Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to Kirsdarkenvar
The Ghost and the Darkness
AN: A very revealing chapter, this one...Oh and...lots of dialogue. Sorry.
Sasuke slept with his mouth closed and liked to sleep on his sides- this was something that Naruto had observed over the years, which meant that he didn't snore. In fact, the only time Sasuke did snore was when he had a cold and had to sleep on his back. And of course, he was usually too miserable to get proper sleep so even that was short lived and didn't happen very often. The thing was, even though the Uchiha didn't snore, he still made noise when he slept, noise that Naruto had gotten used to, noise that was eerily absent in the room. It had been a long time since the hooded blond had been alone, long enough that the absence of Sasuke's breathing was making him nervous. Though They were a hot murmur in his head, the silence of the room seemed oppressive, and as he sat in his corner rocking, he could not take his eyes off of the Uchiha's empty bed.
GAARAGAARAGAARA, They howled, and Naruto cradled his head in misery against the constant obsession with the other Jinchuuriki. If only he had killed him earlier, then They would not make him suffer over it. Naruto shot to his feet and left the room, heading down the stairs and into the kitchen, grabbing his cleaning supplies from under the sink and began to make quick work of the house, not bothering to use clones this time. He wanted to do everything himself.
Three hours later, and the house was satisfactory, but his head still hurt, and They were still speaking of the red-head. Grabbing a broom, he stepped out onto the porch to sweep away the dust and leaves that had collected there while he and Sasuke had been away.
Nabeshin was sitting on the steps, back to him, the disgusting stench of cigarettes hitting the hooded blond's nose immediately. The ghost was henged as himself, but without the pieces of his brain exposed, looking quite alive. With each exhale, the smoke came out black instead of white, and to Naruto, it smelled like decay. He seemed to be staring at the nearest Uchiha, the woman with the baby, who was still crying, cradling the silent child in her bloody arms. Naruto lowered his hood and began to sweep the dust from the porch, startling the smoking ghost, who turned his head to look back at him.
"Sasuke shouldn't be out for too long," the ghost said, standing up and stretching. Naruto continued to sweep as the ghost seemed to scrutinize him. "He'll be fighting the jinchuuriki Gaara in the Finals."
Rage flew through him, and there was a cracking sound, the bottom half of the broom falling to the wooden porch, while the other piece stayed in his bony hands. Naruto slowly released the handle, letting it clatter to the wooden floor, to look at his shaking palms, filled with splinters.
"I've been following some of Orochimaru's subordinates around," Nabeshin continued, sounding very ill at ease, "and it seems that he has planned an invasion with the Suna-nins. I have to go look more deeply into this, but I just wanted to let you know that it's supposed to be triggered during the final fight between Gaara of the Sand and Sasuke." Naruto looked up at him from behind his hair. The man gave him an uneasy smile. "What I'm saying is, in all the chaos, no one is going to stop you from fighting him."
They quieted. This was true! In war, no one would stop him from attacking an enemy! Relief flooded through him, such relief that he felt muscles loosen in his shoulders. He would have his chance. Perhaps another ninja would go tell someone of an impending attack, but Naruto would not- he was not going to let anything interfere with this chance- a chance for relief against Their fury and obsession.
He would have his chance.
The only time Kakashi bothered to go anywhere near the Yamanaka's flower shop was when he was visiting a grave, so he tended to associated the floral death trap as a rather morbid place, and though he wasn't there for some grave flowers, he was just as unhappy as if he were. So it was to his minor relief when his eye fell on the very person he had been looking for as he reluctantly stepped into an allergenic's nightmare.
"Inoichi," he greeted softly as he approached the counter. The blond man was leaning over a sheet of paper- from his quick glance he could see the calculated numbers of inventory in neat lines. The Interrogations Squad member lifted sharp blue eyes from the paper and gave him a careful smile.
"Kakashi," he gave him a nod. "Here for the usual?"
"No thank you. Actually, I'm here for you." His words got the response he expected, a snort of amusement.
"Not for sale," the man said, chuckling as he put the paper away and turned to him fully. "But what can I do for you?"
"I was hoping to borrow you for the day, while I still have the chance, to check out the mental state of one of my students."
Inoichi nodded knowingly. "The Uchiha kid? Isn't he still in the hospital?"
"No and yes," he leaned against the counter, glancing at a patron who was in the process of shoving a rose up her nostrils. "My other student, Uzumaki Naruto, is in need of a full evaluation." He watched the puzzled frown pass over theYamanaka's face.
"Uzumaki...That name sounds vaguely familiar. I profess that I'm not particularly familiar with Team Seven- aside from that Haruno girl my daughter keeps raving about and-"
"I heard that," a flat voice interrupted as the Yamanaka girl entered from the back room, a large vase tucked under one arm. Her face was set in a scowl, one that intensified as her pale blue eyes fell on him. "Maybe you should bring in your whole team while your at it," she snapped as she passed by them and went further into the floral jungle beyond. It had been two days since the Prelims, and he was sure that the extremely talkative girl had worn her father's ears down with her harping.
Inoichi sighed and rolled his eyes, moving from behind the counter and heading for the door. "A full evaluation, you say? Why don't you take him to the Ward down at the hospital? I know some great Psychiatrists there that I can refer you to. My cousin, Koji is excellent for genin with PTSD-"
Kakashi shook his head, stuffing both hands in his pockets. "He won't be willing. You can think of him as an enemy ninja- completely unwilling to give up any information."
A gleam appeared in the blond mans eyes and he cracked his knuckles in clear anticipation. "This sounds interesting," he cut him off as he opened his mouth, "Don't tell me what is wrong with him- it'll ruin the chase."
