Warnings: Female Naruto, NaruSasu SasuNaru, author's longwindedness and limited vocabulary, probably clichéd ideas, occasional sappiness and WAFF, lousy description of fight scenes, inconsistent chapter sizes, erratic and sporadic updates, author laziness (read the name!), Japanese words used for jutsu, nicknames and stuff (might include a glossary at the end of a chapter depending on laziness level), a bit of Sakura-bashing, probable OOC-ness, though I try my best to keep 'em in character, possible spoilers, and did I mention longwindedness?
Note: It was supposed to be a light, funny romance, but the humour ran away and the angst couldn't keep out of it... Rating might go up, depends if I decide to write... stuff that makes ratings go up. I will try my best to keep the story in line with what's happening in the manga - I had already written the chapter where Naruto's origins are revealed, then Kishimoto-sensei dropped the bomb, so I had to go back and modify the names :-)
Disclaimer: Kishimoto-sensei is doing a superb job with Naruto. I couldn't have possibly come up with all his cool characters, wonderful conspiracies and kick-ass fights.
U/L: 12th October 2007.
I Think I
Chapter 1 – A Proposal
Sasuke stared angrily at the white ceiling. He was back in Konoha, dragged back there by the dobe. The very thought of it made him grind his teeth, especially when Itachi was still alive.
He had killed Orochimaru, that bastard, when he had tried to transfer into Sasuke's body. The Uchiha sneered mentally – as if he'd ever allow anyone to take over his body. Orochimaru was a first-class idiot to have believed that Sasuke would actually give up his body for power.
After disposing of the snake, he had searched for the perfect opportunity to kill Itachi for almost three years. Itachi was slippery – he was hard to find, and the few times Sasuke did see him, Itachi was either with his partner, or would disappear quickly. Finally, he managed to find his brother at the Konoha-Suna border.
Itachi had been alone at the time. Sasuke had attacked quickly and brutally, and was pleased to note he had grown stronger under Orochimaru's tutelage. He had managed to land a few hits on his aniki, but Itachi had distracted him, then tried to use Tsukiyomi on him, but this time Sasuke's own Sharingan had matured enough for him to fight back, although the result of him trying to keep out of Tsukiyomi had been very draining to his chakra. Before he collapsed, though, he had slashed a satisfyingly deep cut through the front of Itachi's torso that would take a long time to heal, and would definitely leave a scar to remind the older Uchiha of his brother.
His brother's blue-skinned partner had appeared a few minutes after both the Uchiha had collapsed. The shark-man had quickly assessed the situation, picked up Itachi carefully, and vanished from sight, leaving Sasuke in a heap on the somewhat sandy ground. It took a lot of effort on Sasuke's part to remain conscious after the Akatsuki duo left, to guard against any sneak retaliation.
Just as he was about to black out, he heard a voice, one he hadn't heard in nearly six years, shouting loudly, and an orange-clad figure came crashing into view. Bright blonde hair, whisker-scarred cheeks and crystal-blue eyes, the likes of which he had never seen in anyone else, appeared in his shrinking vision range, and he watched the somewhat familiar yet different features look down at him with concern etched into them, and he blacked out.
And when he woke up, he found himself staring at the ceiling unable to move his limbs due to chakra restraints. Looking at the table under the window to his right, he could see two small transparent glass vases. Both vases held a single flower each in varying states of freshness. The vase on the right held a fresh daffodil and the other vase had a thoroughly wilted wildflower – a flower that one could sometimes see growing in fields or by the side of the road. He wondered who they were from. He knew the fresh one was probably from Sakura, but he couldn't figure out who the wilted flower might be from. It couldn't be just another fangirl – they probably didn't have high enough security clearance to visit him, let alone know that he was back.
The sound of the door sliding open caught his attention, but he kept his eyes on the flowers. A powerful chakra signature entered, followed by two weaker ones. He could recognize the weakest one to be Sakura, although he hadn't come into contact with her since the pathetic 'rescue' attempt at Kusa no Kuni. Judging by the chakra signature alone, he could tell that she had grown.
"Uchiha Sasuke," stated a terse voice. A spike of chakra, and he could feel the chakra restraints dissolved. Slowly, he turned towards the voice.
Renowned medic nin and Hokage of Konoha, Tsunade, stood there with Sakura and a dark brown haired lady flanking her. He refused to look at Sakura, and focused his eyes on the blonde lady, who didn't look any older than what he remembered. The Hokage's face was serious, with a very slight curl of her upper lip.
