Between Me And You
Chapter 2: Never Again
Sasuke was going crazy in the hospital room.
It'd been an awfully long time since Sasuke had been forced into something. Maybe it was because of the fact his parents had died when he was young… After their deaths, no authority figure had ever really bothered to discipline him. And no one needed to. The young Uchiha heir had been perfectly well-mannered, so no one really saw any reason to.
Sasuke stared at a crack in the wall.
He just wanted to go out, damn it! He just wanted… no, he needed to see if his theory was correct. He needed to know if he really was in the past. He need to know if his family was still alive. If they were, he could kill Itachi and ensure that the massacre didn't happen. After all, he was in Naruto's body. The shame of killing a fellow citizen would befall Naruto, a nameless orphan. The Uchiha name wouldn't be disgraced.
Well, at least as no one would generalise the whole idea into something along the lines of 'Little Kid Kills Uchiha ANBU Captain'. That would hurt the Uchiha's ego a bit. A lot, actually.
Something – his conscience maybe? – was screaming at him that Sasuke was getting his priorities mixed up. He would ruin his best, and only, friend's life and then worry about the reputation of the clan?
Shut up, Sasuke tried to reason with his conscious. Killing Itachi had always been his goal. There were no priorities getting mixed up, here. First killing Itachi, by any means necessary, and later on he'd maybe give a little thought at the destruction he'd caused.
If he came to that part, though. He'd probably have more interesting to do, like celebrating Itachi's death.
Now things would go a lot easier if the Hokage would just let him go. The elder man had refused to give Sasuke permission to leave the hospital, or his room for that matter. He'd told the doctors and nurses to keep an eye on him and had left, off to check the village and fill in paperwork, Sasuke presumed.
Sasuke diverted his attention from the crack on the wall. He needed something to do. Killing Itachi sounded good enough. But, then again, he couldn't leave the room. He wanted to, but it seemed his door was locked. And, despite the fact that it hurt to admit, Sasuke had to acknowledge that he wasn't actually a threat. To anyone. His body was still weak, and too young to be doing anything remotely shinobi-like. Also, Naruto's body had an entirely different build than Sasuke's. Sasuke still hadn't gotten used to Naruto's body.
Sasuke tossed around angrily. The bed he occupied slowly started to feel like a rock under his body. He needed to stretch real bad. Huffing angrily, he sat up, and glared at the bed as if it was the bane of his existence. And, for now, it may as well be. Sasuke pushed himself from the bed, and almost immediately dizziness befell him accompanied by a jolt of pain in his head.
Clutching his head, Sasuke refused to give up. Through narrowed eyes, he still managed to glare at the bed. He felt childish, having an one-sided challenge with a bed of all things, but for now he refused to care, as it were the only reason he was still standing.
At least he understood why the Hokage didn't want him to leave the room now.
…For some reason that discovery left him entirely unsatisfied.
A soft sound behind him returned Sasuke to the real world. Behind him stood a nurse along with a food cart. She simply stared at him for a few seconds, taking in his fragile form that was heavily leaning on the bed, while breathing hard.
The nurse felt sorry for him. The kid seemed so frail, even when he glared at her as if trying to tell her to bother other patients. This was the first time she'd seen him conscious, and she was surprised by his glare. She'd heard he was a very friendly and social kid, though maybe a bit rude. Shrugging it off, she abandoned the cart and went over to help Sasuke. She gently grabbed his shoulder, and Sasuke flinched, neither expecting the touch nor appreciating it.
"Hey," she said soothingly, "Are you okay?"
Sasuke growled, and slapped her hand away. "I'm fine."
She didn't believe him, of course. What kind of nurse would? She stared at him. He was sweating, seemed a bit paranoid, had difficulties standing, was breathing hard and raggedy… There was nothing wrong with his eyes, though. Not this time. So it had to be something else…
"Hey, come on," the nurse said to Sasuke as soothingly as she could. The kid seemed a bit temperamental. "Let's get you into bed."
