Naruto and the characters don't belong to me; they belong to Kishimoto. *sigh* I want a demon fox. ^_^ anyhoo—started a new fic that spawned on me one morning. It's a welcome change to the other Naruto fic and will help me keep focus.
Rated R for dark themes, future…situations and the usual yaoi-ness. ^_^
Side note – this takes place after the Chuunin exam, but Sasuke never leaves, and the two never fight, and Kakashi still trains the three of them.
Think age 15!! If you've got questions, I'll try to answer them as best as possible.
He wakes to the taste of blood in his mouth, the pain of something throbbing behind his eyes. He doesn't understand this pain at first, and curls into a tight little ball to avoid it; the motion just seems to make it worse. He gags on stale blood coating his tongue and feels a pinpricky numbness settling into his bones.
Something is wrong; this much he knows, although the world is fuzzy through his cracked eyelids and the sound around him is hollow.
Part of him is missing. He can sense it. He panics at it and struggles enough to spur his slow consciousness forward. Sandy earth grates under his cheek, and the ringing in his ears suddenly morphs into amused and sullen laughter.
Naruto opens his eyes enough to see the bits of gravel and sand and dirt, a lone ant wandering in a confused circle, and tiny blades of grass that stir with his breathing.
This isn't good, he has time to think. He hurts all over, afraid and unable to voice the thick welling horror in his throat.
Something jabs at him, and he hears what sounds like words but he doesn't understand them. The meaning slips away after a brief moment of concern and something pulls at him. He moans inaudibly and nearly vomits as the world spins around him.
Wrong. So wrong.
He looks up into sky with half-open eyes, the sunlight beyond the trees hurting his eyes. The too-loud sounds that make no sense make him feel dizzy and sick; even though he has to admit that everything makes him feel particularly bad. A face moves into his vision, unfamiliar and at the same time he knows it—but he's unsure of how. He doesn't have a name for the person.
All he feels, as the man reaches down and drags him upright by the loose collar of his jacket, is a brief despair and a rising urge to scream.
He needs someone, needs help, anything.
The man turns his head and speaks, the words fading in and out and utter nonsense to him. Naruto knows instinctively—or perhaps the knowledge was already there—that the man is speaking to his comrade. Then he whimpers as the man shakes him, laughing that horrid laugh.
Something is very very wrong.
They set him on the ground but his legs won't hold him; he buckles, but the men grab his arms and hold him upright, pivoting him until he's facing the opposite direction.
Red eyes watch him impassively, form and face and smile all wrong and right. He stares with that sick horror choking him, pulling with sticky-hot fingers at his mind and meets the crimson gaze with his, the bloodlust and anger and wrongness beating at him with rapid wingbeats—
The men shove him forward—and he shrieks.
Sasuke doesn't show the worry that creeps ice-cold around his heart. He doesn't react in any visible way other than to open his eyes when he hears the tell-tale 'poof' of Kakashi's arrival. Not even Sakura, who waits silently next to him, brings up the reason for Sasuke's worry.
"Where's Naruto?" Kakashi asks, surprised. "Did he get the message?"
"We haven't seen him all day," Sakura offers quietly, looking sideways at Sasuke.
Sasuke doesn't move, but his narrow gaze slides off to the distance and inward at the same time.
"Well," Kakashi drawls. "Let's go check the ramen stands…"
Naruto feels nothing but cold as he stumbles on stiff legs towards—towards somewhere. The Hokage. Tsunade. He has to find the Hokage. She would fix…fix him.
He keeps close to the shadows of the buildings he walks by, one hand bracing against the various walls, the other clutching his middle. He can sense things around him, people and stares and fear. He can smell fear.
He reeks of fear and pain. Of blood. Redness floats just behind his eyes; it's a presence he has had felt somewhere else, so it's strange to feel it in a different place. Out there. Away from him.
Something inside him cracks and an overwhelming need to find someone he knows, someone he feels safe with—away from that redness—or with it, he's not sure—and he doubles over, clutches at his head. The breath whistles through his teeth as he sucks in air and the pain swirls through his body.
