A/N—Hey guys! I don't know if you've seen it already or not but I co-wrote another story with my wonderful friend and beta, Sakura's Unicorn—a fun, little one-shot for V-day. Give it a looksee if you have the time. It's on SU's page.
Well, believe it or not, this story only has a few more chapters. I guess that's ok, though cause, I have a few more stories that I'm anxious to get started with posting. Actually, I have a lot of stories that I'm anxious to get started, lol. I have scads of ideas.
Hm, I'll probably be working on the next chapter of co9t next. I need a little muse to strike, so I'll go back and read some of your wonderful reviews. Thanks for sticking with me all this time, everyone.
I also want to thank Sakura's Unicorn for keeping me on track and poking me when I need to update. She helps me over all the tough spots.
I hope you enjoy the update.
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die ~ Gautama Buddha.
Things you probably already know:
Torii – Shinto gateway-Red and blacktopped gate, usually at the bottom of the hill or stairs you climb to reach a shrine.
Sandō – The road leading to the shrine
Dai-dōrō – Decorative lanterns placed along the sandō in pairs
Komainu – Guardian dogs statues of the shrine
Haiden – Oratory or hall of worship
Honden – Main hall, enshrining the kami
Chapter 36—Unearthing Clues.
Sasuke looked at the clock then back at the figure sleeping peacefully beside him. His eyes felt tired and gritty, but he couldn't sleep even for a minute with all the thoughts roiling through his head. 'It's not even midnight,' he thought with a sigh, knowing he was in for a long night.
His joy and the weight of his responsibilities had doubled that day. The woman beside him was with child—his child. He couldn't be more proud, but now the clock was ticking. He needed to solve the riddle of defeating his clan's former head right now.
Every time he closed his eyes, he saw his brother, warning him with riddles, promising death for all Sasuke loved unless he found a way to make things right.
Itachi was pinned, Kusanagi through his chest.
"Before you die, tell me about the other ninja," Sasuke ordered, remembering how the masked ninja had taunted him about his bond with Sakura. "The one with the Sharingan like yours. Who is he? What does he want with her?"
"Uchiha Madara will claim her," Itachi warned in a whisper. He grasped Sasuke's sword and pulled it deeper into his chest so he could slide closer to his brother's ear. "He will claim her if you fail to find your family and employ the six—."
'Fuck,' Sasuke thought, rubbing his throbbing temple. 'The six what?! Or was it the sixth something?' If he hadn't been so blinded by his rage toward Itachi, he might already have the answer he needed—his brother might even be alive.
Sasuke knew of only one place where he might find an answer. The Naka Shrine. He absolutely did not want to leave Sakura alone, but the shrine was so close—a three minute walk. Listening to her relaxed breathing, he knew he wouldn't find rest until he discovered something, anything that might help him protect her.
He rose carefully, so as not to wake his sleeping wife, dressed, and stepped outside.
"Kuchiyose no jutsu!"
Two summons appeared, both looking at the other with clear distaste. The enormous snake hissed softly and the hawk snapped its beak. The bird's sharp eyes watched every undulation, prepared to strike if needed.
"Massster Uchiha." The hooded serpent bowed its head slightly. "It's been quite sssome time ssince I've been sssummoned to this plane."
The hawk ruffled its feathers, silently protesting the nearness of the other summons. Sasuke nodded to let him know he understood, but he needed them both. He would brook no argument.
"Aoda, reduce in size and guard my wife. Do not alert her to your presence. No one is allowed near her until I return."
"You want me to sssafeguard your mate?" The snake was a bit surprised as, previously, the snake Sannin's young apprentice only watched out for himself and no other—even his Taka teammates were dispensable at one point.
"Yes, but I don't want her sleep disturbed." Sasuke opened the door and the enormous snake minimized his form, silently slithering inside and down the hall, curling up underneath the bed.
Sasuke nodded to the hawk. "Keep a sharp watch from above, Taki. Alert me if you sense anything unusual." He explained how he wanted the house and occupant inside guarded at all cost. That done, feeling no less uneasy, Sasuke turned his feet toward the older part of the Uchiha district.
