CHAPTER 6

"I guess that "Welcome to Konoha" would sound a little… odd, considering the circumstances. Don't you think, Nagato?"

Nagato blinked at those words, the space between them filling with awkward silence. Finally, he looked away:

"Yes, it would probably sound odd." He agreed.

"The Hokage-sama agreed to accept your presence on Konoha soil despite the objections of the Counsil and my own. See to it that you do not disappoint him." Kakashi warned coldly.

"I have not come here to fight, Kakashi-san." The red-head said calmly. "I come in peace. Is that so hard to understand?"

Kakashi snorted derisively.

"Coming from your mouth…" he began but Naruto interrupted him.

"That is enough, Kakashi. May I remind you that despite his attack on us, in the end he returned your life, along with everyone else's out of sheer goodwill? He's a guest now, our guest, and there is no point to antagonize each other any more. The past is the past. Let us look to the future."

Kakashi glowered at Nagato, but said nothing, nodding curtly to Naruto. The blonde smiled, even if it was a little forced and stepped aside.

"Indeed, welcome to Konoha."

Nagato bowed and walked forward, falling in step with the Hokage.

"I know what you want to ask." Naruto said. "About the Uchiha brothers, yes?"

Nagato nodded.

"They're okay."

Naruto always found it odd that a man in Nagato's position – leader of a Village, and most of all, former Leader of one of the most dangerous criminal organizations ever created, didn't have enough self-control to keep emotions from showing on his face. His expression was filled with relief at the news of Itachi and Sasuke.

"Thank you." He said.

Naruto nodded. Next to them Kakashi walked quietly and listened to the conversation without interfering, but Naruto could tell that he was unhappy with this man's presence in Konoha. He would have to talk to him afterwards.

An hour later, they were sitting in Naruto's spacious office, the sleeping Konoha sprawled beyond the large windows. The horizon was slowly changing colours, gentle orange glow appearing just above the treeline. Dawn was coming.

"As we both agreed" Naruto began "It is time for us to begin official peace talks."

Nagato nodded.

"It would be best for everyone, I think." He tried to ignore looking at Kakashi's silent figure standing next to Naruto's right shoulder like some ominous sentinel.

"What is it that you can offer us?" Always blunt, Naruto went straight to the point. "As you know, I have to convince my Counsil and the ranking Jounins that negotiating with you, officially, has some merit. So you, and consequently, I, have to show that you can offer something.

Nagato thought for a moment, then quietly said:

"Technology."

"Technology?"

"Yes. As you know, Amegakure is one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, Naruto. We don't have much land, and what land we have is usually sodden with rain. We have small population and very little military power. But we do have technology. I fostered that when I took control, I encouraged them to learn and research."

"What kind of technology?" asked Kakashi "Military?"

"Some. But mostly of the civilian kind – agricultural, medical, chemical, electronic… Everything that my scientists considered beneficial for the well-being of my people."

Naruto leaned forward.

"What kind of medical technology?"

"The kind that doesn't rely on medic nins' skills." Nagato pointed out.

"Oh? And why would Konoha need that? We have plenty of medic nins here." Kakashi muttered.

The red-head turned to glare at him.

"Who take care of your numerous personnel. Have you asked yourself what happens to the ordinary people, the civilians, when there aren't enough medic nins to see to their needs? Of course you haven't. People like you don't give a damn about civilians, even if they provide you with everything that makes your life easy – food, clothing… Was it Nins who rebuilt this place? This Tower, even?"

Kakashi frowned at the accusation, but said nothing. Nagato pressed on.

"And yet they get the least of all that you feel is entitled to a Ninja. People like you, they consider them little more than cattle, existing only to provide for you and be killed when they get in your way!"

"I have never seen civilians in such a way." Kakashi said, his voice menacingly quiet. "And I don't appreciate being accused of such a thing."

"Maybe not you." Nagato conceded. "But how many of your friends do just that?"

Kakashi didn't answer that. He knew it to be true.

"I am trying to change all that, Nagato." Naruto said placatingly, hoping to smooth their ruffled feathers.

