|The Art of Coming Home
Author: platedlizard PM
After the final battle Sasuke deals with blindness, depression, grief, and the art of coming home.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sasuke U. & Naruto U. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,813 - Reviews: 8 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 15 - Updated: 04-04-11 - Published: 06-08-10 - id: 6036346
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: This is a new Chapter one, the old Chapter one is now Chapter Two. The old Chapter Two is now Chapter Three and has some new stuff. Sasuke is kinda more pathetic than I like, but whatevers. Initially this story was supposed to be more shippy than it ended up being, I seem to be taking it in a more family-oriented direction, focusing more on Sasuke's (and Iruka's) Big Brother complex, haha. The usual warnings apply, totally non-beta'd, doesn't belong to me, yada yada.
The night before the final battle Naruto couldn't sleep. He woke Iruka from a restless sleep by sneaking into his tent and laying down next to Iruka's futon. He'd obviously been trying to be quiet about it, but being quiet was something that did not come naturally to his student.
"Naruto, what is it?" he asked instead.
The boy jerked guiltily and laughed shakily. "I-uh. I couldn't sleep and I thought- um. Ehehe."
Iruka snorted, and flipped the blankets up. "Kick off your shoes and get in here."
"Thanks," Naruto said, after he curled up on the futon. "I couldn't sleep by myself, and Kakashi-sensei is up going over plans, and Yamamoto is nice but kinda freaky, and I don't know where Sai is and anyway he'd probably want to talk about my dick which is a bit, um, creepy. And I think Sakura would kill me. So. Yeah. Thanks."
Iruka grinned, and ruffled his hair. "No problem," he said. "You're family, afterall."
There was a little pause, and then Naruto gave a pleased huff. "Really?"
"Yeah. Really." He chuckled when he felt the boy hug him, laying his head on his chest. But after a moment Naruto's mood changed.
"Sasuke's my family too," he whispered into Iruka's shirt.
Iruka didn't say anything. He knew what it was like to watch a teammate take a darker path, and not be able to do anything about it. It had happened to him twice, on two different teams. But neither of his teammates were close enough to him to be considered family. He didn't know what to say to him.
But this was Naruto, whom he was starting to believe could do anything.
"You'll find a way to bring him home," he said. "I believe in you."
"Thanks," Naruto said. Iruka could almost hear his grin. Then he squawked when Iruka ran his knuckles over his head. Naruto punched him lightly in retaliation, then pulled the blankets up further around them.
"Go to sleep, brat."
"Whatever, old man." But it wasn't too much longer before the boy's breath evened out.
Iruka stayed awake a long time, thinking about his teammates.
Sasuke woke up. It felt like he was emerging out of a fog, the kind that would roll in during the night over the grasslands of Oto, smothering everything in dense white clouds, just as his thoughts were now smothered. Those fogs could be deadly, phantom sounds luring unwary nin further out into the night and hiding danger. This fog smothered his thoughts, dulling his senses, making him weak in the face of danger. He fought against the fog, forcing himself to be more aware, cudgeling his thoughts into something more like their former fluidity. Slowly, far too slowly he opened his eyes. The after-image of the fox burned in his vision. There was no light at all, but his eyes hurt as if he had been staring at the sun. He lifted a surprisingly heavy hand to rub his eyes, but it didn't help. The darkness remained, and in it someone stirred.
Sasuke tensed, trying to force his chakra into something resembling self-defense. It was shockingly difficult. Even marshaling his thoughts was like wading through molasses. Frantically he pushed chakra into his eyes, but pain shot through his eyes and he cried out, jackknifing against the agony.
"Easy," someone said, taking his shoulders and pressing him back down into the bed. His voice was tantalizingly familiar, but in Sasuke's agony he couldn't place it. "You need to relax your chakra. Your chakra-system is badly burned, and you're quite badly injured."
Sasuke struggled against the man's grip, but he was as weak as a kitten. He gritted his teeth, and twisted, striking out with thunder-infused fists. He should have hit his captor, while the chidori was too weak to really hurt a trained nin it should have hit him at such a close range. Agony blazed his veins like fire. The man cursed and let go, dancing backwards in the dark.
"Hey now," the main said, chuckling. "I'mnot here to hurt you. But it was either me, or they would have put you in restraints, and I didn't think you would like that."
