Thank you for waiting.
Going Home Pt.2
A group of ninjas rushed through the gates and headed immediately towards the hospital. Shinobi were positioned here and there along the walls as the gates were closed. It did not appear as if Kakashi's team had been followed but since they were up against the Akatsuki, Lady Tsunade wasn't taking any chances.
"Sai and Fu are fine – minor injuries! Shikamaru's arms need some attention but he's not fatal! Choji, Kankuro, Anko and Kakashi have the worst wounds! Be careful with Kakashi, he's burned!" Sakura reported as she ran in just ahead of the injured. She spared a glance for Fu who was having a whispered conversation with the Hokage and Shikaku. It had been hard to let Fu take her place on this mission but it had probably been a wise decision since her emotions were still fragile. Sakura pushed those thoughts away and concentrated on her patients. For this moment, this is where she was most definitely needed.
Tsunade nodded and let herself hope. "Tobi and Deidara fled in the direction of Ame?" She question curiously. It was a nation she had no good memories of.
"Yeah." Fu nodded. "I had a good perspective of the battle since my clone saw things I couldn't but the stuff that happened in the air you'll have to ask Sai about. That Deidara guy is crazy! Tobi…is unreal. He was practically untouchable." Fu shivered then shook her head and frowned then looked back for her team but everyone had been rushed off somewhere. "Are they going to be okay? I wanted to help but Naruto said to just do my part and only use Chomei's chakra if Kakashi or Anko ordered me to and they never did. Was that right? They got so hurt!" She'd been shifting from foot to foot when Shikaku put a hand on her shoulder.
"Lady Tsunade's the best medic around and she's trained most of the staff, they'll all recover in no time. And you did as you were asked Fu, thank you." Shikaku spared her a smile. "Do you want to go home now; you've had a rough day?" He looked over at her two guards.
Fu bit her lip because she did want to sit, relax and go over all of it in her mind but she'd worked with these people and they'd fought for her. "I'd like to stay please." She looked from the Hokage to Shikaku.
"Its fine, she can stay. We need a detailed report any way." Tsunade said decidedly. She'd been making plans and motioned to Izumo. "I'm going to check on Kakashi and everyone. Fu go sit with Sai – someone will be with you shortly." She nodded to the girl. "Walk with me." She said to Shikaku and Izumo.
"Let me guess, you want more shinobi sent after Naruto?" Shikaku asked seriously.
"I don't want to hurt Naruto's plans but what little we know about Tobi worries me. What if he just pops up during their battle as he did with Fu's? Besides it will still take a team a day to catch up at top speed." Tsunade scowled.
"I agree my lady. I'll assemble a team right now if you wish it. I won't risk him anymore than we have to." Shikaku tensed with anticipation then with Tsunade's nod; he took off at a run.
Tsunade walked to nurses' station. The nurses immediately gave the station over to her. She sat and wrote a quick message, folded it then handed it to Izumo. "Take this to Ibiki then go to the council and inform them of the situation. I recommend the entire village being on alert until this is finished. Please return to me with their answer." Tsunade made eye contact with her subordinate to be sure he understood the urgency.
"Right away my lady!" Izumo bowed and disappeared from the hospital while the Hokage went to see her wounded shinobi.
"Why did I agree to this?" Iruka groused and jerked on the wire Yugao had attached to his wrist. She held the end of it to keep him from running ahead.
"Because you have faith in your boys. We left twelve hours after Sasuke and Takeshi and because we're walking we'll have the energy to reach them quickly when they need us." Yugao linked her fingers with his to reassure him and to make sure he didn't try to cut the wire. She gave a small laugh as he grunted.
Shizune smiled then sighed. "But being so far behind them makes me a little anxious too. My main responsibility is as a medic but I wouldn't mind joining in on the battle." She shouldered her pack of medical supplies then scanned the area.
"Though I would like to see some action too, I doubt that we will." Neji commented wistfully. Sasuke facing off against Itachi with Naruto as backup then Hinata, Captain Yamato and Takeshi fighting Kisame – there just won't be room enough for us." He shrugged and put his hands in his sleeves. "It'll be a hell of a show though." He grinned.
"YOSH! I hope you're wrong Neji! I'm ready for some action!" Guy pumped his hand into the air almost bouncing in excitement. Four of the six Anbu moved around Guy. While Iruka could be contained by Yugao, Guy needed more people to keep him moving at a sedate walk.
Shizune rolled her eyes. "We'll be stopping for a break shortly. It's necessary!" She said before Iruka could open his mouth. "We left the village six hours ago, moving non-stop. Don't make me pull rank on you Iruka." She warned with a lift her eyebrow.
Iruka grunted again. "I'm never letting him make his own decisions or plans again!" He tried to cross his arms but Yugao's hand got in his way. "Dammit."
"I think Hinata might have something to say about that Dad. Stop grumbling, we'll make more time after we rest a little." Yugao said leaning over to kiss his cheek.
"I'm brimming with energy – how about I go on ahead?!" Guy tried to sneak off but was grabbed by his arms. "LET ME GO! I CAN'T LET KAKASHI GET AN S CLASS NINJA BEFORE ME!" There was laughter as Guy wrestled with the Anbu.
Seiko held his hand. It was strong, warm and wet with sweat but she didn't mind. Sasuke had every reason to be nervous at meeting his brother for the first time without hate in his heart. She'd been in a state of shock when she'd first met her father. Seiko wished he were behind her now as Iruka was offering support for his sons but that just wasn't possible right now. She allowed herself a moment wallow in self-pity and doubt that she was the cause for her family's problems then tucked the thoughts away. "Talk to me Takeshi, I'm getting all tense." She looked up and over for Takeshi was on Sasuke's other side.
"…My mother wanted me to follow my dreams." Takeshi said unexpectedly. His gaze was directed at the sky. "After she was so injured," He took a quick breath. "She wanted me to be happy and to not lock myself away as my father did with his research. I was supposed to get outside, try all sorts of sports and read books so I was smart too. She wanted me to date, marry and give her lovely grandchildren. Oh and friends – lots of friends. I was to live a life I could be proud of and have no regrets." He smiled softly and blinked his eyes. "I don't know if she would have approved of the ninja training, the years I spent wandering or the brothels!" Takeshi laughed and shrugged. "But coming to Konoha, meeting Naruto, Sasuke, Hinata – joining their family, meeting my wife-to-be, making good friends…I think I'm finally getting the life my mother wanted from me. I just wished she were here to live it with me." Takeshi brought up a hand to wipe at his eyes then crossed his arms over his chest.
Sasuke had been watching him the entire time seeing the pain, the humor, the love and the hope on his brother's face. His hand went to Takeshi's back. "I'm sorry she's not here TK but I'm sure she's watching and smiling, proud of her son." He patted his back then smirked. "She even forgives you for hanging out in the brothels – well maybe." Sasuke grinned as Takeshi laughed.
"Let's hope!" Takeshi put and arm around Sasuke's shoulder. "You know, I think I'd like to get married down by the lake in spring. That okay with you?"
"Of course, it's your home too TK and I think I know the spot you want!" Sasuke met Takeshi's eyes giving him a picture of the place he had in mind.
"Very nice!" A smile broke out over his face his ponytail bobbing as he nodded his head. "It won't be as big as Naruto's so we won't need a lot of chairs and such. I can't wait to get married!" Takeshi laughed. "That just leaves you two." He winked at Sasuke and Seiko.
"Married?!" Seiko squeaked. She was just trying to get used to dating Sasuke without her family flipping out.
"Cut it out! We're taking things slow you jerk!" Sasuke elbowed Takeshi's stomach.
Seiko blinked rapidly as the two boys argued and traded hits then smiled. None of them were overly focused on waiting for Naruto's call. They could relax a little as they walked and it seemed to reinforce their bonds with each other. Seiko decided to join in. "You know Sasuke, if were to get engaged you'd have to keep up the tradition." She gave him a sweet smile.
Sasuke glanced over at her warily. "What tradition?" He felt sinking sensation in his belly.
Takeshi caught on quickly. "An engagement gift! Naruto gave Hinata his precious headband that was given to him by Dad. I of course made Ayame's presents but what will you give Seiko? It's got to be special." He planted a hand in Sasuke's hair messed up his hair.
"Ugh! You guys and your stupid gifts! Always doing stuff that makes the girls all mushy! Forget it!" Sasuke threw up his hands knocking Takeshi away.
"But Sasuke I'd be very appreciative of a nice gift." Seiko gave him bedroom eyes as she tossed her long hair over her shoulder and laid a hand over one breast. She knew he loved her breasts.
Sasuke's mouth dropped open as his mind envisioned the many ways she would thank him for an engagement gift. "An engagement gift!" He huffed. "What about me? How come I don't get a gift?" He held his breath as Seiko stepped closer and traced his lips with one finger.
"You get me Sasuke – all of me." Seiko looked from his eyes to his mouth then decided to go ahead and kiss him because she really wanted to.
"Well damn." Takeshi laughed as Sasuke was tamed. "I know you two would like to take this to the next step but umm you know we're on a mission." He walked forward letting them have a moment.
"Mmm a mission." Seiko said against Sasuke's lips before she backed away then with a giggle skipped to Takeshi. "Come on Sasuke! I think I've given you some food for thought as we walk! Kind sir." She gestured for Takeshi to lead the way.
Takeshi laughed as he looked back at a dazed Sasuke. "Look whose whipped now." He said between chuckles.
"Oh shut up!" Sasuke grumbled as he jogged to catch up to them.
"Ninja rations - definitely didn't miss these." Naruto sighed as he finished his lunch then chased it down with some cool water. "You want some kiwi?" He offered one of the small fruits to Yamato.
"Sure, thanks." He pulled out small knife and began peeling it. "I'd never tried these before going to the island." Yamato lifted the knife bringing a slice of the green fruit up to his mouth.
"I have but the village only gets them a few weeks out of the year. After visiting the gardens at Crescent Moon, Mama and I have talked about starting a greenhouse so we can grow some of these and other tropical fruits and flowers." Hinata said as she accepted some sliced kiwi from her husband.
Naruto nodded. "Sounds good but let's put one in at our house too. Hanabi or your aunts might want one too. You know how you like to grow your own tea and herbs sweetheart for your creams." Naruto's fruit was gone in practically one gulp.
"Don't pretend I'm the only one who likes growing plants Naruto. You brought home a couple of seedlings and are babying them in our kitchen." Hinata wiggled a finger at him.
Yamato smiled. "You like growing plants Naruto?" He savored the last bite of his fruit.
He shrugged. "Yeah I like plants mostly, some flowering ones if the scents not to strong. How about you? I would think you would be good at it considering your abilities." Naruto smiled as he thought of all the remarkable things the captain could do with his wood and water release techniques.
Yamato threw back his head and laughed. "Actually I do like growing plants when there's time. I don't actually get to spend a lot of time at home so at times I'll create some plants when want them around." With the food gone he stood and began cleaning up. They tried to leave as little imprint on the environment as possible.
"So how much longer do you think?" Hinata asked as she took Naruto's hand.
Yamato looked up at the sun. "We could come upon them today but a night battle would be difficult for us all. Best guess is tomorrow either morning or midday. If they wait any longer than that we'll be at Suna's border where we can get help from Gaara." He glanced over at Naruto. "Want to go over everything again?"
"No! We're done with that. Tell us about your missions, well what you can." Naruto looked at him knowing there was more to the captain than they knew. "Or we can just talk about whatever. Let's just keep things normal. It'll get wild shortly." He swung his and Hinata's hands.
"Okay, umm is it okay if we talk about your house? I love architecture so I might be able to offer you some ideas." He looked a little embarrassed as he glanced over at Hinata and jerked in surprise at her wide happy eyes.
"Yes! Naruto and I have some ideas but you can tell us if they're possible or too costly!" Hinata went and hooked her arm through Yamato's. "Naruto?"
"Ready sweetheart." He'd pulled out a notebook where he'd been keeping their ideas and sketches. "Listen to this Cap." Naruto starting listing off the things they wanted while Yamato looked either shocked or intrigued.
The forest was perfectly normal. The grass was slowly losing its color. Leaves departed from their trees in various shades littering the ground or twirling through the air. Birds added sound to the quiet area with the flapping of their wings and song. A large hawk came to rest a few trees over. The scent in the air was earthy with a hit of rot and the temperature was cool. The sky was blue but clouds often obscured the sun. If not that day then next, it would rain.
The two men sat facing each other one against a tree while the other was dealing a hand of cards. Itachi saw them coming. "Our game will have to be postponed. Currently you have the advantage." Itachi said as he memorized the cards in his hand before handing them back to Kisame.
"Damn and I was just about to blow you out of the water!" Kisame said with a toothy grin. "Heh, it's all good. After we get the fox we'll finish the game and you'll owe me. I think I'll start with a visit to my favorite bar." He pocketed the cards and rose.
"Frogs shouldn't drink; it makes catching flies too hard." Itachi said seriously as he too stood and shook out his cloak.
Kisame frowned at him. "That joke is getting old." He warned.
"Not for me." Itachi said easily then they both looked towards the three people approaching them. He felt keen lance of disappointment run through him at not seeing Sasuke. Itachi felt sick to his stomach to know that he would again kill the people closest to Sasuke.
Naruto kissed his wife's hand before letting it go. The three of them moved a little away from each other and stopped about five feet away. "Hello Itachi."
"Naruto and the wife." He bowed his head to Hinata. "You were foolish to bring her. She did not need to witness your capture." Itachi spoke evenly though he longed to rage at Naruto. He had warned him what was coming and none of them had listened to him.
"It's nice to meet you Itachi." Hinata said politely and bowed to him. "Please come home and join our family, its time." She entreated him putting every ounce of emotion she could into her words and eyes.
"Say what?!" Kisame's mouth popped open then he began to laugh. "What the hell are you talking about girl? He's an Uchiha not a Hyuga!" He shook his head. "The island sun must have fried their brains. Hope the honeymoon was memorable because your husband dies today!" His shocked mirth melted away to be replaced by delighted bloodlust.
Naruto glared at the former Kiri ninja. "I know we're going to fight but let us say our peace first!" He had to take a deep breath because Kisame's bloodlust was urging his own. "We want you home Itachi. We forgive you because we know the truth now." Naruto's face was just as earnest as his wife's. He was pleading for Itachi to just walk away from the Akatsuki. Naruto doubted it would happen but he wanted to try. Itachi and Sasuke shouldn't have to fight; they both still cared for the other despite all that had happened.
Itachi looked up at the sky. Their words pained him. Never had he wanted to hear those words more but there was no way could take them to heart. He'd done too much, killed too many people. He bore too many scars from living the life of a criminal and frankly it was time, no it was beyond time for this world to be free of him. Sasuke and all of them would be better off with him dead. Itachi blinked rapidly and when he looked back at Naruto the Mangekyo Sharingan was activated.
"So foolish Naruto. You're more foolish now than the child we met a few years ago. I have no home. I have no family and as for forgiveness – I never asked for it!" Any calm he'd had was gone to be replaced with intense loathing and anger at Naruto for even daring to speak those words. And the proof against Naruto's words was that it was coming from him and not Sasuke. "Kisame its time to take the Nine-Tails."
Kisame admitted to himself that he was curious about what the kid and girl had been talking about but it really didn't matter. He was finally going to get to rumble with the Nine-Tailed Fox and he was going to enjoy every damn minute of it. "You should have kissed the wife goodbye because now I'm going to split your head wide open!" He grinned as he brought his sword forward.
Yamato moved ahead of Naruto and Hinata placing himself directly before Kisame. "If anyone is a fool it's you Itachi but we'll soon beat some sense into you. Don't worry about this one; take care of your brother." He widened his legs to brace himself.
Hinata sighed. "Why are the men in my family so damn stubborn? Itachi I'll have to teach you some manners when we get you home. You've spent too much time with jerks like him!" Hinata glared at Kisame as she unhooked two whips from the belt she wore. "You're done Kisame. No longer will you infect Itachi with your crudeness or come after my husband." Hinata told him coolly as her eyes scanned the gray-tinged man before her.
Kisame shook his head at the girl. She was behaving all protective and feisty but she was also quite regal at the same time. "That's some woman you got there kid, too bad I'm going to kill her." He told Naruto with fake sympathy.
"Sweetheart show him just how beautifully deadly you are!" Naruto grinned at her. "I'll take on big brother here though actually I think Takeshi might be slightly older. Hmm that should be interesting for you, being the younger brother." Naruto laughed. "Four boys, Dad and Mama won't know what to do! Let's do this." Naruto tossed back his blond hair and focused his eyes on Itachi.
"Of course my love. Don't hurt each other too badly." Hinata requested of him then flicked her wrist and smiled sweetly at Kisame when he jerked his head back and a line of blood appeared on his check.
"Bitch!" He growled and began to run forward only for a length of wood to smack him in the stomach. "Damn I forgot about you." Kisame muttered then had to jump back, sideways and up to avoid not only wood but the deadly sting from the Hyuga girl's whips.
"I figured but now you know." Yamato shrugged then created more and more wood to stab, block and prevent Kisame from moving forward.
Hinata followed his movements adding her whips in between, over and under his wood make small and large strikes against the Kiri ninja keeping him hopping and from attacking.
"You don't stand a chance against me Naruto. You've been inside my genjutsu for a while now." Itachi informed him coldly.
"Really? I never would have expected that!" Naruto's voice was full of sarcasm as he attacked an image of Itachi. He wasn't surprised to see it morph into crows and the crows into images of his wife. Multiples came at him bearing her deadly whips. "Well damn – one of my greatest fears. I'll pay you back for that big brother." Naruto muttered as he forced himself to seriously fight his several wives.
"He's making Naruto fight Hinata! Dammit Sasuke!" Takeshi yelled down to his brother as they sped towards the battle.
"You thought he'd fight fairly?! Besides he seems angry at Naruto! The warning he gave us maybe? About how we should train? He has no idea what we've been doing or what we're doing now." Sasuke yelled back at his brother then leaned forward again to make the ride smoother. Koneko was running flat out covering miles in minutes with him and Seiko on her back.
Possibly that's the reason he's being so cruel. This is going to be one hell of a fight little brother. Takeshi said through the synch this time as he flew above them.
No doubt. I can't wait and I'm dreading it at the same time. I'm glad all of you are with me. Sasuke's hand touched Seiko's as she held on tight while he glanced up at Takeshi. They nodded at each other.
