Caught in the Middle

Chapter 22


Hey guys! Well, I died last month, and it took me until now to convince Satan to let me use his computer. He's a Mac user, just to clear it up.

Anyway, in all seriousness, I was really just taking a break from fan fiction for a while. I apologize for not giving you guys a heads up before hand. No guarantee's as to when you'll see me again after this either, but just know that I'm not abandoning the story.

Oh, and just as a little announcement, I have a Deviantart account now and the link to it is on my profile. Just click where it says Homepage.

Every inch of his body ached. Sasuke's eyes cracked open; even the dim light that reached into the cavern stung his eyes. The resulting discomfort forced an unintentional groan to escape his throat, alerting those nearby of his newly gained consciousness. He heard footsteps getting exponentially louder, but didn't dare open his eyes yet.

When the footsteps were right on top of him, he felt someone grasp his neck and force his head up slightly at an angle which forced out an even louder groan as the tight grip agitated his sensitive nerves. He worked up some courage and opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was a trough of blond hair, and glowing blue orbs staring back at him.

As his vision came into focus, everything became more detailed. He saw Naruto kneeling down in front of him; he was the one with the hand around his neck.

"You…let me live huh?" Sasuke coughed out.

Naruto scowled. "Against my better judgment; you've got some info I need."

Sasuke chuckled, or at least he tried. It came out as more of a cough. "So they got your bitch, right?"

Without a second a warning, Naruto cocked back his fist and slammed it into Sasuke's cheek. In his weakened and aching state, the blow rocked pain through his body worse than it would have. Blood and saliva leaked from his mouth and onto the rocky ground.

"Easy Naruto, you don't kill your prisoners," said a calmer voice. After a moment of recovery, Sasuke glanced up and saw Kakashi, his hands in his pockets, leaning against the wall. The blond pretended not to hear him. He forcibly grabbed Sasuke's collar and whipped him back into a straight up sitting position.

"Where the hell is Karen? Tell me or I swear to God I'll make you eat your own dick!"

"I've got nothing to say to you," Sasuke grumbled back, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

Naruto raised his fist to smash Sasuke's face into the wall when Kakashi grabbed his wrist and stopped him. He snarled up at his teacher, but made no move to try and overpower him. Wordlessly, the masked man pulled him up and to another section of the cave, leaving Sasuke alone. Once they were in a private area, Kakashi came to a stop.

"Why'd you make me stop?" he demanded.

"You're never going to get anywhere just beating the answers out of him. He's a tough nut to crack, and even then he just might start making things up. He may be working with Orochimaru, but we don't know exactly how much he knows."

Naruto crossed his arms and huffed out an angry breath. "So what then?"

"You attack him psychologically," came a gruff voice behind them. Naruto turned his head and saw Jiraiya walking back into the cave after meditating outside for some time.

"Physical torture isn't exactly smiled up Naruto, and regardless it wouldn't be effective against someone as motivated as Sasuke anyway. What we need to do is attack from the inside, pull on some strings and press some buttons."

"But I don't know anything about him. The database had info his criminal record and his physical description, but nothing about his past. I don't have a thing on him."

Jiraiya and Kakashi glanced at each other, which Naruto easily caught. Now he was wondering what the two were thinking.

"Naruto, there is something you can use against him. A few years back there was an…incident," started off Kakashi.

"You see," Jiraiya picked up, "Sasuke's family was a lot like the Hyuuga, and I'm sure you've bumped into a few of them. They had a long line of operatives in the family, so much so it eventually became tradition to joint the FPBS. They even had their own nanite battle systems design specifically for their family, also like the Hyuuga."

"So what happened to change all that?"

"They were wiped out. It happened during an Uchiha family reunion. The ultimate irony of it all was that Itachi Uchiha, probably one of the greatest agents the FBPS ever had, and Sasuke's own brother was the one who committed the act. He simply walked into the party and killed everyone, save for Sasuke. After that, they both dropped off the grid for a while, then Sasuke resurfaced a few years later and that's where his criminal record starts up," the sage explained.

"I see, so his brother took out his own family. Well that explains why he's such a huge dick most of the time."

Naruto looked over in the general direction of Sasuke and made his way back to where they were keeping him. "Be back in a minute."

When he returned, Sasuke was still sitting quietly with his eyes closed, not making any unnecessary movements. It didn't worry the blond, even if he did escape –which would have been a miracle in itself- he would never be able to out run or hide from all three of them. He was stuck until the rest of his wounds healed.

"So," he began, leaning against the opposite wall, "Itachi sounds like a fun guy."

Sasuke's reaction was instantaneous. His eyes shot open and he tried with all his might to break the ropes that held him down, but it was no good. He was too weak to do much of anything at this point.

"Wow, that perv of a sage was right, that is a soft spot," Naruto chuckled. As much as he hated to admit it, he sort of liked watching Sasuke squirm for a change, instead of the other way around. He found a twisted humor in it, of course some of that could be his anger talking.

