All Naruto properties belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Viz Media. I'm just futzing with the world and characters for a bit.
I dunno guys, I really think Itachi and Hinata would be suited to be friends. This is a drabble and oneshot collection so any suggestions are appreciated. No beta, so please excuse any typos but still feel free to point them out.
Title: Sleepless Club
Summary: Long oneshot. Hinata goes on a deep cover mission to help take down one of Konoha's most dangerous enemies. The identity of the secret agent she is sent to support was unexpected. How is she supposed to work with a mass murderer? Modern/Futuristic AU.
It took a lot to disgust an alleged mass murderer. Itachi found he was nauseous.
"It's magnificent, isn't it?" Tobi breathed next to the young Uchiha's ear.
Itachi desperately bit into the inside of his cheek. The blood mixed with the bile rising up his esophagus, choking him and rendering him completely unable to speak.
The lip biting was his only form of protest against… this. Outwardly, he was impassive, standing regulation straight with his arms crossed behind his back. His dark eyes stared down at the jar on the metal gurney in front of him. He was cold in this concrete room and it was not the air conditioning making him feel that way.
Tobi let out a sudden laugh that echoed through the cavernous laboratory. "At a loss for words? Or are you being reticent as usual?"
Itachi tilted his jaw up in an attempt to clear his throat. "Like always, you find a way to make the impossible, possible."
There was a smirk in Tobi's voice. Even with that ridiculous mask, his emotions were far from mysterious to Itachi. The glee the older Uchiha currently experienced practically permeated the air.
"I did have to sacrifice many," he gestured to the far wall. "But now… the Sharingan is no longer dependant on those traitorous Uchiha. It does not matter that the clan no longer exists, because our kekkei genkai will never die."
Itachi stared at the jar because he could not bear to look up.
"We're almost there, Itachi-kun." Tobi quietly declared after a moment. "Our time is coming. I hope you're prepared to fight for your new world." He dropped a heavy hand on his companion's shoulder, before leaving the room.
Something wet bubbled up and spilled over the crest of Itachi's eyelid. He reached up, expecting blood, assuming he had activated his Mangekyo Sharingan by accident. Thumbing away the liquid, he pulled his hand back to inspect it. The liquid was clear.
The shinobi accidentally raised his gaze and met the multitudes of eyes glaring back at him from their glass cases embedded in the wall. Every single one held the judgment of the family member that had been sacrificed. With their loyalty, they earned the right to be slaughtered and have their eyes placed in this grotesque memorial.
He could not stomach watching the eyeballs floating in their preserving fluid for very long. He returned to the first horror.
The Sharingan once belonged to only the Uchiha, earned through centuries of mutations and selective breeding. Yet, two eyes not of Uchiha origin were capable of glaring at Itachi as fiercely as the legitimate ones.
Itachi silently gagged past bitter memories of wading through his family members' remains before he pivoted sharply on his heel. His back bowed beneath the continued stares but he took a deep breath in, straightened, and carefully made his way out of the laboratory.
The artificial eyes with their red pupils and three tomoe mocked him as he sedately fled.
"It's hot." The chunin cursed and pulled at his flak jacket.
"Oh thank you for letting me know." His female partner drawled, never taking the binoculars from her eyes. She methodically scanned the air. "I would have never realized if you hadn't said anything."
The man in question scowled and pulled at his heavy body armor. "I'm gonna take this off," he threatened.
"You're the one going to get busted by the Captain," she shrugged.
Their bickering was old, worn and comfortable, like their regulation issued undershirts. The two chunin fought even as they kept alert.
"Hey," the female slapped the back of her hand against her comrade's chest. He wheezed. "Incoming, but it doesn't look like one of ours."
"Hand them over," he demanded and she easily passed over the binoculars. He leaned forward as he squinted into the distance.
"Red tassels," he murmured. "…Shit, it's a message from the damiyo!"
His partner was already moving into action, opening the transfer tube with a key that would bypass the Cipher Corps and go straight to the Hokage herself.
While the chunin were trained to watch carefully for anything incoming, they did not have the same rules for things that left. So when the messenger hawk took off into the distance after delivering its package, no one was looking when the hawk turned into a crow and the crow disappeared in the wind like smoke.
On occasion Tsunade allowed herself a moment of astonishment at the inheritance Sarutobi left her. His patchwork shinobi force, while full of consummate professionals, also held a volatile mix of personalities. These men and women studied hundreds of different ways to call down Death upon their enemies while desperately avoiding their own end.
Of course, Tsunade intimately understood how it felt being in the general population, having her strings pulled and watching her most precious people succumb to their final failure. As a Hokage, it was now vital for her to see the big picture.
She relaxed her face from the glare she had been sending to the report. She deliberately loosened her muscles and leaned back into her chair. Shizune peered down worriedly from her spot behind her Hokage's large desk.
The Hokage sighed and turned so she could peer out of her windows. At times like this, she appreciated her grand view. The Academy Tower was the first and tallest skyscraper in Konohagakure. Tucked into a corner of the city, shielded by the mountain, it provided a panoramic vista of the life bustling down below.
This was why she did this. For the people rushing through the foot traffic to catch their bus. For the businessmen and their housewives and their two children. For the shinobi who fought and died in the shadows.
She was in charge of keeping them secure. Her sharp gaze slipped to the side as she contemplated the report. It was sealed so that only she could open it.
"Shizune, do you still have your key for the safe?"
Shizune's eyes widened. Taking a scroll from a pocket, she summoned a large metal ring, with many keys of many different shapes and sizes hanging from it. Tsunade did the same with her own little scroll. They both searched their individual rings to find a rusty-hardly used key.
In a hidden location in Hokage's office, a squat safe stood. Tsunade and Shizune inserted their identical keys in the safe at the same time, completed a certain set of hand seals and released burst of chakra before the safe finally released its contents.
It was an unprecedented process. The only other time Tsunade had done this was when she had first become Hokage.
Tsunade herself unraveled the encoded message with the special cipher from the lockbox. Typically only communications from the daimyo or the other Kage sent messages in this manner.
But there was an exception.
Agents in deep, deep cover sent these messages as well. Those men and women were in such a web of lies that having even the Cipher Corps know of their existence was dangerous. Tsunade decoded the missive swiftly. Every single character could cost the agent their life… if the very sending of it had not done so already.
Once the letter had been decoded and read, Tsunade went very still. Shizune saw the moment her Hokage's breath hitched, and the assistant watched the line of the older woman's neck as the Hokage swallowed heavily.
Shizune was torn on asking. Did she really want to know what had unsettled her leader so strongly?
After a moment of collecting herself, Tsunade spun her chair back to face her assistant. The Hokage was all business now. Her eyes could pierce steel.
"Who do we have that's good at reconnaissance and intelligence gathering?" She asked.
Shizune blinked. All of the ninja under their employ were good at those things. They were a basic skill set. She frowned as she realized the hidden implication.
Tsunade wanted someone who was excellent at it.
Shizune quickly flipped through her mental files for names of the nin who were on active duty and not on a mission.
