Well...it's been quite a few years. I reread this story and decided I miss writing and I miss this fandom but I am not completely sure if I can actually finish this story. So much has gone on in the manga that will make finishing what I had planned very difficult.
However, I managed to find this last chapter I wrote and finished a little under 5 years ago. It's hard to believe it's been almost 5 years. On the 13th, 5 years exactly. Wow! Talk about a long hiatus.
So if I do manage to finish this, please remember that this story was written before a lot of the stuff that has happened in the manga since (not that my fic was very canon...haha) so the characterizations will definitely be and most definitely are off a bit especially considering just how much Itachi speaks in this chapter...
Also, thank you my previous beta, AmuseMe. She had edited this way back then too.
I do apologize for the long wait. Please enjoy. :)
Chapter 16 – Forgotten Truth
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Naruto asked, "I mean I know you're this master geniusninja and everything but I expect the Akatsuki to be just as insanely smart as you. I'm sure you're aware of both facts so won't they see through something like this?"
Itachi could understand why Naruto was so uneasy about his plan. It was flawed, so much sothat even Itachi was certain it could fall apart and fail. The last few days the Uchiha taught Naruto enough to carry out the end of this mission. If they succeeded everything would be over.
"Naruto." Itachi's voice was uncharacteristically soft.
Naruto frowned at the tone and eyed Itachi curiously. Naruto didn't speak and neither did Itachi as he stepped forward. Naruto was accustomed to the elder Uchiha's odd and sometimessporadic behaviour. So he didn't mind when Itachi pressed a warm finger against his forehead. Naruto unconsciously followed that finger with his eyes and he was sure he looked ridiculous indoing so but Itachi did not comment. Instead, he traced a line down Naruto's nose, cupped his right cheek with a warmer hand, leaned forward and pressed his lips against Naruto's.
Now that was something the blond was familiar with. Instinctively, Naruto looped his arm around Itachi's neck and pulled himself flush against the other man. Their lips moved together slowly until Naruto parted his mouth enough to graze his tongue against Itachi. The Uchiha took the hint and wrapped his free arm around Naruto's waist, the other slipped down to rest on Naruto's hip. Itachi flicked Naruto's tongue with his own and teased it into his mouth.
Naruto could have melted. An invitation from his lover was rare and Itachi was not one to submit so easily and this one kiss was more intense than any other had been. Naruto was more than happy to oblige and deepen their kiss with fervour.
They broke breathless and flushed.
Naruto spoke first, "That was nice," he pecked Itachi's lips once and whispered, "I want to doyou at least once sometime in the near future."
Naruto's blue eyes were alight with mischief and tinged with lust; a need for the man before him that he could not quite understand.
"Perhaps. When this is over." Itachi nipped Naruto's chin and trailed a line of kisses along his jaw to his ear where he inhaled Naruto's scent. He smelled like Itachi's soap. Naruto smelled like him.
"I can carry out this plan of yours, no problem. After all, I'm Uzumaki Naruto and I always find a way," Naruto stated proudly.
Naruto could feel the slight smile against his neck, "That phrase." Naruto shuddered when Itachi ran his tongue along his artery, "Is what you say before every dire situation you encounter, is it not?"
"Of course not," Naruto sounded flustered, "It changes from time to time, you know. It depends on the situation. It's all very complicated."
"I am sure it is," Itachi said as he pulled away from the blond, "Come. We must reach the base by sundown."
Naruto sighed, "Fine. Let's do this, Old Man."
Naruto didn't think he would ever get enough of his lover's reactions to the nickname. It was priceless.
Sai stood and looked north. He and Gaara had stayed far enough away from Naruto and Itachi to avoid detection. The fugitive pair was unaware as far as Sai knew. The tracking seal was still intact and was now pulsing with a steady chakra flow. Naruto was moving. The dark haired nin looked up at his companion was hesitant to interrupt him. Gaara was meditating up in the tree and Sai knew from experience how irate the young Kage was when his meditation was disturbed.
"Kazekage-sama?" Sai finally spoke, "Naruto is moving. We can leave now."
Gaara nodded before he opened his eyes, "I will be down in a moment."
Sai nodded his understanding and left Gaara alone for the time being. So long as the seal held, which he was sure it should, they would be able to track Naruto. Sai was sealing their utilities into a scroll when Gaara appeared before him.
