Well, it's been a while. That's about all I can say. As many have probably noticed, my name's changed, but it is still the same old me… with less time to do any writing. But I enjoy this story – so it will take a while with working a full-time job and everything, but one day this will completed. Hopefully. We're nearing the end anyway. I only anticipate four chapters at the absolute most left to this story.
I would like to take this moment then, to dedicate this chapter to Maliciously Creative. Hopefully she can find peace in the hereafter.
I hope everyone enjoys this chapter. Thank you.
Wish Upon a Lost Wing
Chapter Fifteen: The Incarnate
"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that's not what ships were built for."
"We're going to hell," Sasuke decided firmly, his obsidian eyes never leaving Temari's.
The blond's eyes widened at this prospect. "Only demons and Immortals can get into Hell. You are a human. That wouldn't work. You'd be burned just for getting within feet of the gate!"
Sasuke glared at the Demon. "We don't know that!" he protested, his hands clenching into fists. His voice quieted as he continued. "Only Itachi and Naruto know… and I'm willing to risk it. He said to find him. I'm going to find him."
Temari shook her head, realizing that there was no dissuading the black-haired teenager from this. "Fine. I'll be your guide. Don't worry. No one should mess with you while I'm there."
That peaked Sasuke's curiosity. "Why?"
Temari shrugged. "I'm Gaara's big sister. No one messes with me for fear of him."
Sasuke frowned. "But Gaara's dead…"
"And only those who were there know that."
A look of realization dawned on the man's face. "Ah."
She nodded once. "Are you sufficient with any weaponry?" she asked after a moment of silence.
Sasuke was surprised at this question. "What?"
"Are you. Sufficient. With. Any. Weaponry?" she repeated, emphasizing every word.
"I'm okay with a katana, I've had a bit of training… nothing much though," he replied, confused. His training in martial arts had been mostly narrowed down to hand-to-hand combat, but he had received a bit of instruction in how to use a katana.
"We'll stop and get you one, then."
"Are you anticipating fighting?"
She looked over at him with a look that asked if he was joking. "Honey, its Hell. There's always violence." Sasuke looked a little disturbed at this prospect. She sent him a haughty look. "Still willing to go?"
The Uchiha set his mouth in a grim line, remembering Naruto's carefree smile. "Yes."
"Then let's go. We've a few errands to run first. The Armory for example."
Sasuke nodded. He went around his apartment, packing a small backpack full of rations for the two of them. When he finished, he nodded at the blond. "Let's go."
Naruto looked out across the horizon. Unlike the human conception of fire and brimstone, Hell was actually a rather beautiful place. It had birds, trees, and land. The main difference between the realms was the sky: Heaven had a pearly white, Earth had a beautiful blue and Hell had an interesting mix of red and black swirls.
The blond shook his head. It had been a little past six months ago that Naruto had left Sasuke and the others. Not a day went by that he did not think of the raven-haired young man.
Just a little bit farther and I'll be able to go back, he thought to himself.
Go back? If you were so intent on going back, why haven't you? Kyuubi rumbled in the back of his mind.
A scowl crossed Naruto's face. You know perfectly well why not.
You are afraid.
Naruto rolled his eyes. Well yeah. You saw what happened to Gaara. I don't want that happening to Sasuke or any of the others.
But mostly Sasuke, the Demon whispered knowingly.
Naruto nodded in defeat. Yeah. Mostly Sasuke.
The two were silent again, enjoying the gradual lighting of the land as the crimson sun rose. It cast long red streaks of light across the swirling sky, creating a rather amazing effect.
You need to make a choice, Naruto. And soon, you will need help for what you are trying to do.
Naruto lifted his chin stubbornly. I will not allow anyone close tome put themselves in danger.
Kyuubi sighed. They will do what they will whether you allow them to or not.
Naruto glowered at nothing, considering that he was having a conversation in his own head. We won't be contacting anyone, do I make myself clear?
Kyuubi snickered. Too late.
Naruto's eyes widened. What?
I already got word out nearly a month ago. Of course, I had to put it in code for safety reasons, but one of them will probably figure it out soon.
Naruto bit his lip. Who did you get word to?
The blond girl. Gaara's kin.
If that is her name, then yes.
When did you do this?
I did it while you were sleeping. Now, if you'll continue whatever it is that you do, I'm getting some sleep.