"Uh… Mimura Hamaki, Yuhi Kurenai, Namiashi Raido and Yamashiro Aoba are known for their abilities for infiltration. There's also the clans. The Aburame, the Hyuga… The Inuzuka maybe." She listed dutifully.
Tsunade agitatedly picked up the report and glared as if she could set it on fire through pure willpower. "Namaishi Raido is too obvious." She muttered. "He looks like a ninja. This would have to be long term, deep cover."
Shizune blinked. Deep cover was never good.
"I can ask Kurenai but her daughter makes that difficult. Her clan can watch over her… Hmm. Inuzuka is out."
Shizune literally had to bite her tongue. Reading the report, asking about the report would be against protocol. But she needed to know.
"I would even consider Kakashi when he returns, but it can't be anyone in a Bingo Book."
"You could use a chunin up for promotion," the assistant offered helpfully.
Tsunade dropped the paper in her hand and sat back. She crossed her arms and stared thoughtfully at the opposite wall.
"I like the idea of using a clan member. Especially either an Aburame or a Hyuga." The Hokage conceded.
"But if you are using them for a long term mission, you would need to secure the clan head's permission, especially if they're an heir. Or close to one, like Neji-kun."
Tsunade swore. "I hadn't thought of that."
The Kage sighed before gathering up the papers and walking over to a black metal contraption that came up to her waist. She slowly fed each paper into the incinerator one by one. The fact that she did not ask Shizune to do so for her was telling.
Apparently, Shizune could not keep the curiosity off her face as they returned the cipher and the lockbox to their proper place.
"Trust me." Tsunade sighed. "You don't want to know."
Predictably, Hiashi stormed Tsunade's office just hours after the Missions Office sent Hinata her new mission packet. Tsunade hunched over her paperwork like a defensive pit bull. As she looked up, she resisted the urge to growl.
Shizune was trying to train her out of that habit.
The Hokage straightened and tried not to be too disgruntled at this breach of her territory. Shizune was out on an emergency medical mission and her temporary replacement had not yet learned how to deny anything of people who could easily incapacitate him. She also did not meet with the clan leader before enlisting his daughter in something that was going to take so much of her time. His anger was a tiny bit justified.
But not too much so.
"Oh hello, Hiashi-sama." Tsunade said dryly, motioning to the seat in front of her own. "Please, make yourself comfortable."
Hiashi remained standing. He was too agitated to seduce her with silky compliments and perfumed insults.
"We have been informed of my daughter's new mission. I believe that my nephew or my second daughter would be a better fit for it."
Their eyes clashed. Tsunade's were fire and brimstone, while Hiashi's were blizzards and ice senbon. If he dared to order her around in her own office, she would shoot him.
The ceremonial rifle that belonged to the Second was within reaching distance. It still worked with one round in the chamber. She checked.
The Hokage refused to stand up. Instead she lounged almost lazily on her plastic and leather throne. He would not ruffle her feathers. There was no way that he knew what this mission entailed. Hinata would have informed him of her extended absence and that it was a B-rank. Her mission packet was more of a summons than anything since Tsunade wanted to personally talk to Hinata about the real rank and details of her assignment.
"Hinata will not go on that mission." He declared.
If Tsunade's temper was a rock, then it had been suspended in mid-air, connected to her common sense by a spider web. And Hiashi just brutally cut that spider web with a kunai. Something about that man drove her insane. They could be the best politicians around anyone else, but when they were together, they fought like a stray cat and a mangy dog.
She lunged forward and slapped her hands down on her surprisingly sturdy desk. The force was light enough to keep the desk from breaking but strong enough that Hiashi could feel the vibrations of the impact through his sandals. The assistant outside whimpered.
"I have gone through each file and I picked Hinata-"
"Hanabi is far more capable and her taijutsu is more advanced-"
Tsunade could feel a headache spreading from around the seal on her forehead. She would shoot herself if she did not get some sake in the next half hour. How dare this idiot order her around and then talk over her?
"This is not something that requires combat!" She snarled. "It requires delicacy and finesse-"
"All of which my nephew has in spades!"
Tsunade reached down to the floor next to her and pulled out a folder from a precariously leaning stack. She forced it down on her desk as if it was Hiashi himself. She knew she should have more tact. But she was far too tired, frustrated and sober for decent politicking.
First, she got a message from an undercover agent she did not even know was undercover. Then she learned from the esteemed Council that this agent was indeed who said he was, which led to them having to explain something they were trying to keep her in the dark about. That meant that every horrifying thing in that report was true.
This threatened not only her city but the whole nation they were tasked with protecting.
Clan politics were not even important.
She pierced the cover of the folder with a manicured nail. "Look, Hiashi-sama." Her decibel level had toned down, but her anger deepened her voice. "This is how I make my judgments. I read a file and listen to what it tells me. Hinata-san's Byakugan can see for ten kilometers, which is over nine kilometers farther than your nephew can."
Hiashi refused to flinch but she saw it in his eyes anyway. His expression reminded her of someone who had just bitten into a wormy apple.
"Hinata-san is intelligent, good at elaborate problem solving and patient. Your youngest has already two citations for being brash and charging into situations that endangered both her and her teammates. Hinata-san's psychological evaluations all indicate that she is able to be undercover for long periods of time in enemy territory while Hanabi-san's evaluations all indicate that she is too unyielding-too Hyuga-to blend in with a civilian population."
Tsunade sneered and sat back. "I don't just throw the names of my operatives in the air and pick whichever one lands in my hand, Hiashi-sama. I understand you have two geniuses in your household, but you also have one very talented shinobi." She took a breath and schooled her face into an expression where she was not bearing teeth. "I want Hinata."
If her last sentence sounded like an order, that's because it was.
Hiashi practically vibrated with rage. He exuded no killing intent because he still knew what lines were concrete, but his chakra sparked. His eyes burned like ice on her bare skin but the Hokage shrugged it off. She won.
His bow was perfect. "I will send her to the Mission Office to be briefed as soon as possible, Hokage-sama."
"You do that."
She tracked him like a predator as he stiffly turned and marched to the door. "Oh. Hiashi-sama."
He turned his head in her direction. She pretended like she did not notice he was snubbing her by not facing her fully.
"I have no place to enter in your clan politics. But you have no place in keeping my operatives from me to please your council. She probably will make jonin before her sister. Your council is going to have to find another way to prove Hinata-san is incapable of becoming Head."
Hiashi turned back to face the door. He closed it so softly behind him that Tsunade could hardly hear the latch engage at all.
Hinata sat on the bus, staring out of the window in quiet contemplation. She had only been to Takigakure a couple of times and never in a manner so conspicuous. Her fingers fiddled with her artificially aged passport and brand-new visa. Soon the shuttle would stop in a small city in the northernmost part of the province where she would live for the time being.
The woman took a deep breath as she peeled back the cover to her passport. A woman with honey brown hair and deep brown eyes stared back at her. Not big changes, but enough to make her look like a completely different person.
