"We'll always be together
We'll share everything we have
Whether it be joy or sorrow."
"Hagane no Kokoro," Full Metal Alchemist
(Translated by hikari-sama)
Chapter One: "Brothers"
From a professional standpoint, the mission was a complete failure. A newly-christened chuunin and four genin set out to retrieve a fellow Hidden Leaf shinobi, and they came back empty-handed and badly injured. Another genin fresh out of surgery had run in to assist them, as had three foreign genin that had once been their enemies. Of the original four genin in Nara Shikamaru's team, one had nearly killed himself with his own jutsu, another had been stabbed repeatedly before being impaled at least twice with arrows, yet another had been forced to stab himself in order to prevent someone from killing him, the puppy partnered to that genin needed constant veterinary attention, and the final member of their team had come far too close to losing a fight to the death against someone he once might have considered his brother. From Umino Iruka's standpoint, Shikamaru's team had succeeded in bringing themselves home alive, even with the assistance of Rock Lee and the three siblings from the Hidden Sand. He'd had the chance to meet all of these young men when they were at the Academy. Some of them he'd yelled at, and some of them he'd praised. But they were valuable members of the Hidden Leaf, and he knew that he wouldn't be the only one who would have mourned their loss.
I just hope Naruto can get over it, he thought. Uzumaki Naruto was the closest thing he had to family now, and the feeling was likewise from the boy ninja. Seeing Naruto's physical condition had been bad enough, but learning of the betrayal he'd just gone through was worse. Growing up, Naruto learned early how to cope with most types of hatred, but this was different. This was his friend trying to kill him, not just an enemy ninja or even a random villager who didn't bother to see past the seal on his stomach. This was personal.
"Naruto niichan!" three voices screamed from halfway down the hall. His thoughts interrupted, Iruka turned to see three of his students from the Academy—Konohamaru, Udon, and Moegi—running through the hospital, medics and their constant guardian, Ebisu, closely following.
"Iruka-sensei, where's Naruto niichan?" Konohamaru asked upon reaching him. His two friends and the adults behind him were panting for breath, but the grandson of the Third didn't seem in the least winded.
"I just visited him," Iruka replied. "Third door to the right."
"Wait!" shouted head medic Shizune, who had finally caught her breath. "Naruto needs his rest. The three of you can't go in there!"
"What about just one of us?" Udon questioned. Shizune took one look at his runny nose and handed him a handkerchief. They did not need him spreading his cold around what with all of the injured genin brought in already.
"I guess that would be all right," she confessed. "But just one of you and not for very long. Naruto's been through a lot today, and he shouldn't see too many visitors. The Fifth and I only let in a few people because of how close they are to him. They had first priority."
"You should go then," Moegi suggested to Konohamaru. "You're closest to him."
"All right then," Shizune finally agreed. "But I don't want you to take too long."
Konohamaru nodded and walked over to the room. Naruto was propped up on several pillows, eating a bowl of ramen Iruka had probably gotten for him. He was heavily bandaged, and his forehead protector lay on the stand next to him. Konohamaru felt very strange to be seeing him like this. He'd never really seen Naruto hurt before—bandaged a few times, yes, but those were always minor injuries. To Konohamaru, it looked like Naruto niichan had only barely made it out of this last mission alive.
"Hey, Konohamaru!" Naruto called with his usual energy (and his mouth half-full of ramen). "Shizune and Old Lady Tsunade let you in?"
"Yeah," he answered somewhat awkwardly. At least Naruto was acting normal. "Udon and Moegi wanted to come, but Shizune would only let one of us in."
Naruto laughed a bit. "Yeah, that sounds right. Old Lady Tsunade was in here earlier with Sakura and Shikamaru, and Iruka-sensei came in a few minutes ago. Hinata stopped in for a little bit too on her way to see Kiba and Neji, but she fainted—dunno why. Kakashi-sensei brought me in. He stayed a bit, then said he had to go. Hey, pull up a chair!"
Konohamaru found a chair nearby and brought it closer to his surrogate brother's bed. But as he did, he knocked Naruto's forehead protector off the stand. Naruto raced to grab it and replace it before Konohamaru could, but his injuries slowed him down. Konohamaru got to it first and noticed the second forehead protector that Naruto's had been hiding. Where Naruto's was in fairly good condition in comparison to his body, the second looked as though it had seen better days. A gash went across the symbol of the village.
