One day when all her little comrades went to camping, one of her classmates drowned. Up until now that image –even if it didn't happen before her eyes- stuck into her brain like nails on fingers. The scene played over and over again in her head as she tried every angle to know what the girl felt, what she thought during those fatal seconds… the little girl's fear… her own fear of drowning eternally.
Her fear to being stuck beneath the water's cold surface. No one looking for her. Her suffocating and drowning over and over again. Dying and waking up again. Prisoner for an endless time.
They say what you fear the most ends happening to you. Her old self would have thought that it was her childhood biggest fear that brought her there but that was it –a childish pretense.
A childish pretense that might have -or not- led her to one of her biggest adulthood's fear.
Maybe she would end up drowning into a vast pool of water or even her own bathroom, but it would be inappropriate to compare that drowning to hers. However, using it as a metaphor would be hitting spot on the nail.
The worse was isted of swimming toward the surface, she's was drowning even more, her childhood's fear coming to live.
She needed a break. Like the person too tired to walk on uncertain grounds plunged into darkness, she decided to hold onto any light coming her way. This time it was her friend Karin.
For once whatever power that controlled life pointed a favorable finger toward her.
To pass time, hinata remembered her friend, testing her memory. Now she knew how it felt to see one's family again after being away for too long. A smile grazed her lips.
Karin was a strange number. The girl had too bright red hair cut into chaotic layer, something that suited her own chaotic personality. Her clothes were another story… at least she assumed it.
She was the perfect definition of hot and cold. She was sweeter than sugar when it came to guys she liked, more hurtful than fire when she couldn't stand your head, and when you were real close to her, she ended being both depending on the situation.
Frightening, a bit hysterical but funny to have around and very efficient. The perfect number for Hinata.
If she could go with her on vacation, it would be the best thing to happen ever since that nightmare started.
On that positive note, the town looked a bit brighter. Her senses were more perceptive to the world surrounding her, and the world inside her. Memories of a happy couple walking down the too familiar bright alleys gave her goosebumps. That burning lick of pain made her self-preservation barriers went up.
Two seconds passed by without her eyes blinking.
She clenched her whole body as hard as she could.
By the time they parked, she fled for the hotel. Realizing her stupidity, Hinata stepped back and waited for one of the twins by the reception. The less open-faced of both joined her.
Still dazed, Hinata realized everything was done when Zero gave her a magnetic card. He clearly looked like he didn't want to be there. Hinata mentally wondered how much power Obito could have on them that they felt obliged to follow her around?
"Uh, thank you Zero… I can take care of myself from now on"
Her little bubble completely bursted when closing the door on her, she saw a big tanned hand block it. Her already fragile heart hammered her throat.
He pushed the door all the way and entered leisurely. Still shocked, she tried to make sense of the situation and then stopped to focus. Up until now Hinata didn't realize how casual he was today: unruly short navy blue hair, a plain white t-shirt under an opened dark hoodie, green pants and black sneakers. The stark opposite of her usual classy attires.
Zero never wore sneakers. Just for that Hinata knew something was just out of place beside his intruding way.
His golden eyes set on her as he put his hands into his pocket. That –along his cool stare- was the only thing that wasn't out of place.
He sat in the lone red sofa, crossed his legs and put his hands behind his neck.
"What do you want?" Hinata asked, still hanging on the knob. Her spot was strategic for various reasons
"Please" he rolled his eyes "if I want to hurt you, you wouldn't have even time to scream for help" he mocked, his deep voice hurting her head
"...Why are you here?"
"Obito told me to watch over you"
"Why for? I said I wanted to rest"
"You're not a light." He scoffed "as long as you're in Japan, I'll look after you. Let's your brain work on that"
"This is nonesense. Even so, where will you stay?"
"Don't flatter yourself. I'll be in the same alley as you. AND you go nowhere without me, period."
"What do you really win with burdening yourself with me?"
"None of your business"
"It is. You're mingling with my business"
"The part of your business that coincides with Obito's, coincides with mine"
His finger taping repeatedly against his temple showed his impatience. The conversation was over, but not her wish to see her friend. That little show of being stubborn when she had the power hadn't been intelligent. He could easily get his guard up.
Hinata finally send a message to Karin that the meeting was for the following day. Certainly Zero would be calmer.
The next day they left the hotel in the afternoon. As expected, but much to her sorrow, he had been with her every time: from the café to the supermarket, even to a building where she was supposed to meet with a friend.
There's no way to escape except for a plan.
The car stopped abruptly but the advanced technology make it seem like nothing. He turned toward her with a very annoying expression and a deep frown.
"Are you kidding me?"
