Tsunade didn't look up when Danzo came in. There really wasn't much point. He'd never changed in appearance in the past five years, and she was sincerely doubtful he was going to start now. Instead, she finished reading the mission report in front of her, stamped it, signed her name at the bottom and tossed it into her out-tray (and when she saw him next, she was going to kill Jiraiya. That sonofabitch had never mentioned the fucking paperwork when he convinced her to become Hokage!).

"Please, sit down," she said, by way of greeting. The whine that briefly textures the air as he pulls back the chair is her only response. She doesn't like Danzo; he's too harsh and cold, even for a ninja, and ROOT has always made her wonder precisely where his loyalty lies. She's also pretty sure he's got his eyes on her position, and even if she does hate the job she's got, she will burn in hell before she lets a class A sociopath anywhere near the reigns of her village.

But he had his uses, and right now she was going to employ one of them.

She finished up the paperwork, and finally looked up at him.

"We have a situation. One that I think is going to need our attention."

"Yes, Hokage-Sama?" His voice is annoyingly polite. She can barely read the undercurrents of that's my seat you're sitting in, girl, and one of these days I'm going to kick you out of it.

"Yeah. Look at this." She pushed a file over to him, and studied his face carefully as he read it. Danzo had a hell of a poker face, she had to give him that, but she was just that little bit better at seeing lies then he was at hiding them. He didn't like what he was reading. He didn't like it one little bit.

After a moment, he glanced up.

"This information is confirmed?"

"Entirely. Tsume said she'd never been so sure in her life."

The two of them stared at each other for a bit.

"Then what on earth," Danzo asked, slowly, almost thinking aloud, "are four sound nin doing this deep in Konoha territory?"

"A question I've been entertaining for a while," replied Tsunade. "I've got an answer, too. This isn't the first time those Sound Nin came into Konoha. They were here on the day of the invasion, I'm told, and performed a very extensive shielding Jutsu that lead to the death of my predecessor."

"The Sound Four."


She watched him for a moment, and rather fancied his thought processes were going a similar way hers had.

Look at it like a puzzle...

Orochimaru sends his honour guard, four of his best, into Konoha. While he is demonstratably insane, Orochimaru is not stupid, so there will be a reason for this.

The Sound Four are primarily defense specialists- their fighting styles work best when they're trying to hold a position, or make sure something (or someone) is kept safe from harm. It's one of the reasons Orochimaru has them as his bodyguards.

One of the things they are not good at, however, is direct assaults. Therefore, Orochimaru has sent them to retrieve someone, or something, that he expected to come willingly.

After a long moment, he glanced up at Tsunade.

"Uchiha Sasuke."

"My thoughts exactly."

"The boy's loyalty to Konoha-"

"-will be competing with his hatred of his brother. That's almost all that's kept him going, Danzo."

The silence was thick and heavy. Tsunade had always had suspicions about the Uchiha massacre, but now was not the time.

"You have a suggestion, then?" Danzo asked, finally.


She turned her chair away from the desk, and looked out over her village.

"We're going to let him go."


Sasuke's eyes opened into total darkness. He was tied down tightly- even his fingers had been restrained (which, he thought, implied that whoever had caught him had enough competence to know a shinobi when he saw one, and how to stop him from making handseals). He struggled anyway, without hope of success, but maybe he could get a feel for his bonds. A hand lashed out, obscenely fast in the darkness, and his jaw exploded into red fire.

The lights came up. His eyes, already the whirling scarlet of his Sharingan, identified everyone in the room in the heartbeat.

ANBU. Four of them. And a middle-aged man, his face half-hidden by bandages. One of the ANBU was drawing back his hand for another blow.

"No need for that," said the bandaged man, calmly. He might have been talking about the weather. The ANBU went still.

"Uchiha Sasuke," he continued. "I must apologise for that. And for your present condition. In most circumstances I wouldn't bother to go to such lengths, but in this particular case it's rather merited, I feel."

"Why?" Sasuke growled out from behind his restraints. They'd left his jaw free, at least, so he could speak. "I'm not a fucking missing nin, I have-"

"-rights, yes, you do. Shinobi rights. I'm not very fond of those, Uchiha-san. They're rather stupid, because they deny the reality of the situations they're applied in. The only rights a Shinobi really has is the right to obey orders, the right to kill when he is told to, and the right to die with his mouth shut so his village is protected by his silence. But," and he chuckled here, so that Sasuke was half-reminded of an almost forgotten uncle, "that is neither here nor there. I'm here to offer you a mission, Uchiha-San. One which you're well within your rights to turn down, of course."

Like hell he was. Sasuke knew a threat when he heard one, and this old man had not digressed like that for the good of his health.

"What," he enquired, through gritted teeth, "kind of mission?"

The old man smiled.


"Let him go? You propose we allow him to become Missing Nin?"

Tsunade smiled to herself without looking back.

"No. I propose we use what time we have to train him for infiltration."

She felt the weight of silence again.

"Infiltration," Danzo whispered, and Tsunade knew that she'd won.

"Yes. The boy will get the training he needs to defeat his brother, we get a spy in Orochimaru's camp, and Konoha keeps the Uchiha. If we don't, he will go with them, Danzo. He'll be forced to choose between revenge and loyalty, and he's too young- too angry- for that choice to be anything other then catastrophic for all concerned."

Danzo thought, silently.

"How long will I have?"

"Two days, at most."

"I won't be able to get beyond the basics. He may not succeed."

"Still better then the alternative, Danzo."

She watched his reflection in the window, saw him consider.

"Yes. I rather think it is."


Author's Notes: This came to me recently when thinking of the craziest plot twist I could possibly throw have in a Naruto fic- not only had Itachi been acting under orders, SO HAD SASUKE! DUM DUM DUM! It started as an idea to parody the series so far, but then I thought about how much fun one could have with that, and thus- this was born. No idea where I'll go with it, so... we'll see. And on the subject of Esius Balor? We'll see. I'm cogitating. Sloooooooooowly.