"What direction are they headed in?" The redhead inquired.
"North, deeper into the Water Country. I assume that there is another Akatsuki base located somewhere in the area," Sai responded.
"Yes. I agree. They manage to hide a whole base wherever is most convenient for their purpose. It is quite an elaborate system they've built."
"Now I can't help but hear you complimenting their strategic prowess, Kazekage-same," Sai smiled in what he thought was a friendly way.
Gaara did not reply but the look Sai received spoke more than words ever could.
"It was all in jest, Gaara-sama. Please do not take offense to it."
"Then it would be beneficial for you to avoid such remarks. Such words are unnecessary for this mission."
"Of course. Shall we?" Sai gestured towards the north.
Gaara nodded and dispersed in a gust of sand. Sai disappeared from their small camp just as quickly.
"We are leaving." It was a statement not up for discussion, "Now."
Sasuke stood his ground in front of Jiraiya just outside of the Mist Village. He and Sakura had only made it that far before the older nin caught up with them. Sasuke was sick of the ridiculous excuses the Toad Sannin came up with over the last few days. He was certain; no, he knew that Jiraiya had not told them everything. It was obvious that Jiraiya was the distraction meant to keep Sasuke and Sakura in the village. All of this had everything to do with Naruto.
"I apologize, Jiraiya-san," Sakura began, "but Sasuke and I are uneasy about this ruse to keep us here."
"Ruse?" Jiraiya feigned a smile, "I'm not sure what you mean, my dear."
Sakura's smile was just as false as Jiraiya's when she responded, "What I'm getting at is the fact that you are trying to keep us here when Naruto is still missing. Gaara and Sai have been gone for three days with only your word that they're still looking. Forgive me, Jiraiya-san, when I say this but please, cut the bull shit. We are not as stupid as you are playing us to be."
Sasuke could not help but grin at his friend's words. He supposed Naruto may be a good influence on her after all.
Jiraiya laughed, "Oh, Sakura. You are quite a woman. Tsunade-hime and the Brat taught you well.
"Jiraiya. We don't have all day," Sasuke cut into the older man's laughter.
"No, I suppose we don't. Well, you got me. I might as well explain on the way. Talking about this here wouldn't be too wise, eh? Let's go."
Jiraiya took off into the trees. He recalled that Sai clarified Naruto and Itachi were heading north so north they would go. If they traveled fast enough they could catch up to Sai and Gaara in less than three days.
"I assume you two packed supplies," Jiraiya commented as Sasuke and Sakura caught up with him.
"Yes. I've restocked our weapons as well," Sasuke replied.
"Good because we are probably going to need everything we have. I assume so anyways."
"Can you explain yourself now, Jiraiya-san?" Sakura inquired.
"Explain myself, huh?" Jiraiya grinned broadly, "What do you want to know?"
"The beginning might be a good place," Sakura rolled her eyes at the Toad Sannin's question.
"Let's see. Sai and Gaara made contact with Naruto in the Mist Village a few days before they left to follow them. That's a good place to start, I guess."
"What?! They seen him? Alive?!" Sakura almost lost her balance.
Sasuke did not speak but his attention was solely focused on Jiraiya.
"Yes, the Brat's alive and more than well. He's still traveling with Itachi and they're on their way north. That's all I know. Sai and Gaara are about a day or two behind them. I guess Naruto went through a rather abrupt change in regards to the Kyuubi. They've merged and Naruto's senses and powers have increased. I am not completely sure by how much but the Brat will be quite the ninja now."
"He merged?" Sasuke asked.
Jiraiya nodded, "Yeah. I don't know the details but I believe it has changed a few things about him. From their report, Naruto's senses have increased exponentially and his chakra signature has been altered. It's the reason why we couldn't sense him during our search through the village."
"I see," Sakura frowned, "Is the Fox gone?"
"I don't know. Naruto didn't specify with Sai or Gaara. I doubt he knows much about it, himself."
Sakura continued her thought, "If they have merged and Naruto is still the dominant host of his body then that could mean the Kyuubi is gone. And if she's gone, why is Itachi still taking him to the Akatsuki?"
