Notes: This story has been edited as of the 5th of Feburary 2017. Don't get to excited; I simply realised that thanks to minor edits over the years my personal copy had become significantly different than the original and I decided I should do an update.
Thanks to everyone who has read, and re-read, these stories over the years. It makes my heart glad to know that even after all this time people are still discovering them for the first time.
This mission had gone badly from the beginning.
Sasuke and Naruto had been dispatched from Konoha with what they had thought were easy orders; find the root of some unexplained disturbances in the area two days east of Konoha and eliminate them – use whatever was needed to get the job done but keep it silent.
Everything had gone fine until they'd actually arrived and started looking around. Nearby villagers were terrified to go out alone, and that was just by day. By night nothing short of an all out war would force them to unbar their windows and doors.
They had gathered vague reports from the tight-lipped people of disappearances and brutal deaths, but no one was willing to make the stories concrete.
On the third day after they had started investigating they had been ambushed.
Both Naruto and Sasuke had fought well, suffering no injury's as they fought off their attackers and got to safer ground. However the ambush had had a different purpose than what they had assumed it had. Their assumption was that they had been attacked merely to get rid of them and to stop the investigations in the area; it wasn't until it was to late that they realised it was to separate them to make them easier targets.
They had attempted to stop that from happening once they had realised, but that plan had backfired too and the result was what Sasuke was dealing with now. He had defeated his enemies, but somewhere along the lines Naruto had been driven away from the main fight and now Gods knew where he was.
Damn it! What had happened to Naruto?! Sasuke began searching for tracks, slowly moving back the way he had come as he'd fought, searching for any clues as to where and when Naruto had been turned away from the path.
It wasn't long, though it was longer than Sasuke liked, before he found the tracks he was looking for and began to follow them. There was evidence that Naruto had been followed, but Sasuke was relieved to note that it wasn't by a number that Naruto couldn't handle. He was even more relieved when following the tracks further he found signs of battle and all of the enemy that had followed Naruto were accounted for – there was no Naruto though. That worried Sasuke slightly, where the hell had he gone?
Naruto wended his way through the forest, jumping from tree limb to tree limb and attempting to use his Chakra as little as possible so he didn't give away his position. He moved silently but quickly, eyes raking the trees and foliage for enemies, ambushes or traps.
After Naruto had been separated from Sasuke, he had quickly taken care of the small group that had attempted to herd him away from the main fight but no sooner than he had turned to go back to the fight, then another small group of Ninja had attacked him, forcing him to flee to slightly safer ground to fight the second battle.
And as soon as he had finished that there had been a third attack…and then a fourth.
He'd stopped fighting by the fourth attack and simply fled; not from cowardice, certainly not, but because he knew that if he didn't get back to Sasuke soon then something bad was going to happen. Sure, that something bad might only be Sasuke lecturing him for allowing himself to get separated from the black-haired boy, but Naruto was never one for lectures, and Sasuke tended to give some pretty scolding ones when Naruto had forced him to worry.
The mere thought made him wince and redouble his efforts to avoid the group of enemy following him and get back to Sasuke quickly.
A swift scouting of the area surrounding Naruto's fight revealed what direction he'd gone in and Sasuke was not pleased. Naruto had been attacked again and had slowly been herded in the opposite direction from Sasuke. The tracks Sasuke followed quickly took to the trees and he was only slightly assuaged when he found the tell-tale marks hastily carved into the branches that Naruto had obviously left for Sasuke to follow.
Following the marks, Sasuke quickly began to trace Naruto's back trail.
Naruto stayed still in his chosen tree, a giant thing with branches near the top that were thicker than his waist, and watched as the group that had been following him finally stopped combing the area and went running back the way Naruto had come and straight towards where he knew Sasuke was going to be.
There were no doubts in Naruto's mind that Sasuke would be tracking him by now so the group of enemy ninja would reach him in a matter of minutes.
Naruto gnawed on his lip a little, the salty taste of left over blood from a minor cut giving it a hint of flavour, and then slowly began to follow the group. Damned if he'd let them attack Sasuke unaware.
Sasuke didn't get far along Naruto's trail before he was set upon by a group of ninja.
The group was bigger than the last one and Sasuke was forced to stop worrying so hard about his missing team-mate and to focus. Eyes flashed red with his Sharingan, mimicking the colour that soon coated his kunai making them slick and hard to hold.
Naruto didn't get far. Some of the nin had doubled back and he soon had a small fight on his hands. More than a small fight really; but nothing he couldn't handle. His worry and anxiousness to get back to Sasuke made him sloppy though and getting the group out of his way took longer than it should have.