Restraints. So he was a prisoner. "Who are you?" Sasuke growled, "Why are the lights out?"
There was an ugly little silence at that. "I'm Iruka-sensei, and the lights are on, Uchiha-san," the other man said carefully.
Lights? Sasuke rubbed his eyes, pressing them, dropping his hands to the blankets and hissing as pain flared in them. The fox seemed to pulse with every heartbeat. He blinked rapidly. "You mentioned restraints," he said, with remarkable calmness under the circumstances. "Why am I not restrained?"
"That was only suggested as a precaution," his old academy teacher said. "We weren't sure how you would react when you woke up."
That didn't actually answer the question. Sasuke frown, trying to glare at him through the dark. He really wished they would turn on the light, but keeping him in the dark was a standard interrogation procedure. Although why Iruka-sensei was the one doing the interrogation, he didn't understand. Sasuke had always assumed that the man was nothing more then a chuunin school teacher.
"Look underneath the underneath," the ghost of Kakashi said. Sasuke struggled against his mental fog. There was something important he wasn't quite grasping. The Kyuubi pulsed in his vision.
"Naruto," he rasped finally, grabbing hold of the one thing he could focus on. "I don't-was he hurt?"
His memory was foggy, but he could remember seeing Naruto down, screaming, as the Kyuubi was ripped loose.
"He's fine," Iruka-sensei said, and Sasuke thought that it must be actually true. "He asked me to keep an eye on you while he's out, hunting down the last of the Akatsuki."
Oh. Sasuke closed his brother's eyes, suddenly feeling every inch of tiredness through his body. Naruto was always running a head of him. He never seemed to catch up. And this time, he didn't even want to try.
"Better execute me now, before he gets back," he said.
Iruka coughed. "What?" he sputtered.
"I am going to be executed, aren't I?" It was one of the few things he was still certain of, Konoha wanted him dead. They had sent teams out after him, even his old teammates, to do it. He'd known from the moment he left the village what his fate would be if he was ever captured.
Iruka cleared his throat. "No. Naruto threatened to raze the village if we did. He said he had sworn to protect both Konoha and you, and that he was going to do it. He, ah, told us about your brother. It's good to know my old teammate..." his voice trailed off. Sasuke was mildly shocked at this news, but even Itachi had been a genin once. "Well, anyways, that's neither here nor there."
Itachi's eyes pulsed with pain. It was beginning to dawn on Sasuke that Iruka apparently didn't have a problem maneuvering in the dark, as if it wasn't dark at all to him. He could hear the man shifting around, pacing like he used to pace at the front of the class when he was angry or upset about something. Which was usually something to do with Naruto and whatever his latest prank was. Unless the chuunin teacher had suddenly developed a new technique that Sasuke wasn't aware of the answer was quite simple. It wasn't, however, something that he wanted to face right now.
As long as they're alive, he thought, rubbing his brother's eyes. Itachi is still alive.
Even he knew how pathetic that thought was.
The first seizure came like a thunderstorm drifting in over the horizon. Strange smells weren't unusual in the hospital, where anesthetic and disinfectants ruled, and even the occasional drifting scent of burned flesh were merely the odor of the day. But the scent of rotting eggs was a new one to him.
"Sulfur," Sasuke said out loud as the nurse adjusted something. He felt strange, oddly jittery, and wondered if they were starting him on a new medication.
"Or rotting eggs," he said. "The air stinks."
The nurse shifted, he could feel the catheter entering his right arm move as she changed the IV. "I don't smell anything," she said after a moment. Then: "Is something wrong?"
"Ah," he said, feeling agitated. The premonition of something awful was growing by the moment, crashing over him like a wave and all his training and all his will power was nothing against the onslaught. The last thing he was aware of was the nurse's cool hand on his forehead.
And then there was nothing at all.
He woke aching, every muscle trembling with exhaustion as if he had trained with Orochimaru again. His shoulders in particular felt wrenched. His heart was racing and all Sasuke could think was that he had been attacked, he had been harmed, that despite all of Iruka's promises and Naruto's pleading they had decided to do something to him, he didn't know what, and it was only a matter of time before they hurt him further. The Kyuubi laughed, delighting in his fear.
In the darkness someone moved.
