Disclaimer: NARUTO © Masashi Kishimoto. Content
Word Count: 2872 words
A/N: It's been way too long since I last typed this out 8D Back then, this fic was still following canon, but a lot of things have changed in the manga OTL Hopefully this can provide an entertaining twist despite not being canon-compliant? :D
Content: Yaoi. Shounen-Ai. SasuNaru. OOCness? Spoilers. Violence, language. Dark!Naruto? Touchy-Feely!Sasuke and Rokudaime!Sakura. Pre-364 so certain Akatsuki members are still alive. Not canon compliant (not anymore lol), but there are some bits that will be the same with the current canon, and some that are different (:
I hope you enjoy! And please let me know what you think! :D
Come with me.
Such simple words, but they shook the entire foundation of Naruto's belief in himself, in Konoha, in everything.
Naruto was left alone on his apartment after that brief encounter; Sasuke had vanished as easily as he appeared. But to someone whose life goals were to become a Hokage so that he could be recognized and to bring back his friend to this village—Naruto was surprisingly not bothered by the turn of events.
He could still smell the faint scent of incense and blood that Sasuke brought in to his ramen-soaked walls. He could still sense the trace of malice and bloodlust that Sasuke brought in to his years-old walls.
Sasuke would be back.
And this time, when he would step out of the village gates, Naruto would be there with him.
It's the first time Sasuke has asked him so nicely after all.
That night, Naruto stumbled to a yakiniku restaurant—invitation courtesy of Shikamaru. He would have preferred his last meal on the village to be from Ichiraku, but it wasn't like Shikamaru was aware of that fact when he invited Naruto to join them. 'Them' being the other jounins considered for the Hokage position, along with the other ninja from their age. Sakura-chan was there too, pretty and regal in her fire-emblazoned kimono.
It still hurt, it still hurt a lot, to see Sakura-chan smiling so happily five tables away. Sakura knew, from their first mission many years ago, knew about his dream. Naruto wanted to take his complaints to the Old Hag—something about favoritism because Sakura was her disciple—but he couldn't. Tsunade was inside the Hokage Tower, nursed by Shizune and other top-class medics. She couldn't be disturbed and Naruto knew well enough not to pester someone with a failing heart.
"Maa, this is the time to drink." Shikamaru didn't look too bummed at the prospect of not being picked Hokage, but that's Shikamaru for you. Naruto wished he could be that laid-back about this too. He didn't enjoy the feeling of burning jealousy and twisted betrayal. He loved Sakura-chan. He didn't like this feeling of hatred towards her. But they were there: those whirling feelings of hate.
"The time to drink is after the ceremony tomorrow." Neji corrected Shikamaru with a clink of his sake cup against the table.
The smell of burning meat was strong. The commotion from the table beside theirs was something one would expect from twelve-year-old kids fighting over the last piece of meat, but it was instead happening between grown jounins fighting over… the last three pieces of meat.
"It's fine," Naruto took a sip from his cup, the bitterness still stuck in his throat, "as long as we're not completely wasted tomorrow, ne?"
Naruto wondered if Sasuke was nearby, if Sasuke was interested to see how Naruto was spending the last few hours of his life in Konoha, if Sasuke was comparing Naruto's farewell to his many years ago.
Neji looked solemn, a little kinder at the edges. Naruto has always teased Neji about being a sore loser, but he was taking this loss much more regally than Naruto.
"I thought it would be you," Shikamaru said quietly, words that were heard even over Chouji's victorious laugh, Kiba's uncontrolled guffaw and Ino's indignant shriek, "I really thought it would be you."
Neji chuckled lowly. "Coming from the Captain of the Intelligence Department, you can trust that, Naruto."
Shikamaru turned to Neji's direction, a smirk on his lips. "Even with your recommendation from the Kazekage, Naruto was still a better choice than you, Neji."
"Sakura was a better choice than all of us, apparently," Naruto muttered over the rim of his cup, but he quickly laughed over his words, since he didn't want to be so obviously bitter and angry over the choice, "and Neji, that's cheating! How did you even manage to get a recommendation from Gaara?"
"It means I actually did my mission over at Sand correctly, rather than just spar with Gaara," Neji replied, easily ignoring Naruto's initial mutterings since it seemed that Naruto didn't want to dwell too much on those.
