Wavering Between Forgotten Lines

Disclaimer: Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto

This fanfiction is made possible by a request from HinataLoveNaruto

Approaching the Enemy

Sasuke Uchiha stood outside the once-welcoming gates of Konoha. Night was falling and the gates were beginning to shut. He was absolutely still, searching for any movement of ANBU or patrollers that could find him. He flicked off a bug irritably. Why was he even here at this damned village again?

"Our last objective is the Kyuubi, the most dangerous and powerful bijuu of all." Pein's voice was chilling as he stared at the holographic images of the remaining Akatsuki members. "Originally, it was assigned to Itachi Uchiha, but since he has become…disposed of, the mission will transfer to his killer and closest relative. Sasuke Uchiha."

"You, Sasuke Uchiha, will take the mission of capturing and retrieving the Kyuubi container and bring it to us. You have less than three months to complete this task." Pein's eyes flickered over to Kisame, "For this assignment, you will have no partner, though Kisame will be partnered with you after this mission is complete. Do not kill the Kyuubi container, merely incapacitate him."

"After all, you were Itachi Uchiha's brother. Whatever he could accomplish, you will." Now the leader's ghostly eyes was focused on the only real body in the vast cavern. Red eyes glinted from the faint light of the holograms.

"Understood." Sasuke nodded. This was one step closer to taking his revenge on Konoha for destroying his clan and condemning his aniki to a traitorous future. It would only cost the life of his best friend and sworn enemy.

Not too much to consider after all he's been through.

"Remember, Sasuke Uchiha, three months. Do not fail. Dismissed."

Sasuke swept his eyes over the remaining five Akatsuki members uncertainly. Then he turned and left. As soon as he turned the corner, he heard Kisame's gravelly voice.

"Ya think that the Uchiha brat can really do it? You weren't even this sure about Itachi."

"Quiet, Kisame. I'm sure Sasuke Uchiha will perform wonderfully." Pein replied icily, in a way that threatened to bring shivers down everyone's spine. "He has two key advantages. First, the jinchuuriki trusts him. Second, have you not noticed how much his village prizes him? He will be the first step in their destruction."

"Fine." Kisame replied curtly. "I still don't want to be partnered with him."

"You will not question my judgement, Kisame."

Sasuke took a breath and walked out of the main cavern. He didn't want to hear any more.

Oh, right. That was why he was here.

The branch underneath him broke suddenly. He yelped and jumped to a higher one. It was too late. The rustling of patrollers and guards came to his ear. Now that Konoha knew of Akatsuki's impending plans, they placed ANBU black-ops on the borders as well. Sasuke didn't want to face those.

"Dear lord, it's—it's Sasuke Uchiha!" Too late.

They all jumped on him and immediately latched a chakra cuff on both of his wrists. Suddenly, Sasuke felt light-headed and he spiraled down onto the ground. Those damned cuffs had sucked his chakra immediately. He was virtually helpless.

"Well, well, who have we got here? Sasuke Uchiha, finally come home." A voice dripping with sarcasm came from above him. A black combat boot nudged his arm. "I'm going to have to turn you over for interrogation, I'm afraid."

He gritted his teeth. In that instant, he decided that he hated special jounin Anko Mitarashi. But that annoyance couldn't compare with the rage that he felt when the next person arrived.

"Sasuke! You're back! Hey, why are you on the ground, dattebayo?" Oh joy, it was the ever-energetic Naruto Uzumaki. Or maybe 'dumbass' would be a more correct description.

"Those are chakra cuffs, Naruto! Don't be an idiot." Sasuke had to resist the urge to roll his eyes when another person appeared beside him. He recognized that rough, feminine-edged voice—Sakura Haruno. They might as well send the whole team 7 over since the elusive Sasuke Uchiha had finally returned.

"I'm surprised it was so easy." Damn it all. Sasuke gritted his teeth to keep the growl from coming out. It was his old annoying sensei, Kakashi Hatake. "Really, didn't it seem so?"

"Why isn't he getting up?"

"He has no chakra left!"

"Quiet. Under the Hokage's orders, we must take him for interrogation to find his true intentions." Anko's sharp voice pierced through the rambling of the former team 7.

"True intentions? Maybe Sasuke-teme just wanted to come back with us! You don't have to—" Naruto protested loudly and made a move to release the cuffs. Anko slapped at his hand, making him flinch involuntarily.

"Don't forget boy, our sources confirmed that Sasuke was in unusual contact with the Akatsuki after he killed Itachi Uchiha."

"Maybe one of your sources lied! Or maybe it was just a misunderstanding—I mean, maybe the Akatsuki tricked him or—"

"Either way," Anko cut him off crisply, "He is a missing nin, and standard procedures regulate that we must cuff him and present him to the Hokage. Though in this case, I don't think treating him a bit roughly will hurt him at all."

"Naruto, don't worry, I'm sure they won't really do anything to hurt him." Sakura put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Besides, I'm sure that that we can stop them if it comes down to it, right?"

"Humph." Naruto shook off the hand and pouted. Sasuke closed his eyes and allowed the two ANBU next to him jostle him and carry him through the gate. Throughout their noticeable procession into the village, Sasuke could feel countless pairs of eyes poring into him. People who recognized him gaped and the ones who didn't stared still—it wasn't everyday you see a team of elite ninja carrying what seemed to be a dangerous fugitive.

