AN: Well, here's the next chapter. Most people asked for SasuNaru and well, I figured I'd give it a try. We'll see how it goes cuz I certainly don't want it OOC. Granted, Naruto's gonna be a bit darker than in the canon. You'll see why. And I most certainly hope that my story will not eventually clash with events that may happen in further chapters of the manga. That would just suck.

Disclaimer: I heart cheese.

Consuming Me

Chapter 1 : Seals


Naruto sighed softly as he passed by familiar buildings and recognized the many smells that made up Konohagakure. He had pulled his hood back over his head in fear of being recognized. Every muscle in his body was tense as the people they passed stared at him. But it was in curiosity and not contempt. However, Naruto still wished he could turn invisible. His body burned and he felt dizzy. This was not what he wanted or what he needed. He could feel his eyes water as he pushed the pain back and regained control. Oh, how it burned. He wished he could rip out his inner coils system and be rid of it all.

He hadn't even realized they had made it to the tower. 'We're already here? I was hoping it would take longer...'

Naruto dreaded this. He wished he could escape. If it had been just a few months ago, he probably could have. Now, of course, it would be nearly impossible. Not without that happening.

The guards at the door easily let Sasuke and his troops pass, not without giving Naruto curious glances, however. He didn't acknowledge them and continued to walk ahead.

"Hokage-sama. It's Uchiha Sasuke, requesting permission to enter."

"Permission granted."

Sasuke opened the door, stepping in and stepping aside as Naruto and the two other ANBU followed behind. Tsunade sat behind her desk; hands clasped together, elbows resting on the desktop. "I've been told Sakura has been taken to the hospital to be treated. Now, tell me who this is and why you three thought it necessary to bring him in."

Sasuke turned around, signaling the other two ANBU were to be dismissed. They left in two clouds of smoke, leaving Tsunade, Sasuke, and the cloaked young man alone in the room.

"Well?"

Sasuke sighed, running a hand through his hair, his mask now off. "This is... going to be a shock..."

"I'll handle it, Sasuke."

Tsunade's eyes widened. 'That voice!'

Naruto pulled the cloak hood back and removed the mask from the lower part of his face. He stared at Tsunade, unsmiling, face expressionless. He looked awful. Lines were under his eyes from sleep deprivation; his hair was a shaggy mess, bangs falling in his face and locks in the back covering his neck. The ugly black designs twirling around his left eye and down his face, disappearing under his clothes, made Tsunade's mouth go dry. However, the one inhuman eye staring at her actually sent shivers down her spine. The other eye was still a crystal blue, shining of a desperate hope.

"Naruto... it's about time you came back..." She tried to force a smile but it was weak and quickly crumbled. She reached up to wipe away tears forming in her eyes. "I've missed you so much..."

She stood, walking around her desk and in front of Naruto, pulling him into a hug. He didn't hug back but just stood there, letting her hold him. "Yeah..."

The dead voice that spoke made Tsunade quickly let go of him as she stared at him, taking his chin in her hand. She turned his face to the side, staring at the seals. "Tell me what happened."

"It's not what happened, it's what is happening. It's still going on, baba."

Naruto stepped back and pulled out of Tsunade's grasp, closing his eyes. "Sasuke wouldn't let me leave. It's not my time to come back. I'm a danger to Konoha."

"You know that's not true-"

"IT IS!" Naruto snapped, eyes snapping open. "Do you think I would fucking stay away if I didn't have a good reason!"

His voice sounded desperate, hysteric. Tsunade wisely dropped her words. "I'm sorry, Naruto. Will you please tell me what happened?"

Naruto hesitated, glancing over at Sasuke. Sasuke didn't know about Kyuubi. Sure, he knew Naruto had something up, but he didn't know what. And the man looked like he wasn't planning on leaving any time soon.

He hesitated, looking back at Tsunade. "The seal is falling apart, baba. It's not designed to be active this long."

Tsunade grabbed Naruto's shoulders roughly. "What are you saying, boy! He can't escape; he's trapped in you!"

"Take a look at the seals, baba!" Naruto shouted back, jerking out of her grasp again. "Do you think I'm wearing these as a fashion statement! They're the only thing keeping my body from deteriorating! They're the only thing keeping him at bay...!"

