'"Please Itachi… I know I can't save Sasuke but I can save you." Itachi considered these words before knocking Naruto's hand away.' Redemption begins in the form of salvation, at least that's what Naruto believes. ItaNaru Spoilers for Manga Chapters 365+
Character death, Manga incorporation, predictions as to 'what happens next', sexual situations later on/eventual Yaoi.
Cursed Salvation, Descending Redemption
The act of saving/protecting from harm, loss, destruction or risk
Itachi knew it was coming. Sasuke's plans had always been so transparent; Sasuke would find him and they would fight until Itachi inevitably died. Itachi covered his mouth as he coughed weakly and slid a pill out from his pocket; the medication was bitter but it eased the pain and that was the thing. He couldn't die any other way than by Sasuke's hand. Sasuke couldn't discover the truth and this battle was to be far more than brother vs. brother, it was to be Itachi's careful performance finally produced upon a live stage.
Itachi's thoughts were interrupted by the rustling of the nearby bushes and he glanced through the foliage to find Uzumaki Naruto, his former prey. Red eyes trailed lazily to the blue and he watched as Naruto's features changed so dramatically; from surprise to anger with all the stops in between.
"Calm, Naruto-kun, I only wish to talk."
Naruto's lip curled and Itachi fought the urge to smirk; Naruto didn't need any goading on, especially now.
"Talk? I'll give you something to talk about," the Uzumaki charged yet Itachi did nothing to move. The Rasengan that had formed in Naruto's palm fizzled and the chakra was absorbed back into the hand it was contained to. Itachi looked into Naruto's eyes, surprised at his actions; they were only a shadow's length – at the most – apart and now would be the perfect opportunity for Naruto to bump the Akatsuki's members down.
"You're a liar."
Itachi's eyes activated the Mangekyou upon instinct. Naruto, unable to look away, was drawn into the connection and gasped. Itachi stood impassively as he saw a younger version of his self bowing down to the Sandaime Hokage, begging for his crime to be hidden from Sasuke.
Itachi focused his mind, attempting to draw both of them from the painful memory and succeeded; they were both thrown into the real world once more, Naruto crashing against his chest from the force of the Mangekyou against his mind. It was a few moments of heavy breathing that broke the silence between the two men before Naruto spoke,
"Coup d'état? How could they… how can you…?"
Itachi eyed Naruto warily; in one stupid moment all his plans could be destroyed. What had happened to the idiot of thirteen years? How had Naruto managed to place everything together this easily – and in such a short amount of time? Itachi watched coldly as Naruto looked at the ground, obviously deep in thought. If either were to move, they would touch the other and Itachi knew then that he needed to leave before something unnecessary fell into his plans. He was to die today and hand the legacy of the Uchiha clan over to Sasuke; god knows it was time.
Itachi moved away yet was stopped by a light tug on his cloak. He turned to see Naruto looking at him, eyes unabashedly shedding tears. Itachi's heart was so weakened by the saline droplets making their path down scarred cheeks that he didn't attempt to break the connection forged by Naruto. It was strange to be the source of such sorrow, yet a sorrow that was not directed because of his actions and their causes, but of the situation that led to those actions
"I never imagined something like that – something so horrible – could be covered up… to the expense of one person's suffering."
Itachi blinked; Naruto saw him as a sufferer?
"I've never been the sharpest kunai of the pouch, Itachi, but I know truth when I see it. It's easier for me to identify Uchiha's too; I'm sure you're aware of Kyuubi's history with Madara."
Naruto never ceased to amuse him; he was like a wild animal; unpredictable to the point of surprise. Of course he knew of Madara's history; the man had been keep to divulge the information that he once held the Kyuubi no Kitsune to his beck and call, yet had been surprised when the fox's chakra would automatically guard any Uchiha fortunate to be able to control the Kyuubi; Madara.
"Why did you take the blame by yourself?"
The stark question made Itachi finally sit beside the blond man. He had had many questions asked before on the subject of the Uchiha Massacre, almost all about his motives. Blame was a new one.