Cursing himself, and cursing the nin that had attacked him, Naruto eliminated them all in one way or another and then shot back down his back trail.
Spinning in mid-air, Sasuke delivered a double kick to the last of the nin that had attacked him then, landing in a tightly coiled crouch, he glared around him, searching for anyone who could have been hiding in the trees for a chance for an unguarded moment.
Except that he could feel eyes on him. The malignant force behind the gaze burned into the back of his neck and made the tiny hairs there stand on end.
Moving out of his crouched position, he tightened his grip on the single kunai he still held (the other having been lodged in a tree barely a minute into the fight) and looked around himself slowly, turning on the spot to carefully examine every piece of his surroundings.
The one who had been watching him was standing before Sasuke when he got back to his original position.
Sasuke froze as he realised who it was, his throat going dry and his grip on his Kunai becoming shaky. It was him. Sasuke grit his teeth together, not even trying to suppress the growl that clawed it's way up out of his throat, and opened his eyes wide to reveal the three perfect dots in each eye, in preparation for battle.
The man remained still for a moment and then a slow smile ghosted over his lips. "So hasty…little brother."
"Daaaamn!" Naruto whined as he was halted, again, by a group of nin's laying in ambush. What was this; get in Naruto's way day?! "Get the hell out of my way!" Naruto yelled as he slammed someone hasty enough to attack him head on into a tree.
None of his opponents responded, but they didn't get out of his way either.
"Argh! I am so going to kick all of your arse's so hard you'll be sorry you ever got in my way!" He screamed and threw himself into the middle of the group, his hands forming signs as he flew through mid-air, "Mass kage-bunshin no jutsu!"
Sasuke took a cautious step backwards as Itachi took a slow step towards him and took a breath, forcing himself to remain calm and think. What was he doing here? Why was he here?
He took another, slow step backwards, his mind racing as he thought. The unexplained disappearances and the terror on the villages so thick you could taste it must have been cause by this man, but why?
Why? He knew why! Sasuke suddenly jerked his head up and around, doing his best to search the area for the Chakra of his missing partner; where the hell was Naruto?
Sasuke's first thought, the obvious one, was that the entire situation here had been staged. Staged so that Itachi could get his hands on Naruto, or Sasuke, or both. Then he shook his head; there was no way Itachi could have known that Naruto and Sasuke would be sent on this mission; this had to be an attack of opportunity.
Sasuke leveled his gaze back on his brother, his quick search for Naruto's Chakra unsuccessful, and found himself growling, "what are you doing here?" he demanded.
Argh! They just kept on coming! Had every evil ninja in the world suddenly decided to visit this part of the forest or something? How the hell was he supposed to get out of this?!
Naruto felt the returning Chakra of no less than five of his clones and growled under his breath and put his back to a tree. Bastards, they just weren't going to get out of his way, were they? Well, one more try (no use destroying the forest for no reason) and then he'd call out the big guns.
"I don't think that's any of your business," Itachi replied, his voice a calm monotone that rivalled even Sasuke's for lack of emotion.
Sasuke glared, his muscles tensing and the grip he had on his kunai forcing his fingers to turn white with the pressure.
"What do you want?!" Sasuke adjusted his position again, moving his hand closer to his weapons.
Itachi's eyes raked over Sasuke's preparations and then he slowly met his younger brothers gaze, answering without hint of hesitation or interest.
"The blond," he said the words as if tasting them. "Uzumaki Naruto."
Sasuke's gaze went flat. He'd expected the answer, especially after what had happened the last time he'd seen his brother; but to hear the words was another thing entirely. There was no way, absolutely no way, he'd let that murdering bastard touch Naruto.
"Do you plan to fight me?" Itachi asked, his voice finally showing an emotion; amusement. "You're still to weak."
Sasuke's vision went white, the emotions he'd been pinning behind his icy inner walls flashing through him in an instant. He was not weak, not now. He'd prove it.
With a cry of rage he took his kunai in both hands and hurled himself at his brother with all his might.
Focusing Chakra into his feet, Naruto leapt upwards into the tree and hung onto a thick branch, attaching his feet to it firmly and ignoring the feeling of blood rushing to his head as he hung there upside-down.
Okay, try number two with the mass kage-bunshin hadn't worked; time to use the stronger stuff.
