Author's Note: My first finished multi-part Naruto fic. I'm so proud of myself. This part was beta-ed by gelfling, who isn't my usual editor but was extremely helpful. I've moved the rating up to Mature, just to be safe. Enjoy.
Considering how much planning had gone into their attack, Naruto couldn't believe how completely the whole thing had fallen apart. They had been tracking their second Akatsuki partnership for two days, having come up with counters to all the techniques Orochimaru knew they used and planned what to do when the Akatsuki revealed new jutsus. They had even decided the perfect place for an encounter. The one thing they hadn't bargained for was the Akatsuki becoming aware of their presence and devising strategies accordingly, which was why Naruto had found himself fighting the wrong opponent in the middle of a forest at three o'clock in the morning.
It wasn't long before the Kyuubi became impatient. /Enough./
The Kyuubi, Naruto couldn't help but notice, had terrible timing, as Naruto was currently less than five feet from his (extremely large) opponent with a charged up Rasengan and was having difficulty dodging as it was. ((Don't-))
The demon took no notice of Naruto's protestations and quite smoothly yanked control of Naruto's body out from under him, the Rasengan immediately tripling size and darkening to a rather eye-numbing purple. With Naruto's mouth, the Kyuubi grinned. Inside his own head, Naruto was screaming. ((We can't win like this! This guy is guarded against direct taijutsu attacks. You can't possibly hope-))
/You will not dictate to me what I can and cannot do. Now be silent./ Naruto felt the air of a very large scythe missing by a hair as the Kyuubi rolled to the side and quite nonchalantly shoved the Rasengan through the Akatsuki's back, neatly taking out the man's lungs. For a moment, the enormous shinobi stared at Naruto in incomprehension before finally coming to the realization that he was no longer alive. For a moment, the Kyuubi and Naruto alike stared at their opponent's prostate corpse.
The silence didn't last long, for all no words were spoken. /Killing my opponent constitutes a victory./
((You got lucky. This guy was an imbecile. He shouldn't have fallen for such a simple maneuver.))
/You are not very gracious in defeat, Naruto./
((I didn't lose.)) Naruto tore his body from the Kyuubi's grasp without further ado, claws retracting and the red glow finally fading from his eyes, but not as much as it used to, before the beginning of this unholy crusade. His nails remained unnaturally sharp, his pupils slitted. ((I'm not human anymore.)) The thought didn't hurt as much as it should have. It was impossible to be shamed about such a thing when your sole remaining ally had crossed the line that separated men from gods so long ago that he no longer remembered what it was like to be truly mortal. Speaking of which… Naruto took a deep breath in through his nose. The wind was dead so late at night, but the scent of blood always carried.
((No.)) It only took a moment to decipher distance and direction. Orochimaru was fairly close, but not so much that the sounds of battle could be heard. Naruto was unworried. Most shinobi encounters were completely silent anyway.
/Or the fight is over./
((All the better.))
The Kyuubi's prediction started to seem more and more likely the closer Naruto came to the smell of blood. The forest was absolutely silent. Unusually so, as if all the animals had fled. Which, if Naruto thought about it, they probably had. Beasts were far more sensible than humans when it came to survival. However, even if the skirmish had reached its conclusion, Naruto remained on guard. Considering the circumstances under which the night had begun, there was no guarantee the snake sannin was the victor. But the jinchuuriki's rather grim expectations were allayed when he reached the battlefield and finally got close enough to the body on the ground to tell it wasn't Orochimaru's. The Akatsuki's corpse wasn't the bloody mess Naruto had expected from all the blood he smelled in the air. From the way the skin had grown swollen around the eyes, the blond shinobi's best guess was a death by poison, not through blood loss or damage to the organs.
Despite the Akatsuki's best efforts at a surprise attack, neither of them had survived. But the one thing they had succeeded in was separating their opponents. Orochimaru was no where in sight.
((Ah hell.)) Naruto sighed and glanced around at had once been a forest and was now a clearing, his eyes finally falling upon a blood trail that started several yards away. The only problem with this lead was that it ended where the trees began, and Orochimaru was far too experienced a shinobi to leave behind any erasable traces of his passage. To make matters worse, it was that moment that the clouds rolled over the starless sky and water started to fall in torrents, covering up what little might have been left behind and badly muting Naruto's senses. It was one of many reasons Naruto hated the rain.
Still, the blood was all Naruto had to work with, especially now that his nose and ears were near useless. So it was in the direction the blood trail led that Naruto moved, silently cursing Orochimaru under his breath all the way.
