“Hawk-taicho,” Komachi murmurs before handing him their makeshift field teacup, medicinal powder mixed into steaming water.
There is no fire in their camp–for obvious reasons–she must have used a chakra trick. Maybe she has fire type like him.
“You don’t have to call me that anymore,” Sasuke says instead of asking because even if his identity has been compromised, doesn’t mean that hers should be just to indulge his curiosity. He takes the cup and tries not to grimace at the taste.
On his other side, Towa is the one who shrugs, answers, “Mask or no doesn’t change who you are. We’re ANBU’s Red Team, you’re our captain.”
Easy for him to say. He’s not the one whose cover has been blown, painted ceramic shards all that remains of his ticket to freedom.
But there’s no reason for Sasuke to be petty, spite doesn’t suit a captain, de-masked or not, and it’s not like he’s actually irritated at Towa or Komachi.
It’s not like he irritated at anyone else in particular, either.
The stone pendant against his chest pulses with warmth. He hasn’t fully deciphered what it means, but he thinks maybe it’s a mix of teasing and chastisement.
He blinks, tries not to flinch at the crusting blood against his eyelids, and realizes his Sharingan is activated. He deactivates it, chakra drain immediately halting.
The stone washes cool–soothing, encouraging–and Towa and Komachi relax an infinitesimal amount.
“Thank you,” Sasuke says instead, belatedly, because without them he would’ve been captured immediately, no matter that his should-have-been lethal wounds were healing at an impossible rate.
Captured, Shikako’s sacrifice made obsolete. No, that wouldn’t do at all.
He can’t see Komachi’s face–the two of them have kept their masks on at Sasuke’s own orders though they had offered–but he can practically hear the eye roll in her voice. “We’re Red Team,” she says, parroting Towa’s words as if there were some deeper meaning than the obvious, simple fact.
Perhaps there is.
The stone’s temperature fluctuates once more, and Sasuke grunts as he feels rib fracture knit itself whole at an accelerated rate. Is this what it feels like for Naruto? How the hell does he stay standing?
The silence returns, weighted but not tense. They are waiting for him: for him to heal, for him to decide. They can’t move while he’s still recovering–though at this rate, it should only be at most an hour more–but it’s not as if he knows what to do anyway. The stone has no input for him to follow.
“We can’t achieve the mission objective,” he says out loud, more to himself than the squad, but any guidance is better than none.
“I don’t think we were supposed to, taicho,” Towa says after a pause, finally voicing what all of them were thinking.
“They were wearing Cloud gear,” Komachi adds, “But they weren’t fighting like Cloud nin.”
“They were fighting like…” Towa stops, unable to verbalize this particular bit of suspicion.
Like Konoha shinobi, he doesn’t want to say. Like Konoha ANBU, he definitely doesn’t say.
“They were targeting me,” Sasuke says instead, when the weight of that shared thought grows too heavy. “To capture, not to kill. That last blow was a miscalculation.”
Shikako’s existence forfeited because of a miscalculation. He feels his muscles clench with futile rage before they are forcibly made to relax. Relax, he thinks the stone is trying to communicate with it’s fluctuating waves of chakra, relax so I can heal you properly. Don’t be like sensei, he can practically hear Shikako say.
Or maybe he’s trying too hard to personify it.
“We’re not going back to Konoha, are we, taicho?” Komachi asks, somehow parsing a plan of from his expression when even Sasuke can’t figure out what it is he’s feeling.
But now that it’s been said out loud, he knows she’s right. They can’t go back to Konoha. Not yet. And not because Shikamaru will literally, completely, and justifiably kill him if they do.
“No,” Sasuke shakes his head, “We have to go help Naruto.”
Komachi and Towa exchange glances. If they have any objections, they don’t say, but even if they did, it wouldn’t matter: he would still go.
After all, it’s what Shikako told him to do.
A/N: … I’m 99% sure I did not interpret this how you wanted, anon, because instead of dying love confessions in the dramatic background of ANBU missions all I could think of was like… suspenseful espionage and sabotage with a hint of ANBU team means family, and family means only death can keep us apart. Maybe not even death? I dunno. It’s possible shadow!Shikako is pulling a Venom and literally healing Sasuke from the inside out and all of Sasuke’s angst and accidental Mangekyou activation will be a silly overreaction when she suddenly reforms in a few hours.