Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
2/14/08 – 3/3/08
Minato paced restlessly back and forth in the waiting lounge as he waited for the medic-nins to put together a more in-depth analysis of his son's condition. In all his years working as a shinobi, he had never felt so terrified…so helpless.
His hands clenched. How could he have let that happen to him? He was his father, damn it! He should have been there. He should have protected him! He should never have let him out of his sight. He should have –
"Hokage-sama," a flustered medic-nin cried, stumbling head-first into the room, "Your son is…he's…what I mean to say is…"
"How is he?" Minato impatiently barked, a dark look flittering across his angry face. Was the stuttering fool trying to kill him with the suspense?! The young medic-nin jumped in fright as he plastered himself to the wall in an attempt to put as much distance between the Hokage and himself as possible. "Is he…will he...he will make a recovery, right?" Minato finally settled, pinning the medic-nin with a cold look.
The medic-nin blinked. "O-Of course, Hokage-sama! Actually, I was going to say that Naruto-sama's awake. He made a miraculous recovery! He's resting in Room 230 if you want to see him." the medic-nin informed. "He's physically fine; however, there may be something wrong with his…" the man trailed off when he realized that he was the only one left in the room. Flushing with embarrassment, he quickly shuffled back to work.
Minato didn't even bother to knock as he barged into the room, startling the circle of medic-nins into action. "Baa-chan!" he heard Naruto's irritated cry from the bed. "Tell these people to let me go! I'm fine! Really! I can continue my miss…"
Naruto trailed off when the medic-nins shuffled aside to reveal a blonde-haired man that was definitely not Tsunade. He blinked. The other man blinked. Snapping out of his reverie, Naruto snapped, "Hey! Who are you?"
Minato felt equally shocked when he heard Naruto's exuberant voice. Shouldn't he still be sleeping? His wound had looked fatal. Or had it only looked bad because of all the blood? Snapping back to attention when he heard Naruto's voice, he asked, "What did you say?"
"I said," Naruto repeated, beginning to get irritated. "Who are you?"
Minato paled. "W-What do you mean? Naruto, you don't remember who I am?" When Naruto emphatically shook his head in the negative, Minato immediately turned towards the medic-nins and shot them a look that said, "Explain."
One medic-nin coughed and quietly mumbled, "We think Naruto-sama may have amnesia." Silence blanketed the room. The medic-nins shuffled uncomfortably from side to side as both blondes rapidly blinked in confusion.
Then, in unison, both blonds shouted, "What?"
"What do you mean?" Minato demanded at the same time Naruto screamed, "I don't have amnesia!"
"Well," the medic-nin continued, "We were asking him some questions before you came into the room. He seems to remember Konoha. However, he doesn't recognize anyone we mentioned."
"That's because I don't know them!" Naruto interrupted, frustrated.
The medic-nin frowned. Then, gesturing towards Minato, he asked, "Are you sure you don't remember him?" Before Naruto could immediately bite back with a sharp 'no', he added, "Think carefully. Take your time. Are you sure you don't remember anything? Doesn't he look familiar to you?"
"Hm," Naruto mused, leaning towards Minato to get a clearer look. Now that they mentioned it, he did look kind of familiar…
"Naruto?" Minato tentatively prompted as he knelt beside the bed. He held his breath as he waited for Naruto's response. After a moment, he felt hope begin to bloom in his chest when a look of recognition flashed across his son's face.
Pointing a shaking finger at the blonde man, Naruto cried, "Y-You're the Fourth Hokage – the Yondaime – Konoha's Yellow Flash!"
Minato blinked. Well, it wasn't the answer he was hoping for, but Naruto never called him dad anyway, right? Usually, he just called him Minato. Or, if he was in a good mood, he would call him the Fourth…
"Aren't you supposed to be dead?" Naruto continued, earning horrified gasps from the medic-nins. He frowned in confusion when he heard them angrily whispered, "How could he? To even suggest…blaspheme!"