And so it begins.
It was early enough in the morning for the sun to still be hiding behind the mountains, but late enough that most people were on the public train that transported them to work. While Tobi's laboratory had barracks, most of the workers preferred to live in town, Itachi included. So he traveled to work much like the common civilian.
Which, he mused, could be more trouble than it was worth.
The woman on the bench across the aisle seemed tired of just sending him coy glances. She gathered her things as if in preparation for a move closer. If not for the old woman sitting in the bench in front of him, Itachi suspected the younger one would have moved earlier.
He ignored the woman's flirtatious glances and stuck his hand between the seat and the train wall. Shuffling through the abandoned newspapers, he picked something that would occupy his attention. Ah. But nothing to write with. He fumbled through his suit jacket pockets for a moment before the old woman before him chuckled and held out a bright pink pen. A spring was glued to the end that held a little figurine of a smiling rodent, its arms spread wide.
The missing-nin accepted it with as much grace as he could and nodded in thanks at her gap-toothed smile. He filled out the crossword absently, not stopping even when the flirty woman huffed past him to disembark. The cartoon rodent bounced up and down with every pen stroke. Only when his own stop was announced, did he carefully fold up the crossword, tuck it back in the newspaper, and return the whole thing to its original place.
He attempted to return the ghastly pen, but the old woman only clutched her enormous bag closer to her chest and shook her head.
"Keep it." She cackled.
Itachi inclined his head in thanks and tucked it into his inner breast pocket. He walked to the door and stared out the glass as the train slowly came to a stop. He slipped through the small crowd waiting to embark and never made eye contact with the woman who took his place on his old seat.
She wore a large purple ribbon tied up in her hair and a uniform shirt with the name of a restaurant embroidered on the chest. Her face was flushed from rushing to catch the train on time.
For a few minutes, the woman did nothing more than fiddle with her ribbon and stare out the window. The old woman in front of her snored.
Growing bored, the woman's gaze drifted down to the abandoned newspapers and magazines. She picked up a magazine first and tore out an ad for a new lip gloss. The newspaper was next. She peered over the headlines and giggled at the editorials. The crossword beckoned but as soon as she pulled out her pen to finish it, her stop was announced.
Frowning in indecision, she decided to tear it out to finish it later.
The town sat next to a large river that was fed by Takigakure's famous waterfalls. The place was a port city, shipping commerce up and down the river. Warehouses on the dock were not uncommon. The guards that protected a certain laboratory hidden in such a warehouse often took their lunches or dinner in the heart of town. They were a rowdy group, but observant of all the things that mattered.
They definitely noticed the shy new waitress. She was pretty enough and kept the beer coming, sweetly smiling at their attention and carefully sidestepping their fiercer innuendos.
It was a good day for them. It was the end of the week, their shift was over and one of them was even slipped a carefully folded slip of paper by the blushing waitress.
Stunned, he stumbled out of the restaurant as his companions merrily celebrated his luck and gave him a couple of congratulatory slaps on the back.
The guard waited only until the next morning to call.
Itachi stifled a yawn as he rode his train home. He looked to the side of his seat, but only a gossip magazine was waiting for him. Figuring it was better than nothing, he carefully pulled it out from its hiding place and rifled through the stories of indecent celebrity behaviors and advertisements for overpriced perfumes.
With a bemused quirk of his brow, he stopped at an article in which the title had been circled repeatedly in bright purple ink.
'How To Get Your Man,' it read.
His lips pursed as he tried not to convey his amusement with the dubious advice on the page. Apparently, the previous owner of the magazine had seen this as a legitimate source of help. A couple of things were underlined and one bullet point was also circled.
'Sometimes, men like it when you make the first move, Ladies. Confidence is extremely sexy.'
The shinobi let out a huff of air through his nose in an estimation of a laugh and closed the magazine. He was done with that. Replacing it, he crossed his arms, slumped low in his seat and closed his eyes.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
FROM OPERATIVE ID: 012612
DISCIPHERED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
IN POSITION. HAVE MADE CONTACT WITH [UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: CROW]. WILL PROCEED TO SECOND STAGE OF PLAN.
Weeks later, as the waitress with the purple ribbon stepped onto the train, a man in a business suit rudely knocked into her. She stumbled and looked angrily at the man, but he disappeared in the crowd before she could demand an apology.
Muttering rude things under her breath, she fought her way onto the train. It was busy today so she had to grip the overhead hand railings. She dug into her bag for a handkerchief to avoid touching the dirty railing and instead found something strange. Schooling her face into something benign, she continued her search and pretended there was not a newcomer in her bag in between her wallet and tissues.
The royal purple ribbon with the white polka-dots definitely was not hers.
Her boyfriend came for lunch. She begged for a couple minutes of break time and dragged him off to a secluded corner between the kitchens and the bathrooms. He peered down at her indulgently. She was nervous and blushing.
"I-Um, remember how I told you that my parents have a-a cabin down the river? W-well, I got the keys and thought that if you were free this weekend… We could go?"
She peered up at him from behind thick lashes, her brown eyes imploring.
The guard raised a brow. Oh, he knew exactly what a weekend alone meant. He chuckled at the walking contradiction that was his girlfriend. She acted so shy but had no problems taking their relationship further. He reached out a gentle hand to stroke over a blushing cheek.
"Only if you're sure…" He prompted.
She nodded and the smile that blossomed on her face made his heart skip a beat. "I'm sure."
"Then I would love to spend the weekend with you, Sweetie." His watch beeped a warning. "Oh shit, I have to get back to work. Talk to you tonight?"
She nodded and gave him a kiss on the cheek. With a roguish grin, he leaned down and captured her lips in a much more satisfying goodbye. They both stumbled apart, flushed. The guard almost went for another, but she shook her head.
"You're going to be late." She admonished, but leaned in with a coy grin. "Later," she promised.
"Later," he agreed and dashed off.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
FROM OPERATIVE ID: 012612
DISCIPHERED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
HAVE RECEIVED GO AHEAD FROM [UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: CROW]. SECOND STAGE WILL COME TO CLOSE. WILL BE IN POSITION IN THREE DAYS [FROM TIME OF SENT MESSAGE].
"Something the matter, Babe?"
The waitress tore her gaze away from the surrounding forest. "Huh?"
Her boyfriend closed the lid of the trunk of their borrowed car. With a grunt, he hefted up their overnight bags. "You kind of spaced out there."
"Ah," she shook her head. "It was nothing. Just kind of dark, you know?"
He nodded and looked around the area. The shadows were long and heavy in the dusk. "Yeah, it took us a long time to get here. Can you grab my backpack from the backseat? I'm going to put this inside first."
She nodded and hurried to get his things. Hoisting the backpack over her shoulders, she stared a little longer at the inky blackness of the encroaching night. She could hear her boyfriend unlocking the front door. A bird tittered.
Nodding, she resumed her forward motion and quietly caught up to him just as he stumbled through the threshold. The cabin was dark and the shadows swallowed him up.
