Confluence

By Violet Garnets

Chapter Seventeen: Approaching the Mouth

o-x-o-x-o

To be honest, he had forgotten lube.

He hadn't ever really gone the whole way before – not that he would tell Kakashi that – but the village boys always reminded him that when he did it for sure, he'd have to lube up because it was excruciating without it. "Spit dries fast," a few would tell him. "You going to slow your momentum to freshen up down there? No, Aki-chan! Don't even hesitate, the answer is no!"

So, listening to those wise civilian boys, he'd need lube. Even if that meant waiting until all of this was over, he thought with a groan. Maybe he could buy some if they stopped in another town, or get some not-so-proper-but-perhaps-more-fun substitute but when would there be time? It could be a quick one, maybe, he'd pull Kakashi away some night while traveling and–and–

"Dammit!" he snapped as he dropped back onto the bed, fully dressed. Yin had told them to meet in the main compound by eight, but he still had two hours to go. Thankfully a good amount of time, he observed as his dick was growing hard at the fantasies flitting through his head. Outdoors? A cheap hotel? No setting was quite romantic, but all Naruto wanted was to see Kakashi's face, flushed, all because of him, just as he looked last night when Naruto had finished sucking him off. He didn't need any help getting off, not at all, not when he saw that face: eyes closed, scars pale in the dim light by the bed, skin blossoming red partly from embarrassment but mostly from pleasure, and open, so open Naruto wanted to find a way to keep digging in deeper... he'd just come at the sight, the thought.

How nice it would have been to fuck him then and there. But...

To be really honest, he had just been scared as fuck.

Kakashi was bigger than any of the boys he'd met in those three years (with the exception of one guy, but they had never gone past a bit of groping here and there), and at the same time his largeness was nothing to note. Naruto liked that. The man he'd respected, admired, adored since that distant day when his best prank was an eraser over a door, a village hero whose shadow seemed gigantic and whose footsteps Naruto wanted but sometimes wasn't quite sure if he could fit into – his dick wasn't as terrifying. That was nice. He could work with that.

But he wasn't sure about the other matter. Not that he had any insecurity about his own dick, hell no, but what if he hurt him, what if he was too slow, what if it was boring, what if Kakashi had had better, what if he'd never get better at this even if he was a quick learner, what if- what if—what if he wasn't

enough?

"Goddammit," he muttered.

Sexual frustration was the worst.

He ached to touch Kakashi again. He could hear the teasing words of those civilian boys, when they'd gotten him good and he came with a choked, "Ka—Ka—". They'd look him in the eye and, with a grin, half-whisper, "That's not my name, Aki-chan!"

Wait.

Aki-chan.

Akira.

Didn't Kakashi call him Akira that one time? Didn't they mention something about Akira in the history texts? He'd been using that name as a civilian cover, but perhaps...it wasn't much of a cover.

The fuck?

o-x-o-x-o

She couldn't let her guard down. Even if he was chained, he had once been an instigator of one of the most brutal wars even the oldest of the clans had seen in their lifetimes, the creator of the monstrosity the Ten-Tailed demon. She was perhaps fifteen winters younger, more agile and quick to react, but he had skill and experience on his side.

Yet, as he smiled at her, her gaze softened. He looked as though he were about to cry.

"You are a beautiful woman. I could have fallen in love with you." She squirmed a little, not at the compliment, but at the feeling that he really meant it, that he was regretting something else, as if there were an unsaid "instead". She said nothing.

He did not seem to mind. "I have a lot to repent for, in this lifetime. Maybe I shall be a cockroach in the next one and someone will stomp on me over and over again. That seems insufficient though, I'm sure you agree. Cockroaches don't have emotions, I'm sure. They only feel physical pain, of being crushed. Young as you are, I'm sure you know there are far more painful ways to crush a man."

"Perhaps you'll feel too much the next life."

His laugh took her by surprise. It sounded like a choke at first, maybe a bark, but then it was hearty, and bitter. "Yes, I think so. For Akira the Destroyer, that is a fitting punishment."

As she saw the tears trickle from his blue eyes, she regretted her words. He clearly felt too much in this life. Right now. How much more could one man bear?

Sakura gasped and lunged forward, but a pair strong arms held her down.

"Sakura!" It was Sai. His face was the same as ever, but a flicker of concern, then uncertainty passed over before he pulled her into a tentative, awkward, embrace.

She gasped once more, this time to catch her breath. Thankful for his strong grip, she fell into him, her hands grabbing at the fabric covering his back. She could feel his breath ease and he held her more comfortably, though still it retained the awkwardness Sai tended to have with any individual, a distance he still had not learned how to bridge– but perhaps there was a distance between people no one could ever close. Sakura appreciated his effort and had the sobs not been so devastatingly bone-wracking, she would have thanked him.

She couldn't stop thinking of those blue eyes, and because of that, she couldn't stop the tears.

o-x-o-x-o

Yamato had knocked on Naruto's door at the appointed time and together they walked to the archive.

"Sleep well, Naruto?"

"Sort of. You?"

"Sort of. I was thinking of Sakurai, Sai, and the others. They must have found the new jinchuuriki at this point."