"I told you I am fine." Sasuke growled out, barely able to keep the anger out of his voice.
The nurse, however, didn't notice Sasuke's impatience, and attempted to lead Sasuke to his bed, completely oblivious to the signs of Sasuke's growing anger. "Come on, just l-"
"I TOLD YOU I AM FINE!" Sasuke screamed, his frustration finally hitting its peak. He just wanted to go out! All he wanted was some fresh air, some violence, and avenging his clan! Was that too much to ask?! He slammed his hand into the wall. If he had been in his normal body it may have left a crack, but as this was a younger, underdeveloped version of Naruto's body, the only thing his fist did was hurting like hell.
The nurse flinched. Her colleagues had told her this boy could get a bit temperamental, but this? Knowing the stress wouldn't be good on Sasuke's condition, she didn't try to coax him into bed anymore.
"Okay, I believe you," the nurse attempted to soothe him. She walked back to the cart and pulled the meal assigned to Sasuke out of it. "Here you are." She placed the meal on the boy's nightstand, knowing Sasuke himself would be to stubborn to go lie on his bed, and too weak to hold the meal and keep his balance at the same time.
As she finally left the room, Sasuke's legs gave out. Though he was still livid at her for reasons he wasn't quite sure of.
He barely managed to climb onto his bed, his vision fading in and out.
He let out a frustrated sigh and just let his body fall down on the bed, before everything went completely black.
The Sandaime hadn't felt this confused in a long while. People regarded him as a wise man, a man willing to sacrifice himself for his village, smart, intelligent, brave, kind and caring for all. And they weren't far from the truth. Most rumours had at least an ounce of truth in them, or they wouldn't exist. If you'd believe some of the rumours the Sandaime would be as fit and active as he'd been at the beginning of his Hokageship. The Sandaime chuckled. Yes, some rumours really pushed it a bit too far.
The Sandaime sat behind his desk in his office, staring at nothing in particular. He was lost in thought, something he was quite often. He shook himself out of it, and took a look at the papers that were on his desk. Yes, young Naruto's injuries were very odd.
The medical files on Naruto, along with an investigation report investigating Naruto's circumstances for the past weeks were lying in front of him on his desk.
The Sandaime gave the medical report another brief look. State upon being found: exhaustion as well as chakra exhaustion… bleeding eyes, slight case of malnutrition…
Then he looked at the investigation report. Umino Iruka, Naruto's teacher, upon investigation, replied he hadn't seen Naruto around for a few days, and hadn't gotten an absence call. He'd merely though the boy was skipping school again and hadn't looked into it. The Sandaime only hoped Iruka hadn't let his prejudice blind him…
He looked at the other results of the investigations. After a lot of reading Sandaime could conclude the underlying message was clearly that most people hadn't cared much for Naruto's absence. Of course they'd noticed, but they'd been happy with his absence, and hadn't been that keen on finding out why.
Frowning, the Sandaime could only be glad that he himself had missed the havoc Naruto was almost always causing in the village, and had looked for him. The Sandaime frowned even deeper as he tried to make sense of what all of these reports were telling him. None of them could answer how Naruto had ended up in his condition…
Naruto had been absent for days… if he'd been unconscious all the time, it would explain the malnutrition.
The exhaustion would imply Naruto had used a rather powerful Jutsu, but that was impossible. Naruto was not even a genin yet. In the academy, the students weren't taught anything that was even remotely capable of causing this sort of damage.
There was another theory that had crossed his mind. What if Naruto had been attacked by someone who harbored a grudge against the Kyuubi?
It would explain Naruto's behaviour. The boy seemed very defensive when Sandaime had last seen him in the hospital. Very untrusting and wary. Maybe the attacker had told him things… Maybe he knew about the fox? Maybe the attacker had played psychological games… It seemed highly likely. And for a child as fragile as Naruto…
Sandaime just couldn't get the submissive "Hai, Hokage-sama" out of his head. It seemed wrong compared to Naruto's normal 'old man!' and other things considered rude. However, according to the hospital personnel, Naruto had been growing increasingly aggressive and hostile towards them since waking up.