Kakashi gave a small grunt of unhappiness. He had put this off as long as he could, but no longer would he turn a blind eye to Naruto's unstable behavior- no caring sensei would. But what would he do with Inoichi's diagnosis? What if Naruto's instability was as debilitating as he imagined? Would he have him removed? He grimaced- what hell would the Uchiha put him through if he tried? And then there was replacing him with another...Replacing Kaori had been enough for him .
Kakashi opened the gates when they arrived at the entrance of the compound, allowing the Yamanaka to step through before he closed the gate behind him. The fact of the matter was that he believed that something wasn't quite right with the Seal that held the Kyuubi- he was sure that this contributed to Naruto's mental instability, and if so, could it be fixed? When was the last time the Hokage had looked at it? He himself had inspected it that day in Wave, when Naruto had been lying before him, emaciated and full of pins. He had looked it over- but he was no seal-master, he couldn't be sure.
"Huh," Inoichi's voice shook him from his dark thoughts, and he looked around, realizing he had gone off the correct path and led them down a winding path between houses. He turned them in a direction he knew the main house was. "This is the first time I've been in here," Kakashi raised a brow. "You know how the Uchiha's were- they would have kept the Hokage out if they could have gotten away with it."
As they came up the side of a house, Kakashi froze upon hearing a male voice coming from around the bend, one that clearly didn't belong to Naruto. His hand shot up, making Yamanaka stop. They carefully moved to the side of the house and peered around the corner. At a bit of a distance was the main house, Naruto was standing on the porch before a tall man wearing standard ninja attire, sporting short black hair and pale skin. Something about him was eerily familiar. He lifted a cigarette to his mouth and inhaled, the end of the stick lighting up, then he exhaled, and black smoke came from his lips and nose.
There was an intake of breath at his side, and he turned to see Inoichi's pale face, eyes wide but staring intently at the unknown man.
"Impossible," he breathed. "I know that man..."
Kakashi looked back at the man who was achingly familiar. Naruto's pale blue eyes followed the cigarette to the man's lips, a look of disgust passing through his unhappy face, and it seemed that the man halted in taking another swig, a look of nervousness coming upon his face. He dropped the cigarette and stepped on it, grounding it into the dirt. "Who is he?"
Inoichi was looking very pale. "Nabeshin...Uchiha Nabeshin- I swear that's him!"
An Uchiha- yes, he had the familiar features of the almost dead clan. Kakashi stealthily moved behind the house, gaining closer ground so he could hear what this supposed dead man was saying to his student. Both jounin moved up the side of the main house, staying behind the high bushes that ran along the side of the main house,
"...talk it over with Sasuke before you do anything though. I don't think you have the strength to kill him by yourself. I give it a day or two before he is conscious." Seeing him closer, and from the front- yes, he was clearly an Uchiha, even if a strange haze of reddish brown smoke was coming from his mouth with every word, as if his lungs were still full of smoke.
"It's him." Inoichi whispered, voice empty. The Uchiha opened his mouth as if to speak- but both his and Naruto's hooded head jerked to the left, as if hearing something, then the supposedly dead Uchiha turned and looked directly at the bushes were they were hidden. His hand flew to the katana at his side, and Kakashi leaped from the bushes, intent on getting the man away from his student. The Uchiha leaped back, katana unsheathed, and as Kakashi drew his kunai, the man turned the blade on himself and impaled himself through the chest completely, pale face twisted in rage.
The jounin reached out to grab his arm as he fell back, but was pushed back by a wave of chakra and smoke as the man popped away, his katana clattering on the ground. He turned to Naruto, moving toward his student in case another bunshin came out, and saw as his student staggered back, eyes flashing red and giving a quick series of nasty coughs before turning and rushing toward the doors of the main house.
Inoichi stopped the kid, grabbing an arm and yanking the small kid back, inwardly wincing when the kids' body collided into his own. He hadn't expected him to be such a lightweight, but his fingers, which were gripping the boy around the bicep, were touching. The kid had that little muscle!
He expected the kid to gain his bearings so he could look the small guy over and make sure he wasn't harmed by Nabeshin- just thinking the name sent a chill down his spine- but the kid did the complete opposite. Instead the kid attempted to jab him in the gut with his elbow as Hatake made the signs for a bunshin-no doubt to search the area for the Uchiha. Inoichi twisted the boy around so that a bony arm was up behind his back. "Relax kid, we're not going to hurt you. We're-"
The kid didn't seem to be listening- instead he was trying to break free from his grip, pulling dangerously on the arm- he could feel the thin bones creaking ominously.
"Naruto," Kakashi called calmly, just as a whine of desperation passed the boy's seemingly bloodless, cracked lips. Hatake wasn't kidding about the instability of this kid! He didn't seem to care that his own sensei was trying to calm him down. Inoichi passed the boy to his sensei, a frown on his face as he watched the ninja try to bring reason to the almost hysterical child. Uzumaki Naruto...the name was hanging around the edges of his mind- did he know someone with that last name?
Giving up, the man wrapped two arms around the child, holding him with his back against his chest, facing Inoichi. "Now's as good a time as any," Kakashi grumbled. Though his face was mostly hidden, it was easy to see how upset he was by his student's terror.
And the kid did looked terrified- he was practically hyperventilating, pale blue eyes bloodshot and wild. Inoichi stepped forward and dropped a hand on the top of Naruto's head, noticing the kid's hair for the first time. It was thin and brittle, not dirty, for the kid smelled like cleanser, but it lacked the luster of healthy hair, wispy and chopped at odd lengths.