"Sakura, dear. You're too smart for your own good but yes, I have thought of that and it still comes back to Naruto's ignorance. You know how he is."
Sasuke stiffened at that. It was barely noticeable but Jiraiya caught it.
"It doesn't matter how much time you spent training him, Sasuke. Naruto is still Naruto. He's come a long way but like I said, you know how he is."
Sasuke grunted and said no more. He knew all too well how Naruto is. Sasuke hoped the idiot did not do anything stupid before they got to wherever the hell they were going.
Naruto sighed audibly as he glanced over at Itachi. The Uchiha had been quiet the majority of the day. Well, more antisocial than Naruto was accustomed to. He knew he should not be so needy but he supposed the dire situation ahead of him was something he could blame for his current disposition. Naruto was not sure if Itachi noticed yet but Naruto really wanted to talk. To be touched would be a bonus but the quiet was already beginning to get to him.
Naruto tried to look at the scenery. It was decent. The climate was rather humid, more so than Konoha. Naruto could say he was proud to know that the excessive amounts of water in the Water Country and the summer heat attributed to the temperature. The large canopy of treeshelped too. He found the random piece of knowledge rather amusing. Sasuke attempted to drill seemingly endless facts about other countries into his brain. The purpose as Sasuke stated was, 'A ninja must know everything he or she can about the surrounding territories'. It was something along those lines. Naruto took in as much as he could but Sasuke never thought that it was enough. He was such a worrywart. Then a thought suddenly struck.
"Say, Itachi. Can I ask you something?" Naruto asked.
"In case, all of this," he gestured between the two of them, "doesn't work out."
Naruto's cheeks turned pink, "No. Not us. Well yeah, us and the Akatsuki. If it doesn't work out and well, I just wanted to know a bit more about you. I was just thinking about Sasuke and it made me realize I don't know you."
Itachi was quiet for a moment, "Am I a stranger?"
"Then you know me," Itachi responded tonelessly and walked ahead of Naruto.
"You know that's not what I mean," Naruto frowned, "Tell me. Please."
Naruto jogged the few steps to catch up to his lover and peeked around Itachi's shoulder. He attempted to feign an innocent face that only seemed to look ridiculous. The Uchiha thought so anyways.
"I think you need to practice your facial expressions."
"Hey! What's that supposed to mean? I'll have you know this face," Naruto widened his eyes a bit and parted his mouth slightly, "is what gets me answers so start answering, Uchiha."
Itachi shook his head. Naruto never ceased to amuse him. Itachi figured he could humour the blond for the time being.
"What do you want to know?" Itachi finally responded as he slowed his pace just a bit to walk comfortably alongside Naruto.
Naruto whooped in triumph, "Hmm. Let's see. What don't I know about you?"
"I am certain you can answer that yourself."
Naruto reached up and scratched the back of his head, "Well, I know you like fish."
"Itachi. We ate a lot of fish when this mess first started. I didn't think I could ever get sick of fish but you proved me wrong," Naruto laughed.
"That does not necessarily mean I like fish."
"You didn't have a problem with eating so much fish?" Naruto inquired as he arched his eyebrow.
"It's healthy especially on extensive missions," Itachi reaffirmed, "but yes, I do enjoy meals consisting of fish."
"Okay. Fish, one. Let me get this all out in one go, here. So no interrupting," Naruto said as he poked Itachi's arm with his forefinger, "You're quiet but that's not from being shy. I guess it's called being analytical."
"That's a big word," Itachi cut in.
"Hey. No interrupting. And don't think I don't know anything. You're brother taught me more than I ever wanted to learn. Bastard. Anyways, the whole analytical thing means you're a people watcher. I know that from experience."
"Excuse me?" Itachi enjoyed the glare he received from the blond.
"You're always watching me," Naruto could not help the pink tinge that bloomed across his face, "Don't get me wrong. I don't mind. Watch me all you want," Naruto winked before continuing, "but I've been watching you too."
"And what did you see?" Naruto's eyes widened when Itachi stopped their gait and closed the proximity between their faces.
Naruto reached up and fiddled with Itachi's ponytail. He didn't look into the older man's eyes when he spoke.
"You're not happy. At least from what I can tell. When you think too hard, you brood. It's actually rather funny when you do that."
Itachi was just about to put the conversation to a stop but Naruto continued.
