Being and Belonging

The End

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

A/N: This is my first Naruto story and I'd appreciate any feedback that I can get. Thanks for all the comments and feedback; I appreciate every one. By the way due to all the reviews asking about it, I figure I ought to mention this now, but I'm not planning on having GaaraNaruto. I apologize to everyone who wanted that, but take heart in the fact that I'm never going to completely close the door on any pairing. Just because it's not viable now, doesn't mean that I won't change my mind. I'll explain why the pairing won't work in the next chapter if it isn't obvious by then.

Summary: When Itachi leaves town on the eve of his parents' murder, he doesn't go alone. Can Naruto handle what comes next? "Ano sa…Ano sa, where are we going?"

His cat was hissing.

Naruto must have lost consciousness for a couple of minutes after the sand had scooped him up and started to squeeze around his body, because suddenly, Itachi ni-chan was there and Gaara was glaring at him and his cat was hissing, spine arched and fur on end. Naruto's head swam with the sudden change.

Naruto tried to tell someone that Gaara and Itachi ni-chan really shouldn't be looking at each other like that – they were scaring his cat; and that someone really ought to let him down. There was sand up his pants!

Unfortunately, no one seemed to be looking in Naruto's direction. The street was deserted and Itachi ni-chan and Gaara were still doing that staring thingy. Besides, the stupid sand wouldn't let Naruto yell. Every time he tried opening his mouth, sand snuck its way inside. Naruto's jaws were aching with the effort the sand was expending on his mouth and the sand was just barely porous enough for Naruto to breathe through.

Just. Barely.

Then everything went black.


Gaara glared at the man in front of him. He wasn't very big – actually, he was shorter than most assassins sent after him, but he had scary blood-red eyes (like the color of my hair, Gaara realized) and he looked absolutely murderous.

"Let him go." The assassin repeated, his calm demeanor breaking only the slightest bit.

Gaara glared at him and stepped in front of Naruto. He was trying to protect Naruto. Couldn't anyone see that? He was trying to protect his friend from the mean assassin. His sand was helping him. Then after he had killed the red eyed demon, Naruto would like him even more and he'd want to stay and play with him forever.

"No. You can't have him." Gaara said arms angry and silent by his side. He called to his sand feeling it tickle through his hair and swarm around him. Silently he ordered it to tighten around Naruto even more to keep him safe from wandering kunai.

The man's upper lip curled and his eyes darted from Naruto's drooping eyes to Gaara angry green ones. "You're hurting him." The assassin commented offhandedly, "He can't breathe."

Gaara whipped his head around – that wasn't true! He wouldn't hurt his friend. – but then he noticed the straining tendons in Naruto's grasping neck and the growing whiteness creeping up from underneath his plain shirt. With a gasp and sharp cry, Gaara let – no, made the sand unravel from around Naruto's prone form. Naruto collapsed to the dirt and the sand poked at his still form regretfully, pushing at his thin still shoulder in a conciliatory manner.

Forgetting the assassin in front of him, Gaara darted back towards Naruto, rolling the small boy over. He wasn't moving. Gaara looked frantically to left and right, his sand waving around him in a frenzy. Fighting back a sob – he didn't cry – Gaara shook Naruto harshly, trying to make him open his eyes. Instead, Naruto's head lolled back and forth, his tan skin too pale to be normal.

"He's not breathing!" Gaara cried out shrilly, noticing a lack of the telltale lift of Naruto's chest.

Instantly, the assassin was next to him, his hand reaching towards Naruto.

"NO!" shrieked Gaara, "NO! NO! NO! DON'T TOUCH HIM!" With a whip like motion, Gaara's sand raised up and struck out at the assassin. The assassin dodged the thin, but deadly stake of sand and landed a good ten feet away, crouching.

Gaara stood up, towering over his friend's body. "Don't touch him." he repeated manically. "Don't – don't…"

With a choked off sob, Gaara knelt back next to Naruto and hugged him awkwardly, sand hovering around them anxiously. The assassin chose that moment to act, darting towards Gaara ferociously. Gaara snarled and sent darts of sand towards him, his green eyes vehement. The assassin dodged them all and reaching Gaara, knocked him aside with an almost careless smack of his hand.