Naruto snaps his eyes open and follows the instinct, ducks under the fist of a heavy man determined to remove the unwanted presence that has stumbled to a stop in front of his stall; Naruto knows that if he stops or lets any one of the people watching him with such vicious hatred get near something bad will happen.
He doesn't know if it will be bad for him, or bad for the people, but he doesn't dare risk.
The man curses at him, the voice shrill and fearful, and Naruto stumbles into a run.
He doesn't realize that they stare at him because of the blood on his clothes, on his skin and face, because he acts so strange and possessed. He doesn't know.
It's the only reason he doesn't simply stop in his tracks and scream; he doesn't know.
Naruto manages to run for six or seven yards when something strikes him about the head and knocks him sprawling. Warmth trickles unpleasantly slow across his neck and he realizes, as dark-colored liquid spatters onto the pavement, that he's bleeding.
People are throwing things at him. His vision wavers and he feels a sense of pain entirely familiar that it chokes the breath from him. People hate him. He can hear them yelling at him, can sense their fear and their animalistic bloodlust.
But he can't.
Sasuke hears the yelling rise in volume further down the street and frowns. His worry has turned into black and churning fear; Naruto is nowhere to be found and he knows it's unlike the blond to miss something as vital as training. Sasuke knows this.
So when his instincts scream at what sounds like a mob after a thief, he vanishes before Sakura or Kakashi can move to stop him.
He skids to a stop just beyond the end of the street, stumbling, nearly falling, and chokes back a hoarse curse. Stones and food and dishes from the nearby stands clatter on the ground, chipping pavement and sending dirt sprawling.
A heavy man with narrow-set eyes throws half of a chair; but by luck or sheer bad aim, nothing strikes the sprawled figure in the street.
Oh god, Sasuke thinks.
The dark-haired boy appears at the Naruto's side before anyone realizes he's arrived, arm swinging and shuriken flinging aside any incoming missiles. He bares his teeth in an uncommon display of expression, saying without words that he will retaliate.
Naruto manages to push himself to his knees, splattered with clotted blood and bits of gore; Sasuke hadn't seen this in his sudden glance. When he does, he can only stare—
Something is wrong.
And he knows, somehow, that the people surrounding him will not sit and let him protect something they want so obviously to kill.
What did you do, Naruto?
Sasuke kneels quickly by the blond, producing a small square of clean linen to press against the flow of fresh blood behind the boy's ear, wiping away dirt and what looks like tears. "Naruto," he whispers. "Naruto—what's wrong?"
"Sasuke," the boy breathes without looking at him, sounding terrified and young and broken. "Sasuke!"
The ebon-eyed boy narrows his eyes, unwilling or unable to express the concern, the shrill panic that has set itself into his bones, and glances around. The people stare at them like murderous wolves scenting prey, sullen and hateful and determined. Sasuke fights a shiver, and continues wiping away the muck on Naruto's face. "What happened?" he whispers.
Clear blue eyes as wide as they can go focus on his face. Naruto is shaking like a leaf and Sasuke is stunned by the complete opposite sense he's picking up from Naruto. The blond had never shown this much fear, this much pain—he had never shown up covered in blood and mentally shattered, either—
Something is very wrong.
"I'm sorry," Naruto says clearly, numbly. "I couldn't stop them."
Sasuke shakes his head before he can stop himself and wipes a smear of blood away from his cheek—and frowns. "Naruto—" he whispers. "Why—" he stops himself before he can finish; Naruto watches him with uncomprehending eyes above smooth unmarked cheeks. The lines that marked Naruto for what he was, for being who he was; the marks have vanished as easily as wiped-away ink.
It's him he thinks and then It's not him.
And a man yells "Kill him!"
There are too many people Sasuke thinks, heart thudding in his chest. Naruto flinches and lurches towards him, burrowing into his embrace before Sasuke can stop him; but the thought to push him away never crosses his mind. Instead, he shoots his head up and glares at the people, knowing he can't stop them by himself and that they were so worked into a frenzy—
Naruto, what did you do?
—they're going to kill him, just as the unseen man had yelled, as all of them seemed to show in their eyes. They want to kill him!