Of course, Naruto wasn't the only thing on the Sandaime's mind. There was also the trouble with the Uchiha clan. Itachi kept reporting to him and Sandaime was thankful for that. Soon, Itachi would have to make his final decision. Itachi had pledged loyalty to the village, but in his position, anything would remain possible until his mission had actually been fulfilled.
It wasn't as if that was the only thing on Itachi's mind. Sandaime had noticed how his little brother's unexpected and sudden illness troubled Itachi. The Uchiha had kept to themselves about it.
There was also this a new village building itself, Sandaime had heard. Otogakure, village hidden in sound. Not much was known about it, and the investigation squads still hadn't returned.
The Sandaime sighed. Being Hokage was a demanding thing, on both mind and heart. He could only hope that one day he'd found someone with a big heart and a bright mind to take over his tasks. Now that he thought of it, only a week or so before the attack Naruto had claimed he wanted to be Hokage with bright eyes.
Standing up and walking out of his office, the Sandaime only hoped Naruto's heart would remain big as ever, even after this situation.
Naruto had never really liked silence. He'd known silence a lot, and he'd hated it. He would always listen to something, make sound himself or try to make someone else make sound, because he thought silence was so damned frustrating!
And so, there he sat. Surrounded by silence. Doing nothing. Lying still.
He believed his eye was twitching uncontrollably, but other than that he lay down perfectly still.
Had he been in his own house, Naruto would've done something. Mostly likely, he'd go out and search for something to do in the village. Such things used to end in pranks and angry adults chasing him. If he was confined to a room, as he was now, then he'd just want to something-anything. Humming a song, maybe, even that seemed better than this.
But here he was, pretending to be Sasuke.
Sasuke wouldn't go to the streets, simply looking to stir up trouble. He wouldn't go hum songs in his bed out of boredom. He wasn't entirely sure what Naruto would do. Pretending to be Sasuke was going to be hard for him. He'd already blown it once or twice, but his parents kept saying it was probably due to his fever, despite the fact that his fever was now almost gone.
He knew the following days were going to suck. He just knew it.
When Itachi entered the room, his thoughts were confirmed.
"Sasuke," Itachi greeted Naruto. Fortunately Naruto had gotten used to it by now. He really didn't want to repeat the scene he'd created when he'd been called Itachi's brother for the first time. It was just too embarrassing to even think about it!
Shaking the thought off, Naruto sat up in his bed, and tried to appear sleepy. It wasn't that hard actually. He had barely slept the night before.
Itachi seemed a bit worried, seeing the lines beneath the young Sasuke's eyes, but made no comment of it. Now that Naruto thought about it, he couldn't even be sure if Itachi had actually seemed worried. Itachi wasn't easy to read, quite the contrary actually.
"Otouto?" Itachi spoke.
Naruto had almost forgotten Itachi's presence. Which was easy, since Itachi was so damn stealthy and quiet.
He quickly sat up again. "Eh, yeah, Aniki?"
"Our parents would like you to join breakfast, if you're feeling well enough."
Naruto blinked. What?
"Eh, sure." He said, inwardly panicking and regretting his words instantly. He had no idea how he should behave with his parents! Wait, Sasuke's parents! He had no idea how to behave in the presence of Sasuke's parents! What if he would be acting very out of character in front of them?! What if they would suspect something?! What if they knew he wasn't their son?! What if…
His earlier musings on Sasuke's personality before the whole massacre were abruptly forgotten.
Itachi frowned, because of a reason Naruto was oblivious of.
"Are you coming?"
Naruto looked up to Itachi and flushed. He wasn't even with his parents yet, and he was already screwing things up. Could things get any worse?
Naruto nodded at Itachi, and stood up from his futon. He felt a bit weak, since he hadn't used his legs for a week or something. He was thankful to finally stand again, though. Lying around was just plain boring.