Tsunade was trembling. She was strong, she was hokage, yet she was realizing what a danger the boy was in. The boy that was so much like her departed little brother.

Sasuke was listening intently, his eyes narrowed at the two. What was going on? Who were they talking about? What were they talking about? Who was this "he"? "What are you talking about, dobe?"

He tacked on the insult as a 'friendly' reminder that he was still there.

Naruto looked over at him then back at Tsunade. Tsunade waved her hand. "You're dismissed Sasuke. This doesn't concern you."

That made Sasuke's temper snap. "It damn well does! He disappears then shows back up looking like shit! I have a damn right to know what's causing this!"

Tsunade's face turned red as she opened her mouth to shout at him but Naruto held up his hand. "It's all right, Tsunade-bachan. I won't be able to hide it from him much longer."

Naruto turned to face Sasuke. "You've noticed in the past that I always seemed to have an unlimited supply of chakra. It was different, wilder."

Sasuke nodded, confirming and wanting him to continue.

Naruto sighed. "Eighteen years ago, the Kyuubi Fox demon attacked Konohagakure, killing many and leaving the village in near ruins."

"Yeah, that's in our history books; Yondaime died killing it," Sasuke reminded, not liking where this was going.

"Heh. Funny thing about history books: they don't always have the facts straight," Naruto reply bitterly, his face hardening. "Yondaime didn't kill the Kyuubi. He sealed it away when he died."

"Yeah... OK, like The Third did to Orochimaru's arms," Sasuke replied, spitting out the last part of that sentence with as much hate as he could. Suddenly, the point of this conversation was starting to sink in as he stared at Naruto.

"Yeah, he didn't seal it in him. He sealed it in a living vessel. Me. Apparently, he couldn't seal it in himself for some reason. That's why the villagers don't like me. That's why I almost always managed to pull out of any situation on top."

Sasuke stared at Naruto as he digested the information. It sounded so absurd, but it made perfect sense. It explained everything, except why he left. "So why did you leave?"

"Did you not hear me earlier? The seal is fading. From what I've come to think, the seal was never meant to be used on a living vessel for so long. It was designed to entrap the opponent before both died and then the seal would vanish. But, you see, I didn't die after the entrapment. Yondaime did, so the seal remained active. And over time it's losing its strength. It started at our lovely brawl in that Valley. It didn't get bad until after we brought you back. By then I realized what was going on and that I had to find help, soon."

"Why didn't you see me?" Tsunade demanded, eyes blazing with rage, not at Naruto, but at the situation.

"You couldn't have helped me. I needed someone who specialized just in seals. I've found someone who can help, but it can only go so far. He's managed to seal the infected areas so they can't spread."

"But that means it's stopped," Sasuke commented from his position against the wall.

"No. See, that's not the only thing wrong," Naruto began, hesitating for a moment. "My chakra highway…"

"What about it?" Tsunade inquired.

"When I use my chakra, the infection spreads. When Kyuubi's chakra gets out, it corrodes my inner coils system. I can't channel chakra like I used to. I always had a hard time because the chakra mixed. The Kyuubi's chakra is so potent that with this infection it's like an acid and burns my inner coils system. I can't even channel chakra to certain parts of my body anymore. The seals are to keep the infection from spreading and to keep Kyuubi's chakra at bay. However…"

Naruto sighed, staring down at the floor. "… When I use my own chakra in massive amounts, Kyuubi's chakra tags along and the chakra highway collapses even more, allowing the infection to spread while Kyuubi's chakra is being channeled and remains in my system. I have to expulse it out of my body as quickly as I can; and you know with my chakra capacity, that's very hard to do…"

Tsunade closed her eyes, willing herself to stay strong. "So that is why you've stayed away…"

"Because I am a danger… Please let me go, Hokage-sama." Naruto got down on one knee, lowering his head. "If you love your village, you'll let me leave. I can't stay here."

Sasuke started, standing up straight. "No."

"Sasuke, this isn't your call," Naruto started, but was interrupted before he could continue.

"You are not leaving. I don't give a damn what's going on in you but the Naruto I know would never run away like a coward," Sasuke snarled, his hand balling into a tight fist at his side.

Naruto sighed, standing up and looking over at him sadly. "Am I a coward because I want to protect those I hold dear to me?"