He catches a blur of motion to his right; a fishwife with bloody apron and a twisted sneer throws the butcher's cleaver she holds, end over end and flashing in the light. The thought that Naruto clutches at him, depends on him, crosses his mind but Sasuke doesn't know if his hand will make it to his kunai holster in time to draw and counter—
Something snarls, flashing orange and blood and the scent of something musky and strange. Redness blurs on the edge of Sasuke's vision, half seen and unseen at the same time. His hand doesn't stop in the quest for a kunai; a smooth practiced motion brings it to the forefront as something skids into a stop only a few feet away.
The cleaver flashes from the hand of Uzumaki Naruto—a clone it has to be a clone he thinks—as the blond turns his head to stare at the woman. Sasuke can't see the face; the people can, and they pull back and freeze into silence.
The other Naruto is growling softly, a rumbling sound that feels inhuman. The cleaver goes hilt-deep into the ground with a mere flick of the wrist—even from here Sasuke notices the bloodstains splashed across the orange and wishes Kakashi was here because nothing makes sense when the other one turns to stare impassively in his direction.
He has seen that face before. He sees that face every day, but never stained with blood and never with such blood-red eyes and a cold empty expression. He has not seen such eyes since the time of the Chuunin exam; it is a memory he had pushed far away.
Something inside of him shrinks.
The red eyes drop briefly to Naruto shaking within Sasuke's grip. They narrow and for a moment Sasuke reads confusion in their depths.
"Naruto?" Sasuke tries to speak. "What's going on? What—what did you do?!"
The other doesn't answer. He steps closer until Sasuke can smell the blood, can almost taste it on his tongue. Something keeps him from moving; from sending the kunai through the stranger's throat even though a part of him wrings itself into knots to do so.
Sasuke can taste the scent of his own fear in his mouth, bitter and metallic, when the other Naruto slowly crouches. A smile appears on the mouth, insane and cunning and unfriendly. Bitter, Sasuke wants to think, but he can't afford the distraction.
The people around them are a mass of terror, and Sasuke can understand exactly how they feel. The other Naruto reaches out to brush bloody fingers against the boy he's protecting, his face introspective. He makes a short coughing sound; it might be a word but Sasuke can't understand it.
What is he? he thinks. What's happened?
"Sasuke!" someone shouts as he stares at those crimson eyes, at the mockery and the amusement and…protection?
Sasuke doesn't respond to the voice of Kakashi or to the breathless gasps of Sakura. Instead, he asks the one thing that strikes at his mind, shrieking in his heart. "What are you?" he whispers.
The other Naruto smiles broadly, fox-like, and he can tell—the redness swirling around him forming into insane murderous chakra—that this Naruto is as real as the Naruto he's holding in his arms.
Sasuke shivers as the other blond makes a strange purring sound.
"Are you going to kill him?" he asks with a voice as icy as he can make it. He shuts away the voice that shrieks it's too dangerous to even think about defending against such a creature—but the threat in his voice is there.
It makes the other Naruto smirk before he shakes his head in a negative. "I can't kill him," the other finally speaks. His voice is low and raspy, emotionless. "I'd be killing myself." And he bares his teeth in a maniacal grin.
"Sasuke!" Kakashi shouts again from the sidelines. His voice is full of panic, something Sasuke hasn't heard in his teacher's voice in all the years he's trained with him. "You need to move away from it!"
The dark-haired teen finds Kakashi's face in the crowd. He feels a stab of surprise to see he's revealed the sharingan eye and has his hands blurring into seals.
And he knows instantly that the creature crouching before him could kill Kakashi in less than three seconds.
"Kakashi!" he warns, catching his eye and shaking his head. "Something's wrong with Naruto! We need to get him to the Hokage!"
"Oh, good move," the other drawls approvingly. "Very clever of you, Sasuke."
Sasuke gathers the half-conscious Naruto into his arms and stands. The blond curls against him, and he's aware of the sharp gaze of the second Naruto on his movements. "Are you coming with me?" he says dryly.
Naruto grins at him and rises to his feet.
