ADVICE: When you stop liking this fic, stop reading it.
Author's Notes: This plot bunny has been driving me crazy. It won't leave me alone. So I'm writing to shut it up. Don't expect too much from this fic. Aside from smut. There'll be plenty of that.
Summary: The Uchiha clan has to make peace with Konoha after years of enmity. To ensure the truce, they hand over one of their own.
Warnings: will be hard yaoi
Pairing: NarutoxSasuke NaruSasu
Part 1: Expendable
Sasuke was vaguely aware of the conflicts his clan had taken part in over the years. As the youngest son, he'd spent most of his life away from the clan, being trained by whatever group they were currently working for. Information was deadly and had no place in the head of a youngest son. Expendable. He'd gotten accustomed to that very early. Then, at age twelve, his position in the clan had changed radically. He'd developed the Sharingan during a suicide mission. Instead of being disposed of on the battlefield, he was called home. He was trained. He was watched. He heard things.
Whispers at first. Something about Itachi, his father's competence, Sand and Sound, and finally, Konoha.
The clan had settled on the outskirts of the Sand village years ago. Sasuke had spent his time as an expendable genin being trained by Sand. Sound, he knew more recently. That was the village that had hired him and his now deceased team for that suicide mission. He'd known immediately that they were being used as a distraction. They'd been sent against an Anbu team with one goal. To slow them down. He'd guessed the rest. Sound had probably infiltrated another village, been caught in the act, and needed a handy distraction to give their men time to escape. He'd been the only Uchiha member on his team. The others had been genin hired from whatever allies Sound had been able to scrounge up. He'd survived. They'd died. And as far as he knew, the mission was a success because he was sent home without a single reprimand from Sound. He didn't know how that was related to Sand. Sand and Sound had been off and on and off-again allies for years. As for Konoha, he knew very little. The clan had come from there originally. They'd left due to some dispute about the leader of that village. He didn't remember any of that. He'd been an infant, and by the time he was old enough to wonder, he knew better than to ask.
The whispers started days after his return. People stared at him as he followed his father on the street. People he barely knew or didn't know at all. Relatives. He was taught their names, their ranks, their positions in the clan. He was introduced to the elders, a group of five he'd only seen from a distance. Wizened old men who grumbled under their breaths to each other when his father issued orders. He learned that each of the elders had gained his position in the clan because he or one of his descendants had produced the sharingan. One of them was his grandfather on his mother's side, who'd become an elder when Itachi had produced the sharingan at age six and become the undisputed heir of the clan. They looked at him the same way they'd looked at Itachi. Jealousy, resentment, disbelief, grudging respect. Rarely had the sharingan shown in more than one member of a single family unit. With Sasuke, his father's reputation was beyond reproach. Not one son, but two. Both at an unheard of age. Just the bargaining chip his father had been looking for. Sasuke didn't find out why until four years later, when things fell apart.
It began with a rumor. 'Itachi's done it again.' Everyone was saying it, angry and worried enough that they didn't bother lowering their voices when he was near. He heard it again and again until he couldn't stand being kept ignorant anymore. The first person he asked stared at him in disgust and walked away. The second told him to mind his business and kissed his forehead before sending him to his room. He should have known better than to ask his mother anything concerning Itachi. She loved him. She didn't feel sick to her stomach when she was near him the way Sasuke did. She didn't know instinctively that there was something very wrong with him the way Sasuke did. She was loyal. He envied that. He wanted desperately to be loyal. He just couldn't get rid of his instinct that being loyal to Itachi was being disloyal to the clan itself. Itachi or the clan? He chose the clan every time.
The third person he asked wasn't a member of the Uchiha clan. He was a jounin from Sand who'd been training him exclusively for the last four years. Sasuke hadn't been allowed to leave the village since his return as a sharingan holder. He was no longer expendable. And now, his teacher told him in confidence, he was a potential replacement for Itachi. What the clan hadn't decided yet was whether he'd be a better or worse replacement. At the moment it appeared things couldn't get any worse than they were. Itachi had led them against Konoha. Again.
"Why does that matter?" asked Sasuke. "Sand is our only long-term ally." He immediately wished he hadn't said anything. The look his teacher gave him was the same disgusted one that first person had gifted him with. It demanded, 'How can you not know this?' and left him hating his own family for keeping him so ignorant.
"Sand is allied with Konoha," his teacher told him, in a pitying tone. "They have been for the last five years. Don't you know who were up against in that mission for Sound?"
"I was a genin," Sasuke said coldly. Barely a genin, teamed with a dozen equally ignorant and expendable children.
"And an Uchiha," the man grimaced. He turned away, as if he couldn't look at him and say the rest. "Your brother infiltrated Konoha along with that Sound team. If he'd been caught, Sand would have taken the blame. And the first thing we would have done in retaliation is wipe out your entire clan. He knew that. Your clan knew that. He did it anyway. We'd already broken our alliance with Sound when he took part in that infiltration. He knew that, too. You're the only reason Sand stood down. If those Anbu had discovered your brother, the most recognizable Uchiha, an ally of Sand, it would have meant war. War between us and your clan, especially with Itachi having made some underhanded pact with Sound behind our backs. We would have sided with Konoha against you."
