Author's Note: Sorry for the wait on this chapter. Don't you hate writer's block?

Warnings: Blood, demons, sex eventually.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


Chapter Seven

Sasuke didn't remember falling asleep, but he knew he was dreaming. What was happening now couldn't be happening, so this had to be a dream. The Other was there, and It only ever appeared in dreams.

It felt real, though. He felt It over him, around him and in him; Its crushing presence, and Its burning eyes, and Its face shifting in the shadows above him while Its clawed hands pressed his shoulders into the ground or the bed or the floor. Its hard body moving rhythmically over his.

He thrashed under It. Squirmed. Arched. Panted. He begged it wordlessly for more of whatever it was giving. Anything It had, he wanted It was so much, so much bigger than him, so much stronger than him, so much more than he was. He was a meager, greedy thing by comparison.

And he was too lost to care.

He lay there and shivered under the onslaught. The Other's hands were on him. The other's lips brushed his skin.

Sasuke tangled his body with Its, soaking It up.

When Sasuke woke, he found himself alone on his livingroom floor, with his pants uncomfortably wet. His whole body still thrummed with Naruto's chakra, though the euphoria was gone. He was just full. Unbelievably, totally full, in a way he didn't even know existed. He realized, then, just how very hungry he had been.

He remembered Naruto's face, twisted up in disgust, and he thought he'd be sick.

Excepting the time between feeding off Naruto and falling asleep, he had never felt better in his life.

The next morning found Sakura on his door step, eyes fixed firmly on a point somewhere on the floor to Sasuke's left. He couldn't quite regret that she wouldn't meet his eyes. He didn't want to have to be the one to look away.

"Tsunade sent me for you," she told him, as though she needed an excuse to be there. "Naruto and Kakashi should be there already."

Sasuke nodded and found his shoes. They walked to the Hokage's tower together, but Sasuke might as well have been alone. She didn't come too close or try to fill the silence with pointless chatter. He tried to be grateful for that, but in the end, he was glad that it was a short walk to the Hokage's tower. If he could be glad of anything, under the circumstances.

Sasuke stepped into the office, and straight into a tired frown from the Hokage. She didn't look older, but she felt it. Her chakra was faded, for all its strength.

"Do you want to sit?" Tsunade asked, lips pursed seriously. There was an empty chair in front of her. Kakashi was in the other, apparently absorbed in flipping the pages of one of his novels. If the battered condition of the spine was any indication, it wasn't the first, or even the second time he'd read it.

Naruto didn't look up, and Sasuke pretended he didn't see his other teammate. He was, himself, still buzzing with the Kyuubi's power. It resonated strangely with Naruto, filling the room with half-heard static.

Abruptly, Sasuke realized he wasn't answering. "I'll stand," he said, too late to sound casual. Covering for his pause, he took a position by the door. He shouldn't really have been there, not when he wasn't much more than a prisoner, but no one stopped him.

Sakura took the empty chair, smoothing her clothes primly and folding her hands in her lap. She was still looking at the floor.

Tsunade frowned at them all, eyes flicking from one to the next. "I see it's been a long couple of days."

Kakashi turned a page. Naruto went so far as to bark a cynical laugh.

"I'll keep it brief then," the Fifth said, leaning back in her chair. One hand propped up her chin. Her thin brows were drawn into crooked angles by a bemused expression. "You're all excused from duty indefinitely. I'll arrange a small pension for you, should it become necessary--and it sure as hell had better not."

She paused, dividing a weak glare among them. When she continued, her tone brooked no nonsense. "For the time being, you'll be looking for this man." One hand moved in a slow, graceful gesture, taking a folder from her desk and tossing it to Kakashi, who caught it without looking up from his book. He hadn't turned the page since she started talking, though. "That is Inoshita Yasuo. He's thirty-three. Single. No known residency, though he's normally found in Fire or Grass Country, he's been known to travel much further. There's a couple of good pictures in there, and whatever else we could dig up on the guy."

"Why do we care?" Trust Naruto to ask that. Sasuke occasionally wondered if he was trying to make up what he lacked in tact by lacking more tact. It saved him from having to ask himself, though.

"Heh," Tsunade noised as she shot the blond a warning look. He scowled back, unimpressed, until she continued. "They say he knows more about kitsune than anyone else in five countries."

Sasuke stood up straighter. His ears itched, twitching as though they wanted to angle forward and hear better. "What?"

"What did you think I called the lot of you here for? It sure as hell wasn't the pleasure of your company." She sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "He's the expert."

