AN: I started this a few months back when I was extremely upset. The fic had some potential, so I figured I'd finish it. Any potential it had was killed. It's horrible; but it helped me get a lot of pent up emotions out. You can either consider this mild SasuNaruSasu or just a real close friendship. Either's fine with me.

Disclaimer: I disclaim.

Duty

A One-shot by Phoe-chan


They were all gathered there, young and old alike, Friends, family, acquaintances, loved ones; all of them. From Chuunin up, all of Konoha's ninja were standing before Godaime Hokage Tsunade, agitated, anxious, scared, grave.

Tsunade's face was pale, her lips pressed into a thin line. She looked older than what her genjutsu made her appear to be. She hadn't slept in days. And at the moment, she may never sleep again.

They had less than an hour.

It was approaching. They could see it coming. They knew it was coming. But, they had no ways of stopping it.

It was just like sixteen years ago with the Kyuubi no Kitsune tearing apart the village.

But this time... Yondaime wasn't here to save them and the sealing technique he created was long since dead.

No one was really sure why the Kyuubi had attacked Konoha. Those who knew were probably dead. And just like now, no one knew why the demon heading toward them was intent on killing them all.


"We need to put together a plan. All our strength has to go against this creature. Many of you will die but it's for the good of--" Tsunade's speech was cut short when a familiar blond head stepped out of the crowd. Naruto stepped forward, standing in front of her.

"I'll stop it, Baa-chan."

Tsunade's face paled considerably.

"What! Naruto, have you lost your mind?" Kiba roared, pushing someone out of the way so he could see his friend better. "I knew you were stupid but this is beyond--!" "Shut up, Kiba."

Kiba froze, staring at his friend. The words that left the boy's had no mirth in them whatsoever. What was even more disturbing was the look on Tsunade's face.

"You can't--no, I won't let you," She started, gripping her fist. Her voice quavered some as she spoke.

"It's the only way. Sacrifice one or sacrifice half the village. Besides, it's the Hokage's job, ya know, to protect the village, 'n all." He gave a half smile, whiskers stretching over his cheeks.

"We don't even know if it will work..." Tsunade replied, trying to talk the boy out of it before he made his decision permanent.

"We won't know until we try. And we don't have any other alternatives."

A lot of the older nins were fidgeting nervously. The actions didn't go unnoticed by Naruto's friends. Only a select few of Naruto's generation knew why the older nins were nervous. And in a way, so were they.

"Hokage-sama! You can't be considering letting that… that thing go are you! He's a monster! A killer! The nine-tails can't be reasoned with! Even if he does kill this other demon, he'll just turn and kill us like he did before! You can't be that desperate!"

Naruto's generation of ninja stared in shock, sans the few who knew of the boy. A revelation at a time like this… about one of their closest friends? It was too much to take in.

Tsunade looked about ready to burst. Her face turned red with anger as she opened her mouth to speak. Surprisingly, Naruto beat her to the punch. And what a punch it was.

"Shut. Up." Naruto growled, turning his eyes to the man who spoke.

The nin shivered involuntarily before he spat at him. "Crawl back in a hole, demon. You're no help to us. We know what you are!"

"Shut up!" Naruto roared, slamming his fist down on the desk. It cracked under the pressure as he glared icily at the man who spoke. "What I am? No, I don't think you know. Let me tell you what I am. I am the reason you can sleep safe in your bed at night. I am the reason this village still exists. I am the vessel, the container, the CAGE that holds the Kyuubi at bay. I am his prison and I am the reason you stand here right now, cursing me! I am not the demon! How stupid are you! If I were, don't you think I would have KILLED you all by now? Think about it, you dumb-ass! With all the hatred, the stares, the whispers, and the pain you all have put me through, if I were the fox I would have slain you all! I am a human. I have a heart. I am the reason YOU HAVE HAPPINESS. My whole life was fucked up so you could be standing here right now, insulting me the way you are. You think I had a choice to have a demon sealed in my stomach? No! I've done more good for this village when I was a baby than all of you have in your LIVES. When have I ever put this village in danger? Name one time in my sixteen years of existence that I HAVE PUT THIS FUCKING VILLAGE IN DANGER! Go on! Tell me! You obviously have so many reasons lined up! Spill 'em buddy!"