Naruto niichan fought a missing-nin? Konohamaru wondered. That was the only reason the Hidden Leaf symbol should have been scratched out. But Naruto's face was dark, far more serious than he'd look if he'd faced any ordinary missing-nin. Now, Konohamaru was worried. "Naruto niichan?"
He laughed bitterly. "He said I'd never put a scratch on it. Guess I did better than he thought."
Konohamaru's face fell almost as much as Naruto's did. He knew Sasuke was Naruto niichan's rival, but he also knew that the two were close friends underneath their competition. Everything now seemed to fall into place: the injuries, the secret mission… Naruto and the others had gone to find Sasuke, and when the two friends fought, Naruto was badly hurt. And as young and sheltered as Konohamaru was, he could easily see something that would normally go noticed by only children who'd grown on the battlefield: Naruto niichan's worst injuries weren't physical.
Naruto niichan seemed to be thinking along those same lines. "Ever since I first saw him, I wanted to be that strong—stronger. When we were put on Team Seven, I knew that I'd have to work twice as hard to get him to acknowledge me, but he never did. And every time I fought with him, I couldn't help but think that we could have been brothers. But what kind of brother would betray you?"
Anger stirred up inside Konohamaru. Naruto shouldn't have been talking like that; he was always fixing things and saving people from themselves. It looked like this time, Konohamaru would be saving him.
"Brothers don't act like that!" he exclaimed, surprising Naruto. "Real brothers may fight, but they're always there for each other!"
"Konohamaru…" Naruto started, unable to finish. The younger boy wouldn't let him.
"Naruto niichan, you might think Sasuke's your brother, but he didn't. You just said he wouldn't acknowledge you! How could you be friends?"
"He had his own reasons!" Naruto argued, defending his betrayer. "His own brother betrayed him, and he wanted to be strong enough to fight him—he needed to be strong, but…" He stopped for a second, as if realizing it for the first time. "But he saw me improving and started to get worried. I was the worst at everything, and now I was catching up. He saw me as much of a rival as I saw him. But he couldn't admit it, and he couldn't acknowledge me until that fight when he finally put on his headband…"
"Sasuke's brother betrayed him, then he betrayed you," Konohamaru continued, picking up on the irony immediately. "He must have had that burning inside him forever, but you don't have to do the same. He used that as his reason to become stronger, but you have your own reasons to keep trying. You're Uzumaki Naruto, not Uchiha Sasuke. Don't become like him, niichan." Konohamaru was staring at him, pleading with him. Naruto actually grinned.
"Don't worry," he assured. "I've got my own dreams, and I won't let something like this keep me from accomplishing them. But…" And his face darkened again, though not as considerably. "But I still promised to Sakura that I'd bring him back. I'm not going to break that promise. I'm going to haul him back to Hidden Leaf kicking and screaming if I have to!"
The image of the cool Uchiha Sasuke being thrown over Naruto's shoulder like a sack and hauled home in indignation nearly sent Konohamaru in a giggling fit. Naruto looked at this young boy who had grown from a little brat searching for the best shortcut to becoming Hokage to the harder-working child in front of him. Atop his head was a pair of goggles Naruto had given him as a gift from one dreamer to another. Now, as he looked at this boy, he realized it had actually been from one brother to another. He felt extremely proud to be this kid's niichan.
Konohamaru, catching his breath, commented, "When I become Hokage, the first thing I'm going to do is change the way the geniuses are. They're too serious all the time. They need to lighten up."
Naruto momentarily thought of Sasuke and Neji before he caught onto a key part of his little brother's statement: "What do you mean when you become Hokage? I'm going to be the next Hokage, you know!"
Konohamaru gave him a smug look. "You can be my successor."
"If anyone's going to be anyone's successor, you're going to be mine! Then I'll take care of the geniuses, starting first with the Hyuugas!" He looked directly at Konohamaru, vowing, "You may be my little brother, but I'm not letting go of this particular rivalry."
"Me either," Konohamaru promised. "And I also promise that I'm not going to run off and betray you like Sasuke did." Naruto's eyes widened in surprise at this, and he slowly started to settle back into the uncharacteristic melancholy.
"I won't either," he agreed seriously. "The past's been repeating itself too much lately. I'm going to stop that from happening again." And then he looked back at his little brother with a grin. "So when I'm Hokage, you'd better remember that."