((Why the hell did the bastard have to hide himself away?))
/Orochimaru isn't stupid. He's wounded and he has no assurances you were successful. Find him. Blood loss makes humans careless. As aware as he is of his own vulnerability, Orochimaru will make a mistake./
((Could you make that sound a little less ominous?))
Inside Naruto's head, the Kyuubi smiled. /No./
Quickly banishing the thought that it might actually be a better idea to leave Orochimaru to his own devices for a few days/Want to protect him from me, do you Naruto?/ the jinchuuriki walked along the forest floor. It wasn't long before the storm worsened, and Naruto was quickly drenched.
((Damn the rain.))
All too soon, wandering through what seemed to be an endless ocean of trees in the pitch darkness caused what little optimism the blond shinobi possessed to completely desert him.
"This is hopeless. How can I possibly find anyone in this?"
"Revealing your presence is a start, Naruto-kun."
Spooked at the unexpected voice, the jinchuuriki spun on his heels, a kunai snatched from his holster and the Kyuubi's presence jumping to the forefront. The sight of Orochimaru, his clothing stained red from blood and leaning heavily on the Kusanagi, his breathing ragged and erratic, unexpectedly made Naruto's mouth go dry. The kunai slipped from his grip, landing soundlessly on the grass.
The Kyuubi, his voice sounding amused and much closer than it should have, murmured/This is a strange form of concern./
"It seems," and the snake sannin attempted to push himself into an upright position, but failed miserably, only just keeping himself from losing his footing, "That you faired better than I."
Blood had never bothered Naruto. As of late, he had even grown a taste for it. But seeing Orochimaru like this… so uncharacteristically weak, barely able to stand, his hair dripping scarlet clear in front of those familiar golden eyes… Naruto was startled to realize he was shaking.
The Kyuubi whispered (close, far too close) next to his ear. /Now you see it./
Just by the way the demon's presence shifted, Naruto could tell the Kyuubi was disgusted. /Your foolish remnants of human restraint have grown tiring. I will not tolerate this any longer. We have waited long enough./
Orochimaru's eyes narrowed as he noticed the jinchuuriki's hands spasm wildly, and red chakra shuddered over the boy's form. "What do you think you're-"
"No." When Naruto's eyes lifted, his gaze glowed crimson. "I will not stop, Naruto. And I will never listen to your idiotic human prattle again. I have waited years, and no one will deny me. Not you," and the warrior that held no traces of that familiar blue in his aura took a step towards the older shinobi. "And not you, Orochimaru."
Before Orochimaru had time to register what had happened inside the body of what had once been Uzumaki Naruto, the red-eyed fighter had pulled the Kusanagi out of his weak grip and flung the sword into the undergrowth. The snake sannin felt bark scrape against his back as the shorter man carelessly grasped the front of Orochimaru's kimono between his hands and slammed the dark-haired shinobi against a nearby tree. Distantly, Orochimaru felt one of the barely healed lacerations between his shoulder-blades break open and start to bleed. It was unthinkingly, instinctually, that the sannin aimed a blow towards Naruto's left temple, but the younger man caught his fist easily, effortlessly twisting the dark-haired shinobi's wrist until Orochimaru heard a crack that pierced through the sound of rain falling on leaves. He could only grit his teeth at the sharp pain that soon followed, not daring to take his eyes off his (not ally. Not enemy either, for that implied equality, and this situation was anything but) captor.
The blond shinobi leaned in close to Orochimaru's ear, compensating for his lack of height easily by pulling the sannin down to his level. The Kyuubi's words came out in a satisfied purr. "Stop fighting me. You and I both know I have the upper hand here. Defiance will only make this more unpleasant for you." The jinchuuriki illustrated his point by languidly running his tongue across Orochimaru's neck, licking away the dried blood that had clotted the lesion running lengthwise across the sannin's throat. Orochimaru was sickened to realize the action had caused his pulse to quicken. This may have been a scenario that had been cropping up in his nightmares of late, but his body didn't know that, and had memories of more pleasant times under far too similar circumstances. The sannin watched with growing dread as the blond shinobi's grin darkened. The boy's senses were far too attuned for him not to notice as well.
"Stop this, Naruto."
