The Hokage sighed as he read the reports on his desk. Koharu had come to him earlier with her suspicions in regards to Danzo, and he'd been disturbed to find his teammate's concerns about their childhood friend to be plausible. He couldn't quite believe that Danzo would allow such harm to come to the children of the village that he claimed to serve the best interests of, especially since it was completely unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst and none of the children were Root recruits. And, if these reports in front of him were correct, the blame for the abuse of the Uchiha boy wouldn't land in Danzo's lap.
An external and apparently long overdue investigation of the special council that handled the affairs of the local orphans had revealed rife corruption that had gone on under his nose for years if not decades. Contrary to the neatly typed quarterly reports he had been given to look over four times a year, the orphans who weren't recruited to be soldiers in Root were quite likely to receive substandard care from people who had little to no investigation done into their backgrounds making it almost better for the children to end up in Root rather than remain in the orphanages that had steadily gone downhill over the years as staff turnover remained high due to the poor pay. To make matters worse, the orphan council had also robbed the coffers in a most creative manner, cooking the books so thoroughly that they were nearly burnt, making it so that those who truly cared for their charges were unable to properly take care of them because of a lack of proper funding.
Several years ago, he'd been assured that the incident that had happened with Naruto was an isolated one, that none of the other children had been in danger from the man who had decided to "take his frustrations out on the demon" but, that apparently wasn't the case. The incident regarding the Uchiha child that probably wouldn't have come to anyone's attention if Naruto hadn't had a mischievous streak a mile wide and gotten the boy drunk had revealed that the incident that had caused Naruto's permanent removal from the orphanage hadn't been as isolated as he'd been led to believe.
He hadn't personally dealt with any of Konoha's orphans other than Naruto and Iruka, who had been left at his parents' house with a caretaker who dropped by to deliver meals since the boy was nearly an academy graduate at the time he'd been orphaned, for years. Other than Naruto's orphanage which he hadn't seen in seven years, he had not toured any of the facilities where such children had been kept since his responsibilities as Hokage, Naruto, and his grandson had kept him much too busy, and he hadn't been given any reason to believe that the orphan council hadn't been doing their jobs.
This situation was far worse than when the Academy instructor Mizuki had turned traitor, and the damage that had been done in this situation was most likely irreparable in many cases. And, it was partially his fault since he hadn't been keeping an eye on it like he should have been.
After signing the orders for the ANBU to conduct raids on every last one of those facilities and for the T&I division to personally vet any and every person who dealt with the children living in those orphanages on a daily basis, he turned to the next request on his desk.
Sighing, he signed Iruka's request to teach a special class on identifying a certain type of "Predator", wishing that it hadn't been necessary.
Naruto had been curious when his team as well as teams 8 and 10 had been called back to the Academy. After he'd arrived, he'd been positively mortified because he'd been forced to sit through a long lecture about the "bad" kind of touching and how to spot the warning signs when dealing with the sort of person that "preyed on children". He'd squirmed when all eyes turned to him after the lecture. It seemed that there had been some rumors going around amongst his peers. Iruka's irrational behavior towards his Jonin instructor and his godfather hadn't helped matters any.
"What?" he finally yelled.
"Well...um...Naruto..." Hinata said shyly, apparently unable to form much less finish her sentence.
"If you're asking what I think you're asking about, the reason Kakashi-sensei's been hugging me all the time and giving me presents is most likely because he feels guilty that he's been living his own life instead of looking after me like he felt my parents would've wanted him to do, forgetting that I already had a godfather who should have been taking care of me himself and that they wouldn't have expected a fourteen year-old to take care of a baby. The reason I haven't been living with Ero-senin all along is because he's been away the last twelve years peeking into women's baths, writing perverted books, and keeping track of a child murdering freak." He said, hoping that he'd cleared up some of the "misunderstandings" that had apparently been circulating.
Several jaws dropped at this.
"Child murdering freak?" Inuzuka Kiba asked.
"Yeah, the guy's name is Orochimaru. He was one of the Legendery Sannin and Ero-Senin's former teammate. He kidnaps kids and uses them in his twisted experiments, where he turns them into freaky mutants if he doesn't kill them outright. He ran away from Konoha after they found about a hundred dead kids in his lab, some of whom had even been dissected. Ero-Senin fought him when he ran and lost. Ero-senin then decided to keep track of him as best as he could after that since he'd never been able to defeat him in open battle, and the bastard had threatened to destroy Konoha when he left. Since he didn't seem to be doing anything but sitting in his new lab for the last year or so, Ero-Senin decided it was safe to come back for a while until he gets news that the bastard has gone on the move again." he said.
