Disclaimer: The only characters I own are Itoichi and Kaede, mwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

Chapter 18: Interlude

"T-that was g-great Neko-chan!" Hinata smiled. Neko grinned back, but her hand found its way back to the area where Hinata's gentle fist had skimmed her. It still hurt like crazy, but she would have to stick it out for another round.

She just wished that Sasuke would stay out of her head for at least that long.

Neko could hear the excitement outside, as she and Hinata waited for the next round in the wing connected to the arena. Medics tended to what they could, and Neko saw the one working with her hide a gasp at the bruise forming on her side. She already knew the next fight would not be going so smoothly.

Hinata and Hanabi had more of a chance. Hinata got to be healed and leave. Neko could only be given enough to patch her up for the next fight.

Hinata said her good-bye to Neko and left just before Hanabi came in, giving Neko only a few moments to cradle her head in her hands.

Why would Sasuke do this now? Why?

Why worry about it Neko?

She hissed for the voice in her head to shut up, the one that had been there since the mission that gave her these special eyes. It wasn't even really him. Just a projection, that was what Tsunade had called it.

Come on, Neko-chan. I'm here for you, I'll always be here for you.

Neko leaned forward, placing her head between her knees and scaring one of the medics. It looked like she was going to throw up. When the too-sweet voice of pre-death Neji found it's way into her thoughts, it had that effect on her. Although compared to the images of Sasuke's angst, it was a blessing. Hanabi came in the side door, getting her check up before she was allowed to fight. Neko did not want to look, she already knew that Hanabi would be the one to make her win honestly. Hinata had been putting on a show.

Neko, you know I can help you. We can do this.

She finally felt herself break down. It was worth a shot… Neji was worth a shot.

"Make him stay out of my head… I don't want him there anymore…" she murmured to Neji, concerning the medic once more as now she appeared to have a concussion.

Tsunade's technique. She taught you for a reason.

That was all she needed to hear. A buzzer sounded, alerting the girls that it was time to go. Neko went without a glance back, looking like someone who had resigned themselves to the gallows already.


"Itoichi," Kaede's voice flowed softly on the wind, he did not even have to turn to see the look on her face.

"So you saw it too?" he murmured as she sat down next to him on the balcony of their apartment, Itoichi unconsciously reached out to touch his wife's swollen belly. She nodded as she settled her head on his shoulder, he wrapped an arm around her comfortingly.

"I can only think of one thing to do," Kaede admitted, catching Itoichi slightly by surprise. It had only been last night when they shared the dream, evidently it had disturbed her deeply.

"You tried that again, didn't you?"

"There's more to it," her hands glided across her stomach as her daughter changed position. "I think… it might work."

He sighed softly, communicating his doubts.

"And… I think we need to take that mission, once Neko is delivered."

"…I knew you were going to say that."


The Twin Swords had no official rank, as even ANBU felt safer when the pair decided to join them. Two fighting as one was rare if at all ever seen--and most who got to see the Twin Swords in action were truly honored, as the rest usually died.

Itoichi's swordsmanship had only been matched by Kaede's speed, whenever she was in a tight spot all she had to do was lean out of the way. In a single movement she cleared the path for Itoichi's blade, something no one ever saw coming and their enemies hoped never to see.

Even apart, the two worked perfectly in sync. When her attackers learned how she would strike, within seconds she had traded with Itoichi--just before landing a deadly blow.

Some said they never even spoke to each other. They just knew.

Rumors, as with all legends, sprang like wildfire around the two shinobi. It was love, many argued, that bonded the two so deeply and truly. Kaede felt Itoichi's pains so deeply she was able to know when to strike against his enemies, and he knew her so well by the way she moved he knew when to come to her aide.

Others argued that this was foolishness, stories told to amuse the hopeful young kunoichi. The real truth was that Itoichi was a rejected Uchiha, all there was to it. He resented his family so strongly that he created a new way to use sharingan, somehow sharing his gift with his lover. His eyes were perfect enough for the two of them, and so lead the way into battling with perfection.

Those who knew the Twin Swords dismissed these rumors, they had their own theory. Kaede's bloodline was the answer, as it was the Nekos who had true foresight. They could know where a blow would be landed without even looking, much less using a steady stream of chakra to hold that vision in place. Between them, Kaede's skills held their fighting style in tact. Because, very few knew, that any of the Neko clan who chose to become a ninja found their 'twin sword,' despite how it seemed to always end tragically.

Why were these two the famed 'twin swords?' It wasn't any one of the theories; it was all of them.

Fate pulled a pair together, a star-crossed partnership born in times of battle. It was for this that most of the Neko clan used their power for religion and other paths. The few and the brave chose to risk it all, just for one more fight. People like Itoichi and Kaede usually knew it was coming, as the bond tying them together was deeper than any could ever feel.

Uchihas, on the other hand, were often considered the clan of loners. They worked together when necessary but the grounds around their family home was often silent.

Naturally, it was the rogue Uchiha and his wife who broke the mold.