Our place is by your side Sasuke and Itachi's even if he doesn't know it yet! Takeshi smiled then shook his head. They certainly were a unique family and he was happy to be a part of it. Sasuke! I see them! Another mile more! He warned.
Here we go! Sasuke tightened his grip on Koneko and said a prayer that everything went as it was supposed to.
"He's here Iruka-sensei." Neji spoke out pointing at the Talon clone that suddenly dived out of the sky at them.
"Talon!" Iruka stepped away from Yugao and held out his arm. Soon the heavy weight of the hawk landed on him. "It's started?" The clone nodded. "Alright, lead the way Talon!" He helped the bird into the sky. "Let's go!" The ten other people with him all assumed a formation with Shizune at the front then with the crackle of leaves underfoot they took off to join the rescue mission of Itachi.
Hinata spared a glance for her husband who stood stock-still caught up in Itachi's genjutsu. Thanks to their synch she knew exactly what he was facing. In a small way it was humorous for she knew her husband feared her whips but mostly it was worrying because even though he wasn't moving, in his mind he was very, very active and his body was experiencing the stress of the battle. Hold on my love, they're almost here. She told him.
I know and it's not as bad as it looks. Thanks to Sasuke's training, I'm really not expending that much energy. Pay attention to Kisame, he's sure to attack pretty soon. Naruto warned figuring the Kiri ninja was just evaluating his opponents at this time.
Yes…he's about to do something! Hinata returned her full attention to Kisame. He was grinning now because no longer were her whips touching him and he could avoid each and every jab of wood from Yamato.
"Here I come! Underground Shark!" Showing a mouthful of teeth, Kisame disappeared under the ground.
"To me!" Yamato yelled to Hinata.
"I can see him!" Hinata said as she made a beeline to Yamato.
"Yeah so can I!" He said dryly as Samehada burst through the dirt and headed their way. Grabbing Hinata's arm he jerked her to him and they jumped back several feet increasing the distance between them and Naruto and Itachi. With the increased distance Yamato was able to create the jutsu he needed. "Sea of Trees!" The ground shook as trees exploded out of it. He and Hinata clung to the branches and soon towered over everything.
Kisame ran head first into one of the recently sprouted trees and came up cursing. He used Samehada and quickly chopped down two of the trees. "So are just going to hide?" Kisame stared up trying to spot the man and woman. "You know, trees need water. Let me help you out with that!" Kisame laughed just before water erupted from his mouth. In moments the surrounding area was filled with water and Kisame was riding a wave up to the tops of the trees where the two people were waiting on him.
"That Kisame." Itachi all but groaned. He began to move towards Naruto. If the two of them didn't move, the water would swamp them as well. "Well Naruto shall we wait for Kisame somewhere its dry?" It was with some regret that he reached out to incapacitate the blond. "You actually made me hope." Itachi whispered.
"Don't stop." Naruto spoke with obvious strain, his eyes glazed seeing things that weren't there but looking directly at Itachi.
Itachi jerked his hand back and stared at Naruto. He knew, knew the boy was still inside his genjutsu so there was no way he should be able to talk or focus on him. "What the hell is going on? You shouldn't be able to talk! You have no ability in genjutsu!" Itachi backed away from Naruto as he inched forward.
"No but I do!" Sasuke yelled just before Koneko let out a ground shaking roar. "Face me in battle Itachi!" He clutched the big cat tight as she made a magnificent turn and leaped at Itachi who had also turned and ran away from the dangers of claws and rushing water.
"I got you little brother!" Takeshi said as he scooped up Naruto and gave him a pulse of chakra. "Easy." He said gently as Naruto gasped in a breath.
"Don't tell Sasuke, but I really don't like genjutsu!" Naruto groaned. He felt kind of silly being cradled in his brother's arms but he brushed that aside and breathed deeply. He mediated for the next few minutes as Takeshi flew them closer to Sasuke to gain back his equilibrium.
"I knew cats could climb trees but saber toothed cats?!" Seiko said in astonishment. Koneko was bounding from limb to limb after Itachi. The cat was bigger than a horse, it should be impossible.
Of course we can climb trees - as long as they are big ones! Koneko growled. She'd smelled Sasuke's scent all over the girl and vice versa. She wouldn't interfere with the two of them unless the girl hurt her cub then she was mincemeat.
"Sorry Koneko I meant no disrespect but it's really awesome!" Seiko was still a little afraid of the big cat but she was also very impressed.
Koneko purred a little and chuckled when Sasuke scratched at her ears. Uchiha Itachi you cannot outrun me! Face us, face your brother! She yelled at the black cloaked figure.
He was shocked at first but then he thought about it. It had indeed been a trap Naruto coming out alone with only his wife and one Jonin. Sasuke, Takeshi and some other girl had shown up. If he remembered correctly she had been at Ishita standing close to Inoichi. And Sasuke had a cat summons. He didn't know her name but she was huge, black, sleek and quite the compliment for his brother. Itachi jumped to a larger limb then turned to face everyone. "As you wish great saber." He bowed to her.
Koneko growled but nodded back at him as she came to a rest allowing Sasuke and Seiko to get off her back. Your shame is great but do not make it worse by fighting your brother. Koneko did not want this fight to happen especially now that she knew what had happened with Itachi. He had much to make up for but now was the time to move forward and live despite the regrets.
"Koneko." Sasuke warned stroking her muscled neck. "Let us handle it. You can go home if you wish." He didn't want her involved in this battle.
I will stay and be a witness. I will also protect the girl. One big, blue eye looked over at Seiko. Apparently she was needed for this battle and so Koneko would keep her out of trouble until the right time.
Seiko smiled and bowed to Koneko. She refrained from saying that she could protect herself. All cats were proud and arrogant and she suspected it was even truer of a saber toothed cat. "Go take care of business Sasuke, we'll be fine."
Sasuke nodded then looked to higher branches to see that Takeshi and Naruto had landed. Both of them were looking towards Hinata where the battle with Kisame was still going.
Hinata and Yamato had split up. Samehada had come swinging by with Kisame riding a wave from his previous jutsu. Each knew that his blade could suck away their chakra so neither wanted to get hit by it. Because the trees were numerous and stood over the waves Hinata and Yamato were able to use the branches to avoid Kisame or attack him.
"So bloody clever aren't you?" Kisame muttered as Yamato jumped a swing of the big sword onto another branch even as he threw some kunai. He squatted down and pressed his fingers to the water. "Five Hungry Sharks." Kisame grinned as his creations blossomed and cut through the water towards Yamato. "You are mine!" He told Hinata and had his wave surge in her direction.
"Great he wants to play with me." Hinata muttered as her mind raced about what her next move would be. She absolutely could not be hit with that sword. Not only would it shave the flesh from her body but deplete her chakra. "So make him drop it!" She ran towards him and saw the surprise on Kisame's face. Quickly she snapped one whip to grip the limb above her lifting her off her feet being sure to clamp the other whip about Kisame's sword arm. Hinata used a delicate touch but her whips had razor edges. As quickly as the whip wrapped about his arm she released it but not before it was a ripped and bloody mess.
Kisame dropped the sword. Not because of the pain but the shock of it. The girl was an expert with those whips. He'd barely seen it move before it was tearing into his arm. "Well alright then, come on girl!" He jumped up into the tree she was in and chased after her.
At first Yamato hadn't been overly impressed with the sharks. They were made of water and more importantly he was in a tree and fairly damn safe from a water attack. Wrong. The freaking sharks had jumped from the water tearing bark from the tree and one had even gotten his arm leaving a jagged wound. Though he wasn't in the water and readily available the sharks were using their speed to thrust themselves up and out of the water at him. "Hand of Waves!" Hand out with water spraying from it he broke down two of the sharks and pushed the other three away. Yamato allowed himself a smug smile but it too was short lived since the sharks just reformed and came in for another attack. He glanced over at Hinata; Kisame had just ripped one of her whips from her hand. "What if I do this?"
Hinata was wary of Kisame. Currently he was still without his sword but he was an extremely dangerous man. They engaged in hand-to-hand. She blocked his strikes, she was fast enough to even manage a couple of hits of her own and when she could she sent chakra shooting through him. Hinata could see his chakra points and even as she destroyed those points the man kept moving – he was a freaking machine!
Naruto watched his wife with pride and apprehension. She had mixed her Gentle Fist style with her gymnastic skills. She jumped over and under him. She danced over limbs and spun around dizzyingly.
"What's he doing?" Takeshi asked as Yamato wove hand signs with desperate speed.
Suddenly the water was no longer like a wild ocean. It calmed and gathered. The earth and trees shifted and a waterfall formed. Though the sharks retained their shape, all they could do was fight against the current of the water. Kisame suddenly found himself without any water to stand on. Samehada dropped down into the pool created by the waterfall.
"Crafty bastard aren't you?" Kisame asked of Yamato as he leapt onto a tree limb.
"I try." Yamato said as he landed one limb above Hinata. "You okay?"
She took some deep breaths then nodded. "Yeah, I'm good. Go ahead guys!" Hinata looked up and over at her husband and brothers. "Itachi I'm warning you not to go too far with this!" Hinata focused her lavender gaze on him while her finger seemed to point right between his Sharingan eyes.
It was weird but Itachi stood up straighter. The force of the girl's will was very strong and he believed her. She would not be pleased should he damage Sasuke and the others too much. Itachi shook it off. "Uzumaki-san do not worry. It is three against one; they have the advantage not I." Itachi planned on giving them every advantage.
Hinata's sigh was a sad sound. "Sasuke, kick your brother's butt!" She could read Itachi like a book. She recognized the signs, had seen them in Naruto one awful day when he decided that being dead was better than living.
"I will." Sasuke saw it too and he couldn't stand it. He went through it with Naruto and he was damned if he'd let this brother try to die either!
"Actually it will be two against one. I'll go help my sister and the captain."Takeshi nodded at Itachi then flared his wings, jumped, found an air current and flew to hover above Hinata.
"Ready Big Brother? And you Naruto?" He viewed the chakra surrounding him, not just what was inside Itachi but in everything around them. Sasuke didn't think he could be any more prepared than he was now.
Naruto jumped closer to the Uchihas but let Sasuke stay in front and in the lead. "At your back Sasuke." Naruto promised, opened all his senses and closed his eyes.
"ITACHI!" Sasuke yelled as he jumped with kunai in hand.
"YES!" Itachi answered loudly. He was excited, his blood racing through his veins. He even smiled widely. It was finally time - time for Sasuke to gain his Mangekyo and become the founder of the new Uchihas!
Naruto listened closely. The clang of knife against knife was real but he knew that opening his eyes would only trap him in an unbreakable genjutsu. All their training back on the island would now be put to the test. To your left Naruto! The words were Sasuke's and Naruto moved with a kunai in his own hand. He couldn't see anything with his eyes shut but he didn't hesitate to attack.
"Ah you have prevented me from entrancing you but how… the ability to talk mind to mind. I did not consider that ability would allow you to still fight. But Sasuke can you really fight me and be his eyes?" Itachi asked calmly even as he traded blows with both Sasuke and Naruto.
"We've been apart a long time Itachi; you don't know how skillful I've become!" Sasuke taunted then both he and Naruto backed off and he breathed fire while Naruto shot senbon into the flames.
A flock of crows flew into the fire while Itachi went higher into the trees and let loose his own flames. He let out a chuckle as more crows blocked his flame, not his own but Sasuke's crows. But his humor was short-lived as a gale of wind rammed him into a tree trunk.
Naruto ran at Itachi from the left, Sasuke from the right. They were only going to use their fists but all they hit was the tree. Each had to drop as shuriken speed at them. Again Naruto used his wind to send the rest of the shuriken back at Itachi.
Takeshi shook his head and looked away from his brothers' battle. The genjutsu they were throwing at each other was confusing as hell. Even as they physically attacked each other they created images of themselves who were also attacking each other. Takeshi couldn't tell which of them was real. "Sister!" He yelled out as he dove towards her uplifted arm.
She silently told Takeshi what she needed and he complied. As Yamato continued attacking with his wood jutsu, she was flown around behind Kisame and taking a leaf from her husband's book, tossed senbon into several of Kisame's chakra points.
"...Bitch!" Kisame gasped at the pain of his chakra being suddenly cut off. That happened to be all he could say before he was smashed in front and from behind with wood. Blood spat from his lips before an ear splitting sound knocked him out.
Having learned to never underestimate Kisame, everyone watched and waited as the Kiri ninja plummeted to the bottom of the waterfall.
Itachi glanced over then looked back at Sasuke and Naruto even as his hands performed a familiar hand sign. About sixty clones of Itachi filled the trees around him.
"Really?" Naruto asked in disbelief. "Shadow Clone Jutsu!" About double the number of clones appeared but half of them were of Naruto and the other half was of Sasuke.
Itachi arched one eyebrow. He hadn't expected the Sasuke clones. Also only a few of the Naruto clones had their eyes open. "Let's see just who wins when it comes to clones shall we?" He asked with a small smile.
Seiko blinked quickly so as not to miss a thing but it was hard keeping up with so many Narutos and Sasukes. Not to mention the various genjutsu both Uchiha were using. Seiko let a gasp and gripped Koneko's shoulder as several explosions went off. She gasped again as huge canines captured her arm and she was dragged off the limb they'd been standing on just before the top of a tree crashed through it.
"NARUTO!" Three voices yelled out. Sasuke want to go to him but he was facing Itachi. Naruto was supposed to take care of the clones but neither had counted on them exploding.
I'm fine! Watch the water! Naruto warned. He was doing hand-to-hand with an Itachi clone but he was also monitoring both battles.
Shit he's right. I'll pay better attention! Takeshi said as the wrapped head of Samehada cruised up the waterfall. It shot up out of the water several feet with Kisame holding onto the hilt. "I'M BACK!"
Each cursed for the grinning Kisame didn't have a wound on him. Somehow he'd healed himself and regained his weapon. The battle would begin anew.
"Bye-bye!" Kisame said as a mist lifted from the water.
"Stay close Captain!" Hinata warned. She wasn't sure Kisame knew she could see through this mist or not but she'd help Yamato as best she could. "He's made a clone!"
Another explosion sounded and the captain smirked. "Well now it seems clones are the way to go!" Yamato answered quickly giving Hinata a clue as to what he was up to. He leapt from limb to limb seeking out the seed he placed on Hinata long before they'd left Konoha.
"Oh!" Hinata allowed herself a soft giggle. TK – he's planted seeds all over these trees. There are clones of Yamato popping up all over the place!
Ha, excellent! Let's see how old fish-face deals with that! Takeshi relying on Hinata's sight flew higher then launched shuriken at both Kisame and his clone.
Kisame knocked them away with one swipe of his sword. He could sense his surroundings and knew that one or more of his opponents had produced clones as well. In response he made two more for a total of three clones. "That should be enough, oh and these too." He laughed as he landed on the top of the waterfall and slapped his hand against it. Water exploded into the air forming into multiple sharks.
"Good lord its more sharks! Look out guys!" Hinata warned. She slapped one palm against the nose of a large water shark breaking it apart. "Dammit!" She yelled jumping back quickly as two smaller sharks bit into the limb she'd just been standing on.
"Now we're having some fun!" Kisame said as he ran along the tree limbs tearing apart wood clones as he looked for the real Yamato. The other two kids had their hands full dealing with the raining sharks.
"Naruto I got these!" Sasuke backed up to his little brother. In moments he was spitting fire at all the Itachi clones destroying them. "You'll have to do better than that." Sasuke told him.
The explosions from the destroyed clones halted all action for a second but only a second. Itachi cast another genjutsu changing the landscape so there were multiple waterfalls each with a Kisame fighting the other Konoha ninjas but he added an image of himself to those battles hoping to distract Naruto.
Kisame stopped suddenly and laughed. Naruto laughed as well, neither could help themselves. Sasuke had changed the images of Itachi to look as if he were wearing a strapless dress and red lipstick. Takeshi and Hinata were too busy to enjoy the sight. Yamato took Kisame's momentary distraction to attack.
Itachi had blinked at seeing himself in a dress. "I see Naruto has rubbed off on you. This is not like you." He sounded as if he disapproved.
Sasuke shrugged. "I was a jerk before so this is a change for the better. Life's been more fun with Naruto around. Give it up Itachi, you aren't going to separate us. You may have forgotten how to be a brother, part of a family but we'll remind you." Sasuke told his brother staring hard at him trying his best to convince Itachi that this fight was pointless.
Hinata was getting frustrated and she was tired as hell at being bitten. She'd stopped directly hitting the sharks with her body and began using Gentle Fist. She was able to disperse the rain of sharks with her chakra but the smaller sharks were making a mess of her arms and legs. Blood was dripping off of her it seemed everywhere. TK can you do anything?!
Takeshi was surprised at the water sharks. Like Hinata, he would hit them, destroying them only for them to come back multiply into smaller sharks and harder to destroy. And even though he was flying, the damn things were ableto reach him as well. I'll try to put them back in the water. They may form back into larger sharks but at least they won't be able to rain down on us anymore.
Yamato had several lengths of wood stretched around Kisame. Unlike the kids, he couldn't see through the mist Kisame had formed but Kisame's laughter had given him and his clones a location. The enemy ninja's arms were bound against his sides with wood. Samehada was down against his leg. "Drop the sword." Yamato was breathing hard. He'd been deflecting the damn sharks too and hadn't fared well against them.
Takeshi flew higher in sweeping circles. He was gathering the dangerous water droplets about him until they had been pulled into the vacuum he was creating. A side effect of this move was that the mist was also sucked into the vacuum. Once he was sure every last drop of 'shark rain' was swirling about him, Takeshi dived into the pool created by the waterfall. He stayed under water long moments before finally breaking the surface and swimming rapidly to the edge and pulling himself out. Wounds covered him from head to toe from being bitten by multiple sharks.
"My sharks seem to have eaten well." Kisame laughed visible now that his mist was gone.
"Looks can be deceiving." Takeshi said as he stood slowly. He shook himself as he remembered the feeling of all those sharp teeth. His wounds were already healing and his sharp eyes found his sister. Hinata had lowered herself to her knees and was attempting to heal her wounds. Wait, I'm coming Sister. His wings reappeared and he took to the air and was at her side in moments.
Hinata gave him a smile as she laid her head on his chest. She just barely felt the tear enter her hairline. "Thank you." She stayed there for a moment longer and letting Takeshi hold her then leaned back. "Let's finish this up." Hinata's eyes twinkled up at him.