Instantly he was up, tearing out those invading needles, chidori crackling at his fingertips. He grabbed the bed's guardrail and ripped it free, sending thunder rumbling down the metal. It was a poor imitation of a katana, but it was better then nothing.
"Get back!" someone said. He thought it was Sakura. "He's in the recovery phase and doesn't know what he is doing!"
Sasuke snarled in the dark, arcing electricity toward her voice. Sakura cursed, a word that she would have never used as a genin, and something clattered.
"Listen to me Sasuke!" she yelled. He backed up, stumbling over a chair, kicking it viciously and cursing. He could barely tell right from left in this endless night.
"Listen! To what! Lies? Are you going to lie to me, Sakura? Lie like everyone in this village has always lied to me? Lie like that fucking old man when he told me that my brother went insane?" Sasuke pressed himself against the wall, thoughts tumbling in a confusing mess. "Where is he, anyway?"
"Sasuke," Sakura said, carefully. Her voice echoed slightly, like she was out in the hall instead of in the room with him. Wise of her. "You had a seizure. We don't know why yet. We need to run more tests to find out. Right now you are in the recovery period, which is why you feel odd. No one is hurting you. No one is lying to you."
None of that made sense. More lies.
"Where is he?" he demanded, focusing on the one thing that had been the center of his life for so long. Revenge. She didn't answer him, but he could hear her whispering to someone in the hall. Sasuke decided that he didn't like being ignored. He electrified the guardrail and swung it at the wall, knowing that there was no way to aim. Even with normal vision it was impossible, he needed the Sharingan. The rail crashed against the wall, sending a wave of electricity along wall toward her. "WHERE IS HE?"
To his satisfaction he would hear people scatter, screaming and fleeing in fear. To his disappointment Sakura wasn't one of them.
"Where is who?" Sakura asked calmly. She was in the room with him now, her voice no longer echoed.
Sasuke shook his head, suddenly confused. As the other people fled the sense of being trapped eased, leaving him disoriented and exhausted. The guardrail dropped from nerveless fingers, and he leaned against the wall, grateful that he hadn't seriously damaged it, that it could still hold him up.
"Sasuke?" Sakura said. He jumped, she was only feet away How did she get so close without him noticing? "You're bleeding," she said, slowly and carefully. "You ripped out the needles from the IV. Can I bandage them?"
Bleeding? Now that she mentioned it he could smell the copper scent of fresh blood in the air. The ache in his shoulders pulsed, and Sasuke slid down the wall, hugging his bleeding arms to himself. "Where is he?" he asked again, more softly this time.
Sakura touched his wrist and gently tugged his hand out. "Where is who?" she asked, the coolness of an alcohol swap wiping his arm.
He shook his head, feeling clearer and clearer by the minute and shuddered, rubbing his brother's eyes. He slid to the floor, not answering Sakura's question. He wasn't sure he could answer it. He wanted...
Sakura touched his shoulder hesitantly. Through the slight tremor of her touch he could feel her fear, and it calmed him further. He was still powerful-they could hurt him-but he could hurt them back. No matter what anyone thought, he was not going down without a fight. Reassured he allowed his former-teammate to take his hand and... hold it. Apparently. It was annoying, but he had to admit privately that it was better than trying to figure out exactly where, in the dark, Sakura was, so he decided to ignore it. She didn't matter.
Sasuke tensed when he heard a couple more people enter the room.
"Those are orderlies," Sakura said hastily. "They are going to fix the bed and clean the room, and then they are going to leave." That last was said pointedly, and Sasuke could feel their gaze. He snorted, turning away from them. His eyes slid shut, now that Sasuke wasn't fighting for his life he was exhausted. It was as bad as the very first time Orochimaru had trained him, beating him into the ground in order to break down his body so it could be rebuilt. All around them he could hear the orderlies straighten the room. Several brief buzzes of what sounded like an electric drill and then the sound of metal hitting the floor told him when they removed the remainder of the guardrail, followed by a sequence of sound that must have been it being replaced.
"Stay awake Sasuke-san," Sakura said, jostling him. "Hyguua-sensei will be here soon, and I want him to look at you before you rest. He grimaced, but opened his eyes anyway, not that it mattered. She chuckled weakly, "I thought you couldn't hear me there for a moment."
Sasuke felt a flicker of annoyance, and pulled his hand away just as another person entered the room.