He activated the Mind Reading jutsu, sucking in a breath as it felt like he was being propelled forward. It was the most uncomfortable part of the technique, the feeling of being thrust forward uncontrollably when he knew that he was really standing before Kakashi and his upset student. Beyond that though, when his feet landed himself in someone's mind- that was the part that he loved. Every person's mindscape was different, usually matching the personality of the person it belonged to. Over the many interrogations that Inoichi had participated in, he had found that the mindscapes that least mirrored the person's personality were the ones that were dangerous. On the many occasions that they had captured spies, they of course found completely different personalities hidden beneath the surface of their cover. One he particularly remembered was a kunoichi from Iwa, who had married a Konohan merchant in an attempt to acquire secrets from Hidden Leaf. She'd had three children by the time her cover was blown, and had been called by her neighbors as a kind and caring person. Her mind had been the most beautiful one he had ever seen, mirroring a coral reef in tropical waters. Just the memories of the colors alone was enough to give him a fond pause. Whenever he had gotten close to breaking past her defenses, the reef would become more beautiful and distracting, the sea flowers more brilliant, the fish more flashy. As it turned out, the kind caring woman had been exiled from Iwa for preying on many of the men and boys there. She had been too powerful to kill, so they had sent her to Konoha on a long term mission, where she had secretly been preying on the unknowing men here.
Uzumaki's mindscape was not beautiful in any stretch of the imagination. Inoichi looked up at the dark grey jagged ceiling, resisting the urge to crouch. He was in a small hot cave, an incredibly humid one, with his scalp close to scraping the rocky ceiling. He was closed in on all sides except before him, where three black holes remained, all about the same size- too small. He frowned. Inside the mind of children did not normally look like this- the mind of a child was much more chaotic, disorderly, much less organized. The mind always mirrored the child's present state of mind- whether they were happy or sad, angry or pensive. A cave, was not something he expected.
Uzumaki Naruto: definitely not a happy child.
And again, the name was strangely familiar, he was sure he had heard it somewhere- it was at the edge of his mind. Inoichi stepped up to the hole directly in front of him and peered into the pitch black darkness that seemed to emanate from it. He could see nothing beyond a foot. He moved to the one on the right, then the left, gazing in with the same results. Interesting. He would have to ask later if Kakashi had been teaching genjutsu to his students- already this boy's mind was making traps.
Taking the hole on the left, Inoichi climbed in, his shoulders grazing the sides, testing for claustrophobia, clearly. There was no telling where the hole would lead, perhaps a dead end- perhaps the entrance would close behind him and he would have to cancel the jutsu and start over. But he was confident that he would be able to crack through this child's defenses; he had worked on much more dangerous people, and this boy would not be a challenge. He was a favor for a fellow jounin.
It was the smell that hit him first, a rank, sour smell, the kind similar to that of a battlefield, after the initial slaughter had taken place. Inoichi stopped, squinting into the darkness as he attempted to crawl forward on his elbows, face twisted in a grimace as the smell got stronger. He'd obviously chosen the right hole...
A sound came from the darkness beyond him, a scuffling sound of something coming. Inoichi stopped moving and waited, gazing into the darkness- and though the stench increased, he was too curious to cancel the jutsu.
He was breathing out of his mouth by the time whatever it was reached him. At first, he could only make out dingy blond hair- then, a naked child slithered face down toward him, the rancid smell seeming to hit its peek, making his stomach roll. An inner manifestation of the Uzumaki kid? Less than four feet from him, the kid lifted his head, and Inoichi could only stare as the twisted face greeted him, a face not belonging to the boy. The mouth was split from ear to ear, revealing sharp yellow teeth. The eyes were too large for the face, leaking blood as they seemed about to pop from its head. A misshapen hand- half claw -half fingers reached out for him, and the Yamanaka slapped it away, clearly out of reflex alone.
The boy/creature spoke as it withdrew the appendage.
"This is not your place, Intruder. It belongs to Us. Do you want to stay?" the voice came out breathy, almost weak.
"I am not here to cause you any harm," he said to the boy's mental defense. "I am here to help you." And he was, for this sad little boy with the disturbingly familiar name was a ninja of Hidden Leaf, and he would not turn aside knowing one needed his help. Something flashed through the misshapen face, an almost incredulous look before a hissing laugh escaped the wide mouth, and the bizarre arm shot forward again and grabbed him by the wrist. Inoichi did not stop it this time.
"You do not recognize us," the boy/creature said as it began moving back down the hole, pulling Inoichi along with it. "You are not knowing us by face and name, but we will have with you, a reunion like none other." He did not fight- he needed to be pulled deeper into the boy's psyche to be able to gauge how damaged mentally the boy was. Even if the unease he felt was continuing to grow. "And like the days of a tree, so shall your pain be, and we shall sup upon it."
Suddenly the tunnel gave way beneath them, completely startling the seasoned ninja, and he tried to grab something- a ledge-anything, but there was only the inky darkness and the boy/creature. They both descended down into nothingness. And still he did not cancel the jutsu. Ground came suddenly and unforgiving, making Inoichi's legs crumble beneath him with a pained grunt. He quickly stumbled to his feet, racing to gather his bearings as he spied the boy/creature crouching in front of him, large red eyes focused on the grey ground. A whimper came from behind him, and he turned to spy another child, this one looking exactly like Uzumaki, drawn up in a ball, red-rimmed blue eyes focused beyond them. Inoichi turned to see what the object of the boy's terror was, and came to notice the large multitude of eyes watching hm from the darkness- hundreds of them, all different shapes, sizes, colors, all focused on him. He felt naked, exposed- he felt an alien awareness about those many eyes.
"Nichi, Nichi, Nichi," the boy/creature whined, and the hairs raised on the back of the jounin's neck as he turned his attention back to it.
"What did you call me?" he whispered harshly as the wide mouth began to shrink, returning to a normal size, but pouty, like a woman's. The bloody eyes turned a stormy grey, the grimy dull blond hair turning rich and flowing. The boy/creature was no longer- it was now a woman, a woman he hadn't seen for twelve years actually. Yamanaka Aiga, his older sister, who had died in battle fighting the Kyuubi.