"I agree." Golden eyes twinkled back at Hinata. Both stood and looked about to see what the others were doing.
Naruto and Sasuke had gone on the attack tossing out shuriken and kunai. They moved in unison both stepping in wherever there was an opening but Itachi met their charge. It took all his concentration but he was holding them at bay.
"Sasuke! This is our battle!" Itachi roared at him producing a flock of crows making the two boys back off. He then produced a large water dragon and sent it at Naruto.
Naruto jumped away leaving Sasuke to face Itachi alone as he fled the dragon while weaving a few hand signs. With a somersault there was a clone flying through the air with him and they began forming a Rasengan. Facing the dragon, Naruto rushed headlong towards it.
The water dragon was blasted apart and Naruto headed back towards Sasuke who had formed a Chidori spear and was leaping at Itachi. "Senbon too!" He said throwing the deadly needles.
Itachi cursed as he dodged this way and that. No matter what he tried, he was unable to get Sasuke to fight him one on one. Naruto was always right there working in conjunction with his little brother and never once opening his damned eyes! That synch of theirs was allowing Naruto to avoid his genjutsu. Not even his attempt to draw the girl and the other men into his genjutsu had distracted Naruto. With Sasuke's help they appeared immune to his Sharingan. Somehow he had to disrupt it. "But how do I keep them out of my mind?! A mere touch will link our minds!" Itachi muttered to himself right after he expelled a ball of fire. He didn't' want them in his mind. The only reason he had been able to break free of them that first time was because they had all been exhausted. As it was they had pulled horrible memories from his mind, things he never wished Sasuke or anyone to know. Itachi gritted his teeth and made up his mind to touch one of them.
Seeing that Captain Yamato had Kisame under control, Hinata and Takeshi were about to go help Sasuke but a yell had them stopping in their tracks. The Kiri ninja had broken free of Yamato's hold. "Dammit." They both cursed then jumped over to Yamato. It appeared their battle wasn't done yet.
Yamato was stunned but didn't let that stop him from reacting. He moved back just avoiding Samehada. "Let's surround him!" He yelled as Hinata went left, Takeshi went right and his clones filled out the circle.
"All you did was give me more targets to hit!" Kisame joked as Samehada made toothpicks out of one the clones. Tossing his sword behind him, Kisame leapt at Yamato. He was fast and managed to backslap the captain before the wood user could react. "Now let's play!" Kisame laughed as Yamato glared at him while launching a kick at his stomach.
Hinata had lost one whip but she had more. Holding two whips once more she moved to help Yamato when a Kisame clone dropped down in front of her. Gasping she instinctively attacked the thing. How could I have forgotten the clones?! TK -!
Yeah, I'm with the other one! Keep an eye on the sword too – it's attacking on its own! Takeshi warned as he pulled out his sword. It's a clone. We just need one good hit!
Hinata was thinking the same thing but they were fighting an S class ninja and getting that one hit was going to be damned difficult.
The scenery changed. Sasuke took a deep breath as Konoha appeared before him. It wasn't only Konoha but the Uchiha district specifically. It was night time with the scent of blood in the air and bodies that seemed to lay here and there. "Somehow I knew you'd use this." Sasuke said quietly.
Naruto freaked just a little as Sasuke showed the image to him. The utter loss of every family member, to see them all slaughtered was still so devastating to his brother. He'd never had anyone to lose so reliving Sasuke's and Itachi's memories of it cut to the bone. Taking a breath, Naruto calmed himself. They'd discussed this. If or when Itachi used these images against them, then the real battle would start.
Both boys had stopped moving at the start of Itachi's gruesome genjutsu. They weren't horror-struck but just standing and waiting. Itachi didn't trust it but what choice did he have. Again he made a number of clones and sent them to attack. Naruto and Sasuke still didn't move from the spots they'd stopped in though they did block the strikes coming from his clones. Itachi decided to move in on Naruto. Joining his clones, Itachi reached out a hand to punch Naruto in the kidney.
Naruto spun even as he took a punch to the jaw to catch the fist aimed at his lower back. His head came up and he whispered, "Brother!"
Itachi concentrated as he felt Naruto's concern and prepared to seek the answers he needed to defeat them when a loud crescendo sounded in his mind shaking him. Suddenly Naruto was a blank slate. At that moment Naruto grinned at him then head butted him.
"Sorry but synching with us is not that easy!" Naruto tried to kick Itachi in the stomach but the older Uchiha broke away. "Itachi – we forgive you dammit!" He followed after him but crows flew between them followed by more clones. "Get ready!" Naruto yelled out but not to anyone in particular or so it seemed.
Seiko was on Koneko's back and they were prowling around the limbs over the heads of the combatants. "That's my cue Koneko. Can you take me a little closer but we don't want Itachi focusing on us, not if this is going to work." She gripped the great cat firmly with hands and knees. Seiko had steeled herself against the graphic images and with Koneko's help had broken free of the genjutsus.
So now you will do what needs to get him back? I will do what you ask. Koneko spoke keeping her voice low as she jumped down ten feet and peered around a massive tree trunk.
Itachi was feeling a drain on his chakra from keeping so many things going at once. He needed the crows and clones to keep Naruto at bay. No matter what he threw at him, the blond just kept coming. At the same time he was trying to reason out Naruto's words that synching wasn't easy. But it had been easy that first time…and they had been exhausted. "FUCK!" He moved back to stare at Sasuke who was still motionless. He now knew their synch wasn't effortless, they actually had to do something to make it happen. "What had been that noise in Naruto's mind? It had been like music…they use music or was that a defense of some sort? Now what?!" He muttered as Naruto came at him again.
"We want you to come home! None of us blame you! We forgive you – SASUKE FORGIVES YOU!" It was almost a chant for Naruto kept yelling it as he tried to get closer to Itachi.
"Shut up!" Itachi yelled angrily. He jerked in response to his own outburst. He shook his head trying to clear his mind and think rationally. Never before had anyone been able to break his concentration so badly.
"About the only one who can stop Naruto is Hinata. I'm afraid you're just going to have to listen. We forgive you Brother. You had no choice; you were put in an impossible situation!" Sasuke had begun talking along with Naruto. He broke off because Itachi sent a ball of fire his way. "ITACHI YOU ARE FORGIVEN! MOTHER AND FATHER AREN'T ANGRY!" There was no heat to the fire; it wasn't real so he stayed put. His brother needed help and Sasuke was determined to give it.
Suddenly Itachi was behind him and Sasuke just managed to avoid falling off the tree limb. Itachi grabbed his shirt and shook him. "I killed them. They cannot forgive me." He said quietly. "So stop it Sasuke, just stop it. End your synch with Naruto and fight me!" It sounded like an order but he was pleading with his younger brother.
"Because I love you, no. Naruto, Takeshi and Hinata all claim you as brother too. You have to deal with us all and we want you home. I will not kill you!" Sasuke's Sharingan bored into his brother's.
Itachi growled. "You always were a fool little brother. I'll just knock you out, kill off your new family and we can see if you feel like fighting me them! Wha-!" He bent over coughing because Sasuke had kneed him in the stomach.
"Stop talking like an idiot – that's Naruto's job!" Sasuke laughed as Naruto complained. He grabbed Itachi by his cloak, picked him up and slammed him down on the limb.
It was instinct to kick Sasuke back and get on his feet but his brain was dazed. He took a few moments while his clones stepped in to keep Sasuke at bay for a moment then rejoined the fray. "Why not kill me Sasuke? It's the only way to get the Mangekyo. It seems you won't kill Naruto – I'm your last chance!" Itachi was distracted by his tirade at Sasuke so he didn't know that Naruto was behind him. Several senbon sank into his back and neck paralyzing him.
"I gotcha." Sasuke said gently as he held his brother up. "How about we change the scenery?" He looked out at the dead body of an aunt then suddenly she was standing and laughingly scolding him. Now there was daylight and laughter. Men and women talking, moving around them. "Remember when it was like this? How proud we felt to belong to such a prominent clan? How everybody's hopes and dreams centered around you?" Sasuke stared up at his brother as he let the genjutsu have a voice and like Naruto's words they were all happy, loving and forgiving words.
"STOP, STOP, STOP IT!" Itachi screamed for he could not go back there again. That life was over, he had killed it with kunai and sword and there was no coming back from it. "No more Sasuke!" Though he couldn't move, Itachi's eyes could and did find Naruto. "This is your fault!" His Sharingan changed.
"NARUTO!" Sasuke warned but not quick enough. Turning while still gripping Itachi's arms, Sasuke saw black flames encircle Naruto and slowly close about him. "DO NOT MOVE!" Sasuke was breathing hard as he stared in shock at his blond brother.
"…Umm can't I jump?" Naruto asked carefully as he stood tall with a hint of horror on his face. He remembered how Jiraiya feared this stuff. "Sasuke?!"
"I can't fucking believe you did that!" Sasuke shook Itachi so hard that some of the senbon were dislodged. "You went too far and guess what you Big Fucking Idiot? I've already got my Makengyo!" He let Itachi see the truth of his words in his eyes before turning to look at Naruto and extinguishing the flames.
"Thanks! Sasuke!" Naruto warned as Itachi's hand came up and gripped Sasuke by the throat.
Itachi would try once more to synch. "What is that?!" He yelled as a burst of sound filled his mind and then nothing. He had to synch with Sasuke. It had to be their chakra they were synching but Sasuke's was fluctuating it in a way that he could not make more than a split-second of contact.
"No dice! Now Seiko!" He followed Naruto's earlier move and rammed his head against Itachi's. Seiko's body was braced against Koneko's as she sent her mind into Itachi's.
"Sa-suke…what – don't!" Itachi grimaced in pain as he felt another mind enter his own. His body was in agony as he tried to protect his mind tears of blood flowed down his cheeks.
Itachi and Sasuke's genjutsu were gone and Naruto finally opened his eyes blinking rapidly. Thanks featherhead! Keep watching please. Hopefully this will be over soon. Naruto briefly watched the mental struggle going on between Itachi, Sasuke and Seiko then lookedover to his wife. "Dammit – I'm coming!"
While Naruto and Sasuke had been busy with Itachi, Kisame had been busy with the others. When he'd broken free of Yamato, Kisame had engaged Yamato in hand to hand. He'd laughed as his sword, moving on its own had appeared behind Yamato and slashed open the Jonin's left arm siphoning off a chunk of chakra. He left the wounded man to deal with his sword and ran at the man with the long ponytail. This one was also a Jinchuriki and he always enjoyed fighting one of them.
Yamato was just barely fending off Samehada since he was now running quiet low on chakra. He'd made a cage of wood to prevent the sword from attacking again but it chewed and gnawed at the wood and was currently wiggling out of it. Yamato looked disgusted as he stared at the sentient sword. "I have to stop it or at least slow it down." He muttered and flexed his chakra to see if he had enough to do what he had planned. "Rampart of Flowing Soil!" Samehada had just launched itself at him when wet soil shot out from the waterfall. It slammed into Samehada then the weight of the wet earth sent it plummeting to the ground. Soil continued to boil out of the waterfall and down to completely cover the sword.
Kneeling on the tree limb Yamato laid a hand on it and forced the last of his chakra down the trunk. From the wet soil sprang more full grown trees. He let his chin drop to his chest. Yamato hoped the weight of the soil and the deep roots of his trees would keep Samehada out of his hair for a while. Tiredly he looked to up see the other battles not going so well, at least not for his charges. He dug around in a pocket and pulled out a small case of pills and some bandages. "Give me a sec guys, I'm coming." He said as he popped two pills into his mouth.
Hinata found the water clone just as difficult to fight as the original and this clone still had a sword that blocked her whip strikes. Hinata was surprised that the cloned sword could withstand the crack of her whips. Intending be done with this, she sent chakra down the whips and the next time the cloned sword came at her it erupted to splash across her body. "One down, one to go." With her kekkei genkai activated, she was able to see Itachi cast the black fire, to see Yamato get cut by the real Samehada, to see Takeshi prepare himself to fight the real Kisame when one of the Kiri's clones also attacked him from behind. That reminded her that there was another clone of Kisame's about somewhere and she increased her focus to see it still battling some of the captain's wood clones. With that possible problem engaged, Hinata decided to rid herself of the clone in front of her. Chakra infused whips worked once so she decided to try again.
It was a plan but unfortunately the clone had a plan too. It had broken free two limbs and used them to bat away or trap her whips. Since it was a Kisame clone it was quite skilled and this tactic worked even better than if he'd still been welding Samehada. No matter the angle of the whips or her movements included with the whips was she able to touch the clone. Even worse since both her hands were busy she couldn't use senbon, shuriken or kunai to disperse the clone.
"Okay then." Hinata said as she made a decision. One whip wrapped yet again around a wooden weapon and she let the clone pull her forward then suddenly dropped it. Hinata jabbed at where Kisame's heart would be but was blocked. Her ankle went behind one of his and she put her whole body into the action of trying to knock him off his feet. The clone grinned and wrapped a hand in her long hair pulling her with him. "Gotcha!" Hinata muttered and slammed her head into the clone's chin along with a burst of chakra. She was dazed but not enough to miss the look of astonishment on the clone's face before it turned back into water and dripped down her body. Clumsily she regained her footing as was about to look for her loved ones when a heavy hand touched her shoulder and water flowed over her body. Hinata tried to move but the water was so heavy. She took a deep breath as the water rose up over her chin in seconds completing the prison. Na- Hinata began to call out for her husband but he was already on his way.
"Ah the legendary phoenix! Show me what you got! It looks as if my clone is having fun." Kisame was happy because he was in his element, charging into battle. "We don't actually need your Bijuu but it might be nice to have an extra. Look at it this way – you and Naruto will still be together." He laughed.
"Damn and double damn." Takeshi cursed as he saw Yamato hit by that freaky sword then as Kisame set his eyes on him. Naruto was still helping Sasuke and Hinata had problems of her own. "Dad where are you guys?!" Though he was currently holding his own with the clone he was fighting, there was still some doubt in him that he was capable of being a good shinobi but he had to trust in the training his family had given him.
So far it was his ability to move at almost twice the speed of the clone that had kept him from either getting hurt or killed. Of course it didn't help that Samehada was as big as a full-grown man and his blade wasn't. Now with the real man just feet from him, Takeshi decided he needed some help.
Samehada came down at his head. Takeshi dropped to one knee to block the strike. Even as he felt the real Kisame step on the limb behind him, Takeshi called forth his help. "Shadow Clone Jutsu."
"Hey!" Kisame said as he had to pull out a kunai to block the sword aimed at his chest. "You'd attack a man not carrying a sword - no fair." He laughed while two kunai appeared in his hands and he proceeded to fend off the attacking clone.
Takeshi almost jumped to his feet to push clone-Samehada back. Again they exchanged sword strikes and he heard his clone doing the same when he saw Hinata winning against the other clone and just as suddenly being trapped in a water prison. "SISTER!" He would have gone to her but the clone wasn't letting him get away. Takeshi knew he was a good swordsman but Kisame was more than his equal. It was this thought that told him he was real trouble. "Sorry!" His clone disappearing confirmed that truth. He was alone now.
"Now what bird-boy?" Kisame taunted as he and his clone closed in on Takeshi. "You're all alone now and though you were able to hold off my clone, what will you do now against two of me?"
Takeshi had to jump high to avoid the sword at his back but the real Kisame was up in his face in seconds. Instead of avoiding the kunai, one of which slid between his ribs and the other in his left shoulder, Takeshi attacked with his fists. He was thankful that Naruto had taught him to hit like Tsunade for now it came in handy. He gave Kisame a one-two punch to the face. Kisame flew back through the trunks of three trees. Streaming blood, Takeshi fell back knowing that the clone was waiting to give him more wounds.
Except that didn't happen. While the clone was preparing Samehada to do the same to Takeshi, two large slabs of wood smashed the clone a part. "Thanks!" Takeshi breathed a little easier as he landed next to a puddle of water. "Help Hina - oh." He'd started to ask Yamato to go to Hinata when Naruto streaked by him. "Help me then!" He gasped out as he heard crashing from behind him. Kisame was coming back.
He jumped from limb to limb and between limbs he made a shadow clone. Together they formed a sphere of chakra. "Rasengan!" Naruto thrust his hand through the clone and caught his wife in his arms. "Hinata?" He tapped her back as she clung to him spitting and drawing in air. "I got you. Looks like we're still not done yet." He turned his head to see Kisame running back at them. "You guys ready?" Naruto gripped Hinata's face and gave her a light kiss.
"Thanks babe, I'm a little tired but I can still help." Hinata gripped her husband's wrists grateful for his support and wishing she had his stamina. "Itachi?"
"Sasuke and Seiko have him but we closed the synch. He'll let us know if he needs us." Naruto jerked around at Kisame's yell.
"SAMEHADA! GET UP HERE!" Kisame commanded his sword. "That was some punch phoenix guy. How about giving me a chance to return the favor?" He ran at Takeshi engaging him in hand to hand.
"Is the sword still trapped?" Hinata asked Yamato as they joined them. "Captain your arm!" He'd wrapped his arm but the bandage and what was left of his sleeve was soaked in blood. "Let me…" She began healing it, at least enough to stop the bleeding.
Naruto left his clone with Hinata and ran to help his brother. "Get away from him!" Naruto yelled and clapped his hands together. Fly!
Takeshi again sacrificed his body sustain a blow to his stomach and then one to his jaw so that Naruto's jutsu would hit Kisame full force. Automatically he called upon the phoenix's chakra, flared his wings and took to the sky. "How about another blast?" He took clapped his hands together.
"Rrraaaah!" Kisame was tossed backwards but managed to hang onto a tree limb and sort of flapped in the gusts they'd produced.
From below them there was a great grinding and tearing noise. Trees shook, some fell over as Samehada broke free of the earth and roots that had trapped it. The sword's mouth opened and it made a sort of screeing sound then shook itself tossing mud and chunks of wood all around.
"There you are – get up here. We've got some powerful playmates, I think you'll like." Kisame told it as he dragged himself up and dusted himself off. He smiled as the sword moved snake like among the many trees and up to him. "Now kiddies, let's have some real fun." Kisame gripped the hilt of his sword and the thing seemed to smile with him.
"Hinata!" Came the urgent plea from Sasuke.
Hinata had forgotten for a moment about Itachi what with healing Yamato and watching Naruto and Takeshi. "Sasuke needs me." She said.
"Go, I'll help the guys. Thanks Hinata." Yamato nodded at her then moved so she had a clear path to the Uchihas.
