Pairing:
Itachi x Naruto, Sasuke x Naruto (onesided on Sasuke's part), Sasuke x Sakura (onesided on Sakura's part)

Warnings:
Mpreg, battle violence, character death (major and minor, but will end happily), infidelity, swearing, mentions of terminal illness. Sasuke comes with his own warning in all honesty, but thoughts of causing miscarriage. Spoilers for current manga too, including some names.

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What You Didn't Know

Chapter Twenty Nine

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The morning came far too soon and Tsunade was greeted by a masked samurai flanked by Shikaku and Inoichi. Both their faces were grim and Tsunade didn't need to ask to know what would happen later on in the day. It was obvious there would be no alliance.

No matter how great the threat seemed, they had no concrete proof of anything. No proof that it would attack when Tsunade said it would, no proof that Tobi was behind this and no proof that the force was bad (though one really would have to be an idiot to think the malice building around them wasn't going to start a war). There was no way that the kages would enter an alliance and begin preparing for war unless there was something more than just a feeling between them.

It was frustrating and Tsunade bit her lip to stop her anger from raging out of control, but understandable. Tsunade wouldn't have wanted to put Konoha at risk and begin preparing for a war that she couldn't be certain would happen.

(She knew it would though, despite what the other kages thought. It would come quick and leave them devastated if they didn't try something.)

The meeting hall was set up and they got underway quickly, no one wanting to linger more than they had to. Now that the decision had largely been made, Tsunade knew they would all return to their villages and begin to prepare for the worst on their own, in secret. The Raikage had been the one to call them here and the other kages weren't stupid, but unless they were united, their preparations would be useless.

Tsunade almost zoned out. Almost.

"And you are sure this is the course of action you'll take," Mifune was saying and Tsunade looked down at the table, struggling not to yawn. She wore a frown and could feel Mei's heavy stare on her, but she didn't look back. Mei clearly wanted to speak to her, but now wasn't the time.

"We'll schedule another meeting in a few months' time," A said suddenly and Tsunade looked at him in surprise. Now this was something she hadn't though would happen and it was an interesting turn of events.

"You have no proof, but if the situation gets worse then we'll have no choice." Even Ōnoki bowed his head and the calm, calculating gaze Gaara had levelled her way set Tsunade's nerves a little smoother.

Things weren't even close to being sorted, but at least the other kages were contemplating organising a defence against the worst-case scenario.

The meeting ended cordially, a strange thing for such explosive personalities. The inside of Tsunade's cheek was sore from the treatment it had endured throughout the past few days, and her shoulders relaxed when they all stepped from the room. While the outcome was dissatisfying, at least Tsunade knew that not everything had fallen on deaf ears.

They would stay a little longer, meet with Mei before they left and then return home to begin planning for the war. Tsunade sighed and drew a level gaze from Shikaku, who was clearly wondering whether he should ask her if she was okay or not.

"I'm fine," she answered before he could open his mouth. "I'll be in my rooms. I don't want to see anyone unless they claim they're here on Mei's behalf."

When Tsunade got back to the room, she lay on the futon and closed her eyes, dozing while se had the chance to. Things were about to become hectic and she predicted many sleepless nights.

Perhaps it was time to begin training Naruto for the Hokage position…

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Orochimaru had never been perfect. He'd never been a perfect son (how could he when his parents were dead?) and never a perfect student (not that anyone on his team had been, but there had always been a cautious look in Hiruzen's eyes when he looked down at him). He wasn't a perfect lover or a perfect strategist. He cared little for matters of the heart and was honest enough to admit that not every plan of his was flawless.

But if there was one thing, one thing that Orochimaru had to say he was closest to being perfect in, it would be his wealth of knowledge. His jutsu arsenal was impressive and he had a library that contained mysteries the world had long since forgotten. Orochimaru was well researched and could pick a needle out of a haystack so long as he had the right information. It wasn't just intelligence and cunning that made this skill even more deadly, but his determination.