With that, the presence of the former Demon King faded into the back of the blond's mind. Naruto sighed, muttering curses. This argument was a common one. In the past six months, Naruto and the Demon King had butted heads over the issue at least once a week, sometimes more. Sighing, the hybrid Immortal stood and stretched. There was no use fretting what was over and done. If Temari or anyone from home ever found him, he would have to explain to them that he didn't want nor need his help.
This being decided, Naruto went off to catch him some dinner.
Sasuke and Temari had been walking for quite a while when the Demon told her companion to stop. There were in a nice secluded section of a park, where the trees were so close together that you could barely see through them.
"This'll do," she said.
"Do for what?" he asked.
Temari just grinned at him. "You'll see."
With that, Temari muttered something in a language that almost hurt Sasuke's ears to listen to. A loud crack split the skies as the ground rumbled. Temari stared blankly ahead of her until large iron black gates appeared. As soon as the gates had fully materialized, the shaking stopped.
The blond stepped up to the Gate and pressed a hand against it. "Come on, Sasuke. Let's see if you really are Immortal," she said. With a grunt, she pushed the door open and skipped inside.
Sasuke hesitated for a moment. He didn't know what would happen if he walked here. He stared up at the Iron Gates. He had to make the decision here. He could turn and run. He could disappear. He could be free. He didn't have to do any of this. This was crazy. This was insane. He just… wanted a normal life. A normal life with… no. He couldn't do any of that. He couldn't run. He couldn't hide. He couldn't disappear.
Because he would hate himself.
With a deep breath, the boy slipped through the door. Pain shot through his temples. It almost felt like his head would split apart. He gripped his hair, pulling at it without even realizing what he was doing, hoping… hoping that it would be enough to make the pain go away. It hurt worse than anything that he ever felt. Everything was swirling. Nothing was right. Everything was distorted, upside-down, blurred together. He had to close his eyes against this vision in front of him. It was too much for him to take.
Then, it suddenly stopped.
"You can open your eyes," Temari whispered in his ear. "Congrats. You're definitely an Immortal. Let's go."
Sasuke opened his eyes and looked around. A dark falcon swam through the sky, skimming the treetops with a small cry. The wind rushed at him, dancing through his clothes as he took in the landscape… that looked very much like many he had seen on Earth.
"It's…" he began.
"Just like Earth?" Temari finished. "What'd you expect?"
"Fire and brimstone."
"It's a little less Catholic here."
The Uchiha glared, sitting on the ground.
Temari smiled at him. "Amateur's mistake. It's all right. But the only difference between Heaven, Earth and Hell is the sky and the magical ability of the occupants. Different species. It happens. Earth is the least magical, but most technological. Each has its good and it's bad, I suppose."
Sasuke nodded, taking in this new information. "So… uh… okay. Where are we heading now?"
Temari grinned. "The Armory. Don't worry. You'll like Zabuza. He makes the best weaponry ever. Oh, but first I should close the Gate."
She walked back over to the Gate, murmuring in that Ancient language. As she reached out her hand, a loud cry startled her. Sasuke and Temari stared at the Gate as two figures jumped through the Gate. The large, burly form of a dog shot through first, landing softly on his padded paws. The second figure was humanoid. He, too, squeezed through the Gate before they could shut.
"Shikamaru?" Sasuke let out as he recognized who was there. "Akamaru?" The dog barked in confirmation.
Sasuke let out a strangled sound, completely ignoring when Temari finally closed the Gate completely.
The blond Demon turned to the two newcomers angrily. "What the fuck are you doing here?" she snarled.
Akamaru barked, as though trying to answer.
Shikamaru rolled his eyes. "You need help. We're here."
"How did you know it was my Gate?"
Temari glowered at the two. "Fine, you can join. I take it you have your own weapon, Shikamaru?"
"Good. Sasuke and I need to visit the Armory. You are not to enter. Do you understand?"
Shikamaru nodded. Akamaru did as well. The dog walked over to Sasuke, sitting right next to him, tail thumping on the ground. He sniffed the boy and then licked his cheek. Sasuke shot at glare at this, but the dog just nuzzled the Uchiha instead of paying attention to the look he was being given.
Temari, watching the exchange, felt the anger drain out of her. If nothing else, she could see that Akamaru accepted Sasuke as his new partner. The pup was probably hurting at the loss of Kiba. However, there was still some sort of abstract beauty in the mutt poking Sasuke in the cheek with his nose.