"Your body has healed fine; no debilitating injuries were observed when you were first brought in eleven days ago. You will be discharged today, but Morino Ibiki has a few questions to ask. Get dressed, and the ANBU outside your door will escort you to the Torture and Interrogation Unit building," Tsunade said. She then whirled and said to Sakura, "You have five minutes," and left with the other woman.
Sasuke looked to the ceiling again. The name Morino Ibiki was vaguely familiar, and an image of a big, tall man wearing a black trench coat floated into his vision. That was it – Morino had been the first examiner of the chuunin exams all those years ago.
A soft cough disturbed his thoughts, but he still refused to look at the kunoichi standing beside his bed.
Undaunted, Sakura moved to the table by the window and took out the daffodil, replacing it with one she had brought with her. With a small smile she said, "I'm glad you're better, Sasuke-kun. I've been checking up on you almost every day, when my schedule allows me to."
Sasuke noted the lack of the usual whiny and simpering tone, and wondered (and hoped) she had lost the silly infatuation.
"Naruto..." she continued hesitantly as her fingers absently played with the flower she had just removed, and Sasuke tensed a little at that name, "Naruto came only once after he brought you back. He said he's found you at the Suna-Konoha border when he was returning from Suna with Jiraiya-sama. Then he didn't come again. I'm a little worried about him... I haven't seen him after the day he came to visit you."
She finished playing with the flower and turned to Sasuke, a little hurt that he wouldn't look at her. Pushing back her disappointment, she gave him a small smile and said, "Well. I have to go – I'm about due back from my break. You clothes are in the drawer on your left – someone cleaned and repaired them, and left them there. Don't know who."
The medic nin's smile left her face and she walked to the door, where she paused and turned to look over her shoulder. "I'm glad you're back, Sasuke-kun. I'm sure Naruto is, too." Then she quietly left.
Naruto sat hugging his knees as the wind blew his bright yellow hair into a mess. He had grown it out over time, the excuse being that it was easier to do hari jizo, and now it reached his shoulders. His hitai-ate kept his bangs out of his eyes, and he had given thought to tying up his hair like Iruka-sensei and Shikamaru. He was sitting at his favourite place to be alone and think – on top of the Yondaime's head on the Hokage Monument. He loved sitting on his hero's head, and he could see Konoha stretched out below him. It was early evening, and lights were starting to blink here and there in the village.
The blonde's thoughts turned toward the traitor he had carried back all the way from the Suna-Konoha border. Tsunade-obaachan had informed him that the Uchiha would be interrogated. He couldn't say anything to that – it was standard procedure, and Sasuke had run of to the arch-enemy of Konoha, after all.
He didn't really know what to think of it all just yet – which was why he had only visited his former teammate once the day after he was brought back. He had washed and patched up Sasuke's clothes to the best of his ability, which wasn't too shabby, since Iruka-sensei had insisted (read: threatened) that he learned to sew properly, among other skills the man thought necessary. His excuses were mission reports and debriefs, and minor missions he had been assigned (more like asked for) after that first day. And he hadn't bothered to replace the wildflower he brought during his first visit.
It was the fifth day since Sasuke had been taken to the Torture and Interrogation Unit. Naruto knew that the interrogation had actually ended three days earlier, since the former traitor had told them pretty much most of what had happened to him, and what he left out Ino, who had joined T&I, had dug out of his memory. Sasuke had been uncharacteristically forthcoming with answers that they didn't have to resort to their other specialty (torture) on him. He probably didn't give a damn about the information he was giving them, except when it came to his abilities and Uchiha Itachi. Then he had been a little reluctant, but he didn't put up much resistance once Ino got to work. Naruto pondered about that.
Tsunade-obaachan had briefed him on their findings. She had been shocked to learn that Sasuke killed Orochimaru. Naruto had been shocked at first, but then he realized that this was Uchiha Sasuke – a powerful shinobi. Plus, Orochimaru had been at his weakest point due to the urgency for the body transfer to occur. Heh. Sasuke wasn't so great after all – he was just lucky that the Hebi Teme had been weak.
A small pigeon circled above his head and landed on his foot, and cooed at him. Naruto gave the pigeon a tiny smile and detached the slip of paper placed in a small holder on the bird's leg. He read the note from Tsunade-obaachan as he stroked the pigeon's back with the other hand.
The note was a simple summons for him to meet her now. There was no explanation as to the reason for the meeting, but the word 'now' was underlined three times. Naruto raised an eyebrow at that, and then realized that the rest of the note was written with harsh strokes. He wondered what the old lady was pissed about this time. She had been rather furious when he had showed up after a year-long goodwill mission to Suna with a bloody Sasuke on his back and a seemingly nonchalant Jiraiya in tow. Then two days ago something or someone had angered her enough for her to throw both her chair and pieces of her shattered desk out the window. She had also drunk herself into a stupor after that, although only a select few knew about it.