He laughed and set down the bags with a clatter. "We made it and now-"
With quiet grace, the diminutive woman launched herself at the much larger man. Her legs tightly wrapped around his waist and her bicep squeezed against the underside of his jaw. He attempted to turn, an exclamation of shock barely making it past his lips as she hooked onto his back. A sharp jab to the back of his neck and he crumpled to the ground.
She rode him down, jumping off and catching his head before he hit it on a nearby kotatsu. She slipped the backpack off and carefully placed it in a corner.
Another bird chirp and suddenly ANBU nin were surrounding her, the door closing behind them.
Hinata stepped back and with a few hand seals, she had transformed into the downed man.
One ANBU with a tiger mask dragged the guard to a corner. He efficiently tied the man, gagging him before placing a cloth bag over his head. Another ANBU- a bear but also obviously a Yamanaka-prepared the process for extracting the necessary pass codes and other pertinent information from their captive.
Another ANBU stayed with Hinata, carefully inspecting her henge. She nonchalantly hunched her shoulders and transferred her weight differently as if she was the heavily built man.
"Anything to report?" The hound asked.
She shook her head. "Everything seems to be according to plan so far." Her voice was a spot on imitation of her "boyfriend."
The agent hummed in acknowledgement. "You can release the jutsu." He ordered and looked down to his digital watch. He pressed a couple of buttons. "Save your chakra, take a nap. We'll wake you when it's time to transfer the information."
"Unless you managed to persuade anything else from him?" Tiger drawled in amusement.
"Watch it." Hound kept his voice even but there was enough steel to enforce it.
Hinata transformed back into her true self. She had not realized how tiring it was to keep up a henge for so long. Spending weeks as another person was draining.
She stayed professional, even in the face of the nin's innuendo. She understood his… color. Kiba was worse in a way, because he was past the point of censoring his jokes around her.
"I understand all his interpersonal relationships." She reported. "But he was very tight-lipped about any details relating to his job. Either he was very well trained or he couldn't."
"She's right, Taichou." Bear reported. "He's got a pretty nasty mental block set in place."
"Can you get through it in time?"
Bear shrugged. "Never know until we try."
"Get on it." The hound ANBU turned to Hinata. "Do you have a contingency plan?"
"He has a passcard that he carries around with him, probably on him now." Tiger set to rifling through the prisoner's pockets. "I can at least use that to get inside, which is enough for the next phase."
"Understood. Get some sleep, we'll deal with this."
Hinata nodded before heading to the bedroom in the back. After closing the door, she took off her shoes and slowly laid herself over the bed covers. Folding her hands over her stomach, she swallowed a deep breath. Held it.
They were almost there.
Her lungs burned. The dimness of sleep swallowed her as she slowly let out the trapped air from her lungs.
Even through the walls she could hear Hound's watch alarm go off. Her eyes opened easily as if her slumber had been pretend. One of the ANBU knocked on her door and she opened it a beat later.
Tiger gestured for her to precede him through the hallway. She did and met the other two ABNU members in the front room. Hound was sprawled lazily on a nearby couch. Bear sat cross legged in front of the prisoner.
"Good news." Hound drawled. "We got the information. Bad news."
Hinata tried not to be discouraged. "Bad news?"
"It's a lot." Bear said quietly.
She attempted not to slump. Deep cover missions were not just for information gathering; the assassins had to do so as well. And if an ANBU thought she was going to have a hard time memorizing, then well, who was she to argue with the best of the assassins?
She tried anyway. It was only when she stuttered over the third pass code, did she admit her defeat. She was good at memorization. When her Gentle Fist forms were wrong and her chakra was too depleted to channel to her eyes, her brain never failed her. The only thing she felt truly good at was remembering information.
"That's enough." The Hound announced. Hinata sagged from her spot on the floor next to Bear. "We're just going to have to do the next best thing. Time's up."
Bear sighed and turned to her. Tiger stepped over and lightly but firmly took hold of her head.
"Sorry about this," Bear apologized, before making a hand seal.
In a rush, memories that were not hers rushed into her head and burned themselves into the walls of her mind. She was used to pain, but she could not stifle a scream. Her head tried to snap back but Tiger's grip kept her steady and upright.
Memorization would have been less painful.
It took a while for her muscles to finally stop trembling and the other nin discreetly looked away while she wiped the bile from the corner of her lips. They waited until she stopped moving before quizzing her again.
The first pass code caught in her brain but she was able to repeat it dutifully with only a twinge of pain as a punishment. There was more pain for the second. A full blown headache for the third.
But she remembered. Hound declared her ready.
On schedule, Tiger transformed himself into the quiet waitress. Hinata, even wearing the skin of a man, was dumbfounded to see such a familiar face on another person.
"What is it?" Tiger asked.
Hinata huffed out a husky imposter's laugh. "It's nothing important."
The other two ANBU dissipated like smoke into the surrounding trees as the guard and his girlfriend piled into their borrowed car. Hinata peered at the darkened cabin where a man was confined before she eased the car into gear and backed out of the driveway.
Itachi heard the taunts as he made his way down the concrete corridor. Fluorescent lights hummed above his head, becoming the metronome to his measured steps. He mimicked the sound in the back of his throat so quietly that he only felt the vibrations from it but did not hear any sound.
He turned the corner to see a tall guard throw a half hearted punch at another. The guard looked flustered and sheepish as a small cluster of his friends gathered around him.
"You jackasses are just jealous that you don't have anyone!" He mumbled angrily.
Someone imitated the sound of a cracking whip, causing the group to dissolve into laughter.
Itachi calmly slunk past. When the group caught sight of him, they fell silent and hurriedly dispersed to their positions. The guard everyone was mocking froze, already at his post. He straightened to attention and locked his eyes on the opposite wall above Itachi's head.
With an onceover, Itachi found the incongruence. Everything from the guard's stance to crisp black working uniform was perfect. If it was not for the fact the uniform had short sleeves, the guard's wrist would have never been exposed.
Itachi slid his gaze away from the purple and polka dot ribbon tied around the guard's arm and the two men met gazes. Boredom met nervousness.
"Meet me in my office after your shift." Itachi ordered blandly, never breaking his stride.
The guard hissed a curse.
Hours later found Itachi leading the guard down another, darker hallway. Hardly anyone used this corridor because it led straight to a restricted access door that led to the basement. And that door was off-limits to everyone except Tobi.
The wheels to the mop wringer squealed angrily as the guard used the handle of the mop to push it after Itachi. Unable to hear the lights anymore, he counted out his steps himself.
At an even number, he stopped, about six meters away from the dead end door. He knew what lay behind the portal, down the stairs, past another door locked with a weight plate, an eye scanner and a special electronic chakra sensor: the laboratory and the only remnants of his clan.
He stopped and waited for the trailing guard to catch up.
"Start over there," Itachi indicated the door, "and end when you reach the stairs at the opposite end of the corridor."
The guard inclined his head and avoided Itachi's gaze. That stupid ribbon was still tightly wrapped around his wrist.