Naruto's breath was ragged, his face red with exertion and rage. His eyes threatened to flicker to red, simmering at a dark purple. Sixteen years of pent-up anger finally coming out. It was the last straw. Their lives were at stake and these idiots were… Naruto shook his head before continuing.

"You know why you don't have an answer? Let me tell you why. Because you're all fucking cowards stuck in the past who are using me for an excuse, an outlet to vent your hatred on. You act all high and mighty around me, spitting at me and cutting your eyes. Feh. You should be worshipping me for who I am. You're a Konoha shinobi. Quit being a damn coward and start acting like one or go home. We don't need people like you on the front line. The only purpose you could serve would be an appetizer for that… thing approaching."

He seemed to be calming down as he took a deep breath, eyes closing before opening.

"Now you listen here. I've spent all my life putting up with your crap. I took it in wordlessly; I accepted it even when I didn't know why. I lived it day and night, while I woke, while I slept. You give me one good reason why I shouldn't just kill you all right now."

He stared, having the room's full attention. Several men were shaking in their boots. Tsunade's face was emotionless, not going to stop him in the least. He gave a dangerous smirk, his eyes turning red, demon-like like pupils glittering at them. A few people gasped and stood back. He smirked again, shaking his head as his eyes turned blue again.

"I'll tell you why: because I am going to be the next Hokage. As a member of this village, it is my duty to protect it. No matter how you treat me. If you're still so desperate to get rid of me, then move over so I can do my job. Then you'll have two less demons to deal with."

"You want me to release him?" Tsunade inquired softly, looking at him.

"No. That's impossible. The seal can't be removed." Naruto started. Another voice broke in.

"But it can be broken."

Tsunade looked up to see Jiraiya leaning against the wall. "Broken?"

"Yeah. The seal is made up of two four elephant seals to form a double seal. It's similar to the Hakke method. Since Yondaime was my pupil, I know a little bit on how it works. I've deal with it when Orochimaru used the five point seal on him. The seal's designed to allow Naruto's chakra to mix with the nine-tails through the seals without harming him. The large swirl holds the Kyuubi within. Each smaller part holds his powers and features."

"Are you saying you can remove those symbols?"

"The small ones, yes; I can disable them. But it's almost certainly death."

"Then we can't--" "I'll do it."

"Brat, I will not!"

"You will do what you have to do to protect this village. What kind of Hokage are you if you don't?" Naruto barked, glaring at her. She knew he was right. She knew which was why she had tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "I'll... go get the scrolls. You're all dismissed. Be on guard in case of... a failure in the plan."

The older nins immediately filed out. Naruto's generation and a few of the older jounin and one older Chuunin remained. "Naruto!" Iruka admonished, pulling the boy against him in a hug. "What are you thinking? You're going to die…"

Naruto gave a small smile, putting his hands on Iruka's shoulders. "Hey, it's what they wanted, right? To get rid of the monster. Look at it this way—many lives will be saved."

Iruka was about to protest when an angry voice spoke up. "Stop talking like that." Sasuke hissed, stepping forward from his place against the wall. "You are not the monster. They're stupid to believe that; you said so yourself. So quit talking like that before I beat your ass into the ground, dobe."

Naruto gave a soft smile, grateful. "Yeah, you wish, Sasuke-teme." It was his way of saying thank you. Sakura ran up to him, hugging him. "If you die, I'll kill you."

Naruto's brows furrowed at the threat before he chuckled and hugged her back. "Don't worry. It seems I'm hard to get rid of."


They stood in front of the Konoha gates in the large space in front of the open gates. They could see the demon approaching over the hilltops. It was an oni, blood red in appearance with black eyes. Something you should only see in your nightmares. The ninja all hugged the edges of the opening as Naruto stood in the middle. He was removing his jacket, tossing it to the ground and following was his shirt. Despite the situation, several fought off blushes at the exposed tanned skin.

Tsunade stood before him, hugging him to her. "Brat, you'd better come back to me. I can't have my next Hokage dying on me." Naruto smiled as she kissed his forehead.

Jiraiya stepped forward and looked down at the shorter young man. Naruto gave him a half smile as the man set a heavy hand on his head, ruffling the locks affectionately. "You want me to help, kid? I'm sure Gamabunta wouldn't mind helping us out."