"Come on, let's move out," Temari said. "Day's going to end soon and I want to get to the Armory before that."
The others agreed and they all set out. Akamaru stayed by Sasuke's side diligently, unless he got distracted by some new scent.
An hour later, the suns were setting, and a large block building showed itself a half mile away. It was foreboding, with no windows, as it stood silently against the blood red sky.
They reached the door. Temari turned towards their Angelic companions. "Wait here. If someone comes by, then hide. We don't want anyone to know of your presence yet. Especially Zabuza. He's a Demon, all right."
Shikamaru nodded, having heard of the name Zabuza before. Akamaru whined when he realized that he couldn't follow Sasuke.
The Uchiha looked down, not quite sure how to deal with this newfound companion. However, in some silly way, the pup reminded him of Naruto before Naruto and Amatsu had merged, and therefore, he had a certain fondness for the mutt already. "I'll be back," he promised. He leaned over and ruffled the pup's ears. Akamaru licked his hand and sat down, tail no longer wagging as he looked up at Sasuke with eyes that were far too intelligent.
Shikamaru gave a small smile. "We'll be waiting," he promised.
Temari and Sasuke nodded before entering the building. The inside was just as foreboding as the outside. The front entrance opened to show a dark hallway, dimly lit by lanterns spaced every few feet. As soon as they entered, the door slammed behind them. Sasuke looked at it warily, trying to figure out how that could have happened with no wind, but Temari paid it no attention. Confidently, she walked down the hallway. Sasuke, after a moment of staring at the door, followed her.
At the end of the hallway was a large wooden door. The brown shone ominously due to a small lamp on either side of the frame. Sasuke gritted his teeth against the trickle of uneasiness that was dripping down his spine.
"Relax," Temari whispered. "It's only Zabuza."
Sasuke glared at her. The blonde shrugged and opened the door to a large room. It was better lit than the hallway, though not by much. It was completely empty except for a large wooden desk. At the desk sat a man. His face was covered in bandages, except for his eyes – ones that scowled at the world around him. He was shirtless, with muscles that bulged against his skin. Lying innocently on the table in front of him was a large sword. Sasuke couldn't even imagine lifting it. He was slightly put off by the lack of weapons, but his attention was drawn to the man when he spoke.
"Subaku Temari," the Demon whispered. His voice echoed throughout the entire chamber.
Temari smirked. "Momochi Zabuza."
There was a moment of silence between the two that had Sasuke clenching his hands open and closed.
"What brings you to my establishment?" Zabuza asked.
"Weapons. And information."
"I have some."
"We'll discuss that later. The usual?"
Temari nodded. "This guy also needs something."
Zabuza, for the first time, turned to look at Sasuke. "And who is this?"
Before Sasuke could say a word, Temari intervened. "An ally."
"Where's he from? He doesn't smell of Hell."
"He's complicated," the blonde Demon responded with a note of finality in her voice.
Zabuza nodded. "Kid, what do you prefer?"
"What?" Sasuke asked.
"Weaponry. What are you going for?"
Sasuke shrugged. "Katana."
Zabuza snarled. "That's not interesting, but it's your choice."
The Demon chuckled at the boy's expression. "Haku!" he called.
A young man walked in. Sasuke's eyes widened. It was obviously a man, but Haku was the prettiest man that the Uchiha had ever seen.
"Zabuza-san?" the man asked politely. His entire demeanor seemed polite and subservient, but Sasuke didn't really trust that.
"I need materials for a Subaku special and get me the ingredients for a firestone katana for the twerp."
"Yes, Zabuza-san," the man said as he bowed to the customers and left.
"He's polite," Temari commented.
Zabuza nodded. "Yes. You mentioned information. What do you need?"
"What I say does not leave this conversation."
"It never does."
Satisfied at the answer, Temari gave a short nod. "Uzumaki Naruto's current whereabouts and Uchiha Itachi's partner in Heaven."
Zabuza rested his chin on his hand. "That is some pretty hefty information. What are you planning to do with it?"
Temari looked at him blankly. "We're going to meet up with Uzumaki and stop this war."
Zabuza laughed. "Stop the war? You? That's a joke."
Temari grinned. "I love war, as do my brothers, but this war feels wrong. Gaara was the first to notice it."
