach is missing. Part of the man's stomach is fucking missing.
Sasuke barely has time to aim at the floor before he's violently sick, throwing up again and again and dry heaving and fuck!
“You sick fuck... you fucking sick bastard...” The words tumble from Sasuke's lips along with bile and meat...
The worst of it all comes when Sasuke hears the distinct click of a camera.
Somewhere else in the city, a shrill sound echoes loudly, “That's a whorehouse?!” Naruto's voice is two octaves too high and Neji barely resists the urge to slap him. Ever since that incident in the changing room, the blond boy has made himself as annoying as possible, more of a pest than Neji thought anyone could be.
“Yes, Naruto, that's your new home. Now shut up.”
Naruto's nose wrinkles adorably and he scoffs, “You just don't know how to treat a lady. Assholes like you aren't worthy of holding the door for me!” Annoyance has Neji swinging shut the door he was holding for the other boy with much more strength than required.
As soon as they go past the entrance hall and into the corridor, Neji can see why this place was chosen by the mistress. The lobby is soberly decorated and from the look of those walls, perfectly sound proof. It looks fairly ordinary but the simplicity of the details brings a sense of luxury to the eye. There are no statues, no paintings, no intricate pattern designed in the ramps, walls and desks but everything radiates temptation, from the rich blue carpet to the amusingly phallic door handles.
Neji frowns at the deviousness and he unconsciously tightens his hold on Naruto's arm. There's a blond girl at the counter smiling at them. She is undeniably beautiful but something inside Neji stirs savagely when he notices how young she is.
The girl saunters over to them and her smile falters for just enough of a moment for Neji to catch it before she drapes herself over his arm with bright blue, flirtatious eyes. “The mistress is expecting you. Come along.”
Cold but polite, Neji untangles her arms from around him and follows her lead, leaving Naruto to fend for himself in the lobby.
Neji is soon introduced in a large room with a heavy and large mahogany desk separating him from their host. The lady has her back turned to him but Neji can already tell that she's beautiful. The long, elegant fingers are twining in the small of her back and her long hair reaches just above the digits. It's a somber, dark color that seems to border on purple.
“Itachi has quite the nerve to be sending you here, child.” Her voice is much more commanding than Neji would have given her fragile frame credit for. The actual words hardly even give him pause. Itachi has briefed him on this woman.
“Uchiha-sama knows you will take care of his protégé.”
The woman turns around, her eyes flashing with anger. “I'm sure he's told you all about me, Hyuuga! What makes you think I won't kill her in her sleep? What makes him think I won't send snakes to poison her after what he did to me?”
The jealous, edgy pain in her voice only speaks of the need to please and Neji only nods, “Uchiha Itachi trusts that you will prove yourself capable of completing such a menial task as this.”
She snorts ungraciously and waves at him, “Show her to me then. Let's see what I have to work with.”
The blond girl exits the room quickly to fetch Naruto and the woman sets a cool gaze on Neji as soon as they're alone. “She'll have to take other clients as well in the meantime. I am not doing Itachi that much of a favor and keeping her unstained for him.”
Neji's jaw clenches but he breathes evenly through the anger, “She has been prepared for that eventuality. We did hope you would make things as easy as possible... Too much to hope for apparently.”
The staring contest is interrupted by the opening door and the appearance of a hip-swinging Naruto. One eyebrow on the woman raises smoothly and the tense silence is soon broken by a small cough from her. Then she smirks.
“Itachi's tastes have changed since he left me.” She strides forward, her long hair trailing behind her and she begins to circle the now fidgeting Naruto.
Neji is suddenly struck by how wrong that hair looks on her. Seeing her move, gracious as any gymnast, commanding as any general, pushes forth the notion that despite her beauty, despite her generous charms, this woman would fare better with short hair and a sniper riffle.
The woman looks Naruto up and down critically, then she runs a testing hand over the uncovered skin of his side, inducing a shudder. When she's done, she gives an approving nod and the blond girl from before answers the command before Neji even processes that one was given.
Naruto's hand is taken between the young girl's and he's lead away, presumably to his assigned quarters. Neji is left staring at the woman, jaw clenched with the anticipation of her final answer.
She gives a wild grin, one of those smiles that speak of youth and disobedience, “You can tell Itachi I'll take care of his protégé. He'll be safe.”
Neji nods his head politely, barely hiding his relief, “Thank you, Anko-Sama.”
Kakashi has been reflecting on the irony of his riding in the front of a police car, in a police uniform. Of course, some of his previous work had demanded similar precautions once, but Itachi has validated a temporary license for him. Which makes Hatake Kakashi an official enforcer of the law...