"Oh my," a strange man said. His voice was deep and rough with age. "Haruno-sensei, what happened here?"
A subtle movement of air and cloth indicted that Sakura had stood up to greet the stranger. Sasuke tensed all over again, feeling his heart and breath speed up. If they hurt me, I can still hurt them, he reminded himself, even as the stranger came closer.
"Sasuke-san had a seizure, and a rather... rough recovery period." Sakura chuckled.
"I can see that. Hello Uchiha-san, I am Hyuuga Takashi." The man's voice was suddenly level to him. "Would you like to come to an exam room?"
Sasuke drew his knees to his chest. For a moment he almost decided to ignore the stranger, but there were already too many people in the room. He nodded reluctantly and used the trusty wall to pull himself upright, jerking away from Sakura's 'helpful' hands.
Walking through the corridors and down a flight of stairs was an exercise in humiliation. Sakura walked on the inside of the corridor, which allowed him to drag his fingertips along the wall. The stranger walked in front of them, and surrounding them was what Sasuke could only assume were his guards. Probably ANBU. It was somewhat reassuring to know that Konoha wasn't nearly as trusting as he thought they were.
He could hear the murmurs of people in the distance, could almost feel their piercing gazes as they watched him grope his way past them. Despite his desire to ignore them he could feel the creeping paranoia crawling up his spine as his mind conjured images of eyes and snakes out of the darkness while beyond them the Kuuybi laughed. By the time he got to the exam room he was soaked in sweat and shaking. Sakura tsked and without so much as a by-your-leave yanked his shirt off, leaving him half-naked, sitting on a exam table, and shivering.
Then the Hyuuga triggered his Byakugan. Sasuke immediately stiffened, fingers digging into the paper-covered cushion of the table. Electricity flickered through him again, followed immediately by agonizing pain. He jackknifed, gagging, barely aware of Sakura grabbing his shoulders.
The pain abruptly stopped. Slowly Sasuke became aware of a warm hand touching a point somewhere between his shoulders.
"Well, that was interesting," the Hyuuga said. He sounded sickeningly cheerful.
"You stopped a seizure?" Sakura sounded gobbsmacked. But the Hyuuga just laughed.
"No, not really. Lay down Uchiha-san." Weakly Sasuke obeyed. He didn't really have a choice. Humiliation upon humiliation, but then it was what he deserved. "I'm going to touch your head," he said about a second before he actually did. Sasuke winced.
"Well?" he said after a moment.
"Ah! You speak!" If anything the man sounded absolutely gleeful. Sasuke sighed, an wondered why it was his fate to be perpetually surrounded by idiots.
"Just get on with it," he said, tiredly, resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. It really didn't matter.
"Hmm," the doctor said after a moment. Sasuke could hear the scribbling of pen to paper as the man took notes.
The exam seemed to take a very long time. Sasuke let his mind wander. It seemed to him that he could feel his brother nearby, an odd hallucination that nonetheless comforted him. When he had been sick as a child it was always Itachi who had taken him to the doctor. When he had developed pneumonia at age five it had been Itachi who sat by his bed and changed the towel on his forehead while the wolves circled and snakes writhed in his vision. He would feel his brother now, stroking his hair and whispering silly stories just out of the range of his hearing. Sasuke missed him, suddenly and intensely. He didn't think he would ever stop missing Itachi.
"Yes, yes," the man finally muttered to himself. Sasuke pulled himself together, blinking back tears.
"Did you find something?" Sakura asked. Sasuke started she stirred next to him. He had forgotten that she was there. As if to remind him he felt her slip a tissue into his hand, and he was horrified to realize that they both must have noticed his tears. He didn't know whether to be shamed or grateful that they hadn't said anything.
"Yes," the man continued. "Epilepsy, caused by traumatic brain damage. We'll start you on some anti-convulsents, and see how it goes."
Said so lightly, as if it wasn't some kind of a life-sentence.
"Ah, I suspected so, but I couldn't be sure. What's the prognosis?" Sakura asked, like she was asking about a broken bone.
"Likely long-term, although it could resolve itself in a few months. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this condition is permanent."
Permanent, he thought. Sasuke closed his eyes. He could see Itachi standing before him, blood pouring from him mouth, blind eyes smiling at him.
If anyone said anything after that, Sasuke didn't hear them.