"It's a war," the elder Demon retorted. "It's supposed to feel wrong if you think too much about it."
"There's too much not making sense about it. The missing couriers, the misinformation, everything. There's too much trickery here."
Zabuza sat against the back of his chair, looking down at her. "I wondered if anyone else noticed that. I don't know Uchiha's partner. Whoever they are, they are Guardian or higher. Perhaps one of the Kages. Uzumaki Naruto, however, I do know. For a small price, I can configure a compassigem to lock onto him at all times. If you don't want that, he was last seen roughly sixty-three kilometers from the Akatsuki Castle, in the town of Plenhansed. He seems to be heading toward the castle, but not in a straight line. You should be able to catch him in about a week on foot."
"We'll take the gem. Just in case."
A moment later, Haku walked back in, carrying a black leather case which he put on Zabuza's desk.
"Anything else, Zabuza-san?"
Haku nodded and went to retrieve it. Zabuza took the materials out of the case that Haku had dropped on his desk and placed them side by side on the table. Sasuke couldn't quite understand what he was going to do. He had steel, cloth, all sorts of different things, but nothing substantial. A red stone about three inches in diameter caught Sasuke's attention. Without warning of any kind, the Demon raised his arm, which was now crackling with some type of misty lightning and slammed in onto the table. A brilliant white flash blinded the two onlookers. When the light cleared, a giant fan and a katana lay innocently on the table near the large sword that Sasuke could only assume was Zabuza's.
Sasuke was staring in wonder. So that's why the Armory didn't have any weapons. They were all made. Probably with some sort of personal touch to each customer.
This can't be cheap, was all he thought.
"Test them," the burly Demon encouraged. "See how they feel."
Sasuke eagerly grabbed the red and blue hilt of the katana. He felt a jolt run up both of his arms. He couldn't believe how right this weapon felt in his hands. Trembling slightly with anticipation, he slowly unsheathed the blade. It shown with silver fire, with one long red streak down the exact center of the metal. Sasuke was in awe of this weapon.
Temari, too, had grabbed her weapon. She snapped open the giant fan, holding it lovingly. "Zabuza, I think these may be your finest work yet. You gonna charge me extra for that?"
Zabuza shook his head. "Just bring me the head of Uchiha Itachi. That's the only payment I require for all of this. Also, so they can't be traced back to me if or when you fail… those weapons will self-destruct when you die."
Once again, Haku interrupted the conversation with his entrance. "I have already configured this, Zabuza-san," he said.
Zabuza nodded his approval, handing the compassigem over. "Enjoy the fight. Kill someone for me. Please."
Temari nodded, accepting the small green gem that was handed to her, placing it in her pocket. She snapped the fan shut, storing it in the holster she had strapped to her back. She smirked up at Zabuza. "See ya around, old man. Haku. Come on, Sasuke."
The Uchiha nodded and followed her out of the building, not quite sure what to think of Zabuza or his polite assistant.
As soon as they exited, Sasuke found himself on the ground with a large white dog standing over him; jaws open in what can only be conceived as a smile.
"Dammit, Akamaru," he grumbled. The dog only yipped happily in return. Sasuke sighed and shoved Akamaru off him. "Come on, dumb mutt."
The Angelic dog stayed right at his heels.
Shikamaru turned to Temari as soon as they began to walk again. "Did you get what you came for?"
The blond nodded. "I did."
"I also got a compassigem that will show us where to find Naruto. It's attuned to his energy."
"How do we know it'll lead us the right way?"
Temari shrugged. "Zabuza's an old family friend. He was quite the formidable demon in his time. Now he honestly just hates Itachi… who we need to kill. So he's all for helping, so long as we bring back Itachi's head."
"I see," Shikamaru stated evenly. "Where are we headed next?"
"To Naruto. Kankarou can find me when he wishes to. He's off gathering information about the war anyway, so it would be silly to interrupt him."
"Which way is Naruto then?"
Temari grinned. "One last stop."
Both Sasuke and Shikamaru looked at her when they heard this. "One last stop?" they repeated.
"Yes," she replied. "Transportation."
The two men exchanged a look while Akamaru barked.
"Here we are," the Demon called, leading the way into another large building. This time, it was a stable with long lines of black steeds. Fiery red manes drifted from their necks; where feathers would have been on a draft horse, these animals had flames licking around their lower legs. Bright burning eyes or fathomless black depths stared at the group with interest.