"Shut up you damn fool! Do you have any clue what that bastard put me through?" he shouted back, still harming only himself as he clashed with his bindings. Naruto was upon him in and instant, closing the distance between the two walls faster than Sasuke could blink. The blond grasped Sasuke's neck again and pressed him against the rock behind him.

"Not really; I don't think I could imagine what it's like to be on your own like that. Sure, you and I are in the same boat since we're both orphans, but at least I had a good home and someone to take care of me. And you know what Sasuke, if it weren't for the fact that you've done nothing but try to kill me and Karen for the past three months, I'd probably be pretty sympathetic towards you. As it stands though, if this is what everyone in your family was like, then I'm nominating your brother for a fucking Nobel Peace Prize!"

Sasuke screamed back right into his face and Naruto head-butt him in response. It was only after that did he remember Kakashi told him it probably wasn't a good idea to hit the prisoners, but fuck it, he was pissed.

"Now tell me where Karen is!"

"Fuck off!"

Naruto snarled and pressed Sasuke's head against the wall again. "Listen you shit, I may not know what it's like to have my entire family killed, but you know who does; Karen! Me, Kakashi, the FBPS, we were her new family, and you had to take that away from her! You know who that makes you like, it makes you like Itachi!"

"You don't know fucking anything!" he screamed back.

"The hell I don't! What's your role in all this anyway, what's the goddamn point of working with Orochimaru? Is this some deal for power or some shit, is that it, is this so you can go out and kill your brother? You're so damn stupid; yeah, I'd wanna kill him to, but what's the point of devoting your whole life to it. What're you going to do when he's finally dead, what'll be your reason for living then? You'll have no purpose!"

If he could, Sasuke would have covered his ears. The demon hunter was on the verge of tears, desperately trying to convince himself that what Naruto was saying wasn't true. "Shut up damn you, I'm not listening!"

"I really don't fucking care; you might be a lost cause, but Karen isn't! You'd better believe I'd walk through Hell and back to save her; no way am I letting some pale jackass with a snake fetish and some loser with big brother issues get in my way! I love her damn it; love, that word mean anything to you or am I screaming at the walls?"

At this point Sasuke was just randomly screaming to try and block out as much of Naruto's yelling as possible. All it was really serving to do was piss Naruto off further. Eventually he got sick of it and slammed his fist into Sasuke's cheek again, knocking him over onto his side.

The screams stopped instantly, and instead were replaced with soft sobs and ragged breaths. Naruto panted as well, his vocal cords starting to feel the effects of all that yelling.

With neither of them having anything left to say, Naruto got up and left Sasuke to wallow in his own sorrow.

Later on in the evening of that day, Naruto was sitting outside the cavern meditating. Not something he normally did, but he felt he could really use a clear mind for the days ahead. Sasuke had gone into a practically catatonic state since his screaming their screaming match, despite two further attempts to get info out of him.

Kakashi had left for the city while things were still under relative control to inform HQ of everything that had happened. While they pumped Sasuke for the location of Orochimaru, the FBPS could come up with a game plan on how to resolve this. Personally, Naruto didn't care what the FBPS said, hell the UN could bitch and moan to him for all he cared; he'd go after Karen regardless, even if it was alone; if he was given the green light, great, but he wasn't taking no for an answer.

He heard a pair of footsteps from behind him. He could sense it was Jiraiya, so there was no cause for alarm.

"Whatever you said to him, it really hit home kid," the sage commented.

"I didn't say anything that wasn't true. How did you not hear me anyway, I was screaming at the top of my lungs?"

The old man sat down next to his pupil. "Well between the echo between the two parts of the cave, and the Uchiha kids unintelligible screaming, it was kinda hard to make out any details in the conversation."

"Yeah well, I'll try again tomorrow, for now I'm gonna go relax a little and hit the hay, I'm pretty exhausted."

The blond hopped up and headed back inside the cavern. Before he was quite there though, Jiraiya called out to him, to which he turned around.

"Don't worry about Karen, we'll find her, she's a survivor. Besides, the universe usually has a funny way of bringing two people who love each other together."

His face immediately went beet red. "I thought you said you couldn't make out details in the conversation."

"I said it was "kinda" hard, not impossible. In all fairness it was obvious from the start, but it's always nice to have confirmation."

Naruto sighed heavily and covered the rest of the distance between him and his bedroll; he intended to finish off the day with at least a little dignity intact.

Meanwhile, miles and miles away back at Orochimaru's base outside Konoha city, Karen was just awakening after being unconscious for who knows how long. Her head was pounding, and it was dark, very dark. As she sat up, she felt metallic rattling and scraping. A few seconds later her vision cleared up, and she could see strong shackles attached to both her wrists, connected to the stone walls of her cell. She assumed with all this rock she was underground.

She tugged at the chains expecting them to break. After all, she'd broken through stronger material before. As it was though, she couldn't even make it budge; it was like her strength had been sapped away. Even as she continued her vain attempts at freedom, she could hear an amused chuckle.

