The Chaos Theory

by Bullwinkle's Lady

Chapter 41

Breathing heavily, Mirai Naruto gazed at the ceiling and tried to figure out what had awoken him. Absently, he reached out to the spot beside him, but his hand only made contact with the unoccupied sheets there. He released a sigh. Force of habit.

Turning onto his side, he closed his eyes, ignoring the sweat across his brow. Waking up in the middle of the night wasn't something to take lightly. He was sensitive to the waves of chakra around him, if just slightly moreso than the average shinobi. It felt like...Kasai.

What's she doing up? he wondered irritably. Teme... Mirai Naruto waited, but there was no response from the other end of their telepathic connection. Maybe Sasuke was sleeping. Hinata? Again, he waited, and received no response. He clenched his eyes closed, determined to go back to sleep.

Another strong wave. Naruto's eyes snapped open. He climbed out of bed, unclothed except for a pair of slacks.

When he walked out into the hallway, he spotted Kasai's room immediately. The door was open, and from it shone the dancing orange of a conflagration. What stunned Naruto the most was the small figure standing before it, her skin glowing under the light of the flames, her hair billowing back from the intensity.

"Don't-!" Naruto started.

But Hanabi walked into the room and disappeared into the fire.

Racing down the hall, Naruto hurried after her into Kasai's room. He couldn't avoid the flames, like someone smaller, or faster. Instead it licked and ate his skin, causing him to grunt in the pain this caused. He looked around for Kasai as he walked deeper into the room, forearms crossed over his face to protect it from burns. He made his way towards the bed, which was blackened and slowly deteriorating. His skin was littered with growing, bloody patches, but as he spotted Kasai's sleeping form, he saw that she was unscathed. Just as he began to approach her, Hanabi appeared out of nowhere, with her family techniques easily navigating about the room. She was sweaty and panting, but wearing only superficial burns and scratches. She began to reach down to collect Kasai, but Mirai Naruto intervened.

"Don't touch her," he growled, impulsively striking her. After she collapsed, he stepped over her, grabbing Kasai by the shoulders and shaking her.

As Kasai opened her eyes, the flames shrunk, and diminished, as did Naruto's burns, and Hanabi's scratches. "Oji?" Kasai asked, faintly. But then her pupils rolled upwards, and she fell unconscious again.

"Naruto."

Mirai Naruto turned away from Kasai to see Mirai Sasuke and Mirai Hinata standing in the doorframe. As they walked inside Hanabi began to arduously climb up from the floor.

"Genjutsu. This time in her sleep," said Naruto wearily.

Activating the byakugan, Mirai Hinata regarded her daughter. "She needs a medic – now."

Deeply breathing, Naruto said nothing. He watched Sasuke gather Kasai up, scrutinizing her with his own bloodline limit. "Naruto," he started.

"Go," Naruto interrupted. "Take her."

Sasuke threw him a glance, but nodded, and left with Hinata. He didn't even spare the time to acknowledge Hanabi, who had a large bruise growing across her temple. Had he given up on guarding her? Would he no longer care what happened to her?

Deeply inhaling, Naruto turned to the girl in question, realizing that Sasuke had finally given him the clearance to kill her. He didn't know why he opened his mouth to speak, but just as he did, Hanabi folded down. He at first thought she was injured, or going to be sick, but in actuality, she was – bowing.

"You're the leader of your group, aren't you? You're – important in your time. Ne?"

As always, her insight unnerved him. Even without being tortured, having her eyes gouged, or training under Rokudaime, she retained a level of aptitude that would grow and meld with cruelty.

"I'm sorry," Hanabi said, tiredly grasping her knees. "I put both of us in danger. I didn't realize it was genjutsu. That was reckless of me."

Lips parted, Naruto could only stare. Hanabi stood in her nightclothes, long hair hanging down and concealing her face. In all his years of studying her, remorse was the one thing she couldn't demonstrate, or even fabricate. Not under threat, not beaten, not bruised, not at knifepoint, not at the brink of death. Remorse was something of insignificance to the Hanabi he knew, and he had never seen her express it, vocally or otherwise.

It was what had always differentiated her crimes from Sasuke's in his mind. It was why Sasuke had been sealed to the village, while she had been incarcerated and sentenced to death.