"I know." The other man said solemnly. "Which is why my offering can be to your benefit."

Naruto nodded.

"I'll speak with the council today. Kakashi will escort you to your rooms now. I'll see to it that you get refreshments sent up from the kitchens. Please don't leave the rooms though."

"Am I a prisoner?"

"No. But there are far too many people here who wish nothing more but to wring your neck. I don't want any fights starting and any of my people being hurt. It's for their protection, not yours. And besides, best not to upset people needlessly right before I talk to the council."

Nagato got up and smiled gently at the Hokage.

"You have turned into a diplomat. Who would've thought…?" his smile disappeared. "You must've discovered that once you become a leader, being responsible for other people's lives isn't the dream job you imagined it would be."

Naruto shrugged.

"I try to look at it as an honour, rather than a burden."

"He's grown a lot from the boy I fought almost two years ago." Nagato said softly as he and Kakashi walked down the corridor to his rooms.

"He went through a lot." Kakashi agreed. "Starting with you."

"It was never my intention to harm him."

Kakashi unlocked a door and led the red-head in a small, cosy apartment. When the door closed behind them, he turned to look at him, single uncovered eye narrowing.

"No, harming him was just an unfortunate consequence of your intentions towards him." He pointed out. Nagato's pieced lips thinned. Suddenly the Jounin grabbed his shoulders and forcefully slammed him against the wall.

"How dare you!" Nagato growled, but made no effort to free himself.

"Oh, I dare a lot." Kakashi said calmly, his voice cold and vicious. "But it seems that you, on the other hand, don't dare to throw me off." He paused. "Or is it that you can't?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I watched you carefully the whole time you were here." Kakashi explained. "These" he gestured with his chin "are contact lenses, aren't they? You lost your Rin'negan the day you had to return the lives you took and moved permanently to this body, didn't you?"

"You presume too much." Nagato's tone was icy.

"Maybe. But then again, you're still in my grip. You haven't thrown me across the room." He paused again. "Or through the wall."

He heard the man's breathing quickening, fear slowly creeping on his face.

"I was right, after all." Kakashi concluded. "You're helpless. Stuck with whatever power your friend had, which, I assume, wasn't much. You rely on all the other Villages believing that you still have your Rin'negan, and that's what's keeping them from attacking you and your little village, razing it to the ground as they undoubtedly dream of. Simply put, you're bluffing."

All colour had drained from the pretty face and the man seemed almost ashen.

"What do you want?" he asked softly.

Kakashi's grip on his shoulders tightened, sure to leave bruises behind.

"I will be watching you." He warned. "If you ever try to double-cross Naruto, or if you, and those who serve you, harm even a single person in Konoha, or anywhere else for that matter…" he leaned and spoke directly in his pierced ear "I will make sure that everyone, all the villages that your Akatsuki attacked in the past several years learn of your… charade. And when they do…" he trailed off, allowing Nagato's imagination do the rest. The Jounin let go of him and stepped back. The red-head was still pressed against the wall, clothes rumpled, looking dazed and frightened. Slowly, he regained his composure and met Kakashi's stare head on.

"I have been honest with your Hokage." He said quietly. "I have never planned any subterfuge."

"For your people's good, I hope it to be so." Kakashi said, turned on his heel and left, the front door slamming after him. Nagato stared at it for a few moments and slowly slid down the wall until he was sitting on the ground, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them, his slim body shivering. He had got himself trapped between the hammer and the anvil, and he saw no way out.

Sasuke slowly woke up, body relaxed and languid under the thin sheet covering him. As awareness creeped in behind his eyelids, he felt another body next to his, smooth-skinned and warm, his back pressed to his side, long, silken black hair strewn across his chest and neck. Itachi.