He didn't like fire, he preferred using as many weapons as he could carry. When Kaede came along, she liked the fire. She always told him that it wasn't that the fire jutsu annoyed him, it was that he had too much fire in his spirit to let it out. His first step across the line was teaching her Uchiha fire jutsu, hers was showing him how she saw the moves in a fight.

Needless to say, they were soon both in trouble. But that only seemed to drive them closer together, like they only had each other.

In the end, it was Neko Kaede's technique that finally bonded the two and made what they were possible. It was all she had asked for when she left the Nekos to marry Itoichi, and they had consented grudgingly. A ceremony of hand seals, special sake and a ritual chant; from this the twin swords were born.


Neko skidded back, twirling twin scythes around her wrists to prepare for another attack by Hanabi. They were reduced to only allowed basic taijutsu and weapons for the first fifteen minutes--a handicap designed to aide Neko as she recovered from the first fight. In return, after those first fifteen minutes any and all bloodline techniques.

Hanabi was faster than Hinata, Neko found herself wondering if the girl trained with ankle and wrist weights like Lee did. She narrowly dodged a hit, careful to avoid another 'gentle' skim like the one hindering her now.

She fought to control the scenes screaming through her head, Neko could feel the curse seal as Sasuke activated it. She prayed that Naruto was strong enough to drag the Uchiha back home, she needed to tear him apart for this.

At the same time, she couldn't help but wonder why Neji wasn't in the fight with Sasuke. Had he already been injured? If so, why didn't she see it?

"Time's up! Bloodline techniques allowed!" the loudspeaker boomed, at the worst possible time. Neko found herself against a wall--and within Hanabi's range of divination.


Neji ran into his house and almost took out spectators that were looking for the toilets as he rounded the corner. The crowd grew louder as he drew closer, shouts of horror were increasing with every beat. When he finally slowed to throw open the doors and enter, the crowd fell silent and gasps of concern were few and far between.

He walked out for a better view, hearing Lee's voice screaming for Neko to get up. Hanabi was retreating to the middle of the arena, looking slightly guilty as Neko lay crumpled on the ground. Neji's stomach turned to ice, it looked like she wasn't going to get up.

"Tenten!" he screamed and ran to the edge of the spectator's box over the arena. "Tenten! Get up!!!"


She'd been hit with the 64 hands of Hakke before, but now she was sure that Neji had gone easy on her. It had never made her ache from every joint in her body, even the ones she was pretty sure Hanabi had not hit. The younger Hyuuga heiress had retreated to the middle of the arena, waiting for Neko to try and get up. Why bother? She was a goner anyway. Where was Neji?

A scream from the stands roused her.

"Neji…" she muttered, listening carefully. It came again and she felt her sore joints starting to move again. Her eyes danced over the shocked Hanabi and up to the stands. It was so blurry… why was there a light back there?

"That was a nasty hit! Can Uchiha keep at it?" the announcer taunted her but she stared as her eyes slowly focused in on Neji, who was in the stairwell of the stands.

'Hell yes I can keep at it…' Neko closed her eyes, feeling the familiar bloom of sharingan course over her vision. In return, Hanabi activated byakuugan and closed her eyes. Neko smirked, the girl was smart.

Do it. I can help you… Neko felt her gaze swivel up to the crowd, and saw Neji nodding. Was the voice really him?

Tenten, do it. It's not just your future on the line here. She saw him distinctly nod before walking over to sit by Lee, whom she knew would be an important third piece to this puzzle.

Neko turned back to Hanabi, launching a tidal wave of weapons with barely a seconds notice. The girl flinched at the unknown levels of chakra coming at her, almost opening her eyes to see what was happening. Neko used the chance to kneel and begin the hand seals, feeling an extra source of chakra pumping into her technique as she went on.

If every bloodline limit was allowed, she would show what the Neko clan was really capable of.


"Kaede…" Itoichi trailed off as they paused for camp. It was the first night of the mission that they would be on for a year.

"You know it was the only way," she snapped, her anger driving more spark into the fire jutsu lighting their fire. Near by was the group of Jounin accompanying them, but the duo preferred working alone. Their allegiance to Konoha was more out of respect for their home than being a part of it.

He fell silent, his eyes asking why they could not have just the first year. She wiped away a tear, wishing it had been possible. Itoichi knew her visions, but he couldn't see them like she did. He didn't see what happened at the Uchiha home, where Neko would have been had they stayed longer. He did not see how Neko would die first, because their apartment was one of the first in the nine-tail's path.

Anonymity was life. Ignorance was bliss. Leaving her only child meant the baby would survive.

"Itoichi, I just want her to have a chance…" Kaede said, feeling his arms wrap around her tight.

"You let me share everything else, for once would you share this burden? Let me help you…" he murmured, burying his face in her hair. She choked back a sob as she realized that they were in the same position that they would someday die in.


A/N: Two updates in one week? Almost makes up for that evil gap, huh? (And that was rhetorical...) Initially this chapter was going to be all flashback between Itoichi and Kaede... Didn't happen. Hehe, anyways please review!