Slowly, but with obvious pleasure, the Kyuubi caressed Orochimaru's cheek. Orochimaru felt himself swallow. "I am no more Naruto than you are, though for all his protests, he wanted this far more than I did." The hand on Orochimaru's face trailed down the sannin's side, stopping lightly on one of the larger wounds inflicted in the earlier battle with the Akatsuki, seemingly years ago but in reality only hours. "The odd thing about you humans is that for all your tongues lie incessantly, your bodies are far more straightforward." The blond shinobi with casual cruelty pressed one sharpened nail against the bleeding gash, causing Orochimaru to flinch. "You," the Kyuubi explained smoothly, "Are enjoying this." And it was then that the demon forced the sannin's mouth open and pushed his tongue down the taller man's throat, cutting off Orochimaru's hiss of pain as Naruto's claws dug deeper into his side.
It wasn't long before spots began to appear in the dark-haired shinobi's vision. In a small corner of his mind that had somehow managed to remain unaffected by the goings on of the outside world, Orochimaru couldn't help but try and categorize exactly how much blood he had lost in the past hour, and how much longer he could hope to remain conscious. The darkness all too soon (not soon enough) began to close in, and Orochimaru closed his eyes, not even bothering any longer to put up a token resistance as his body relaxed into the Kyuubi's grasp. He wondered if it was possible to force himself to wake up dead.
When the blond haired shinobi's tongue withdrew from his mouth only a few seconds later, the sannin unwillingly opened his eyes. It took all the strength of will Orochimaru had left to not collapse to the ground as the shorter man released his grip on the sannin's kimono and staggered backwards, his claws reaching slowly, tortuously, towards his own throat. The boy's eyes flashed blue. What next came out of Naruto's mouth was fragmented, and almost painfully rough. "No… I won't let you do this… never…"
Orochimaru watched, fascinated despite himself, as Naruto's voice deepened to a growl. "You have no choice-"
The former Leaf-nin's hands finally closed around his neck. "There's… always… a choice." And it was then that Naruto began to squeeze.
However, it was inside the blond shinobi's head that the majority of the conversation was really going on. /You are willing to kill yourself to stop me from doing what you want as badly as I?/
((Not like this. Never like this.))
/Idiocy! You gave up your humanity when you took up this murderous crusade, and yet you still let human mores dictate your actions./
((I am neither human, nor a god. But it doesn't matter. Whatever I have become, I will not allow this to happen.))
/If you die now, your comrades will never be avenged. You will have allowed them to die for nothing!/
It was then, for the first time in months, that Naruto thought of them. Sakura. Kakashi. Gaara. The old woman. Jiraiya. And even, maybe, Sasuke. His grip on his neck tightened. ((Better that they die for nothing than to die in the memory of a monster. I may not survive to kill the Akatsuki, but neither will you.))
/Stop! You fool-/ The Kyuubi's desperate pleadings were cut off so suddenly that Naruto inadvertently loosened his chokehold on his throat. The first breath he took ended in a wet hack as the blond shinobi tried to force air through a partially crushed windpipe. When the coughing fit finally ended, Naruto was finally able to focus on what was in front of him. He was startled to realize it was Orochimaru, one hand pressed to a wound positioned right below his ribcage and his gaze wary.
"Naruto, who am I talking to now?"
"Uh…" It sounded like a trick question. "Me?"
Relief quite starkly entered the sannin's eyes right before the dark-haired shinobi unceremoniously took two steps back and collapsed against the same tree he had been held against moments earlier. "So my seal worked, then. That should take care of your little demon problem for a while."
Orochimaru closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the bark. "I sealed the Kyuubi. It will unfortunately restrict your access to his power until I can figure out how to give you the demon's strength without the troublesome bonus of his presence, but we can afford to take some time off before it becomes necessary to kill another pair of Akatsuki."
Naruto was having trouble processing something. "If you could seal him so easily, why didn't you do so before?"
One of the sannin's eyes cracked open. "You were the one who informed me that you had the demon perfectly under control."
Naruto felt himself blush. "Yeah… guess not."
"This will not happen again."
Orochimaru again closed his eyes. For a moment, the rain was allowed to fall in silence, but Naruto had too many things to say to let the peace reign for long. "I… I don't know exactly how this happened-"
"According to the Kyuubi, you desired me as well and thus your resistance wasn't as great as it could have been, so it was easy for him to take over."
Naruto's blush darkened. "Well… maybe. But I have to make up for this somehow. You can still kill Itachi, if you want. No strings attached this time."
"I have a better idea. As pleasant as blood play can occasionally be, I am not a masochist. How about next time, we wait until I'm uninjured to try anything rough?"
Naruto was far too tired from his mental travails to even make a go of acting surprised. "Agreed. But I still get to top."