A small sigh escaped him as he stood up, causing the pigeon to squawk and fly off indignantly. He stretched his arms skyward and yawned a jaw-cracking yawn, then formed the seals for shunshin no jutsu. A burst of chakra later found him in front of the Hokage's office, and the two ANBU members posted outside the door let him in as he greeted them enthusiastically, although there was slight apprehension curling in his belly.
"Tsunade-obaachan!" he said loudly, grinning as he dodged a scroll she threw at him for calling her that. It was their little tradition. "What's so important you have to meet me now, huh? Why couldn't it wait..." he trailed off as he saw the tight look on the Hokage's face, and Jiraiya looking uncharacteristically serious as he stood leaning against the large window with his arms crossed.
"Uzumaki Keimei Naruto," began Tsunade, and immediately the younger blonde stiffened and a deep frown crossed his face.
"Tsunade-obaachan!" he started, but stopped as she waved authoritatively at him, then gestured for him to have a seat in front of her new desk. The little curl of apprehension he had earlier expanded into a flame and his features became serious as he waited for her to continue. "This is about Sasuke, isn't it?" he asked, all playfulness dropped.
The Hokage looked at him with what he interpreted as guilt and sorrow in her eyes. "Uzumaki Keimei Naruto," she repeated, disregarding the displeased look on the other's face, "I am happy to tell you that the Council is willing to pardon Uchiha Sasuke."
Naruto's eyes narrowed shrewdly. "At what price?"
Tsunade smiled a little inwardly – she knew Naruto was no longer as dense or idiotic as he still pretended to be. "Uchiha Sasuke has to marry someone to prove his loyalty to Konohagakure no Sato."
The blonde in front of her folded his arms. "As grateful as I am to be informed of matters regarding the Uchiha, what does him marrying anyone have to do with me? I assume it has something to do with me, based on your tone of voice."
Jiraiya snorted where he was standing, and Tsunade became distinctly uncomfortable – something she wouldn't show to anyone other than Shizune, Sakura, Jiraiya and Naruto.
"The Council has decided... that you are to marry Uchiha."
A few seconds, then...
"NANI!" Naruto jumped out of his chair in anger and slammed his fists onto the table. "This is a joke, isn't it? Please tell me this is a joke? Please?"
Tsunade almost quailed at the way his voice turned pleading by the last word. "I'm sorry, Keimei, but it's no joke."
Naruto sank back into his chair in a daze. "You called me by that name... you're serious, aren't you? Does this mean that you're going to reveal my secret? Everyone's going to know that I'm actually a girl?" He, or rather, she, gripped the armrests of her chair tightly.
"Not immediately, Keimei. It's your secret, so it's up to you to reveal it when you are ready, but I will have to reveal it for you if you take too long."
"Damn the Council. They knew that Sarutobi-sensei had put the genjutsu on you all those years ago. They want the Uchiha line to continue, and they want to make sure the offspring are viable," here Tsunade sneered and made air quotes with her fingers as Jiraiya snorted again, "so they want a strong female to bear the Uchiha children. Plus, they think it's added incentive for the Uchiha to remain loyal to Konoha, because of two factors: your fierce loyalty to Konoha, which they hope will rub off on him, and the interest Akatsuki have in you."
"They want me to produce Uchiha babies and act as bait for Itachi?" Naruto asked incredulously, her eyebrows shooting up.
Jiraiya decided to contribute to the conversation. "Those geezers... they don't care what happens to Naruto, as long as they keep Uchiha happy enough to produce Sharingan babies for them. I bet the whole part about 'strong females to bear Uchiha children' was purest crap. Anything for the Uchiha, as long as he remains loyal to the village."
Tsunade sighed and massaged her temples. "It's... true. They also demand that Uchiha be given special training with Kakashi, or any instructor he asks for, actually, to mollify him and prepare him to fight Itachi, then he must be allowed a certain time period in which he's allowed to dangle you as bait and finish off Itachi. And they dared to insinuate that if you'd be somehow killed in the process, all the better."
"All this so that Sasuke stays in Konoha... they really love him, don't they?" Naruto said softly with downcast eyes. "Of course – who wouldn't jump at the chance of getting rid of the Kyuubi no gaki?" The last part was added in a whisper, but the two Sannin caught it anyway, and Tsunade's heart constricted painfully as she looked at the blonde girl henge-d as a boy before her. No, she couldn't really be called a girl anymore since she would be turning eighteen this year. A young woman on the brink of adulthood, who for safety purposes, had had to masquerade as a male from the time she was a child, since many of the people of Konoha were close-minded idiots with misplaced hate since they couldn't differentiate between the Kyuubi and the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki.