The Hokage seems to know they were heading her way; she meets them out on the street, disheveled and visibly strained. She freezes, as everyone else has, the moment her eyes fall on the red-eyed Naruto, and she makes a strange sort of choking noise.
Her lips tighten into a white line and she lowers her head slightly. Sasuke clutches the shaking Naruto to him and follows the woman as she turns and walks away.
"What's going on?" he hears Sakura whisper tremulously in the background.
They're led to a room on the higher level of the Hokage tower. Tsunade throws open the doors and gestures them inside—Sasuke has noticed the strange tension that fills the other Naruto every time another person approaches or they pass someone with fear in their eyes.
He doesn't know what it means and doesn't have time to contemplate the hostile actions.
"Lay him down," Tsunade orders. "Tell me what happened to him."
Sasuke kneels to lay the boy down and shrugs. "I don't know," he answers. "People were throwing things at him, someone wanted to kill him or he attacked someone—I don't know!" he hesitates, then gently turns Naruto to face the Hokage. "Look," he whispers hoarsely. "I don't know what it means."
The second Naruto growls low in his throat as Tsunade approaches and reaches out a hand. She shoots him a glare to silence him—which he does, to Sasuke's surprise—and runs her finger along the unmarked cheek.
"Interesting," she murmurs.
Naruto doesn't seem to see her; his gaze is blank and his expression even worse.
"Stupid brat," she says. "Getting yourself messed up like this."
"What happened to him?" Sasuke asks. "And who is he?"
"As far as I can tell," Tsunade begins, exchanging a glance with Kakashi. "This is Naruto. This is the Naruto he would have been."
It doesn't make sense to Sasuke, who frowns and glances down at the unresponsive Naruto. The Naruto that he would have been? "I don't understand."
"It doesn't matter, Sasuke." She glances towards the red-eyed Naruto. "Can you speak?"
"If I must," the other Naruto rasps.
"Who did this?"
"Men. Two. There was a scroll and a jutsu. One called Mirror I believe."
Tsunade spits to the side and says "Are you sure?" in a tight little voice. "They used the Mirror jutsu on him? That should have split his consciousness, not—the two of you."
"Side effect," Naruto grins lazily. His voice is slowly growing hoarser, his posture more animalistic. "They thought he was a boy. They were wrong." He suddenly brightens into a carnal delight. "I left one alive; would you like me fetch him?"
"Yes, you idiot!"
Sasuke gasps inspite of himself when the blurred swirl of chakra removes the strange Naruto—who doesn't seem to be Naruto at all. He turns his gaze back to the suddenly weary Hokage and pushes away his panic. "Who is he?" he repeats. "Tell me what's going on!"
Tsunade fixes her icy brown eyes on him and rests a hand on Naruto's forehead. A glow surrounds her hand as she begins to speak; Sasuke can only guess that she's attempting to fix whatever mental problems the boy has now. Naruto shifts his head and slowly, his eyes close.
"According to…him…two men attempted a forbidden jutsu on Naruto. It is called the Mirror Jutsu, and when used properly, splits the consciousness into weak and strong. The jutsu creates a bunshin of sorts that inhabits all the characterizations of the stronger identiy and tends to murder the weaker half. It's an assassination jutsu and it takes more than one person to do such a jutsu; one for a focus and one for the seals. It is very dangerous."
"But—" Sakura speaks for the first time since arriving in the room. "But what happened to Naruto?"
Tsunade sighs, looking down as the glow around her fingers fade. "The jutsu failed because Naruto is in essence two beings. It split him into what he would have been without the seal. The other Naruto is not Naruto, girl. It is Naruto's body, yes, but what inhabits it is far worse."
"The Kyubi," Sasuke whispers.
"The…what?" Sakura breathes. "Naruto is…what?"
Kakashi takes her gently by the shoulders and leads her to a corner, whispering to her. Sasuke hears a stifled sob and winces. To distract himself he lowers his gaze to Naruto—the real Naruto—and skims over the sleeping face.
"Uchiha," the Hokage says suddenly. "I've healed some of the backlash of the jutsu, but it's absolutely necessary that you be there when he wakes. Do you understand?"