When he'd first come home after training with Orochimaru, Sasuke visited the Uchiha shrine. He'd intended on restoring it to its former glory, but soon discovered that keeping Uchiha secrets no longer appealed to him. He left the family shrine to rot.
Now a grown man with both a wife and unborn child he needed to protect, it was of the utmost importance that he pull every Uchiha secret from the silent, crumbling walls of the temple.
Moonlight lit the way as Sasuke's sandaled feet stepped silently under the black-topped torii with the chipped vermillion base, down the weed-strewn path, and between rows of ornamental, bronze dai-dōrō—the highly polished lanterns had not been lit since he was seven years old. They'd once gleamed invitingly in the light of day, but were now grayish-green from disuse and neglect.
His step whispered over the threshold, past the snarling, stone komainu sentries set to ward off evil spirits from the haiden. He smirked as he remembered hiding behind his mother's robes when passing those silent stone dogs. The statue on the left had a chip in its ear from when he'd hit it with his older brother's bokuto.
He wasn't sure if Itachi ever noticed his wooden practice sword gone from the wall. He hadn't known to ask why Sasuke was fighting stone dogs that day—his aniki was too busy to train him. He'd never been found out. Sasuke had buried the broken sword, along with the piece of stone ear, in his mother's garden.
He bypassed the worship hall, hearing his brother's voice in his head.
"In the main hall, look beneath the seventh tatami mat from the far right…"
The day before, Team Seven searched through the outer chambers, but found nothing that would help him protect his family. Sasuke was sure the inner sanctuary held another secret beyond the Mangekyo—he just had to discover it.
"There has to be more," he growled to the empty hall. "If I have to take apart this entire shrine brick by brick, I will find every secret it holds."
Daylight never entered the raised inner sanctuary, but Sasuke didn't need it as he pushed through the heavy, wooden doors of the sacred room. The red gleam of his Sharingan flashed in the mirror covering the opposite wall and night became as day.
He removed the seventh tatami and engaged his dojutsu. Dust rained from the rafters as the granite floor shifted and an enormous block of stone turned over, revealing a set of stairs that led down to a dark secret his aniki made him privy to at the age of thirteen.
Now he needed more.
Lighting a lantern with a small Katon, he descended. An hour later, he came back up, cursing under his breath. "It makes no sense. Why would the most holy of places for Uchiha hold only one secret!" He'd found nothing new below and the only thing in this room was the mirrored wall. "Not a goddamned thing!" he snarled, throwing the lantern as hard as he could at his crimson-eyed reflection. The flame flared spectacularly for a moment as the air filled with the cacophonic sound of breaking glass. The light sputtered out, but with his Sharingan activated, Sasuke didn't need it. There, engraved into the stone hidden behind the mirror, was what he'd been looking for.
The blessing and the curse of the Sharingan eye.
Through his bond with Sakura, Sasuke felt her stirring from sleep. He left the temple, returning home, knowing that now he could get some rest.
Sasuke watched Naruto rolling on the ground, chuckling mirthfully. 'It takes so little to entertain an idiot,' he thought.
"Get up, Dobe."
The blond doubled over. "I-I can't believe it! Teme is pregnant?!" Naruto broke into a fresh gale of guffaws, tempting Sasuke to kick him.
"I'm not pregnant, you damn imbecile. Sakura is!"
"But she said—"
"I said sympathetic pregnancy!" Sakura snapped. "That means Sasuke is experiencing some rather awful pregnancy symptoms with, or even for me. He's had horrible morning sickness and it isn't funny, baka!"
Naruto sat up. "Geez, Teme. That's actually nice of you to do for Sakura. Who knew you had it in you?"
Kakashi cleared his throat from the doorway, indicating fun time was over. It was time to get down to business.
"Naruto, clear out the broken glass and pull up all the tatami mats from the shrine's inner room. Sakura, please take notes of everything we uncover." He pulled the hitai-ate from his Sharingan eye. "Sasuke, we have our work cut out for us. I want to read it first with the Sharingan and then again with the Mangekyo to see if anything appears different."
Sasuke nodded, glancing over at his wife. Naruto being an idiot wasn't the only reason she was in a short mood today. He had to admit, he was one hundred percent to blame.