Folding her arms against her, Hanabi remained as she was for a long while, feeling Mirai Naruto glower down on her bowed head. She trembled as he poured an irrational hatred that filled the air. When finally, she could take no more of it, she lifted her head, stunned to find he was gone.


The young Sasuke had spent the night curled up on his couch, trying to sleep through Naruto's nasally snores.

"Sasuke?"

It was morning time by then, but he wasn't a morning person. He ignored Naruto's words, instead attempting to suffocate himself with a pillow.

"Whose hitai-ate is this?"

Sasuke lowered his pillow and opened his eyes to see a forehead protector dangling over him. The familiar scent of freesia pestered his senses. "Mine," he muttered.

"Yours is there." Naruto pointed at a hitai-ate lying on the coffee table.

Sitting up, Sasuke attempted to grab the hanging forehead protector, but Naruto quickly snatched it away.

"This counts as ninja identification. Who would forget something like this?" A quizzical expression crossed the blonde's face.

Who else? Sasuke wondered, thinking of his scatterbrained wife.

Naruto continued to scrutinize the hitai-ate, when he blinked, and his eyes shifted back to Sasuke. "So it's Hinata's!" he said, hoping to embarrass his friend, but the Uchiha's annoyed expression was unchanged. Naruto frowned at realizing Sasuke was growing immune to his antics.

"Yes," said Sasuke, as he stood and held out his hand. Naruto reluctantly handed the hitai-ate over, watching Sasuke neatly fold the bands. "It must have fallen off when we were..." He strangely trailed off, as though catching himself from saying something he wasn't supposed to.

Naruto smirked at Sasuke's hesitation. He was happy to see he was still an amateur at some things.

"When we were talking," Sasuke finished, awkwardly. It sounded incredibly unconvincing, like he had chosen one of several ad-libs to stick at the end of his sentence.

"Of course," responded Naruto, still smirking.

The two boys had spent most of the night conversing, fighting, and eating ramen. As they looked at each other that morning, both came to realize that neither had acquired the amount of sleep necessary for attractiveness by daylight. The two eyed each other for a moment, before turning away and beginning to get ready for the day. As Sasuke changed the drool-stained sheets and pillow cases on his bed, Naruto went to the bathroom and borrowed his toothbrush. Just after Sasuke had pulled on his clothes and ruffled his hair enough to ensure that it stuck up in the back as ludicrously as possible, he heard a knock on the door.

"I got it!" said Naruto, springing out of the bathroom in just a pair of orange briefs. Whether it was his apartment or someone else's, he was always grateful to have guests. He swung open the front door, and released an enthused, "Hinata-chan!"

Sasuke glanced up from putting on a sandal. Hinata stood in his front door facing the bronzed, muscled, half-naked Naruto who was absently scratching his crotch even at that moment. Sasuke's cheek twitching, he was prepared to watch Hinata collapse in a dead faint, but to his surprise, she barely seemed to register the atrocity standing before her.

"Can I speak to Sasuke-kun?" she said, as always, being excessively polite.

Sasuke approached the duo and shoved Naruto aside. "Hi," he said to Hinata.

"Hello."

They always seemed to start mid-conversation. Never had they greeted each other so...normally. Would this become normality? Sasuke glanced at Naruto, who was struggling into a pair of pants. "Come in."

As Hinata entered the apartment, Sasuke noticed that another Hyuuga had been standing behind her. She was small and thin, and looked to be around eleven. She followed Hinata closely, casting him a wary eye.

"Naruto-kun, Sasuke-kun, this is my little sister, Hanabi."

Right. The sister. He remembered her from dinner at the Hyuuga house. "It's nice to see you," he said neutrally.

Hanabi was still watching him cagily. "I already know him," she mumbled to Hinata. "He's my sensei."

Sasuke raised his brow, trying to make sense of this, when Naruto joined them, clarifying:

"You're training under Mirai Sasuke, ne?" Naruto smiled and nodded amiably to Hanabi. "You must be really lucky to get one of our counterparts to choose you as a student." His face broke into his usual grin.

But the girl disagreed. "He's crooked, and weird, and he's always late!"

Hinata stared at Hanabi in astonishment. Few things roused that kind of enthusiasm in her. She wondered if she didn't like her new sensei.

"And also – he's mean! All the counterparts are mean!"