Closing his eyes to concentrate, Naruto trusted in his clones to protect and hide him and cupped his hands, one over the other, near his chest, his mind focusing on the Chakra he was gathering between them. It had been hard, but he'd managed a better manner of control over this move, instead of having to rely on having a clone around to help him with it. Slowly the Chakra between his hands began to swirl, sluggishly beginning to twist around itself and gaining speed by the second.
Naruto felt a smirk flit over his lips then he glared down at the fighting beneath him, if he aimed this right he could take out most of the idiots fighting him in less than a second.
He waited for his opening, his clones carefully manipulating the battle to give Naruto that perfect shot. The window of opportunity flashed up a few seconds later and Naruto released the chakra holding him to the tree branch and flipped in mid-air.
"Haaahhh!" Sasuke channelled Chakra to his feet and flipped in mid-air, planting his feet firmly on the trunk of the tree Itachi had thrown him at and, not even pausing, launched himself away from it again. Itachi was gone from where he had been, but Sasuke found him fairly quickly as he was knocked to the ground so hard his breath was driven out of his lungs and his kunai skidded away to be lost amongst wet, muddy foliage.
Gasping for breath, Sasuke rolled and stumbled to his feet, his hand diving into his leg holster for another Kunai.
Itachi hadn't moved. He stood where he'd reappeared, watching Sasuke with an expression that might have been completely unreadable except that his lips seemed to be twisting slightly, as if he'd tasted something unpleasant.
Sasuke tightened his grip on his kunai as Itachi suddenly moved. The twist in his lips disappeared, but the look in his eyes grew hard and he pulled his left arm, which up until now had been slung inside the top of his robe ronin-style, free of his clothing and tucked the loose sleeve in to his belt to stop it from getting in the way.
Sasuke's eyes gleamed; his brother was finally getting serious.
Landing perfectly on the leaf strewn ground, Naruto looked over his handy work. It wasn't pretty but unsurprisingly the attacks on him and his clones had stopped. A couple of trees had been blown clean over (one had even been blown up) and quite a few of his own clones had been caught in the attack, but now there wasn't anyone even remotely conscious to challenge him.
Game, Set and Match: Naruto!
Letting the jutsu for his remaining clones go, Naruto jumped back into the trees and resumed his interrupted journey in search of Sasuke.
Sasuke crouched low on the tree branch he'd landed on and clutched a hand to his left side in an attempt to stop his heavy breathing from paining him any more than it already was. Actually, 'landed' wasn't really the right word to describe how he'd arrived where he was. 'Crashed into' sounded a little better; 'collided with' was even closer. Suffice to say it had collected him on his way down, cracking a few ribs but preventing him from having a meeting with the ground below that he would probably not want to experience.
"Weak!" A voice below him spat, disgust tingeing it around the edges, "All this time and still weak."
Sasuke growled low in his throat and pulled himself to his feet, testing the damage on his ribs before releasing them and pulling one of his last kunai out of his weapons pouch.
He would defeat Itachi. A second later he was free-falling.
Wind rushed passed his face, whipping his hair out of his eyes as he fell, and random leaves slapped at him, stinging only slightly as he passed them. After a certain distance he twisted in mid-air, flipping himself around so that when he landed it was on his feet. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he fell into a crouch to absorb the impact and then sprang back up again and launched himself across the small clearing they'd somehow found themselves in, at his brother.
Seconds later Sasuke returned the same way, a solid blow from Itachi having slammed him hard into a tree, causing him to slide halfway down it before he could catch himself and get more firmly on his feet. Sasuke's mouth twisted up into a brief smirk that disappeared almost instantly as a small coughing fit left him spitting out a mouthful of blood. He carefully adjusted his stance, searching out his injuries. It didn't feel like his ribs had taken any more damage…but things were certainly getting shaken up. No time to worry though.
Channelling his Chakra into his legs, Sasuke jumped into the air and, putting his now weapon-less hands together, formed a few seals and aimed himself in Itachi's general direction.
"Katon, Housenka no jutsu!" Sasuke's forefinger and thumb curled into a circle as he breathed the last word through them and a group of nearly ten small fireballs flew through the air towards where Itachi was standing. He had enough time to see Itachi's smirk before the flaming balls seemed to float to a stop then began to hurtle back the way they had come, straight at Sasuke.
He'd been ready for that. Twisting, he grabbed a hold of the end of a nearly invisible length of string that he'd attached to the tree he'd free-fallen from and used his weight to swing himself to safety. Behind him the fireballs exploded against the trees ringing the clearing and set them ablaze, severing his string in the process. Working with the momentum he already had, Sasuke let go of the now useless string and swung himself, ribs sending waves of aching pain through his side, up onto a relatively safe branch and dived his right hand into his weapons pouch, pulling out three shuriken and immediately hurling them at his blind side.