Shikamaru looked like he was going to interject, or maybe intervene with some more quiet words to assess whether Naruto was alright or not. But he let it go, satisfied with the way Naruto bickered with Neji over getting Gaara's recommendation.
Naruto walked back from the yakiniku party, half-dragged his feet against Konoha's rougher roads. He remembered Sakura's mini-speech from earlier in the evening, something about her plans to make sure Konoha was presentable from inside-out. Making sure that the roads were smooth was somewhere there in her plans, but the sake in Naruto's system was preventing him from knowing if he was recalling things correctly.
He still remembered Shikamaru's mild teasing that managed to bring a blush to Neji's face. Or maybe it was because Neji drank more than Naruto ever remembered. Or maybe it was because Shikamaru was right on the mark for all of his comments. Or maybe it was because there was really something behind the smooth working relationship between Gaara and Neji. Or maybe it was a combination of all those.
Naruto wondered if he would still care about these things once he was out of Konoha. He has only ever known one village in his lifetime; he didn't think there would come a time when he would willingly leave everything behind. Naruto wondered who the Elders and Sakura-chan would send to come after him. He hoped it wasn't Neji—he wouldn't want to cause harm to Gaara's favorite envoy from Konoha.
He still remembered the way Sakura-chan looked tonight—carefree, beautiful, at the top of the world.
Naruto managed to reach his apartment without mishaps. He rolled his eyes when his door slid open without any creaks. Usually he had to wrestle with plunging his keys to his doorknob and he had to take great care not to just kick his door off its hinges. But somebody was thoughtful enough to break into his apartment, sparing him the need to open his door.
"Had a nice drink?"
Sasuke's skin was paler than the moonlight, but that's probably because the windows haven't been cleaned in ages. Naruto couldn't smell ramen anymore and he almost laughed. Almost laughed, because it was just like Sasuke to break into someone's house and even clean the apartment for them. Almost laughed, because this was just like when they were still genin with absurdly one-track dreams. Almost laughed, because they weren't genin now, but both their dreams were still unfulfilled and they were still both so different.
"…I think Shikamaru's right." Naruto replied slowly, closing his now-oiled door. The path between him and the window wasn't littered by empty ramen cups and unwashed clothes. The path was all too clear and Naruto didn't want to cross it tonight. Tomorrow, he would. Tomorrow, he would cross an even longer path, an even more dangerous path. But tonight, he just wanted to rest. He settled on his tattered couch. "I think Neji and Gaara have a thing."
Sasuke hated gossip, hated Gaara, hated Neji.
"They suit each other perfectly."
Sasuke was leaning on the windowsill, looking too contemplative to be sarcastic, looking too disinterested to be serious.
Naruto closed his eyes, wondering idly where everything went wrong.
"Tomorrow," Sasuke whispered, and Naruto heard the words clearly because Sasuke was already behind him, ice-cold lips ghosting against his nape, "we're leaving tomorrow."
Come with me.
The inauguration of the Rokudaime Hokage had everyone—be they ANBU, Chuunin or civilians—in the plaza in front of the Hokage Tower.
Everyone was smiling, everyone was congratulating the new Hokage.
The civilians were there, paying rapt attention to Sakura's speech. Sakura came from a family with no shinobi ties; everybody looked like they could relate to her. Compared to the previous Hokages, and even compared to the ANBU guarding the stage, Sakura was almost too normal. Like a flower that bloomed in a time of peace, Sakura's smile was full of promise and hope. She had detailed plans on what she would do to strengthen the village, plans on how to deal with the still-there security threats, plans on how to make sure everybody is safe.
She was living his dream.
It was truly beautiful.
The sun was bright overhead; the rays illuminated the faces carved into the village's landscape.
Naruto excused himself from his spot beside a fellow ANBU. He was thankful that he wasn't assigned to supervise the area with Neji or Shikamaru or anybody else that he knew. He was thankful that Kakashi-sensei and Iruka-sensei were both away for a mission. He was thankful that his disappearance was going to be less troublesome than he anticipated.
Because he was wearing his ANBU uniform instead of his preferred orange clothing, blending in with the building's walls and with the surrounding foliage was easy.
