Title: Orestes Stranded
Author: desolate butterfly
Genre: angst
Pairing(s): NaruSasu, mostly just Team 7 gen though
Rating: PG - 13 for violence
Summary: Team 7 gets an assignment to take down a murderer from another village.


Naruto wiped his hands on the grass, awkwardly trying to remove most of the blood and grime. Beside him, Kakashi spoke quietly into his headset, relaying co-ordinates for hunter-nins and the Komugigakure police force, not bothering to do anything about the spreading redness on his left sleeve.

It hadn't been that difficult to take the man down. Kakashi could have done it by himself, although it probably would have cost him more than just a cut on the arm. Still, Naruto had wanted…no, he'd needed to come. He'd needed to see what the kind of monster who would kill his own wife and children while they slept looked like.

The monster had looked surprisingly like an ordinary man—desperate, but ordinary. Once Kakashi had got close enough to pin him, he stopped fighting; practically pushed up into the chidori strike like he was glad for it.

It made Naruto sick enough to have to swallow back his bile, taste his own acids in his throat and feel them burn all the way down.

The entire trip back to the village was spent in silence. Kakashi was never one to offer his opinion anyway, and Naruto was too busy trying to think of what he could possibly say to the kid they'd left behind. The one with urine-soaked pajama-bottoms who'd burrowed into Sakura-chan's warm side as soon as she indicated that she would allow it. The one who'd hid under his bed after he woke to screaming, and had to step over his sister's flayed body in order to exit his room.

He couldn't even really give the kid the satisfaction of revenge, Naruto thought, bitterly. Couldn't go up to the child, wipe blood onto his cheeks and say 'here, we killed the bastard who slaughtered your family'. Not when it was his father's blood staining his jacket and clumping under his fingernails.

He'd decided to hang back, let Kakashi explain things. He was going to keep silent and place his hands behind his back and try not to think about things too much until he was alone, or maybe until he could talk things over with Iruka-sensei and puzzle out what he really felt, and whether he could really do this job.

But then he saw the kid, all snotty and clinging to Sakura-chan's medic-skirt with a chubby fist. He let go though, when he saw Naruto and Kakashi approach, and there was some kind of pained communication silently taking place between Sakura-chan and Kakashi that Naruto couldn't decipher, and didn't really want to try. His eyes were on the kid.

He didn't even remotely look like Sasuke. He had light brown hair, and green eyes, and the soft rounded belly of a child who had yet to start Academy training. Nothing like Sasuke at all, except there was something in those down-turned, trembling lips that made Naruto think of another mouth screaming at him.

Green eyes burned black, then red.

Naruto knelt in the dirt and gathered the kid close to his chest, holding tight—much tighter than he should, 'cause he could hear the small bones creak against his arms, but soon there were fingers digging into the back of his neck hard enough to draw blood.

"I'm sorry," he muttered, to the kid, to Sasuke. Everybody. 'I'm sorry. I didn't understand. I didn't know.'

"Mom's dead," the kid sniffled in his ear. "Rin and Tetsua too."


"I hate him."

"…Yeah," Naruto said again, closing his eyes. "I know."

And he did know, now.

'Better late than never, right?