Gaara rolled away, half in shock and half in anger. No one had ever hit him before. He bounced back towards his feet, eyes clouding over as he saw the assassin kneeling over Naruto and prepared to attack him again. Running forward, Gaara suddenly stopped as he saw the assassin gently lilt Naruto's head back and open his mouth. He was touching Naruto so kindly. So caringly. Like Naruto would break if handled wrong. No one had ever acted like that with Gaara before. The assassin quickly ran a finger through Naruto's mouth and grimaced when his finger came back gritty with sand.

Was…was he helping?

"There's sand in his trachea." The assassin said sharply, pulling Gaara back into the situation. "Call it out."

Gaara hesitated; should he do what this man said?

"Call it out now!" The assassin hissed commandingly and almost reflexively, Gaara obeyed, calling out the sand to come out of Naruto's clogged breathing tube and back into his gourd.

It was horrible.

The sand had forced its way down, down deep into his lungs and his trachea had tightened around the clumps of sand, bruised and swollen. It was impossible to remove every grain of sand from all the crevices the sand had found. It had, without Gaara's knowing, effectively smothering Naruto alive. The sand had crept into his lungs, finding his bronchial tubes and surrounding the alveoli. Gaara wailed softly as he pulled the sand out, watching Naruto's still form jerk and twitch as sand was forced up his swollen trachea.

As the last of the sand left Naruto's body, the assassin immediately felt for the boy's heart and then with a dissatisfied look on his face, tore open Naruto's shirt and placing his hands on the sternum, began delivering short, decisive thrusts to Naruto's heart. His sternum broke with an audible crack on the third pump – Gaara chose this point to lean over and empty his stomach, but the assassin continued, giving twelve more compressions before turning to Naruto's mouth and breathing in twice.

As the assassin continued the cycle of compressions and breaths, Gaara watched with a detached sort of fascination. His friend was dying – no, he was dead. But Naruto had said that he was real, and real people didn't die; only the others did. Not real people, not him and Naruto. Suddenly, Gaara was struck with a horrified realization that if Naruto could die then so could he. And if it was possible, then maybe he should die.

Everyone hated him and he had just killed the one person who didn't seem to. Gaara pulled out a kunai from his pocket and stared at its gleaming surface. He could see himself in it, but it was a distorted version, his head and eyes monstrous and the love tattoo on his forehead more prominent than ever before.

Monster.

Gaara held the blade over the soft blue vein in his left arm and struck down. A centimeter before he would have hit his malleable flesh, sand solidified around the area and stopped the blade.

Dully, he tried again.

And again.


Itachi breathed deeply into Naruto's mouth, forcing air into his still lungs. Tilting his eyes to the left, he watched Naruto's chest compulsorily rise and fall. Frowning, he raised his head and began compressing Naruto's chest again. Swearing under his breath, he looked at Naruto's still face – his lips were fucking blue and the demon boy would die for this. Even if Naruto survived, the demon would die for making Itachi feel like this (what this was, he refused to acknowledge) - and turned to breathe into Naruto's lungs again when the boy suddenly choked and sucked in air on his own.

Itachi sat back as Naruto burst into sudden tears and clutched at Itachi's clothes weakly, burying his head into Itachi's lap. Awkwardly, Itachi patted him on the back, trying to make him stop sobbing. His voice was hoarse and hurt from the sand and the great gasping breaths he was taking weren't helping. Soon Naruto's tears tapered off as Itachi continued to rub his back, running fingers over the soft ridges of his vertebra calmingly. Itachi gathered Naruto into his arms and lifted him up, holding him with one arm and stealthily fingering a kunai in his pocket with the other.

As he stood, Itachi glanced over at the demon. He was staring at Naruto who had buried his head in the crook of Itachi neck with fascination.

"Is…is he dead?" The red-haired devil questioned.

Itachi glanced at the boy clinging to him again as if to confirm that he was still breathing. "No." he answered shortly. He didn't add the second part: but you will be.

The demon drew a deep shuddering breath. "Oh," he whispered, "I-" he cut himself off and stared distractedly at the kunai now in his left hand and then again at his right wrist.

Itachi eyed the boy carefully. "I can help if you want." Itachi said carefully.

The demon boy looked up at him, confused.