Naruto shook his head. "I don't want the chance of hurting him. I don't know how stable I'll be."

Jiraiya nodded reluctantly. Naruto stepped back, stretching his arms out. "So, what do I need to do?"

"First I need you to bring out your seal. I'll do the rest. …Naruto, it's going to hurt—a lot. It'll probably be more painful than anything you've ever experienced. I'm going to divide the disabling seal into two halves. The entire thing at once might kill you."

Naruto nodded, putting his hands together. "Yeah, all right; let's get this over with."

Sasuke's fists clenched tighter as his jaw set. Sakura and Ino were holding each other, the latter comforting Sakura. Neji had a hand resting on Hinata's shoulder. The rest of Naruto's friends were just as grave. Iruka looked absolutely torn.

Naruto closed his eyes for a moment as he molded chakra, the seal forming a large spiral with designs all around it. Jiraiya held out his hand as chakra formed in his fingers. He grabbed Naruto's should before ramming his hand into Naruto's stomach. The boy's eyes widened in incredible pain as he fell to his knees, clutching his stomach in pain. He gasped for breath heavily, staring down at the ground as Jiraiya stood before him. Inside, the nine-tails stirred, a rumble erupting from his chest. Laughter. They were foolish, doing this, but he was far from ungrateful.

Suddenly Naruto could feel him in his consciousness, clawing for escape. He could feel his blood rushing, pounding in his head. His heart pace quickened as his eyes turned red. The whisker marks on his face became more pronounced as sharp canines poked at his bottom lip. The short nails on his fingers grew long and sharp. He was jerked up to his feet again and he saw the apology on Jiraiya's face as he rammed his hand into Naruto's stomach once more before letting go of the boy and backing some distance away. Naruto fell onto his side, clutching his stomach and curling into a fetal position.

In his head he could hear the Kyuubi laugh. 'Let's have some fun, brat.'

Naruto's eyes widened before they squeezed shut as he gave a scream. Red chakra began to boil around him, scorching the ground it touched. Sasuke had to refrain himself from running there to stop the pain. He could almost hear the fox laughing within Naruto's mind.

The boy's eyes snapped open as a vulpine grin stretched across his face, canines bared. He slowly pushed himself onto the balls of his feet, crouched, his hands pressed against the black ground. The chakra began to take form around him, the same form Sasuke saw in the Valley of the End. He unconscious took a step back, paling. His friends saw him do that and did so as well. If Sasuke was backing up, then he knew something was coming.

The chakra boiled around him and it seemed Naruto was struggling with the fox for dominant consciousness. Then his eyes snapped up at the bakemono… the monster that was almost at the gates. He growled as his hands began furiously flying through seals, so fast even Kakashi had trouble keeping up with them.

He finished the sequence and clapped his hands together, staring up at the demon. The chakra reacted and swirled around Naruto, wrapping around him and becoming completely opaque. And then, it exploded, taking form, growing bigger and bigger until it towered as tall as the oni approaching. Legs formed, paws sharp with claws that dug into the earth. The body molded as the tails fanned out. The head rose up and the fox's red eyes stared down the oni that stopped and regarded it.

People began screaming that the nine-tails had been released but Tsunade shook her head. "The form is pure chakra! He's not free; that's still Naruto!"

And to support her claim, the fox stepped forward, carefully avoiding getting near anyone to burn them with his chakra. With that, he jumped over the gates and rushed head-on to the oni.

Naruto's friends could only watch in horror as their friend and comrade charged into what seemed like inevitable death.

Sakura had slumped to her knees, her hands clasped in prayer. Neji closed his eyes before reopening them with the byakugan to watch just as Hinata had. Neji knew that if anyone could put fate back in its place, it was Naruto.

The battle was intense, each strike exploding in a fury of chakra. Claws swiped at each other as attacks threatened to devastate the entire landscape—which, in fact, was nearly leveled.

Repeatedly the ninja of Konoha had to cover themselves or duck as debris went flying at them. From clumps of dirt to fully uprooted trees, it was a hurricane at its finest.

It was when Naruto sank his teeth into the oni's jugular did the ninja hold their breath in hopes that this was the end and in their favor. The demon screeched, trying to lodge the fox from his neck, but the fox held firm and only tightened his grip. Blood bubbled up and began to seep through the puncture wounds the fangs were making as the oni began to struggle to breathe. With a heavy heave, it had successfully thrown Naruto back. But the damage was done. His windpipe was crushed and Naruto had cut through a main artery.