Sasuke came home from the shrine last night exhausted but content. He finally had a solid lead and hoped, with Kakashi's help, to make short work of figuring out his aniki's clues. He'd come home, slid into bed, and wrapped his arms around his wife, quickly falling asleep.
Sasuke woke the next morning to a bloodcurdling scream.
Sakura was up early, disentangling herself from her sleeping husband. She wanted him to get some rest because she knew he'd been sleeping very little lately. In the dim light from the window, she grabbed a robe and went into the bath, filling the tub with hot water and adding bubbles. She quietly closed the door and stepped into the warm, aromatic tub.
As soon as she sat down, she realized she wasn't alone. Something moved next to her thigh, sliding down the side of her leg. At the opposite end of the tub, a huge, blue serpent's head popped out of the water. The smooth-scaled creature looked at her serenely, its forked tongue slithering out between its lips.
Sasuke never moved so fast in his life. One moment, he was sleeping peacefully—the next, he was honing in on Sakura's chakra signature with razor-sharp precision, sword in hand. With one hard push, the door burst open and Sasuke darted into the bathroom. His snake summons looked at him curiously, its tongue flicking out and back in.
Sasuke put his hand to his forehead as his soap-covered wife climbed from the tub with the most unusual look on her face. He couldn't ever recall her looking at him like that before.
It was the look she'd give the dobe when she was really miffed at him.
"Sakura…I can explain…"
She snatched a towel from the hook and left, shutting the door firmly behind her.
Deidara dumped the lifeless body of the Six-Tails' jinchuuriki on the ground in front of the hulking Gedo Mazo.
"Hn, I don't see why we're here working our asses off while Tobi and Zetsu are off fucking around somewhere. Two collections in one week, un. We deserve a bigger share of the spoils. We've been doing most of the work."
"Yare, yare. Do you ever quit whining, kid?" Kisame smirked sharply at him. "I would think you'd be happy not to have your newest partner around to help you because he's such a nuisance."
"I could've been killed by the damn Two-Tails! If anyone's gonna sacrifice his life for the organization, it should be that slacker."
"Enough," Pain said quietly. "Everyone has their own mission. You are incapable of hunting jinchuuriki without aid, Deidara?"
The Iwa ninja growled under his breath, grumbling how he'd already outlived Uchiha.
"What was that, brat?"
"Hn, I just think that those who do more work should get a bigger share, that's all. That goof, Tobi, should split his share with me, un." Deidara made a hand sign and disappeared.
"Come on, Ino-pig. You know how hard it is for me to get away from home for a few minutes. I want to do some shopping before—"
"Before your hot, overprotective husband shows up, demanding an explanation of why you left with me while he was sleeping this morning?"
Sakura looked at her guiltily before a smile quirked her lips up. "Maybe." She shrugged. "I left him a note."
Ino giggled. "Come on. There's a sale at the lingerie store." She took Sakura's hand, but just as Ino was about to open the door, an ANBU stepped in front of them.
ANBU was synonymous with anonymity—their masked faces and dull gray uniforms were meant to be forgotten by all. Yet, the way this dark-eyed ANBU stared at Sakura as he held the door open was familiar in an entirely uncomfortable way.
"Look, Forehead! They have maternity lingerie, too!" The blonde's insistent voice dragged her attention from the ninja, who seemed to already be moving on as if he had no interest.
Sakura shivered. "I'm getting paranoid," she mumbled to herself. "Damn hormones." But for a second, she'd felt afraid.
"Hey, what do you think of this one?" Ino held a slinky nightgown up against Sakura.
"I like that one." The two women froze at the sound of a deep voice behind them.
Sakura looked up at Sasuke smirking, knowing he'd felt her moment of fear through their bond. She smiled sheepishly. "Gomen nasai, Sasuke-kun. False alarm."
He shrugged and pulled out his wallet to buy the slinky nightdress for her. She supposed he would make sure she wore it, too, for sneaking out without him. She blushed brightly.
The ANBU closed the door to his apartment behind him.
'So far, so good,' he thought, 'but I want visual confirmation that the kunoichi is pregnant before I can set the rest of my plan in motion. I should break into the records room at the hospital to find out her exact due date.' He chuckled darkly. 'The closer to her due date, the more helpless she'll be.'