Of all the horrified stares that surrounded him, the most important one was Sasuke's unsurprisingly well disguised one. If Sasuke had known what Orochimaru was beforehand, he probably never would have joined him. At least that's what he believed of the Sasuke he knew, the Sasuke who had been his teammate, and had taken what had seemed to be a death blow for him, the Sasuke who - despite all that happened to him - still had a little bit of a heart left, the Sasuke whose eyes had not yet died, the Sasuke who had spared him at the Valley of the End when he could have easily killed him while he was unconscious, the Sasuke who still knew that sometimes power came at too great a price.
He would do anything and everything in his power to make sure that his Sasuke didn't vanish again. If warning him about Orochimaru helped...he would post a sign a hundred miles high.
Tenzo was sore and exhausted by the time he reached the gates of Konoha. He had taken the most direct route and still ended up suffering through a couple interesting misadventures that he planned to do his utmost to forget entirely. He looked over his shoulder once more when he'd thought he'd felt an out of place presence. Once again there was nothing, just like the last time he looked. That didn't necessarily mean that nobody was there though. He had a sneaking suspicion that Tsunade had followed him home waiting for him to drop dead because she was just a little too honorable to knock him out and take her necklace back despite her numerous other faults. After all, he'd won it fair and square.
He'd finally won the necklace in a twenty hour poker game that emptied her ready cash resources, and damn near doubled her personal gambling debt before she had finally and rather reluctantly put up her necklace.
Giving a wan smile to the guard on duty, he signed in and headed to his apartment, tripping over the black cat that had been wandering around the village for as long as he could remember and somehow landing headfirst in a metal trash can full of things he really didn't want to think about which he promptly knocked over along with the other cans in the row on his way. This had become par for the course, as the return trip home had been constantly been like this.
He couldn't wait to be rid of the necklace which he would be giving to Naruto tomorrow. For now though, he would be doing his best to clean himself off and getting some sleep.
Sasuke sat across from a massive man named Jiraiya at the dinner table in Naruto's new apartment wondering yet again why he'd come. After the lecture that had brought up a number of issues that he didn't want to deal with, Naruto had invited him over for dinner. Based on the boy's expression and the late hour of the meal, it seemed as if Naruto knew exactly how he was going to be getting to sleep that night, and wanted to make sure he didn't drink alone, or at all for that matter. He wasn't quite sure why he had accepted the invitation since he generally tried to avoid getting close to anyone because, everyone he'd gotten close to had hurt him somehow even if it was simply by dying. That, and he was afraid of being tempted to kill someone he was close to to get the Mangekyo Sharingan as his brother had instructed.
Naruto was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the dinner he'd made because apparently, if the Uzumaki was to be believed, Jiraiya's cooking was something to be dreaded far more than that of a ramen obsessed twelve year old, and Naruto had wanted to spare him from the horrors of it. As he waited for Naruto to finish, he noticed several photographs that had been put up on the wall in what looked like a place of honor. One of the photographs was his team photo with Kakashi hugging a squirming Naruto in the middle, and him and Sakura off to either side. The photo to the left of it was of a blond haired man with blue eyes standing behind an ill tempered Kakashi, a girl that may or may not have been an Inuzuka, and a cheerful looking boy in orange goggles who was chewing on a senbon, with one hand on either boy's head. To the left of that was a picture of a much younger Jiraiya standing next to a boy with fluffy blond hair that stuck out everywhere and blue eyes, and two other dark haired children who were looking away from the camera. The picture to the left of that one was of a rather young looking Third Hokage standing behind a Jiraiya that was about half his age, a little blond girl with brown eyes, and an oddly pale little boy with long black hair that had been left loose and gotten into his face. Before he could ask about the pictures that were obviously all team photos, Naruto set a meal that consisted mainly of tomatoes that had been prepared in several different ways before him.
"I heard you like tomatoes." Naruto said by way of explanation before he set a similar plate of food in front of Jiraiya.
Sure, he liked tomatoes, they were his second favorite food but, this was a bit much. As he picked at his meal, Jiraiya tried to engage him in conversation. Jiraiya it seemed had noticed him looking at the photos while they were waiting for their meal and had decided to tell him about them over dinner.
"You obviously know about your team photo." Jiraiya said. "The one next to yours is team Minato. My old student Minato was their instructor. Kakashi was already a Chunin when Minato had the two Genin added so Kakashi could learn to interact with kids his own age. The boy in the goggles was named Obito, he died during the war. He was a cousin of yours if I remember correctly. He used to always show up late to just about everything, mostly because he was training or rather playing with your brother Itachi. I heard that the poor boy didn't speak for over a month after Obito died. The girl's name was Nohara Rin, she was a medic who was killed during a battle with a large number of ninja from Kiri."
