The Fallen Leaf
"Tell me a story, Mama."
"Once upon a time, there was a village hidden in the leaves. In that village lived three great clans who possessed great power; the Senju, the Uchiha, and the Hyuuga.
The village lived for a time in peace until a bitter feud broke out against the Senju and the Uchiha. The war between the clans cost many lives and lasted many years, before finally the Uchiha prevailed victorious. Uchiha Madara, Head of the Uchiha Clan, took his place as Hokage, leader of The Village Hidden in the Leaves.
Most of the Senju had been killed, but a few escaped into the forest, never to be seen again... The Hyuuga and the rest of the village submitted to the will of the immortal Madara, who remained young as others became old and gray. For it was his destiny to rule over the Hidden Leaf Village for all time."
"This is a very sad story, Mama."
"Yes, my darling, it is."
The Aligning Stars
"So the Senju have made a haven, have they?" Uchiha Madara mused. "How quaint."
"They are all being organized by the healer, Senju Tsunade, Madara-sama." Orochimaru replied, in a slippery tone.
"Ha." Madara could not help but let a rueful smile play on his lips. "It seems that Hashirama and his miserable children will never cease to haunt me."
"Allow me to illuminate them, my lord." the pale creature suggested. "Surely, you do not want the Senju rising up again, threatening your reign. Give me your men to command, and I will have their secret little fortress burned to nothing but ash by morning."
Madara scoffed. So like Orochimaru to rise to the occasion to obtain power, the miserable wretch. "You think you're any match for Tsunade and her people? That Senju princess will crush your miserable head with the back of her heel. She is a daughter of legends... you are a sniveling orphan, greedy for everlasting life to fill the gaping hole in your pathetic soul."
The snake lord bit his thin tongue, holding back a hostile hiss, and instead only bowed. "I did not presume to place myself above my lowly station, my lord, I only wished to serve you and the village in anyway I can."
Before Orochimaru could blink, his neck was locked in the massive grip of the immortal ruler of the Hidden Leaf Village. "Then remember your place, you worthless welp or I'll burn you among the corpses of the Senju. Now, make yourself useful and send for Uchiha Obito."
Uchiha Miya was Madara's ninth wife, and she was perhaps the most intelligent and cynical one he ever had. An alluring woman, bestowed with the traditional, dark beauty of the Uchiha Clan. She had full lips, a graceful figure, and thick black lashes... the ruler of the Konoha had many wives and mistresses of the course of his unnaturally long life, but Miya would be among the ones he remembered. Her arms and legs were crossed pointedly as she sat upon their king sized bed of red silk, her steely black orbs glinting with disapproval.
"You'd let them bring the fox back to this village?" she asked quietly. "After it nearly being destroyed by the creature's terror not two decades ago?"
"Are you afraid of a child, my dear?" he asked her with an amused grin, as he began to undress himself for bed. "You forget the fox is sealed inside the little Namikaze offspring."
"He's not a child anymore, he'd be almost seven-teen years by now... of course, you've never been good at keeping track of the years." Miya replied. "Don't think I'm deaf behind these stone walls, my lord, I have heard of the numerous incidents that have happened over the years... I did not think you would expose your people to such a threat again."
Madara only smiled. "It was a request made by my chosen heir, darling, how could I refuse?"
"It's not safe here." Jiraiya told Hatake Kakashi, who held the sleeping blonde babe in his arms. The young silver-haired shinobi was not yet sixteen, but now he would take on the role of a father to an orphan child. "You're going to have to take him and leave as soon as possible, kid."
"And where are they supposed to go!?" Nahara Rin asked, her usually soft and pleasant voice broken from grief. "Where can Kakashi take him that he will be safe?"
"He will never be safe."
"How much farther?" the youth sighed from his seat in the wagon.
"Not long now, Naruto." Rin promised with a sweet smile, looking up from the patch-work quilt that she was stitching skillfully over her rounded stomach. "We'll no doubt reach the Hidden Leaf Village by midday tomorrow."