"But why do I have to marry the teme? I'm good enough bait no matter what my position is," Naruto said, bleakness lacing her tone.
"Because, as his wife," Tsunade spat out the word, "he would have the authority to order you around, to a certain extent. Plus they want healthy Uchiha babies."
"Sou ka..." Naruto replied softly. Then in a stronger voice, she asked, "What if I say no?"
Here Tsunade looked downright murderous, and Jiraiya's expression was not too different. "The Council implied rather forcefully that you will never be considered as a Hokage candidate if you refuse. And unfortunately, the Council does have a major say in appointing a Hokage."
Naruto's face took on a defeated look. "...I see."
Tsunade hated that look on Naruto's face. It was so out of place on a face she had come to associate with shit-eating grins and mischievous smiles, even though she knew that most of the smiles were part of Naruto's mask.
"Uzumaki Keimei Naruto, what are your feelings toward Uchiha? If you don't want to do this, even if you have the slightest reservation or hesitation about it, let me know. I'll call it off, Council and Uchiha be damned," she said fiercely. Naruto was quiet for a few moments, but Tsunade could see she was tense by the way she gripped the armrests of her chair.
"Sasuke's my friend... he's one of my precious people," began Naruto, but Jiraiya cut her off.
"I know about your stand as a ninja – to protect your precious people, but Naruto, sometimes you have to think about yourself! Could you live with Uchiha for the rest of your life if you had to? Is he really worth it?"
Naruto was quiet for a moment after the Gama-Sennin's outburst, then she answered uncertainly, "I know that, Ero-Sennin... but Sasuke is important to me. But I don't know if I lov...like him that way or not... Tsunade-sama, could I have time to think about it? Please?"
Tsunade and Jiraiya could tell the young woman was being extra-serious when she called the Hokage Tsunade-sama instead of her usual nickname. Tsunade felt sorrow and anger rise in her as she looked at the whisker-marked face and sad eyes in front of her, already missing the sparkle usually always present in the sky-blue eyes.
"Of course, Naruto. But I unfortunately have to answer the Council two days from now, and I still have to inform Uchiha of the situation... which I will do only if you agree to it."
Naruto stood up shakily, as did Tsunade. "I understand, Tsunade-sama. I'll let you have the answer by six in the evening tomorrow."
Tsunade impulsively reached over her desk and gently brushed blonde locks out of Naruto's cerulean blue eyes.
"Don't feel pressured into agreeing, Naruto. Don't worry about the Council or Uchiha, damn them. I don't care – the Council will have to find another way of convincing the Uchiha to stay if you disagree. I'm not going to force you to do this if you don't want to," Tsunade said as she patted the blonde head in front of her gently. Naruto leaned faintly into the touch, then nodded.
With a weak smile she said, "By six tomorrow, then. I need to go – I've a lot to think about. Oyasumi, Tsunade-obaachan, Ero-Sennin." Naruto gave them a half-hearted wave and disappeared outside the door.
Immediately, Tsunade collapsed into her chair and produced two sakes saucers and a bottle of the liquor. Jiraiya took the bottle out of her hands and poured one saucer for her and one for himself, noting that it was the strongest sake Tsunade had in stock. The Hokage tossed back the sake quickly and poured herself another round.
"She's going to agree, I can tell," Jiraiya stated morosely as he helped himself to the bottle. He took a sip and continued, "She cares too much about Uchiha. All that three years of training just to get the traitor back. And now that she could be the key to him staying in the village, she'd definitely agree to the Council's plan. Damn the Council for exploiting her loyalty to Konoha and her feelings for Uchiha."
Tsunade took a few gulps from the bottle, her saucer ignored on the desk as she tried to alleviate the forming headache. "You think she's in love with Uchiha, then?"
"Probably. Probably doesn't realize it herself, either."
"Damn those two geezers," swore Jiraiya again.
Tsunade set the bottle down and the white-haired man grabbed it. "I shud have reformed the Council yearsh ago when I started this job," Tsunade said, starting to slur slightly. "They got too mush poweh, and the Hokage ish jush a puppet. Affer the Uchiha thing is cleared up, that's the firssh thing I'm gonna do."
Jiraiya nodded his agreement, and the two quietly finished the bottle of sake between them.
Keimei is one of the Japanese words for dawn. Of the few words having the same meaning, I chose this coz it seems the most name-like.
Reviews and constructive criticism much appreciated. :-)