"To protect Sasuke; it's better for him to believe the story I fabricated than the truth. It would destroy his mind to know that everything he has done, everything I have done for him, was planned so long ago. Even my death will be exacted how I wish it to be, not by his will alone."
Itachi could feel blue eyes watching him, digging into every inch of his skin. Normally people averted their eyes from him, afraid of being dragged into the web of the Sharingan yet Naruto obviously did not see him as a threat any longer.
"I do not wish for him to place the blame upon Konoha," he continued, face turned down to the ground. "Sasuke is not one who can let go of his emotions – even as a young child he found it hard to abandon habits and mannerisms. It's part of who he is and I loved the village too much for him to forsake it like he undoubtedly would have."
They sat in silence until Itachi felt a spark run through his head.
"It had begun, Naruto-kun; my final act."
Naruto frowned before nodding.
Itachi looked at Naruto as he crossed the first two fingers of each hand over each other and smiled at the Uchiha. The clone disappeared into smoke and Itachi shielded his eyes momentarily. Even if he too was a clone, he was still linked to the original and he coughed, blood slipping between the rows of white teeth and onto his hand. It was like an ironic gesture of his life, the blood collected in the slight dip of his white palm, crimson red against an almost white canvas.
It was a short time later that Naruto returned, the real one this time, and appeared to be out of breath. Itachi looked up, letting his hand drop and the gathered blood slide down his fingers and towards the ground. He watched Naruto's eyes follow its path and blue eyes looked up in sad curiosity.
"I'm alone; I managed to slip away and replace myself with a clone. Itachi, you need help. Even if it was unintentional, you showed me the extent of your lies… I want to help you."
Naruto stretched his arm out, the hand turned as if waiting for Itachi to grasp it.
"Please Itachi… I know I can't save Sasuke but I can save you."
Itachi considered these words before knocking Naruto's hand away. He stood smoothly, fighting the urge to cough. If he had been alone, he would have taken another pill yet with the Uzumaki right there… he couldn't be pitied even more.
"I'm not looking for salvation, Naruto-kun; I'm looking at protecting the remainder of my clan. Now if you'll excuse-"
Itachi was cut off by the cough he had tried to hold back and the globule of blood that was spat out onto his hand shone dangerously.
Itachi winced and pulled another pill from his pocket. He shoved it into his mouth with a bloodstained hand and swallowed it.
"I must take my leave now, if I am to execute my plan I need as much chakra as I can get. Sayonara, Naruto-kun, I am glad we had this opportunity to talk. As a last request, please do not tell anyone about the Uchiha clan or even about this meeting, I would be very grateful."
Itachi's body split slowly into the ravens he was often compared to and he allowed a soft smile to grace his lips as he saw fresh tears on Naruto's cheeks.
"Not that a dead man's thanks is worth anything…"
He closed his eyes and the clone vanished from sight.
Naruto bit back the anguished wail from his mouth and ran blindly forward. The clouds overhead had begun to gather and instincts told the Shinobi this was where the Uchiha brothers were fighting.
Naruto wasn't as stupid as many people believed him to be, he often wondered why they didn't catch onto the fact he wasn't an idiot. Some of the things he had said in the past made him cringe; if it had been anyone else, suspicion would have arisen. As it was, Naruto was known for being an idiot and, even during his time away with Jiraiya; no one had changed that opinion.
It was in fact Jiraiya who had drilled the common sense and knowledge into him; his training methods had expanded not only chakra capacity but brain capacity and ability. Naruto was able to calculate complex problems and formulate strategies that were of a good quality on the spot; maybe not as brilliant as a Nara's but still better than those of an average Shinobi.
When Naruto had returned to Konoha, he had chosen to conceal this hidden power of his; if Konoha preferred the Jinchuuriki to be a bumbling idiot and wouldn't open their eyes to see the man behind the face then that was fine with him. The only people that hadn't underestimated Naruto and assumed him to be something he wasn't were, ironically, the Akatsuki.