"You mean you better remember that when I'm Hokage!" Konohamaru argued. They stared at each other with massive grins across their faces. No, this brotherhood wasn't going to be broken. No matter what happened to either of them, it was going to remain just the same as it was.
"So," Naruto continued. "The old perv—Jiraiya—he's going to be taking me training for a while. You know, sometime after I get out of the hospital and all. He wants me to be ready for everything that's going to be coming at me."
"Then I'll start training too!" Konohamaru decided. "I'm going to be a great ninja someday, a hero, and I need to start now."
"That's good," Naruto agreed. "Better than I was at the Academy. I slacked off."
Konohamaru gave him a teasing deadpan look. "And you think you're going to become Hokage that way?"
"Hey!" Naruto replied in mock indignation. "I've worked hard to get this good. I didn't take any shortcuts or anything. I'm not going to give up."
Konohamaru smiled. "Neither am I. That's what makes you a hero, niichan. You don't give up on yourself or anyone else."
It was one of those moments in Naruto's life where he was flattered beyond words. For so many years, he'd just wanted the village to recognize him. Now for the most part, they did see him as more than just the Kyuubi's container. He had friends that were close enough to family, and he could see the pride they had for him. But no one had ever really called him a hero before; the closest had been Hinata, who'd said she wanted to live up to his ideals. The idea of being called a hero for doing something that came naturally to him as opposed to doing something incredible was inconceivable. He actually felt his face turning red.
"Er, um, thanks, Konohamaru," he managed to respond. "That means a lot." His mind suddenly turned to the memorial where Kakashi had tested Team Seven. He had told them why those names were honored as heroes. Back then, Naruto had finally realized the full extent and responsibility of herodom, and now he wondered if he could live up to those long-gone people. "You'll be a hero yourself someday," he told Konohamaru, but this time the boy looked serious. "What's wrong?"
"Do you think Gramps would be proud?" he asked. "He died to save this village and all the people in it. If he could see me right now, would he think the same as you, that I could be a hero?"
"The Third did something great all right," Naruto agreed, "just like the Fourth. They're heroes because they were willing to die to save the people they loved. But you called me a hero for not giving up. It's just something I do without thinking, like they probably did. You'll find out what makes you a hero someday."
Konohamaru replied, "Thanks, Naruto niichan."
The door suddenly burst open to reveal a highly irate Shizune. Naruto and Konohamaru stared at her in frozen terror as she yelled, "I've given you more than enough time! You," she pointed to Konohamaru, "out! And you," Naruto this time, "finish your ramen and lie back down! I don't care how accelerated your healing time is, you need some rest. Now out!" Konohamaru scrambled to his feet and ran out, too afraid of Shizune to even say goodbye to his brother. But Naruto didn't blame him in the least. She then turned her attention back to him, and he blanched. What had he done this time? But she placed a folder and a pen at his feet.
"What's this?" he questioned, giving her a confused look.
"Your medical records and contact information," she replied. "Tsunade helped fill out some of it. Make any corrections you need to when you're done."
Naruto didn't even wait to finish his ramen. He placed the bowl on the stand next to his bed and reached over for the folder, wincing in pain as his injured body protested the strain it wasn't yet ready for. On one side of the folder were the records of the other times he'd needed medics and information about the Kyuubi sealed inside him, as well as details of the seal. But a single sheet was stapled to the other side of the folder.
In case of emergency, contact: it read. Below it were the names of various people and their relationships to him. He struggled to wipe away tears as he read them:
Jounin instructor: Hatake Kakashi, Team 7
Father: Umino Iruka
Siblings: Haruno Sakura (sister), Uchiha Sasuke (brother)
Other contacts: Fifth Hokage Tsunade, Jiraiya, Shizune
As he wiped away the tears of pride, he uncapped the pen and added one more name under the "siblings" list:
I do not own Naruto, nor do I own what the opening quotes come from. This quote I found off of I don't speak Japanese, I used my own liberal translations of "Ero sennin"and "Tsunade obaa-chan."This fic takes place in the manga, following the brief snippets in the hospital after the rescue Sasuke mission arc. The chapters are in no particular chronological order. Most information on the characters in this fic (the names of Udon and Moegi, for example) came from with supplemental information from the Naruto section of Wikipedia. In addition, Shizune's angry entrance into Naruto's room (kicking Konohamaru out, etc.) was inspired by Madam Pomfrey in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, who did very much the same thing. Please give me insight as to how I did, any suggestions for improvement, and anything else that might help.