Which was why Orochimaru was smirking over the pages of a book, ignoring the houseguest who had snuck their way in.

"Yes it was an open invitation," Orochimaru said conversationally. "I didn't expect you so soon though." He turned a page and scanned it, not taking any information in. That didn't matter though – he'd read this book before and it was a drab passage on sealing techniques. Nothing ground breaking, not like the small, brown book he'd found tucked away.

"No time like the present," Jiraiya replied. "I thought I'd get this out of the way."

Orochimaru licked his fingers and turned the pages of the book, raising an eyebrow.

"Which translates to you having run out of ideas as to what's going on." He closed the book; there was little point in pretending anymore. "Not that I would expect anyone to have an idea. Even Tobi has no idea."

Jiraiya didn't seem too concerned by this information and Orochimaru threaded his fingers together, leaning back in his chair.

"We all know the Uzumaki clan were proficient in sealing. Very few outside of their bloodline ever knew of their most common place techniques and I could probably count on one hand the number of people who knew advanced techniques and were not blood related to an Uzumaki member." Orochimaru was mainly referring to Minato, but there were one or two others he could think of that had charmed the clan so much they were allowed inside knowledge.

"Naruto isn't the only survivor of his clan, though that's to be expected." Orochimaru smiled slightly when Jiraiya nodded. Of course Jiraiya knew. He might be brasher and more open than Orochimaru, but they were both masters of deception and intelligence. Jiraiya would have come here after researching Orochimaru's current lifestyle.

"You have one in your employ," he said, satisfying Orochimaru's thoughts. "And I believe I possibly know one more."

Red hair. Power beyond all imagining. The world's law of shoving everything in one's face… it was obvious really.

"Out of the three pupils you favoured, two are Uzumaki by blood and the other married into the clan. You do know how to pick them." Orochimaru sat up, springing upwards quickly and heading to the desk close by. He'd set the little brown book there earlier and he took it carefully in his hands, careful not to damage any of the fragile binding.

"In the end, there is one person well equipped to perform even the most difficult of the Uzumaki seals. They have power over life and death too, as well as the Uzumaki vitality. Nagato – or rather, Pein as he goes by now – is in a perfect position to execute a Kagu-tsuchi seal." Orochimaru paused, returning to his chair and cradling the book.

"Except it was Uchiha Itachi who performed the jutsu," Jiraiya stated and Orochimaru nodded, pleased that Jiraiya was saying all the right things.

"This little book here has everything we need to know inside. Well," Orochimaru corrected himself, "enough that I can piece together everything at least. I consider myself a master of knowledge and you admit that much too, or else you wouldn't be here."

They had been comrades for too many years for Orochimaru not to be able to read Jiraiya clearly. The downturn of his lips told Orochimaru he was right and he continued.

"When looking for information on the Kagu-tsuchi seal, I stumbled upon a most interesting seal. Created by Uzumaki Mito, the Mizuhame seal is only a temporary seal, but it does a lot." Orochimaru paused, drumming his fingers on the book.

He'd been astounded when he saw how much the Mizuhame seal could do. Everything had clicked into place and his smile had threatened to split his face in two. For once, Orochimaru had been exceedingly glad no one had walked in on him in that moment.

He did like holding all the cards, after all. Knowledge was power before the physical fighting began. The best way to be prepared was to gain as much knowledge as possible and use it in fighting, something Orochimaru excelled in. He wasn't in a fight to be polite or courteous. He wanted to win and would use whatever method – 'dirty' or otherwise – to continue living. It was, after all, what every other animal did. All other animals would do anything to ensure they survived, humans were the only ones that had twisted that and convinced themselves they could rule the world.

"What exactly does it do?" Jiraiya asked quietly, leaning forwards in his seat. Orochimaru felt satisfaction curl in his chest at how, even after the bad blood between them, Jiraiya had still come to him for answers.

"While I don't know much about its origins, I believe it could have been a rudimentary attempt to create a seal powerful enough to contain a bijū. It is, in essence, a seal that can contain huge amounts of chakra." Orochimaru paused, letting the implications sink in.