Naruto frowned at the younger Hyuuga. She was clearly frazzled about something. Hinata quickly grabbed her sister, silencing her ranting. "Please forgive Hanabi! She doesn't m-mean what she says."

"Hey, don't worry about it!" Naruto waved his arms dismissively.

As Naruto and Hinata launched into more excuses for the impudent girl, a muscle twitched under Sasuke's eye. Hanabi described his counterpart almost the way some might depict Kakashi. "Come sit down," he deadpanned, his tic persisting.

As Hinata and her sister took seats at his small kitchen table, the shirtless Naruto bustled about, pouring them all hot cups of ramen. It was odd...this quasi-family scenario. And yet it was his life now.

Sasuke took a seat. "What's wrong?" he said to Hinata, despite how Hanabi ogled him, and Naruto glanced their way. It was another of those marital sentiments he was getting accustomed to. Hinata, with her abundance of feelings, required constant comfort or else she did weird things in rebuttal – like blushing, stuttering, fidgeting, and making his nose bleed. It was better to see her in a sinister light than facing the fact that he might actually care.

"K-Kasai was hurt last night," Hinata told him. "There was a fire – I d-don't know all the details. Hana's pretty shaken." She nodded to her sister who, with her blank stare, seemed the exact antiphrasis of "shaken."

"Is Kasai all right?" said Sasuke, who had gotten caught up on that one detail. He didn't notice how his reluctant concern for Hinata had shifted to a blatant one for Kasai.

"She's still unconscious, as far as I know."

"Oh..." said Sasuke, his eyes shifting to his mug. He didn't know to what he could attribute his sudden nausea, but maybe he'd had his fill of the broth.

"You c-care about her, d-don't you?"

What an unusual inquiry. It was on this matter that he and Hinata could truly relate...and yet it was a difficult question for him to answer. Kasai didn't feel like a daughter to him. She was more like a little sibling or pet or something.

"I barely know her," he heard himself say. Sasuke felt three pairs of eyes focus on him. Even if the two Hyuugas didn't understand it, he knew that Naruto would. Kasai was a symbol of what his life would become, but he had little comprehension of it now. Still, she was an unbidden...constant to him now. Unreal as she was, she was the most tangible presence in his life at that moment. She was his only blood relative in existence. She was what connected each one of them in that very room.

Sasuke looked up as Hinata stood. She was looking down at the floor, like she thought he couldn't understand the frustration she felt over Kasai.

But he did. "You dropped this," said Sasuke, as he walked her to the door. Hinata turned back to him to see that he brandished her hitai-ate. She had no time to protest as he wrapped it around her neck, pulling back her hair to secure it behind her. She blushed under his attention, and under Naruto and Hanabi's scrutiny. When Sasuke finished, her sister cocked her head to one side.

"Are you two a couple now?"

There was a pause.

"Un," said one as other said "Iie."

As Sasuke blinked, Hinata reddened more. She quickly looked away from him. "We're j-just f-friends, Hana," she mentioned, trying to leave, but Sasuke caught her hand.

"Friends," he echoed, kissing her. As he pulled back, he noticed the way Hinata's eyes were squeezed shut, her arms drawn up as though braced for an attack.

Slowly she opened her eyes, averted her gaze, and mumbled a parting. Again she attempted to go, detaching her hand from Sasuke's only after several failed attempts, then grabbing Hanabi's and dragging her off. She could feel Sasuke's narrowed eyes on the back of her head, but pretended not to notice, breathing only after she had turned a corner.

She relaxed somewhat, scratching her cheek.

"So you are a couple?" Hanabi pressed for clarification.

Hinata shrugged, hoping she didn't look as flustered as she felt. "It's a p-paper marriage for now, Hanabi. We'll do more with it when w-we're a little older." She winced at the awkwardness of her wording.

"More?" Hanabi pressed. She revealed no pleasure at her sister's discomfort, then again, Hanabi was a stoic at best.

"L-living together. Having children. T-things like that." Hinata feigned a smile to hide her nerves.

"Hm."

As they exited Sasuke's apartment building, Hinata's eyes lingered on the fresh bruise on Hanabi's head. It covered her left temple and parts of her forehead and brow. A training injury, Hanabi can claimed.

"You can tell me anything, you know."