A hawk's scream sounded through the air to be followed by another scream much closer, help had finally arrived.
"Naruto and Takeshi are facing off against Kisame – wait Captain Yamato has joined them. Sasuke, Seiko and Hinata are with Itachi, the saber tooth too. The landscape is all weird. There's a giant waterfall where there shouldn't be one and lots of tall full grown trees still green. The captain's trees no doubt." Neji reported as they raced through the forest.
"Are they fighting Itachi?" Iruka asked concerned.
"…No he appears to be unconscious."
"I'll go to Hinata with two of the Anbu. The rest of you help Takeshi and Naruto. Kill Kisame if you can." Shizune ordered as she finally saw some of what Neji had described. It was the great cat that she spotted first, black and shining in the sun. "We all go home! Now go kick his ass!" Shizune yelled as she took to the trees.
"YOSH! THANK YOU NARUTO – YOU WAITED FOR ME!" Guy hollered and ran full tilt towards the battle in the tree limbs.
"How does anyone deal with his constant...enthusiasm?" Yugao asked as they followed behind the green blur.
"Patience and practice." Iruka said with a sigh.
"And he's an excellent ninja." Neji said with a grin. Each all ran up the tree trunks to help their friends.
Come down TK. That damn sword eats chakra and we don't want either of them to gain anymore power!
With Dad and the others here we should be able to defeat this guy. Takeshi said hopefully as he landed nearby.
Yeah, maybe. Naruto's concern was for Itachi who seemed to be convulsing. Can either of you see anything wrong with Itachi? He asked Takeshi and Hinata.
Kisame lost his smile as more Konoha ninjas appeared. He looked for his partner and was surprised to see him limp in Sasuke's embrace. "Did he lose to that kid?! No way, he must be planning something." Hearing a loud voice, Kisame looked at the green blur headed his way. "Not you again!" Kisame knew that Guy gave him a good fight but his whole attitude just irked him.
"Naruto! What's going on?" Iruka yelled as Guy supported by the rest of the Anbu took on Kisame.
"We finally got in Itachi's mind but something's going wrong. If we can take care of this guy we can get Itachi back home to Mama." Naruto pulled his gaze away from Hinata and Sasuke to look at his dad. "Glad you're here – let's do this!" He reached to grab his father's arm and offer a small smile.
"He's going to be okay son. Okay – wait!" There was a loud crashing sound and then a call.
"JIRAIYA'S HERE!" He announced and struck a pose on top of his toad's head.
"You know what son, why don't you leave Kisame to us. Takeshi you and Naruto make a clone each then go to your brothers." Iruka nodded when both of the looked doubtful of this action.
Naruto looked up at Takeshi then nodded. "We can always come back but first let's go see what's going on with Itachi. Thanks Dad!" He gave Iruka a quick hug then produced a clone. "Stick with Dad." His clone nodded. "Will do."
Takeshi also hugged Iruka. "Be careful." He also made a clone. "Watch Dad and Yugao's backs!" He bumped fists with his clone. "No problem." It replied.
Iruka watched them go. They went wide of the heated battle and were soon next to Hinata and Shizune as they worked on Itachi. "Okay boys, we can't let Guy and Jiraiya have all the fun!" He led the way with the boys' clones by his side.
Seiko took control of Itachi's body making him go limp and unresisting. But she also pushed a bit of her consciousness into his mind. Her goal wasn't to cause pain or destroy but offer peace.
Sasuke held his brother as he knelt. Finally with Seiko keeping him calm, he was able to synch with Itachi. He felt Seiko's presence first and she was wavering. "Leave his mind Seiko – I'll take it from here!"
Seiko was grateful to obey Sasuke's command. Itachi's mind was too – damaged for her to maintain her command of his and stay sane too. She ran a hand over her forehead as she leaned into Koneko's warmth. "Good luck guys." Seiko whispered as first Hinata then Shizune and two Anbu arrived then finally Naruto and Takeshi.
"What do you see Hinata?" Shizune asked as she knelt at Itachi's head and pulled her medical bag off her back. Her eyes traveling over Itachi's body but she found only small wounds and began patching them up. Shizune frowned for even as she watched, Itachi seemed to have trouble breathing, there was blood leaking from his eyes and his face was contorting horribly. "Hinata!"
"Nothing! I don't see anything that could be causing this kind of pain. Yes his eyes are weak, damaged I think from using them too much but the other symptoms…I don't know." Hinata whispered this last as she looked up at Shizune desperately then to Sasuke hopelessly.
Sasuke was listening but it was hard to concentrate. He could feel Itachi's pain but it was the combination of years of hate, depression and loneliness that were twisting his thoughts all around. "I can't do this alone! Help me!" Sasuke pulled Itachi closer even as Shizune bound his eyes.
"Whatever you're going to do – do it. Itachi is losing ground fast!" Shizune gave him a shot of something that would keep his condition from worsening, at least for now.
Hinata opened the sync between them and gasped. She reached for Sasuke strengthening the bond. Itachi, oh Itachi I'm so sorry! Please, please don't give up – we can help you!
Itachi couldn't move his body. At this moment all he wanted to do was fall out of the tree and to his death. He couldn't stand for Sasuke to know his shame. He'd been alone for so very long and to feel the love and care that came from these two broke his heart.
Naruto and Takeshi landed beside their family. Naruto took one look and wanted to look away again. Despair hunched their bodies, put lines of pain on their faces and leaked tears from their eyes. "I don't want to touch them." Naruto whispered. "I don't want to go there again!" He actually shook as he tightened his hands into fists.
Naruto. Takeshi gripped his brother's arm hard. I'm sorry we never thought what this might do to you but we need you! You may be the only one that can bring Itachi out of whatever he's going through. Naruto! Takeshi shook Naruto and made him look at him.
Naruto reached out to Takeshi then rested his head on his brother's arm for a moment. Just don't let go. I don't want to get lost again. He took a deep breath then looked up to meet calm amber eyes and a gentle smile.
Never little brother. Come on. Takeshi jerked his head at Hinata and the others and still holding onto Naruto's arm they turned, reached out and touched their family.
Nighttime in the district. Dead bodies on the ground. Parents lying bleeding on the floor. Blood, blood, blood – everywhere and it stained his hands. Blood stained his soul and Itachi wanted to die so he would never have to see it again. Itachi thought it and the rest of them experienced it with him. For several precious minutes they all wallowed in despair, wishing to die when a screech shattered the memory.
Naruto gasped then sucked in air and took control. He took them all back to the island, to the Land of the Moon and specifically to one of his favorite spots – a large waterfall. He waded into the pool pulling Hinata behind him. Hinata pulled Takeshi and he Sasuke. Sasuke linked his fingers with Itachi's and dragged him into the water.
Itachi stumbled and blinked. He gaped at the water lapping over his feet and legs. He jerked as a bird streaked by him lightly touching his face with wings. The new setting, how real it all seemed shocked him out of his previous despair. How? How did you bring me here?! Are we really here?!
The Land of the Moon…I wish we were there. You could have joined us; you were so close I could feel you. Naruto said turning to splash cool water over Itachi. We're actually in my mind. Takeshi and I have more experience but I suppose Sasuke and Hinata can to it too but generally I take the lead. Itachi – don't die. Naruto pleaded with him.
Itachi used one hand to wipe the water off his face, water that not only felt real but tasted real. The shock was wearing off but he was still amazed. You know what I've done. I do not want to live with it anymore – give me oblivion. Please Sasuke! Itachi pulled on his hand as he pleaded with his brother.
I can't, I can't let you go. I know what you did. I know why. You were in a no-win situation and Madara…Madara helped you do it! If he hadn't attacked your mind, I don't believe you would ever have done it or at least…you would have only taken the lives of those behind the coup. Sasuke had to take a deep breath. Their father had been behind the coup and so that meant the Itachi still would have killed him. That was still hard to live with but Sasuke could and though he wished there were more Uchihas left alive that was the past and now he wanted a future. Sasuke wanted a future with the brother who had killed to keep him and Konoha safe.
Hinata waded through the water to Itachi. He stood tall, almost as tall as Takeshi. He was pale, face haggard with pain and depression. I wish you'd had a different childhood. But you know – we all wish that. Each of us has suffered. Our pain threatened to overwhelm us. No hush! Hinata said sharply when Itachi opened his mouth to speak. We know what you went through is different, your pain is different but you can live through it. You want redemption? Earn it by living, saving others to make up for the lives you took! Watch over your brother to be sure doesn't make the same mistakes you did! Crawling away to die makes you a coward Itachi! Making Sasuke take your life is cruel! How is that proving to him that you love him? That you want the Uchiha name to be respected again?! Stand up! Be his big brother – our big brother! Be the man that we know you are because we can see your heart Itachi and it wants nothing more than love. Hinata had been dressing him down, practically yelling in his face but that last sentence was soft as she touched a hand to his heart then embraced him.
What my wife said. Naruto said with a chuckle as he with Talon, Takeshi and Sasuke all gave Itachi a group hug.
Itachi was disbelieving. They could not want him. He was bloodstained. He was cursed. He was fouled by all the deeds he'd done, by the company he'd kept. It wasn't true. They had to be lying. But…here inside Naruto's head their minds, their hearts were open to him. If he were to believe what he was hearing, what he was feeling – they didn't blame him for killing his clan! In fact, they loved him!
Shizune had been monitoring them closely - the play of emotion on their faces and their body language. Just now she witnessed hope on Sasuke's face. Even Itachi had settled down as if waiting for something or he was considering something when his body stiffened and began to thrash violently. "Hinata! Naruto! He's convulsing! What's going on?!" She yelled then tried to stabilize Itachi's head and keep him from biting his tongue.
ITACHI! They all yelled as he slumped in Hinata's arms. Go sweetheart! I can hear Shizune yelling. See what you can do from outside, we'll stay here! Naruto squeezed her shoulder and then she was gone.
I think I can help or rather my lady can. Sing please. Takeshi beckoned to the sky as he moved to help Sasuke support Itachi. They were still in the pool but nobody minded since all their concern was on Itachi.
The legendary phoenix began to sing and it was beautiful. It was lilting, calming, practically ethereal. It happened inside Naruto's vision of the waterfall and that became more – sharper. The water seemed to fall in time with the notes. The wind now sang and as it touched them, everything was perfect.
"Do it again Hinata! Do it again! Find me something I can heal!" Shizune ordered as the girl blinked at her.
Hinata saw the blood staining the bandage around Itachi's eyes. The Anbu were holding down his legs, Sasuke held him in his arms and Shizune his head. "His disease?" She asked quietly as she stood and moved back. Hinata activated her Byakugan and looked at Itachi's toes. She would check every inch of him!
"No, no – it's not that far gone! He's sick but we have time – had time! We're going to lose him if you can't find out what's wrong!" Shizune had doubts about bringing a known mass-murderer back to Konoha. She could just imagine the chaos that it would cause no matter the explanation but since holding him and watching the kids work so hard to convince him to live and come home, Shizune wanted nothing more than to give him a second chance at life.
She'd cut herself off from the synch. Hinata wanted no distractions. Even the battle was background noise for her. Blood was racing through Itachi's body. Cells were forming and collapsing at an alarming rate. His chakra was fracturing! Whatever was going on with the rest of his body, his chakra was the cause! Hinata kept searching. His ankles, shins, thighs, hips, chest, left shoulder, left arm and hand. Right shoulder, arm…hand. Hinata blinked. "How did I miss this before?" She whispered as she saw what appeared to be a build up chakra then a pulse. With the pulse of chakra it spread quickly through Itachi's body but not naturally as it should. It moved in reverse and was jagged and as it swept through his body it attacked his internal organs causing intense pain. "Shizune – the ring. I think it's some kind of seal affecting his chakra. It's trying to kill him!" Hinata's first instinct was to snatch it off his finger but was afraid. What if removing it caused instant death.
Shizune looked at Itachi's right hand with a frown. "A seal and it's already trying to kill him…what set it off? No never mind, it's active. Breaking a seal can be done if the person who made the seal breaks it – not an option here. If we had time to study it we could find a way to break it or stall but no time. We'll have to take a chance at breaking it. You'll have to do it Hinata." She told the young woman. "A direct, pinpoint influx of chakra to the ring ought to disable it."
Hinata's mouth popped open as she looked quickly from Shizune to the cursed ring to Itachi's pained face. She wanted to ask 'me?' Neji was there and he was much more accurate than she but he was busy at the moment and she was the only other Hyuga there. Naruto?
Show us. Naruto urged and in seconds knew what she did. That ring was killing him. The symbol that made him a member of the Akatsuki was ripping away his life. Sasuke?
Do it Sister. I trust you. We came to save his life, to break him free of the Akatsuki. Destroy it Hinata and make him one of us again. Sasuke looked up at the sky. Tears left his eyes for he was hurting as Itachi was hurting. He wanted his brother's suffering to end even if it would kill him but at least Itachi would know he was not only forgiven but loved.
Hinata nodded rapidly then focused her gaze on the ring and only the ring. She put her index finger just above the black ring. Hold on to him…now! Hinata so wanted to grant Sasuke's wish that she used a lot of chakra. It left her finger and broke the ring in two pieces.
Sasuke slowly stood his hands bloody and spat on Itachi. "THE UCHIHA CLAN IS AVENGED!" He yelled at the top of his lungs shaking the leaves on the trees.
Kisame's head jerked to the side to see Itachi's body laid out upon a limb. The boy Sasuke, the Nine-Tails and the phoenix all stood looking with grim satisfaction at the multiple wounds in Itachi's chest and neck. Somehow Itachi had lost to Sasuke. "What the fuck?!" He whispered then twitched slightly as the three turned to look at him. "A Sannin, two Jinchuriki, a pissed off Sharingan user, a squad of Anbu and some Jonin – nothing I can't handle, usually." Kisame felt all the damage that had been dealt him, the most irritating being the stuff he'd inhaled and was now burning and irritating his skin. He could heal it with Samehada's help but for once he thought it might be a good idea to retreat. The odds were not in his favor.
He'd kept close to the water since he could gather strength from it but the wood user combined with Jiraiya using several fire jutsus, they'd made a maze of the waterfall and pool of hot spots not to mention Iruka setting off an explosion every which way he turned and that damned Byakugan user working with that idiot Guy to keep him on the defensive. And top it all off, the Anbu were there backing everyone up.
"Attack Samehada!" Kisame yelled as he threw his sword towards the Anbu causing a disruption. He did a backwards flip off a tree limb jump dodging wood, kunai and tags. He sank beneath the waves at the bottom of the fall but not before slapping his palm on the surface of the water. "A Thousand Feeding Sharks!" A huge wall of water sharks surged from that brief contact. He resurfaced and again laid his hands upon the water. "Water Shark Bullet!" Two more sharks formed bigger and larger than the rest. Kisame directed these sharks at Yamato and Jiraiya specifically. "And now for my get-away." He smiled as Samehada appeared before him. Kisame gripped his sword and disappeared beneath the water.
"DAMMIT – EVERYONE TAKE COVER! NARUTO!" Iruka yelled as they all backed away from the huge wave of sharks.
Yamato merged with the tree he was in and shot to the bottom of it. There were some sharks down on the ground too in the overflow on the forest floor. He ignored the gnashing teeth and put his hands on wet earth. "Planet Splitter!" Yamato fell back on his butt as one of his clones pulled a shark off him. "Thanks." He watched as the water poured into the crack he made and disappeared. "I am done." He fell back, closed his eyes and forgot everything.
"This is remarkable. Takeshi thanks!" Yamato said as he stretched and moved his body. He was still somewhat tired but all his injuries were gone.
"No problem." Takeshi gave the captain a small smile then turned worried eyes back to Itachi. "I thought…I don't understand why my tears don't work for him." Takeshi squeezed his hands into fists.
Hinata threaded her arm through his. "Your tears have healed his wounds and they gave him time Takeshi. We could have lost him but your tears have slowed the progression of the disease. We just have to get him home to Mama." Both of them watched as Sasuke fastened Itachi's wrists together around his waist. Shizune carefully got on Koneko's back and adjusted Itachi's body more securely between her and Sasuke.
I will get you home by nightfall. We will be in time to save him Sasuke. Koneko's head turned to look into Sasuke's bleak, black eyes.
He shook his head and tried to look hopeful. "Thanks Koneko." He stroked her neck then turned back to look at everyone. "Hurry home." Sasuke didn't want to face this all on his own.
"We'll be right behind you Sasuke." Naruto said. "Go on." He too patted Koneko's neck then moved back when Seiko stepped forward.
"He'll live." Seiko stated quietly as she gave the two brothers an awkward hug followed by a quick kiss for Sasuke.
Sasuke nodded. "Thanks see you guys at home. Let's go!" Before the words left his lips he felt Koneko's muscles bunching beneath him. He leaned forward feeling the heavy weight of his brother, circled his arms around Koneko's corded neck and held on as she leapt forward.
No one spoke for a moment as they watched the large cat disappear into the trees. Once they were gone Yamato clapped his hands together. "Okay let's get moving. Our place is in Konoha." The children had worked hard to free Itachi and he had no doubt they wanted to be with him and Sasuke.
"Wait. Jiraiya what happened? Is everyone safe - Kakashi, Fu? Did you kill any of the Akatsuki?" Naruto walked purposefully to the old man until he stood before him.
Jiraiya sighed and placed a large hand on Naruto's shoulder. "The bastards got away but not before tasting our will of fire." He saw the flash of anger cross the young man's face. Jiraiya too was disappointed in not ridding themselves of more of the Akatsuki but it couldn't be helped. "The plan obviously worked since I arrived here to see only Itachi and Kisame fighting with you but - almost everyone but Fu was injured. We got them to your mother quickly. All should be on the mend by the time we return Naruto." He drew the boy in for a quick hug at the worry on his face.
"The sooner we head home son, the sooner you can see everyone." Iruka added quietly as he touched Naruto's back.
Naruto nodded and pulled away from them both. "Go TK, Sasuke needs you. We'll be there in a few hours." He walked to his brother and they clasped hands gathering strength from each other.
"Fly safe." Hinata said joining them, going up on tiptoe to kiss Takeshi's cheek.
Takeshi nodded to all of them. "We'll be waiting for you. Be careful." He let his head drop for a moment then suddenly he wore the chakra cloak of the phoenix. Wings slipped out of his shoulder blades. Takeshi took a few running steps then jumped into the air wings flapping hard as he sought a current of air. With a rainbow of color trailing after him, he flew towards Konoha.