"What makes him an expert?" Sakura asked before anyone else could. Sasuke snorted, holding back a chuckle; she was the only one who could make the question sound respectful. Tsunade's eyes were tired when they fixed on Sakura, rather than annoyed. Her chakra was a precisely controlled wave around her. Sasuke could taste it, less tempting than before, but still teasing his senses.

"He's a priest," she explained simply. "And an exorcist. He's made it his life's work to learn about monsters, and use that knowledge to fight them more efficiently.

"I'm sure you'll appreciate that I couldn't ask directly if anyone knew where I could find the solution to our problem," she added. "I sent out discreet inquiries about kitsune. His was the name I got back." Her voice was firm. She didn't sound optimistic. She sounded like a doctor explaining treatment options for a potentially fatal disease.

For a long moment, no one spoke, and Sasuke had to reassure himself that if he needed to put his faith in a doctor, at least he had a competent one. Too bad this wasn't really medicine, or he might have felt secure enough to hope that whatever was wrong with him would be repaired soon.

All he felt was cold, though. A sudden, strange chill he couldn't quite explain, and grabbed him by the core. If he didn't know better, he might have called it anxiety. Foolish thought, that. What did he have to lose? In the worst case scenario, this priest couldn't help him, so they looked for someone else.


If worse came to worst, he told them that there was no use looking for anyone else, because there was no cure.

And if that happened, then Sasuke was no worse off than he was now.

He closed his eyes thoughtfully, rolling that over in his head. The worst, the absolute worst, was keeping what he had now. That wasn't so bad, really. It was nothing he couldn't live with. Even in the worst, this priest would have to be able to shed some light of what was happening to him. He'd be able to understand his situation better. That was as bad as it could get.

At best, Inoshita Yasuo would be able to tell them just what was wrong, and just how to fix it. Sasuke didn't expect the best, though. He didn't need to hope for it. He just needed to be able to live with the worst.

"Sasuke?" Naruto said. He was trying not to sound worried. Naruto was a bad liar, especially when Sasuke could feel the nervous fizzle of his chakra around him. From Naruto, it was like standing in a field in a thunderstorm and being the tallest thing in sight. The hair on the back of Sasuke's arms stood up. His eyes opened, and he met Naruto's level gaze. Did his own eyes still look human?

"What?" he asked tightly.

"What's up?"

Sasuke snorted and tore his gaze away, tamping down the chill. "Nothing."

"Sasuke," Naruto said again, and Sasuke didn't have to see him frown to know he did. He could hear it in his voice, and in the way he shifted his weight forward.

"When do we leave?" Sasuke interrupted.

"Sasuke." It was Sakura this time. "Don't you--"

"When do we leave," he repeated, ignoring whatever she was going to say. "And where do we start?"

"Tomorrow," Tsunade answered, sitting up straight, chin tilted to an imperious angle. "You're ninja. You figure it out. This is your team's problem, unless you want it to be mine.

One of her eyebrows kicked up a notch, daring someone--daring Sasuke--to talk back. "Do you want it to be my problem, Sasuke?"

Sasuke sneered. Maybe, coming from her, the threat had weight. Her chakra seemed to turn toward him, as clearly menacing as if she had drawn back her arm to throw a punch. He still sneered.

Then he looked away.

"We'll take care of it," Naruto said firmly, answering for Sasuke. Sakura voiced her agreement, softer and in politer terms. He didn't bother to catch the words, but the meaning was clear enough.

Kakashi closed his book with an audible whap. Putting it away, he stood up and faced the Hokage across her desk. "If that's all?"


The sun was shining brightly in a blue sky so vivid that it hurt Naruto's eyes when he first stepped out into it. The few remnants of white cloud did nothing to dim the morning. He sighed heavily, wishing that he could enjoy it. Shouldn't nice days be reserved for, well, nice days? Shit ought to happen on rainy, miserable days. For one thing, that was it wouldn't ruin a good mood, and for another, there was more sense of the dramatic.

Watching Sasuke bow his head, sulking his way up the street, just didn't look right when the sun was shinning almost blue off his hair. He was so pale, he would probably sunburn. A peeling nose wouldn't do anything to add to the mood.

Sakura started after Sasuke hesitantly. Naruto grabbed her wrist and pulled her to a stop next to him. "I'll take him home. I really should talk to him... or something." He grinned, doing his best to make it look natural. "Maybe I should just kick his ass, you think?"

"Naruto," Sakura began, turning away to stare after Sasuke. He could see the frown lines appear between her brows and her mouth open to protest, but instead all she said was, "Don't fight with him, okay?"

Naruto blinked, then smiled again. He managed to make it more convincing this time, he was sure of it. "Don't worry. I have it covered."