Ah yeah, Naruto had forgotten about that. "How old's the kid?"

"Probably three or four."

Old enough to know pain, but not enough to understand it, place a name to it, Naruto thought. "Cool. There's still time."

"Time?"

"To teach it how to be the ultimate prankster!" Naruto said, grinning, keeping it in place even as Yamato looked at him with a look close to pity. Considering Bee, Kumo probably had a different reaction to demon containers than Konoha did, but still. It was easier to learn self-defense than to teach a whole community.

Naruto stopped in the middle of the hallway.

"Naruto?"

How cowardly.

"I take it back."

"What?"

"New plan: There's still time to tell Kumo they can't fuck around like Konoha did. We can beat the bullshit out of them."

It was quiet for a moment, and when Li opened the door of the archive with a raised eyebrow, Yamato was laughing.

Finally, he said, "Kakashi-senpai was right. You really are Konoha's Number One Most Unpredictable Ninja."

Naruto grinned again, and this time it was sincere. They entered the archive. Unsurprisingly, everyone was present except Kakashi. Huang was scribbling in a small notebook, his eyes darting from the notes to a thick pile of scrolls. Yin stood over her basin, expression blank as usual, not acknowledging their entrance.

"Where's Wispy?"

"Good morning to you too," Yamato said drily. Naruto snickered. "Sorry, but senpai tends to be...tardy to things. It's a terrible habit."

Huang grunted and went back to note-taking. Li sat down across the table strewn with papers and joined him.

"So...uh... do you guys just...write? All the time?"

"Yes," Li said, not looking up. "The Hei have always been a family of mercenaries, but this...this is the inheritance of the clan. We record and protect history. We save it for the future." Naruto didn't really have any definitive opinion on the trio of historians yet, except maybe that he didn't like Huang so much, but there was something in Li's tone as he spoke that made Naruto like him and feel more at ease. He meant what he said. The dark-eyed man would put his life on the line for this.

He continued. "The mercenary cover is helpful for our real work. Anyone that hears whispers of the Hei merely think we're a clan for hire, which is true. We're careful about which jobs we pick up, and when. We never provide services to governments, though there's nothing wrong with serving the powerful ones in the government. Either they're killed off quickly, or they last long enough that we can serve them their lifetime. There are nothing in-between, and most fall into the former category anyway."

"I assume that list of long-term clients is confidential?" Yamato asked.

Li nodded.

"Danzou's not on there, is he?" The tone was casual, but immediately every body in the room stiffened (aside from Yin, who really did seem involved in whatever she was doing over that basin.)

Huang answered, scoffing. "As if we'd ever pander to that stick-up-his-asshole mummy. We're not trustworthy in our alliances, but we're not morons. He's complete trouble."

Naruto couldn't really tell if he was lying or not, but the old man's distaste for Danzou seemed pretty sincere. He grinned and 'hmm!'ed his agreement.

The door opened with a click and all their heads turned to meet Kakashi in the entrance. He was eye-smiling, and gave them a weak wave of his hands.

"Sorry. Doing laundry."

Naruto choked. The sheets! They must've been stained with his own cum, and what he hadn't managed to swallow and ended up wiping off his mouth onto the bed.

Huang scoffed. "You're a terrible liar. A surprise you manage to be a shinobi with that deficiency."

Oh, he wasn't lying at all. Not a bit.

Shit, it really wouldn't do to get roused up in front of everyone here. Goddamn cock of his. No one told you to stand at attention! Stop! Maybe he could go to the bathroom or–

"-suke and his team Taka are making their way towards your teammates and the new jinchuuriki."

"What? Sasuke?" His earlier concern was dropped in an instant.

Huang rolled his eyes. "Come on now, pick it up. Yin received a message from a clan member this morning. The information is sound. If you Konoha-nin are as talented as your reputation – which at this point you don't seem to be so – your team will be able to avoid them if you leave tomorrow and move swift."

"Why not tonight?" Yamato asked, a shadow on his face.

"What Wispy and the brat are doing today is not an easy process, nor is it a short one. They'll need the rest."

Yin spoke; everyone jumped. "It's not as simple as just walking into the catacomb and discovering information. A journey into the River Passage requires the release of one's earthly identity, to reach for the golden current of one's life, as well as the red threads that tie one soul to another."

The oldest of the Hei archivists shot a look at Li. "Want to explain to them?"

Li nodded. "Yin speaks of the River Passage. Our chief concern as the Hei is history, the chronicling of time. We have no control over time itself, so we find it valuable to prepare ourselves with knowledge of its patterns, however few they are.

"However, we have one last duty. The Hei are the keepers of the River Passage, found deep in the catacombs of this mountain."

"The River Passage? What's that? A big river?" Naruto asked. He had a hard time imagining it.

"The big river is the one aboveground. There is a spiritual one that runs underneath it. As with any river, it feeds into a delta. No matter how hard we may try, we have no idea which way this river winds, or where it starts or begins. The delta, however- that is the River Passage. Past members of the Hei have gained access through it for understanding of their past lives and histories. But fair warning. It only takes a person in if they should, and there is absolutely no control in what it shows you."