Naruto sighed then bit his thumb. "Hey Gamakichi, can we bum a ride?" He was worried, angry, sad and tired all at the same time and it must have shown on his face for the large toad didn't tease him. "Sure kid, hop on."
Neji and Seiko joined Hinata and Naruto on Gamakichi. Yamato, Iruka and Yugao joined Jiraiya on his toad. Guy still hoping to find Kisame again, decided to follow behind them with the Anbu covering their backs.
Koneko roared as she neared Konoha. The guards jumped to attention and word was quickly sent to the Hokage that someone was retuning. The saber tooth loped into the village and people made way for her. By now people knew of her so they weren't totally surprised by the massive cat as she raced to the hospital.
Tsunade was on the steps as Koneko skidded to a stop. "Sasuke!" She said quickly seeing the worry and urgency on his face. Tsunade turned to Shizune. "How bad is he?" She didn't have time to ask the other questions a Hokage would ask about the mission or her shinobi. Her questions were all for her patient.
"He's unconscious my lady!" Shizune said as she slipped off Koneko making room for the nins to detach Itachi from Sasuke and put him on a gurney. She went to Tsunade's side and they began to talk in urgent whispers hurrying behind the gurney.
Sasuke made to follow them then stopped. There was no way they would allow him to stay with Itachi. Neither his brothers nor Seiko was there nor did Sasuke not want to be alone. He slowly got off Koneko then rested his head against her shoulder.
Koneko rubbed her huge head against his side. He will survive. You, Naruto and the others reached him. That soulless creature I first talked to is no more. He is now one of you, no longer just an Uchiha but an Uzumaki and Satome. Itachi will heal and finally little one your family will be complete. Koneko purred loudly startling some people.
Sasuke let out a shuddering breath. He remembered the pain in Itachi's mind and body had been great. Takeshi had healed his wounds and Sasuke prayed Tsunade would heal his disease but he wondered if Itachi's soul would heal. "I'm scared Koneko. I don't want to lose him!" He whispered moving so that his words were for her fur-lined ears only. "Koneko!" Sasuke gasped as the big cat pulled back then licked his entire face. Sasuke suddenly found a huge paw on his chest pushing him to the ground. Koneko curled her body around him purring and rubbing her face against him.
He will be fine. Rest Sasuke. We will wait here for the others. Koneko commanded as she forced Sasuke to lie still. Her purring grew louder as he ignored everything and everyone around them and settled in against her to wait.
It was dawn before they reached Konoha. Takeshi was waiting for them at the gate. "I left a clone at the hospital. Mama slipped Sasuke a light sedative and I took him home. Ayame and Koneko are watching over him." He gratefully slipped an arm over Hinata's shoulder and held her close to his side.
"Itachi? Kakashi? The others?" Naruto asked quietly. He felt chilled in the early morning air. The village was just starting to wake up.
"Itachi's stable for now – still unconscious. Mama worked hard on patching everyone up before Itachi arrived. Most should be okay in a day or two. Mama's taking a break and researching Itachi's disease. We're to go home and get a couple hours rest before going back to the hospital. Master Jiraiya and captain, she wants a report from both of you today." Takeshi gave them a wan smile. Both men deserved their rest too after having fought so hard.
"It's okay. Go on home and we'll see you later." Jiraiya spoke for both of them. He exchanged a look with Iruka and they nodded at each other.
"Go home Dad." Naruto said not missing the look. "We can see ourselves home." He pushed Iruka and Yugao towards Iruka's place.
"Seiko you should go home too. At least long enough to let your family know you're okay. Come straight over to Sasuke's after." Hinata pulled the girl in for a tight hug. She met Seiko's gaze. "Thank you. Umm Neji could you walk her home?"
"Of course Sister. I'll try to get everyone to give you guys some space, at least for a little while." Neji shrugged and they laughed weakly. In other words the whole gang would show up sooner or later.
"Yeah that's cool. Bye everyone!" Naruto said gripping Hinata's hand and starting towards the district. Takeshi took Hinata's other hand and Talon came to rest on Naruto's shoulder.
Iruka watched them go. He was glad they had each other but wished they didn't have to go through this new trial life had given them. "Let's follow orders just this once. I just want to hold you and forget for a while."
Yugao slipped her arm about his waist. "Sounds good." She was worried too for the kids but also for herself. Would this be what her life would be like, always running after Naruto and his siblings? The boy seemed a magnet for trouble and Iruka was always there for Naruto. Could she live being second best in Iruka's life? Yugao hugged him tightly as they walked side by side. She loved him. She wanted him but did she want three – no four counting Itachi grown sons constantly needing a father figure?
Tsunade listened quietly to both Yamato's and Jiraiya's reports. She nodded, took some notes then gave Yamato a wan smile and dismissed him. Once the door closed behind him, Tsunade quickly made her way into Jiraiya's arms. "I'm glad you're home. How's Naruto?"
Jiraiya's hands moved up and down her back warming them both. "Still. It's like he's holding all his emotions in. There was a bit of triumph when they released Itachi from the Akatsuki's hold but Sasuke's worries and Itachi's health have him acting cautious. Just how bad is Itachi?" He walked them over to a sofa and settled down.
Tsunade sighed. "Bad. The disease is so far gone, helped along by that evil ring... then there are his eyes. Itachi is going blind." She lifted a hand in despair. "I have to find the exact combination of medicines and use the right amount of healing chakra or he'll die. And I need to find it before midnight or we've lost him." She spoke into his chest, fear in her heart. Though she didn't know him, only of the crimes he'd committed, Tsunade felt for the sad looking young man. For more than ten years he'd lived a life of deceit, done horrible things and all for the sake of his younger brother and Konoha. Tsunade couldn't repay him for that by letting him die.
Jiraiya squeezed her hard, kissed her forehead. "I'm sure you have a team set up working on the problem, let me help. I can fetch and carry if nothing else." He stroked her face when she looked up at him.
"I love you." Tsunade ran a hand down the red streak on his face then pulled away. "We're in the conference room over at the hospital. We could use some breakfast?" She made it a question as she put on a long jacket.
"Done." Jiraiya took her hand and they walked out together. They didn't speak again as they walked out into the cold morning preparing for another long day.
Sasuke stretched sleepily not at all anxious to get out of bed. He wondered just how long he could stay in bed before one of his…brothers…woke – "ITACHI!" He jerked awake and sat up suddenly.
"It's okay Sasuke." Seiko said quickly as she too sat up rubbing at her eyes. "He's at the hospital." She yawned and watched as he jumped out of bed and rushed out of the room.
He vaguely noticed he still had on the clothes from the day before all but his headband and shoes. As he got to the bottom of the steps and made for the door he saw Takeshi and Ayame curled together in a chair and Naruto and Hinata stretched out on the sofa. Still not stopping he made for the front door when the flapping of wings warned him Talon was close and he ducked right before the hawk let out an ear piercing screech.
Naruto rolled off the couch in one move and sleepily made his way over to Sasuke. He clamped a hand on his shoulder and turned him around. "You stink. Go shower then we can go to the hospital." He pushed roughly on Sasuke's back. "I don't know how Seiko was able to sleep beside you. Damn you're funky – go!" Naruto drew back and waved a hand in front of his face.
Takeshi chuckled as he stood with Ayame in his arms. "We've got food prepared to take with us Sasuke so get cleaned up and we can go." He let out a jaw breaking yawn.
"Talon, thanks for catching him. Go on Sasuke, we're all waiting on you." Hinata said as she sat up.
"The shower's running." Seiko said as she came down the stairs putting up her long black hair.
Sasuke blinked at them confused then through the synch found out what he'd missed. He nodded. "Down in fifteen!" He raced back up the stairs.
Ayame pushed on Takeshi's chest and he let her down. "Your clone didn't show up so let's hope that's good news." She said quietly then moved into the kitchen to pack the bento boxes. No one had eaten when they'd returned. All they'd done was wash up then come over to Sasuke's to wait for him to wake up.
Naruto sat back down next to his wife. "Even if…even if he doesn't – I want Sasuke to have some time with him. You had that time with your mother TK, though she was so injured you two shared your lives, your love." He sighed and stroked Talon who looked up at him with big golden eyes. "Itachi has to last long enough for them to be brothers again. I want him to live – I do but if Mama can't find a miracle, I want them at least to spend time together and be family. Itachi even more than Sasuke needs that. We all need to make him one of us." Naruto looked at his made up family.
"We will." Hinata said softly as she lifted a hand to touch his cheek. "He's out, let's get ready." The water had shut off upstairs. She got up to get their coats. "Tal you can go hunt if you want." She looked back at the hawk who was staring at Naruto intently.
"Yeah go ahead. We'll let you know if Sasuke needs you." Naruto said giving Talon a smile. "Come on." He stood and walked over to the door. "Good hunting featherhead."
"Is there anything special I should be doing?" Seiko asked quietly. Never had she thought there were so many emotions one person could experience or that so many different people could experience the same emotions in a totally different way.
"No. You're here and that's enough." Ayame came out of the kitchen and took her coat from Hinata. "We get through this together." She gave Seiko a hug hoping to reassure her just a little.
Again feet hurried down the steps and Sasuke stopped breathlessly seeing them ready and waiting for him. "Let's go."
"Wait, put on your coat Sasuke." She ran a hand over his hair, it was still damp but she knew she couldn't convince him to dry it. Hinata was glad she and Ayame had made vitamin rich foods and tea to keep Sasuke from making himself sick. "Alright let's go." She shook her head as he bolted out the door. With a sigh she took Naruto's hand and they followed Sasuke.
They were directed towards the prison wing of the hospital and that upset each of them. Jiraiya met them outside the guarded doors. "Listen to me!" He said to forestall their complaints. "a few ninja know who we've brought in and they do not know the truth! We can protect him better here Sasuke and its private. All of you can stay here undisturbed while Tsunade heals him." Jiraiya had begun speaking with his hands in the air and ended up in front of Sasuke holding the boy's shoulders.
"He can be healed?!" They all asked anxiously crowding around him.
"She thinks so yes. We were about to send someone to get you guys. Come on in, I'll take you to Tsunade." Jiraiya looked at them all, tense and worried. "Have some faith guys." He urged them.
Naruto twitched as he entered the white on white hallway. He felt like the walls were closing in on him and it was hard to breath. He tried to shake off the feelings and concentrate on Itachi but he felt sick on the stomach. The place was quiet too, eerily so and…familiar.
Jiraiya pushed open a door to an office. The desk was large and full of medical text books. Tsunade, Shizune, Sakura and four other people were discussing something and looking hopeful. They paused as Sasuke stepped forward. "I think it's possible to save his life Sasuke but not his eyes. Itachi's going to be blind if he – when the procedure is finished." Sakura moved in to hug Sasuke tightly.
He dared to let himself hope. "Mama Tsunade? Is this true?" Sasuke pulled away from Sakura to look at his leader and the best medical ninja the village had ever had.
Tsunade spared a glance for Naruto seeing the tightness around his eyes wondering if he'd put it together that very near this room was where he'd lived the first years of his life. "Yes Sasuke. We have a few rare plants we need to collect and I need to prepare myself for the procedure but in an hour or two we can begin. He's awake; would you like to see him?"
He took a shaky breath. "Yeah. Umm, he doesn't have to be blind. I can get Itachi another set of Sharingan." Sasuke said quietly. He was about to say more at Tsunade's confused look but she blinked and nodded. She knew exactly what he meant.
"We'll discuss this after we save his life. Now go see Itachi. Go with him Takeshi, I need to speak with Hinata and Naruto a moment. Sakura go with them make sure they don't tire Itachi. Show the others where they can wait." Tsunade spoke to one of the other nins in the room and waited for everyone else except Jiraiya to leave.
"Hinata I need you to get these plants for me. I believe your family has these? I've included the amount needed. I have some but not enough, please go to the estate and bring me what you can." Tsunade watched the girl closely. They truly needed those plants.
Hinata had only glanced at the list before she was searching her memory of how much they actually had or what had been at the estate the last time she'd worked the gardens. "I believe we have what's needed! I'll be back shortly. Watch over Sasuke!" Hinata told Naruto as she raced out of the room.
Naruto just shook his head, of course he would but then he turned sober eyes on Tsunade. "I never wanted to know exactly where I was tortured but it was here wasn't it? Please tell me Itachi's not in the same damn room?" He didn't rage but it came out in a fierce whisper as he clinched his fists and attempted to breathe normally.
"No he's not. I've sealed off the room forever. This truly was the best place to put Itachi. I'm sorry baby." Tsunade had taken his face, kissed his forehead then hugged him.
Jiraiya hugged them both. "Just remember you survived Naruto. You're strong, stronger than most people I know and now you need to share that strength with your brothers. Move beyond those memories and focus on today kid." He put his large hand on Naruto's neck squeezing gently.
"Yeah, I'll will." Naruto nodded and held each of them tighter as he forced the memories and pain into a small corner of his mind. "I should let you do your stuff – medicine, center your chakra. I trust you Mama – save him if you can but don't hurt yourself trying." This time he kissed her on the cheek, slapped Jiraiya on the back then left.
Jiraiya blinked. "He's grown so much. I believe he can handle it Tsunade. Once Itachi's okay – he can handle the truth." He closed his arms about Tsunade and held her tight praying he was right.
The room was silent except for the beep of machines. Itachi was refusing to speak and no one could think of anything to say. Naruto pushed open the door already aware of the situation.
"I'll make this quick Itachi. Mama thinks you'll survive. You'll be under 24/7 watch until we're sure you're not suicidal. It sucks – I should know, been there done that. If you didn't know I tried to kill myself not to long ago. While it might have been an answer, it wasn't the answer. Living is hard as hell but luckily I don't have to do it alone and neither do you." He stood over Itachi who'd opened his eyes to look at him. "I know you don't believe it but you can be happy and we'll help you. Give us and yourself a chance Itachi." Naruto smiled down at him. "One day you're going to smile back at me, believe it!" He reached down and patted Itachi's shoulder. "Let's go TK, give them a moment. Sakura you too." Naruto went and got her and out they went.
Sasuke found he could smile. Once Naruto believed, it became truth. "Don't worry about your eyesight. Once Lady Tsunade has cured your disease, we can give you new eyes…Sharingan eyes." He sat on the bed needing to be close to Itachi even if his brother was ignoring him.
Itachi's body jerked as he turned to look at Sasuke. His vision was blurry but he could recognize his little brother. "Who's eyes? Don't forsake your sight for me! I don't deserve this cure or your eyes Sasuke!" His hand flashed out to grab Sasuke wrist in a tight grip.
"Not my eyes Itachi." Sasuke put his hand on top of Itachi's. His brother's hand was slightly bigger. "Danzo…stole our families' eyes. The massacre wasn't just about stopping the coup but so that bastard could steal the Sharingan for himself. There is a tank full of them being kept safe by the ninja cats." Sasuke still felt sick when he thought of what Danzo had done and had planned to do. The only good thing to come from having kept the eyes was that now he'd be able give Itachi back his sight.
Itachi struggled to sit up. "I was – used to help steal the Sharingan?! He knew? Mad – HE KNEW! I HELPED KILL MY FAMILY FOR OUR EYES!" Shock and anger flowed through him followed by self-hatred. "Let me die Sasuke, just let me die!" He yelled jerking on Sasuke's arm.
Sakura slipped back into the room to see Sasuke trying to calm Itachi. There was an IV in his arm and she quickly upped the dosage that managed his pain. It would relax him.
Sasuke held him still to keep him from hurting himself then lay him down. "I didn't think you had anything to do with that but it's nice to be sure. You were a pawn Itachi, no blame rests on your shoulders. We've got a lot to talk about but after your treatment. I'm not letting you die big brother. Don't you want two more brothers?" Sasuke laughed. "You can thump us all in the forehead but Naruto might fight back!" There were tears in his eyes as Itachi floundered weakly trying to get away from him. "I'm NOT letting you go!" He whispered as his brother's breathing deepened and he fell asleep.
It wasn't a comfortable place to wait but they made the best of it. It was apparently where the guards came to rest between shifts. There were six beds, three one on top of the other against each wall, a small fridge, sink and a table. Though no one really felt like eating, they ate food Ayame and Hinata had prepared and drank the tea. They were silent for a while before Ayame became unnerved by the quiet and started talking about work. It was about nothing really just about the regular customers at the ramen stand and then about the skating rink.
Naruto got involved in the conversation then. It had been a while since he'd been in his own business. He was happy to learn business was still doing well and people were showing up not only to skate but also for the food. There was construction going on there as well for the outdoor rink. If the weather didn't turn bad in the next few weeks they might be able to use if for ice skating before winter was over.
"Thanks Ayame, I've been neglecting my responsibilities. And I'll have to continue to do so because once Itachi's feeling better I need to start my sage training." Naruto heaved a sigh and shook his head. There just didn't seem to enough time to do everything. "I'll make sure I go by…well hell. I can do it now." Naruto stood and made a clone. "Find out what's up at the rink and go for a skate too." He chuckled to himself. At least a part of him would have some fun this day.
"You may not be running things yourself Naruto but you put in the right people to run it and the place is doing well. I mostly go there to have fun than to check on the business. I'm getting pretty good on skates." Ayame said proudly. "It's surprising that so many adults, ninja included are learning to skate. It's almost like training for some of them." She laughed as she remembered the teams of ninja coming and working hard to stay on their feet.
"Well skating can be quiet graceful and it does strengthen your leg muscles. I guess it could be a type of training." Hinata added with a shrug but she was please too. Her husband's business was successful. Ninja were generally paid well but it was nice to have another source of income separate from that. Most ninja clans had other business interests of some sort.
Again the topic changed to that subject – flowers, veterinary services, weapons. Ninjas were very versatile not in just their skills but in business as well. They speculated what other jobs they could have done if they weren't ninja. Time passed, the clone having finished his assignment dispersed and Naruto was able to speak of the goings on at the rink and finally they dozed as they waited.
Three hours later Shizune opened the door. "It's done. The treatment seems to have worked though we are worried about Itachi's eyes. It's possible the disease could linger in them. We want to give him a day to rest before attempting to remove them. That should also give you time to get his new eyes." Shizune was amazed. Not only would the older Uchiha live but his eyesight would remain as well as his kekkei genkai.
"Can I see him?" Sasuke asked standing.