"Will someone escort me home?" Sasuke broke into the moment, voice taut. Naruto and Sakura both jumped, startled, and looked after Sasuke. He was waiting up the road, back turned on them.

"Well?" he gritted when neither of them moved. "I'm still not supposed to be left alone where I can get to civilians or genin, right? So whoever's going to follow me, hurry up."

Swallowing hard, Naruto let go of Sakura's arm and stepped away. "Coming!"

"Ah, I'll... we'll see you tomorrow, okay Sasuke?" Sakura called, not quite stuttering. She bobbed a quick goodbye to Naruto as she turned to go.

For a moment after she left, the two boys didn't move. Sasuke was waiting for him, and Naruto wasn't quite ready to talk about last night yet. Shit, he didn't want to talk about it at all. But this was Sasuke, and Naruto was fairly certain he couldn't stay quiet about the whole thing, and expect his teammate just to be reasonable. He was Sasuke. He'd brood--like sulking, but with aspiration.

Damn it, Naruto really was putting this off.

"Are you coming, dumbass?" Sasuke asked harshly.

"Why? You got a date?" Naruto shot back, half out of habit.

"Just hurry the fuck up."

Naruto swallowed again; Sasuke's voice was low and rough, nearly a growl, and it made the Kyuubi cock an ear and grin somewhere in the back of his brain. He ran after Sasuke, though.

"What's the hurry?"

"I want to go home and pack. I'd think that would be obvious." Sasuke said without even a sideways glance.

Naruto rolled his eyes. This was still Sasuke, no matter what happened--and he was proving it. So, what was stopping Naruto from talking to him? "So, ah, how are you doing today?"

Sasuke shrugged without breaking stride. "How do you think I am?"

"If I knew, I wouldn't have asked."

"If you knew, the world would be coming to an end."

"Then why did you ask how I thought you were?"

That won him a quick glare before Sasuke remembered that he was supposed to be impassive or stoic or whatever the fuck he was going for. Sulky. At least there were no dark circles under his eyes today. He looked like he actually got some sleep.

"Well?" Naruto pressed. "What's up?"

"Is there a point to this?" Sasuke asked impatiently, quiet but nothing like soft.

"Yeah, there's a point!" Naruto responded immediately. He had the decency to blush afterward. He didn't mean it to sound like he didn't care about Sasuke normally, but yeah, under the circumstances, of course there was a point.

Sasuke slid his hands in his pockets in what might have been an unconscious gesture, or might have been an effort not to hit him. Naruto was leaning toward the first. He doubted Sasuke would have restrained himself if he was just going to hit him.

At least, he wouldn't normally. Naruto remembered Sasuke the night before, keeping his head low while he fed. His mouth went dry at the thought. It was hard to be sure of anything after that.

"Then just get to the point, Naruto," Sasuke said.

Naruto closed his eyes. "Are you okay? Are you still hungry?"

A slow breath hissed out from between Sasuke's clenched teeth. His hands were balled into fists in his pockets. He answered slowly. "I'm fine."

"Okay...?" Naruto couldn't sound sure of that. "Really?"

"Yes, really."

Nodding, Naruto sped up enough to see Sasuke's profile clearly. "That's good, at least, right?"

Sasuke clenched his jaw. "I suppose so."

"Yeah," Naruto reassured. "Yeah, that's good."

"As long as we don't think about why," Sasuke spat, turning off the street toward his building.

Naruto stopped mid-step and had to scramble to catch up. "Sasuke?"

"What?" Sasuke paused on the step, frowning back at Naruto over his shoulder. At least he was looking now.

"I just..." Naruto paused, not really sure how to say this. "I just don't want things to be weird between us. I know that what happened last night, that wasn't really you, right? I know that, so you don't have to think I'll hold it against you. Or that if that's what you need, I'm not here for you. You should know better than that, but you're really stupid sometimes." The last was barely above a whisper.

Sasuke blinked, surprise clear on his face in the second before he tamped it down. He snorted, then, a weak smirk tugging up one corner of his mouth. "It's not what I need."

Naruto shrugged uncomfortably. "Well, if it is..." he trailed off, changing his mind. He's happier than he'd like to admit that Sasuke didn't want to do that again. "Just don't let it get weird, okay?"

"It's already weird, Naruto."

"I'm not kidding." He blushed again; it heated up his whole face. "We're going to fix this, and I don't want things being weird between us."

"I'm not kidding either," Sasuke said, opening his door. "Were you going to come in, or are you leaving now?"

Naruto glared. "I mean it."

Sasuke turned away. "Staying out then. Goodbye."

The door was opened and closed before Naruto could protest, leaving an empty step and Naruto alone outside to curse in the sunshine.

To be continued.