When Naruto looked up Itachi was gone.
Great, now he had to find out where they were supposed to eat by himself.
Naruto closed the fusuma behind him, and just choose a random direction to start his search. Needless to say, of course it was the door he'd been skipping all along because he thought there'd be no way the family ate in there.
Naruto grinned sheepishly upon entering, then remembered he was Sasuke and quickly pulled what he'd like to call 'shy smile'.
He positioned himself on one of the cushions near the table, next to Itachi and opposite to his parents. His father frowned at him, his mother looked wary and Itachi… well, Itachi just looked like he always did.
Eating breakfast was done in an awkward silence. Well, at least Naruto thought it was an awkward silence. It seemed 'his' family was used to it. Even more so, when Naruto had tried to break the silence, Fugaku had promptly told him to be silent while eating.
So much for trying to break the ice.
Ungrateful bastard. Who needed etiquette anyway?!
Not that he'd say that out loud. He was a younger Sasuke, right? It would do him no good to speak like that. Many people thought Naruto lacked tact, and brains for that matter, but he wasn't a complete idiot!
Besides, he knew his fair share of masks, right?
As breakfast was finished, Naruto felt unsatisfied. For years, he'd completely romanticised what a dinner with family would be like, only to have his whole picture about the whole thing thrown upside down and tossed away by the bastards of the Uchiha clan. Sulking, he walked around the big house. His parents deemed him healthy enough to do other things than lying lifelessly in his bed. Naruto brightened up a bit at the thought. He really needed to get outside the Uchiha Compound and investigate all the horrible things that could've happened in his absence. He doubted his parents would let him, though, or at least Mikoto, Sasuke's mother would not let him. She didn't seem all that happy with him being outside the house, even if it was in the Uchiha Compound.
Parents really could be a pain in the ass, Naruto figured.
Naruto still wasn't entirely at ease with Itachi's presence. The guy had tried to kidnap him after all, and he'd deceived Jiraiya, incapacitated Kakashi and tortured Sasuke attempting to do so. The guy had also murdered his whole clan, save for his little brother. Seeing as Naruto was now his little brother, he only hoped he'd be safe. Or better yet, he could try to avoid the whole thing at once and inform the Sandaime of Itachi's plans. Naruto brightened up considerably.
That was a brilliant plan! Why hadn't he thought so earlier! Dear lord, he always had known he had a hidden genius inside of him.
He was so busy floating through the house in a blissful cloud, that he hadn't even noticed Mikoto until he ran into her. With a thud, he fell backwards.
Mikoto stood in the doorway, holding a bag and looking at her younger son in wonder. "Sasuke… you seem much more lively." She smiled at him, happy to see her youngest son getting better. When they'd found him, those two weeks ago, in a deserted training ground in that condition… She'd feared for his life. Seeing Sasuke move before her now, in such a lively matter, even though it seemed rather out of character compared to two weeks ago, she still couldn't feel more happy.
Naruto grumbled a bit, feeling disappointed he'd lost the blissful feeling from only moments before. Then he noticed the bag in Mikoto's hands. "Are you going out?" Naruto asked hopefully. At Mikoto's nod, he felt a feeling of excitement well up. "Can I come with you?"
Mikoto hesitated for a bit. Naruto decided to thrown in some tricks he'd learned, and made a sorrowful face at her. "Kaa-san, please?"
Mikoto felt torn. She wanted her son to be happy, but what if he wasn't healthy enough and collapsed halfway? Or overexcited himself? He seemed much more excited than he normally did, maybe it wasn't such a good idea to take him with her…
"I'll watch Sasuke for you." Itachi's voice said from behind the two of them.
Both Mikoto and Naruto turned to face him. Naruto's face lit up, and ended up as a mix between gratefulness, horror and delight. Mikoto looked as if she was still in doubt.
After a short moment of contemplating, she nodded her approval, may it be a bit reluctant.