What bothered him the most were two distinct pairs of eyes. One pair of clear blue of the other bright green. Former teammates Naruto Uzumaki and Sakura Haruno. He knew that Naruto was beside himself with joy that Sasuke had returned and that the blond dobe 'knew' without a doubt that Sasuke would fit right back in.

On the other hand, Sakura's gaze had changed since the last time Sasuke had seen her in the remains of Orochimaru's destroyed lair. In it was confusion, surprise, happiness…and curiosity. Maybe it bothered Sasuke a tiny bit that she wasn't in love with him anymore. But probably not.

Kakashi was the same old jounin that trained Sasuke in his preteen years. Sure, he was a bit older, and there was a number of new scars on his body, but all in all, Kakashi was still the one unchanging factor as he walked alongside Naruto holding a green book. The whole scene of the streets and being back—well, sort of—with Team 7 brought back a strong sense of nostalgia and it shook his resolve.

How could he destroy this place, where he grew up and the only place that had—still has people who care about him? Everywhere, he could see remnants of memories when times were peaceful and he was still so innocent. Well maybe not really innocent—I mean, you can't still be pure after seeing your whole family being slaughtered. But at least at that time, he knew nothing about the Akatsuki or the truth about Itachi Uchiha.

Ah, the truth about Itachi Uchiha.

That was the whole reason he was here, wasn't it?

Once again you give me a reason for living, aniki, he mused.

"Well well, to what do we owe the honor of this visit, Uchiha?" A tough, feminine voice cut through his thoughts. He raised his head and glared at the deceiving appearance of the Hokage. She twirled a white sake bottle on her index finger as she approached him.

"Usually, missing-nins of your degree are executed or sentenced to life in prison with parole. But given your…condition, I am willing to make an exception. What do you say, Uchiha?"

"But he is a highly dangerous criminal Lady—" Anko protested loudly before Sasuke could open his mouth.

"Don't you think I am very clear on that fact? But, he is a very precious commodity, as you have seen." Tsunade thundered and then stuck her face right in front of Sasuke's. "Do you have any idea how many problems you have caused for this village, Uchiha? To prevent Naruto from looking for you, I've almost had to tie him down with ropes! Because of your betrayal, we almost lost a whole squad searching for you! There are not enough words to describe the heartache that you inflicted on this village! Do you hear me?"

"I'm not even sure if I should kill you myself or torture you until you understand." She flicked eyes over to Sasuke's former teammates.

"But for the sake of your former friends, I will not punish you so severely. Instead, you will be under house arrest for a year and will only be allowed to practice taijustu for limited times each day. Only your former team and other authorized personnel are allowed to approach you within this year. Afterward, on the basis of good behavior, you will be on parole for six months. If you stay out of trouble and I receive good reports of you, hence afterward, you will go free."

"However, you will not be permitted to complete missions until the time I or Kakashi deems appropriate. Any questions?"

Sasuke blinked and resumed glaring at the scowling Hokage. She held his gaze for a few seconds and then sighed and rubbed her head. She looked directly past Sasuke and said, "Although, I think you do have a few questions, Naruto."

"Yeah, why does Sasuke have to stay under house arrest for so frickin long? By the time he gets out, he'll be an oji-san! Can't you just trust him again?"

"Naruto, it doesn't work that way," Sakura pinched his arm. "Sasuke has to re-earn their trust. He's not exactly familiar to them like, like he was with us."

"Still, I don't think it's fair. And that last part about missions, what if you never decide he can become a ninja again? Then I'll never be a able to spar with him or go on a mission with him ever again!" Naruto still persisted. Sasuke almost rolled his eyes.

But this condition was gnawing at him from the inside. He had no problem with the imprisonment, but if he was never permitted to use ninjustu again, there would be a problem with completing Pein's plan. He also knew that Pein wanted the plan to take no more than a few months, and there was no way for Sasuke to wait a whole year plus six months of parole until he could deliver the Kyuubi to him.

Though Sasuke didn't want to admit it, by then, Naruto could very well have become the Rokudaime.

"First though, I want Sasuke to divulge everything that he's learned about the Akatsuki and anything about Itachi Uchiha. Before we let him leave, we need to know why he was near the village in the first place." The Hokage sat in her chair and folded her hands, staring at Sasuke. "Begin."

"There's nothing to say." He muttered under his breath. Her expression darkened and Sasuke's unconsciously tensed.

"Are you sure about that?" She almost growled through her gritted teeth.

"I left the village out of my own will. I killed Itachi Uchiha for murdering my family. End of story." He responded darkly and simply. She held his gaze for another second and sighed.

"If he doesn't want to say anything, then we can't make him." Because Naruto, Sakura and Kakashi are here, she added silently. She, for one, had no objection to using various torture methods to make him talk. That was what any sensible Hokage would do if she had a young and dangerous criminal on her hands.

Author's Note: Hello my beloved readers! I have come back after one month of hiding out! I will update my other stories soon enough, but I wanted to get this out before HinataLoveNaruto starts to complain. So…uh…sorry for my inactivity and um, review! You can tell me how you feel about my prolonged absence(s) on my poll! Hehe...(I feel like I'm inviting flames).