Fair Warning: This will most likely end up a Sasu/Naru story, so if you are not a fan of yaoi and all the hot sex I or my writing partner can make with it, see exit at stage left.
This is a collaborative effort between myself and Cupricanka. And, though I tend to err on the side of perfectionism when it comes to grammar, spelling and word structure, if you find any errors, please bring it to my attention. That being said, this has been tinkering its way around my head until I could no longer think for the desire to get it out. Cupricanka, in all her bravery and her unique grasp on style has helped me do that. The summary speaks for itself and the story plays out only in the way it has ordered me to. I am a slave to my writing. If you are a fan of Sakura, be forewarned. She does not play a pivotal role and her spark doth expire early.
Disclaimer: I know I need one, but it will only appear once. I own nothing pertaining to or based off of the characters, story, anime or manga titled Naruto.
Now, that that's all out of the way. . .
The Fall of the Dogs of War
Leaves swirled and danced in the afternoon sun. All seemed quiet, almost peaceful. But, the air was charged, as if waiting for a storm, or maybe some other disaster. And, really, was that so far from the truth? A storm can be one of the greatest natural disasters. Whole towns had been irradiated by it; homes decimated; bodies and parts of bodies strewn on the ground, the earth ready to receive their blood.
Naruto sighed, lettingthe air reach deep inside his lungs. His mind was too full of 'what could have beens' and 'what ifs' lately; he hadn't spent nearly enough time worrying over 'what may happen'. He'd never been the one to think more about the past than the present; or, for that matter, he'd never been the one to think too deeply on consequences or the nature of man, why humans did the things they did. Perhaps he should have. Maybe, if he'd had someone to talkto as he grew up, then now, about something this important, he would be sure that he was doing the right thing.
'It can't be helped,' his mind whispered. It was the same thing he told himself before, at The Valley of the End, when he and Sasuke were battling each other, trying to prove to each other who was right and who was wrong in their separate conclusions about the future, and about what was truly important. Was it really so wrong to want to keep those close to you with you as long as possible?
"Enough," he ground out, almost growling, even though no one could hear him. "I need to find Kakashi."
Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, Naruto headed for the barracks at the east end of town. He could feel Kakashi's chakra coming in waves from that direction. He only hoped that the copy-nin would agree to his terms and that the fox hadn't been playing with him; he had seemed different when they had last encountered each other during the week long training on Mt. Myouboku. God, had it only been one week? It felt as though a year had passed and he was tired for it, so tired.
But, those words, the booming voice full of malice and danger, would not leave him.
"What is it you are trying to accomplish, boy?"
The fox lashed its tail a few times, grinning down at him in his foul, slightly playful way. Naruto steeled his resolve. He'd mastered a new form of Sage techniques that involved the control of nature itself in just a few short days. Using anywhere between one hundred and a thousand clones at a time had helped. The old frog Fukasaku had actually looked impressed. No, he would not be angered and thrown of balance now.
Naruto took a deep, controlling breath.
"They tell me there's a way to release four other forms of your chakra using a key. . ." He stopped for a moment, as if waiting for a confirmation. But,none came, so Naruto hurried forward, ". . . one that the fourth left with Jiraiya. But, the process of learning to control each form would take a while, especially since I already have trouble with only the third- and fourth-tailed cloak forms…" This was hard; harder than he had thought, but he keptpushing, "So I came here. . . "
The words died in his throat. With a part of his mind that was not busy trying to squeeze the words out of his mouth, Naruto wondered if he had ever asked anyone for help before. The only thing that came was Team Seven's first encounter with Zabuza, when he made a plan that involved Sasuke's help. 'That can't be the only time…' His mind tried to slip further down into memory, but Naruto forced himself to focus.
"I came to ask for your help," he finally mumbled, looking down toward the end of the tunnel that housed Kyuubi's cage. The fox let out a roar that changed to laughter. And, it would almost sound normal - if it weren't for the larger-than-life view of his razor sharp fangs. To Naruto's mind, they even seemed to reflect the lights lining the walls in the dank pit.
"You... wish for my help, is that it?" The fox replied, with a note of disbelief, still sniggering. "And, what will I get in return?"
Here it comes, the part Kakashi, the elders, even that old bag Tsunade, would have his head for; he was about to risk realizing the worst fear of many people that he cared about. But, Naruto had made his choice, and would have to live, or else be prepared to die, with it.
Naruto stared straight at those eyes. Red on black, with the low light reflecting in them, it made it seem as though they were pools of liquid. Red liquid, their color reminding him of another fluid, one he hoped he would not have to grow accustomed to seeing.
Naruto shuddered, licked his lips and swallowed.
"What will you get?" he repeated. The fox waited. Naruto took another breath, and made his offer in soft and serious voice. "Your freedom."
There came a heavy silence. The fox sat there blinking.
"You realize that granting such a thing would mean not only your death but the possibility that I'll take out all my rage at being imprisoned by . . .," the next word came out as a curse, ". . . humans, on the village?" he countered.
"You won't." Naruto answered. The doubt he felt nearly doubled with a flash of those red eyes. So, he voiced it again, with the same determination he'd used to convince Tsunade that he deserved her necklace and by that means her respect, also. "You won't."
Kyuubi was quiet, as if considering the offer. He grit his teeth. The damned fox wasn't worth this, but the people he knew and the legend he'd heard of the nine Gods - well, he needed to do this. He needed to keep them safe and rectify what past ancestors had rent and slashed into the annuls of history.
"You will be given a choice when this is done," Naruto's voice rang out in the deep cavern with more confidence than he felt.