Itachi dodged the thrown weapons and landed back on the ground, the fire, that was now dying down as the Chakra supporting it dissipated, casting an eerie glow over his features and causing his eyes to shine red.
Sasuke glared down at his brother in the brief pause and his lips twisted into half sad, half frustrated smile. That man really was much better than him, even after all this time. Sasuke probably couldn't hope to win this fight; he'd already been damaged to much yet Itachi was still unmarked. At least this time he was putting up a fight. This time he wasn't the pathetic weakling he'd been when he'd last seen his brother. It made his chest tight to think that even after everything he'd been through, everything he'd done, he still needed more training if he hoped to beat that man – but he guessed it was to late now. So long as he could, he'd keep on fighting and unless Itachi tired of this game and fled, Sasuke could probably bet that this would be his last battle.
He briefly wondered where Naruto had gotten to; hopefully the blond had left already, going back to Konoha to report the outcome of this mission. Sasuke didn't want Itachi to get his filthy hands on the blond, no matter what happened.
Crouching slowly, Sasuke pulled his final Kunai from his leg holster and narrowed his eyes at Itachi. He couldn't hope to win, but he could hope to wound. Itachi would remember this fight, Sasuke would make sure of it.
Using his free hand to pull another three shuriken from his weapons pouch, Sasuke leapt into the air and hurled them at one of the still flaming branches above Itachi's head, snapping it away from it's tree and sending it crashing to the ground.
Itachi's dodged easily and Sasuke twisted himself around from his original flight path, throwing his kunai at the other man and grabbing hold of a tree branch to swing himself behind the tree's main trunk.
Quickly he focused his mind on his hand and began to gather his Chakra, forming the Chidori taught to him by Kakashi. It was the one move that Sasuke was fairly sure Itachi couldn't counter. The blue glow intensified around his left hand and Sasuke waited; but not for long. Barely ten seconds after Sasuke had taken cover behind the tree trunk and gathered the Chidori there was a deafening explosion as the fire from the falling tree branch ignited an explosion note he'd planted earlier in the fight.
Sasuke used the explosion as cover and hurled himself back into the clearing, freezing only a moment at what he saw. Itachi was still in the clearing, his face a picture of surprise. Surprise. It wasn't Sasuke's feeble attack of his kunai that had startled him, or the unexpected explosion either. No, what had him in a moment of complete guardedness was that when Itachi had dodged the kunai and then begun to dodge the explosion, some freak strike of dumb luck had caused the blast of the explosion to hurl that same weakly thrown kunai at him again and he was now unexpectedly pinned to a tree by his loose sleeve.
Sasuke saw his chance. Maybe at his level of training he couldn't beat Itachi in a fair fight, but right now, in this moment, Itachi had no way to escape. He could win!
Yelling something unintelligible, Sasuke gripped his left wrist with his right hand and began to run at his brother, the Chidori held ready…and abruptly time seemed to slow down.
Sasuke could see clearly the expression on Itachi's face, the eyes wide with shock and, somehow, a small amount of satisfaction. Around them leaves, twigs and branches from the trees destroyed in the explosion fell to the ground, littering it with half shredded greenery. And out of the corner of his eyes Sasuke spotted a sudden appearance of sunshine blond hair.
Time suddenly seemed to regain its hold of the situation and Sasuke watched in horror as that flash of sunshine blond became none other than Naruto, crashing into the clearing at a reckless speed before coming to a sliding stop. To late Naruto realised that whatever was going on in the clearing he had better not interfere with it, and to late he slid to a stop, halting in a crouch between Sasuke and his target.
Naruto flinched back, his arms raising to try and defend himself from the crackling blue energy coming straight at him and tensed as he felt a rush of heated wind swipe narrowly passed his head and suddenly there was a body half leaning against him, arm clutching tightly around his shoulders. He froze.
At his right there was a sizzling sound and the faint smell of burnt dirt, then nothing but the sound of ragged breathing coming from the person leaning on him. Sasuke. It had to be Sasuke.
Uncertainly, Naruto lifted his head from behind his arms and got a face full of sweat damp black hair. Definitely Sasuke.
"S-Sasuke?" he asked tentatively.
The arm around him tightened even more, squeezing his shoulder painfully.