She crawled toward him, naked, her face twisted in pain. "Nichi, my sunflower. Why haven't you saved me?"
It was too impossible. How could this boy have known Aiga to bring up a manifestation of her? He'd have been a mere baby- or not even born yet. She reached out to him with familiar calloused hands. "It hurts so much here, Nichi," she sobbed. "Every second feels like an eternity." Tears streamed down her face, her beautiful grey eyes begging him. Inoichi took a pained step back, his hands coming up to cancel the jutsu- but his wide eyes could not look away from her. "Please don't leave!" she gasped, her eyes falling on his hands. "Please don't leave me with him! I did my duty to Konoha, for the Clan. Please save me Inoichi!"
Inoichi's mouth opened, from what?he wanted to say to his sister- no- to the manifestation, that is until a giant, red, nine tailed fox appeared behind her. He cried out in shock as a clawed paw dropped down on his sister and pulled her closer to it while she screamed her brother's name.
The demonic eyes of the Kyuubi bored into his own as it spoke. "THEY ARE ALL MINE." And as it said this, other voices joined Aiga; he saw fellow ninja, all KIA, appear from beneath the many tails.
"Yamanaka!" Nara Hachiuma, still thirteen years old, waved to him desperately, attempting to reach him with a face lined with pain, but was shoved aside by Jien, a man he had shared a few sake's with on many occasions.
"Inoichi!" his face too was lined with such agony. "Help me! Save me!"
"Yamanaka-san!" a Hyuuga crawled over from behind one of the many tails.
"It hurts so much," Aiga's voice rose above them all, though it was barely a whisper. "Being here hurts so much."
A bellowing cackle of laughter filled his ears and he gazed up numbly at the Kyuubi. Now he knew why the name Uzumaki was so familiar to him. The jinchuuriki.
"THEY"RE ALL MINE," the Fox crowed. Aiga gave a screech, and Inoichi saw that the fox's paw was crushing her.
"Aiga!" he cried, leaping forward as her eyes were pushed from her head. He howled in horror just as a pain blossomed through him, and light flooded the dark hell.
He should have known something was wrong the moment Inoichi's hand began to tremble where it was buried in the limp boy's hair. Then there was the sweat and overall pallor of his face- but Kakashi had figured he was a seasoned ninja- he knew how to handle himself. And even though it was taking longer than he expected, and Naruto's very light body was starting to feel a bit heavy, he endured. It was stressful, being on alert and not being able to move. Though the compound was as silent as a grave, he half expected more not-dead Uchiha's to show up. His clone had done a quick search of the compound, but had come up with nothing. The katana was the only thing left behind.
A strange sound was coming from Naruto's mouth, a creepy sound, that at first he did not recognize, until it manifested itself as laughter. Naruto was laughing. He'd only seen the boy smile once, a small feeble thing that it was, so for actual laughter to be coming from the kid sent chills up and down his spine. And then Inoichi gave a chilling howl.
Kakashi jerked his student away from Inoichi's hand, and the man staggered back, tripping on the landing steps behind him and falling on his backside. Naruto writhed in his arms, his laughter becoming more erratic as he struggled against the shinobi's arms.
"Inoichi!" Kakashi called, staring at the pale man sitting on the steps, eyes wide and frozen on nothing. This had been a mistake- he should have let sleeping dogs lie. Blunt teeth sank into his right forearm, startling the jounin into releasing his student. Naruto staggered forward before running up the steps and into the main house, chaotic laughter following him in.
Kakashi moved over to the pale jounin and kneeled before him so that they were face to face. The blond looked like he had come from the horrors of battle. "Inoichi." he snapped his fingers to gain the man's attention, and it seemed to partially work, for the man seemed to focus on him. But the expression did not fade.
"He has them," he whispered. "He has them all..."
"What?" Kakashi snapped his fingers again as Inoichi seemed to lose focus again. "Who has who?"
He seemed to focus then, eyes sharpening. His hands reached out and gripped Kakashi's shoulders with alarming strength
"Kyuubi! You remember Hachiuma? Aiga, my sister? All the others who were devoured by the Fox? The Kyuubi has them inside there with him!"
Kakashi stood up abruptly, backing away from the other jounin, heart pounding.
"All this time! All this time he has been torturing them-"
"Wait Inoichi," Kakashi cut in as the blond got to his feet, color returning to his flesh, righteous fury beginning to rise. "This could simply be a trick-"
"She called me by my childhood pet name. No one outside my family knew it, and that boy surely couldn't have- he was but a mere babe when she was killed. The Fox has them Kakashi! Our friends, my sister...And I bet my life on this being the reason behind your student's mental problems." Inoichi gave a sudden wild laugh. "Uzumaki Naruto- the jinchuuriki boy. Why hadn't I remembered?" the laughter faded and angry eyes turned his way. "Why didn't you warn me of who he was?"
Truthfully, it disturbed him that everyone had seemed to have forgotten Naruto- at least they should have recognized his last name! Kakashi shook his head. "If what you say is to be believed, then we need to notify the Hokage of the situation immediately and bring Naruto to him." He looked over the jounin's shoulder at the house where his tormented student had fled...man he wasn't looking forward to retrieving him.
Yamanaka seemed to have completely gathered his bearings judging by the set of his shoulders and the rather determined look on his face as his eyes darted about the eerily silent compound. "But where does the Uchiha fit into this?" he muttered before disappearing in a swirl of leaves.
Kakashi carefully walked up the steps and into the main house, senses alert as the strong scent of cleanser hit him. The place was as silent as the grave and almost as dark. He headed in the direction he knew Sasuke's room was, heading up the stairs and halting at the top. Down the hall, in front of the bedroom door lay Naruto, face down. He quickly moved to his student's side and turned him over, grimacing at the bloody face that greeted him. He sighed and brushed some hair from his face before carefully picking him up and heading for the front door.