"What are they?" Sasuke asked.
"Hellsteeds," Temari answered. "Fastest way to travel in all of Hell."
"We… ride these?"
Temari looked over at him as though he had just sprouted another head. "No. Carriage."
"I've never… I… don't like horses."
"Suck it up."
That line quieted the Uchiha. He sat on a chair near the entrance, sulking. Akamaru went over next to him and laid his head on the boy's lap.
Temari rolled her eyes, obviously not in the mood to deal with Sasuke's brooding and turned to Shikamaru. "Stay with him. I'll get us a steed and carriage."
Shikamaru nodded. Temari disappeared down the corridor, the animals reaching their noses towards her as she passed.
The Scout turned to Sasuke. It was awkward with just the two of them. "How… have you been?" the Angel asked.
Sasuke looked up at him. "Lonely," he answered truthfully, almost surprised at what he said. "Where's Hyuuga?"
"Mortal. Can't enter Hell," Shikamaru responded.
"That's… unfortunate," the Uchiha said without really meaning it. He was glad that Neji wasn't here. He didn't need to be butting heads with the Guardian whenever an issue came up, and he knew that they would be doing so. It was not uncommon knowledge that the two would never get along. The only one that believed they might see past their differences was Naruto, and he wasn't here to keep the peace.
"I hope we can find Naruto soon," Sasuke commented after a moment.
Shikamaru nodded, looking at the forlorn man. He didn't want to mention the age gap or the fact that one day Sasuke would die and that that would hurt Naruto more than anything else. The two descended into silence, each one thinking their own thoughts.
A half an hour later, Temari returned. "Come on," she said, beckoning them closer. "We've got ourselves a horse and carriage."
She led them around back of the building where there was a large Hellsteed already hooked up to a beautiful black and red carriage. The roof of the carriage was down and the seats were made of velvet. Sasuke looked at it warily.
"Come on, Sasuke, suck it up. Seriously. You call yourself a man?"
"I just don't like horses! It's no need to get on my case about it!" the Uchiha growled back, obviously perturbed at the thought of being afraid of a mere animal.
"His name's Diego. You'll get used to calling him that if you're going to stick around him," the woman explained. "Hellsteeds are intelligent and if they don't like you, well… you won't really exist anymore. Powerful creatures. I love them."
Sasuke drew in a deep breath and entered the carriage, making sure to sit in the back, as far away from Diego as he could possibly go.
Shikamaru grinned and sat in the seat next to Sasuke and Kankarou sat across from them. Akamaru took a few minutes to sniff Diego, and Diego regarded the animal with interest. The two finally seemed satisfied with each other and Akamaru hopped into the back of the carriage. Shikamaru closed the door behind the heavenly dog. Temari sat in the driver's seat.
Sasuke stole one glance at her as she gathered up the lines that were used to drive. "Do you even know how to drive this thing?" he asked.
"Of course," the blonde replied. She turned back to the front. "Get up!"
The horse began to plod along. The pace was quick and the carriage was bouncy. Every time they hit a bump or crack in the road, Sasuke thought that he was going to fly from the velvet seats and be left behind.
Shikamaru looked positively bored next to him. "Calm down and just enjoy the ride," he told the Uchiha.
With another deep breath, Sasuke squashed the fear he held in his body, trying to remain calm. Akamaru stared at him with those intelligent eyes and bounded over to him, making the carriage shake more. Sasuke's grip on the side was making his knuckles turn white.
The dog climbed up onto the seat in between Sasuke and Shikamaru and lay down, resting his hand on Sasuke's lap, his paws on the man's leg.
Sasuke allowed a brief smile at the dog, knowing that he was just trying to get Sasuke to feel more comfortable, but Sasuke didn't think he would ever be comfortable in this contraption. This evil, evil, evil contraption.
Thus the group began their journey to find Naruto.
It was two days. Two days later that they were nearing the town that Zabuza had told them. Kankarou had caught up along the way and sat next to his sister on the driver's seat. Sasuke had slowly gotten used to the feeling of almost being thrown with each step of Diego's fiery hooves. In fact, while he still wasn't comfortable around Diego, he didn't mind the carriage ride as much anymore.
It was Shikamaru's shout that alerted them all that they were growing close to their target. "There he is," Shikamaru said. He could see the familiar spiky blond hair flitting through the trees.