It began to lose its balance as it lost its strength while Naruto's tails lashed behind him furiously. However, the smell of humans and their blood, for there had been damage from the fight, aroused its senses and it screeched, throwing a clawed hand in the direction of Konoha's walls. The pure amount of chakra behind the blow could level over a third of the village easily. The Kyuubi's influence died long enough for Naruto to make a life or death situation as he leapt forward and in the path of the attack. It hit him full force and exploded, chakra meeting chakra. Naruto howled in pain, the Kyuubi tearing at his subconscious for causing them such pain.

The oni fell with a thunderous crash, shaking the ground in a heavy quake. It didn't get up. Naruto had won.

But Konoha still had to deal with a Kyuubi-influenced Naruto.

Naruto was struggling with the fox for dominance over his body. The fox couldn't be freed but it could very well take over Naruto's body. Naruto's body had suffered serious damage and thus the battle was weak for both sides. Kyuubi's power was running out leaving the fox stumbling backwards as its legs gave way, him falling right at the gates of Konoha. The chakra flickered and died out, leaving a heaving Naruto, clothes singed yet still in tact. It seemed his own chakra could not hurt him. However he was barely standing, his body hunched over, limbs limp, legs threatening to give out. Many of Naruto's friends, if not all of them, ran through the nearly demolished gates toward Naruto, eager to help their friend.

As they approached, Naruto's head whipped toward the group, bright eyes gleaming in feral hostility. Jiraiya pushed through the crowd. "Stay back! Naruto's unstable right now!"

They were reluctant but seeing what Naruto had done, not one of them would dare step forward.

Naruto's legs momentarily gave way as he stumbled forward, catching his balance. A snarl escaped his lips as Jiraiya slowly approached. "Am I speaking to Kyuubi or Naruto?"

His answer was a growl as Naruto shook his head, mangled limbs reaching up to clutch at the bloodied blond hair. "S-stay back…"

His voice was broken, words strained as he shook, hunched over. It seemed Naruto was still battling for dominance. Jiraiya held his breath. He couldn't reseal the fox unless Naruto's personality was in control.

He watched grimly as Konoha's top nins formed a wide circle around Naruto, prepared to attack should the Kyuubi lash out. Kakashi was among the group, sharingan revealed and his body tense. He couldn't believe he was in this position. He may very well be ordered to kill his own student.

Sakura's arm was extended as she tried to move forward, being held back by Ino and Lee. Blood dripped from Sasuke's hands where his nails broke the skin from clenching too tight. He hadn't even realized his sharingan had activated. He was ready to jump in there and defend Naruto if one person dared to approach him in an attempt to harm him.

"Naruto! Get in control! I can't help you until you're in control!"

The boy snarled at the sannin, stumbling back some. He dropped to one knee, orange pants darkening a deep crimson like a patchwork quilt.

"I'll kill us both…"

Jiraiya's eyes widened as he heard Naruto speak but he then realized Naruto wasn't speaking to him.

"You bluff."

Naruto snarled at his own voice, one hand removing from his head, claws flexing. The nins around Naruto tensed, readying themselves.

"If I die…" Naruto raised his hand, strained as if a force was trying to pull it back down. "…SO DO YOU!"

Naruto screeched the last part as his hand came down, curved to stab himself in the stomach.

Blood splattered. Red chakra fizzled away. Gasps and screams erupted from the crowd.

Naruto coughed up more blood as his other hand braced his weight. The claws that had struck Naruto were digging into his stomach. He ripped them away to show five shallow puncture wounds.

Kyuubi gave in just in time for Naruto to stop himself from impaling his hand into his stomach.

"E-Ero-sennin! Now!" Naruto choked, his body quaking as he spat out more blood.

Jiraiya was on him immediately, turning Naruto onto his back, staring at the blood-covered seal. His fingers glowed as he gripped Naruto's shoulder tightly and hit his stomach. The boy's eyes shot open wide as he screamed, thrashing. One clawed hand lashed out at Jiraiya but was grabbed and pinned back down. Naruto's eyes cut to who had him and saw Sasuke's sharingan eyes staring at him intensely. "Don't be stupid, dobe…" He rasped, struggling to keep the boy under control.