Nabeshin followed the jounin out of the house but stopped on the steps, watching along with the other Uchiha as the man made his way out of the compound with Naruto in his arms. He turned to the woman with the baby- Yura, if he remembered correctly. "I appreciate the warning earlier but it would have been nice if you had told us sooner!" he ended with a shout, and the dead baby began to cry.. Yura flinched and moved away.
Nabeshin would have punched something if it would do any damage, but instead gave a deep sigh, hanging his head back and staring up at the clear sky. Inoichi...they had been friends in their younger days, off and on. He hadn't wanted the man to see him again- this could interfere with his plans. With another sigh he followed after Hatake, needing to know where he was taking the boy.
It was to no surprise that they arrived at the hospital, and the Hokage was waiting for them, along with, to his surprise, Jiraiya, the Toad Sannin. Inoichi was also there, looking fidgety.
"I have a room prepared for him," the wizened man said, turning down the hall. Before Hatake could follow, three medics came up to him with a stretcher, and he carefully laid his limp student down on it. As they moved after the Hokage, one took out a pair of scissors and quickly began to cut away Naruto's bloody sweater, then quickly wiped his bloody face. All this was done before they even reached the room the Hokage had set up. They carefully transferred him over to the bed, and Nabeshin could see the blond more clearly without the hooded sweater that was always drowning him. He grimaced. The boy was as emaciated as he remembered, this skin peppered with bruises. The medics paused briefly, no doubt not expecting this, before they quickly moved into action, grabbing a saline drip and I.V, quickly hooking up a vein.
"What happened?" This from Jiraiya, and Nabeshin saw the shock in his eyes as he stared at the boy..
The Hokage sighed. "Naruto hasn't been...well..."
"What do you mean? Hasn't he been getting any financial aid?" The Sannin was starting to look angry. "Who's been watching him? What orphanage has he been at?"
A medic came in with a series of medical devices, and began to prepare Naruto for an NG tube.
"Naruto hasn't been in an orphanage since he was four."
Jiraiya's face darkened like a thunder cloud, making the medics nervous as one tipped Naruto's head back and the other began to carefully insert the tube up one nostril.. "Then who's been taking care of him?"
They finished tubing the kid up and taped the tube to his nose...Nabeshin could only imagine how Naruto would respond to this one once he awakened, and it seemed the Hokage was thinking along the same line.
"Would it be safe to sedate him?" The old man asked one of the medics. "He's not the type to come to...happily..."
The medic looked at him, then down at the boy. "Perhaps a very mild one," he conceded, looking at the second medic, who nodded and quickly left the room. "It's probably for his own good. His body not only shows signs of malnutrition, but also sleep deprivation. He could use the rest." The medic then left, passing the returning medic who injected drugs into Naruto's saline drip.
"Should keep him out for a few hours," the medic mumbled, bowing to the Hokage. "Call us if there is something you need."
Silence returned as the medic left- the Toad Sannin was pinching the bridge of his nose, obviously in irritation. "So tell me why no one was watching Minato's son?"
Nabeshin watched as all ninja in the room cringed, including Inoichi, who was leaning against the far wall, arms crossed over his chest.
"Naruto does not want to be around anyone, let alone allow someone to take care of him." The Hokage replied, eyes going distant for a moment.
"There is Sasuke," Kakashi murmured gently, his troubled eye on the tube that was feeding nutrients into his student.
"Who is Sasuke?" Jiraiya inquired, pulling out a chair and dragging it to Naruto's bedside. He pulled down the thin sheet that covered the genin's body, grimacing at the sight of how thin it was. He leaned forward and touched the seal around the navel of Naruto's slightly concave stomach with some chakra. Nabeshin came closer to see the seal himself. It was an eight trigram seal, a particularly good one, though it gave him the chills to see it.
"The seal allows for some of the Kyuubi's chakra to bleed into Naruto's pathways," the Toad Sannin pointed to the upper and lower seals. " While keeping the Fox contained." He shook his white head. "It's as stable as it could be."
"I don't understand," Inoichi moved from the wall, agitation humming about him. Nabeshin moved from the bed and stood in front of Inoichi, peering into his eyes. The man was still shaken it seemed, his pupils slightly enlarged, barely holding himself together. "If the seal is working properly, then why is the Fox still in contact with the boy?" he wiped a line of sweat running down his temple. "And what of Aiga and the others?"
Jiraiya sent him a puzzled look. "Aiga?"
"Aiga was- is my sister. She was eaten by the Kyuubi that day,. But when I went into Uzumaki's mind, she was there. They all were!"
The Hokage whipped his head around and stared incredulously at the jounin as Nabeshin moved away, turning to stare at the unconscious boy.
They devour souls, Fugaku's words came back to him. Nabeshin's expression soured as he crouched in a corner farthest from them, near black eyes watching.
"Are you sure of this?" Sandaime demanded
Inoichi nodded. "The Demon has them captive along with himself."
The old man turned horrified eyes onto the boy. "I cannot begin to imagine the mental torture this boy goes through hourly, though I have been privy to much of its effects over the years."
"He cannot participate in the semi-finals like this," Hatake stated, looking at the Hokage, and Nabeshin's face twisted. "I'm surprised he even made it this far..."
The Hokage nodded. "I will have to withdraw him from the Exam."
A hasty decision, Nabeshin thought with a groan. Naruto was not going to appreciate this- though he imagined the boy was not going to appreciate a lot of things once the drugs wore off...like being in a hospital. That was bound to test the blond's sanity in so many ways, ways that Nabeshin didn't want to be around to witness, especially if it was taken out on him like it was on that broomstick.