"It's easier if someone helps you. And why wouldn't you want to die?" Itachi ignored Naruto's sudden shocked clench around his neck. There was a white hot rage filling his entire body; it felt like he was on fire. He could barely see straight. Without thinking, he let Naruto slip down and stand next to him, wobbling on his tired legs. "Everything you touch dies. You can't even try to protect a little boy without almost killing him. That's all you're good for anyway. Murder. You almost-"

"NO!" the flame haired monster shrieked. "I didn't. I didn't! I didn't mean to!" he screamed. Frantically, he turned towards Naruto, the barest hints of unshed tears shining in his eyes. "I didn't mean to. Please…please." he half sobbed out, stepping towards Naruto.

Naruto's eyes widened and he shied away from him. As the demon reached out to touch the blonde haired boy, Itachi stepped in front of him protectively. "Don't touch him." he threatened, forgetting himself in the heat of the moment.

"I…I-" the boy staggered to the ground. "I didn't mean to." he whispered, soft tears escaping his eyes.

Itachi snorted and stepped forward and grabbed the demon's thick red hair – the color of blood - roughly pulling it back to expose his neck. Behind him, Itachi could hear Naruto's breathing quicken and become panicky. Chancing a glance back, he saw that the young boy had closed his eyes, cowering and was quickly moving his lips. Frowning, Itachi studied the movement of his lips and read: no, no, please Itachi ni-san, no.

Thinning his lips, Itachi ignored him. He'd deal with the boy later. Turning back to the demon, Itachi placed the kunai at the vulnerable edge of his neck and was about to draw it across the demon's neck when-

"NO!" Naruto screamed his voice still hoarse and coming out raspy and cracked in a way that actually made Itachi wince. Naruto leapt forward and slammed himself against Gaara, pushing both boys away from Itachi.

Tears leaking from his face, Naruto turned to face Itachi. "Please don't hurt him." Naruto whispered.

Itachi's arm lowered in shock. He couldn't believe that Naruto was defending this…this monster. The brat had almost killed him. "Naruto," he ordered coldly, "Get out of the way." Itachi lifted the kunai again, pointing it at Gaara.

To his surprise, Naruto disobeyed him, instead stepping in front of Gaara and the kunai. "No." Naruto insisted, "You can't hurt." he pleaded, looking surprised at his own audacity.

Itachi hissed angrily, his red eyes seeming to flash in the moonlight. Naruto flinched back into Gaara. "Naruto, I will only tell you once more. Come. Here." Itachi paused to let the message sink in and then added calmly. "I don't want to have to hurt you."

Naruto's blue eyes widened. He had obviously never thought that Itachi would lay a hand on him no matter what happened, Itachi realized with satisfaction. Naruto seemingly curled in on himself, but he didn't move.

"I…I thought you said that you'd protect me." Naruto whispered, his voice wavering. "I thought-" you loved me

"I am trying to protect you." Itachi said idly, sure that Naruto was in the palm of his hand. "He's dangerous. A monster."

"That's not true!" Naruto said lowly, his voice aching with every word. "Stop being so mean to him. He hasn't done anything."

"He tried to kill you!" Itachi hissed angrily. He couldn't believe that Naruto had chosen this particular moment to grow a spine. He was supposed to listen to him. Always.

"It was a mistake." Naruto wailed, noticing that the demon was shrinking with every word. "He's my friend. We-"

"That's enough Naruto." Itachi said cutting him off in a deadly voice. "You are to come over here by the count of three. One." Naruto dug in his heels, looking obstinate. "Two." Itachi looked at the boy; he didn't look at all like he was crumbling. "Thr-"

Before he finished the last number, Itachi threw his kunai at Naruto with deadly speed. The kunai clipped Naruto's cheek, cutting it cleanly and the young boy shrieked with fear and abrupt pain. Behind him, the demon hissed and his sand threw itself at Itachi. Itachi, using the sudden confusion to his advantage, darted forward and scooped Naruto over his shoulder, pulling out another kunai as he did so and holding it roughly to the red haired boy's neck.

The devil boy froze, his sand meekly stopping his assault as he stood still and fearful. Itachi threw Naruto to the ground were he lay winded for a few moments before scrambling out of the dirt to his feet, fearfully touching the sharp cut right below his eye.