Shizune was already shaking her head. "No. The procedure tired him and Lady Tsunade greatly. I've already sent her home – she's fine just exhausted. Come back in four or five hours. I doubt he'll wake until tomorrow but one or two of you sitting with him won't hurt." She smiled at them. "Really it's okay to leave. I'll even send someone for you if that makes you feel better." Shizune had gone to Sasuke and put her hands on his shoulders. "It was a hard fight and sitting in a hospital is tiring as hell. Go home and get some more rest, okay?" All of them looked weary.
Naruto joined them. "We will. Is Mama really okay?"
"She is. I made her drink a restorative tea and sent her home with Jiraiya. Sakura, I and two others helped her so she didn't over do it but she's been up almost twenty-four hours straight. Lady Tsunade will be fine in the morning." Shizune placed a hand on Naruto's cheek. The two of them had come a long way since his suicide attempt. For a while she was scared that he would never forgive her.
"Let's go everyone." Takeshi said pulling Ayame to her feet. "Sasuke you want to come over to my house?"
Seiko wanted to go home with Sasuke but she knew her father still worried. "Yeah, go home with one of them Sasuke. I'll find you guys tomorrow okay?" She moved to hug him. He was shaking and she held him tighter. She didn't know if his body was worn out or if it was relief that Itachi would live. Maybe it was a little of both. "I'm sorry; I wish I could stay with you."
"No, no it's okay. I love you." Sasuke pulled back enough to look into her dark eyes then kissed her deeply. "Let's get going you guys before I fall down. Thanks Shizune."
They all escorted Seiko home then headed for the district. People started to greet them but saw their worried and tired faces and let them be. The gates were closed behind them since they didn't want to be disturbed and headed home.
"We can all stay at our house." Hinata offered.
Sasuke hugged her tight. "Go home sister. I'll go with TK and Ayame." He didn't resist when Naruto pulled him into a hug. Sasuke felt like he wanted to cry but held them in. "Go on." His voice was thick but Naruto said nothing only grabbed his wife's hand and hurried home.
It was Ayame who tucked him in the room set aside for him and was there to offer comfort as he cried tears of relief.
Of course they all went back and Itachi was still sleeping. Sasuke insisted on staying the night and Takeshi promised to spell him in the morning. Guards were still posted and there was another inside the room. Until they knew for sure, Itachi was still dangerous and a possible flight risk. Sasuke didn't complain and silently agreed. They'd managed to bring him home but they hadn't truly saved him yet.
He was slouched in a chair when Itachi moaned. Sasuke rose quickly. "Itachi, you're at the hospital in Konoha." He eased himself down next to his brother. Previously he'd been in restraints but they were keeping him so drugged that they hoped he'd wouldn't be able to use any jutsus.
Itachi shook his head because it was fuzzy. He blinked his eyes several times but couldn't seem to clear his vision. "Water." He croaked then sipped gratefully. "Enough…stupid little brother." Itachi muttered.
Sasuke laughed. It was said with a little heat but not hatefully. "Yeah that's me. You're healed Itachi. Lady Tsunade cured your disease."
Itachi cursed and weakly tried to roll away from Sasuke but couldn't. "Won't kill me…won't let me die…you are a fool!" He muttered then yawned as his movements had tired him out. "Stu-pid." And he was asleep again.
"Maybe but I love you and I'm glad you're alive Itachi." Sasuke whispered. He sighed knowing this was going to be a long road to travel. The door opened and Takeshi walked in. "TK." He acting without thinking took his brother's arm and pulled him into a hug. "He woke for a few minutes, cursed me then went back to sleep." Sasuke was glad to be close to this brother. It helped eased the pain of not being close to the one behind him.
"I just talked to Shizune. They'll reduce his meds in a little while so he can eat and be checked out by Mama when she comes in. I'll let you know. So what will you do now? Head home?" Takeshi pulled back to look at Sasuke. He knew his brother had slept but he didn't look at all rested.
"Nah, I need to move. I'll go check on Kakashi and Anko, take a walk then probably come back here." Sasuke stretched as he looked over his shoulder at Itachi again.
"Don't forget to eat and spend some time with Seiko. Hinata's got the afternoon shift so don't show up looking like a wreck or she'll give you hell." Takeshi grinned as he put his hand on top of Sasuke's head. "Oh and Talon's waiting for you outside. It's too confined in this part of the hospital for him to come and go."
Sasuke grinned. "He wants to see me?" That hawk was a lot like a nephew to him.
"Yeah, he's worried about you. Let him know you're going to see Kakashi, no restrictions on their rooms." Takeshi set down his satchel. He'd brought a sketch pad and pencils.
Sasuke nodded. "Okay, see you later. Thanks TK." Sasuke stopped so his brother could see the gratitude on his face.
"We're all brothers Sasuke. I'd do the same for you and Naruto. Talon's waiting." In their minds the hawk chirruped at them making them smile.
The hawk was waiting for him in Kakashi's room. Only he and Kankuro were still bedridden. The burns Kakashi had received were healing nicely but Tsunade wanted him to rest. It hadn't been too long ago that he'd been near death. The Hokage was even removing him from the active ninja list for at least a month. As for Kankuro he just managed to deflect Tobi's sword. It still hit his heart but only a nick instead of slicing it in two. The Suna ninja had been very, very lucky.
Sasuke paused in the doorway staring at Kakashi. He didn't even move when Talon came to a rest on his shoulder. He opened his mouth, closed it then swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." The words whispered out of his mouth. Kakashi from head to waist was covered in bandages.
"Shut up Sasuke. It was my own damned fault I got burned. Come over here and tell me about Itachi. How'd you get him home?" Kakashi wouldn't let Sasuke blame himself. This had been just another ninja mission and that was always a risk. He'd come back alive and with better knowledge of who they were up against. It had all been worth it.
Sasuke reached up a hand to stroke Talon drawing comfort from the bird that cuddled close to him. Sasuke nodded and tried to accept Kakashi's words. He moved forward to fill in his sensei and good friend about Itachi.
Naruto dropped Hinata off at the hospital then went to visit Fu. First he stopped by to see Ibiki to get his report on Fu's battle, give his own and to find out where she lived. Suffice it to say he was sick that almost all of Kakashi's team had been seriously injured and about the power of this guy Tobi. Naruto strolled with his hands in his pockets as he debated just how they could win against the Akatsuki. Although they had eliminated some of the group and taken Itachi away from them they were still a deadly bunch. It intrigued Naruto that Sai had fared so well against Deidara. It may be possible that with a little help he may be to take out that guy. He wondered if Gaara wanted another shot at Deidara.
Distractedly he stopped to look around and see where he was and notice he'd walked a block in the wrong direction. Naruto shook his head and turned around. He adjusted his cobalt duster since the wind was blowing hard and made his way to what he'd always thought of as a warehouse. Well it still could be but he'd just found out that it could house ninjas, their own and visiting ones that the Anbu wanted to keep tabs on.
"Hey Naruto, wait up!" Iruka called out. He'd been looking for him. "How's Itachi? Where are you off to?" He laid an arm around Naruto's shoulder and gave him a half hug. Iruka had left him alone not wanting to smother him or the other boys but couldn't help checking in with his son.
"Hey Dad, I'm going to visit Fu. Mama saved him, cured Itachi's disease! Hinata's with him now." Naruto grinned. His mother's talent as a healer made him so very proud. "But he'll need surgery to replace his eyes because he's going blind. Although he may still want to die or be blind, we won't let him. Sasuke has Sharingan eyes for him. Itachi will be whole in body but there's still a lot of work to do when it comes to his mind and spirit." Naruto felt dread inside him. He'd been where Itachi is now. Living still hurt even though he was happier now than he thought possible. He'd actually achieved that calmness, that peace that came with dying. All cares gone, he'd never forget it and that made living hard. But for Itachi, though he'd came close, he hadn't gotten that peace and Naruto was scared he'd yearn for it all the more. Somehow, some way they had to help him find something in this world to make him happy, give him a reason to live.
Iruka watched the flow of emotions on Naruto's face. He could guess Naruto was thinking about his suicide attempt and a shiver went through him. Iruka still worried about Naruto doing something to himself but he'd never vocalize it. It was superstitious but he feared speaking it aloud would have Naruto trying to kill himself again. "That's okay son. We've rescued him from the Akatsuki, saved his life and you guys already love him. He already has more than he had a day ago. Just give it time." He squeezed Naruto's shoulder and they walked quietly for a while.
"This is the place." Naruto said looking up at a three story building. It didn't look like much on the outside, just a nondescript building. "You want to meet her?" Naruto looked over at Iruka.
Iruka knew the building. He'd brought a few people here himself. Underground were places for some of the more violent of those people. "Sure, lead the way."
There was a ninja waiting just inside the door. He wouldn't let them upstairs with weapons so they had to leave them behind. Fu's apartment was on the second floor. Naruto knocked on the door. There weren't guards visible outside her door but Naruto could feel them watching.
Fu looked a little depressed when she opened the door but perked up immediately. "Naruto! Hey come in!" She grabbed his arm, pulled him in then hugged him. "I sorry Naruto. I wanted to do more but you warned me not to. They all got so hurt. I stayed at the hospital for a while and they all were alive when I left. Are they still? Oh hello." She finally saw Iruka as he closed the open door. Fu watched the man warily and stayed behind Naruto.
"Fu, my dad – Dad this is Fu. Don't worry, he's okay." Naruto smiled. "Can we sit?" He asked politely.
"Yeah of course. Sorry about that. Would you like some tea or something to eat?" Fu asked as she looked from one man to the other. She couldn't begin to see a resemblance between them.
"I'm adopted." Naruto explained with a smile. "No thanks I'm good. Dad?" When Iruka declined Naruto got serious. "You did good Fu. You did what we asked so thank you and yeah everybody's doing okay thankfully. How are you? You doing okay? I'm told it was close thing. Your clone was captured." Naruto sat on the edge of his chair frowning. Deidara had caught Gaara and that Tobi guy seemed even more skilled than Deidara. That was a frightening thought.
Fu sank back into her chair her chin almost resting on her chest. "We're Jinchuriki Naruto and while that doesn't make us undefeatable we're pretty damn strong. I'm not ashamed to say I've run away from fights that I knew I couldn't win and I'll do again! But this guy - he was unreal Naruto. He had a counter for almost everything anybody did. I think if that old guy hadn't showed up I'd be captured now and your friends dead. The Akatsuki - I learned to fear them before fighting against them. Now I fear them even more." Fu said quietly as she met Naruto's blue gaze.
Naruto took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah I guess that's why they're S-class ninja. But neither of us went all out against them either. If we can bring out our full power, as much of the Bijuu's chakra as possible we might be a match for them." Naruto crossed his arms and sat back on the couch then suddenly chuckled. "It's really funny when you think about it huh?" Naruto's bright eyes flashed with humor at Fu.
"What is?" She sat up blinking.
"People always fear us because of our Bijuu but we aren't the monsters trying to take over the world. It's the normal ninjas causing all the havoc. We're innocent babes compared to them!" Naruto chuckled some more. It wasn't long before an astonished Fu joined in. The two laughed until they cried.
Iruka had a smile on his face but it was more sad than anything for Naruto had spoken the exact truth. Shinobi from the five nations feared and sought to either harness or destroy the Bijuu. The Jinchuriki were used as weapons but all they wanted was nothing more than normal lives. It was irony on a massive scale.
After the two calmed down, Fu asked a question. "How's that Suna ninja doing? It looked like a fatal blow. Is he really okay?" She tried not to look too interested in his answer.
Naruto tilted his head and shot a glance at Iruka who shrugged. "Kankuro will live, he'll have to stay in the hospital and here in Konoha for a while but he'll recover. Huh, I bet Temari shows up before too long. Dad I'm coming to hide out at your place. She's going to be mad as hell that Kankuro got hurt. Dang, you might have to make room for Shikamaru too." Naruto started chuckling and this time Iruka joined in.
Fu stiffened. "And who is Temari?" She didn't like the idea of another woman laying claim on Kankuro before she'd even got know him.
Naruto was on to her now and he winked at his dad. "Temari is his big sister and very protective. You'll have to make a good impression on her." Naruto warned with a big smile then laughed as Fu blushed. "Come on, I've got to relieve Hinata in a little while, let's go visit Kankuro." Naruto stood and grinned. He thought to himself. So this is what it feels like to play matchmaker?
Itachi was in that twilight sleep - not in a deep sleep but not really awake either. He heard humming. His first thought was of his mother but immediately tossed that idea aside. Konan? No but the voice was somewhat familiar and faces flickered in his mind - all dead relatives. A moan passed his lips as he recalled all bodies and blood.
"Shh, it's okay Itachi. You're not alone." Hinata said softly going over to his bed and stroking his forehead. "We love you. You're still part of a family. It may be different from the one you knew but it is still a family. Sasuke taught me this lullaby. Just relax and sleep." Hinata took his hand and began to sing softly. She knew it was possible that this lullaby could bring up bad memories but she really hoped it would calm him.
Itachi wanted to pull his hand away, he wanted to block out the long-forgotten words but his exhaustion and the medication wouldn't allow him to do either. Instead he slipped into a deeper sleep.
He was back on the island standing in front of the waterfall watching tropical birds and the sun was creating a rainbow off spray of water. Itachi felt warm and relaxed. Life wasn't a torment here. And that quickly he was tossed back to his younger days. Shinobi skills came easily to him and not long after that he mastered his Sharingan. And the expectations fell on his head like a ton of bricks. He could barely wake up in the morning or walk down the street without his clan asking what new thing he'd learned or bragging about him or telling him he was going to be the next great Uchiha. He would be better than any Senju. Itachi grew to despise the praise. And there was Sasuke doing his utmost to be just as successful, trying to make their father proud. Father…whose pride and arrogance ruined them all.
Itachi remembered another man. He too was proud but with a difference. He didn't lord it over others. This man was quiet with an easy smile and one who lead by example. Itachi had watched him, admired him and secretly wished he could have been his father. Namikaze Minato.
Images became mixed in his mind. His mother, Minato, Sasuke and Naruto. Kushina was there too – he had two mothers one gentle, the other outrageous and funny. The district free of strife and anger. It was a dream, a lovely dream where everyone he cared about was alive and happy. Itachi let his mind rest there on those images; they eased the ache in his heart.
Naruto had dinner with his parents and Jiraiya. They talked a little of Itachi and his health but mostly tried to keep the topics general. Jiraiya asked him when he wanted to start his sage training.
"A week or so I guess. I want to see Itachi back on his feet, talk to him. We'll keep him inside the district until you figure out how you want to tell the other shinobi and the village about him. I don't think he'll want to see people right away anyway. I know I didn't." Naruto said quietly as he remembered those first few days after surviving his attempt to die. This was similar and not. In many cases Itachi's circumstances were much worse. "Sasuke's got the eyes. What time do you think you'll do the surgery?" Naruto asked as he changed the subject. He was toying with his chop sticks.
"Well if he rests easily tonight and his vitals are steady – midmorning probably." Tsunade answered him. Naruto seemed restless. "Don't you want to wait a little longer before heading off again? You just got home Naruto." Tsunade reached over to touch his hand.
Naruto blinked up at her. "Seriously? You're serious? We just fought two battles against the Akatsuki and lost spectacularly. They may be licking their wounds right now but how long do you think they'll wait before retaliating? I really should go tomorrow but I don't want to leave Sasuke just yet. No Mama, a week and no more. Time is not on our side." Naruto sighed as he shook his head and sat back. "We upped the game by 'killing' Itachi. The next move will be theirs and we have to be ready for it." He reached for his tea and drained the cup. "It's my turn to sit with Itachi. Hopefully we'll just sleep!" Naruto chuckled. He was on the night shift so more than likely that's all they would do. "Come on Tal; let's go see your Mama." He picked the hawk up from the table and put him on his shoulder. "Night, see you all tomorrow." Naruto kissed his mother's cheek then with a wave left.
Once the door closed behind Naruto each of them let out a sigh. Jiraiya picked up the sake bottle and poured for them. "The kid's right. They'll come after us sooner than we'll be ready for them. So between readying the village for attack, seeing to his sage training and handling the fall out after everyone finds out about Itachi, just when in the hell are we going to find time to tell him about Minato and Kushina?" Jiraiya thumped his hand on the table making the dishes jump.
"Not only that but when will Naruto have time to digest the information and forgive us for hiding the identities of his parents?" Iruka asked said glumly as he turned his cup around and around watching the swirling sake.
Tsunade rested her elbows on the table then put her forehead in her palms. "In the war to come this will be our toughest battle." Her soft voice hung heavy in the night air.
There was a reclining chair in Itachi's room and Naruto was stretched out in it. The TV was on low and he was smiling. It was some comedy movie he'd found. It was nice to sit back and watch something silly. He'd been surprised when he'd first come in. Takeshi had put up several drawings of each of them plus Talon, Gamakichi and Koneko. Hinata had also done her part and gotten Hanabi to bring over some plants. The room wasn't so drab anymore and he could almost forget where they were.
He glanced over at Itachi who'd turned on his side. Naruto was amazed at the resemblance between him and Sasuke. They were almost identical but for the lines on Itachi's face. Naruto looked back at the TV. "Guess it's not such a big surprise. Seiko and Ino for example. Hinata and Hanabi. Shikamaru and Shikaku. Family looks like family." He lost his good mood then. He didn't look like Iruka or Tsunade since neither were his real parents. It would only be when he and Hinata had children would he hope that one of them looked like him. Naruto sighed. He knew he shouldn't let it bother him but he was the only one of them who didn't know a damn thing about his parents. He had no memories or stories or pictures of them. Was he like his mother or father? Did either of them have blond hair? Were they ninja or just regular people? These questions had been in the back of his mind since he'd first thought them years ago. "Ugh! I should just get some sleep." He muttered and got up to stretch.
Fortunately it was just him and Itachi in the room. Naruto hadn't felt too comfortable with an Anbu in the room silently watching every move he made. He'd had to put up with the silent watchers for years and having one in the room with him put him on edge. Thankfully Shizune had sensed his discomfort and had the shinobi join the others outside the room.
Naruto went into the bathroom removed his head band and looked at himself in the mirror noting that it was time for another hair cut. It was getting long again. "Mother…Sasuke…" He froze in the process of washing his face. Somebody was speaking – Itachi? Quickly he stepped out into the room and over to Itachi. If he was waking then the drugs were wearing off and he'd have to call for a nurse.
Itachi still lay on his side but his head was up and his eyelids were fluttering. He was still lost in his fantasy of a happy family that included Minato. It had been the sound of running water that interrupted his dreams. "Wh-who's…there?" He whispered.