Though, he supposed, their mission was to capture him and underestimating their target could have disastrous aftershocks, especially with the way the Akatsuki seemed like they were kept on a tight chain by their leader. Seriously, that guy had some issues… and Naruto hadn't even started on the hats.
He had enough common sense to back off from the scene when Amaterasu – he would never forget the black flames that had burnt through Jiraiya's Toad Summon stomach so long ago – curled around the surrounding areas. It wasn't long that a huge lightning strike, accompanied by the announcement of the Jutsu's name 'Kirin' (an oxymoron in itself to the destruction the Jutsu caused) and the crack as the electrical surge hit the ground.
Naruto then saw the huge figure of Itachi's trump card. The colossal creature (Naruto really wasn't sure what else to call it) was both beautiful and horrifically ugly at the same time. Naruto closed his eyes, wishing the image of the creature away from his mind. It was strange how this teen could stand his ground with the hated Kyuubi yet flinch from this technique.
When the creature disappeared, Naruto's heart leapt into his mouth. Naruto knew that this meant Itachi's death but he refused to believe it; he couldn't let another person (and most importantly an innocent person) fall into darkness.
Resisting the urge to run to the scene, Naruto waited patiently. If he ran in now and Sasuke saw him, things could go horribly wrong. Would he even be able to face the youngest Uchiha, knowing that the person he hated, (his brain supplied the next line, the person he killed) the one he had betrayed Konoha to defeat was nothing more than an exceptionally talented actor?
Naruto managed to establish an open connection with his clone - something Jiraiya had taught him in the three years absent from Konoha, not that anyone aside from Jiraiya knew anything that Naruto had learnt – and found that this Tobi and Zetsu would be coming back for Sasuke. Naruto knew he had to move between the two parties and as quickly as possible.
Naruto hated himself for doing it but tapped into the Kyuubi's chakra. This was the only way he knew how to feel the surrounding chakra without being discovered. He recoiled in surprise when the distinct feel of an Uchiha walked up to the scene of the battle and he crept closer, on all fours as if he was an animal. Blue eyes widened as he saw Tobi offering a hand to Sasuke.
And much like Itachi had earlier, Sasuke swatted the hand away in favour of standing up unaided. His face was pale and eyes were wide, symptoms of the shock that the youngest Uchiha was under. Naruto wondered if he knew that the three remaining members of his clan were all gathered at the scene of the supposed reduction-of-the-Uchiha-clan-to-one.
The Uchiha – even now Naruto could hear the Kyuubi calling the man's name; Madara – placed an arm around his youngest relation and they vanished. His clone informed them of their position and Naruto cursed; he would only have three minutes at the most.
Wasting no time, the Uzumaki darted from the cover of the bushes and over to the bloodied body of Itachi. He didn't bother to check for breathing or a heartbeat (yet willed both to be present) and pulled the man into his arms with difficulty. When Naruto stood, the weight of Itachi's body pulled him down a little and he stumbled back onto his knees.
Naruto closed his eyes against the pain his leg tendons produced when he tried to right himself without the use of hands. He hadn't noticed the scratches on them before – most likely from the bush – yet now they stung with vicious intent.
He stood and that was all that mattered. His hands were able to connect and he breathed a sigh of relief as he felt his body grow lighter. Naruto turned his head to the left and sucked in his breath, preparing for the unusual sense of vertigo that would follow this movement. His leg twitched of its own accord and started the ball rolling; a yellow flash was all there was to an outsider as Naruto used his variation of the Hiraishin no Jutsu. As long as his eyes remained locked on their position, he needed no use for the Kunai his father had used.
Naruto turned his back at the last moment and planted his feet on the ground; he had never really used the Hiraishin before and Jiraiya had excluded from completing his training with it, at least until things calmed down a little. Two deep marks were left in the earth as Naruto skidded to a halt and he looked at his former destination, pleased to note it was quite a way a way now.
Naruto placed Itachi's body on the ground and finally checked for breathing. His eyes widened as he found none, yet he knew a person could live without breathing if their heart was still beating for a short time. When he placed his fingers to Itachi's jugular – and then his wrist, just in case – he almost cried out at the lack of pulse.