Temari nodded and urged Diego faster. The steed let out a piercing whinny as his speed increased.
Hearing the horse, Naruto looked back, eyes widening when he saw the carriage quickly approaching him. He couldn't tell who was driving it, but he couldn't outrun it. He skidded to a stop, hoping the carriage would just pass him by.
He didn't have that luck. As it drew closer, he finally saw who was there. He stared at the open-aired carriage neutrally. They were here and he was less than pleased about their presence.
"Temari and Kankarou I can understand," he finally stated, "but the rest of you?"
Akamaru barked, tongue lolling out of his mouth as he recognized the blond.
Naruto ignored the pup. "Go home."
Sasuke opened the carriage door and stepped down, standing in front of Naruto. He stood, staring down the shorter blond. "You honestly want me to go home?" he asked quietly.
Naruto looked away from the Uchiha. "You don't belong here."
"That's not what I asked."
"That's the only answer."
"Stop this bullshit and tell me."
The blond quieted. He chewed on his bottom lip. Finally, with a sigh, he said, "Yes. I honestly want you to go home."
Sasuke drew in a deep breath, exhaling it slowly. "I see."
He slowly turned and entered the carriage again. He sat on the far side, away from Naruto and turned to the expanse of trees that was immediately in his vision. What was I thinking? he growled in his mind. I come here, what did I expect? He left me. Did I honestly think that he didn't want to? How fucking naïve could I be?
He could feel the anger growing beneath his skin, choking him. He stood, leaving the carriage and walking away, not even realizing that he left the katana from Zabuza on the carriage seat. Akamaru growled at Naruto before following Sasuke.
Shikamaru watched his friend leave. He turned to Naruto. "Troublesome," he growled.
Temari's nostrils flared as her rage peaked. "Idiot!" she yelled at the other blond. "You're a fucking moron!"
"Why?" Naruto asked, honestly confused. He was just trying to protect the human – so why was everyone getting on his back about it?
"Do you honestly not get it? He… you're a fucking moron!"
Temari glared at him. "Ask him yourself. Kankarou, we're setting up camp here."
The younger demon nodded. "Okay."
Shikamaru stood with Kankarou, exiting the carriage. He stopped next to Naruto. "It's not my business much, what happened between you two. But… he's been hurting a lot. You've no right to judge him. Remember, you're the one who left him with no explanation."
"I-I gave him an-"
"Do you honestly think that's enough? Did you honestly think he wouldn't be hurt?"
"You left us all, Naruto." Shikamaru sighed. "Then we left him to find you. He's pretty much been alone since you left. Kiba's dead."
Naruto looked stricken. "Kiba's dead?"
Shikamaru sighed. "Now seemed the best time to tell you. I need to set up camp." Shikamaru walked toward where Temari and Kankarou were already beginning to make a fire pit and lay out bedrolls.
Naruto stood, shocked at his friends' attitude towards him. He looked off in the direction Sasuke and Akamaru had gone, wondering if he would be given a chance to explain why he had left. With a muttered curse, he stomped off in the direction of his friend.
Sasuke kicked a stone as he walked through the darkening trees, the warm bulk of Akamaru by his side. Though Sasuke wanted to be alone, part of him was glad Akamaru was with him. He had grown used to the pup's constant attendance.
As he walked, he placed a hand in Akamaru's fur.
"I don't get it," he confessed to the pup. The dog looked up at him. "I… I don't want gratitude for coming here. A 'hello' would be nice. A 'how have you been since I've left you' would be good. Fuck, I shouldn't have come here." He sighed, breaking through the trees into a rather dreamy meadow. Sasuke sat, leaning against a tree at the edge. Akamaru stood guard. "What am I doing here, Akamaru?"
The dog whined, licking Sasuke's nose.
"I don't suppose you know either, do you?"
The dog stared at him with eerie intelligence.
"You're a good one. Don't know how you do it. With Kiba and all, now with me. You find us probably dumb with all the problems we have. Maybe I'm just not… right for any of this. It doesn't make sense – any of it. It-"
He was cut off by a low growl from Akamaru. Sasuke looked around, trying to catch whatever Akamaru had detected. He trusted Akamaru. He trusted the mutt to alert him to any danger. He couldn't see anything but got to his feet, hands raised. He had forgotten his katana in the carriage.