"You eat your food in an orderly fashion. It's weird but it's you. You're too organized so much so, in fact, that it must have been a disaster to wake up from that post training romp and see the mess we made. I would have liked to have seen that you know."
"I am surprised you said that with a straight face," Itachi commented.
"I'm going to ignore that," Naruto said as he glared at the Uchiha, "So now that I've said my share, it's your turn to talk."
Itachi was rather reluctant to share things he had already deemed his past because that is what it was; memories stored away, forgotten and never to be recalled again. He looked at Naruto and searched for any malevolent purpose within their depths. He knew it was a foolish thought. Perhaps he merely wanted an excuse not to speak because he only found a genuine curiosity and innocence that can only be Naruto. Itachi knew he didn't have to but there was just something about the blond before him that made it feel right to say what he could not for so many years.
As Itachi broke their gaze, he thought that maybe it was not such a good thing to become so involved with Naruto. Or maybe it was.
"Let's stop and eat," Itachi suggested, "and I will attempt to answer your questions."
A bright smile broke out across Naruto's features. He laughed jovially and pulled Itachi off the path to find some place to have lunch. They did not have to go far before they found a clearing within the forest. Naruto slipped his pack off and pulled out enough food for the both of them. He preferred not to eat the inedible canned ninja, mission-friendly crap the Hidden Villages seemed so fond of. He hated the stuff and ranted and raved until Itachi gave in and put the stuff back before he could purchase any of it. Nothing, absolutely nothing compared to ramen but thedried meat and fruit Itachi bought would suffice.
They sat across from each other and ate in silence. Naruto could barely contain his excitement for whatever Itachi was going to say. Naruto is not as naive as people seemed to make him out to be. He picked up on Itachi's disinclination on the whole 'get to know your lover' thing. It was plainly obvious as was the reason behind it. Itachi's past was a dark one and Naruto was well aware of that but he wanted to know.
Itachi's voice broke through his thoughts.
"What would you like to know?"
Naruto hoped he looked earnest when he spoke, "Everything."
"I would prefer to answer your questions rather than starting from the beginning," Itachi responded.
"I guess we can start with the easy stuff," Naruto's face scrunched up as he looked to the side in thought, "Why the cheesy black cloak with red clouds? I get that it's a symbol of your group and whatnot but seriously, why?"
That was a question Itachi did not expect.
"I am not quite sure of the reason Pein-sama chose it. It is not something I would ask him regardless of its appearance."
Naruto grinned, "So you think they're ridiculous?"
Itachi only nodded.
"Ha! Doesn't it make you wonder why then? I bet it took him a long time to decide on the final design of it too."
"If you are not going to take this seriously then we should continue our venture."
The blond chuckled, "Fine, fine. I was just kidding but it was funny, no?"
Itachi did not look amused in the least. He expected more serious questions from Naruto.
"I said before that you're sad. Why?"
There it was and Itachi was prepared for it. He was not quite certain that it was sadness but he had long since forgotten what exactly sadness was. He chose to overlook his emotions and just 'be' after he left Konoha. He supposed he could call himself a coward – running away from himself. That was all he had been doing the last nine years.
"What do you know of my history?" Itachi began.
Naruto looked as if he didn't want to say. It was understandable when one knew of the bloody past of the Uchiha clan. Not many spoke of the Massacre.
Naruto glanced at his feet, "I only know what Sasuke knows. He told me about it once before. What he remembered and what he felt. What you did and what it did to him."
Naruto's hard gaze met Itachi's searching one.
"Then I will start before that."
The blond nodded and waited for Itachi to begin.
"The Uchiha clan was comprised of talented and strong people. 'Superior breeding' is the term I once heard used. I cannot say for sure if that is true but there were many gifted people in my family. I was – am – a fast learner. I was studious and did what I was told. 'A good son to be proud of', father used to say. Mother was kind and made sure to take good care of Sasuke and I. I was loved once. I cannot remember much of what it felt like but I believe that it was something akin to precious. However, my aptitude for the ninja arts outweighed my position what a son truly was in my father's eyes. He was a good man but fell prey to the greed and power the Uchihas desired."
Naruto had no idea what to say in regards to what he just heard. It was heart-rending its entirety. He, himself, had grown up without a family. He did not know what a father or mother truly was and could not relate to what Itachi went through as a child.