Of course there was also the revelation that within his body lay the tormented souls of fellow ninja- even more, the thought that perhaps several Uchiha may also be there. His mind ran over those who went missing during the fight against the Fox. Akio, Daiki, Gorou...those were a few that he could remember searching for in the aftermath. Were they in there?
"Now who is Sasuke again?" Jiraiya asked.
"Uchiha Sasuke. The one who survived the Massacre."
Jiraiya turned flat, cold eyes on them. "You left him with Orochimaru's latest target?"
The Hokage shrugged. "He's been with Naruto for six years- long before Orochimaru set his sights on him. Sasuke is the only one he trusts- I'm afraid I was lucky enough to get through the door." He looked at Jiraiya. "Perhaps there is a way to modify the seal-" he glanced over at Inoichi. "Maybe a way to free our shinobi?"
Jiraiya stared pensively at the boy. "I wouldn't dare tamper with it until further investigation...Why is he so thin? If he's been living with the Uchiha, there should be enough for both of them to eat well."
The Hokage just sighed some more and pulled out his pipe. "That is a discussion for another night. In the meantime, tell me about this Nabeshin character that is supposed to be dead."
"An old friend of mine," Inoichi said grimly, "Or as much of a friend an Uchiha could be to someone outside of the Clan. He was also part of the Konoha Military Police if I remember correctly-"
Oh yes, and he had been given hell for it on too many occasions
"He was killed by Itachi- I'm positive of it, because I saw his body just before it was cremated. But then, there he was, talking with Uzumaki, same as the day before he died."
"Did he say anything?" Jiraiya asked. Inoichi looked over at Kakashi.
"He was talking about waiting for Sasuke to wake up before Naruto tried to kill someone- who, I'm not sure." Kakashi's eye moved back to Naruto. "He was a clone, that much we know for sure. The question is, is it really the Uchiha, or a clone henged to look like him? And why? Why him? Why not henge another Uchiha?"
"Is the Uchiha kid awake yet?" Jiraiya asked. Kakashi shook his head. "Then we'll have to wait until either one of these boys wake up to find out more."
"Don't wait for Naruto," Kakashi replied flatly. "He doesn't talk to anyone other than Sasuke. We'll have to wait for the Uchiha to wake up to ask any questions."
Nabeshin got to his feet and passed through the wall, making his way out of the hospital and out into the village. Things were getting more complicated.
He returned to consciousness slowly- almost reluctantly, because he was warm, and the bed was soft and cozy, and he didn't particularly care to leave it. He turned over onto his side, nestled in, but squinted- there was too much light inside of the room, it shown through his eyelids, making it hard to return to that comfortable darkness. He wasn't used to their room being so bright. Had Naruto removed the newspaper from the windows? Or were they open?
"Relax," Sasuke slurred, grabbing the warm blanket engulfing him and pushing it off, exposing his skin to the cold air. He groaned, but knew he had to start moving before his blond roommate had an aneurism. "I'll fix the windows," he slipped off the bed, feet getting caught in the sheets, making him stagger forward. His eyes shot open and he grabbed onto the stand next to the bed, blinking rapidly into the increasingly unfamiliar room.
The room was far from his own, being that it was a hospital room, empty but for a bed, and stand with a pitcher of water, and an I.V. stand next to it. The window was bright and wide open, with a perfect view of the Hokage's Monument within its sight. He rubbed the grit from his eyes and staggered over to the window, pulling the curtains closed so that gloom entered the room. Then he sat on the edge of the bed and tried to gather his wits about him. How had he ended up in the hospital again?
Sealing. Kakashi-sensei was supposed to have put a seal over the one Orochimaru had given him. Sasuke got up and moved to the mirror, turning his head to the side to see his neck, touching the spot where the seal was with a bit of chakra. The seal showed up, but with a circling seal around it. Was the jounin successful?
"Fuuja Houin," Kakashi said, making the genin jump, and he turned a glare at the man in the doorway. "That's the name of the seal I put on top of the Heaven Seal. Hopefully it will work."
Sasuke rubbed his neck, which felt a bit sore- actually, he felt sore all over. "How long have I been out?"
Kakashi-sensei shrugged. "A few days."
A few days. What kind of trouble could Naruto get into in 'a few days?' Sasuke's eyes darted about, searching for some clothes. No doubt, Naruto hadn't eaten anything in the last few days, and hadn't been training for the next round- wait- Had Naruto even won his round at the Prelims?
He looked at his sensei. "What about the Exam? Did Naruto already have his fight? Who was he up against?" As he shot questions at the man, he searched the room for clothing, finding his shirt and shorts in a cabinet- cleaned and stitched. He shrugged out of the hospital clothing and pulled on his own as Kakashi-sensei spoke.
"Naruto fought against Inuzuka Kiba, yes he won, and the semi-finals are less than a month from now- which means we have less time to train-where are you going?"
Sasuke was attempting to move past the man. "I have to go back to the compound and make sure Naruto is okay," he leveled a glare on the man when he still didn't move from the doorway.
"Naruto's not there," Kakashi-sensei replied calmly, his eye watching him closely. Sasuke's eyes narrowed,
"Where is he? Sasuke demanded, feeling nervous of a sudden. Naruto didn't particularly like to go outside if he could help it.
"Two floors down- room 101," Kakashi was still watching him intently as Sasuke's mind began to speed through possibilities. The fight between Naruto and dog boy must have been pretty bad if it had the hooded blond laid up in the hospital. Naruto...in a hospital...Sasuke took a step forward again, and this time Kakashi-sensei moved out of his way. He traveled down the hall and took a lift two floors down, the jounin standing silently behind him. When he arrived at Naruto's room, his eyes immediately moved to the corners, expecting to see Naruto huddled in one of them, but no- he was in the bed.