"And would this… Mizuhame seal be able to store chakra for long periods of time?" Jiraiya asked and Orochimaru nodded.

"Itachi was a clever man. It's not impossible that he couldn't perfect the sealing technique, but it was really the issue of his chakra and spirit." Orochimaru tapped the little book again and Jiraiya's eyes fell down to watch them.

"You think Nagato stored his chakra inside of the seal so Itachi could use the Kagu-tsuchi?" he asked, but Orochimaru shook his head.

"The seal design allows slow transfer. What I'm thinking is that Itachi was in close proximity to Naruto-kun for weeks and it was his chakra that was being stored inside of the Mizuhame seal." Jiraiya's eyes widened slightly and he shook his head.

"Something like this would require extensive planning. Itachi would have had to know that he'd be close to Naruto for a lengthy period of time-"

"And Naruto-kun went to the Akatsuki initially because of rumours, did he not?" Orochimaru crossed a leg over the other, cutting into what Jiraiya had been saying. "Perhaps it's been a part of their plan from the start."

Jiraiya didn't look as though he could believe it and Orochimaru couldn't blame him. What did the Akatsuki gain from sealing Sasuke's chakra? For all appearances, nothing, but Orochimaru was good at digging and he'd found more.

"Itachi was dying. An incurable illness, something that had his days very clearly numbered. Perhaps he decided to try and thwart Tobi's plans before they came to fruition." Jiraiya nodded at that and Orochimaru hid his smile. So Jiraiya wasn't completely in the blue with regards to Tobi and at least suspected that Sasuke was needed for something.

"There was something else though," he began. Orochimaru frowned before he continued, not wanting to admit his lack of knowledge, but not having a choice. He'd invited Jiraiya here to tell him the facts and continue on the game the world was playing; he couldn't afford to turn Jiraiya out without all he knew, could he? This game had to be fun and entertaining and withholding information would ruin that.

"The seal is a destructive one. Both the Kagu-tsuchi and Mizuhame are, in fact, and depend a lot on the person's will. Itachi's body shouldn't have been in a condition to contain the Mizuhame seal." Orochimaru looked Jiraiya in the eye and an unspoken question passed between them.

"You think he found a way to cure the illness?" Jiraiya asked, voice flat. Orochimaru shrugged his shoulders.

"Itachi is smart. He has too many things to do and it might be beneficial for Tobi to believe him dead for a while. Nagato is an Uzumaki and also possesses the Rinnegan. He has the ability and the strength to control life and death itself… I don't think anything is impossible between them." Orochimaru had hinted this much to Kabuto, but Jiraiya would be the only one he said it to outright.

"You think Itachi's still a contender in this sick game?" Jiraiya said and Orochimau raised an eyebrow, shooting him a wide smile.

"Nothing is impossible," he commented, tapping the little book again. He'd keep Jiraiya here for a while, condition him to play out on the field while Orochimaru continued to dig. He wasn't on Konoha's side or Ame's side, but wars had always fascinated Orochimaru and it was still too soon to pick a side.

"Perhaps you could tell me more about something," he said and Jiraiya looked at him warily. "Naruto-kun seems determined to stay on the frontline of this war, but is that wise?"

Jiraiya's look was cautioned, but Orochimaru meant no harm. Not at the moment anyway.

"I'm not going to war and I'd have no use for such a child. While great, I'm not a fool to think I could snatch that child away. There was a reason the Uzumaki clan was largely wiped out, after all." Jiraiya relaxed slightly, though he was still clearly uncomfortable with how this conversation was going.

"Tobi has no such sense," he commented ad Jiraiya's face darkened. "Which is why war is inevitable, no matter how you look at it."

Orochimaru could tell Jiraiya hated to agree with him when he bowed his head. He smiled and rose swiftly, little book in his hand and feet moving to pour out wine for them both.

"There is more behind the Kagu-tsuchi seal, you know. Tobi's come sniffing for information, but what's the fun in telling him?" Orochimaru handed a glass to his old team mate and toasted, sitting back down.