Minato's heart twisted in pain, misunderstanding Naruto's question. Did his son really hate him that much that he wanted him dead? He thought that their relationship had been improving…kind of…
"Wait a minute," Naruto murmured, instantly tensing. The Yondaime couldn't be alive! He died years ago! Which meant…Narrowing his eyes, he angrily hissed, "You're Orochimaru's puppet, aren't you?" Ignoring the round of confused looks and sharp gasps, he snarled, "Well, tell that bastard that I'm not falling for his trick!" Jumping out of bed, he raged, "It's not enough that you brought back the Shodaime and the Nidaime! It's not enough that you killed the Sandaime! It's not enough that you took Sasuke from us! No, you have to fuck with our minds too by bringing back the Yondaime!"
"Naruto, calm down!" growled Minato, pinning his son back onto the bed. "I have no clue what you're saying. I don't know how you even know Orochimaru, but he never did any of the stuff that you said! He hasn't returned to Konoha since he left!"
"You're lying!" Naruto snarled, kicking and flailing in retaliation. "I want to see the Hokage! I won't let you fool everyone!"
"I am the Hokage!" Minato snarled back in frustration. "Why are you doing…?" Minato's eyes widened when he realized that Naruto's constant struggling was beginning to reopen his wounds.
"Hokage-sama!" the medic-nins cried. "You have to knock him out. If he keeps moving like that, he'll bleed to death! Hurry! He's going into shock!"
Gritting his teeth, Minato knocked his son unconscious, feeling the blow as if he had hit himself. Even though he had hit him for his own good, Minato felt sick. Never… He had never raised his hand to his son before.
After slipping his son back under the covers, and making sure that he was safely tucked in, he turned towards the useless group of medic-nins with a half-frustrated and half-angry snarl. "What is going on?"
"W-We're not sure, but we think he may be suffering from hallucinations and delirium." Otherwise, they silently added, he's going insane. However, they wisely kept the last thought to themselves.
"Will he recover?" Minato asked, anger seeping out of his body as the feeling of helpless returned.
The medic-nins shared a look. "We're not sure, Hokage-sama."
Fugaku's lips pressed into a thin line as he read the scroll. "Why does Hokage-sama want to see Sasuke?" he asked. "He hasn't even graduated from the Academy yet. He wouldn't be able to take any missions."
Obito shrugged. "I don't think its missions."
Fugaku grunted. "Then why would Hokage-sama summon an academy student?"
"I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with yesterday's accident. There were rumors that Naruto was calling Sasuke's name." he carefully explained, not wanting to alarm the Uchiha Head.
"What?" Fugaku's eyes narrowed.
Obito sighed. So much for not alarming him…Taking a deep breath, he explained, "I don't know what's going on. Most of us don't. All I know is that Hokage-sensei wants to talk to Sasuke. Really, there's nothing to be worried about. If Sasuke had nothing to do with the incident, Hokage-sensei isn't going to falsely accuse him of it."
"Hokage-sama thinks that Sasuke – the heir of the Uchiha Clan – was responsible for that's brat's injury?" Fugaku angrily hissed.
Obito frowned. "Fugaku-sama, that brat happens to be the Hokage's son."
"Sasuke would never lower himself to harm a defenseless idiot." Fugaku replied, signaling the end of the discussion.
Obito sighed. He could tell that this was going to take a while…
Naruto groggily lifted his head as he looked around the room. Where was he…? He remembered waking up earlier in the same room, but there was a group of medic-nins surrounding his bed. He remembered being questioned…
The haze cleared as Naruto's eyes snapped wide open.
That's right. He had been knocked out by Orochimaru's puppet! Somehow, he had managed to convince everyone that he was real! He had to go warn the others before Orochimaru destroyed the village again! The puppet may have fooled everyone else, but he knew that the real Yondaime was dead.