Sasuke stopped, the anger in his face quickly fading. He hung his head, bangs covering his eyes. After a moment of silence, he spoke softly, his voice surrendering. "Fine. I won't stop you."

Tsunade closed her eyes. Legally, she shouldn't even let him go, but at the same time, she should. In all honesty, Naruto was a danger no matter what. But like hell if she was going have the closest person to her taken away from her. Again. Her eyes then opened.

"Naruto."

"Mm?" The young man looked back at her, his eyes tired.

"Would you stay if we helped you find someone to cure you?"

Naruto opened his mouth to immediately say no, but something made him stop. He closed his mouth, thinking. His search had been nearly fruitless. The sealers he had found could only do so much… and now if he had Konoha's help, he might …

"I will stay. But should anything happen that jeopardizes anyone here; I will leave without a word. Understand?"

Both nodded, relieved that he would stay. To have him show up suddenly and then leave again would be too much for them to bear. "I won't be staying within the city, though. I'll stay on the outskirts at nights and come in during the day as needed. Before any of you reject, it's just better that way. I prefer sleeping alone anyway."

He turned to leave for the door when Tsunade put a hand on his shoulder. "I have a request, Naruto."

He turned, looking at her, confusion on his face. "Yes?"

"I need to know how far the infection has spread so I can start looking up possible sources."

She felt Naruto's body stiffen as he hesitated, looking away. "It's… bad."

"I need to see."

The boy worried on his bottom lip, contemplating the outcome. He glanced at Sasuke and knew the man wouldn't go anywhere either. "O-OK..."

His voice was like a whisper as he stepped back, tugging at the strings of his cloak around his neck. The ragged piece of material slithered off his shoulders, pooling to the floor. He wore a pair of worn-out pants and a fishnet shirt, overlaid by a tattered black shirt that may have been a jacket at one time. He reached up, unzipping the shirt and slipped it off, quickly followed by the fishnet. He stood there, staring up at Tsunade. The seals wove around parts of his chest and arms, even one or two fingers that had claws instead of fingernails. The seal around his stomach was visible—but it looked cracked, chipped. Parts were barely visible.

"Oh, God…" Tsunade whispered, a hand flying to her mouth.

Sasuke stared, eyes wide. This was… Naruto?

Naruto closed his eyes, his head turning up toward the ceiling, arms spread out at his sides. The seals throbbed with a dull pain, a burn, a reminder of how little time he had left. "Funny, isn't it? I'm becoming what people fear most. I'm everyone's worst nightmare."

He gave an empty laugh, eyes opening up as he stared at the ceiling. "Hope they're happy now. So everyone else can have a happy life, I must always be the one to suffer."

Tsunade turned her head away, closing her eyes. Sasuke continued to stare, his mask completely gone. The raw emotion of both fear and horror burned into his face, from both the torture Naruto was enduring and the idea of what could happen should Naruto continue to go through this.

Naruto lowered his head, closing his eyes again. "I don't wish to strip so I will just say; I have more seals on my legs and feet. About 40 of my body has been infected. And I'm suspecting the next time something happens, it'll jump up another 10 if I'm not careful."

"What would be that something? What makes you have to use so much power?" Tsunade inquired, staring at him with her honey-colored eyes.

Naruto gave a wry smile. "Well, you can't expect a living chakra powerhouse to go around without attracting the eyes of those who crave power." He glanced out the window wistfully, his eyes becoming distant. "They soon find out that they can't control the Kyuubi. No one can. Not even me."

He raised a hand to his face, glancing at the three fingernails and two claws attached to his fingers. "Not even me…"

To be continued…


AN: Mm. Took me long enough, huh? Yeah, it's gonna be SasuNaru but I dunno to what extent. So far it ain't much at all, huh? XD

Thanks for your reviews, they're greatly appreciated and were very helpful. I wanted to write more but I had trouble coming up with more for this chapter so I ended it where I did. Granted, it was going to end with "This was Naruto…?" but I decided to tack on a few more sentences. Aren't ya happy? Well? Now, please excuse the lack of whatever I should write here because I have this kitten who insists that this chapter should have many more letters than what is in it and is determined to see the idea through with the use of kitty paws and my keyboard.

BTW, I do hope my little theory thingie up there is sound. I confused myself while trying to write it out. :mutters fouly about stories that need thought out before posting:

Le sigh.

Reviews appreciated,

Phoe-chan