"So we could've come here for nothing," Kakashi said. Naruto could hear the guarded tone, and found a pang of disappointment.

"Man, this sucks," he whined, pouting.

"We doubt that will happen. Considering what was relayed to us, we have reason to believe you are connected to the instigators of the Clan Wars. There's something else going on right now that makes that meaningful."

Huang nodded. "Yes, you should reach the demon container before Taka does."

"Duh."

The old man shook his head. "No, not only for that reason. There's something else. The reason why you two are accessing old lives, why Akatsuki has been biding its time these past few years rather than dealing their finishing blow. They've been waiting for this."

"What do you mean?" Kakashi's eyes were sharp and his shoulders tense.

Huang stared at each of them individually before he took a careful breath.

"The Sage of the Six Paths has finally been reincarnated."

Silence.

"Whaaaaaaaatt?"

o-x-o-x-o

Finally the sobs subsided, and Sakura was able to gently push against Sai, letting him know she was alright now.

"Sorry," she said as she pulled away and his arms dropped to his sides, her eyes on his soaked cropped shirt. "Got it wet."

He shrugged. "Tears dry."

She wasn't sure if he meant to be consoling, but it made her smile. "Yes. They do."

"You fainted," Sai said, answering the question on the tip of her tongue. "I...I don't know why, but I thought something felt off, and I asked the others for permission to check on you and the Raikage. I came here and you were out, mumbling. The Lady Tanigawa had been watching you, but she needed to put the child to bed."

She nodded. "Thank you. I just remember meeting Tanigawa— no, Kira-san and Yomei-chan, and then..." Sakura faltered. She wasn't sure what to make of her dream, those blue eyes.

"Are you unwell? Pregnant?"

Caught off-guard, she laughed. It felt nice, as if weights were lifting off of her lungs. She could breathe, she realized. She could breathe easily. "Your jokes are getting better, Sai!"

When her eyes weren't closed from the laughter, she could see him smile at her. "Your smiles are getting better, too," she said.

His eyes widened and his smile vanished for a moment, and for the first time ever, perhaps, he blushed. But it was just a sprinkle of pink, then it was gone and he smiled again, still genuine. "I'm glad."

"Me too, Sai." And she really was. Since his initial appearance, Sakura had certainly lessened her guard around him, even learned to trust him. But it was strange to grow close to him like this, to be vulnerable but not because she had left an opening while attacking or defending. They weren't in battle. They weren't training. They were just here, together, as teammates. Instinctively her hand moved out to ruffle his short hair. He didn't move away, but looked at her inquiringly. "It's to show affection."

"Ah." He was silent for a moment, and Sakura watched as he processed this information slowly, probably filing it into his growing database for Human Interaction. Finally, he just said, "It's pleasant."

"Good! It should be. You're still wondering about something though, aren't you?"

"I believe I've seen Kakashi-san do it to Naruto before. I do understand that he means to show affection but—"

"But?"

"The expression on his face was different from yours." He furrowed his eyes softly. "As if...as if it wasn't enough."

She sighed. "Yes, Naruto and Kakashi are like that. Shinobi in general are emotionally ruined. We don't know how to act around each other, to show affection, to give or take what we want or need." She laughed. "In the end, you're not very behind the rest of us."

"Things were easier when I didn't have to know any of this." He looked at her with his fathomless dark eyes.

"Easier, but not better."

"Yes."

Before a silence could lapse between them, Sakura clapped her hands together. "I'm sure the Raikage and Kira-san are worried. Could you let them know I'm fine? Maybe a glass of water too."

"Of course." He stood up to leave, but the door slid open and Sakura found a little boy tumbling into her arms. She reeled back to catch him and her breath caught in her throat at Yomei's sweet smile.

"You're awake, hime-sama! Okaa-san told me to go to bed, but I knew you were up!" Despite his excitement, he yawned loudly and rubbed round fists at his eyes. She held him close to her and stood up.

"I'm glad you wanted to see me, Yomei-chan. Let's go find your mother."

"Okay!" His bright eyes looked up at her, and her breath caught again. For a brief moment, she thought... she shook her head.

"No. I saw it." Sakura turned to Sai. His face was grim. "It was just a moment, but I'm sure I saw it. His eyes rippled. There's no mistake."

She gasped as silhouettes overtook the doorway of the room. It was Kira and En, both of them with tight-lipped grimaces.

"Yes, Haruno-san. It's the bloodline limit of the Rinnegan."

o-x-o-x-o

So hereon it'll be AU about the beginnings of the Naruto universe, but I tried to give it a bit of Kishimoto's touch and luckily his canon has enough about it that many parts of it fits in nicely with my own imagination. So yay!

I'm very fond of Sakura, and I know I tend to focus on Kakashi and Naruto, so it was nice to pull more of the focus onto their teammates. Sai's an adorable character, and I think that Sakura has the perfect amount of patience at this point to help him along, especially when his other teammates are absolute morons. She's reliable, so incredibly reliable, that I find it important to let her be vulnerable sometimes, and she'll never let you mistake it for a "feminine" weakness. Ever.

We'll be delving into the River Passage next time as well as a look into other characters' doings, so please look forward to it!