"Why didn't you?" Sasuke asked. He didn't particularly care anymore. So many things made sense now. He'd been the only Uchiha member of that suicide team because he was expendable and no one would recognize him. His father had sent him out there to cover Itachi's tracks. And he hadn't even had the consideration to tell him he was being sacrificed for the good of the clan - rather than for the petty amount Sound had paid for him to join that team.
"You," his teacher said again. Now he turned slightly, to look at him from the corner of his eye. "Not only did you single-handedly hold them off-"
"I wasn't alone," Sasuke cut in, his eyes narrow glints. He hadn't known the children who'd made up his team, but they had been a team. He'd watched them fall one by one. None of them had run. None of them had quit. They'd died messily doing their best, for a paltry sum that wouldn't feed a single person for more than a week, let alone the families they'd left behind. They hadn't been like him. They'd been desperate for a mission, any paying mission. He'd simply been following his father's orders.
"Who was with you?" the man scoffed. "A dozen brats scraped up at the last minute? Don't defend Sound to me. They have no lasting allies. They hire mercenaries, missing nin, and starving children whose parents are too stupid to stop making more babies than they can feed. They should never have had access to an Uchiha. If not for Itachi and your father, they wouldn't have. The simple fact is you distracted an Anbu squad of Konoha's finest long enough for Itachi's betrayal to go unnoticed. And you survived." His upper lip curled, that same distasteful look of grudging respect Sasuke had come to expect from the elders. "We have no one under Jounin rank who could have done that. What you did was redeem your clan. With that much potential, it's better that we keep the Uchiha's close rather than allow them to flee to one of our enemies. Namely Sound. Itachi came back, you covered his betrayal and reminded us why we allied with the Uchiha clan in the first place, and we commiserated with Konoha for having been duped by a handful of nameless children at the hands of our mutual enemy, Sound."
Sasuke stared at the man who'd been his teacher since his return. He'd never seen this side of him before. He had wondered, more and more often, why he was being trained by a member of Sand rather than his own clan. And why this particular man was chosen as his teacher. Sasuke had surpassed him in skill two years ago and yet he was still forced to 'learn' from him as if age alone was required to teach.
"Is that why Sand has been in charge of my training?" asked Sasuke. Again, his tone was casual. He didn't care if the answer was the one he expected it would be. The only reason he asked was to see how much of that resentment he could draw out of his 'teacher' before the man snapped. He'd never liked him as a teacher. And now he'd lost all respect for him as a person. Starving children or trained shinobi, if they died for their village, for their family, then it was a noble sacrifice. Any Uchiha, even the squabbling elders, would have said the same. If all Sand shinobi thought like this man, his clan was better off being their enemy.
"It only took you four years to figure that out," the man laughed. It was a grating ugly sound. "Itachi's gone too far this time. He's allied himself with a missing nin from Mist, another of our enemies, in case you didn't know that, either. The two of them were seen walking through the center of Konoha in broad daylight. And do you know what they did when they were confronted?"
Sasuke stared blandly. A moment passed before his teacher grimaced and looked away from him again.
"They attacked three of Konoha's shinobi. Itachi nearly killed one of them. And for nothing! He won't even give a reason for his actions! It's over," and he snapped a pointed look at Sasuke. "Konoha is coming here. If they want Itachi's head and your father doesn't cooperate, we'll handle it ourselves. And you, ignorant obedient sharingan-holder, will be his replacement. Your elders have already agreed. Behind your father's back, naturally. It's amazing how a clan that prides itself in familial loyalty is so quick to turn on one of its own. They don't even like you. They're saying you're just like your father. That you'll end as bad as Itachi or worse. But they'll use you till they find someone better. They'll do it to save their own necks, to keep this little safehaven on the edge of our village. Do you like that? You don't have many options. You can be their pawn or ours. The reason you've been stuck training with me the last two years is because your clan doesn't want you to become another Itachi. The stronger you get, the harder it will be to control you. That's not my doing. Sand doesn't want your potential suppressed. We'll have you trained with our best, far away from these people who won't even tell you who your enemies are. You don't want to remain ignorant and weak forever, do you?"
"That's enough," Sasuke said quietly. "I would never betray my clan. If you don't know that by now, you know nothing about me." All of that dislike bubbled across his teacher's face. He took a slow step toward him and was vaguely disgusted when the man skittered back. "I don't need you. Speak to me again and I will kill you. Effortlessly. I wouldn't even have to touch you." Red bled into his eyes and his former teacher did more than skitter, he jumped away, one arm thrown up to shield his own eyes.
"Coward," Sasuke sniffed. "If you speak for Sand, you should hope I never become the Uchiha heir. Itachi might disobey the elders for his own reasons. I would do it for the good of the clan. The clan doesn't need cowards for allies. My genin team was braver than you."
He wasn't followed, but he was watched. The streets were eerily empty for midday, spotted by small huddles of people. Family, he reminded himself. Too often he thought of them as strangers who happened to share the same blood. They fell silent and watched him, hopefully, suspiciously, distastefully. Confirming everything his teacher had said against them. It wasn't as if his teacher had lied. The man had maligned the clan for good reason. They were falling apart. He and Itachi were the only sharingan users of their generation. There had been rumors of another, who had died in Konoha soon after getting the eyes. He'd died a child, with no descendants or siblings. Now they had two sharingan holders, both of good blood no matter how the elders grumbled over his father's decisions. Him or Itachi. One they barely knew, the other they couldn't trust. Either way they went, there was no guarantee the clan would benefit in the long run.