He arrived at the designated meeting point with five minutes to spare, but Sasuke was still faster and stricter when it came to schedules. The on-duty guards that were selected to watch the inauguration perched atop the West Gate were both glassy-eyed. Naruto was about to ask—even if he was unsure of the question, even if he was hesitant of the answer—for the reason the guards were still alive.
Sasuke's eyes were red—the Sharingan activated the entire time he was inside Konoha's borders. Genjutsu.
"It will attract attention if I killed them." Sasuke explained after a few moments' pause. 'It's not because of pity' hung in the summer-dry air.
Naruto didn't have anything with him aside from his Leaf forehead-protector and his frog wallet with the remainder of his minimal savings. A quick glance at Sasuke's form told him that Sasuke didn't bring anything to signify a long journey, even if Sound is at least three days' worth of travel. Naruto wouldn't be surprised if Sasuke managed to develop a Sharingan technique where he could store things in some hyper-space.
"Let's go." Sasuke nodded to the road in front of them.
It was strange, almost surreal, to witness Sasuke's pale skin under the morning sun. Sasuke looked young, even. Sasuke looked deceptively innocent, as though he wasn't a missing-nin that betrayed Konoha in search for power.
—A missing-nin like what Naruto was about to become.
There were the sounds of clapping, some yells, a couple of exultations.
The inaugural speech was over.
Sakura-chan was now formally the Rokudaime Hokage.
Sakura-chan was now formally the one who stole Naruto's lifelong dream.
Sasuke walked steadily, footsteps brisk yet soundless. He walked without hesitation, without looking back. He walked with confidence that Naruto would follow him all the way to Sound.
Come with me.
Naruto took (one, two ten) steps forward.
By the time he looked back, the West Gate was but a small speck in the distance.
(—and yet the sounds of clapping from enthusiastic villagers never left his ears.)
Almost like a direct contrast to the organized and well-constructed buildings in Konoha, Sound was a mess of caves, underground walkways and even more caves. Everything looked dark and every moment seemed like nighttime—and there were snakes everywhere. Naruto couldn't see those snakes, but he could hear the hisses that scraped against each other.
Sasuke hadn't talked to him for the entirety of their journey. Naruto didn't want to appear too needy, too childish, but he couldn't take the prolonged silence any longer. He was about to comment on how it was no wonder Sasuke enjoyed Sound since it fitted with his loner personality nicely. But Sasuke stopped in front of a wall, and Naruto was then about to comment on how maybe Sasuke needed some rest because he was now apparently interested on staring at walls.
Before Naruto could voice out any of his observations, the wall dissolved into a gooey slime. Sasuke merely avoided stepping on them and made his way inside the room that appeared in front of them. Naruto followed suit, and promptly gasped when he realized that Sasuke brought him to his room.
Of course, it's not like Sasuke informed him that it was his room, but judging from the familiar bow-tie suit folded on one corner and the scroll of information with Uchiha Itachi's name on top—there was no doubt that this was his room.
"We'll meet Orochimaru later." Sasuke's voice has lost any semblance of softness or kindness that Naruto may have imagined during their conversation back at Konoha; it was then replaced with firmness and gruffness, much like the way he sounded when they found him nearly three years after he first disappeared.
Naruto was about to protest on the way Sasuke seemed to have settled immediately on the only bed in the room.
But then he remembered the way Sasuke had whispered to him—hotly, urgently—and Naruto sighed.
Come with me.
The sounds of Sakura's victory and the snakes' hisses have all disappeared.
"I'm not sheltering some Akatsuki bait in my headquarters," Orochimaru hissed in a voice not unlike the snakes that surrounded the dungeon, "especially the Kyuubi brat."
The way Orochimaru said the word 'Kyuubi' reminded Naruto of the way the Elders told him in convoluted words that there was no way they could let someone like him hold power in the village. It reminded Naruto of how he was still treated with cautiousness, even though he had helped rescue the Kazekage against two Akatsuki members. It reminded Naruto of how his dream was now not even good enough to remain a dream.
Naruto would have been content to let the anger and rage flow all over him, would have been content to let the Kyuubi rampage on Orochimaru's hideout, but a hand to his shoulder stopped him. Sasuke more-or-less dragged him out of Orochimaru's sight, with a force that was enough to bruise.
"Wait here." Sasuke dumped him unceremoniously in his room.
Naruto sputtered indignantly. "What the hell—?"