"No" she ternly replied "after working with –Madara, you certainly have killer reflex. Ever since yesterday, did you feel somebody spotted us?"
"How is that relevant?" he asked with his mouth turned upside down, full of scorn
"I want to see my friend alone, and I think I have the right and the possibility"
"I never said otherwise"
"I don't want you to come"
"What are you hiding?" he asked, his deep voice grating with annoyance and the tone of what he really was –a gangster
"My- you know what? Let it go. Please, just stay here in the car while I meet with my friend. It's been over a year last time I saw her. I don't want a distraction"
"Uh, I am a distraction?!" he mocked
When she got out of the car, Zero directly opened his side.
The first plan didn't work.
Hinata bit her lips, while mulling over plan B. After all, plan A wasn't that sure. She had hoped on his annoyance over her to fray a way. Too bad he was a professional... or paranoiac. She glanced at him and he looked back, and then she looked toward the building to think about the next step.
A girl walked leisurely toward the building.
Hinata breathed in then ran toward the girl. The red haired girl was frightened at first but then she made a face.
"Hey, what the hell-"
"Please, just please don't scream. I need your help"
"If you want money I'll give you. I just need your help. Do you see the man following us?"
"He's supposed to follow me around"
"What? Why for? Oh- of course little rich kid is tired to be followed by the bodyguard?"
"Yes! Yes! I- I want- to see my boyfriend and he just… he won't let me"
Understanding and mischeviousness crossed the redhead face.
"I can distract him" she purred
Hinata looked behind. Zero was following them from some distance. The girl greeted him but he didn't even blink.
"He's difficult and mean"
"I can see that"
"I want to go to your place. We could talk a bit on your balcony then enter your house. Do you have another friend- a girl waiting for you at home?"
"What's the plan?"
"Uh… I have two wigs in my bags. One is like my haircut and the other one is… no importance. You'll have to pretend to be me, and I'll pretend to be someone else. I'll change in your house and go out of here, while you'll stay on the balcony with your back to the car and my 'hair' on you"
"Are you sure it gonna work?"
"It is just a matter of seconds and span of attention."
"What do I win in this, bon-bon*?"
"Give me your price…"
He followed them up to the flat. Plan B was ruined too. Time was passing by and zero seemed more and more suspicious, something Hinata didn't like at all.
Zero could have easily driven her to Karin and all but there was one problem: there were chances due to all that happened that Obito wanted her to cut any ties with the past. The doctor said she had to, in order to see clearer through all this.
It was no option for her now. She didn't feel like confessing or confiding in someone, but at some point Karin had been a friend, and maybe she was an answer to her recent questions.
Motivation and focus were all it took.
Her escape went quickly as she needed it: a neighbor -a girl- was added. The first girl did as Hinata asked and pretended talking with someone out of the flat, and Zero came back up.
While he went back up –with a scary expression- Hinata was right against the wall pretending to French-kiss with the second person they added later. She was supposed to be green-haired and clothed like the total opposite of what she was supposed to. Whether he looked their way or not, Hinata would never know.
"It's time to go to Oto's. We open today"
It was on purpose that girl say those words to Hinata. Around that moment Zero had reached their level. The girl took her hand, and then bumped shoulders with Zero. As they walked down the stairs, the girl turned around and showed the finger to Zero.
"Shh" Hinata hushed
That was on purpose too.
"I hate dicks"
That, however, wasn't on the menu of the day. Hinata knew the man was quite tempered. He couldn't take anything, not even from Obito, and he usually insulted his brother on trivial things.
Her breathe caught in her throat. Suddenly she lost her balance. She didn't even have time to panic as her back kissed the stairs. It hurt badly.
Hinata dared to peek up; what she saw pulled her guts to her throat: as he was quite tall, he had twisted Girl 2 by the collar and slid her up the wall until her feet didn't touch the floor. He looked down at her with a scary grin.
This was her cue.
She ran away like there were no more tomorrow.
Hinata was out of breath when she reached the building.
The neighborhood was quite peaceful to walk around –nothing to do with the chaotic place she left Zero in. She could tell that Karin's level of live improved a lot. Only respectable people lived around here. Well, that's what one would think at first sight.
She appreciated how most of the balconies had flowers on them. It had been a long time since she had seen anything 'normal' beside the exuberant luxury in her old neighborhood. There, people took the competition of "who's the hippest" to vertiginous level. Simplicity was her thing.
The smells and peacefulness of the place embraced her and invited her to explore. Maybe one day, or even later that day she would do so but there were more important matters at hand at that moment.
Despite all she went through to be there, she took a pause before the green door. 707 was written in gold at the top. At least it was a lucky number.