"Three things Naruto." Itachi snarled, the tip of his kunai digging lightly into Gaara's skin. One, you never disobey me. If you ever do so again, there will be severe punishments. Two, if you ever stand against me, I will kill you. Immediately. And three, never test me. Do you understand that?" Naruto nodded silently, face oddly dry as if all tears had been stripped from him. "Good boy." Itachi turned away from Naruto and dug the tip of the kunai deeper into the demon's neck. He was going to go slow. Slow enough that the demon boy would feel every cut and every gush of blood. And he'd make Naruto. Yes, that would be the perfect punishment for him. He'd-

"I hate you!" Naruto suddenly burst out and ran at him with the kunai that Itachi had once given him. Stricken, Itachi barely was able to grab the young ninja's arm and twist it out of the way so that the kunai ended up in his arm and Naruto once again ended up in the dirt. Rolling over in the dirt, he turned to glare at Itachi defiantly. At least, as much as Naruto could glare.

"What?" Itachi asked, his voice sounding far away and distant. He felt a rushing sound in his ears and had to struggle to keep himself from walking towards the boy, grabbing him by his blue shirt and turning the kunai on him.

"I- I hate you." Naruto said again, his voice only losing the slightest bit of his former venom.

Itachi stared at him. He had never heard those words from him and truthfully never expected to. The plan was, after all, to make the boy love him wholly and unconditionally. So why didn't he? Itachi had made Naruto completely dependent on him. He had been kind to the boy. He had taken care of him after the fire. Why didn't the boy like him? Why- why was he looking at him just like Sasuke had after-

Suddenly Naruto drew a deep gasping breath and burst into tears. "I'm sorry!" he blubbered, I didn't mean it. I didn't mean it. I love you. You're my most favorite person ever Itachi ni-chan, but…but…why are trying to hurt Gaara? I love you so-"

Breaking off, Naruto launched himself at Itachi and slightly bemused, Itachi caught him and hugged the small boy back distractedly. Staring at Naruto mop of hair deep in thought, Itachi made up his mind: screw it.

"Naruto, Naruto," he murmured, "Shhh. I'm not going to hurt…Gaara." Slowly, Itachi rocked the boy back and forth. "I need you calm down now, alright? I promise I won't hurt him. I just…" Itachi thought quickly, trying to come up with a suitable explanation that would salvage the trust Naruto had in him. "I was angry because I thought he'd killed you. I…wasn't thinking."

Naruto lifted his watery eyes to meet Itachi's and he smiled beautifully before leaning forward and kissing Itachi lightly on the cheek. Itachi froze as an intense crawly feeling climbed his spine. "I love Itachi ni-chan." Naruto whispered shyly before wiggling down to go hug Gaara happily.

Itachi watched the two children absentmindedly and did not reach up to touch the spot which Naruto had chastely kissed. It was better this way, Itachi convinced himself, Naruto would have forever hated him if he had killed Gaara in front of him. That was why he hadn't wanted to off the brat in front of Naruto in the first place. Naruto's disdain wasn't worth completing the mission, Itachi decided. After all, he was training Naruto to be completely loyal to him. That had to come first. Then Itachi could slowly bring Naruto about to his ideals.

However, something had to be done about the demon boy. Kisame and Kabuto must have been wondering where he and Naruto were, but Itachi couldn't just leave him here; Orochimaru would know that Itachi hadn't completed the mission and would take or kill Naruto. Something that Itachi didn't have the means to stop. Not yet, anyway. Itachi would have to secret the boy away somewhere. Perhaps his siblings would help; they seemed fond of him.

Then everything went to hell.

Naruto who had been standing with his back to Itachi, but his front to Gaara suddenly yelled out: "Kisame!"

Itachi turned towards Kisame, about to yell out a warning, when Kisame lunged forward, his Samehada slicing through Gaara's lower torso in one swift movement. Gaara choked, blood bubbling up his throat and fell forward onto Naruto.

Naruto's scream pierced the still night air.

To Be Continued…

A/N 2: You know, for about ten minutes there, I really wanted Itachi to kill Naruto in front of Gaara and then leave. Then the story would follow Gaara as he grew up to avenge Naruto…but then I shook it off and realized that my readers might very well kill me if I did so. Anyway, thanks for reading and please excuse any mistakes; I wanted to get the chapter out as soon as possible.