The blonde watched the beautiful healer weave her needle and thread in and out of the soft blue cloth, envying her patience, steady hands and ability to find something useful to do no matter the situation. He sighed again, resting his chin atop his palm in obvious boredom.
"Are you hungry?" Rin asked him, noticing the young man's disdain.
"I guess." he replied with a shrug.
"I packed away a few apples from the market we stopped at last, they're fuji and very sweet." she told him, using her foot to pass the market bag over to him. Naruto smiled lightly, it had been a long while since he had something as sweet as an apple.
"Thanks." he replied, reaching inside the bag and grabbing the largest and reddest one. He munched quietly to himself for a while until turning his curious gaze back to Rin. "So, how long has it been since you've last seen Uchiha Obito, anyway?"
"Almost eight years now." Kakashi replied before Rin could estimate, from where he walked alongside the wagon. "He's made quite a name for himself since we were last in Konoha, he serves as an apprentice to Uchiha Madara himself."
"Does he have any children?"
"A daughter, Aiko, she's just five." Rin replied, reaching for the small pile of books she had with her. "I have a photo of her that Obito sent me a few months ago."
The brunette handed the young man her sketch book where she kept all of her photos wedged between her drawings. Naruto had often took solace in Rin's sketch book. The medic used only charcoal and her work was only average, but still, she had captured images of a missing past he would otherwise never see.
Beside a rough drawing of a happy and handsome Uchiha youth, Naruto knew to be Obito, was a black and white photo of a pretty little, dark-haired girl with full cheeks and a round button nose.
"I don't know what Katsu will think of her." Naruto smiled at the happy face, patting the head of the small boy who was curled up against his right leg, sound asleep. "But, she looks friendly enough though."
Rin grinned. "If she's anything like Obito when he was young, she'll be quite a bundle of cheerful energy."
"Hopefully she has more sense, though." Kakashi added.
Naruto paged through to the worn picture he would stare at every night as a child, where the old sketch book opened by default, it was torn at the corners and had numerous tear stains, but the drawing of his mother and father remained intact. Rin had some other pieces of her old mentor, his father, and Kushina his mother, but Naruto's favorite was the one of them beside each other, smiling brightly.
The young man ran a hand over the aged paper sadly and fondly, careful not to smudge the charcoal with his callous fingers. Rin gave him a sympathetic smile, reaching over to give Naruto's knee a squeeze.
"You know, I'm sort of glad they are not here to see how the world is now." Naruto confessed. "All their hard work ended up being for nothing... because of me."
"You know that's not true, Naruto." Rin told him softly. "They would be proud of how strong you are, carrying a burden far beyond your years."
"I'm not strong," Naruto shook his head angrily. "I'm being taken into hiding, like a coward."
"You're never a coward for doing the right thing." Kakashi told him wisely, keeping his gaze on the road ahead. "Your safety is imminent for the survival of all of us, you know that, Naruto."
"I know." Naruto spoke lowly.
He had only been told so a hundred times.
"I'm sorry." he had tears running down his cheeks, creating clean streaks against the charcoal caked on his face. He reached a hand out toward Rin to be sure she heard his apology, but she gently knocked his palm away, continuing to heal the bleeding wound over his stomach.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, Naruto-kun." she told him gently, calmly. "Yamato and Kakashi already secured the seal, everything is alright now, but you must stay still."
He lifted his gaze and saw smoke rising from the window from the kyuubi's...his...most recent attack.
"Rin... did I hurt anyone?" he asked, his voice trembling with fear at the thought. It would not be the first time.
When the healer did not reply right away, the jinchuriki panicked. "Rin! Did I hurt anyone!?"
"Naruto!" a child's voice called out, waking the young man from his nightmares. The blonde jolted awake, kunai in hand, but calmed as he recognized the familarity of his tent and the security of the vast wilderness. He liked being in the forest, away from buildings and people, where he couldn't hurt anyone.