Arousal shot through his veins and he hardened as he remembered the previous night, their feverish coupling, Itachi's needy little moans… Sasuke stifled a groan and slowly turned, his eyes focusing on a slim, pale shoulder and the elegant curve of Itachi's back. The sheet had fallen down to his hip and Sasuke admired the expanse of soft skin before reaching to trace the tips of his fingers over the delicate ridges Itachi's spine. His brother stirred softly under his gentle touch and moaned something. Sasuke smiled and carefully pulled the sheet away entirely, leaving them bare on the rumpled bed, his cock throbbing between his thighs when he took in his the sight of his brother, laid before him, still relaxed and sleepy. He leaned forward and placed a soft, wet kiss on his shoulder before burying his face in his neck, breathing in his scent, his erection nestling against the firm bottom and rubbing up and down between the round, pale globes of flesh.

"Sasuke…" Itachi moaned softly, his hand finding his hip and gripping, pressing him even closer, his leg moving up towards his chest to spread himself for him.

"Tell me what you want, Itachi." Sasuke murmured in the soft hair.

"You." Itachi's breath hitched when Sasuke took his erection in hand and rubbed the tip against his entrance. "Please."

They both groaned with pleasure as Sasuke slid in, Itachi's body still loose and prepared from the previous night, his channel slick and eager for him.

"You feel so good." Sasuke admitted out loud as he began to move slowly, wrapping his arms around then Itachi's writhing form. "So perfect for me."

"Yes. We fit so well." Itachi answered and rocked back into the slow, gentle thrusts.

"I'll never let you go." Sasuke murmured in his ear.

"Yes…"

A hand, callused from holding a sword, gripped Itachi's own awakened erection and rubbed it slowly, in time with his thrusts. They coupled gently, drawing out their pleasure, the desperation from the previous night sated, at least for the moment. They were finally together, and Sasuke wouldn't allow anyone to pull them apart again. Ever.

Touching Danzo's mind was revolting. It was like jumping head-first into a cesspool, the foul substance closing over him, invading his every pore, suffocating him, blotting out all light and joy. Nagato hated communicating with the man in this way… But then again, he hated communicating with him in every possible way. His mere presence offended him, be it physical or just mental.

"Did your first meeting go well?" the old man asked, his mental voice no less revolting than the rest of his presence.

"Yes. They are still suspicious, distrustful, but they believe I mean well." Nagato admitted, fury threatening to spill over his carefully built walls.

"See to it that they begin to trust you, Nagato. The safety of your people depends on this."

Nagato would've loved nothing more but to rip this man's mind apart, and if he couldn't get to the mind, he would've sufficed with his body. Sadly, he knew that he couldn't, not now, maybe not ever. Not with the club the bastard held over his head.

How he managed to escape Konoha after Naruto took over was still beyond him, but he had continued to elude pursuit, his survival carefully hidden from the general public so as not to harm their morale.

The nerve of him, coming to Amegakure and threatening to expose him as a powerless fraud shocked even Nagato, who had participated in quite a few daring acts himself. Danzo had little proof, but he was still the leader of Root, still widely respected among the ruling classes of the Hidden Villages – at least those of the old generation – and a rumour started by him of all people could be devastating. All it took was one vengeful fool who decided that he wasn't afraid that Nagato was still Pein to come to Ame and challenge him and then the truth would be exposed… and the rest of them would be upon his village like locusts. He couldn't allow that. He wasn't going to allow neither Kakashi nor this horrible man to threaten his people.

"I know what the stakes are!" He exclaimed and felt the man chuckling with amusement.

"For your own good, I hope that you do. Now, about the other matter…"

"I haven't seen the Uchihas yet." Nagato said flatly.

"But they spoke of them?"

"Only that they are well."

"How unfortunate. I almost hoped that they would kill each other, after I learned what that brat did with them."

"Perhaps you underestimated their bond." Nagato challenged.

"A bond of hate and blood. Indeed, that bond is strong, but also brittle at the same time. I do hope that they both survive until I get my hands on them though…"

"I thought you were interested in Konoha."

"I am human, Nagato-kun. Even I allow myself some personal… undulgement, to put it that way."

Nagato gritted his teeth.

"Is that all?"

"See to it that they begin to trust you. That they agree to the deal you're offering. The safety of all that you love depends on it."