"The Picture next to that is the team I trained." Jiraiya continued. "The blonde as you can tell was Minato. The other two died at the beginning of the Third Shinobi War. The picture next to that is my old Genin team. There's me, Hiruzen-sensei, Tsunade's the girl, and Orochimaru's the creepy looking boy. Tsunade became one of the best Medic-Nin in the Elemental countries, before she broke after the death of her fiancee and left. Orochimaru left Konoha after he was caught kidnapping fellow Shinobi and some civilians and doing experiments on them. They found about a hundred dead children in his lab, as well as a bunch more that needed to be put out of their misery because of what he'd done to them."
Sasuke lost his appetite then and there. Naruto had told him about Orochimaru earlier after Iruka had dragged them all back to the Academy for a lecture on sexual abuse and the various ways that pedophiles trick children into certain situations. A lecture he hadn't needed, since he'd already experienced it.
Jiraiya observed the rather bored looking Uchiha whose eyes were wandering around the dining area. He'd never really known the boy as he'd not been close to Fugaku or Mikoto, had been away from Konoha for most of the boy's life, and he hadn't really interacted with the Uchiha after he'd returned. He'd heard about him from Naruto, who had vowed to bring him back from the clutches of his former teammate, but it was all general stuff that "Everybody" knew and it didn't give him a clear image of the child Naruto seemed to regard as a brother.
Seeing that the boy had taken an interest in the team photos that he and Naruto had put up on the wall when they moved in, he decided to give him some history about them and some information about Orochimaru so he wouldn't be going into the deal blind as he seemed to have the last time, thinking he could use the snake to get the power he needed to get his revenge. That had been a rather half-baked plan that had backfired and cost the boy and Konoha dearly. The boy had lost his body, and the village had been destroyed.
When dinner was served, the Uchiha boy picked at his meal, which was rather surprising since he heard that tomatoes were his favorite food, and Naruto was an excellent cook despite his age and propensity for instant ramen. Something was obviously wrong with the boy. Naruto probably knew what was going through the boy's mind, since he knew him much better than he did. He would ask him later.
Deciding to enjoy his meal and shelve the enigma that was Uchiha Sasuke for now, he went back to his food.
Kakashi sat in his room thinking as he munched on a ration bar since he couldn't be bothered to cook that evening. He'd been forced to rethink what he knew about the Uchiha brat. If it had been any other child, a child that didn't have a trauma like the massacre in his past, he probably would have noticed the signs, and would have interrogated any other child about possible abuse if they'd displayed the behavior that boy did. After the arrests that made Iruka the hero of the hour, he had taken to observing the little traitor. What he saw surprised him. He couldn't believe that he'd missed this the last time around, especially considering the fact that he'd taken the brat for a month of one-on-one training. The kid was an alcoholic. The boy had drank himself to sleep every night he'd observed him.
This wasn't exactly a unique occurrence even though laws had been put in place in hopes of preventing it. There had been more than a few alcoholics in his age group when he was the traitor's age, children who had started drinking either because it had been forbidden or in imitation of the adults around them and didn't stop as it had become a crutch that helped them avoid their problems, children who couldn't deal with the life they led and the war they were forced to fight. He might have become one of them himself if it hadn't been for Minato-sensei, and if he had, he would have been just another statistic by now since the ones who had turned to alcohol to deal with their problems had almost invariably died far too young. A person couldn't afford to make mistakes or have their senses dulled in any way in their profession, doing so would be inviting death, which was probably why many of the older Shinobi drank the way they did.
After learning of the Uchiha boy's problem, he investigated as to how the boy was getting his supply. Apparently, the clerk at the nearby liquor store had believed the Uchiha's "I'm running an errand for..." story every time since the brat had taken to purchasing cooking alcohol rather than the more common brands that kids tended to try to get their hands on, and this had been going on for a couple of years. Upon learning this, he'd set the clerk straight and alerted the managers of every other store in the area that Uchiha Sasuke wasn't allowed to buy alcohol from them until he reached the age at which civilians attained majority, which was 18. Hopefully by then, he would have found a way to deal with the problem and the Uchiha would have been weaned of his addiction.
He didn't know how he was going to get the Uchiha boy to stop drinking but, he was sure he'd be able to find a way. Perhaps, he should look into asking Jiraiya about some seals.
Author's Note: As for the "Sasuke who still knew that sometimes power came at too high a price." line, it was a reference to the fact that Sasuke hadn't killed Naruto at the Valley of the End in an attempt to get the Mangekyo Sharingran in his home universe. As for Kakashi not noticing Sasuke's alcohol usage. If he didn't show up obviously intoxicated or smelling of booze, what reason would he have to suspect a 12/13 year old?