"Help me now, train me to use all forms without causing harm to myself or someone I'm not aiming for, and I'll give you your freedom, if that's what you really want."
It probably was what he wanted; it was hard to imagine freedom not being at the top of this list for someone who'd had it ripped away by another being simply out of lust for power or greed. Having something imprisoned inside of him had never stopped bothering Naruto. Maybe, if he tried to explain it, the fox would believe in his intentions?
"No one has the right - even if they have the power - to dominate another living thing, force it into submission," he said, surprising even himself withthe note of formality to the words."They had no right to do this to you, make you into a weapon to be used in what amounts to petty bickering gone too far."
There are other weapons, just waiting to be used, all over the world. Maybe they are not as powerful as what Naruto had here, but they could hurt – kill – people he loved, his friends, his family. Naruto had to protect them. He couldn't bear to lose anyone else, ever again.
"I won't watch them die," and Naruto was shaking with suppressed rage now, "I won't have you endangering them, either. A blood pact between us cannot be broken without a lot of help and a shitload of power, but I am trusting, trusting you, to abide by it anyway."
Kyuubi stared again, quiet for a few more precious seconds. Naruto lifted his gaze up, so the fox could see the determination Naruto knew was there. It was always there. If it was a question of enforcing the laws that protected not only other lives but their livelihoods by sheer force of will, Naruto would never have a problem. He knew that, just as he knew that sometimes strength didn't always have to do with how many techniques you had or how well you could face down an enemy all on your own. He really was learning, even if it did take him longer and also cause his senseis to grind their teeth at how many times they'd repeated themselves. He smiled inwardly at the thought.
Another bark of laughter shook the ground a little, and the fox gave him a smile.
"Fine, then. I agree to your terms. I, Kyuubi no Yokho, once Kyuubi, Guardian God of the Underworld, make blood oath to one Uzumaki Naruto that I shall come when called, help in any way I can and defend all who ally with him."
And, just as Kyuubi finished speaking, Naruto heard it, a whisper of sound that was like breathing, but not. He felt the fur (or was it dream fur?) of one of the fox's' tails encompass him and drag him forward until the fox's breath swayed through his hair. One gigantic claw came out and sliced his cheek, the pad picking up the beads of blood mixing it with the blood he knew flowed from an exposed cut just below it.
"It is done." And with those words the whispering stopped and the lights began to fade.
Naruto felt himself being pulled back to full consciousness. So, he yelled back into the dark. "Where do we start? What should I do now?"
The fox's voice trailed after him.
"You should pay a visit to the library, idiot human. And..." There was some mirth in the voice that was fading. "Have a talk . . . with that . . . insolent teacher."Naruto had to strain himself to hear and he leaned forwardinstinctively. "The one who sealed me . . . left you more than just . . . a key."
And, that was why Naruto was here, now, on the search for Kakashi to ask for his help in gaining access to the Ninja library's classified sections, ones he knew only the Hokage could enter or grant permission to. God help him if he'd been wrong. God help them all. But, he'd always felt that there had been more to the sealing than he'd been told. That same feeling told him this was the only option, both for the survival of those he loved and himself.
Naruto trusted his instincts. They had always guided him through life, and even though the stakes were higher now, the way he did things hadn't changed.
He needed this so he can keep all the promises he had ever made. Sasuke's battle with his past would have to wait - at least until Naruto was sure there was going to be a village for him to return to.
It was the look, the expression on the boy's face that made him agree, made him believe. The one he'd used with that Uchiha brat. Sympathy, wasn't it? Compassion for others, for their misfortune, the will to help it irritated him, that look. And, what it seemed to awaken in him . . . No, the fox had not made it one thousand years on this plane of existence to be cowed by a human, a mere boy, at that.
Kyuubi'd forgotten, it had been so long, though he remembered himself from that time. Oh, how glorious it would be to return to it, his former power and glory. The world had been different then. Humans had made altars to him - to all of them - and they had danced. There had been famine, of course. Disease and even war had plagued the land almost constantly. But, they had gone on, never once wavering in their resolve to remain part of the living things, repaying nature for its gifts, repairing their homes and villages, bringing new offerings when it had been especially wrathful. It was ludicrous, to want that time again. They had been more ignorant than now, though less powerful or power-hungry.
Now, this boy, this insignificant human vessel felt sympathy for him, offered him a choice. At first, Kyuubi had thought he was just being his same stupid self, but Naruto had come to him prepared. He'd learned, Maker help him, of the blood oath. And, Kyuubi felt in himself a strange fluttering. It started low and would not cease until he acknowledged it. He was hopeful. For the first time in many centuries, he felt that he might once again be able to trust in the words of a human. 'As long as it was this human,' he told himself.
Is this that human thing, the one they call the element of surprise? Maker help him, this boy had made him soft. Or, was that just different? He wasn't sure, but he certainly hated it.
The one emotion he held onto from all that he'd learned from humans. Ignorant, arrogant beings who felt that what they could not use, abuse or control would be destroyed. Power, pain, control and propagation were all that mattered to them. Spineless bastards, he'd like to rip them down and twist their bodies they angered him so.
But, this boy… he trusted him. And there was also the oath between them now. He would go along with Naruto's plans, for now.
But, he couldn't help it, he had to laugh. And, seeing those humans' reactions to what will become of Naruto as a result of their agreement? Still snickering at the thought, Kyuubi settled deeper into his cage, flexing his claws as he went. This play should be interesting to watch if not fully participate in, very interesting, indeed.