"No," Sasuke snaps. "I don't understand anything! This isn't possible—Naruto can't be split into two people!"
This can't be true…it can't be…
"It's entirely possible," Tsunade smoothes back the tumbled golden hair, eyes reflective. "I should have foreseen this; I could have used a spell to prevent this." She sighs softly and uses the edge of her kimono to wipe at the dirt crusted onto Naruto's face.
Sasuke, looking down at the face he's seen and never seen, wonders just what this means. He clears his throat. "What…what will he do when he wakes?"
"I don't know. It's difficult to say how much of his true personality was hidden. All we can do is just wait and try to discover a way to reverse this."
Sasuke stops to think about this, hating the confusion and nauseating sense of falling. "And…and him?"
Tsunade raises her head, gazing into the distance. "He's coming back," she warns. "He won't be so…neutral. Kakashi—take Sakura to a different room and have someone bring her some tea."
"Hai," the unusually quiet sensei replied. "Come on, Sakura," he coaxes the girl to standing; Sasuke doesn't turn around because he can hear the way her breathing is soggy, the hitch in her voice. He doesn't like to see crying women; he feels obliged to agree or something.
The door shuts behind them, and for a moment, there's silence.
Then he can taste the blood on the back of his throat and smell that earthy scent. Redness tinges the corners of his eyes and something goes sprawling onto the ground before him. It is a man, bruised and bloody and half-dead, slashed and missing flesh. Sasuke fights down a rising surge of bile and looks away.
"See? I told you he was alive," the rough grinning voice of the Kyubi mocks. Sasuke hears a rustle of the clothing and a strange heat settling at his back. Sasuke's skin crawls and he fights the urge to move away.
"Good job," Tsunade replies dryly, and pushes the man onto his back with the heel of her hand. "You, wake up!" she orders in biting tones. The glow surrounds her hand, short and rough, and the man groans. His eyes flutter.
The Hokage moves her hand in a certain direction and the man cries out, eyes flying open. He can't move his arms, Sasuke notices, because it appears that the Hokage has destroyed the nervous system.
"Speak," the Hokage orders. "And I'll consider killing you quickly instead of the creature you unintentionally released."
The eyes roll towards Sasuke; the head, at least, is able to turn. His face pales as Sasuke's sneering fury, at the sight of the sleeping Naruto and most likely the Kyubi behind them both.
"No," the man moans. "No no no. It's not possible—"
Tsunade grabs his chin and forces his eyes to hers. "What was your purpose in using a jutsu on him!?"
The man chokes and gurgles, eyes bulging. "It—it was practice! I was sent to assassinate the Hokage—you—with the jutsu but we've never used it—please, kill me, kill me before he tears me apart—"
"Who sent you?"
"I don't know!" the man shrieks, his eyes sliding in the demon's direction. Sasuke hears a rustle of clothing, and a soft snarl. "I never saw the man! We're missing-nin—kill me! Kill me I beg you!"
"You are already dead," the Hokage spits. She twists his head until the bones in his neck snap. Then, with a motion, she sends the body sliding across the floor into the corner and turns her gaze onto the demon.
"Tell me why you aren't destroying this village."
Sasuke hears the demon sigh, "Idiot." and then a blood-spattered arm reaches around him and hikes up the hem of Naruto's jacket and places a hand on his bare stomach. A spiral fades into view, Naruto himself twitching and moaning slightly.
"He still bears the seal; the design, remember? Only human chakra can maintain it; while this body is human, I am not."
It makes sense, Sasuke thinks slowly. "You can't get free while the seal is whole," he says calmly. "And if you destroy the seal, you destroy yourself because your life is tied with his. Am I right?"
"You are clever," the kyubi mutters. "Asshole. You think I want to be in this body?"
"Why'd you attack the village 15 years ago then?" Sasuke snapped. "It's your own fault you're in this situation!"
"True," the demon purrs, sidling around until he can face Sasuke directly. "And if you were anyone but Sasuke I would rip off your face and wear it to dance on your body."