"I have some unfinished business to take care of," Sasuke's tone was calm and serene, even though his Sharingan-activated eyes were wild and malevolent, "…just wait here."
Naruto had never been the type to follow orders, especially if they came from someone who wasn't even an authority figure.
(—but Naruto never did leave the room like he wanted to.)
"I killed Orochimaru," Sasuke said with an accomplished smirk dancing on his lips and Naruto struggled to find any hint of surprise at those words.
The curse seal was still there on Sasuke's neck, even though it's less visible now. Sasuke's hair was longer now; they easily hid the mark on an otherwise flawless skin.
Naruto wasn't stupid enough to hope that Sasuke brought him here to Sound because he anticipated being lonely after Orochimaru's death. Naruto was here to be used by Sasuke in his plans. If the amount of scrolls that had Itachi's details on them was any indication, Sasuke needed him to help out in staging the death match he wanted. Naruto wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect of setting Sasuke up for a fight that he probably couldn't win—Naruto knew that Itachi was strong. Everybody knew that Itachi was strong.
But Sasuke needed him and somehow that was enough.
"I'm forming a team," Sasuke explained calmly even though a naked watery guy was behind him, even though said naked guy was rippling with a crazy intent to kill, "I picked you, Suigetsu."
Naruto awkwardly returned the grin that Suigetsu shot him. As he expected, Sasuke was gathering people for his platoon. Naruto wondered if he would be counted in or if Sasuke had a different reason for asking him to come here.
"Soooo," Suigetsu started with a lazy drawl, "who's the other guy? Haven't seen him at Orochimaru's labs before—"
"Shut up, Suigetsu." Sasuke's eyes were narrowed in concentration. Suigetsu grinned maliciously, shark-teeth bared, but before he could make a move to attack, Sasuke was already meters away from the water tank.
"We have a visitor." The Sharingan looked even redder than before. "Suigetsu, put some clothes on. Naruto, make sure Suigetsu behaves."
Suigetsu yelled some obscenities at Sasuke's retreating back, but Naruto was silent.
"Oi, you always this submissive 'round him? It's fine to tell him he's a prick, y'know."
Naruto shook his head. He was far from submissive when it came to Sasuke. But it seemed that lately, what he normally was and what he was now have become two entirely different things.
"That don't make sense, oi."
Naruto could only agree to that.
"Sand is rather far away from Sound, don't you think?"
Despite the harmless words, Sasuke was already pulling out his Kusanagi out of its sheath. The sword had just slain one of the legendary Sannin; now it seemed that slaying the Kazekage was going to be included in its list of achievements.
"Return Uzumaki Naruto."
Gaara's authoritative tone wasn't lost on Sasuke who answered with a smirk.
"And if I don't?"
A tsunami of sand—sand that otherwise wouldn't exist on a jungle-like country occupied mostly by damp caves—came crashing down on Sasuke.
Gaara's eyes were resolute.
To Be Continued
ARGH, FINALLY! After many, many, many years, I've finally updated this fic. This isn't meant to be a long fic, but it's now especially shorter because of certain events in the canon LOL Hopefully the events of the next chapter clear up the timeline even more!
Also, this fic primarily deals with Sasuke's manipulation, Naruto's dream and Sakura's betrayal. But aside from those three, another character that will become important is Itachi—this is pre-364 after all, so the Itachi vs Sasuke fight hasn't happened yet. Inserting Itachi's story here seems too… choppy (and too spoilery! LOL) so I'm going to make a stand-alone oneshot for the SIDE ITACHI of this story… after the Itachi-relevant chapter is up XD
SIDE story: Itachi's side – stolen future – Today, Itachi is presented with a choice: to destroy his clan's future or to collapse Konoha's future. Because he's a genius, he chooses to steal everyone's future. Everyone but his beloved brother's. Because he's a selfish genius. (ItaSasu) (stolen submission side story)
Next Chapter: Gaara tries to return the favor to Konoha by rescuing Naruto from Sasuke. But he doesn't know that Naruto went there willingly—? The Akatsuki moves to capture the tailed beasts. Hidan and Kakuzu target the Two-Tails. Danzo sends Sai to investigate Sound (and to make a deal with Kabuto regarding Naruto's disposal—?) Sasuke's reason for taking Naruto becomes clear(er)!