Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Note: Recent manga spoilers.
"God, what am I supposed to do?" Naruto groaned, his head in his hands. He was still reeling from Sai's earlier announcement that Sakura was off to kill Sasuke and it seemed like every which way he looked there was someone or something else urging him to kill his best friend. "Is it actually possible to care about Sasuke without wanting to strangle him?" he wondered aloud.
"I'm sure I don't know," Madara's voice said from somewhere above him. Naruto's head shot up and he saw Madara standing on a tree branch and staring down at him. Well, probably. It was kind of hard to tell with the mask. "But I have found myself wanting to strangle him disturbingly often."
" 'Disturbingly'?" Naruto repeated skeptically. "But you're evil."
"I still need him alive," Madara pointed out. "At least for now…"
"Sasuke is not your plaything!" Naruto said heatedly.
"You said that before," Madara noted, "but he has yet to say or do anything to even begin to convince me otherwise. And if my wanting to strangle him is so evil then isn't your desire to do the same equally evil?"
Naruto shook his head immediately. "No, because mine is born not out of annoyance but out of stunned disbelief at his continued idiocy. Seriously, I remember a time not too long ago where he was being praised as a genius and christening me an idiot or dead-last. I swear to God, that curse seal must have given him brain damage."
"I wouldn't put it past Orochimaru," Madara declared. "He always was so delightfully twisted and had a nice, healthy appreciation for the Sharingan."
Naruto snorted. " 'Healthy appreciation'? He was obsessed."
"And the Sharingan is the most superior Kekkei genkai ever, so that makes sense," Madara said haughtily.
"What about the Mokuton?" Naruto asked just to be annoying.
"If Hashirama couldn't pass it on to his descendents it is an aberration, not a Kekkei genkai ," Madara replied stiffly. "But never mind that. Tell me: why do you wish to strangle Sasuke at the moment?"
"Because he's apparently about two minutes away from starting the Fourth Great Shinobi War," Naruto answered, making a face.
"He's too late; I already did," Madara said proudly.
"If you're talking about the Akatsuki and Bijuu versus the rest of the world that's not a war it's a terrorist action," Naruto informed him matter-of-factly. "And the history books will remember it as such."
"Not when I win because it would be too embarrassing," Madara countered. "And what war-worthy act did Sasuke commit lately?"
"He kidnapped the Raikage's brother," Naruto moaned. "And since he wasn't declared an official missing-nin at the time, there may be problems."
"As it happens, Sasuke did NOT manage to capture the eight-tails," Madara corrected him. "I explained that to the Raikage earlier."
"Really?" Naruto brightened.
"Would I ever lie to you?" Madara asked. "Wait…don't answer that."
"Sweet! This means no Kumo/Konoha war and that killing Sasuke's not nearly as urgent as Shikamaru said!" Naruto cheered. Just then, a thought occurred to him. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"We didn't get a chance to finish our discussion last time," Madara told him.
Naruto looked confused. "We didn't? Because I could have sworn that you asked me about Nagato, I told you it was none of your business, I asked you about Sasuke, you told me your version of the Uchiha Massacre, reiterated that Sasuke's a revenge-obsessed moron, and said you were going to make us fight. Seems pretty 'finished' to me."
"But it's not," Madara disagreed. "I never got an explanation as to what you said to Nagato to turn him against me."
"I did tell you it wasn't any of your business, which was kind of an answer," Naruto pointed out.
"Not good enough," Madara insisted.
"Well then, I don't know what to tell you. I don't like you and you keep hurting people I care about. Why should I tell you anything?" Naruto demanded.
"Do you understand why Sasuke's on my side now?" Madara asked, seemingly impulsively.
Naruto raised his eyebrows. "Do I understand why Sasuke joined the organization that his brother was a part of for years that is lead by the man who freely admits to helping him wipe out the Uchiha clan for the hell of it and whose main goal right now hinges on my death? No, no I really don't."
"I'll explain if you do," Madara offered.
"Fine," Naruto agreed. "I didn't understand why Pein was destroying Konoha and killing everyone, especially as he didn't seem to be enjoying the carnage so after I destroyed the last of his paths, I decided to confront him about it."
"Why?" Madara asked.
Naruto replied with a question of his own. "Why what?"
"Why did you care?" Madara elaborated. "He had just killed half of Konoha."
Naruto shrugged. "I don't know. I always care; it's just who I am. If I don't understand then I won't be able to help anyone else."
"I…see," Madara said, clearly not seeing at all.
"I knew no one else would understand so I went alone and met Nagato," Naruto continued. "I asked him to tell me his life story-"
"That's almost painfully blunt," Madara interrupted.
"Not all of us like mind games, Madara," Naruto said, crossing his arms.
"Or have any talent at it whatsoever, Naruto," Madara shot back.
"I don't need to be good at mind games," Naruto claimed. "I've noticed it just messes you up anyway."
"What a quaint way of looking at it," Madara's tone was patronizing. "And I suppose he just told you, did he?"
Naruto nodded. "He seemed kind of eager to do so, actually."
"…You're serious," Madara said finally.
"Yeah, Konan seemed pretty surprised, too," Naruto confessed.
"Why would he tell you, though?"Madara wondered. "I can't imagine that he would just up and tell anyone who asked."
"Well, how did you find out?" Naruto asked.
"I asked," Madara responded. "But that was different! We were forming the Akatsuki so that kind of information was relevant!"