"You may proceed." Itachi indicated.
The guard nodded and hurriedly shifted all his weight towards the end of the hall. He had his back towards Itachi and awkwardly fumbled with the wooden mop handle before he started cleaning the floor right in front of the door.
Itachi crossed his arms and watched. It would not do for him to simply let the guard be unsupervised around such a restricted area. So Itachi was stuck until the guard finished.
The nin watched and watched the guard move the mop from one wall to the other in methodical strokes. When the guard pulled even with Itachi, he understood.
The man's head was submissively bowed but Itachi could still see the engorged veins on the man's temple.
He idly wondered what this Hyuga thought of him; the clan-killer. That clan, with all those safety measures in place to make sure no one ever revolted to such a degree.
"What do you see?" Itachi quietly asked.
The cameras in the hallway would see the both of them even if they were not equipped to pick up sound. But the two ninja were careful to keep at angles where eyes and lips could not be seen.
"I… I don't see anything." The Hyuga murmured.
Itachi's eyes narrowed. "Your eyes cannot penetrate the concrete?"
The reply had a sharp edge of irritation in it. "The lead walls are not a problem. I can see past the stairs and the plumbing and the boilers and the rats. Right into the laboratory where there is a wall full of what looks to be fish tanks facing a room full of medical equipment."
The veins around the Hyuga's eyes disappeared as the man straightened. He dunked the mop in the now dirty water and wrung out the extra. He glared at the opposite wall instead of Itachi.
Bending down, the Hyuga continued.
"But everything is empty. Even the fish tanks."
Cold dread slipped into Itachi's bloodstream. He lost his family's legacy? How could he… He blinked once. It was slow and a desperate attempt to hide the shock and anguish that threatened to show on his face.
"What?" He hissed.
"There is nothing there. Nothing there except-" The Hyuga suddenly gasped. "Uchiha-san!" He exclaimed in an airy and feminine voice that was nothing like the rough timber of before.
At first, Itachi thought the Hyuga was calling him. He tensed and threw his senses in all directions. And then it occurred to him that there was another Uchiha who might be down there.
"Is it F-"
"Sasuke-san was supposed to be on a mission with Naruto-kun!" The Hyuga whispered.
The only time Itachi needed before reacting was the time it took for his brain to process the implications. He already had a kunai in his hand and had stepped towards the forbidden door before the guard caught his elbow.
"Stop! We don't have orders!"
Itachi seethed, ready for blood. Who knew what that monster had done to Sasuke? His little brother needed saving. There was no space for orders. Itachi sliced the Huyga's arm. The Hyuga hissed and recoiled. Slipping out of their grasp, Itachi only got a couple more steps before the next exclamation paralyzed him.
"He's my comrade, not yours!"
Itachi halted, his mind reeling. He needed to get to Sasuke. Needed to make him safe and oh kami-what if that monster had stolen Sasuke's eyes and-
"I'm the one responsible for him. I'll… I'll get further orders."
When Itachi slipped his kunai back into its hidden holster, he felt like he was slipping it into his own skin. He sent the Hyuga a red glare and determinedly made his way to the camera room. A stronger-than-needed genjutsu and a couple of harsh button taps later, the moment of madness was erased.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
FROM OPERATIVE ID: 012612
DISCIPHERED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
MISSION FAILURE: UNABLE TO LOCATE OBJECTIVE.
LOCATED FELLOW OPERATIVE. UNABLE TO PROVIDE ID. [UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: CROW] WISHES TO EXTRACT OPERATIVE. TORTURE/EXPERIMENTATION POSSIBLE.
"Shit!" Tsunade exclaimed. "Shizune! Shizune, get over here! Which one of my men is missing?!"
Hinata could not help it. She paced the little apartment that once belonged to that guard nonstop. Threading through the tiny kitchen and rounding the ratty sofa (the only real piece of furniture in the living room), she pressed the tips of her index fingers together.
She tried watching the massive television hanging on the wall. With hundreds of channels, she was sure there had to be something loud and flashy enough to keep her distracted. But nothing did.
And nothing was going according to plan.
Hinata knew shinobi needed to be adaptable to survive. But this was her first deep cover mission and there were major issues hindering her possible success.
If realizing her contact was the infamous clan killer was not enough to knock her off her feet, realizing that one of Naruto's teammates was imprisoned finished the job.
Was Sasuke okay? Had he been taken by force? Oh no, if he was, did that mean Naruto and the rest of Team Seven were in danger?
The kunoichi sighed and perched on the edge of the couch.
In no place had Itachi been vilified more than in the Hyuga compound. The Uchiha massacre exemplified exactly what the Houses were afraid of. The Seal existed for times such as those. Hinata had been young, but enough of a nin to understand the tension that suffocated the clan as Branch members realized that Itachi was technically a Main House member. If a Main House member attacked the Branch, what protection would they have? And the Main House watched over the Branch warily, their fingers moments away from flicking into an activation seal.
Itachi threw her clan into confusion. He was a monster.
Yet, he was still a Konoha shinobi.
And when she had grabbed his arm, instead of slaughtering her, he had turned those large eyes of his on her. Even through the bleeding red of the Sharingan, Hinata could clearly read the emotion hiding around the corners. Itachi revealed fear in that moment. Fear for the only family member who had been spared.
And Hinata responded to that instinctively; identified with the fear for another. If she had been in his shoes and Hanabi was on that gurney...
Hinata bent over her knees and clutched at her falsely short hair with her larger than usual hands.
She did not want to feel sorry for the clan-killer. She did not want to absolve him of his sins just because Itachi still seemed to care about his younger sibling. He was not automatically a good person just because he was still following Konoha's orders even after all this time.
Her mental ranting snagged on that last thought. She smiled a little bitterly. A little tiredly.
Shinobi were never good people. It was impossible.
With that, Hinata felt calm enough to head to bed.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
FROM OPERATIVE ID: 012612
DISCIPHERED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
[UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: CROW]'S ACTIONS ARE THREATENING MISSION SUCCESS. DETERMINED TO EXTRACT CAPTURED OPERATIVE.
Days crawled by slowly. The more accustomed Hinata became with her fake life, the more uncomfortable she became. She never interacted with Itachi, but when he passed in the hall, she felt tense for hours.
Why did Konoha not answer?
Then came the terrifying moment when they did.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
TO OPERATIVE ID: 012612
PRE-ENCRYPTED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
PROCCED TO FOURTH STAGE. EXTRACT OPERATIVE. DESTROY EVIDENCE. NO SURVIVORS.
As usual, the guard visited his pretty waitress girlfriend. With a smile, he pulled her close and whispered something in her ear. She pulled back with a blush. When it was time for him to leave, she shyly tied a ribbon around his wrist.
She would contact the other ANBU. It was time.
Itachi stalked down the hall, making his rounds before he met with Tobi. It was time for Itachi to go on another mission. There could be no more stalling.
He stewed in anger but his face was calm and his steps even. If Tobi suspected anything, then Sasuke was a dead man.