"Try me, demon," Sasuke hisses, eyes bleeding into the sharingan.
"Enough!" Tsunade thunders. "I'm going to find you a place where you will be alone. Naruto needs time to heal, and you, Kyubi—if that's your name—must learn how to deal with humans while you are in this state!"
"With him, since the kit has decided to attach himself to the human?" Kyubi murmurs slyly. "Are you sure you can trust me?"
"I trust nothing when it comes to you," the Hokage says in a stern voice. "But you will do as I say or I will seal you into a diseased dog!"
Sasuke watches as she pushes the demon out of the way and shudders when the eyes slide to his. It's disturbing to see such amusement on such a familiar face, such crimson eyes and a tainted chakra. Disturbing to see Naruto without the marks on his face, without his bouncy hyperactive self, his attitude…
The dark-haired boy looks up.
"I'm going to wake him now," Tsunade warns.
Sasuke nods abruptly. His gaze slides to the fox and he stares—Kyubi raises a brow between the methodical cleansing he's giving his hands. Sasuke jerks his gaze away with a lurching gut; the expression has too much enjoyment for him to handle. Tsunade has placed her hands against Naruto's chest and a soft pink glow suffuses his skin.
After a second Naruto jerks, arching, and his sky-blue eyes shoot open. He heaves a gasp as if torn from a nightmare and his eyes flicker around before landing on Tsunade.
"H-Hag," he coughs and pulls at her arm. "I couldn't stop them—I'm sorry!"
"Shh," the woman whispers. "It's alright. Sasuke's here and those men are dead."
Naruto's face pales into whiteness. "He killed them," he states in a small horrified voice. "They…it hurt. It really hurt and he killed them and I'm all dirty and—" his breathing breaks into jerking rasps and Sasuke places a hand against the chest to keep the sudden struggles.
"Naruto?" he questions softly.
The boy looks up at him, making eye contact for the first time with the spark of awareness, and his hands weave slowly into Sasuke's shirt and hold tight. "Sasuke," the blond whispers, shuddering. "I can't feel it anymore." He turns into Sasuke's lap; to his discomfort the black-haired teen isn't sure exactly what he should do.
"Feel what?" he questions calmly, gingerly placing a hand on the curled shoulder.
Naruto merely shakes his head and closes his eyes. "I want to sleep," he says in a small voice. "I don't feel good."
Sasuke exchanges a worried glance with Tsunade, worry twisting into his gut. "Naruto," he tries again. "What about—"
Sasuke freezes as Kyubi snakes out a hand and brushes it against Naruto's foot with a peculiar sigh. The demon crawls slowly around to Naruto's back with submissive movements and his face blank.
What is he doing? Sasuke thinks in surprise, glancing at Naruto's trembling hands as they move over his face; he's crying, silently. "Oh," Sasuke breathes, suddenly understanding. The demon curls up against Naruto's back, giving as much comfort as something like him could give, and hides his face between the shoulder blades.
He's lost...himself, Sasuke lowers his hand and strokes the yellow hair, trying his best to gather the boy to him. I can imagine what it feels like. I think I know. He rests his forehead against the shoulder, hearing the sobs and the coughs and the tiny whimpers and holds as tight as he could.
"I'll make the apartment arranges," Tsunade assures him in a whisper and a hand against his head.
Sasuke doesn't answer, and closes his eyes, trying hard to ignore the scent of the demon and the sense of his chakra, and the pain that he feels when he hears the hiccups.
With his eyes closed and his head averted, Sasuke is unaware of the calculating crimson gaze of the demon peering over the curve of Naruto's arm, and the almost hungry expression.
Sasuke's mind is on other things, and it's exactly how the demon wants it.
~a/n – well—to explain this one further, I had a strange dream with two Narutos (one good and one evil) with Sasuke looking for the good one but making out with the bad one by mistake.
It was a good dream. :D
So, here it is! _ I have a habit of writing more than one fic at a time, so you'll have to forgive me. If you like this one as much as "Out from Inside" then you'll be alright—I'll either update this one or the next one—either way you win! mwhaha.
As for the pairings…well…I'll explain them further when the time comes.