He wasn't going to let Orochimaru get away with this again. Even if he had to beat everyone back to their senses, he was going to make sure the village knew that the Yondaime was an imposter. He wasn't real!
Jumping out of bed, cringing slightly in pain when he jarred his injury, he quickly opened the window and hopped onto the roof. Racing towards Hokage Tower, he tried to draw as little attention to himself as possible. He couldn't risk being stopped. He had to find Tsunade as quickly as possible so she could break whatever jutsu Orochimaru had used on the village.
As he ran, he could feel his wounds beginning to reopen; however, he ignored it in favor of completing his current mission. The sake of the entire village was resting on his shoulders. He wasn't going to fail again…Never again.
Seeing the Hokage Tower ahead, he added another burst of speed. He was half-way into the building when he was suddenly pulled back by a strong grip on his shoulder. Looking back, he froze when he saw the murderous look on the other man's face.
"What do you think you're doing here, brat?"
Naruto struggled, trying to break off the grip to no avail. "I'm here to see the Hokage." he growled. "Let go!"
"The Hokage's not here." the man spat, shoving him out of the building. "Don't think I'll let you in just because the Hokage likes you. No one else does." Seeing the look of confusion in the boy's eyes, the man growled, "Get out of here! No matter how much I would like to break your arms, I doubt Hokage-sama will appreciate it much. Now, go before I change my mind!"
Frightened by the utter hate in the other man's eyes, Naruto quickly scrambled up and took off. Maybe, he decided, he should look for Kakashi first. Then, they could solve the problem together. If anyone would be able to resist Orochimaru's jutsu, then it would be either Tsunade or Kakashi.
He was nearly out of earshot when he heard the man's parting comment – words that twisted in his heart like a knife: "It's a pity you didn't die in the explosion." Ignoring the words, he repeatedly chanted to himself, "It's not true, it's not true…it's a jutsu."
Fugaku's lips twisted downwards into a frown.
Minato returned the frown with a cool gaze.
Fugaku lowered his head in mock acknowledgement.
Minato ignored the man's existence.
Fugaku gritted his teeth in anger.
Minato picked up his cup of tea.
Obito felt sweat pouring down his face. The words "stuck between a rock and a hard place" were finally beginning to make sense to him. He coughed, hoping to break the uncomfortable silence.
Obito looked towards Sasuke. From the younger boy's expression, he could tell that he was just as uncomfortable with the situation as he was. He looked like he wished he had volunteered to stay an extra hour in the academy to help the younger students.
"Well," Obito coughed again, "It looks like the conference is going great."
Sasuke shot him an incredulous look.
"So, if you don't mind, I'm going to go buy some snacks. You know, you can't drink tea without snacks, right?"
Sasuke glared – hard.
Obito bolted before Minato or Fugaku could object.
Sasuke frowned, wishing he was anywhere but there.
Despite his constant chant of "it's not real, it's a jutsu", Naruto was beginning to feel less and less convinced. What if they were right? What if he really did have amnesia? But that didn't explain his memories!
In his memories, they called him a monster. Here, they called him an ungrateful brat. In his memories, he was an orphan. Here, he supposedly had a father that he didn't deserve. In his memories, he was a shinobi. Here, people treated him like a civilian (when they weren't treating him like dirt). In his memories, he had friends and teachers. Here, he was alone.
Naruto's lips trembled with the effort to keep his tears at bay.
In his memories, Sakura was his teammate. Here, she didn't even recognize him. In his memories, he had stood with the Rookie 9 as both friend and teammate. Here, they stood against him in united dislike. In his memories, Kakashi-sensei had cared for him. Here, he treated him with respect, but looked at him with an air of detached iciness.
What was real? Were they right? Or were his memories true?
Tired, hungry, and depressed, Naruto briefly considered returning to the hospital. However, he quickly discarded the idea as soon as he conceived it. He was never going back. Even if what the medic-nins were right and he had amnesia, he didn't want to be cured. If cured meant recalling why everyone hated him, he'd rather not remember at all. It hurt enough to know that people who he considered to be friends hated him; it would be unbearable if he found out that they had a reason to.