"Why would you tell me?" Jiraiya said, looking at the wine to judge whether it had been poisoned or not. Orochimaru took a sip of his own in good faith before he answered.

"Because this makes it so much more interesting," he said simply and, by the way Jiraiya threw back the wine, Orochimaru knew his words were believed.

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The journey was tough, but Naruto was former-ANBU (he'd need to tell Tsunade he was quitting the position, at least until Natsuki was born) and managed well. He took paths that were lesser used, cleaving his own when there was no way. He ran like a deer across water, flighty and straight, crossing over tea fields and lakes, surface left unmarred save for a slight ripple of wind.

He was on a mission. Not an actual assigned mission, but it was more important. Itachi was dead and Sasuke's chakra was sealed, all because Naruto had turned his back and left to gain a power that would be useless for months.

"That's not true," Kurama said and Naruto looked to him. His outside from continued on, but his spirit and mind were inside himself, beside Kurama.

"It's not completely useless. While you may not physically be able to use the power, you have me." Kurama looked satisfied by his proclamation and Naruto rolled his eyes, leaving the space. He didn't have time to play games with Kurama right now, no matter how welcome a distraction might be.

He didn't want to think about Itachi and yet he did. He wanted it all to be a lie, despite having accepted that Itachi had fought Sasuke and been killed. He knew it, but that didn't mean he understood it. Part of him felt that Deidara and Sasori would be waiting for him and they'd take him to Itachi, tell him it was an elaborate lie and-

Okay. Naruto needed to stop there. He took a deep breath and launched himself up into the trees, skimming branches like a monkey. Ame was within sight now, huge, black clouds hovering over the village itself.

Itachi was dead. There would be no Itachi within Ame, but it wasn't Itachi Naruto was going to see. He was going to talk to Pein and Konan, find out what had happened and get the full truth as to why. Itachi planned things meticulously; he wouldn't just die unless he had a reason. They might not have known each other long, but Naruto knew that much at least.

So, he was going to see Pein and Konan. No doubt they would be expecting him, the Rinnegan was powerful, but their powers of prediction were probably right on target instead. They had been the ones to collect Itachi's body and had to have known that Naruto would follow.

He sighed, slowing his pace ever so slightly. Naruto was tired and hungry and knew that he'd need to stop soon to grab something to eat and drink. It had been a long, hard journey, but he wasn't giving up just yet. When he ate he could dwell more on what was to happen when he reached Ame, but for now he needed to focus on something else.

But what was there to focus on? His friends back in Konoha? Well that just drew memories of Sakura and Sasuke. The kage meeting? It was a meeting that was directly linked to Itachi and him, no matter what Tsunade would tell them. The weather? Even that would draw back to rain, Ame, Pein, Konan, Itachi…

Naruto sighed and spotted a small town, roughly an hour or two away from Ame. It would be a good place to stop and he entered it, searching for a teahouse or restaurant suitable for his needs. Naruto only wanted something light (for once) as he was unsure he could keep something more substantial down when he found out the truth.

The owner of the teahouse was a young woman and she greeted him enthusiastically, seating Naruto and bringing over tea. Naruto had been to plenty of teahouses with Jiraiya and he sipped his cup with a smile, tension slipping from him already out of habit. A platter of snacks were set out while his soup was being prepared and Naruto took the time to listen to the gossip around him.

By the time his soup arrived, Naruto had learnt that a large proportion of the women currently in the teahouse were pregnant and that he was glad he'd never gone to any of the pregnant women classes. Judging by the crowd here, they would have eaten Naruto alive and continued to bitch about one hundred things while laughing about a hundred other.

He was about to tune conversation out completely when a name caught his attention, his blood freezing in his veins.

"…what with Uchiha Itachi's pardon and all," the voice said and Naruto fought not too turn sharply around and demand to know what the woman was talking about.