"Don't bother girly, you're magic is being drained from your body. There's no way for you to resist."

She looked up and past the bars that divided her from the rest of the prison. There stood a man with silver hair like Kakashi's, but with large circular glasses that seemed to gleam maliciously in the dark.

"Who are you?" she grunted.

"My name is Kabuto, and I'm Lord Orochimaru's second in command; you're his temporary guest."

Karen stumbled as she tried to get up, leaning against the bars for support. "I don't understand. First you guys want to kill me, now you're capturing me, what gives?"

Kabuto raised a curious eyebrow. "You don't know yet? That's surprising considering how many times you've encountered Sasuke and how much the boy loves to monologue. He's an exceptional fighter for his age, but he simply talks too much. I suppose that's a trait he and Naruto share, hm?"

He shook his head. "Anyway, I think I'm getting a little off track. If you really want to know, it's because it would be preferable if Naruto were to fall into our possession, and there's no better way to do that than to capture you. Not only does your capture complete one of our objectives, but it will feed the boys anger more than anything we could have done short of, say, massacre all his friends in the city nearby. That, however, wouldn't be the primary choice of action; it draws too much attention to this area."

He then laughed to himself again and lightly tapped his own head. "And there I go, starting to ramble again. Well anyway, you really don't need to concern yourself with it. Soon Naruto will come here; brash, bold, and guns blazing, and attempt to fight his way to you until he's overwhelmed. After that, he's my personal little dissection toy to study."

Karen's head was still spinning, and she leaned further on the bars to hold hersult up. "How do you know Naruto will come to save me; he probably doesn't even know where I am."

"Oh I wouldn't worry about that. You see Sasuke's been captured by your friends, but what he doesn't know it we intentionally left him behind as a messenger. I have no doubt they'll pump him for information, and even he's only human. Eventually he'll give them our location."

Disgusting; they even betrayed their own comrades. She held no love for Sasuke, that much was true, but to be sold off by the people you fought side by side with was even lower that she suspected they would go. He was an ass, but at least he had some sort of code of honor.

"Anyway, ta-ta for now," Kabuto grinned before turning to his left and striding down the hall, out of the prison.

Now she was left alone. Karen slumped down against the back wall of her cell in defeat. She had no power, no means of escape, and worst of all she was bait for a trap everyone knew her best friend would gladly walk into if it meant her safety. She sighed angrily. She needed a plan or something to get her out of here. She couldn't just sit here waiting for a rescue she knew was doomed to failure; she'd have to rely on Kitusne resourcefulness and her own know how to get her out.

For now though, she was still exhausted, dizzy, and more than a little nauseous; she needed sleep. Slowly she eased herself onto the hard and jagged floor, using her arm as a pillow, and tried her best to get sleep.

The next day in Japan, Naruto scratched his head as he lifted himself up from his bedroll. He quickly rummaged through his belongings and slipped on some fresh clothes. He wasn't sure of Jiraiya was awake or not, but still, he wanted to get a crack at Sasuke again as soon as possible.

He strode across the cavern through the small arch that led into the second room holding Sasuke. The teenage demon hunger was still well bound against the wall. As Naruto's shoes ground against the rocky floor, it was all the audible stimulation Sasuke needed to lift up his head. His eyes were bloodshot, but his stare was rock hard as always.

"Morning sleeping jackass," mocked Naruto.

He grunted as his eyes began to droop.

Naurto sighed but sat down. "So, am I gonna have to make you cry like a pussy again, or can we finally do this the easy way?"

"I was up all night," Sasuke mumbled.

"I didn't sleep; I couldn't, I was too busy thinking. That bastard Orochimaru left me to die; he was a Sannin, he could have gotten me out before he left but he didn't."

Naruto scratched his head uninterested. "Yeah well, when you decide to start talking about stuff I care about, tell me."

"I'm gonna kill him," Sasuke growled.

"Good luck with that, you're kinda captured."

"That why I'm going to help you."

Now Naruto perked up, the sentence having grabbed his attention to the fullest. He'd never expected the words 'help you' to be directed at him in a positive.

"You're going to help me? In case you forgot we're arch enemies, you know the whole mutual death wish thing? We've been trying to kill each other for the last three months."

Sasuke nodded. "I know, and don't think this is permanent, I'm still going to kill you. For now though, I want Orochimaru dead way more than you, and as much as I hate to admit it, I can't beat him on my own."

Naruto crossed his arms. "So the enemy of my enemy is my friend, eh?"

"For now," Sasuke quickly corrected.

In response the blond nodded. "For now."

Just then, they both heard a bellowing voice. "Naruto, you awake yet?"

The sage found his way into Sasuke's holding area only moments later.

"Jiraiya," said Naruto in a serious tone, "if you can, get a hold of Kakashi, I think we might finally have a game plan."

I know, not exactly a great presentation after such a long absence, but just roll with it. The climax is coming, it really just depends on how fast I update, and we all know that's not particularly fast. You guys must have the patience of saints to keep reading after all this time.

Review anyway.