"Keep holding him. I have to do this again." Jiraiya muttered as once again his fingers lit up. Again, Naruto's stomach was hit, suffering another blow of damage as the boy cried out in pain, voice dying out, hoarse from all the yelling. Jiraiya released his weight on Naruto as the chakra flickered violently. Naruto was clawing at his own body like he was on fire. He was jerked up into a sitting position and crushed against someone's chest, held firmly to keep him from tearing at his skin.

Naruto's entire being shook as he clung to Sasuke, claws digging into the boy's clothes. Slowly the claws retracted as the whiskers thinned to little lines. Naruto's fangs disappeared as his eyes flickered between blue, red and purple before finally settling on blue. He went slack, eyelids lowering as his eyes glazed over.

The last words out of his mouth made Sasuke choke back a cry.

"'m not stupid…"

Tsunade was on them in an instant, prying the Uchiha heir away from his best friend. He was held back by Kakashi, the latter reminding him that Tsunade was a medic. Sasuke relented but wouldn't move any further back.

"He's not healing on his own; Kyuubi's chakra has been nearly completely diminished! Sakura, Shizune! Get over here!" Tsunade shouted, hands glowing blue as they pressed to the boy's chest, trying to close the large gashes on his body.

The other two medics slid down around Naruto's body. Shizune began to seal up the punctures on Naruto's stomach as Sakura took care of the boy's head, where his skull had cracked along one of the main sutures and threatened to cave in. She had to work fast before infection could set.

She wiped her face on the sleeve of her top to rid it of tears as she put all her talents to use. "Tsunade-shishou, his skull is fractured."

Tsunade jerked her head up, pausing in her work. "Can you mend it?"

"I'm working on it."

Naruto's breath was shallow and his pulse nearly nonexistent.

Tsunade's eyes blazed as the glow of her hands brightened. "Don't you dare die on me, brat, or I'm dirtying your corpse…" She hissed, willing away her blurry vision and unshed tears.

Deep in Naruto's subconscious the boy stood before the gates that kept Kyuubi at bay. The gate was nearly ripped off its hinges and the lock was broke in two.

Naruto grimaced as he heard the clicking of claws on the floor. He had to do something.

Back outside of Naruto's mind, Tsunade's eyes widened. "No! Naruto, don't you DARE!"


Sakura held the flower in her hand, a small smile on her face. "Hey, Naruto. How are you? Sorry I haven't visited you lately; I had a mission and I just got back. I hear they finally had to sedate Sasuke-kun to get him away so he could get some rest. He's always so stubborn, ne? Just like you."

Sakura sighed, closing her eyes, willing herself not to cry. It'd been two weeks. Just two weeks but it still felt like yesterday and yet forever at the same time.

She smiled sadly and opened her eyes, looking down. Slowly she replaced the wilted flower in the vase with the fresh one, a ritual she did as often as she could.

She then sat down beside the bed in the chair Sasuke normally occupied. She reached up and brushed some hair back out of Naruto's face, skin lightly grazing the bandages around the boy's head. The soft breaths escaping the boy's nose and the steady beep of the monitor hooked to him were the only signs he was alive.

The doctors honestly didn't expect him to recover. Even Tsunade was having her doubts despite trying her hardest to keep hope. The fact that he wasn't improving on his own did nothing to disprove them. No advanced healing; low immune system and energy at a bare minimum to keep himself alive.

However, he was far from dead. There was brain activity. He was not a vegetable. No, Uzumaki Naruto wouldn't eat vegetables much less become one.

"There." Naruto muttered as he dusted his hands off. The tall golden gates gleamed at him, securely fastened by a large lock and chain. Behind the gates, the Kyuubi growled darkly.

"I'll get you for this, brat."

Naruto gave a small smile. "Be glad I didn't collar you, damn fox."

He turned, closing his eyes. "It's done. Now to get the hell out of here."


Sakura rose her head and blinked, brow furrowing as she glanced at the monitors then back at Naruto's prone form. She gasped.

Sasuke walked slowly down the hall, rubbing his neck. Even if he needed the sleep, he was pissed as hell at Kakashi and the doctors, which was why the former had a black eye.