"You…you idiot!" Sasuke said, his voice cracking slightly. The black-haired boy suddenly pushed Naruto away from him and staggered to his feet, glaring down at him, "you complete idiot!"
Naruto fell backwards and quickly put his hands out behind him to catch his fall. His right hand came down on warm dirt and Naruto moved his gaze there to see a ragged hole, smoke and the smell of burning dirt wafting from it. Naruto felt his skin crawl; that had been to close.
"Do you even realise what you've done!?" Sasuke suddenly yelled making Naruto snap his bewildered gaze back to the black-haired boy.
"I'm sorry," Naruto said, meaning it. "I didn't know what was going on, I didn't get in front of you on purpose."
Sasuke's jaw was clenched tightly, as were the hands at his sides, and his glare, one that Naruto hadn't seen since they were twelve and Sasuke had seriously been trying to kill him, was aimed straight at Naruto.
"You have no idea what you've done," he said from between clenched teeth, and Naruto found himself resisting the urge to try crawling away from that awful glare.
"W-what I've done…?"
"That. Was. Itachi," Sasuke ground out. "My. Brother."
Itachi? Sasuke's Brother? Naruto had never heard the full story of what had happened between Sasuke and his brother, all he knew was that it had left Sasuke with an obsessive desire to kill the man that Naruto didn't think was healthy. But if Naruto had interrupted that fight, letting Itachi get away, which he had, judging by the murderous look being directed at him, then he was in a little bit of trouble.
"I didn't mean…" Naruto began and suddenly found himself being forcibly dragged to his feet and shaken.
"You don't even realise what you've done!" Sasuke half yelled. "Don't tell me you didn't mean to!"
Okay, so maybe he was in more than a little trouble; but still, like hell he'd take this whole shaking thing calmly. No one shakes Uzumaki Naruto.
"Damn it, bastard! Stop shaking me!" Naruto attempted to kick Sasuke and instead found himself pushed up against a tree, with the air knocked out of him.
"That man," Sasuke said from where he was now so close to Naruto's face their noses where just about touching and he could feel Sasuke's breath, hot against his face, "killed them all. Killed every man, woman and child in my clan, all of them. He murdered them all, Naruto. Murdered my cousins, my aunts, my uncles…even our parents!"
Naruto forgot about trying to regain his breath and settled for staring at Sasuke in horror. Murdered…?
"Itachi, my older brother, murdered our parents and left only me," Sasuke's voice was level now, not shouting, but it now had a quality to it that made Naruto's skin crawl. "He used his Sharingan, made me watch what he'd done. Hate me he said. Live miserably, live through the ugliness; learn to survive." Sasuke's grip on Naruto became painfully strong and he began to seriously fear for the shoulder that Sasuke was grinding against the tree trunk. "So I lived. I lived and I hated and I trained and I almost beat him… Then you got in the way. You…" Sasuke's voice changed from furious to half choked in an instant, "and I almost killed you."
This was why Sasuke was an orphan. This was why, for as long as Naruto could remember, Sasuke had been aiming to kill the one family member he had left. And finally a chance had come for Sasuke to complete his mission, his purpose as an Avenger...and Naruto had ruined it. Had blundered into the situation, half-cocked and unprepared, right into the path of Sasuke finally getting what he needed.
Naruto was suddenly certain; Sasuke must hate him. The black-haired boy was certainly staring at him as if he did. He had to do something. He had to fix this. He couldn't let Sasuke hate him; not because of this. Weren't they friends now? Ever since…ever since Naruto had woken from his coma six-months ago they had been friends; they'd reached an understanding, at least. Sasuke was his best friend. He couldn't lose him, couldn't lose that, he refused.
Say something! he ordered himself, staring into Sasuke's distant eyes. Damn it! Say something! Anything! Make it better! Can't think…can't lose him…oh Gods, say anything!
"I-…." there was nothing. Nothing for him to say. No bravado, no angry come-backs; no words at all. He was going to lose the only person who thought of him as an equal. One of the few people he could think of as family.
Breathe, he reminded himself. Breathe, don't panic.
"We can chase him, he can't have gotten that far away." Good thinking, Itachi was fleeing so between the two of them they had a chance to catch up, to stop Itachi in his tracks and maybe even defeat him. Naruto would help, would do whatever it took.
Sasuke's distant gaze focused on Naruto sharply and he took a deep breath. Briefly, his eyes flickered in the direction that Itachi had disappeared, and then he focused on Naruto again, his eyes hard.
"No," he denied, his voice flat. "No, we can't."