His father was waiting when he returned. He was standing in the doorway as if he'd been waiting for hours, tireless, resolute. Sasuke felt part of him close off when their eyes met. He'd always been able to do that with his father. Lock away the memories of a time when he'd loved him unconditionally. Trusted him, idolized him, determined with a child's innocence to one day make his father look at him the way he looked at Itachi. It was the part of him that had died when he'd returned, a sharingan holder, and seen Itachi again for the first time in years. Itachi had changed while he was away. He'd recognized it instantly. And he'd been unprepared. He'd looked into Itachi's eyes and lost that unconditional trust. He'd never gotten it back. He refused to let the same thing happen with his father. So he locked it away, closed it off in a protected place, and met his father's gaze with empty eyes. Nothing his father said would affect him.
"You are dead," his father said.
Sasuke stopped, standing motionless halfway to the house. His lips closed in a thin line. The dead did not speak.
"I didn't want this," his father said, and he stepped out of the doorway and into the yard.
Sasuke's gaze flicked past him, eyes meeting with his mother's for a moment before she closed the door. Her eyes were too wide, too dark, her face pale and as empty as he felt. She was in shock. He didn't know whether his father had 'wanted this' or not. He knew his mother hadn't. He hoped this wouldn't break her. She'd given birth to two sharingan holders. If anything happened to Itachi now, she'd be expected to give birth to another. How many years would that take? He stared at the door, his expression distant and calm. Thoughts that he'd crushed time and again surfaced once more. Itachi or the clan? He chose the clan. His father or the clan? No choice, his father was the clan. His mother or the clan? His mother, he hated the clan. He crushed that traitorous thought as he had every time it had forced its way into his head. It didn't matter. This wouldn't break her. She was an Uchiha. And he didn't know that defying his father in this would benefit the clan or his mother. As his teacher had made very clear, he didn't know anything.
"It wasn't my decision," his father said, now crossing the yard to stand in front of him. "They asked for you. Konoha."
His father was staring down at him with strange eyes. Sasuke met them blankly. He didn't know why his father would look so suspicious, threatened, confused. He'd never seen him confused.
"Why would they ask for you?"
Sasuke didn't know, so he said nothing.
His father looked away, frowning past him at the gate. "I might have sent you myself, had it been my choice. I thought they would ask for Itachi, force us to bargain, knowing we'd never hand over our heir. The negotiations should have lasted months before they finally accepted myself or one of the elders in Itachi's place. Someone whose absence would weaken the clan. Instead they asked for you." He turned back, his eyes dark and strange. "This is better for the clan. Nothing will change with you gone. They must know that."
Sasuke remained silent. His father was staring at him as if he expected answers. Why you? That was the confusion in his eyes. What do you know about this? That was the suspicion. How will this hurt us? And that was the threatened shadow. Sasuke didn't have answers for the first two. He was no one but a potential and currently unnecessary heir. He knew nothing. As for how his death might hurt the clan, he couldn't tell his father that. Like his mother, his father refused to acknowledge that something had happened to Itachi. That something was wrong in him. That he couldn't be trusted. The elders could see it, those blood-related strangers in the street suspected it, Sasuke knew it in his bones, but his father would never willingly accept it. Sasuke could tell him now. His father was giving him a chance to say it. But to what purpose? He didn't want to be disciplined, ignored, possibly hated as a traitor in his last moments for saying the things his father already knew but refused to acknowledge.
His father placed a hand on his head, looking down at him with eyes that glinted of steel. "You are an Uchiha. Your death will avert a war and ensure the peaceful continuation of your clan. Do not resist. Die willingly and proudly. You are my son."
Words he'd longed to hear as a child now fell shallow and false on his ears. He heard them, translated them, filed the true meaning away bitterly. I'm glad it's you instead of Itachi. Thank you for taking his place like the expendable tool you are. Heavy and cold. He was grateful for the closed off part of him that wouldn't be affected by the true meaning of those words. He stared into those icy eyes and gave a sharp nod.
The hand slipped off his head. His father looked past him again, and Sasuke turned to see the two men who'd come to collect him. Anbu. Even if his teacher hadn't warned him in advance, he would have recognized the uniforms. The porcelain masks. He couldn't differentiate one village's anbu from another. He'd never seen any except the ones who'd slaughtered his genin team. One of these had been in that group. He recognized the red markings of his mask, some rounded animal face, like a pig with a dog's muzzle. He stared into the eye-holes and wondered if the man recognized him as well. Not that it mattered. His father stepped away, turned his back, and left him without a word. Sasuke didn't watch him walk away.
The two men flanked him, hands dropping to his shoulders. He stared blankly at what was in front of him. The gate, the village beyond, the red and white Uchiha symbol painted onto the side of a building half a block away. Then there was smoke, he blinked, and he was in a forest. A camp site, spotted with shinobi wearing forehead protectors marked with the leaf. Konoha. The Anbu left him, disappearing into the trees. Sasuke stood motionless. He doubted the two men had gone far. They'd watch from the shadows. He wouldn't give them any reason to come down.