"Who's there?" he asked, trying to show confidence.
"Little, bitty Sasuke, long way from home," a guttural voice replied.
Akamaru's fur bristled. He let out a long, wailing how and shot off through the trees.
"Mutt!" the Uchiha yelled after him but the dog paid him no mind. Muttering a few choice swears, he turned back. A large demon stood in front of him, holding a giant sword. The demon was blue with yellow eyes and the face of a shark.
Sasuke stumbled back. "Who are you?"
"Hoshigaki Kisame," the demon replied cordially. "I am an associate of Uchiha Itachi."
Sasuke could feel the rage building at just the mention of his brother's name. He gritted his teeth. "And what are you here for?" he asked cautiously.
"You." The demon grinned. "Meet Samahade."
The blue demon swung the large weapon down at Sasuke, who barely managed to jump out of the way. Fear coursed through him. He was unarmed and alone against a demon that smelled of blood. Kisame was worse than Zabuza in that regard and Sasuke once again questioned what he was doing in Hell. He ducked under another swing of the mighty weapon. Kisame attacked again, this time catching Sasuke's arm. Instead of just cutting the skin like Sasuke anticipated, the demon raked the weapon down his flesh causing agonizing pain. As the sword stripped skin and muscle, he couldn't help the scream that escaped him.
"I don't see why Itachi is obsessed with you, Incarnate," Kisame taunted. "Look at you. You don't even remember anything from before, do you? We've always heard how powerful the Incarnate is and you can't even fight to save yourself. Pathetic." He grinned maliciously as he raked Samahade across Sasuke's back. "I should kill you right now, but Itachi has something else planned for you."
The demon abandoned his weapon and grabbed Sasuke's neck. Sasuke instinctively grasped the iron grip holding him, trying to peel it away. His struggles were in vain. This demon was a lot stronger than he was.
Shh, his mind told him in a voice that sounded like an older version of himself. Don't worry. We'll take care of you.
Who are you? Sasuke asked.
We are you, came the reply.
His vision was hazy now as dark blue energy rippled around him. Kisame looked at the boy, a sly grin on his face. His mission from Itachi was complete. He dropped the boy and gathered Samahade to make his exit.
He was surprised when a small crouched form appeared in front of him. The blue aura still surrounded the young man. When Sasuke spoke, it sounded like several people speaking with the same voice, just a bit out of sync.
"You hurt ourselves, funny demon," he said.
Hoshigaki smiled. This might be something worth fighting and his demon blood never turned away from a fight. He brought Samahade swinging down at top speed. It didn't even come close. Sasuke had jumped up, crashing his full body weight on the blade as Kisame swung down. The added weight knocked the weapon from the demon's hands. Sasuke didn't stop to look at the shark demon's expression as he balanced on his hands and swung his feet around to knock Kisame down. He sprung up once again, landing on Kisame's exposed torso. He raised his right arm, the energy around it narrowing to a point.
"Goodbye," he said, stabbing the demon through the neck with his energy blade. A moment later, Sasuke's head cleared and he could think clearly again.
You are good for us, the voice spoke up from the recesses of his mind.
What happens next? the Uchiha wanted to know.
You get our memories and we become you.
Will it hurt?
The process began and with it, Sasuke let out a piercing scream. He didn't stay conscious long. The world blackened as the memories found a new home behind Sasuke's closed eyes.
When he awoke again, he was safely at the campsite they were calling home. He felt different. It wasn't an obvious change. He was still himself but at the same time he wasn't. He felt, rather than saw, the bandages wrapped around his arm and torso. The warm bulk at his side alerted him that Akamaru was with him. He cracked his eyes open, trying to get used to the light. He shifted, just a few small movements, but it was enough to show someone that he was conscious.
"Sasuke," a familiar voice whispered. Sasuke tore his eyes away from the red and black sky to stare into the beautiful blue eyes of Naruto.
The blond looked different – not in any actual physical difference, but there was a subtle shift around the edges. He had a color, a bright summer sky blue against the background. The aura framed him, made him complete.
"Sasuke, are you okay?" the hybrid asked.
"Naruto…" the boy whispered, his voice scratchy from misuse and probably from the screaming that he was sure he had done while he was unconscious. Not all of his memories… these new memories that made no sense were good ones. He didn't understand the changing of the world around him or why his mind felt so laden. He wasn't sure what the voice in his head had meant while he was fighting Kisame but he knew that Naruto knew. Naruto could answer the question.