Swiping away his frustrated tears, he headed towards one of the empty training grounds that he remembered from memory…that is, if his memory could still be trusted. To his relief, he easily found the training ground that he was looking for. Did that mean that his memories were accurate?
Now that he was beginning to calm down, he realized that there was something that still didn't make any sense. The Rookie 9 (or was that 8 now?) had treated him like a civilian. They didn't remember going to school with him. So, by all rights, it should mean that he wasn't a shinobi, right? But then, how would he have known the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu and the Rasengan?
Confused, Naruto pulled his hair in frustration. "Damn it!" he cursed, kicking the dirt. Thinking wasn't his forte. He usually preferred thinking with his fists rather than his head. For a second, he almost turned back to find Shikamaru (to do the thinking for him) before quickly remembering that the lazy Nara hated him too.
Cursing again, he nearly stumbled onto the training grounds before he realized that someone was already there. Preparing to leave unnoticed (he wasn't quite ready for another round of 'I hate you'), he froze when he noticed that the figure looked somewhat familiar. "Sasuke…?"
Forgetting for a moment that he was supposed to be hiding, he allowed his face to bloom in elation as he cried, "Sasuke!" Without thinking, he continued, "I'm so glad you came back! I thought you were going to Oro…" Naruto froze when he finally got a good look at the figure's face.
"What are you doing here?" the figure asked coolly.
"I-Itachi!" Naruto mentally berated himself for making the same mistake again. He had mistaken Itachi for Sasuke the first time too. Feeling infinitely foolish, he quickly prepared to fight even though he knew that there was no way he would be able to defeat Itachi on his own. However, even if he couldn't defeat him, he would die –
"You mentioned Sasuke. Are you familiar with him?" Itachi asked, turning back to his target practice.
Naruto blinked. Then, he remembered that he was in a wacky world where either he was insane or the entire village was nuts. Relaxing slightly, but not entirely, he asked, "Have you –" Now, how did he ask someone if he had killed his clan without actually asking it? "Are you –" Naruto frowned. "Do you live with your family?"
"No." Itachi answered, pulling his kunai from the targets.
Naruto immediately tensed. So the Uchiha Clan was dead? He wasn't sure if he should be scared that he was standing less than ten feet away from an S-rank criminal or if he should be elated that his memory was accurate for once.
"If you're looking for Sasuke, he should be at the Uchiha Compound."
Naruto snapped out of his thoughts, surprised. Then, did that mean the Uchiha Clan wasn't dead? Feeling the need to confirm it, he asked, "Are you a Konoha shinobi?" If Itachi was irritated, then he did a very good job of hiding it. Instead of answering out loud, he merely tapped the forehead protector wrapped around his head.
Naruto was relieved to note that there was no line across the Konoha symbol.
Feeling curious and strangely happy to see a familiar face that didn't hate him (even if it was an enemy face), he asked, "So, why don't you live with Sasuke-teme and the rest of the Uchiha Clan?"
"Minor disagreement." he replied.
Naruto scrunched his face in disbelief. For some reason, he didn't believe him. Deciding that he wasn't going to get a better explanation than that, he turned his attention to something else. "Hey, you're pretty good with kunais, right? Can I watch you practice? That is…if you don't mind?"
Itachi's lips pressed into a thin line as he pinned the boy with a calculating gaze.
Naruto tried his best not to fidget under the older boy's assessing gaze as he shifted nervously from foot to foot. Though he had already confirmed that Itachi wasn't the murder that he remembered him to be, he couldn't help but notice that his eyes were still dark and dangerous. He almost wished that he hadn't asked.
Finally, much to Naruto's relief, Itachi looked away. Just when Naruto was sure that he would say no, he answered, "You may stay on one condition. You cannot reveal this to anyone else."