"Hey, you're okay. Go back to sleep. You're safe Itachi." Naruto spoke quietly as he sat on the side of the bed. Awkwardly he tried to straighten the sheet and make the older Uchiha more comfortable.
Itachi open his eyes. He tried to see who was with him. He vaguely recalled being brought back to Konoha but like his eyesight, all the rest of it was a blur. A man was next to him, not his father and Sasuke was still just a kid. It was a man with blond hair. "Lord Hokage!" Itachi's hand took hold of the wrist near his face. "You – you're alive!" Tears began to seep from his eyes.
Naruto frowned. Itachi must be hallucinating but he did feel a silly thrill at being call the Hokage. He shook his head and decided to wait a few minutes more before calling for the nurse. Itachi might just go to sleep on his own.
Itachi licked his lips and was grateful when the Hokage gave him some water. "Th-anks. We thought you had died…during the Nine-Tails attack." He took a breath and felt relieved to know that Konoha's Yellow Flash was still alive. With his help, Konoha might prevail against the Akatsuki.
Naruto froze even his heart seemed to still inside his chest. Without even knowing he'd done so, he closed the synch between him and the rest of his family.
"Why have you…stayed hidden Minato? And did Kushina survive - too? …Naruto – Naruto needed you." Itachi frowned because he couldn't keep his thoughts straight. The past and present were mixing. "Father ignores…Sa-suke but you…wouldn't do that…not to Naruto…your son." Itachi shook his head his black hair sliding over his pillow. "Why Minato – why abandon your son and the village?! We needed you Yondaime!" Itachi felt his hand cramping from where he clutched at the Yondaime's arm. Tears rolled freely down his face as he tried to focus on a face he couldn't see.
He went cold, ice numbing cold. There seemed to be roaring in his ears blocking out all sound. Naruto did nothing but stare at Itachi's weeping face. For a full minute his body seemed to lose its ability to live. And then he gasped loudly and began to cough but he quickly stifled it not wanting to alert the guards. Naruto took several quick shallow breaths – he wasn't able to fill his lungs. "Hush! …Hush Itachi. I'm here now…for you and – Naruto." His voice didn't sound like his own – rough and dry. Naruto cleared his throat. "Time to rest. We can talk more tomorrow." Naruto told him as he stroked Itachi's arm until the man's grip eased. Moving on automatic Naruto used some tissues to wipe away Itachi's tears and covered him again with the sheet. He heard himself speaking softly but had no idea what he was saying but his words seemed to work on Itachi for his eyes were growing heavy again. He waited for Itachi's breath to deepen. "Sorry for this." Naruto whispered then began to synch his chakra with the sleeping Itachi's. "I have to know!"
"Morning sweetheart." Naruto said to his wife as she walked up to him outside of Itachi's room. He took her in his arms and held her tightly. He buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply.
Hinata frowned because something was wrong. "Naruto, baby what is it?" She pulled back to frame his face. There were bags under his eyes. "Did you get any sleep?"
Sasuke and Takeshi came up at that moment and both hurried to Naruto. "Did something happen - is Itachi alright?" Sasuke reached and took hold of Naruto's arm.
Naruto suppressed a shudder at the familiar act. He took a deep breath and patted Sasuke's hand. "He's fine. Itachi had a...bad dream but I was able calm him. He went right back to sleep. Sakura and Shizune are with him now." He changed the subject not wanting them focusing on him too much.
"Good, that's good." Sasuke knew something was up and looked at Hinata and Takeshi but they were as clueless as he.
"I'm just tired guys." Naruto explained after he saw the silent looks they gave each other. "I wanted Itachi to be okay for the surgery today so I stayed awake to make sure he didn't have any more bad dreams. Mama said it was important that he was rested and stable. Okay?" He grinned at them.
The grin looked real but Naruto still felt off. Before any of them could say anything the door to Itachi's room opened. "Hey Sasuke." Sakura said as she stepped right up to him and hugged him.
Now it was Naruto who was exchanging looks with his family. He'd forgotten about Sakura's feelings about Sasuke. There had been too many things going on for him to give her problems any thought.
Sakura kissed Sasuke's cheek then put an arm around his waist. "Everything looks good. In about an hour we'll do the surgery. Sasuke if you want to see him do it now because we'll be prepping him shortly." She'd been rubbing his back the whole time.
"Sakura -" Takeshi started to say something since Sasuke had gone completely still at her touch but Hinata put a hand on his arm.
"Thanks Sakura, go on Sasuke we'll wait for you here." Hinata went to the girl and linked their arms together pulling her away from Sasuke. He nodded and entered the room quickly. "Sakura I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to talk. How are you?"
Takeshi wanted to know what was going through Sakura's mind too but he draped an arm around Naruto's shoulder and walked him a few feet away. "What's wrong Naruto?" With touch their synch was more powerful but all Takeshi got from Naruto was a blank wall. His brother was keeping his thoughts to himself. Takeshi stopped Naruto and looked into his eyes. "What happened?" He asked in a whisper.
"Not now TK, later when we know Itachi's okay. He had a good night except for that dream." Naruto whispered. He'd known he couldn't completely hide his emotions and he hoped this explanation would hold his brother.
Takeshi stared long into Naruto's blue eyes. He knew his little brother was hiding something but he couldn't figure out what. Had it been Itachi's dream? Had he told Naruto some new problem with the Akatsuki? "I don't like it but okay, we'll wait. Come on let's see what's going on with Sakura." Takeshi kept his arm around Naruto offering what comfort he could.
Sakura's hands went up in the air helplessly. "No I haven't decided yet. We've all been busy and frankly I haven't wanted to think about it. I know Sasuke can't be mine even if I don't choose Lee. All was doing was offering Sasuke comfort." Sakura made her excuse for touching Sasuke.
"Mmm, Sakura sweetie you may be able to lie to yourself but you can't lie to me. You still want Sasuke and you want Lee but you can't have both at least not romantically." Hinata took one of her hands and squeezed it. "You're too strong of woman to be too scared to make a decision. And touching Sasuke like that...well you're only making him and us uncomfortable. It was just fortunate that Seiko wasn't here. Don't disrespect their relationship Sakura." Hinata warned gently.
"You'll figure it out Sakura." Naruto encouraged her and took her other hand. Though it was a bad situation she was putting herself in, he was glad to have something else to think about.
"So how long will the surgery take?" Sasuke was asking Shizune as they exited Itachi's room.
"A few hours. Why don't you guys go have breakfast, maybe visit Kakashi and Kankuro? Oh Naruto, Gaara and Temari will be arriving sometime today." Shizune told him with a smile.
"Gaara too? I was expecting Temari to come but not the Kazekage. Poor Fu." Naruto found that something could make him laugh.
"Why poor Fu?" Hinata asked curiously. She was glad for a change of topic too.
"Thanks Shizune." Naruto nodded at her, squeezed Sakura's hand then reached for his wife. "Let's go see Kakashi first then Kankuro and you can see for yourself. There's a little chemistry between the Seven-Tails and the puppet master." He grinned as Hinata blinked at him.
"Damn that was quick!" Takeshi laughed and they walked off leaving their prayers behind with Itachi.
It was one of the hardest days of his life. Naruto made himself forget. He locked it all away and acted as normally as he could. He'd forgotten his past once before so he did again. The day passed. Anko was with Kakashi when they got there so that visit was pretty lively. Kankuro minus his face paint was indeed chatting with Fu and both blushed to be found together. Naruto, Sasuke and Takeshi kept making little comments that Kankuro glared at them for and Hinata finally pushed them out of the room leaving the two alone again. Next they went to Ichiraku's for some comfort food and to pick up Ayame.
They strolled through some shops buying some clothes for Itachi and some foods Sasuke remembered that he liked. As they were approaching the hospital Neji, Shikamaru and Seiko met them in the street.
"Hello Naruto, Sister." Neji gave Hinata a hug and shook hands with the guys. "We managed to convince everyone to give you some space. We're to report back on you and Itachi. Oh and expect Uncle soon." He laughed. "You haven't been by to see him so he's coming to you!"
Hinata smiled with him. "I expected him yesterday when Hanabi and Ko brought the plants. Maybe we can all have dinner after we see Itachi. Shikamaru, have you come to meet with Temari?" She teased him then laughed as he turned his head away.
"Uh yeah I thought I'd see her but I wanted to see you guys too." Shikamaru cleared his throat then took a long look at Naruto. "Everything okay?"
"Just a long day." Takeshi spoke up. "Let's see if we can find Mama or Shizune, the surgery has to be over by now." He moved closer to Naruto and felt tension in his shoulders to see the twitch under Naruto's eye. It had been so quick that if it weren't for his excellent eyesight he would have missed it.
They were stopped at the front desk and told to go to Lady Tsunade's office. This put them all on edge and they almost ran through the hospital to get to her.
"What happened to my brother?!" Sasuke demanded as he skidded through the open door. The Hokage was sitting behind her desk. Iruka and Jiraiya were there too.
"He's fine Sasuke, the surgery was a success. Itachi will need time to heal but in a week or two we'll remove the bandages and he should be fine. There's no trace of his disease. I wanted you to see me first because I'm limiting his visitors to one at a time. The last two days plus his previous weaknesses have taken their toll on him. I didn't want all of you going in there at the same time tiring him out even more. Sasuke!" She stood as the young man fell to his knees.
Seiko rushed to his side and held him. He was crying silent tears. "He's still alive. God I didn't know I was so scared that he wouldn't make it". He rested his head against Seiko.
Tsunade sank back into her chair. "He is alive and after you see him go home and rest! That's an order Sasuke." She made her voice firm but she was touched by the depth of Sasuke's emotion for his long lost brother.
"Sasuke," Iruka said moving so he could also comfort Sasuke by patting him on the back.
The room grew silent as Sasuke tried to calm himself down. Tsunade and Jiraiya looked at each other then at Sasuke then to the other boys. Both blinked as they noticed Naruto still out in the hall almost out of sight. "Naruto?"
"Daughter!" Lord Hiashi said with pleasure as he walked up on the group. "Naruto, Takeshi – children, how are you?" He welcomed his daughter first before noticing Sasuke still kneeling on the floor with Iruka and Seiko comforting him. "Is…everything okay?"
"Yes Father it is. Sasuke is just a little overwhelmed." Hinata cuddled closer to her father as she felt similar emotions. "We're all fine; it's good to see you." Her father looked healthy.
Hiashi leaned down to kiss her on the head. "I'm glad. Can you all come to the estate for dinner or are you too tired?"
"…I think Sasuke should see Itachi and then we should call it a night. Let's do dinner another night okay?" Naruto said quickly. He'd actually moved a couple of feet away from all of them.
Sasuke raised his head but he couldn't make eye contact with Naruto but he couldn't see him at all. Takeshi was in the doorway apparently frowning at Naruto. He wiped away his tears and with help from Seiko and Iruka he stood. "Thanks and...Naruto's right, it's been a long couple of days." Sasuke said diplomatically. He walked around the desk. "I'm sorry to have asked so much of you but thank you, thank you!" Sasuke put his arms around Tsunade nearly crushing her in his embrace.
Tsunade smiled and returned the hug before gasping, "Too tight!" She heaved in some air as Sasuke blushed then kissed her cheek.
"Thanks again, let's go!" Sasuke grabbed Seiko's hand and they left the room at a trot but Naruto had left already and had disappeared around a corner.
"What's going on?" He asked Takeshi and Hinata as they hurried after their favorite blond.
"I don't know. We'll have to wait until we get home I guess." Takeshi said lowly as he waved goodbye to the adults who'd all crowded into the hallway to watch them leave.
"Something's wrong." Iruka stated. "Naruto didn't look or speak to any of us. "I never even saw his face. What did he look like to you Hiashi?" Iruka was worried.
"Well he didn't look upset, maybe unnerved. I didn't look at him with my Byakugan. I was just happy to see them all safe and figured he was just worried about Itachi. You think there's more to his attitude?" Hiashi looked after the children becoming suspicious of their behavior.
Jiraiya scratched his head. "He was tired last night but he was open, not hiding his emotions from us. Dammit I wonder what's happened now." He heaved a sigh.
"Let's give them a moment then go find out what's bothering him." Tsunade said. She'd looked forward to a good night's sleep but that could wait. Naruto was her son and she wouldn't let him be unhappy if there was anything she could do about it.
The group of young people was allowed into the prison wing of the hospital. Neji and Shikamaru looked around curiously and were glad they were only there for a visit.
Sakura was sitting with Itachi when Sasuke opened the door. She got up quietly and placed a finger on her lips. "Please be quiet and keep your visit short. He's been resting fairly well with only the occasional dream." She stood in the doorway making eye contact with each of them but she didn't let her gaze stay long on Seiko. Sakura still felt jealous of the girl and at the same time guilty.
"Go in Sasuke, we can see him tomorrow." Hinata whispered. They could see in the room. Itachi was pale, black hair dark against his skin and the sheets. His eyes were bound and his breaths deep in his sleep. Hinata nodded, he was healing.
Sasuke had watched her face and until she smiled up at him he'd still held on to a piece of fear but now it evaporated. His trust in Hinata was complete. Sasuke leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I won't be long." He said to Naruto who had also been watching Hinata. Sasuke was encouraged to see Naruto's tiny smile.
Hinata went to Naruto reaching up to touch his face. "I love you." She told him as he kissed her palm.
Naruto felt tears threaten at her words. "I know, thank you." He said pulling her closer.
Ayame moved to take Takeshi's hand. "I don't like this - this isn't like our Naruto." She whispered to him.
"No it's not but he won't go into whatever it is here. We'll be going home soon and he can unburden himself then. Whatever's upset him we won't let him deal with it alone." Takeshi said reaching out to put a hand on Seiko's shoulder. She looked a little lonely without Sasuke.
Neji moved closer to Hinata and Naruto. "Is there anything I can do?" He looked from one to the other.
Naruto had to clear his throat. "No, not right now but thanks brother." He held out a hand to Neji who clasped his hand in both of his.
Sakura went to Shikamaru who was practically staring at Naruto. "What happened? What's upset Naruto?" She whispered. Again it seemed she was being left out of their lives but then she'd also been avoiding them. Sakura felt ashamed along with her worry.
Shikamaru shrugged. "I don't know but I don't like it." Tension filled him. Naruto should be relieved like the rest of them were but something heavy was weighing on him. And by the looks of it Naruto wouldn't be able to hold it in much longer.
Sasuke took his brother's hand. The purple polish had been removed and the cursed ring was gone. Just like that his hand was back to normal with only some minor changes. Itachi had held him, trained him and flicked him in the head with it. Sasuke closed his eyes. "I know this isn't what you wanted, that you'd rather be dead and gone from this world but I couldn't let you go. Please forgive me for that Itachi. I'm being selfish. I want you to live for me. For us - Naruto and Takeshi too. I love them how I love you. We're family. Just try Itachi, try to be happy. Let us love you. We're here and we're not going anywhere. You're home again. You have family again. That's enough to live for." Sasuke blinked his eyes open. He'd spoken aloud but at the same time synched with Itachi and put the words in his brother's mind. It would give Itachi something to think about as he slept. Sighing Sasuke got up, covered Itachi and stretched. He hesitated at leaving the room.
Naruto was upset and it had nothing to do with Itachi, of that he was sure. Sasuke was tired; bone tired and wanted to sleep as Itachi was doing. But it was because of Naruto and his faith that they could and would bring Itachi home that made it fact. Sasuke helped himself to some water then almost choked on it at the throb of pain that coursed through his body. "Naruto?" He whispered staring at the door. "What in the hell?!" Sasuke wiped his mouth then hurried out of room to see what had caused Naruto to feel so...betrayed.
Takeshi placed a hand over his chest then pulling Ayame with him, moved to stand in front of Naruto. "Please stop." He told Iruka.
"Naruto? What is it baby?" Hinata asked anxiously. Her Byakugan was active as she searched his body for the source of the pain that affected them all.
"Get out of the way Takeshi. I want to talk to Naruto." Iruka pushed aside the hand Takeshi held out before him.
"Naruto?!" Sasuke said with fear in his voice as he closed Itachi's door behind him.
"We want to know what's going on Naruto." Tsunade said as she stood beside Iruka frowning at Ayame.
"No - not now. I want to go home!" Naruto tried not to crush Hinata's hand as spoke to his parents.
Sasuke studied Naruto for a moment. "Let us take him home. We can meet at my house tomorrow for lunch." He offered looking up at Takeshi who nodded. Both of them could still feel the pain and hurt coming in waves off of Naruto. They had to get him out of here now before he exploded.
"Hinata what's going on? What's wrong with Naruto?" Hiashi asked as he too moved closer. "Neji!" The Hyuga clan leader said in surprise as the young man moved before him.
"I'm sorry Uncle, I don't know what's going on but Naruto obviously doesn't want to talk about it. Why not leave it until tomorrow?" He pleaded gently with his father-figure as he too stood blocking his way.
"What's going on kid? We just want to help. Talk to us!" Jiraiya implored coming up to stand with Iruka and Tsunade.
Naruto shook his head, opened his mouth then closed it. It was seeing Sasuke there that made him think before speaking. "Outside, on the roof." He reached out and put his hand on Takeshi's back. "I don't want to disturb Itachi or anyone else. Get me out of here." Naruto was controlling his every word and action.
Sasuke stepped forward, "Let us by please. The sooner we get upstairs the sooner you get your answers." He stood his ground in front of Jiraiya until the Sannin sighed and stepped aside. Sasuke looked back and nodded at Takeshi.
It looked silly since they weren't about to fight but Takeshi, Ayame and Neji acted as a shield as Sasuke lead Naruto and Hinata around the adults and to the doors of the prison wing. Shikamaru and Sakura brought up the rear. They all piled into an elevator and rode silently to the top floor. They still had to take the stairs to reach the roof and finally they were out in the cold evening air.
Naruto's breathing was ragged. "God I didn't want to do this so soon! I wanted, needed time! Stupid jerks! But then again why shouldn't I expect this from them!" Naruto stalked around in circles wanting to hit something but there was nothing to destroy.
"What is wrong Naruto? Why are you so angry? Why don't you want to see or talk to Ma -," Hinata had stayed close to him.
"DON'T CALL HER THAT! SHE'S NOT MY MOTHER! MY MOTHER IS DEAD! God I didn't want to do this here but…This is my truth!" Naruto spun to face his wife hurt, anger and betrayal all on his face as he finally broke down the wall in his mind.