Hinata felt like paralyzed, as if she opened the door for a second all the load of last year would crush her. The fact that Karin was part of her past was to take into consideration. Of course Karin would be a trigger to dark memories. It was fifty-fifty on whether Karin presence would bring her some comfort or crush her even more.
Now she had doubt.
"Oh my! You frightened me miss!"
"I…" she paused to recover at least a bit "I'm sorry. Who are you?"
"Iwaki, Tsûki Iwaki, young lady" the old man bowed "I'm the concierge of the place. And you? What such a beautiful young lady with such good taste doing here?"
"Uh, I am Hinata… it's nice to meet you"
"Do you need something?"
"What are you doing here, then?"
"I'm here to visit a friend who told me to come here"
"Ah… I was there when everything happened but I couldn't do anything for him. Such a sad story. All my condolences"
"about the young Sasuke…"
"Oh, my bad. I worked here when he lived there" he said then offered her an apologetic smile "good evening young lady"
Karin invited her to Sasuke's last flat.
She watched more closely the surrounding and the door to imprint the scene in her head.
How he lived there, how he opened that door every morning and closed it every evening; how he walked up and down that hall… and Obito's attack. The scenery played freely and painfully in her head.
Hinata opened the door. The place was illuminated, even the small patio she was in. A gush of feelings washed over her. It was like Sasuke's ghost was there…
But why would Karin invite her here? Her heart hammered like thunder in its coffin. Was it really what she thought? Much to adrenaline pumping through her veins like a wild current of acid, her hands fell too quickly on the knob, pushing too quickly the door. Neither her brain nor her heart were yet ready for that meeting.
"Oh my god…" the wors abruptly left her mouth.
She stepped back abruptly.
Nothing prepared her –nothing could have ever prepared her for the shock of a lifetime.
The feeling was like been hit by a wrecking ball, like jumping from a plane without parachute and slamming into the ground. All her guts seemed to be pulled out fiercely with a sharp hook. There was no image violent enough to capture the force of what happened to her in that moment.
If Hinata had looked down and seen her feet plunged into iced water with ice cubes in, it'd have not surprise her. Soon enough the trembling and coldness moved up her legs, up her back and arms, until her whole body became a dull mass of waves after waves of cool shock.
Her first reflex was to feel her own body.
"Don't waste your time. You're alive and so am I"
His voice was low, smoky, and deep like old days but the outstanding of all its traits wasn't its attractiveness but the sharpness that cut through her head. There was that new venom, as though he was about to kill her.
Her saliva felt like sand grating into her throat instead of a fluid.
This couldn't be.
"It's difficult to decide whether you're surprised or afraid to see that I'm alive" he continued, his voice still suave and cool
Terror seized her so strongly that she was literally trapped by it. She couldn't make her feet move forward. He was so still, sitting there with his elbows on his laps and his hands dangling between.
His voice drawled again in the cold silence of the bare room.
Was she dreaming? Was any of this real?
Her eyes started to burn.
"Movies don't always lie when they lend hearts to evils' accomplices. Obito decided to let go to one condition: I had to disappear completely so you'll get all the money. That was the culminant point where I realized what I really meant in your life and my weight in the balance. Money before everything of course"
She shook her head, slowly, tears running down.
"I didn't know how to react to such scorn toward my life. After all, what else was there to say or to do with the girl who ruined your life, went by, came back, ruined a bit more and asked for your death? I'm pretty sure we had met rock bottom at that point."
Sasuke was alive.
Tears burned madly behind her eyes, and said burn echoed through her constricted throat. Bile moved up but never went all the way. Words throbbed in her chest, but never got out. Scorching need to scream and touch him to make it all real ramped, but never got realized. Emotions rioted in her head, mind and body but never got out.
She wanted to run away… wanted to run toward him.
She wanted to scream… wanted to be calmed by him.
She wanted to die… wanted to breathe his air
Everything was confusing and contradicting. She was trapped in that turmoil. Darkness and confinement were worse than nightmare or dread to her, and that's where she was.
And the look he was giving to her.
"I've asked myself –a bit after your departure- when you've really been honest. Was there anything I could say if I was to go to your funeral? Then I found one: you're as greedy as cancer for its prey. To assure your money, you tried to kill me and then you tried to kill my child and the mother. Too bad the mother survived. Far away from me to ask you how you feel"
They stared at each other for a long moment, his expression still as wood. Suddenly it hit her. Again. Sasuke was really alive. He was there before her eyes and after pinching herself –pain seemed to difference reality from illusion- it was confirmed. It all had been a nightmare. It was all clear but logic wasn't enough to help as that exhilarant feeling of solace washed violently over from head to toes, the same solace you would feel after having your worst nightmare.