"What the hell?" The Uchiha blanched at the sight of his roommate, rushing over to the bed and halting, managing to keep his mouth from dropping open as he stared at the tube filled blond There were needles going into his veins at the crook of his arms, a tube taped to his nose- he was completely exposed, no hooded sweater to hide his face and arms. His hair had been brushed back from his face, his skin...had some color...
"What happened?" He demanded. He was going to kill Inuzuka the next time he saw him. His eyes fell on the strap across the blond's torso, ankles, and wrists. "Why is he tied up?"
"Naruto definitely isn't a morning person, or a person who wakes up well at all." Sasuke sent him a flat look. "He keeps trying to escape every time he regains consciousness- pulled out the tubes twice already, so they've decided to keep him mildly sedated and strapped. He's official been labeled a 'problem patient' by some of the nurses."
That sounded just like Naruto. Sasuke sighed and pulled the chair nearby toward the bed and sat down, glancing over at the wide open windows. He'd have to get some newspaper for those. "What happened with his fight with Inuzuka?"
Kakashi moved to the other side of the bed. "The fight was short- Naruto won and he wasn't badly injured. Can't say the same for Inuzuka's dog, Akamaru. Naruto cut off one of its legs." Sasuke held back the proud smirk that was trying to grow across his pale face. "It was a clean cut though, so they've managed to reattach it. Some physical therapy should bring the dog back to a hundred percent fighting ability."
Sasuke looked up at the jounin with a frown. "Then why is he here?"
To this, Kakashi-sensei said nothing, instead pulling his orange book out and flipping it open. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. Why didn't the jounin answer? Did he have something to do with why Naruto was in here? An alarming thought flashed through his suspicious mind. Had they taken Naruto from the compound? Did they-
"Naruto isn't going to participate in the Semi-Finals," the man said instead.
Sasuke grit his teeth, feeling hot anger run through him. "Why not?"
"Really Sasuke?" Kakashi sent him an irritated look. "Look at him. They weighed him at eighty six pounds. Eighty six. If not for the Kyuubi's chakra that bleeds through that seal, he would have had major organ failure by now, which would leave him very dead. A regular person would have died by now Sasuke."
Anger left him drained and cold, and he peered at the blond's taped face. He squinted. Naruto's complexion did look a bit rosy, and the bags under his eyes were gone. He looked better than Sasuke had ever seen him, and he had to concede- though Naruto may not like it- he could use the bed rest.
"Who is Nabeshin?"
The question came out of no where- he could not control the stiffening of his shoulders. He looked up at the jounin, who was staring at him intently. Why was he asking? Had he met Nabeshin? Did he have anything to do with why Naruto was here? Questions ran through his mind wildly. And how could he explain- explain about Naruto's ability to speak with the dead? About his clones housing one of his dead brethren? How to speak of such a sensitive subject- something that was none of the jounin's business? It was their business, his and Naruto's. No one else. So he did the first thing that came to mind.
"One of my cousins. He's dead now," he replied in a clipped tone. "Why?"
Kakashi said nothing, instead putting the book away. "Let's go."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Where?"
"To train, or course. I can teach you to use that Sharingan better. You have to fight Gaara, you know."
Sasuke's brows rose in surprise- he could imagine how Naruto felt about that. "Fine, let's go."
"Of course," the jounin said with a hidden smile. "After we get something in your stomach, and say hello to your other teammate. You forgot to ask how her fight went. Shame on you Sasuke."
It was an incredibly isolating feeling, not being able to talk to anyone. With both Naruto and Sasuke out of commission, he was left bodiless, almost adrift, watching events happen. The ninja had combed the compound, looking for signs of habitation other than the two boys, and finding nothing other than his katana, which to his chagrin, they had taken for examination.
The other Uchiha did not talk to Nabeshin, they lamented over their loss, some stuck in a constant state of terror or despair. He did not want to confer with Fugaku; he was still pissed at the man. There were other ghosts outside of the compound, many in fact, most fallen ninja from a war or two- several he actually knew. But they all seemed disconnected with what was happening around them except for whatever it was that had caused them their death, or a loved one. Currently he was watching an older man follow a teenaged girl around the market place. The girl was with a youth about her age- they were clearly on a date, and the older man was occasionally glaring at the object of her affection.
A dead pervert? He had thought for a moment, but he realized they had the same nose and eyes, and she must be his daughter. He followed her everywhere, walked through people and objects without noticing them- a single-mindedness that seemed to plague everyone but him. What made him so different?
The older man stopped suddenly, eyes turning to look off in another direction intently, and Nabeshin followed his eyes, looking into the crowd of living people. They all seemed the same, an assortment of colors and life, moving about their business- people began to move out of the way, a look of alarm or disgust on their faces. Out of them came...Naruto?
The blond's black hood was down, for one, revealing a thin, dirty face, with limp dirty hair. In one hand was a sheathed katana, and on his dirty face was a very eery smile. The eyes were still a beacon of red light- but for some reason, it seemed even worse to look upon. But wasn't Naruto in the hospital? As he came near, Nabeshin immediately noticed the sweater- the black one... Naruto did not have that one anymore.
"A clone," he breathed, and the clone paused as it was about to pass beyond him, turning those beacons of red light on him. Nabeshin flinched, but spoke. "How come you're still here?"
The clone tilted its head to the side, smile remaining, beacons focused on him. "Why are we not still here? we are to observe, and observing we have been, and observing we will continue to do." There was a smell emanating from the clone-dried blood. Something was seriously not right with this clone.
"Will...will you observe a message for me to Sasuke? He needs to be very careful from here on out- there are some strange Anbu in the compound looking about. Something about these ones doesn't seem right. Both he and Naruto need to tread softly."