As he neared the door to Naruto's room and put his hand on the handle he heard Sakura give a cry. "Oh, my God!"

Sasuke's eyes widened as he threw the door open and ran in. He skidded to a stop and stared at Naruto.

The boy groaned, one hand reaching up slowly to touch his head. "Tell Baa-chan that she's getting old. I still hurt all over."

Tears swelled in Sakura's eyes as she cried. Naruto looked over at her, struggling to sit up some. She helped him, tucking a few pillows behind him. He frowned, reaching over and slowly wiped away her tears with a shaky hand. "I didn't mean to make you cry, Sakura-chan."

"Stupid, you had me so worried," She cried, hugging him. He winced but managed to lightly pat her back.

"Sorry about that, Sakura-chan but if you don't want me to pass out again you might wanna… let go?"

She did so immediately, mumbling a quick apology.

Naruto's eyes turned from Sakura to the boy who still stood in the middle of the room. "Quit standing there like an idiot, idiot."

Sasuke snapped out of his daze, stepping toward the bed. He didn't say anything but merely stared at him with an unreadable expression.

Naruto gave a crooked grin. "I bested you this time, teme. I'd like to see you turn into a giant ball of chakra."

Sasuke's fist clenched. "You are so stupid, Naruto…" He growled out.

Naruto looked at him in surprise. The boy continued, "You nearly died for a village that shunned you all your life. Only an idiot would do that."

Naruto chuckled, resting back against the pillows, turning his head to look out the window. "Yeah, I guess so. But you know what? There are people here that I love. And I would gladly give my life to protect those precious people." He turned his head back and gave Sasuke a soft smile. "I guess only an idiot would do that, huh?"

"No. Only a Hokage would do that."

Tsunade walked into the room, a smile on her face. "Or a future Hokage."

Naruto grinned, turning his head to the ceiling and closing his eyes, breathing in deeply.

"Naruto… The coma you were in… it was self-induced."

Sasuke and Sakura stared. Tsunade hadn't told them that.

"Yeah, I know."

"Why would you do that?"

Naruto gave a small smile. "I had to repair the damage done in my mind from the fight. Kyuubi's cage broke and I had to capture him and encage him again. I couldn't do it if I were conscious."

Naruto smiled as Sakura squeezed his hand. "So that's why…"

"Yup! We had some bonding time. Well, if you could call it that… That's why I'm not healed up… both of us were fighting and so both my chakra and his remained drained. I'll be fine after a week or so."

Tsunade chuckled, shaking her head.


Naruto pouted as he was wheeled out of the hospital, Sakura animatedly talking about something as she pushed him toward the gardens. Sasuke followed behind quietly as did Kakashi, nose stuck in his book.

As they all sat on the grass under a shady tree, Naruto closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, smiling. This was his home, no matter how he was treated.

As he opened his eyes he saw people approaching him. Some he recognized, others he didn't.

He could only stare in shock as he was thanked and praised for his sacrifice and deed, receiving gifts and cards. By the time the crowd had died down, Naruto was overwhelmed at… well, all of it.

He shook his head, snapping himself out of his daze. Sakura had went to put the gifts and cards up, Kakashi sending a clone or two to help since he was too engrossed in his book to actually participate. Sasuke sat beside Naruto, both staring up at the clouds.

"'m not stupid, y'know." Naruto stated as the clouds slowly rolled past.

Sasuke remained quiet for some time before looking over at Naruto. "Yeah, I know."

He sighed before closing his eyes. "Just don't do that again, dobe. I don't like it when I can't do anything to help."

He opened his eyes when he felt Naruto's hand grasp his, squeezing it tightly. He looked over at Naruto who smiled at him. "You did help."

Sasuke waited for him to continue and Naruto obliged. "You told me I wasn't a monster. When I began to lose control to the Kyuubi, I kept repeating that in my head and because of it, I refused to give up. So, well, thanks, teme."

Sasuke squeezed his hand back, giving a slight curve of his lip.

They both returned to watching the clouds, hands clasped and content looks on their faces.

And for the first time, Naruto felt completely at ease within his heart.

End.


AN: And… there it is. Go ahead and laugh now. I deserve it. (flops dead)

Reviews and comments appreciated 'n I hope you enjoyed. Gonna go sleep now.

Phoe-chan.