The feeling was so strong she felt dizzy.
Now it was recognizable. It was like breathing again after been far too long under water, with a sharp painful note to it. A painful, throbbing joy. Yet, she couldn't talk.
"Oh my God" she mouthed, her throat too dry to voice it
Silent tears spread like river on her pale cheeks, trembling fingers barely holding her upper body up. Feelings were suffocating her silently.
Eventually, she threw up in the corner next the door.
"After hearing the story, I couldn't believe. In my naivety and arrogance I thought you only wanted my head. Again I forgot my place in the list of your priority. Then I discover how selfless I was when I chose to travel abroad to protect my friends instead of coming straight at you to kill you. I craved to kill you with my own two bare hands, see you suffocate with our eyes plunged in one another" he said with hands gesturing his actions, bringing his words to life
When she saw Sasuke finally stood up, she quickly sat up and moved backward until her back hit the door.
"So much for being the bad guy of my story"
He crouched at her level; his cold eyes plunged into her wide scared one.
"You dared coming back to my grave. Funny thing is you told me your wish to be buried next to it. Shamelessness is one of your qualities I guess"
"You were from this" he said with his forefinger and thumb grazing each other "To be strangled that day… the others told me to play it nice and wait. One day my chance would come they say. Everyone was there to support my project. They're nice guys and I appreciate them. Thanks to you I even got a bit closer to my big brother… uh… but I couldn't wait. So I took a chance. The rest is history."
He stared at her for a long moment before talking again.
"I was afraid you wouldn't come or that your new rich boyfriend keeps you from coming. That's why the second time 'Karin' told you that she had to travel and never comeback. It's a goodbye. At first I told myself I chose the bad person but then who else?"
"How do you know my phone number?"
"Apparently my brother has the same rampant problem with women. A friend of Obito couldn't resist him and was unable to take properly care of her phone. Your number was into it"
"What? You wanna kill her too?"
"I… Does Karin…?"
"Does she know? No. Though, fear not. Few to zero in your old social circle will miss you. Not that they were many but you get the picture. Oh, danzo greets you by the way"
"Why? Why tell me all of this instead of killing me?"
"Do you wanna die that soon?"
Hinata didn't answer. Sasuke smirked, got a gun out of his back pocket and place the bullet in its chamber.
She sucked in a forceful breathe
"Do you wanna die that soon?"
"No, of course not. People like you are typical cowards who are too afraid to die but not to kill others... It's easy to see you're one step about to break"
"What do you think you're doing?"
"I've been waiting to have your head for over a lot of days. Your death is going to last at least half that long."
"Obito knows where I am" she gulped and looked aside "and he asked Zero to guard me. His car is parked and waiting down this building"
"One: I don't give a sh*t about their sh*tty names. Two: one suspect knock on this door and 'BANG'. At least we'll finally get what you want: both our corpses side by side"
"You don't want this-"
"Your frightened face while I'm talking up close to you with a gun in hand is priceless… get up"
"You're not like that-"
Sasuke grabbed roughly her arm and dragged her to her feet. At that point, Hinata forgot their past and anything between that time. Nothing mattered beside the fact that Sasuke was alive, she didn't have the right to rejoice with him and he craved for bloodlust… or her blood, period.
In the middle of her scattered feelings, the dominant thought was to gain a bit more time. She didn't want to discover what happen after a bullet pierced your skull and killed your brain, the principal siege of our conscience, of what made us, us.
That idea of void terrified her so much that she actually wanted to survive that.
Hinata lashed onto his arm with all her feeble force.
Sasuke snatched his arm away.
Not a full second passed that she tried again to reach out, but he slapped her hands away.
"Don't dare touching me"
"Stop fucking crying. I might lose my sh*t"
At that last angry and vulgar sentence, she quit crying as hard as she could. Hinata realized there was something worse than Madara, even worse than that depression she had carried along with her all her life like a burden encased in her ankles.
Sasuke kept staring, and then he lowered at her eye level. Being trapped between his arms and the door was not what it should have been like. His tightened jaw and clenched hands shook her mind in a threatening way. He certainly wasn't intimidating her physically to rejoice their reunion.
Then something shifted in the air between them.
As he stared back, he altered...as if a shield slid away from his eyes, revealing a scorching hatred that sucked the air from her lungs. The intense loathing he conveyed grew in strength, becoming a near tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting need... to hurt her.
He closed the distance again, sharing her breathe.