"So can you."

She made a good point. Hinata sighed. "I would never hurt you."

Hanabi looked up, confused by this remark.

"I love you," said Hinata.

It was that relentless, stupid, detrimental love, one that was contagious, because even Sasuke would pick it up one day. It was assurance that Hanabi could do no wrong. Clearance that she could destroy the world ten times over, because with a soul or without one...

She was her sister.


Mirai Hinata was sitting in the chair at Kasai's bedside. Mirai Sasuke stood nearby her. He lifted the apple from Kasai's tray and inspected it for a moment, before offering it to his wife. She didn't bother to thank him as she took it and bit into it, her eyes closed with the utmost fondness-

Hinata liked apples sometimes. Well, for nine months that he could recall.

Sasuke looked back down at Kasai's unconscious form. "Does she remind you of Sakura?"

Mirai Hinata looked up. As she thought of Sakura's short temper, and all her hidden ill-will, a small smile crossed her face. "She'll grow out of it," she said.

"She looks like us, but she's more like Naruto and Sakura."

Mirai Hinata returned to her fruit. She had always seen Naruto and Sakura as two sides of Sasuke's conscience. They had a heavy influence on his life, so it made sense that they would also influence Kasai. "I don't mind it."

Sasuke continued to peer at his daughter. He seemed to be musing more on the matter, but his mind had drifted to other things.

At five, Kasai was already using genjutsu, and at a level of skill no normal child should have been able to employ. Her genjutsu abilities seemed limited to fire – flames that burned and blistered skin. Smoke that could choke someone to death when they breathed it.

Maybe genjutsu was Kasai's one natural talent, not dissimilar to...Kurenai, he supposed. He tried not to think about who else he remembered to favor genjutsu.

Kasai had the sharingan, so it made sense that she was ahead of other children her age, but her abilities didn't correspond well with her volatility. It gave him all the more incentive to finish his seals for her.

Mirai Sasuke moved the tray aside and spread his scroll out on a small table near the bed. He brought his thumb to his canine, and thought of all the things Kakashi had taught him in the past. It was a tricky seal, but it was near to completion. Now as he worked on his bloody characters, he fused them with layers and layers of chakra. After only an hour of this, he began to feel fatigued. He took a step back, and felt Hinata's arm wrap behind him.

"You're exhausting yourself," she gently scolded. "It could take days."

It was important that he finished it sooner than later. Hinata didn't understand. She guided him to the chair, but he didn't let her go. Hinata feebly resisted as he pulled her into his lap, wrapped his arms around her, and buried his face behind her shoulder. He felt her relax, and knew she was gazing at Kasai.

"She'll be fine," he muttered.

Kasai was still unconscious, but Mirai Sasuke wasn't concerned. As she was too young to replenish her strength at even half the rate at which she could expend it, she needed a medical nin to revive her, but there were none at hand as of yet. Sasuke could have done it himself, but his chakra was tainted. He didn't want to expose Kasai to the muck and ink that infused his power.

When Sasuke heard the door to the hospital room open, he lifted his head from Hinata's shoulder and watched as Mirai Naruto walked inside.

"Is Kasai all right?"

"She'll be fine," Mirai Sasuke repeated. Maybe his positioning said otherwise, because Naruto was looking at him curiously. He knew the other could sense his apprehension, but he didn't care, and didn't release Hinata. She touched one of the arms that encircled her, gazing at it thoughtfully.

"It's time to go back," Sasuke digressed, startling the blonde. "Unless you have any last intentions, I think we're done in the past."

Naruto's face hardened. "We're not going anywhere without Sakura."

"I copied your technique." Mirai Sasuke lifted up one of his hands, demonstrating the first, impeccable seal. He activated the sharingan to further his point. "I'm assuming I can take you back with or without your consent."

He watched as Naruto's face drained of color. Hadn't he known all along? The blonde clenched his fists and stormed out of the room.

"Naruto?" Hinata called.

But Mirai Naruto was already halfway down the corridor, fuming and fueled by Sasuke's threat. He wasn't blind to the Uchiha's manipulation. Maybe he wanted him to kill Hanabi, or maybe he still wanted her spared. Regardless of which, he wanted Naruto to face his decision.

Would he kill or spare her? The so-called innocent girl?