Naruto knew that electricity could get a heart to beat again yet he was a wind natured type; that wouldn't have any effect on the Uchiha's heart whatsoever.
"What do I do?"
Naruto lifted his hand up as he felt heat at his fingertips. Both of his eyes widened at the sight of red sparks crackling merrily, there was only one thing that could cause this. He placed his fingers on each hand together, ignoring the slight sting that each spark brought as they collided with his skin and pressed each hand over Itachi's heart, hoping it would be enough.
"Please, please, please, please," Naruto chanted under his breath and released the pressure after two seconds, repeating the action five times.
It was then that he finally remembered the first aid training Kakashi had made them take shortly after they returned from their first C rank mission in the Wave country. He needed to get air into Itachi and to do that he needed to use mouth to mouth.
Anyone would think that Naruto would laugh or be disgusted in this situation – especially as the contact would be with another male – yet Naruto, in all honesty, couldn't give a shit. If a life would be saved then it was worth it and he sucked in a lungful of air before passing it into Itachi's lungs. The sparks crackled loudly as they pressed Itachi's nostrils together and collided with the Uzumaki's cheek yet he soon returned to the electrical compressions, establishing a routine between breathing for Itachi and starting his heart.
Naruto felt as if he was going to break; he had been trying to get the man alive with no avail. Deep inside he knew that he had spent too long trying for it to work; Itachi really was gone. The sparks gave off a large amount of energy and the sting grew stronger; it was as if they were telling him not to give up. With tears gathering in his eyes, Naruto tried once more, slamming his hands against Itachi's chest hard enough to push the man into the ground. When nothing happened, Naruto turned his back to the corpse and allowed the tears a free reign. The sparks died out, leaving an odd crackling sound as a farewell and Naruto heard the distinctive rattle of air being pulled into damaged lungs.
Naruto span round to face his patient and his mouth dropped in astonishment; Itachi's chest was rising and falling in an irregular pattern. At once, Naruto clawed at all information Tsunade, Jiraiya and even Sakura had told him about medical ninjutsu. It wasn't much yet Naruto hoped it would be enough; even if he only had basics he could fuel more chakra into it than most medics could and this was his advantage.
Naruto began at the major organs, allowing his chakra to coat the lungs, heart and brain. He once again felt a sting in his hand and looked down to see the return of the red chakra. Again it seemed the Kyuubi wanted to help and Naruto let the chakra control his hand in puzzlement. The chakra accepted his leniency and began to form around Itachi's body.
The muscles in the man's body began to twitch under the demonic influence yet it was too far gone for Naruto to pull it back; the situation was bordering on a very thin line now, it was a make or break situation.
Even though the chakra, in essentiality, belonged to him, he had no control over it whatsoever and was merely an onlooker to the healing Itachi was receiving. There was one consequence Naruto was aware of at this point in time; the Kyuubi's chakra would submit DNA into each of the damaged cells, causing them to self destruct before speeding up the growth of the cells that would replace them. Although this was the best way to heal such extensive damage, it shortened Itachi's cellular life. Naruto knew that it was no price to pay, yet couldn't be sure if this was the only setback for the Uchiha.
Naruto felt the rush of heat as Kyuubi's chakra was pulled back into the seal and he fell into unconsciousness, the only coherent thought left was one of Itachi's welfare.
It was dark when Naruto woke and he shot up off of the Uchiha's chest, checking at the same time if he was breathing. The Uchiha appeared to be asleep – or unconscious – yet otherwise alright.
It took almost an hour, but the Uzumaki managed to get a small fire glowing and pulled out his emergency rations they had been given. He briefly wondered if his clone's replacement had been discovered and what the consequences would be when he returned to Konoha.
There were going to be repercussions; resuscitating an S-Class missing Nin who was supposedly after your hide (and not to mention part of the organisation that was led by the crazy man – established earlier due to the hats – who wanted to control the world) wasn't exactly what the council wanted.