He was taken to a small clearing and searched. He'd set out to train that morning. Now his weapons and packs were confiscated. A young ninja, who didn't look much older than him, approached and circled him slowly. His eyes had gone white and lined. Sasuke recognized it as a bloodlimit, though he'd didn't know what it entailed. He assumed the check found nothing threatening because the boy left without speaking. Another man placed thick silver cuffs around his wrists and ankles. Sasuke's blank mask slipped at this. They were restraints designed to block his chakra. He'd seen similar ones used on prisoners. Was that what these people considered him? A prisoner? Did they think he would try to escape? Fight back? He was going to his death to ensure the safety of his clan. He was a peace offering. What need was there to restrain him? The man cuffed him quickly, warily, too eager to render him powerless. Sasuke's face twisted in disgust.
His disgust thickened once the party set out. There were five men in the party, seven including the Anbu he knew were shadowing them. They were fast, Jounin at the least, and none of them appeared to be weak. Yet he was gagged and trussed and carried like some dangerous criminal over the shoulders of the same coward who'd placed the cuffs on him. His first impression of Konoha had been a positive one. That Anbu squad had impressed him greatly. He'd been in awe of their speed, the cold manner in which they killed, the efficient way they'd moved whether individually or in pairs, how long they'd pursued him when he'd made his escape. By all rights he should have died back then. He wouldn't have been ashamed to die at their hands. They'd been far beyond him in skill. Now that first impression was tainted. These men were silent, fast even carrying the burden they'd made him into with their restraints. But they lacked discipline.
The man apparently in charge of transporting him had no control over his emotions. He watched him warily when they stopped for breaks, grimaced when he was forced to ungag him, and actually grumbled the few times he was given night watch over him. He glared and ground his teeth and constantly looked moments from an explosion. Sasuke stared at him with nothing but cool disdain. The others were better, but even they snuck him suspicious looks. The only one who maintained an emotionless expression was the boy with the bloodlimit. He stared at Sasuke openly, now and then, with a blank face and eyes that didn't reveal any hints as to why he was staring. When the cowardly man finally snapped and attacked him for, in his words, looking so 'haughty', the boy was the first to intervene. Two sharp hits and the man crumpled, coughing up blood. Sasuke wished he could have activated the sharingan to see what the boy had done. For a brief moment he was so interested in the boy's skills that he forgot he had no future. He'd forgotten that he was essentially dead already.
He stopped looking at them. He stared blankly at the ground as someone patched him up. One of the Anbu came down, drugged him, and he was still staring at the man's feet when he passed out. He came to once to find himself choking, throwing up, dizzy and disorienting and brief. He woke again, more aware this time, to find himself being carried over the shoulder of one of the Anbu. He recognized the gray vest. The man stopped immediately, just long enough to place him under a quick sleep jutsu. Sasuke could have dispelled it despite the chakra binding cuffs. He didn't bother to. The drug had made him sick and though he was prepared to die, he didn't fancy choking to death on his own vomit because someone hadn't taken the gag off in time. He slept. He woke on a cot in a dim gray room with an illusionary wall masking the door. He lay on his back, stared at the ceiling, and waited.
Twice someone came to look in at him. He knew the door was there, that there was a barred window set into it. He could feel the air from the hall outside his cell. If he'd looked, he might have been able to see through the illusionary wall. He didn't look. The staring bothered him. The silence bothered him. He was beginning to feel nervous. They'd traveled two days before he'd been drugged. There was no telling how long he'd been out. Now he was here, in Konoha, he assumed. And he was still alive.
Something was wrong about this. If he'd been chosen to set an example, he would have been executed in front of his clan. That would have demoralized them. It might have upset them enough to turn away from his father and Itachi. It might have affected real change. Why bring him to Konoha? Killing him here would accomplish nothing. It wouldn't appease the families of the men Itachi had attacked. He was sure of that. At best, his death could be used as a display of power to their allies. Possibly. Assuming their allies were fools. His father was right. His absence would change nothing. Itachi would still be there, still acting on his own, still leaving the clan to be held responsible for everything he did. They'd put up with it until he went too far again. And then what? It was only a matter of time before someone did demand Itachi's head. They'd never get it. Even if the elders convinced his father, it wouldn't matter. Itachi didn't care about the clan. He used them when it was convenient and that was all. This was nothing more than another suicide mission to draw attention away from Itachi. And the longer he was left in his cell, waiting, the more he started to suspect this mission would turn out the same as the last one. If they'd planned to kill him, they would have done so already.
A man entered his cell finally. Sasuke glanced at him, recognized his status by the robes he wore, and sat up respectfully. This was their Hokage. He was much younger than the one in Sand, who Sasuke had seen often enough to wonder who would replace him. Sand's Kage had always struck him as a sniveling old tyrant even weaker than the Uchiha elders, who'd at least maintained their wits as their aged bodies failed them. This man was his father's age, with an even stare that exuded confidence and strength. But there was something wrong with him. It wasn't anything visible, just a feeling that the man wasn't well. That he hadn't been well for a very long time. That part of him was dying. Sasuke immediately resented that. Why was it that all of the strong leaders were aged, dying, or trapped as mere figureheads to the weak?
"Do you know who I am?" the man asked.