The nin paused in front of a guard who had become very familiar to him. The guard was visibly nervous and trembled a bit under Itachi's cold gaze.
Itachi slid his eyes down the guard's arm. A bright red ribbon was tied around his wrist.
The Uchiha raised a brow.
"Again?" He drawled.
The guard looked away but said nothing.
"After your shift, then." Itachi declared before continuing his steady way down the hall.
The guard snapped his heels together but did not reply.
Tobi suddenly disappeared. His assistant informed Itachi that the man was "out on business" and probably was not going to return until the next day.
Itachi gave the assistant a polite nod. Once alone in the corridor, Itachi brought his hand up to his eyes. It was shaking.
He made a fist and fluidly resumed his trek.
The power went out. The emergency lights kicked in, casting a red tint over the whole compound. Itachi felt like he had been caught in a Tsukuyomi. But it was he who had killed everyone in the control room, shut off the alarms and stained the surroundings red.
The Hyuga waited for him, shifting nervously in place.
"I'll get Uchiha-san and destroy the lab." The Hyuga breathed, their eyes pointed to the floor. "Backup is on their way."
Itachi firmed his jaw. He obviously wanted to be the one to save his brother. But a mission was a mission, and Itachi always followed orders.
He hissed and pushed the Huyga out of the way. Taking in a deep breath, Itachi let out a potent Katon that melted that precious steel door.
The whirling Sharingan met the throbbing Byakugan.
"Take care of your comrade," Itachi warned before disappearing in smoke.
Hinata spared a moment to wrinkle her nose at the back of the retreating shinobi. If it was anyone else, she would accuse him of showing off.
The moment quickly passed and she had other places to be. Darting through the hole left, she vanished down a set of stairs. Traps and genjustsu awaited her. She got cocky when she evaded most of them easily and got a kunai through her thigh for it.
Groaning, she clumsily stumbled to the bottom of the stairs.
"That's what I get," she whispered as a wave of dizziness threatened to sweep her off her feet.
The sting was sharp enough to cause tears to instinctually form in her eyes. Her hands ghosted over the area as she examined the damage. There were no lights in the stairwell, but her Byakugan was enough.
Hinata was loathe to rip the kunai out. She did not have time to staunch the bleeding. But if the sharp burning and dizziness was any indication, the kunai was poisoned.
With a hiss, she tore out the knife and stuck it into her belt. Pressing her hand to the wound, she channeled her chakra in a healing pattern just enough to staunch the worst of the bleeding. That was as far as she could go, not being a medic nin and needing to conserve as much chakra as possible.
Swallowing past the nausea, Hinata reached into a pocket in her cargo pants and pulled out a small package of gauze and a disinfectant wipe. Poison was enough to deal with without having to worry about an infection. With hurried movements, she cleaned off her hands and the wound before rolling the gauze into a ball. She clenched her teeth and stuffed the wound with the packing.
Groaning, she focused on breathing through the pain. Gathering the paper packaging, she stuffed her trash into her pockets. With a hop, she hobbled away.
Sasuke needed her. She could not fail now.
The weight, eye scanner and chakra sensors were next. Hinata sighed. She did not have time to be delicate about this. Even with the power outage, the electronic systems were fully operational. There was only one course of action that she immediately hated.
Taking off her regulation blouse to leave her only in an undershirt, she wrapped the fabric around her right hand. Using her activated Byakugan, she found the exact spot in the wall where the wires of the three systems met a power breaker. If she separated the systems from the power, the door would not engage its steel bars to permanently lock intruders out.
Walking over to the elevated weight plate, she crouched and dug her fingers into the small space that sat between the plate and the concrete. Taking a deep breath she pushed up with her legs and heaved.
The plate only lifted from its place for a few centimeters. It was enough. Her fingers were slender enough to reach in the gap and pull at a long exposed wire. Keeping the metal up with one hand, she used her covered one to tug a wire. It popped out of place and sent a nasty shock down her arm.
Her teeth clanked together.
A long trilling noise sounded. Hinata froze, but realized it was a good sound when the eye scanner lit up. The eye scanner was built into the wall so she had to tear the plastic material around it to get to the cables behind it. She tore out that cable too and was rewarded with another jarring shock.
Her head was pounding. Wearily, she glanced up at the ceiling, where the chakra scanner was located. There was no way she was getting up there. She only had one last choice.
Hinata whimpered and tightened the fabric around her battered hand. Walking up to the spot where the electricity box was hidden in the wall, Hinata slowly pressed a palm to a spot right over it.
Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, Hinata steeled herself, channeled an enormous amount of chakra to her hand… and punched right through the concrete.
The pain was immediate and brutal. She cried out and cradled her hand close to her body. While she was used to hitting inanimate objects for training, she did not have the bone structure or the intense training to be able to punch through stone.
When she got home, she was going to give Sakura the nicest manicure. If that's what Sakura had to go through each time she punched something then the woman's poor hands deserved some pampering.
She used her left hand to pull out the wire for the chakra sensor. By now, Hinata felt like one big sore.
But, she had to keep going. With her gimp leg, gimp hand and huge headache, she practically dragged herself through the slowly opening hydraulic door.
The lab must have had a separate power source as well. The motion sensor activated the lights as soon as she stepped into the chilly room. She blinked past the stars in her vision to see a lone gurney.
Seeing the sight with her Byakugan was a very different experience than seeing the last Konoha Uchiha up close. He was deathly pale and his hair stuck to his forehead and face in greasy strands. Bandages were wrapped tightly around his eyes.
The whole space smelled like formaldehyde and bleach. The chemicals in the air were so strong that they stung Hinata's nostrils and eyes.
She sniffed and moved forward. The bandages were a really bad sign. Especially for a dojustsu user.
Her milky gaze roved over the mostly empty room. Lab equipment and industrial sinks lined the walls. Only Sasuke's gurney and monitoring equipment were in the middle of the room. On another wall, clear empty boxes were built into the stone. The fish tanks.
Next to Sasuke's bed was a tray table. On it was a large jar filled to the brim with a clear liquid. Two eyes floated.
Hinata had to fight back another bout of nausea. Her watch beeped warningly.
Time to go.
In Team 8, strongest person was a tie between Kiba and Hinata. Jukenpo was very physical and taxing on the body. Her muscles needed to be strong enough to take the shockwaves of hitting something solid and large. Not something as solid as concrete, as her throbbing hand reminded her. But enough to harm a shinobi's hardened muscles. So carrying the Uchiha, even with the weight advantage he had over her was an option.
She did what she needed to free Sasuke from the oxygen tubes and IV. He groaned once, but was deadweight as she threw one of his arms over her shoulder and leveraged him into a sitting position.
"Wake up, please." She whispered without much conviction. She was still wearing the illusion of the guard and her soft voice sounded very silly when visibly she had such large and hairy hands.
Hinata paused and gathered the medical equipment on the tray table, stuffing it into her pockets or the larger items into her shirt. Unsupported, Sasuke slumped to fall on his side.