Naruto had made his choice the moment he had seen ANBU Captain Uchiha Itachi begging the Sandaime not to reveal any of the night's events to his younger brother. It had been the moment where Naruto had finally realised the weight of Sasuke's betrayal – and the fact that that Uchiha was never coming home.
This Uchiha, however, was within reach. Naruto never had been the type to leave an innocent person without support and this was what he planned to be with Itachi; support. Naruto couldn't think of any braver person, someone who had given up everything – even his own life – for his brother. Sasuke had no idea how lucky he was to have Itachi.
The man groaned suddenly and Naruto rushed to his side, afraid he would die. Two eyes opened slowly and Itachi's gaze focused hazily on Naruto.
"I never thought death would be so dark…"
The words were raspy and almost silent yet Naruto heard them. He gripped Itachi's hand without saying anything, merely allowing the Uchiha to adjust to life again. Itachi's eyelids were fully open and Naruto stifled a gasp; both eyes were a pearly blue colour. He bit his lip, trying not to say anything until Itachi was ready. Naruto remembered from the fight between former comrades at the Valley of the End and how he had been disorientated after waking up; the nurses rushing around him had hardly helped.
It took a few more minutes before Itachi's eyes seemed to clear and they darkened slightly. He looked at Naruto and frowned,
"How did you die?"
Naruto wanted to hit the man at that moment but he knew it wouldn't exactly be the smartest of ideas. It was a reasonable assumption for someone who thought he was dead but why would Naruto be there in death too? Exactly what could have killed him?
"I'm not. Neither are you."
Itachi looked so unguarded that Naruto felt exposed. Itachi had let down the walls that surrounded him and the blond doubted that anyone (aside from his mother and Sasuke, from when Itachi was younger) had seen this side of the Uchiha.
Naruto nodded and Itachi let his head fall to the ground with a sickening crunch.
"I just healed you!" Naruto hissed and lifted Itachi's skull up delicately. He hoped that the crazy man hadn't inflicted any more damage and was prodding at the skin gently when Itachi spoke,
"Why aren't I sick then? If I wasn't dead from that battle, I'd be dead anyway. I haven't taken any medication since before then and I can't live without it, therefore I am dead."
Naruto rolled his eyes; it was a trait both brothers appeared to have, this stubborn adamant-ness.
"Believe me, Itachi, you are not dead. I'll explain it now briefly as I'm sure you'll want to sleep a little more. You did die, technically, but the Kyuubi helped in bringing you back."
Itachi's lifeless gaze met Naruto's eyes once more and he nodded mechanically.
"Well that's unplanned."
Naruto couldn't help but nod as he watched Itachi slink back into unconsciousness.
Itachi worked mechanically after he woke. He brushed as much dirt and caked blood from his clothes as possible and managed to find a rabbit that Naruto had killed the night before, presumably. He had rebuilt the fire and cooked the rabbit, testing the little meat on its scrawny body repeatedly until it was at a state of perfection, then split the meat into two.
Itachi did everything he could think of to occupy his mind. If his mind was allowed to think, it would feel the empty lull that the Sharingan had left before he passed it onto Sasuke. The deal he had made for Susanoo was his eyes (after all, what did a dead man need with Sharingan). Sasuke had gotten the Mangekyou as well as Amaterasu. The Amaterasu had been altered to react to Madara's chakra; if Madara got to Sasuke then there was a chance that Itachi's past could be revealed and if Sasuke discovered the truth…
There was the point where Itachi considered leaving Naruto here and find a situation that would kill him but, like it or not, he was indebted to the younger man. Itachi wasn't sure how Naruto had managed - after all he did say Itachi had actually died – and he wasn't sure if the illness that had infected his body was cured or not but he was willing to bet that Naruto would be more than thankful if he stayed.
It didn't take long for Naruto to wake; as soon as his sleep hazed brain cleared, he looked over to the spot where Itachi had been laying before meeting the Uchiha's gaze over the fire.
"Here," Itachi spoke calmly and nudged the bark plate of rabbit. Naruto took the offered object and chewed on the meat.