He peered down to see a mess of silver locks and a pair of golden eyes staring up at him.
"What is it, Katsu?" he asked the seven-year-old boy with a tired sigh. "You should go back to sleep."
"I can't because you keep moving around so much, you big oaf!" the little one complained. "Besides, Papa just got up and went off into the woods, I bet he heard something, maybe it's enemy ninja!"
"Kakashi-sensei's probably just patroling, go back to sleep you little baka." Naruto dismissed him, resettling in his sleeping bundle.
"What about Mama!?" Katsu asked worriedly. "She's carrying my baby brother, she can't defend herself!"
"Don't worry, Katsu." Naruto told him. "Your papa should be back soon, and don't worry, I'll always look after you and your mama when he's not around."
The silver-haired boy nodded, hunkering back down in his sleeping bag, but still far too restless to sleep. "What do you think it's like in Konoha?"
"I don't know," Naruto replied, turning to stare at the canopy of the tent. "I know there are many different clans who live there in different districts... and that the Uchiha Clan is the most powerful one of all."
"I hope there are lot's of kids there." Katsu confessed. "I've never had any real friends before, well besides you of course."
"Gee thanks." Naruto muttered with good humor, only to frown a little. Poor Katsu truly did have an isolated childhood, always on the road, never staying in one place for very long. No house, or village, or school to call his own... no way to make new friends... because of him.
"Naruto?" Katsu asked, noticing the guilt twisted on the older boy's face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Naruto replied. "I think you're going to make a ton of friends, Katsu."
"You'll write me, won't you Obito?" Rin asked hopefully, rocking the small, blonde, fussy baby in her arms as Kakashi loaded their wagon.
"Of course I will Rin, every time I get a chance." he replied. "I... I'm really going to miss you."
Uchiha Obito looked out over Konoha from his third story window, his mind wandering to brighter days, while he awaited the arrival of his former team-mates and their young ward, Namikaze Naruto.
"Obito-kun." he heard his wife, Uchiha Umeko, call from behind him. "Madara-sama is here."
He turned and nodded. "Thank you, Ume, send him in."
The dark-haired woman nodded and did as she was told.
Moments later, the formidable form of Obito's master, the great founding father of their village, Madara Uchiha, stood in Umeko's place. "Good evening, Obito."
"Madara-sama." Obito bowed. "An unexpected pleasure."
"Has the jinchuriki arrived?"
"No, not yet." Obito replied. "But, we've gone over and above ensuring our security during his stay here."
"I'm taking a great risk, allowing this little mercy mission of yours, hopefully you are prepared to handle it."
"I am, my lord." Obito replied. "The Kyuubi will be safe under my protection."
"...It has been a long time since you've last seen your old friends, hasn't it?" Madara mused, coming to stand beside his apprentice. "Hatake Kakashi, Nohara Rin... yes?"
"Yes, it has been a long time..." Obito replied. "Though, it's Hatake Rin, now."
"Ah, I see." Madara nodded. "I suppose that was to be expected when she chose to go with him to take care of the boy, leaving everything else behind."
Before Obito could respond, an ANBU with a chilling wolf mask appeared on the ledge of the balcony. The Uchiha lords could see the knife wound bleeding out at his side.
"My lord, Madara," the agent spoke. "We have captured a Senju spy."
"It's a dangerous game you're playing." Itachi told Sasuke, noticing what had captured his younger brother's attention. "If Madara finds out..."
"Stay out of it!" the youth snapped angrily. "It's none of your concern what I do, I don't need another person trying to control my life!"
"Don't think for a minute that you have control over your life here, Sasuke." he warned. "If you test Madara, you will not be able to bare the consequences."
"Where is Sasuke?" Uchiha Itachi asked his squad with an agitated sigh. His brother's constant insubordination was getting out of hand.
"He came by this morning with his resignation, Captain." his lieutenant, Senji, replied, standing a bit straighter. "He left a message that I will not repeat to avoid disrespect."