She hurried over before he slipped to the floor. He was dressed in nothing more than some thin drawstring pants and a thin shirt. She idly wished there were cabinets around here. Maybe she could have found him some shoes.
Another beep from her watch.
Now it was really time to go. The bombs would not wait for her.
She pushed Sasuke to sit upright again. She threw his arms over her shoulders and lightly tied his wrists together in front of her chest with a stray bandage. Shuffling backwards towards him until his chest was firmly pressed against her back; she took hold of his thighs and used her leg muscles to stand upright.
Both of them groaned a bit. Hinata at the weight, Sasuke at the movement.
Bouncing him on her back to get him a little higher on her body, she took a breath and started running.
They had gotten to the hallway with the melted door when Sasuke came to. He grumbled loudly and tried to pull back, almost choking Hinata in the process. She dove into the stairwell and tucked them in a hidden corner before letting him down.
Sweat beaded on her forehead. She panted desperately for breath. It was hard to train when she was pretending to be a waitress. The fact that she was channeling her chakra to keep up her illusion did not help anything.
With a groan, she let the illusion go. She watched what she could see of Sasuke's face.
He snarled and ripped the bandages off before she could stop him. To her relief, his normal black orbs blinked angrily at her.
Hinata hastily cut off his demands.
"I'm sorry Uchiha-san, but we don't have much time. I need to get you out of here."
He tensed, ready to fight even while sprawled on the floor.
Hinata sighed and activated her Byakugan. "I'm Konoha."
"Where's your headband?" His voice was terribly husky and scratchy with disuse.
"I'm undercover," she scolded. Her watch beeped. Her leg throbbed. Her hand was stiff with pain. Her head spun. Miraculously, she managed a coherent sentence. "Can you stand?"
He tried and succeeded but his knees were shaking. Hinata braced him. But now that he was awake, she could carry him differently.
"Fireman's carry it is," she declared almost cheerfully.
Hinata crouched, brought one of his arms across her body, dug a shoulder into his side and stood. The move allowed his body to drape around her shoulders. It was uncomfortable for him and put a strain on her neck, but she was getting tired and she needed to brace his weight with a different set of muscles.
His hand settled onto her lower back and pushed firmly, helping her stand upright.
She sucked in breath, swallowed past a wave of dizziness and charged at the stairs.
Her watch beeped another warning. Ten more minutes.
Itachi found Tobi on the river. The masked man let out his chakra like a homing beacon, calling for any challengers.
Itachi sucked in a breath. One more fight and it would be all over. He was just so tired.
The shinobi took stock of his surroundings. The river was many kilometers wide and all the boat traffic had disappeared. It was an open space and Tobi's choice of battlefield sent a clear message.
This was a fight to the death. No hiding. No games.
Itachi huffed out his breath and took off sprinting.
As a warning, he flicked a couple of kunai at Tobi. Tobi did not move until Itachi was practically on top of him. Tobi dodged a kick and flickered away to appear a couple of meters away.
Itachi stopped, joining in the stare down.
"I always knew you would come to disappoint me." Tobi rumbled.
Itachi was unmoved.
"You never believed in the revolution." The masked man continued. "You have no loyalty."
"My loyalty is to Konoha and to the Uchiha." Itachi corrected.
"The Uchiha were traitors!" Tobi seethed. "They didn't have the guts to take their rightful place as the leaders of Konoha."
After years of listening to his father's foolishness, Itachi had no more patience.
"What did you do to Sasuke?" Itachi demanded.
Tobi slipped off his mask. His destroyed face made the half grin he flashed macabre.
"He will be the new generation. I knew you would betray me, so I placed my legacy inside him instead. You will find nothing in that warehouse, except for my new weapon."
Itachi could feel his eyes swirling into a familiar pattern. Tobi, formerly the disgraced clan head, Fugaku, laughed as his own eyes swirled into his version of the Mangekyo.
"You know Tsukuyomi does not affect me," Fugaku murmured.
Itachi nodded. "Our abilities are exactly the same."
Fugaku's eyes hardened. "Then you cannot make a mistake. Or I will kill you."
"Stop." Came the hoarse rasp.
Hinata gratefully stumbled to a stop and let down her passenger as carefully as she could manage. Her muscles were burning from both holding Sasuke and running up the steep stairs.
"We only have a couple of seconds to rest," Hinata gasped as she braced the man slumped into her side.
"How much longer until time has run out?"
Hinata gritted her teeth as the world around her briefly flipped. Her basic sense of balance was being affected by the poison. She blinked repeatedly. It felt like she was standing right side up once more but her vision still was blurry.
With a sigh, she forced a burst of chakra through her system. The surge caused the loosening of some tension and helped clear the smoke in her head. The face of her watch became clear once more.
"How far are we from the exit?"
"I can run."
Hinata did not even try to argue. When she slung his arm over her shoulders and slipped an arm around his waist, she was unsure by that point who was supporting whom.
The declaration was a battle cry and the nin flew into action. Fugaku flew forward and threw a series of kicks and punches, in which only glancing blows connected. Itachi moved to offense, grabbing Fugaku's wrist and pulling forward. Fugaku broke the hold, but the change in pace was enough for Itachi to move to offense.
Using the momentum, Itachi jumped and released kunai. Fugaku slipped his own blade out of his sleeve and deflected the projectiles. He released a katon and so did Itachi.
The fight would have gone on like this for a while, if not for a large explosion that went off on the river bank. Fugaku allowed himself only a moment to glance in the direction of the fireball.
"Sasuke was inside!" Fugaku spat as he dodged out of the way of a spray of shuriken.
"No, he wasn't." Or at least, that was what Itachi hoped.
Fugaku's eyes widened. "You're working with others? With Konoha?!"
Itachi wondered why that would be his father's first guess. Itachi had made many allies over the years, some of which were known to his father and none with a Konohagakure nin.
Perhaps that was his father's secret fear, he mused. The Uchiha clan betrayed Fugaku's dream of rebellion in favor of staying loyal to Konoha. And when he tried to force them, they disfigured him as a sign of his disgrace. Hatred grew in Fugaku's heart. Hatred for the Uchiha, for the Konoha. But never for his sons.
There, an opening.
Fugaku only had a moment. His eyes widened and he flickered out of existence. Itachi mentally cursed.
Their techniques and skills were exactly the same except for two exceptions. Fugaku had the Body Flicker and Itachi had Susanoo.
Itachi was fatiguing and the light in his eyes were dimming. He could hardly see the scars on his father's face. Physically, he would not be able to keep up with the Body Flicker and the Amaterasu was chewing at the waves.
He had one last option and this one would have to seal it. He released his chakra and Susanoo formed around him, just in time.
A large fireball hit him in the back. His Susanoo blocked it but it still caused Itachi to stumble forward a couple of steps.
He took stock of his injuries as his father prowled around, looking for a weakness. A kunai had cut a large gash in his stomach. His chakra was dangerously low and his eyes were dimming. He would not be able to keep up the complete form of Susanoo for very long. All of his kunai were spent. Clutching at his stomach, he tried to see a way out.