"I think the entire shinobi world must have heard about it now," she continued and her partner hummed, slurping obscenely from her cup. The disregard for etiquette sent an automatic frown to Naruto's brow, but he passed it off in favour of listening to what the women had to say.

"I never would have thought that monster was innocent," the other woman sniffed, apparently done with slurping her tea. "It doesn't matter though, he'd dead isn't he?"

"But he died a criminal. Isn't there some sort of tragedy in it?" The women put their heads together, giggling. "It is almost too story-like to believe though. Who knows if he was really innocent, but I can't think of another reason why Tsunade-hime would say such a thing to the public."

"No, neither can I." They paused for a moment and the topic switched, no matter how much Naruto wished they would continue to talk about Itachi. "Speaking of Tsunade-hime, my grandfather finally had that boil looked at-"

Naruto tuned them out, staring down at his tea. The world always seemed to come back to Itachi, even in a remote village and sitting in a random teahouse. Was this how he was forever meant to live his life? Haunted by the reminder of the one man he could never have, the one man who might have meant everything, the man who Naruto had wanted to find more out about when this war was over.

The chance had been ripped from him. Wasn't that cruel enough? He didn't need to be reminded again and again on top of that, did he?

The hairs on the back on Naruto's neck tingled and he felt someone watching him. He continued to eat his soup, ignoring the man, not giving him the satisfaction of ruining Naruto's meal. He finished his tea, paid and stood up slowly, leaving the teahouse without a glance backwards. If the man watching him wanted to speak, then he'd have to follow to a more private place.

Sure enough, Naruto felt a concealed chakra signature slip from the teahouse and onto his trail. Naruto led them out to the woods, away from anyone else – prying eyes and innocent bystanders.

They paused in the thick of the wood. It was silent, as if the animals knew what was about to happen, and Naruto turned to the hooded figure. The cloak looked well insulated so they could have come from anywhere but Suna really, the temperatures not merging together with the fabric.

"Who are you?" Naruto said, crossing his arms over his chest. While he couldn't sense any malice in this person, appearances could always be deceiving. All Naruto wanted to do was get to Ame and he didn't know why someone had approached him.

"I'm not going to ask for your forgiveness," a low voice said and Naruto's eyes widened. He knew that voice, had been beside the person to whom it belonged many times, but he couldn't believe it.

"I felt that it was best to explain everything myself, rather than wait for you to find out. You're headed to Ame, to Pein and Konan." Naruto nodded at the words, questions still swirling in his mind.

"We can walk?" was the tentative question and Naruto scoffed. He could only just manage to stay upright at the moment, he wouldn't do very well putting one leg before the other. Not when his mind was screaming at him, all because of the man before him.

"I-" he began, but Naruto shook his head sharply, letting out a low moan that merged into his words.

"No," he said. "You were dead. You. Were. Dead. No… just no." Naruto turned away, eyes burning and nostrils flaring.

Humiliation, shame and elation flared in his chest as he walked in small circles, hand at his temple and head shaking. If it were truly real and this man was Itachi… well, he was alive.

"I mourned for you," he said, turning around to face the hooded figure. His voice was low, breaking in the middle. "I cried for you!"

The man said nothing and Naruto laughed bitterly. The sound was nasty and he felt like sinking to his knees and burying his face in the dirt. He wanted to ram his head against the ground and scream, pull at his hair and cry because this couldn't be happening.

"How sick are you?" Naruto shouted, anger boiling in his veins now. "I thought you were dead. You left me. Yet here you are saying you're not asking my forgiveness?"

Naruto spat on the ground, eyes narrowed and lip curled. "I almost wish you were on your knees begging me to forgive you – but oh no, you wouldn't do that would you?" The words were wrong and Naruto didn't want to say them, but he was so, so angry. They slipped by like small fish from a net, too quick and slippery to contain.

"What is it with your clan? Are you so determined to fuck up every inch of happiness I gain that you'll go out of your way to cause me pain? Sasuke… Sasuke I can understand, but you? You?" The word dripped from his tongue with loathing and Naruto felt satisfaction warm his chest.