Reveal? Reveal what? Naruto was going to ask when it suddenly dawned on him. Itachi had run away from home! That explained why he wasn't living with the rest of the clan – the whole 'minor disagreement' thing – and it also explained why he wanted him to keep their meeting a secret. Grinning, happy to have figured it out, he exclaimed. "I promise!" Your secret's safe with me!
Relaxing for the first time since he woke up, Naruto smiled knowing that at least one person didn't hate him (even though he doubted Itachi liked him either). Watching as Itachi practiced, Naruto realized that spending time with the older boy wasn't as awkward as he thought it would be. There was just enough of Sasuke in Itachi to make the situation seem familiar and comfortable without completely pissing him off with his 'holier-than-thou' attitude. It didn't mean that he trusted Itachi (since it was pretty hard to forget that he had tried to kill him not too long ago even though the memories were questionable), but it did mean that he was willing to withhold judgment.
Here, he was hated. As long as Itachi was willing to judge him without basing his decision on other's opinion, he was willing to return the favor. Plus, he grinned, if part of his memories were correct, then Itachi was one hell of a shinobi.
Snapping out of his thoughts, he watched just in time to see Itachi release several kunais from his upside-down, falling position in midair. Naruto's bright eyes lit up with a mixture of awe and admiration when the kunais suddenly hit one another, redirecting its path to the hidden targets. "That's so cool!" he shouted, forgetting for a moment who he was talking to. "You've got to teach me how to do that!" he cried happily. "Ero-sennin never showed me…"
Naruto's stomach rumbled with hunger. He immediately deflated. "Hungry…" he cried. Ramen…he silently added.
"Here." Naruto looked up just in time to catch the bag flying towards his head. Opening the bag, his mouth watered when he saw that it was food. Looking toward Itachi for confirmation, Naruto huffed when Itachi (in true Uchiha fashion) was ignoring him in favor of dislodging his kunais from the targets. Shrugging, deciding not to look a horse gift in the mouth (or whatever Sakura had said about a horse and a gift); Naruto stuffed a rice ball in his mouth. He had barely wolfed down his second rice ball when he suddenly stood in alarm, realizing that Itachi was leaving.
"Hey, hey!" he shouted, waving his hand in the air. "Where are you going?"
"Home," Itachi answered without looking back.
"But you don't live with the Uchiha Clan!" Naruto retorted, catching up with Itachi in less than five leaps and bounds.
Itachi stopped, pinning Naruto with a dry look. "Be that as it may, it doesn't mean I live on the training grounds either."
Naruto nodded. That made sense. "Can I come?"
"No." Itachi answered, resuming his pace.
"Why?" Naruto pouted. He didn't want to go back to the hospital and he didn't want to live on the training grounds either. Thus, since everyone else hated him, Itachi was the only choice he had left.
"Don't you think your father will be worried?"
"People keep saying that!" Naruto cried, walking faster to keep up with Itachi's longer strides. "But I don't even know who that is!"
Itachi stopped again, pinning Naruto with a strange look.
Naruto suddenly felt nervous again. He hated that look. It made him feel stupid or insane…well, more insane than stupid.
"I'm surprised the Hokage hasn't torn up half the village looking for you yet." Itachi answered, continuing on his way.
Naruto froze. The Hokage…? Did that mean his father was the Hokage? "Who's the Hokage?" Naruto demanded, needing the confirmation. He had already figured that Tsunade wasn't the Hokage. So that left…Naruto whipped his head up, nearly snapping his neck with the speed, as he looked towards Itachi for confirmation. However, much to his anger and dismay, the Uchiha was already gone.
Author's Note: Thank you for sticking with me:) I hope this chapter was up to expectations since it went through several revisions. Also, thanks for supporting me when my story was stolen! The issue has been taken care of (since the author and her story disappeared overnight). I really hope that this doesn't happen again.