"B-but…, why the hell not?!" Naruto demanded. "I messed this up, Sasuke, but we can fix it! With us both-"
"No!" Sasuke cut over-top of Naruto, "I don't know why he was here, in this area, or what he was doing to the people here; but I do know that today, this fight, the separation, all of it, was because of you. He wants you, and if we chase him we're only giving him what he wants."
Sasuke was still visibly angry, but the palm that had been grinding Naruto's shoulder against the tree behind him had let up its pressure.
"I wish I knew why," the boy muttered, frustrated. "Why does he keep coming after you? What does he want?"
Naruto took a sharp breath. That was the ultimate question, wasn't it? Why would Itachi be so focused on Naruto, an idiot who talked to much and to loud; Naruto, who had no family, and few friends; Naruto, the dobe, even in the eyes of his best friend.
Sasuke's eyes were on him again; sharp, searching. They narrowed.
"You know," he stated. "You know why he wants you, you know what he wants."
"He…. I…." Sasuke's anger was coming back, and Naruto couldn't blame him. Naruto had been hiding the Kyubi from Sasuke, from everyone, for as long as he had known about it. On the one hand, it was part of him, and he accepted that; but, on the other hand, it was a deep, dark, secret. For as long as Naruto could remember the adults of Konoha had treated him like he was nothing, or worse, like he was the demon fox his body held. Deep inside, where Naruto shoved the voices that tried to tell him how useless he was; where he hid the hurt, and the loneliness, was also a voice that warned that everyone would leave him if they knew. Sasuke, Sakura, Konohamaru...they would all back away from him in horror, would run as far as they could, if they only knew.
How could Naruto tell Sasuke, now? How could he tell the other boy that he'd been hiding what he truly was for so long? How could he explain so that Sasuke didn't leave him?
"Naruto," the word was growled and the hand on Naruto's shoulder was tightening again. "Why does he want you? What are you hiding?"
He couldn't deny it; that would just make Sasuke angry. And later, if he ever did find out, then it would be worse. But...how could Sasuke ever trust him again if he told him now? How would he ever forgive Naruto for being what he was?
Okay. He had to do it, he couldn't get away from it, he couldn't get around it. He just had to...just had to rip the band-aid off and take whatever happened. This wasn't any different than anything else he had dealt with over the years; he had faced it all and come out the other side stronger. He had...he had learned to live with the bad things, had learned to power through them and find the better things on the other side. This wasn't any different; he could do this.
"I'm the Kyubi," the words came out far quieter than he had meant them to. He'd meant to be forceful, unashamed; instead the words had caught in his throat.
"What?" Sasuke's eyebrows raced to meet each other in a puzzled expression.
"I-I'm the Kyubi!" Naruto yelled the words this time, half panicked. He had to get the words out. "I'm the nine-tailed fox demon. I-it was sealed inside me when I was a baby.; it's why I have so much chakra! I-I- See!"
Sasuke's expression was still confused, as if he wasn't quite comprehending what Naruto was saying.
Naruto abruptly yanked the zip on his jacket down, causing it to hang loosely at his sides, and pulled his mesh shirt up so Sasuke could see his belly.
"The seal shows up when I use the Kyubi's chakra!" Naruto babbled, and tried to focus and draw the Nine-tails' chakra out.
Damn it! He could feel Sasuke's eyes burning into him; he couldn't concentrate. "I'm not lying!" he said frantically and focused harder to bring the nine-tails' suddenly elusive chakra out. Come on! It was easy to do these days when he was fighting; he'd trained hard to manage it, why wasn't it working now?
"Argh!" Naruto abruptly gave up on summoning his chakra and decided to show the seal the easy way. Grabbing a kunai from his belt pouch, he shoved his sleeve up and sliced the blade over his arm.
"Naruto! What the hell are you doing!? Idiot!"
Naruto blinked in surprise as the blade was suddenly knocked from his hand and his cut arm was taken in a firm grip.
"I-it's fine," Naruto said and pulled his shirt up again. "See; the seal. The nine-tails will heal the wound," he said and Sasuke froze, staring at the seal that had finally begun to glow on Naruto's belly.
Naruto pulled his shirt down over his stomach again, "I told you I wasn't lying."
"That's why Itachi wants you," Sasuke muttered his eyes going wide as he released Naruto's arm and took a step away from him. "The fox demon."
"The fox demon that destroyed Konoha seventeen years ago…" Sasuke eyes were still on Naruto, but his gaze was far away. "All that power..."
Eyes wide with fear, breath hitching, Naruto waited for his world to shatter.