Hinata's mouth dropped open, tears sprang to her eyes and she dropped to her knees. "Hinata? Sister?" Neji questioned as he knelt to hold her as she cried.
Sasuke was staring at the sky shaking his head back and forth. Disbelief covered his face. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, nooooo…" He brought his hands up to clutch his head.
"Sasuke, what's wrong?" Seiko asked as fear made her heart speed up. She cautiously approached him the gasped when he clasped her tightly to him.
Takeshi was a statue with one hand over his heart. It was broken because Naruto's heart was broken. He wanted to block it out but even if he did, the knowledge still remained. "Why? It's too cruel…God…Ayame?" It was like he was blind. Takeshi couldn't see through his tears as he reached out for her. He clasped her gently but urgently in his arms when she came to him.
Sakura was crying but she didn't know why. If it was a sickness she would try to heal it but she had no idea what was wrong. They were all in such pain and she didn't know how to stop it.
Shikamaru had a hand over his mouth as he watched Naruto cry and pace. He blinked and Naruto was suddenly outlined in red. He felt real fear now. Somehow Naruto knew the truth about who he was and that Lady Tsunade, Master Jiraiya and Iruka had kept that secret from him. "Damn…" For once he was clueless as to what to do. Naruto had been hurt before but this level of pain was – it was more than even he had expected.
The door opened behind them and Sakura ran to them. "Help them! Something's causing them pain!" She grabbed Tsunade's coat and jerked on it.
"Naruto? What is it? What's wrong son?" Iruka ran to him and jerked Naruto around to face him. "Naruto…oh God, come here!" It was obvious that the boy was destroyed about something and all he wanted to do was make it go away but Naruto resisted his attempts to hug him.
"Son? Son…did you adopt me so I would never know? Was it an order from her?" Naruto demanded as he pointed a finger at Tsunade. "I was less than an orphan or so I thought. I was treated so damn bad because I was nobody – I had nobody! I spent the first years of my life in the prison wing of this damn hospital because people abhorred what I was. Nobody knew about me or cared about me but I wasn't left to die – I was tortured! I was just some bastard of a baby! A nobody!" Naruto's fox cloak was bright red now. He was like a beacon that could be seen for miles around.
"Oh no." Tsunade whispered and reached out for Jiraiya. Tears slipped from her eyes and she took a step back as red eyes glared at her.
"Yes I know – Mo-ther." Naruto drew the word out full of derision. "Damn you. DAMN YOU BOTH!" Naruto roared as Jiraiya put his arm around Tsunade. "To think I loved you, felt grateful that you cared about me." Naruto laughed but it hurt to hear it.
"Naruto please, let us explain." Iruka begged him. "We were going to tell you before you went off for sage training. A hollow pit took the place of Iruka's heart. He felt sick at the pain he saw in Naruto's face.
"We all do love you Naruto. You are part of my family. Calm down and listen please." Hiashi said moving ahead of the Sanin hoping that Naruto would listen to him.
"…You knew too? Father you knew?" Hinata finally stood and absently pushed Neji aside. "All this time…wait…is that why you accepted him? Because of who he is?" Her voice a high shriek. "Have we been living a lie?" She let out an audible moan and clutched Naruto's long coat as he came to her. "I'm so sorry…" She lifted a hand to cup his face. "Naruto…"
Naruto kissed her hard and fast. "I still have you. I still have you!" He tensed as more bodies began to appear around the roof. Shinobi. Naruto flared his chakra.
"DO NOTHING! HE IS FINE!" Tsunade snapped out of her shock long enough to command her people.
"What's going on Naruto?" Ibiki said casually as he dropped down onto the roof.
"Shikamaru, you okay?" Shikaku asked as he too landed.
Naruto blinked and tilted his head. "Anbu…you guys probably knew too didn't you? And you too, you knew my real father didn't you Shikaku? DID EVERYBODY FUCKING KNOW THAT I'M THE SON OF NAMIKAZE MINATO?!" He yelled at the top of his voice.
Several of the Anbu jerked in shock. Ayame covered her mouth and Sakura gasped.
"Shikamaru, how did he find out?" Shikaku asked quietly.
"Oh God…you too?" Naruto didn't think he could hurt anymore than he already did but hearing that Shikamaru, the person who always seemed to have such faith in him, who always had his back and who Naruto never questioned his trust – had also known. His knees finally gave and Naruto dropped to the ground. "Is there anybody I can trust?" He whispered.
Shikamaru dropped his head to his chest, hand still over his mouth and let his shameful tears fall. When his father tried to comfort him, he broke away unable to stand it, not when Naruto was bowed to the ground feeling lost.
"Naruto." Tsunade walked forward.
"Son." Iruka approached him carefully.
"Kid." Jiraiya started to go to him.
"No! Don't you dare touch him!" Takeshi roared rushing forward to block them once again. His phoenix chakra glowed about him, Takeshi was deadly serious. "Ayame, help them." He requested of her and was grateful when she move to hug both Hinata and Naruto rocking them and wishing she knew what to do for them.
"What the hell is wrong with this village? I don't understand…" Sasuke finally took his hands out of his hair pulling some black strands with them to drift in the wind. "He's the son of the Yondaime Hokage. His own father places the Nine-Tails inside him and both his mother and father die shortly after." Sasuke's black eyes traced over the adults surrounding him. "There are more questions about that but what tears at our minds is that nobody gave a damn. The Sandaime forgets him and both of you leave." He looked at the Sannin. "Those who could have helped could have him saved him – you all…abandoned him." Sasuke whispered as he cried. When Seiko rested her hands on his shoulders and wept against his back, he reached up a hand to cover hers.
"Even when…even when he was allowed out his prison you people did so damn little to help him!" Sasuke pointed at the Anbu. "The son of a Hokage was punished for being alive. He saved all your goddamn asses and you let him wander the streets. You let other shinobi and villagers treat him like a fatal disease…" Again he looked up at the night sky trying to stem his endless tears.
"He loves this place, Konoha." Takeshi said softly. "It's his home despite the shit you people let happen to him. Da – Iruka when he learned of the fox, you could have told him then. It still would have hurt but not as bad as it does now. Did you mean to break him? Wouldn't Danzo's way have been better or just let him loose in the forest? He would have been easy pickings for the Akatsuki then. But no you finally gave him family, claimed to love him and all the while you lied to him. Congratulations you succeeded in breaking him. The heart that loved you is now broken." Takeshi looked at them his eyes dead.
"No it wasn't like that! It was for his protection that we hid his identity!" Iruka exclaimed as he again tried to get to Naruto only to have Takeshi push him to the ground. "Tsunade tell him!" Iruka looked back at her but she too seemed lost.
For several minutes nothing was said. The streets below held more congestion than they should have at that time of night. A few voices could be heard but not their words. A loud screeched echoed overhead. Talon came rushing at the rooftop. He circled once then dropped beside Naruto. Talon chirruped softly but got no response from Naruto. More worried chirrups came until Hinata touched him.
Suddenly Naruto was on his feet. "I have to go." His voice was surprisingly strong after his crying.
"Don't Naruto. I'm sorry, don't leave!" Shikamaru moved closer and was just that quickly skidding across the roof. Sasuke had punched him. "…Don't…leave…" He implored as he wiped away blood and tried to sit up.
"He'll do any damn thing he pleases! Just let me get Itachi and we can go. This place doesn't deserve us!" Sasuke spun around to Seiko. "I'm sorry, we have to go." He cringed at seeing her cover her mouth to hold back even more tears.
"No, I said that I have to go. I'm leaving right now. I can't be here." Naruto wiped mucus and tears off his face and cleared his throat the looked around at the watching faces. Choji's dad was there, Genma, Yamato even Kakashi on crutches had appeared with Anko supporting him.
"Naruto?" Hinata questioned. She was scared, deathly scared he was about to leave her.
Naruto held her and rested his forehead on hers. "Takeshi? Sasuke?" He called them over to him. With his family surrounding him, Naruto began to communicate through their synch.
I need time. When I got the information from Itachi's mind I kinda went into shock, I probably still am but I put it away until we knew for sure Itachi was okay. I wanted to talk to you before confronting…Iruka and Tsunade but that didn't happen. I need to process it, come to terms with it before I can decide what to do. Give me two days by myself then we'll talk when I get back. Even if…we leave, we have to wait until Itachi's well enough. Take care of him and I'll be back in two days.
You can't go alone Naruto! It's not safe for you. We just battled with the Akatsuki! Hinata slapped a hand against his chest.
I can't stay Hinata! Please understand, I'm just barely keeping myself from letting the fox out. If I have to stay here I may take this village apart and feeling the way I do – I won't even try to stop or feel guilty for anyone I might kill. Let me go sweetheart and I promise to come back to you. Naruto lifted one hand to hold her face.
I don't like you going off alone either. Let me come with you. I can keep you from exploding out of control Naruto. Takeshi suggested as he pulled his family closer tohim.
Not this time. I'm scared of myself right now TK, I won't risk any of you because I can't control myself. Talon landed heavily on his head. Talon can come that way you can always know where I am and if I need you alright?
They were silent thinking about Naruto's words. It was a moot point though really. He did need to go and they weren't physically strong enough to stop him. Making him stay would cause him to hurt somebody or a lot of people and the shinobi just might try to kill him.
What about Koneko? She could watch your back. Or maybe go to her realm, you'd be safe there. Sasuke added his two cents. At this point he wanted to gather up Itachi, have Hinata incapacitate Naruto and leave Konoha far, far behind but he would respect his brother's wishes since they really had no choice.
…Okay to Koneko but not going to her realm. I don't want to endanger her home either. Thanks guys…if I hadn't had you here I think I would have died after I completely destroyed Konohagakure…all of you keep me sane. Naruto wanted them to know absolutely how much he valued them. Talon now with Takeshi and Sasuke backed away to watch as Hinata and Naruto said goodbye.
Hinata reached for his face. She stroked his cheeks, thumbs over his lips. "Be careful, don't forget to eat. I'm only a thought away Naruto!" She brought his head down for a loving kiss.
Naruto held the back of her head and her waist. "I'll always come back to you. My life is nothing without you Hinata. It will always, always be you!" He kissed her again then regretfully let her go.
That was Sasuke's cue. Koneko was suddenly there. She looked around curiously then growled. What is going on little one? Have they hurt you? She stalked to Sasuke sniffing him. She couldn't detect any wounds but he was not well.
Sasuke dropped his head against hers. "Sorry to summon you again so soon but Naruto needs you. Go with him, keep him safe. Do this for me please." He whispered these words as he lay his face on her great snout.
Koneko let out a low purr but she wasn't at ease. The humans around them seemed ready for battle at any moment. She pulled her head away and butted Sasuke gently. Of course. You will be alright?
"Yes we'll be fine. Go, Naruto needs you now." Sasuke pushed her towards his brother.
Koneko curled her lip and growled at the stationary ninjas as she approached the couple. These two smelled of defeat and heartbreak. I will kill whoever has caused this change in you! The cat declared. To break such a strong child was criminal and she wouldn't stand for it.
Hinata let out a sad laugh. "If only it were that simple. Please watch over my husband and bring him back to me safely." She scratched under Koneko's chin and again the saber purred.
"Naruto I want you to know that we didn't know – Father and I! I'm so sorry Naruto!" Ayame rushed forward to hug his neck.
"I know." He added quietly and gently pulled away not really up to handling her sympathy.
"I'm here for you. Whatever you need Naruto." Seiko said quietly. He'd already suffered so much that she was unsure if he would come back whole from this.
"Thanks help Sasuke. He'll need you." Naruto told her with a nod. "Takeshi." He hugged his brother then moved to Sasuke. "Do nothing. Take care of Itachi and watch over my wife." Naruto seemed more in control now. The red cloak was gone and his eyes were blue again. In answer the two men went to stand beside Hinata. Ayame and Seiko did the same. Naruto took a deep breath and put his hand on Koneko's shoulder and walked towards the edge of the roof.
"Naruto! Where are you going Naruto! You cannot leave this village! Stop him!" Tsunade commanded. She was panicking.
"My lady…are we to use lethal force to stop him?" Ibiki asked cautiously. He didn't want to but she was the Hokage.
"No! Just make him stay!" Tsunade ordered. "He has to understand why we did the things we did. Naruto let us explain." She reached out a hand to him.
"Don't make me kill these people." Naruto said quietly. "I want some time to myself. It may not be a good idea but I'll be back. My wife is here. My brothers are here. I'll come back for them. You've made a fool out of me my whole life; do you want to make me a murderer too?" Naruto looked back over his shoulder at her then had to look away unable to stand the sight of her. "Will you turn me into a second Itachi? Shall I kill all those close to me because of you, the leader of this village pushed me into it? You'll do that bastard Sarutobi proud Lady Hokage!" The words came out in an angry growl.
"Stay Naruto - stay and listen to me!" Tsunade stalked closer but Takeshi and Sasuke were there to block her. "He's my son! You won't stop me from talking to him!" She yelled at the boys but they didn't move each giving her angry withering stares.
"That's enough Tsunade. Let's give him what he's asked for - time." Jiraiya came up behind her, took her arm and began pulling her away.
"But Jiraiya he's leaving..." She looked up into his pleading with him. "We can't let him go." Tsunade whimpered.
"He's coming back Tsunade. Naruto gave Hinata his word. Naruto never goes back on his word." Iruka said calmly as he stared at Naruto. "Know this Naruto, I love you like my own. Minato was a great man, a protector and you've proven many times over that you are the same. Thank you Naruto for saving us, for being you and letting me be your adopted father." Iruka bowed to Naruto but never broke eye contact.
Naruto shook and more tears fell. Even though he felt betrayed he still loved Iruka like a father. "I've got to go. Two days Hinata - two days." He took a shuddering breath when Sasuke and Takeshi held out their fists to him. "Yeah." He said nodding and returned the gesture. A weak smile was given to Hinata when she blew him a kiss.
"Lady Tsunade?" Ibiki asked quickly. She hadn't rescinded the order to stop Naruto.
"...Let him go. Naruto is free to come and go as he pleases. No one is to stop him or follow him ever again." Tsunade let Jiraiya support her weakened body. Her voice had been soft but Ibiki heard it and quickly repeated the order to the crowd of shinobi watching and over his radio. The village had just survived a potential disaster and he would not let anyone make a fool mistake and kill them all.
Naruto took one last look at his family, leaped onto Koneko's back. "Get me the hell out of here!" Koneko roared as she jumped off the roof.
"Talon stay with your father." Hinata had taken Talon from Takeshi's shoulder to hold him and ensure that her connection to him was strong. His little head rubbed at her cheek and she kissed him before launching into the air.
There was commotion in the streets below as Koneko roared and growled her way through the village and out of the opened gates. Naruto was gone.
It was silent on the roof. Hinata had turned into Takeshi's arms needing to hold and be held. Her husband was suffering and there was little she or any of them could do to help him.
"Hinata will you let us explain?" Jiraiya asked even as he comforted Tsunade.
She clutched the brown leather of Takeshi's coat fiercely then pulled away to look at the Sannin. "No. You owe the explanations to my husband; it's him that's been wronged. I'm going home." Hinata drew herself up appearing noble even in her distress.
"Come home Daughter. Let us care for you until Naruto comes back." Hiashi moved to hold her but she stepped back.
Hinata shook her head. "I can't, I'm too disappointed in you to be near you right now Father." Lavender eyes shimmered as she looked in the pale eyes of her parent.
Hiashi gasped softly then bowed his head. "I understand. May I send your sister to you?" Hiashi until that moment hadn't realized that the good opinion of his child could mean so much. He would do everything in his power to get back her good will.
"Yes, yes please." Hinata agreed. The house would be so empty without Naruto and talon. "Neji will you walk with me?" She didn't think she'd make it on her own.
Neji had to clear his throat several times before he could speak but he was at her side instantly. "Of course Sister. May I stay with you as well?" He'd put his arm around her and let out sigh when she nodded. "Are you ready?" When Hinata whispered yes, he carefully led her back into the hospital with a nod to his Uncle. It was a silent promise that he would take care of Hinata.
"I'll be closing the district. None of you are welcome there for the time being." Sasuke told the adults but he included Shikamaru in that as well. "I'll be back in the morning to see Itachi. Sakura will you watch over him tonight?" He turned to the pink haired girl who'd lapsed into stunned silence at everything she'd just learned.
Sakura tottered forward already nodding before speaking. "...Of...of course Sasuke..."
"Seiko, stay with me?" He held out his hand for her and closed his eyes in relief when she came to him immediately. "TK you ready?"
Takeshi swept Ayame up in his arms. "Past ready to leave. Let's go home." The four young people walked to the edge of the roof and jumped.
At first he rode on Koneko's back but Naruto's skin felt too tight. He had to release his pent up anger and jumped off her back. He ran using Kyuubi's chakra and the saber tooth was left to follow him. Naruto covered miles as he sweated out his pain. Eventually he couldn't move and fell to the ground exhausted but even as he passed out from the exertion his tears fell.
He came to in his mindscape. Naruto continued to cry as the great fox watched. Nothing needed to be explained, the fox knew all. COME OUT NOW OR HE MAY NOT RECOVER. Kyuubi's deep voice commanded.
Naruto didn't respond. He was finally cried out and lay dazed in the fragrant grass. Vaguely he heard the cage door open and very shortly a presence was next to him. Some part of his mind was worried that the fox with nine tails had escaped his cage but Naruto truly didn't care.
"I'm tempted to come back to life and kick all their asses for mistreating you my baby boy." A woman's voice said both tender and angry.
"Yes I agree with you. I never thought Sarutobi would fail to protect you Naruto. I'm sorry my son." Namikaze Minato knelt down next to Naruto and laid a warm hand on his chest.
Naruto's eyes flew open to stare at a face so similar to his own that he almost thought he was looking into a mirror. At a giggle he looked up and saw a beautiful woman with red hair. "...are you...?"
YES YOUNG ONE THESE ARE YOUR TRUE PARENTS UZUMAKI KUSHINA AND NAMIKAZE MINATO. The Nine-Tailed Fox sat up as he made the introduction. His glowing eyes fixed on family before him.
It took me forever to focus so I do apologize. This is the last chapter and yes it is a cliffhanger.^^ I intend to write a third and final story to wrap my Naruto fanfic. I'll announce the title on my profile page so you'll know what to look for when I upload it. I've had a lot of encouragement and kind words from many of you so again I thank you.