His voice was cool, but his eyes, blue and sharp, appeared to be laughing at him. Sasuke stared back at them and felt tired inside. "Hokage."
"Yes," the man said. Now he did smile, if only a little. "The last time I saw you, you were a baby. You've grown."
Sasuke wondered if that were supposed to be a joke. The man paused expectantly as if it were. He gave him a blank stare, "I don't remember."
"No, you wouldn't." The man sobered, his eyes seeming to darken. When he spoke again, his eyes were as cool as his tone. "We have a tradition of refusing sacrifices. We don't perform public executions here. Peace treaties are held by paper, signatures, promises, and trust that both parties will keep their word. The Uchiha clan should be well aware of our stance on that. It appears they hoped to use this breach to rid themselves of a leader they're incapable of removing on their own."
Itachi. Sasuke said nothing.
"We have no intention of doing that."
That much was painfully obvious. They'd been given a choice and they'd chosen to leave Itachi for the clan to deal with.
"Which leaves us in a difficult position in regards to you. We can't kill you for the crimes of another."
"I'm an Uchiha."
"Sasuke Uchiha," the man said, and that laugh was in his eyes again. "The only Uchiha considered a criminal in Konoha is Itachi. That's another point on which the Uchiha clan and Konoha has always clashed. We do not hold an entire people responsible for the actions of one individual. I suppose we could try you for having attacked one of our Anbu squads four years ago, but we prefer to keep that incident from becoming public knowledge. It wouldn't look good to admit we were distracted from our target by a handful of genin."
Sasuke took that to mean the Anbu who'd escorted him here had recognized him after all.
"You are officially a political prisoner. You will be held indefinitely. Any actions taken by you against Konoha will be considered a breach of the treaty. While you are here, we will not hold Sand or the Uchiha clan responsible for any actions taken by Itachi. Sand has officially listed him as a Missing-nin. Your elders have assured us they are in full support of that decision."
Sasuke didn't know how to feel about that news. The elders had acted behind his father's back, just as his teacher had warned him they would. His father would be crushed. It meant the clan was without an heir, no active sharingan users at all. It meant they would no longer be held accountable for Itachi's random actions. It also meant Itachi would no longer have even a pretense of being tied to the clan. Rather than worrying about what the clan would do, he worried about what Itachi would do. Nothing good. He was sure of that.
"What happens if I die?" asked Sasuke. Indefinitely was a long time. He could face death. He didn't think he'd be able to stand life imprisonment.
"Don't kill yourself." This was given in a warning tone, ice flashing over blue. "If you do, we will consider it a breach of the treaty."
Sasuke dropped his eyes. It wouldn't work. He was confident he could hold out for months, a year, maybe two. But no longer than that. If his pride didn't kill him, it would certainly drive someone else to. He hadn't even made the trip here without getting attacked. "And if someone else kills me?"
"That won't happen. If it did, we would consider ourselves in breach of the treaty."
He looked up sharply, "Why? By accepting me, you've already fulfilled your part of the treaty. It doesn't matter whether you keep me alive or kill me. Holding me won't stop the clan from breaking the treaty in the future. If they decide to, it will be because of something you or your allies have done to them. They won't start a war over anything that happens to me. I'm already dead."
"You seem very much alive to me." The man shook his head and turned away. "Another of the reasons the Uchiha clan separated years ago. We see things differently." He stopped in front of the door, standing silent for a few minutes. After a while, he spoke without looking back. "My son will be in to proposition you shortly. Feel free to refuse him. You are not obligated to do anything while you are here save live and refrain from attacking others. No one will force you to-"
"Oh, just let me in, already," an aggravated voice spoke up from outside the door. "You're going to make him paranoid."
The man's shoulders hunched under his robes. Sasuke watched him slip out the door. They must have moved a few steps away because their voices were quieter but still clearly audible.
"I told you to wait," the man hissed. "This is unorthodox enough as it is."
"I've waited four years! Now you expect me to wait some more? I'm dying, here."
"It's not working. It's not gonna. Just go. I'll be careful."
"You'd better be."
"I will," and the new speaker entered the room. He shut the door and tilted his head to send a parting shot through the bars, "Nagging old man!"
A low mutter of, "Brat," filtered down the hall.
Sasuke stared as the Hokage's son turned to look at him. He would have known it was his son even if he hadn't been warned. The boy looked just like him, blonde, blue eyes, and he held his shoulders back with the same confidence his father wore. The only difference was that the boy was shorter, around his age, and had three marks on each cheek. The marks caught Sasuke's eye. They were familiar.
"Oh," the boy said suddenly, "wait." He turned his back and moved as if he were pulling something out of his jacket. A moment later he turned back around. He was wearing an Anbu mask, a pointy-nosed fox with three red whiskers on each cheek. "Recognize me?"
"Yes," said Sasuke. The boy was one of the few Anbu during that mission who hadn't killed anyone. Sasuke had disregarded him quickly as being new to the squad or new to the rank. He'd fought with potential and too much exuberance, lacking the ruthless discipline of the others. And he'd been one of the last to stop chasing when he'd made his escape. Knowing that boy was his age rankled him. It helped to realize he was the Hokage's son. He didn't know if the blonde would become Hokage in his father's place, but he'd certainly have gotten the best training available. Sasuke envied him for a long moment before dismissing the emotion.