Something occurred to him. He did not have to survive this encounter. He just had to ensure his father did not either. And if Itachi's wounds were minimal then so were Fugaku's.
At this rate, Fugaku would outlast him. He had more inherent chakra than his son. Itachi would fail.
After all this time, he would fail.
His eyes widened as the horrid truth hit him and the Susanoo flickered before disappearing altogether.
Fugaku surged forward, brandishing a kunai. He was within reaching distance when the shine of triumph in both eyes turned into pure disbelief in just one. His momentum still pushed him forward but his drooping limbs missed Itachi's neck and instead cut into Itachi's shoulder, where the knife got stuck on his collar bone.
Fugaku fell to his knees, his head bowed. He stilled for a moment before falling back.
Unable to use chakra, his body began sinking into the water. Sticking out of his right eye and piercing his brain in an immediate death sentence was a borrowed pink pen. Itachi watched the cartoon rodent bob up and down on the spring.
He turned away and deactivated his Sharingan. This was not a memory he wanted to keep. ANBU appeared on either side of him. One grabbed his father's body and teleported away. The Hound escorted Itachi to the shore and into custody.
It was finally over.
Back in town, two nin were laying on the ground near a burning warehouse, panting. Their clothes were full of ash, their skin cut by flying rubble. Tiger slid to a stop in front of them.
"Are you alive?" He breathed.
One of Hinata's eyes opened a fraction as she squinted up at the ANBU. For some reason the question struck her as absolutely hilarious. She bit her lip and turned her head to the side. Sasuke was sprawled on his stomach but his face was turned towards her.
The corner of his lips twitched upwards and Hinata collapsed into giggles. She pulled her injured hand into her chest and curled into a fetal position, still laughing.
Yes, they were very much alive.
KONOHA CIPHER CORPS COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS (KCCCS)
FROM OPERATIVE ID: 009720
DISCIPHERED MESSAGE IS AS FOLLOWS:
EN ROUTE. RETURNING WITH [UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: CROW]. WITH [UNDERCOVER OPERATIVE; CODE NAME: KITSUNE]. HAVE EXTRACTED AND RECOVERED CAPTURED OPERATIVE.
As the months passed, Konoha buzzed over the new drama that the reappearance of Itachi Uchiha provided. Hinata only half paid attention to the unfolding situation. The others in her group always made sure to inform her of any updates, so she was always in the know.
Itachi Uchiha always managed to make an impression on the imagination of the citizens.
One day as she was heading home, Hinata spotted the man in question sitting on a bench outside the Academy tower. Even though the street was packed, everyone kept their distance from him, keeping even their clothes from swirling into his airspace. If he had not been infamous before, he was definitely famous now.
The trial had been one of the biggest in Konoha history. For every day of the proceedings, Itachi's face had been plastered all over the news cycle. He became known as the traitor who was actually a hero. He helped kill his own family to gain the trust of a terrorist.
He was a champion. He was a monster.
Hinata gingerly picked her way over to his seat. Breaking his personal bubble of intimidation, she sat next to him.
"Were you the Hyuga who was there?" He did not look at her but there was no other person he could be talking to.
She nodded. "Yes." She had been promoted to jonin because of the mission.
"You saved Sasuke." Unsaid: You did well.
Hinata just nodded and gazed out at the city, trying to see what he saw. She was here for a reason, but her words kept getting tangled on her tongue.
"I-" A false start. She licked her lips and tried again. "I already told Hokage-sama, but I volunteered myself to be your mission partner when you need one."
He did look at her then. His expressionless black eyes scanned her face, analyzing her.
"I have been banned from going on official missions and have been prohibited from leaving the Village." Everyone knew from the trial. "I am no longer a shinobi."
Hinata could not hide her small smile. As a Hyuga, she was very adept at reading between the lines. Underneath under the underneath.
"Tsunade-sama's exact words were: 'Official missions' and you are now 'decommissioned.'" She did not continue since they were in a public place.
But they both knew what she was saying. He was decommissioned but not for eternity. The option to re-commission him at any time had been left wide open. After he finished his public atonement and community service, Tsunade was free to send him on any unofficial mission. And if he got caught, well, he had always been a rogue.
Itachi raised a brow. "Why would the Hyuga heiress associate with someone of my reputation?"
She could not tell him that she saw herself in him. That she connected with him, in his moment of complete fear for his brother. Was it even prudent to bond with such a man over a tiny moment like that?
Instead, she smiled guilelessly and stood. "Even you need someone to watch your back, Uchiha-san."
She gave him a tiny, awkward wave before stepping forward and letting the crowd engulf her.
Itachi leaned back and drummed his fingers on his knee. He did not watch her go but he remembered sensation of her presence next to him for a long time afterwards.
There could be worse partners, he mused.
Itachi stood gracefully and made his way in the opposite direction. Only time would tell.
Tsunade gazed out onto the city below as she reclined in her chair. Her eyes cut to the side as Shizune entered.
"Can you take that file back to the Personnel Office?" Tsunade asked, waving a hand lazily at the desk behind her.
"Of course, Hokage-sama. Is there anything else you needed?"
Tsunade knew by now that even asking nicely for sake was not going to work, so she did not even try. "No, not now. You can go home."
"Thank you. See you tomorrow."
The Hokage waited for Shizune's presence to disappear completely before she turned around and looked at the spot where Hinata's file sat just moments ago.
The woman drummed her fingers on the desk and looked up at the ceiling tiles as she contemplated a Hyuga, an Uchiha and ferreting out secrets.
"What else is the Konoha Council keeping from me?" She mused. Her fingers tapped one last time. The wood of her desk creaked.
Sarutobi may have let the Council get away with literal murder, but Tsunade had no qualms about busting a few heads open.
Konoha and this patchwork shinobi force belonged to her now. And Itachi was just the right weapon to help her pry the Council apart.
Title was inspired from a Flume and Lorde mash-up by WEKEED that is also titled 'Sleepless Club.'
Hinata's code name is kitsune because they were known for seducing men for nefarious purposes. Also, they are known for shape shifting. If you want to make any parallels to Naruto and his own fox situation, you probably will think of something cooler than I ever could.
Why did you make Tobi end up being Fugaku? I didn't want it to be a rehash of the manga, but admittedly, I'm terrible at thinking up new jutsu for him. Also, Obito's kamui was only really matched by Kakashi's kamui, and I wanted it to be an Itachi vs. Tobi match-up only.
What happened to Sasuke? A sequel is in the works but I can't promise when it will be out. It will explain what happened to Sasuke, where the Akatsuki is, what happened to the eyes, the other guards, etc.
That's not how security systems work. *Buries face in hands* I am aware. I can try to excuse myself if you would like. I got distracted by magic ninjas? I was following Hollywood logic?
Please leave any other questions, feedback or prompts in the reviews. If you're an anon and you want to actually have a conversation without committing to an account, feel free to leave an anonymous ask on my Tumblr (link on my profile) and I can actually reply. Hope you liked it!