Things between her and Itachi had been strained, especially after he'd been given his… role. Mikoto wasn't entirely sure if she could trust him anymore… but she trusted he'd take good care of Sasuke. She knew he would. Always.
Groaning, Sasuke opened his eyes. His eyes tried to adjust to the unbearable whiteness of the room. He was just glad that he didn't wake up with a headache this time. Lately that seemed to happen a lot. Sasuke didn't have much time to think about anything as a voice interrupted his thinking.
"Awake, Naruto-kun?" A voice to his left said.
Sasuke blinked, and looked sideways to see the Sandaime sitting at his bedside. What the heck? Since when had Naruto and Sandaime been so close that the Sandaime would personally visit him in the hospital? Sasuke couldn't remember the Third visiting him when his clan had been massacred. Figures.
He glared to the old man next to his bed, who had no idea what he'd done wrong and who was still trying to figure him out. Sasuke couldn't help but ask the question that was bothering him. "Why are you here?"
The Hokage frowned. "Why shouldn't I be?" He avoided answering the question.
Sasuke glared at the Hokage with barely concealed rage. "Don't you have better things to do than visiting some stupid, nameless orphan who causes nothing but trouble?" Sasuke said, saying exactly what he thought of Naruto. He was too damn frustrated to even bother pretending like Naruto would. He didn't know what exactly happened at the Valley of the End, but it had happened at the wrong time! He had been this close to finding a quick solution to Itachi's life. And it was all the fault of the real owner of his body. Naruto might just be the second person on his hit list.
The Sandaime's eyes softened. "Naruto-kun…" he hesitated. Obviously he wanted to tell Sasuke something, but didn't know how to bring the news to an seven-year-old. Not that he was making things easier for him, but Sasuke still thought it was pretty pathetic of the leader of the village.
"Naruto-kun," Sandaime tried again. "I understand you'd rather not talk about what happened two weeks ago, but, understand, we must know what happened."
"I already told you," Sasuke sneered. "I don't remember."
The Sandaime didn't seem to believe him, but Sasuke watched fascinated as the Sandaime visibly decided not to question Sasuke any further. "Well… If that's so… how would you feel about a walk?"
Sasuke's eyebrows rose. The idea was actually very tempting, but it did sound a bit suspicious. "Why?" he asked the Hokage, never expecting a honest answer.
"Maybe fresh air would do you good." The Hokage said, cryptically.
Well, the answer was obviously an excuse, but Sasuke couldn't let this opportunity pass up. He'd be able to see in what kind of state the village was, or, more importantly, his clan. Would his father still live? His mother, and his uncle and aunt? Would Itachi still be in the village? And what would have become of Sasuke, himself? He obviously was here, in Naruto's body, so were there now two Sasukes?
Sasuke looked straight into the Sandaime's eyes with an unreadable expression before nodding solemnly.
As Sasuke walked through the halls of the hospital, he couldn't help but notice the glances the personnel seemed to give him. Some seemed curious, after all, it seemed he had gained reputation for being a difficult and aggressive patient. Sasuke almost snorted. Almost. Because he felt too dignified to snort at the moment, no matter if it was his body he was in, or not. Others seemed a bit fearful. He bet those were the ones who had seen him have one of his 'tantrums'. In fact, he did recognise most of them. Wasn't that nurse over there the one who he had bitten? Seeing her reaction after he gave her a self-satisfied smirk, he did believe it was her.
The Hokage walked besides him and greeted all the people with a smile. Sometimes a wave, sometimes a nod of his head and sometimes a quick 'hello'. His presence seemed to give the personnel of the hospital assurance that Sasuke wouldn't attack them on the spot. And Sasuke wouldn't. He didn't want to blow his chance on getting out of the hospital. He needed this opportunity.
Going outside, Sasuke actually enjoyed his intakes of fresh air he breathed in after weeks. There always was an eerie air in hospitals. It felt great to breathe in fresh air after being exposed to the typical hospital air for a few weeks. His hospital window had always been locked, especially after he'd almost escaped through it.