"I rose up in the ninja ranks fairly easily. I lost myself then. ANBU is an unpleasant position for the weak at heart. I excelled in the ANBU so much so I was ordered to destroy my own clan, my own family."
Itachi frowned but Naruto did not catch it. His whole world froze in that moment. What the fuck? He ran through countless scenarios that did not make sense. Remnants of that day Sasuke told him about the Massacre flashed through his mind and still nothing made sense. His eyes were wide and distrustful when he looked back at Itachi.
"You're lying," Naruto whispered, "That can't be. I mean, what the fuck, Itachi? What does this mean? What do you mean?"
"It is exactly how I said it just a moment a go, Naruto. Against the Sandaime's wishes but on the orders of those who ranked higher than he I was commanded to wipe out the entire clan save for myself and Sasuke. I was their best and I did my best."
Itachi could feel Naruto's chakra building up. The blond's body was tense with rage and pain? Was that what that was?
"How can you say that so easily?" Naruto ground out. He was going to lose control of himself soon and part of him did not want to. That confused him and he sought out Itachi's eyes for an explanation. Anything.
"Wait, who can rank higher than Old Man Sandaime?" Naruto's fury calmed over his realization. Of course, it had to be.
"My direct orders were from Danzo who consulted with the elder advisors, Homura and Koharu."
And there it was. Naruto took a deep breath and composed himself. The bastards even had a part in the Uchiha Massacre. No, that wasn't true. They were the fucking cause of it. They planned it and had the mission carried out by an Uchiha no less. Sasuke's pain was their fault. Itachi's pain was their fault.
"Naruto," Itachi cupped his lover's face, "I believed in a peaceful Konoha. That's who I was no matter how emotionally distant I grew. That in itself came with the duty of an ninja as dedicated as I. My clan was preparing to overthrow the Sandaime and any who opposed their upheaval of the Hokage's rule. It would have brought a civil war that could have destroyed many Konoha civilians. Of my own volition, I accepted the mission and carried it out effectively. Sasuke was my only exception. I could never kill him with my own hands. They promised me his safety if I completed the mission successfully."
"Itachi," Naruto finally spoke but Itachi cut him off and continued.
"The next part of my mission was to infiltrate the group, Akatsuki. I was the infamous prodigal missing nin from Konoha. They sought me out. From there, I followed Pein's orders. Naruto?"
"Yeah?" His voice was quiet.
"I gave this information to you at your request. I am unsure as to why but it is done. What you do with it is your decision. My only condition for telling you this is to keep Sasuke out of it. He has been through enough."
"Itachi. This needs to be taken up with Baa-chan. You can't keep living this lie. I don't know how Sasuke will react but this facade needs to stop. You don't have to keep doing this."
"It is done. I can never go back to Konoha. It is no longer my home. I am dead to the village and I am dead to Sasuke. There is nothing to go back to."
Naruto cringed at his lover's words. They were true but something must be done. Sasuke, everyone needed to know the truth.
"Itachi, I," he paused, "I believe you. I've never heard anything more sincere than what you just told me. You would not lie about this. I can't promise you I won't ever tell Sasuke. He is my friend and I consider him as family. He is a brother to me. I can't keep a secret like this from him. And you have every fucking right to come home. Massacre or not those bastards will not keep you from what is yours. You can't say you have nothing to return to. Sasuke is there. He is your family. And me. I'll be there waiting for you."
Naruto said this with everything he had. He was not sure if it was enough to persuade his lover but he meant every word.
Itachi regarded Naruto briefly. He shook his head, "What is done is done, Naruto."
He leaned forward, pressed a chaste kiss on Naruto's lips and whispered, "Thank you. You have a rare gift and you utilize it to its fullest. I am content with what has taken place with you, Uzumaki Naruto of Konohagakure."
"You're speaking as if this is your last day," Naruto didn't want to say it but he had to.
"Perhaps it is. Come," Itachi stood and offered his hand to help Naruto up, "We have a lot of work to do this evening."
Naruto wasn't certain but that almost felt like a 'goodbye'.
He feigned a smile that Itachi's keen eye did not miss and took his proffered hand. Yes, they had a lot of work to do.