"So, I came plenty of times to you, called you and even asked your hand. We even got married. You as my wife, you tried to kill me. Plenty of times. Don't you know there's a simpler way to say no?"
Her slow mind couldn't process the information normally as it used to. Ever since months ago, she started having focus problem. It was worse when things were complicated… or didn't make sense.
"Are you going to poison Obito or choke him in his sleep because he let me be?"
"Oh… o-oh" she gulped "s-Sasuke-"
"You won't have the occasion though."
"You really like to say my name, huh. But that's not gonna save you from me Hi-na-ta"
"I don't understand"
"I'm surprised you dared to come to 'Karin's appointment' after driving her away the day of your wedding"
"My bad. Certainly you wanted to get rid of her too. Get rid of old buddies. You did great as Pablo Escobar feminine version"
"Sasuke I swear, please! I love you. I never stopped. After Madara died I wrote you a letter to come pick me. I swear I was ready to leave everything behind for you!"
A painful long silence stretched. Hinata realized she shouldn't have said that.
"Huh, pathetic 'till the very end"
An outburst of fear blew her head.
She had stolen his life away, and killed his child. She actually didn't mind him being dead at one moment, and she hurt him… wasn't it fair to have him kill her?
Yet, Hinata felt the need to fight.
"I didn't kill your child. It was an accident-"
"Shut your fucking mouth before I kill you too soon"
"Ask her mom! Ask Sakura's mom! She was there and-"
"And what? She was the one to tell me the story while Sakura was in coma"
This world was seriously rotten, and people living there was out for her head. Now she had her proof.
Sasuke had almost been killed but escaped, and his child was dead –all because of her. The only way for him to feel any better was to shed her blood. Her death was imminent, and from his look it was one slow and painful death.
There was this promise of a slow and painful death and the fear attached to it. It was the kind of blind fear that kept any rational thoughts at bay. That kind of fear for her life had awakened up since Madara. She had mostly been the martyr type but life can get a new level of meaning once you get across a crazy sadistic man. Ever since, she couldn't for the life of her bear the idea of getting hurt… until creating a barrier around her. If it wasn't for it, she would have kicked the bucket long ago.
Her thoughts ragged, resisting control, incoherent yet her muscles were locked.
Even the fresh flow of breathe did nothing to dispel the illusion of already dying. The complex assemble of knots in what her stomach was twisted was an echo of that everlasting dread.
"I could have easily let go of the fact that you used me and threw me aside at the first occasion you've got to get rich. After all, you proved to me that bounds are easily broken as they are made"
Sasuke took few steps back but it was like she could still feel his mint breathe fanning her face in a scorching breeze.
There was a rope she didn't see in his hand at first. The red fibers were clearly rough and it didn't even faze her that he was ready to attach her.
Sasuke wouldn't have treated her any differently if she had been a banal package. He pulled too hard, and then put adhesive tape on her mouth.
"But you killed my child, almost killed my best friend and Sakura. Now there's Kakashi"
Sasuke grabbed her roughly by her arms, his gaze boring into hers, and pulled her toward him. He tilted his head to the side and swiped her face with his gaze. She saw a quick muscle appeared in his jaw, then vanished away. He reached behind him and pulled out a black tissue.
When he blacked out her view her surviving instinct kicked back in, resulting in her fighting his hands. Moans of agony rumbling into her throat never made it out of her. Panic stroked her like a wrecking ball. For all her effort at opening painfully wide her eyes, the darkness was surrounding her. In her state, she even tried to reach the tissue but realized her hands were attached behind her back. Yet her hands automatically repeated the process of reaching out in a robotic way.
Quickly after air went scarce. She was suffocating. Her lungs were burning, and her tight throat was killing her. Again, she tried to reach for her chest in a poor attempt to bring support to her lungs but her hands didn't move.
If only Sasuke didn't block her mouth! She would have been able to breathe –she would have been able to promise everything he wanted just so he wouldn't keep her locked in darkness. All her pleading ended in rough incoherent sounds emanating from her throat, escalating in force and vibrating through the small amount of air managing to enter her body.
Madara was right before her eyes, ready to lash.
Her heart was aching, bursting over and over again. Falling unconscious had never been so appealing yet it failed her, eluded her. Her tears fell nonstop through her fight for her life, but it never stopped her from kicking.
A scene suddenly crossed her mind.
Sasuke was driving with her in the back of his car to kill her in an isolated place. He was going to execute her like a vulgar criminal. Obito would seek for her body, probably, but no one would ever find her. Her body would rot until nothing would be left…
The lack of proper breathing hurt her head to the point of unbearable. It hurt so much; it hurt so bad that it completely drowned her...
END OF PART ONE