Naruto shrugged. "He seemed to think that if I heard his tragic back-story I would agree with his view of the world."
"Why did he care if you agreed with him or not? He was trying to capture you to kill you!" Madara exclaimed.
"He apparently didn't think convincing me would be that hard," Naruto answered.
"From what I've heard, the minute you hear a sob story, all is forgiven," Madara pointed out.
Naruto shook his head. "Not true."
"Really?" Madara sounded skeptical. "What about the Kazekage? Or that Hyuuga boy? Or even Nagato himself?"
"I tend to overlook the past after hearing the reasons, yes," Naruto admitted. "But only after they change their ways. Nagato killed everyone, but he also gave his life to bring them back. That's a pretty sure sign that he meant his conversion, don't you think?"
"Yes, but why?" Madara pressed. "He'd been firmly on my side of hatred since before you were even born so how did you manage to talk him out of it?"
"I told him that I understood him but that I still couldn't forgive him for Jiraiya or Konoha and that I dearly wanted vengeance," Naruto explained.
"What's this?" Madara sounded absolutely delighted and Naruto felt a shiver go down his spine. "You might be one of us after all."
Naruto shuddered. "As if. UNLIKE Sasuke, I told him I would not give in to that temptation."
"Why not?" Madara asked.
"What do you mean 'why not'?" Naruto returned. "Because I decided that wasn't the best course of action, that's why."
"Yes, but you must have a reason, no matter how sanctimonious it is," Madara insisted.
"It's not sanctimonious" Naruto objected. "I was going to but then I remembered that Jiraiya believed in me and entrusted his dream of peace to me and I remembered what Nagato said about the chain of hatred and knew that if I killed him I would just be adding another link. I didn't want to let Jiraiya down."
"And you don't find that sanctimonious?" Madara asked incredulously.
"Not even slightly," Naruto said cheerfully. "Why?"
"No reason. Kids these days…" Madara shook his head. "So then what happened?"
"Nothing much. He was extremely shocked and touched by my assertion that I would not give in to my thirst for vengeance. I quoted the line in Jiraiya's book that was said by my namesake. He said he couldn't bring himself to believe but since I could he was going to entrust his dream of peace to me and was going to bring everyone back to show his sincerity. Oh, and he also decided that I was the Messiah," Naruto added, almost as an afterthought.
"He WOULD refuse to believe that anyone could beat him without having some divine connection," Madara mused. "Then what happened?"
"That's pretty much it, actually," Naruto informed him. Konan was obviously very upset but said if Nagato believed in me then she would, too."
"That's it?!?!" Madara couldn't believe it. "But all you did is tell him you disagreed with him and wouldn't see the world his way."
"Well, usually I have to imply that they're really stupid for believing as they do, but that's really all there is to it," Naruto admitted.
"Why does that work?" Madara was genuinely baffled.
Naruto shrugged. "Damned if I know but it's surprisingly effective. I suppose it just relies on the fact that, deep down, they're not happy on their chosen path but can't see another path until they meet me walking it."
"That's still very odd," Madara remarked.
"I guess so," Naruto agreed absently. "Your turn."
"While some well-placed lies are invaluable, what I tend to do is either phrase their current situation in either very frank, cynical terms or explain why everything they believed was false," Madara began.
"And Sasuke?" Naruto asked, further showcasing his one-track mind.
"That was actually one of my easier persuasions," Madara decided. "I told him that he was only alive because Itachi loved him enough to threaten to see Konoha destroyed if any harm came to him and how Danzo, the Council, an d the Sandaime ordered his clan killed because of a coup they were planning. I mostly stuck to the facts, but I just had to emphasize how much Itachi loved him as he seemed disinclined to believe me."
"Sasuke had just killed Itachi after thinking he was trying to steal his eyes. What did you expect?" Naruto asked incredulously.
"You're probably right," Madara conceded. "But I HAD to tell him. It was just so tragic!" he declared innocently.
Naruto snorted. "Yeah. I think it's tragic. I'm still annoyed because a large part of Sasuke's leaving was briefly reuniting with and being left in a coma for weeks on end by Itachi; you just wanted to play with Sasuke's emotions."
"To be fair," Madara defended himself. "It's not like I even had to try. Letting Sasuke know just how important Konoha was to his brother and how disloyal the clan was was a risk, but one I was willing to take as Sasuke's defection seemed to indicate he didn't care about Konoha. And I was right."
"Then what happened?" Naruto asked.
"He decided he wanted to destroy Konoha. I didn't even have to suggest it," Madara sounded almost fond.
"That's it?!?!" Naruto unwittingly echoed Madara's earlier disbelief.
"It's surprisingly effective. I suppose it just relies on the fact that, deep down, people have given up and just can't admit it on their own," Madara intentionally mimicked Naruto's earlier explanation.
"Why are people so easily influenced?" Naruto wondered.
"I have no idea," Madara replied honestly. "I've never been."
"Since our philosophies are so different, it makes sense we don't understand each other's perspectives," Naruto said logically. "And speaking of not understanding, I've got some questions about your Moon plan…"
"Sorry, I have to make someone have a mental breakdown," Madara said quickly, vanishing. It was all well and good talking about his plan when someone first heard about it but after they'd had a chance to think about it for awhile…
Madara had sworn never again by the time Itachi had finished nitpicking.