The boy pulled the mask off and slipped it back into his jacket. His eyes were burning when he looked up again. An intense blue that looked too bright to be natural. "I'm Naruto. I'm going to be the next Hokage. In a year or two, anyway. My dad wants to settle things with a few of our allies before he steps down. I've been looking forward to seeing you again. Ka - one of the other Anbu recognized the sharingan, but he wouldn't tell me at the time. He was afraid I'd sneak into Sand to find you if I knew you were an Uchiha. Gaara was the one who finally told me who you were. He recognized the description and said you came back to Sand right after getting the sharingan. You know who Gaara is?"
There was something forced about the way the boy was talking. Too quickly, too carelessly, as if Sasuke couldn't see the way his eyes were burning. Sasuke wondered if this were his way of making small talk. He wondered why the boy was bothering. "I know who he is. He has a demon."
He'd only seen Gaara a few times. A pale red-haired boy with eyes rimmed in black and a tattoo on his forehead. He carried a gourd of sand on his back and a demon inside his body. Once, before he'd become a genin, Sasuke had wanted to fight with him. He'd just realized none of the kids in the clan could compete with him well enough to help him get as strong as Itachi. He'd heard rumors about Gaara, who was their age and supposedly stronger than the Kazekage. He'd set out to find him. He'd gotten one block away before Itachi had caught him and ordered him home. He'd never gotten that close to Gaara again. By the time he'd returned to the clan, he'd known better than to approach any of the Sand shinobi. His teacher was the only one he'd been allowed contact with.
"He's my friend," Naruto said sharply.
"I wasn't insulting him."
"Oh." Naruto blinked and that bright glare flickered and died. "I'm defensive. Sorry."
First small talk and now he was apologizing? Sasuke had a difficult time keeping the impatience off his face. "The Hokage said you have a proposition for me. What is it?"
Naruto flinched, seemed to coil for a moment, and then blurted, "I'm working my way up to that!"
"Why not just ask?"
"Because I don't want you to say no!" Naruto closed his mouth tight, as if he wanted to take the words back. His hands had curled into fists. His face was flushed with frustration and embarrassment.
Naruto reminded Sasuke of the man who'd attacked him on the way here. Restraining himself, but entirely ready to snap at any moment. Sasuke regretted pushing him. He wanted to get this...interview?...this meeting over with. This was his bad habit. He pushed people too far without even trying. He looked past the boy to the barred door. The illusion was in affect again. He could see through it, the fake gray wall shimmering in a blurry mirage.
"Take all the time you need," Sasuke said blandly. "I'm not going anywhere." Ever.
"You will be if you say yes."
Sasuke's wandering attention snapped back to the blonde. "Where would I go?"
"Hospital first," said Naruto. He was glaring at the bandage on Sasuke's cheek, his face darkening, "Before that scars." And then the thundercloud burst into a grin that was more violently proud than happy. "I broke his face. Dad almost killed me for it, but it was his own fault. No one was supposed to touch you. Neji saw the whole thing and he said you weren't doing anything but looking at him. Just wait, when I'm Hokage he'll be lucky if I let him do genin missions."
"And after the hospital?" asked Sasuke. He wasn't going to read too much into Naruto's anger. He'd have dealt with that man the same way. There was no excuse for a Jounin to attack a prisoner for such a petty reason. Especially one who was restrained and gagged and offering no resistance whatsoever. He refused to blame himself for looking at the man with contempt. "Where would I go?"
Naruto stilled, his face almost emotionless. "Home with me," he said quietly. "I want you to stay with me."
Sasuke stared, "Why?" Those eyes burned at him for a moment before Naruto fidgeted and looked away. He was almost amused when the blonde immediately began talking in that too fast too casual voice again. The boy was nervous, embarrassed, procrastinating. Sasuke watched it silently.
"There used to be a whole district set aside for the Uchiha clan," Naruto said quickly. "It got remodeled over the years, turned into apartments and houses for the lower ranks. Genin, a few Chunin, civilian families mostly, and more room for the orphans because it's bad enough they lost their parents without them having to live in slums because there's no one to support them. It was one of my academy teacher's ideas, since he lost his parents early and he knew what it was like. Anyway, the main house is still empty if you wanted to move into it. Wouldn't take much to fix it up. You'd be allowed to move around freely as long as you stay within the village walls. I don't think we can accept you into our ranks, but you could train with me if you want, and go with me on missions. I haven't been doing enough of those lately, for the last few years, actually." And he stopped, stilled, his voice soft.
"I have a demon, too," said Naruto. "Like Gaara. My dad thinks that's why, that I was just too young and susceptible and you were interesting and new. Maybe that is why. All I know is I've been thinking about you since I saw you four years ago. When I found out you were coming here, I almost went and got you myself."
"Is that why Konoha chose me?" asked Sasuke.
Naruto's face twisted, "My dad had his own reasons. He said if we took Itachi, the clan would repeat the same mistakes with you. Nothing would change. They wouldn't learn anything. He said if we took you, they'd still be forced to get rid of Itachi, and then they'd be without an heir. They'd have to adjust. Change. He says their biggest flaw is that they resist change and that this was the best way to affect change without hurting them directly. He went on and on. I get where he's coming from. It makes sense. But even if all of this hadn't happened, I'd have gone after you eventually. I've known who you were for the last year. The only reason I didn't go is because you're an Uchiha and Konoha agreed not to interfere with that clan when they left. It's been driving me crazy."