The wound on his shoulder is still more painful than it ought to be, but Kakashi is far too preoccupied to worry about that. There's so much more to worry about than trivial pain. There's the homicidal maniac sitting by his side and the lovely brat they've got to rescue. It's equally ironic that said homicidal maniac is kept in check by a brat as Kakashi himself becoming an honorary police officer.
Itachi is driving with purpose, calmly reflecting on his plan of action and the many traps he's laid for Orochimaru's troops. The Uchiha knows better than to ambush the snake himself, the man is far too devious to fall for a trick like this... but that's where Orochimaru is weak. That's where he should fear Itachi. Orochimaru needs his subordinates. He relies on them. Itachi has no such need.
But the snake has the only thing Itachi really needs. The snake has his little brat of a brother, his everything.
Slender fingers grip the wheel tighter and tighter.
Orochimaru is weak. Orochimaru is lucky, but weak. He won't slip up, but the people he trusts will.
“Where are we going?” Hatake Kakashi's voice rings soothingly in the heavy silence. It's just enough for Itachi to dismiss the dark thoughts and return to his relaxed stance.
“Orochimaru has been sending spies and assassins after me for years now. We are visiting one of them.”
“I thought you only sent back bodies.” Kakashi frowns as he remembers the first words he exchanged with the snake concerning Itachi.
“I do.” Itachi's cool voice is a smirk in and of itself. “Bits at a time.”
The car is soon parked and Kakashi takes in the surroundings carefully. They're a few miles away from the city and the downtrodden fences barely hold up a sign about dangerous dogs and a restricted area. The building behind the fences is large and high, grayish and dull in the horizon. There is no green, no trees, grass or persistent weeds. It's all sand and rock leading the way to an abandoned factory.
“I take it this place is in none of the official records?”
“Officially, Yakushi Kabuto committed suicide to avoid talking. He swallowed a pill that instantly stopped his heart.” Itachi is leading the way to the old 'Personnel Only' door on the side of the huge building.
Through the maze of corridors and large, empty rooms, Kakashi methodically remembers the way out, listening as Itachi finishes briefing him, “I sent his eye, his hand and his foot to Orochimaru as proof of death. He's been here ever since. He's the one who knows the most about Orochimaru's hideouts and methods. He had even managed to make himself essential to the man. His delirious rantings have been keeping me three steps more ahead of the snake for months. Now we will drive him insane enough to reveal whatever it is he hasn't told me yet.”
Kakashi's jaw clenches and he takes a deep breath. He's always been one for quick deaths unless strictly requested by the client. He is no stranger to torture, but he is not fond of it. “So what do you expect me to do?”
“Kabuto is Orochimaru's second in command for a reason. He is smart and he is loyal. The only times he's revealed anything was in delirium, and on tape when he pretended to be alone. And even then, with veiled words and insinuations. He will not talk in front of me. You will make him believe that you have come to mercifully end his life, sent by Orochimaru. He will believe you.”
“Boss, Sakon's getting worse... he can hardly even breathe now.” Kidomaru's tone is respectful and disobedient at once, like he's chaffing under Orochimaru's authority and fighting the urge to do what he believes is best. “We don't have Kabuto here to care for our casualties... Sakon needs a hospital.”
Something in Orochimaru's gaze hardens when he hears Kabuto's name. He rises from his seat and walks closer to the other man, “You will not risk it. Any slip up on our part and the Uchiha will know. You think if you bring him to a hospital, it won't register with the police force? Do what you can for him, but do not move him.”
Kidomaro nods cautiously, the very closeness of his superior enough to make him uncomfortable. “What about the kid?”
Orochimaru's fingers gently caress the glass sphere pendant under his shirt. His smile makes Kidomaro's skin crawl. Especially since Kidomaro knows what's in that pendant.
“Did you know, Kidomaro, that a dog can be repetitively beaten, struck and tortured every day, and it will grow aggressive but not insane? Smart animals, really. They can expect brutality, and so they do. You can't break a dog just by hitting it. You can't break someone with cruelty. Do you know what it is that makes those spineless mutts who flinch at every sound? Those who cower and obey every order from a given master?”
Kidomaro remains silent, anticipating that Orochimaru doesn't actually need him to answer. Indeed, just a few seconds later, the snake continues, “Kindness breaks. It's when they feel grateful for every gentle pat on the head, it's when they don't know to expect a slap or a kiss. In the end, the person's mind can't conciliate both the brutality and the kindness and they break. Isn't it beautiful, Kidomaro? Cruelty strengthens and kindness breaks.”