Itachi gave a wry smile. "Go ahead and relay the message, I will not be offended."
"Well then, he said to go fuck yourself, Captain." Senji relayed as commanded, only managing not to waver in he stoic disposition due to years of harsh training and personal discipline.
There was an escaped snicker, from one of the rookies no doubt, but Itachi did not pay it any mind. He had bigger problems to deal with. Running a gloved hand over his long face, the Uchiha prodigy let out another sigh, this one longer than before. He had hoped and prayed Sasuke wouldn't make such a rash move, but he had known for some time that it would be inevitable.
"Resume with the squad's training, Lieutenant, I'll be back before the hour is up." he commanded.
Sasuke was a fast, evasive and a skilled shinobi, but Itachi was still the more experienced one between the two of them and managed to find the youth within twenty minutes, several miles from the Uchiha District. He landed a few branches ahead of the young man, halting him in the midst of his departure.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes before drawing a kunai, prepared to fight his brother if need be. "Get out of the way, Itachi."
"If this is how fast I am able to locate you, how far did you think you'd get before Madara's guards find you?"
"Don't try to stop me." his brother warned. "I don't care what they do to me, I'm not waiting around this goddamn prison another second."
"And where are you planning on going, brother?" Itachi asked him. "What direction do you plan on taking?"
Sasuke did not reply and only adjusted the strap of his travel bag higher up his shoulder.
"You won't find her." Itachi spoke sadly, making his brother turn his head away defiantly. "Even if you did, you would only endanger her life more than you already have."
Sasuke clenched his fists tightly. "I'm not a fool, I know they didn't transfer her to the Hyuga District hospital... she would have found a way to contact me by now." The younger Uchiha then turned his cold glare back to his brother. "And I know you know more about all this than you've told me."
"Don't turn this on me, this is your own fault for getting involved with her, I warned you what would happen." Itachi reprimanded. "I told you what they would do."
"You think I don't know this is my fucking fault?" Sasuke growled angrily. "I haven't slept or ate... I haven't had a moment where my mind isn't sick with the thought of what they've done to her... I'm not spending another fucking day in that compound until I find her."
"...There might not be anything to find, Sasuke." Itachi told him.
Onyx orbs flashed crimson.
With nearly unparalleled speed, Sasuke jumped, his fist colliding with his brother's jaw, creating a resounding crack that echoed through the forest. Itachi staggered backwards, but did not retaliate. He had predicted the violent action, but his younger brother had to prepare for the worst at this point.
"She's alive." Sasuke seethed. "I know she is."
"Even if that was true, my point still stands..." Itachi spoke calmly, wiping the blood oozing from his lower lip. "You'll ensure her death by going after her."
Brief conflict stirred in Sasuke's crimson irises, but he kept his resolve. "I can't just stand here and do nothing, I won't."
"But, you have to." Itachi explained. "You must know in your heart that someone like Sakura would be better off away from this place..."
"Everyone would be better off away from this place!" Sasuke growled.
"...And that she'd be better off away from you." Itachi added.
Sasuke said nothing, staring at his brother long and hard before turning back toward his chosen path, his mind already made up. "Goodbye, Itachi... pass the sentiment on to Mother and Father."
"I'm sorry, Sasuke." Itachi told him with a heavy sigh. "I'm afraid I can't do that."
Sasuke paused at his brother's words before cursing under his breath. He was surrounded by the whole of the ANBU squad, and there was no escape. Though it was pointless, the younger Uchiha struggled against the small army until he was forced into his restrains, it took nearly all present to contain him. When he was lifted from the ground, his sharingan burned wrathfully at his older brother.
"You bastard!" he growled lowly.
As always, Itachi was two steps ahead of him.
"I'm sorry." Itachi repeated as they carried him back toward the compound. "I know you will hate me for this, but I won't let them kill you, Sasuke."
No clansman ever defied Uchiha Madara and lived.
New story, because I can't help myself. I'll be updating my others soon though.