The Sandaime and he seemed to walk without a particular destination in mind. Maybe the Sandaime actually wanted him to have some fresh air? No, of course not. Sasuke wasn't as naïve as to believe such a thing. He noticed the Sandaime seemed to absorb and observe his every move, and every reaction. Sasuke still hadn't figured out why the Hokage took such special interest in Naruto and it seemed he would never. The real Naruto had always taken the Hokage's interest for granted.
After pondering, Sasuke decided to pay more attention to his surroundings. It would not do for him to walk aimlessly on the streets and accidentally bypassing his family and not even noticing.
As soon as Sasuke started paying attention, he noticed something wrong. Wrong or odd? He wasn't even sure what this was. Normally, when one walks besides the Hokage, most of the attention is diverted from him or her. However, as Sasuke walked next to the Hokage, he seemed to receive about as much attention as his companion was. Only the attention was a bit more hostile. People glared and gave him cold looks. An old man sneered. It seemed that Sasuke not only had landed a few years in the past, but the people's attitudes had changed entirely? Was this some sort of alternate dimension? Had he arrived in a dimension where Konoha actually inhabited cold and untrusting people, or delinquents? Nothing seemed that impossible anymore after switching bodies with his rival…
Sasuke kept walking next to the Hokage, feeling slightly uneasy under all the hostility. He kept his eyes to the ground, not wanting to attract any more unwanted attention when he heard a familiar voice call his name. A voice he sometimes still heard in his dreams. Sasuke tilted his head upwards, hope growing in his mind and eyes frantically searching for the source of the voice. He turned around quickly as he heard the voice come from his left. And then he saw her…
Sasuke barely noticed as his feet dragged him away from the Sandaime's side without his consent, and towards his mother. As he came closer, he realised it really was her. His throat went dry and suddenly his eyes felt hot. He mouthed her name, and took off in a sprint. He didn't even hear the Hokage call his – no, Naruto's name – from behind. He just blindly shoved people out of the way.
At last, he reached her and without hesitation Sasuke threw himself at her, hugging her waist and burying his head against her stomach. He felt hot tears running down his cheeks. He hadn't cried ever since the day his family had died… He was almost in awe with his own emotion – had he really possessed that much still? And he couldn't even stop crying. He didn't want to let go of his mother.
Ever. Ever again.
Mikoto just stood there, almost as if paralysed, after the boy had just gone up to her and hugged her on the spot. She looked down and found a bright blond mop of hair.
Almost a few seconds after the boy had attached himself to her, the Sandaime came pushing though the gathering crowd. He seemed as equally surprised as Mikoto at the boy's actions.
"I'm sorry for this, Mikoto-san," the Hokage apologised, looking troubled. He felt the need to explain this. He knew how many people unjustly looked down on Naruto, and he knew this incident would not be received well. But first, he needed to remove Naruto from Mikoto. He approached the boy and noticed how his whole frame was shaking.
"He's crying," Mikoto said upon his questioning look, looking terribly confused herself. By now, she had recognized the child who was sobbing against her.
And then, all of a sudden, he stopped. The boy still seemed tearful, but tried to stop his tears from coming. He let go of Mikoto and wiped his eyes with his arm. It seemed as if he was incredibly embarrassed, especially after he saw the crowd that had gathered. The silence continued for only a second or two, before an unwelcome voice asked: "Kaa-san, are you okay?"
"I…I'm okay." Mikoto said, still looking at Sasuke with wide eyes. "Really, Itachi."
With a shock, Sasuke turned his head to look at the figure who had spoken. His eyes widened at the sight of his older brother, who was giving him an unreadable look, a look he knew all too well. Despite his suspicions, seeing his older brother still felt like someone had just smacked him in the face.
His initial shock wore off, and something different and much more familiar took its place. His mother was still alive, so that must mean that everyone was still alive.
That meant Itachi had to die.