"You've been obsessed with me."
"Yes," Naruto said sharply. His face was a picture of stubbornness, as if he weren't the least bit embarrassed.
"And now that I'm here, you want me to live with you."
"As what?" asked Sasuke. He was confident he already knew, but he wanted to see if Naruto would say it.
Naruto tensed, his hands curling again. He rocked on his heels and his face was a picture of wary frustration. This was very important to him. And difficult for him. Sasuke had no sympathy whatsoever.
"Live with you as what?" Sasuke prodded, in a cool, casual tone. "A partner? A prisoner? A servant?"
"A lover," Naruto ground out. His eyes were burning again.
"I'm not trained for that."
Sasuke watched as Naruto jerked back a step, surprise and confusion flashing over his face. He looked as if he'd been told an unexpected joke and wasn't sure whether to laugh or demand that the punch line be explained to him. Sasuke almost wished it were a joke. Naruto's expression would have been more amusing then. Sasuke knew now why Naruto's father had made a point of telling him he was free to refuse this 'proposition.' It was threatening. Even knowing he was 'free' to refuse didn't stop him from feeling threatened. He hadn't been trained for this at all.
"I've gone through the basic training," Sasuke explained. "Each group I worked with had a different setup, favorite poisons, justus most commonly used by their enemies, pain tolerance, removal of any phobias one might have. None of them introduced intercourse to prepubescents. I might have taken that had I continued working with Sound, but I was called home after that last mission. My training since then has been limited to attack and defense, with no focus on torture. Sand ninja suicide when they're captured, and since I'm still technically a genin I wasn't taught interrogation methods. It was never an issue."
"You're saying you're a virgin." Naruto looked a little too happy, and possibly excited, to hear that.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "I'm saying that I haven't been trained for that. If I'm raped, I can't guarantee I'll be mentally stable afterward. I'm liable to suicide. In which case, Konoha will take it as a breach of the treaty and retaliate against my clan. I won't risk that."
"I wouldn't force you," Naruto blurted, in a small voice.
Sasuke wondered if that sounded as much like a lie to the blonde as it did to him.
Naruto scowled suddenly, "And I sure as hell wouldn't do anything to make you kill yourself! Don't even talk like that! If I ever do something that upsets you, just tell me. I'll never do it again." He folded his arms over his chest in a manner that was more defensive than intimidating. "I want you to live with me. Stay with me. As a lover. But I want you to be happy about it, not...whatever you're thinking."
"Happy," Naruto repeated stubbornly.
"I came here to die."
Naruto's fingers dug into his arms until it was painful to look at. His expression was a conflicted mess. "Did you want to die?"
"No," Sasuke admitted. "I liked being a shinobi. I wanted a teacher who could challenge me. I wanted to be strong enough to take care of my clan. None of that matters now. I know myself. Whether I suicide or someone else kills me, I won't survive long in captivity. It's not in my nature."
"Can I sit down?" asked Naruto.
Sasuke blinked at him. He wondered if Naruto misunderstood the balance of power here, or if he were trying to be polite. "Do what you want."
Naruto flashed him a weak smile as he sat a good two feet away from him, "Don't say that. If I did what I wanted, I'd be all over you by now. I swear, I peeked in at you earlier and it was all I could do not to barge right in. Took the old man forever to have his talk. He wouldn't let me in till he'd had a chance to talk to you."
He really was obsessed. In another time and place, Sasuke might have found that flattering or at the very least amusing.
"You aren't in captivity, you know," said Naruto. "Even if you say no to me, you still won't be...thrown into prison or anything. Even I'd probably suicide if I ended up in there. You'd probably be restricted to one of the towers for a while, under Anbu watch. You'd be allowed to go out and move around, you'd just have to keep the cuffs on or accept a permanent seal. You couldn't be a shinobi anymore, but...there's plenty of other stuff you could do around the village that you might like. We have a lot of civilians compared to most. And they're not all like that ass who hit you on your way here. Konoha's a nice enough place, especially if you're friends with the right people. You definitely are. You've got the Hokage and the future Hokage ready to bash some heads in if anyone gives you trouble."
"And if I stay with you?"
"I'll make you happy." Naruto scowled and blushed, his arms folding even more tightly than before. "Sounds stupid, but I would. You could train with me. I probably can't get you in to take the tests like a real shinobi. That's just a rank, though. I could teach you what I know and get teachers for you if you don't like learning from me. I'm probably not a very good teacher. I've never actually tried. You'd stay with me, so you wouldn't have to be watched all the time. You definitely wouldn't get sealed. If you were my lover, you'd have to be able to defend yourself against assassination attempts. We get those now and then and the 'no killing' thing my dad told you about doesn't count if you're defending your life. You wouldn't be restricted to the village, either, so long as you only leave when I do. The only missions I've really been doing lately are deliveries of classified material, traveling, defense, nothing messy. It'd get us out of the village for a while."