"I never wanted anything from you, yet you made it seem so real! I honestly thought I'd have been happy with you, happy to fight by your side, raise a kid with you, grow old with you!" Naruto's fists clenched and he wished someone would just stop time, make it all go away – back to before Itachi had come into his life, back to before he'd found out about Sakura and Sasuke, back to before he'd found out about Natsuki… back to when everything was easy.

No, his rational side said. That wasn't what he wanted at all. Not really.

"Are you going to stand there like a fucking idiot or are you actually going to speak?" Naruto barked out, angered gaze looking through the darkness of the hood.

The hood came down then and Naruto felt sick. It was Itachi, exactly as he remembered him (if a little colder and distant, but that was to be expected). Nothing had changed, though Naruto wondered what he'd been expecting, a zombie? Rotting corpse?

"I don't deserve your forgiveness," Itachi said slowly, as if Naruto was a wild animal he didn't want to startle. Too late for that, Naruto thought.

"I only want the chance to explain what happened and why. I want to put aside our personal history for a moment to do this and then, when I'm done and you wish for it, I'll vanish from your life completely." Itachi's voice was sincere and it made the situation all the worse.

Naruto didn't want Itachi to vanish. He'd had that, from Jiraiya's lips the truth had spilt and Naruto's world had been turned upside down. He never wanted Itachi to vanish again, despite the anger and the bitterness, despite the humiliation and the joy. He might not want to see Itachi for a while, but just like Sasuke and Sakura, Naruto didn't want him gone.

He physically ached to hold that bit of information back from Itachi, but he refused to admit how much he needed him. Perhaps not in a romantic way anymore (trust, trust, trust, how could he trust Itachi after this? No explanation would set things right and Naruto couldn't do that sort of relationship over again), but he still did need Itachi.

"Go on," Naruto said curtly, standing square. "Explain it now."

Itachi looked as though he wanted to save their discussion for later, but he at least had some sense to realise that wasn't possible anymore. Things had to be on Naruto's terms now, if Itachi was this desperate to tell him the truth.

"You need to hear the full story, but it won't make sense unless I start from the day we returned to Konoha." Itachi bowed his head, breaking eye contact. "I lied to you when I said I didn't tell Pein we were leaving."

Naruto wasn't surprised by that, not really. It had to be part of the 'plan', whatever this plan was.

"The power of the Rinnegan can hold sway over life and death as well as control bodies. I never left the Akatsuki." Itachi's voice was devoid of emotion and Naruto took a step back, the truth sinking in.

"This whole time then…" he said softly, closing his eyes. "This whole time, it's been someone else? Something that looks like you and sounds like you, but is anything but?"

Itachi nodded slowly and Naruto threw his hands up in the air laughing at how stupid he'd been.

"I need to tell you about the Uzumaki clan, a set of forbidden seals and why we did what we did." Itachi looked around them and Naruto's eyes followed.

"I'll follow you," Naruto agreed, still waiting for the information to fully sink in. "We'll go to Ame, you'll tell me everything and then I'm going to do what I want for once."

Itachi said nothing and Naruto began walking away, surprised at how sure of himself he'd sounded, especially when he had no idea of what he wanted.

He supposed that all hung on what Itachi was going to tell him.

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Notes:

Chapters might be a little spaced between for the next few weeks. Work and Olympics being the main reasons why (whee excited for the latter!). I'd like to thank StarsOfYaoi for this chapter because without her help, I'd still be halfway through! THANK YOU!

Thank you for all your support, as always. Even if it's one word, I appreciate everything. It really helps motivation too so I can't thank you all enough.

Also, I probs shouldn't say it but… new ItaNaru collab between DM and me. Pirates. It's happening this summer xD And aaah so excited. Maybe because I've been reading too much One Piece and pirates are just everything to me right now.

Next time:
Tobi decides that Orochimaru has had enough time to come up with information on Sasuke's seal, Tsunade returns to Konoha and meets with Sakura while Naruto enters Ame and comes to some harsh realisations.