"Yes?" the blond asked, not quite sure what he was getting at.
"I… what am I?" the raven-haired wondered, drawing his eyes away from those of his friend and back to the swirling mass of sky above. He sighed. "You know, don't you? Kyuubi or something must have told you. It doesn't make sense. How is Itachi my brother if he was born like a thousand years ago? I don't get it." He sighed and looked away from Naruto towards the bulk of Akamaru, still peacefully sleeping against Sasuke's side. "I don't get it."
The smile all but disappeared from Naruto's face. He had a closed expression when he next spoke. "You're the Incarnate."
Sasuke ran a hand through Akamaru's thick fur. "The what?"
"The Incarnate. The true Immortal. The eternally reborn. Whenever you die, you come back and always in the form of Uchiha Sasuke. You can't die – your soul, I mean. Itachi is your brother and five hundred years ago, you were born to a family of demons. But you died. He's kept his eye on you ever since."
"So… I'll always exist?"
Naruto nodded, unable to vocally respond.
"I'll always exist – and never truly die."
Again, the blond nodded.
"So that's why I remember…" he spoke. His voice was so soft that Naruto barely caught what he was saying. Remember. It triggered something. Naruto seemed familiar, but the boy now held so many memories that he could not easily sift through them to find the answer. He had met Naruto before – in some other lifetime. He did, however remember clearly a conversation between Neji and Naruto that he had overheard when Neji had first arrived. A conversation that had always confused him.
"Naruto," Neji has spoken so softly that Sasuke had barely heard him through the door he was leaning against."Why are you on Earth?"
"Got lost. I was trying to deliver a message. And I got lost," Naruto replied quickly.
"Are you sure?"
"Has Heaven changed so much that the Gates to Hell and Earth aren't guarded or large? Are there now accidental Gates?"
"No. It hasn't."
Sasuke shook his head to clear the memories. Those memories weren't important to ask about right now. "Naruto," he finally began, trying to sit up. A rush of pain made him gasp and thump quietly down into the bedroll once again. Naruto hurried closer to him, keeping a gentle hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "Why did you come to Earth?" He moved his un-bandaged arm from Akamaru's thick fur in order to touch Naruto's cheek.
"W-what do you mean?" was the defensive reply.
"Why do you look familiar? Did I know…?" Sasuke felt the pain coming up, clouding the edge of his vision. "Naruto…"
The blond smiled mysteriously. He reached his own hand up to hold Sasuke's. "Thirty Earth years ago, you came to Heaven, somehow. You saw a group of men… a mob, more or less, beating a small boy who was crying and didn't know how to fight, for it was after his time in Hell and he was now a pacifist. You walked over to them and defended the small boy. The mob left and you turned, helping this child – for that is what he seemed to you – to his feet. After making sure that he wasn't too injured, you left with a smile and a wave, saying 'See you later.' The boy was naïve and waited, but you never came back. So three years ago, he set off to find you. For a year, he searched across heaven, but you weren't there. So he decided he would sneak to Earth. He waited for the Gate's shift change before stealing out of the Gateway and into Earth. He was afraid he would have to spend another year, or more, searching the Earth. He was confused about why he was so powerless, not knowing much about the differences of energy between the three realms.
"One night, roughly a week after he started his search, he was walking along, minding his own business when he was attacked by a group of drunks. They wanted things from him that he would not understand, nor give. He still didn't know how to fight, but he could yell. And so he did. He yelled and yelled, hoping that someone would hear. And just like before, you came to save him. Only you were younger than he remembered so this boy didn't recognize you. But you took him in and cared for him, protecting him and eventually, the boy remembered what he once was, thus remembering who and what you were. And he was happy."
Sasuke smiled, pulling Naruto down to his side and wrapped his injured arm around the blond. He placed a kiss in the hybrid's sun-kissed hair and smiled. "So you came to Earth to find me?"
Naruto looked up, planting a kiss on Sasuke's jaw. "And you came here to find me."
"We're a funny pair, aren't we?"
Naruto snuggled closer, making sure not to hurt Sasuke or aggravate his wounds. "No," he denied. "But we are a pair."
Sasuke just smiled and didn't say a word. The two lay there for what seemed like years, only basking in the warmth of the other… and Akamaru, who slept peacefully beside them.