There was a strange silence between the two and Itachi decided that he didn't like it.
"Why did you… how did you…?"
Naruto swallowed the last morsel of his breakfast and placed the wooden utensil on the ground carefully.
"When that… creature vanished, I knew that you we dying. You didn't take my offer before but I couldn't let you die. There was another Uchiha there, Kyuubi was shouting something about a Madara, and he took Sasuke off before the Konoha Nin got there. I managed to slip us here before they arrived using a variation of the Yondaime's famous Ninjutsu, Hiraishin."
Itachi's stranger eyes widened and Naruto couldn't bear to look into them. The Sharingan was familiar, something he associated with Itachi, and seeing his blank face without the usual crimson orbs scared Naruto more than anything had before. The Sharingan was a constant in his life, these eyes, the unidentifiable irises, were not.
"Your heart – it wasn't beating… you weren't breathing… I couldn't-"Naruto broke off, remembering how he had almost failed to save the man opposite him. "Kyuubi helped me… Kyuubi is the reason you are alive. If you don't know of any more repercussions then I'd say the only thing that's a negative is your lifespan just got a tad bit shorter with the cellular regeneration and all. It's not so bad, really, you can't even feel anything."
Itachi looked down at his hands.
"So I really am alive then." Itachi turned his head back up to look Naruto in the eyes, "Sasuke will most likely know everything by now. Madara isn't one to beat about the bush and probably suspected I would try something like this if he was the first to find Sasuke… is your clone safe?"
If Naruto thought it odd that Itachi was acting normal after his 'death', he didn't show it. Naruto merely opened the link and revealed that yes, the clone was safe.
"What do I do now, Naruto?"
Naruto blinked at his loss of the suffix yet smiled.
"Come back home Itachi. There has to be evidence, something that will prove your innocence to Tsunade and the village. Just please… don't die again. I know we're leagues apart but, when I saw that I realised that it was you I should have been chasing after for all these years. You are the one who needs the salvation and redemption, not Sasuke. I know that you care for him but he's not the only thing worth living for."
Naruto's voice softened, "Please, Itachi, pass the script to Sasuke. It's his turn to take up his role and you need to let him. Step away from that shadow and begin again… I can help you."
Itachi almost, almost, considered saying yes. The reality came crashing down and he stood.
"Thank you for everything, Naruto."
Naruto's eyes flickered red and he snarled.
Naruto was next to him in a flash of gold, hugging him.
"I won't let go, Itachi. You can help us take down Akatsuki too, you have inside information. You can even help us get Sasuke back… even if he doesn't believe what Madara says then he'll want to find out what really happened and-"
"Naruto, Sasuke thinks I'm dead. I passed the Mangekyou to him and if he's in the company of Madara he will know this means my death. He had no idea the Kyuubi intervened and will always think I am dead. You cannot just return from the grave, Naruto."
Naruto's arms slackened and Itachi stepped away from the crude embrace. He was, once again, walking away from his duty but he couldn't stay. If he stayed he might get attached and this was certainly not an option for now. Attachments led to decisions and Itachi was sick of being the one to control the fates of what appeared to be everything. Since when had one man been the one to change the lives of so many people?
"If you don't stay for my sake, at least stay for the Kyuubi. He healed you and wishes you to repay the favour. I know that you both have a common enemy, it is a known fact that Kyuubi wants Madara dead." Naruto's voice dropped to a whisper, "if not for me, at least stay for that."
Itachi felt he had no other choice.
02/12/08: Edited (added a couple more paragraphs, fixed typos)
As you can probably tell, this will try to stick to the basics of the manga point. I will be substituting things for other things but the basic essentials will stay the same until I decide to deviate away from the manga fully.
The actual challenge part of the story does not kick in till very late (somewhere around chapter 30 I think) but I think the build up is just as important as the plot.
If any errors are spotted, please do not hesitate to point them out and I'd appreciate any tips you may have/constructive criticism.
Reviews are always welcome, enjoy the story!