"Won't it cause trouble if you take me openly as a lover? You plan to be Hokage in a few years. You'll need to produce heirs." And he didn't even want to think of how his father would react if word got out. Except he didn't have to worry about that. Sasuke frowned soberly. He didn't have to worry about anything he did affecting his parents. He was dead the same as if his father had slit his throat in their yard instead of patting his head. Even if he were to meet them in person, they wouldn't acknowledge him.
"Surrogate mom," Naruto shrugged. "I'll get around to that when the time comes. I was already planning on it. I haven't been interested in girls since I saw you. Or in anyone, for that matter. I might even be able to get Baa-chan to mix up a kid for both of us if we do it before she croaks of old age." His eyes gleamed suddenly, glinting off an evil grin. "Can you imagine the kids we could have? We've got killer genes..."
"You're getting ahead of yourself," Sasuke said weakly. He had a sudden urge to back himself into a corner until Naruto stopped grinning like that.
"Yeah," Naruto sighed, "but it's such a great dream..."
"What about your reputation?"
Naruto snorted, "I've got a demon inside me. Kyuubi, to be specific. I stopped caring about my reputation about the same time I started handling a kunai. I'm a good shinobi and I'll be an even better Hokage. Anyone who doesn't like who I sleep with can take their bigoted opinions and leave."
Like the Uchiha clan had. Sasuke wondered if Naruto was the reason they'd left Konoha all those years ago. He could easily imagine his father arguing with Naruto's father, while a baby with a demon freshly implanted in him cried nearby. Let it grow up and risk that it might one day destroy the entire village? The entire clan? They'd have left and never looked back. He was sure they'd have done the same thing if the Hokage had taken a male lover. Homosexuality wasn't something he'd even heard about until he'd begun training with other villages. Like infidelity, it wasn't spoken of in the Uchiha clan because no one would ever do it. Now here he was seriously considering it.
"How often would I need to have sex with you?"
Naruto let out a choked whining sound, his face blushing a dark unflattering pink. Sasuke stared in annoyance. He didn't see why Naruto should be embarrassed by the question. He didn't feel embarrassed. He felt like washing his hands until they bled.
"I don't know," Naruto mumbled. He shifted uncomfortably, his eyes locked on his folded arms. "You've never done it, so...you'd have to do it a few times at first to try it out. I mean, if you like it, then we could whenever you want. If you don't like it, then, well, if you don't then you don't. That's it. There's nothing you can do about that. Some people just don't, so, that's it. I'd leave you alone."
"Would I lose my privileges immediately?"
Naruto looked up, "Privileges?"
"My freedom," Sasuke said pointedly, "being allowed to train. Not being sealed."
Naruto bit his lip and stared at him until Sasuke shifted uncomfortably. Finally, he seemed to come to a decision. He unfolded his arms and put his palms flat on the cot.
"If you really don't like it, then you don't have to do it anymore," said Naruto. "As long as you stay with me, keep living with me, then you won't lose anything. But you have to stay with me. Even if we don't have sex, you still have to stay. And you can't do it with anyone else. Ever. I'd know if you did. I'd get...violent if you did..."
"You don't have to worry about that," Sasuke grimaced.
Sasuke looked away. He couldn't believe he was doing this. He tried to reconcile it with himself. If he'd been tossed into a prison, he'd probably have been raped a few times by now. Whether he'd have survived the experience with his mind intact or not, he'd have been ruined for life. Compared to that, what Naruto proposed didn't sound difficult. He was a shinobi. If he'd been trained properly, he'd have been able to handle sex with anyone without it affecting him. Undercover missions required that sort of flexibility. Given, he wouldn't have willingly accepted a mission that required sleeping with a man, but he'd have been trained for it just in case. He wanted the freedom Naruto was offering him. He'd have done anything to keep his chakra from being permanently sealed.
"Will you take these off?" Sasuke asked, lifting his cuffed hands.
Naruto hopped up, his eyes shiny above a wide smile. He crouched at Sasuke's feet and removed the ankle cuffs. He paused when he'd finished. His smile faltered. "I'm not supposed to take those off till you come to my place."
"To consummate the agreement," Sasuke muttered. He tried to imagine having sex - or doing anything sexual at all - with his hands bound and his chakra restricted. Just the thought of it made him sick and dizzy. He closed his eyes in a painful grimace. "No. No, forget it. Nevermind. I can't do this. Not with my hands tied."
"No!" Naruto blurted. He sounded as disturbed as Sasuke felt. "You have to wear them till we get to my apartment, not while we're-" Now he was the one who grimaced. "I'll take them off as soon as we're inside! The second we get there! And you don't have to walk around with them on or anything. Once we're out in the hall I can transfer us right to Baa-chan's office and straight to my apartment from there. So...you'll only have to wear them for a few more minutes. Just a few, so..." He gripped the ankle cuffs until his knuckles turned white. "Don't change your mind..."
Sasuke wondered exactly how obsessed Naruto was with him to sound so desperate. Almost panicky. How desperate could a blonde-haired blue-eyed Hokage's son be for sex and companionship? Especially one who'd been a fledgling Anbu at age twelve. Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "You said I had to be faithful. Will you be having sex with other people?"
"Never," Naruto grimaced, as if the very thought were abhorrent to him.
He pushed the lingering doubts and recriminations into the back of his mind where they could curdle and ferment to their heart's content. Then he stood and followed an ecstatic Naruto out of the cell.