"Observing," the clone replied, seeming unaware of the looks he was getting from the villagers. It did seem as if he was talking to himself. The clone continued on, seeming undisturbed by Nabeshin's words. He began to wonder if Sasuke would ever get his message at all.
Damn he needed a body. But he wouldn't dare try to take that one.
It irked him, that Kakashi-sensei could wield the Sharingan better than him, a pure blooded natural born Uchiha, while he- having acquired it from a deceased Teammate, had no relation at all. He had asked the jounin how he had gotten the eye, and the man's answer had been short and to the point. It was as Naruto surmised- it had been transferred over. Interestingly enough, the eye was always activated, and pulled much chakra from the man if not covered.
Sasuke had already been pushed to his own limits with the Sharingan, able to only keep it up for ten minutes before it deactivated, leaving him drained and low on chakra as he limped back to the compound. And yet he could not hold back the smirk on his face. Kakashi-sensei had shown him an intriguing technique earlier- the Chidori. He glanced down at his stiff, reddened right palm, and he knew, that by the time the Semi-Finals arrived, he would achieve it. He was determined to, even if it drained him faster than using the Sharingan did- even if, by what the jounin had said, he would only be able to execute it once.
Sasuke opened the gates to the compound and slipped through, a strange mixture of gladness and oppression coming over him as he took in the sight of the empty compound. It still surprised him every once in a while, that he had actually returned here.
He halted, thoughts abruptly stopping when his eyes fell on the porch of the main house. Was that- Naruto standing there? How had he gotten out of the hospital? Sasuke began walking quickly up to the house- but slowed down again as he got close enough to properly see him, and noticed many of the things that rang bells of alarm through him. First, he was wearing that sweater Kaori had given him, which he knew the blond no longer had. Second, he had the hood down, which he rarely ever allowed, and his hair looked oily and grey with dirt. And he was just standing there, his back to the door.
"Hey," Sasuke said, not too loudly, because the creepy grin that was turned on him was rather...disquieting. The eyes, though smudged with weariness and red-rimmed, seemed unusually bright- happy looking. Naruto didn't do happy- happy wasn't something he normally felt. At least- Sasuke had never seen the blond truly happy. Oh there were the times that Naruto got those crazy eyes and smile- but he knew that wasn't something natural to him. He knew about the Fox. But this Naruto, looked happy. And he was holding their katana against his chest. "Are those..."
"We observed them," the familiar raspy voice replied as he came up to the porch. Sasuke immediately covered his nose- the smell coming from this...Naruto, was awful. He smelled like a dead animal. The Naruto handed the blades to him. "You left them behind."
A chill. Why were the clones Naruto made a week ago still active? "How-" he began, but the clone cut him off, taking a step toward him. Sasuke took a step back.
"Nabeshin wanted us to observe that there are Anbu in the compound looking for him."
Sasuke's eyes darted around warily. "You can see him?" The clone took another step forward. Sasuke took another back, stifling a yelp when his back hit the door.
"We have observed, that Kakashi and the one named Yamanaka Inoichi put us in the hospital." The smell was awful, but Sasuke forgot all about it upon those words.
"An ambush," the clone said. "They saw us talking to Nabeshin and attacked."
What? How could they have seen a gh- but wait...Nabeshin had been in one of Naruto's clones the last time he had seen him, and he was likely henged as himself. And when he no doubt dispelled the clone he was occupying, everything he had done was returned to Naruto...and any other clone. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. Who knew Nabeshin by sight? Had Kakashi or this Inoichi, known him when he was alive? Had he said anything incriminating? And how dare they attack Naruto!
"Do they know anything?" he demanded, and the clone continued to smile.
"They are observing, as we are observing. But they know very little." The clone took another step forward, until it was right up in his face- though Naruto was a few inches shorter than he. The smile had completely disappeared. "We are all, observing Sasuke." he was being stared at deeply, and for some reason, those words sounded like a warning...or a threat. He found himself clutching the katana to his chest like a little girl. The cheerful smile returned to the clone's face as it stepped away and moved off the porch.
"What have you been killing?" Sasuke asked suddenly. The clone continued to walk, glancing back at him as it rounded a corner.
"Many things..." its raspy voice drifted back to him as it rounded a corner and disappeared.
The room was comfortably stuffy, familiar, with all his things in it- but Sasuke could not sleep. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling for hours into the night, but knew it was useless. He wasn't used to sleeping alone. He wasn't used to an empty room.
Sasuke sighed, sitting up in bed, throwing his feet over the side and rubbing his neck where both seals were. Why bother trying? He got up, pulling on some pants and grabbing the stack of neatly piled newspaper and tape, stuffing it under one arm as he left the house. Outside the night was cool, but slightly humid, a calm night, probably with many anbu lurking around. He did not doubt the word of the clone- he believed he was being watched- he simply couldn't see his watchers. What if they were the ones that conspired against his clan?
An angry thought. Sasuke stepped into the brightly lit hospital, surprised to see people walking about three in the morning- patients, nurses and doctors alike. He made it to Naruto's room without being harassed and went inside, eyes adjusting to the darkness. Naruto was still strapped and tubed, still obviously drugged into oblivion. Sasuke shook his head as he moved to the windows and quietly newspapered them up for Naruto, for when they stopped drugging him and he was completely lucid again. Satisfied that there were no cracks or spaces in between, Sasuke set the remaining newspaper and tape aside and pulled the chair next to Naruto's bed. He slumped down in it, curling up with his legs to his chest, and looked at his sore hand. Soon, perhaps even tomorrow, he would perfect the Chidori. Soon, Naruto would wake and he would get the full story of what had happened. Soon.
Several minutes later, he was asleep, unaware of the ghost standing behind him.
I had several issues with kakashi's and inoichi's combined POV. Sorry about that.