Ok, so here's your next chapter. ^.^ More Itachi action here, like many of you requested. So please, read on and enjoy!
When he woke up, Naruto wasn't sure what was going on. He knew he was still in the same place, since he could feel his chakra leaking out to support the seal that kept non-ninja out. He was laid out on a piece of cloth; he thought it might be Itachi's cloak, judging from the vague cloud shapes he could see when he turned his head a little to the left.
He went through the same process he had when he'd woken up the previous night, checking to make sure if he was still injured, or if Kyuubi's chakra had healed him while he slept. He was interrupted half-way through, though, just after he had tested the fingers of his right hand.
"You're fine. No injuries whatsoever. Not even a scar." Itachi's voice drifted over to him from his right. When he turned that way, and started to push himself up, he realized his eyes were acting a little strange. His depth perception was off, and he had to fight to keep his balance and the colors he could see were noticeably brighter, even though he couldn't see any hint of sunlight. His ears were messed up, too, seeing as Itachi was sitting right next to him, and he'd heard the Uchiha's voice as if he were much further away from him.
A wave of dizziness passed over him. The arm he held most of his weight with collapsed and he dropped back to the ground with a surprised yelp. He groaned and tried again, this time managing to pull himself up into a cross-legged sitting position, before the dizziness rocked over him again. Itachi's hand steadied him this time.
"Thanks." He said with a hoarse voice. "What-" He coughed. "What time is it?"
Itachi pushed a canteen to his lips, evidently not trusting Naruto to hold it steadily himself. Naruto didn't bother to protest, but did lift his own hand to hold the canteen as well, his oversensitive fingers brushing Itachi's gloved ones. "It's been three hours since you lost consciousness."
Pushing the canteen away from his mouth, Naruto groaned again. He cleared his throat. "Right."
There was silence, and Naruto didn't try to break it. He was attempting to relearn his sense of balance. The first time around had been much worse. He'd panicked. He'd tried over and over again to get up and stand on his own two feet, but the process Kyuubi's chakra had put his body through had increased his body's capabilities beyond his muscles' abilities to cope. It took time to get used to it. He'd fallen to the ground and kept trying to get up as his addled mind tried to clear. He thought it might've been almost half an hour before he'd calmed down and finally listened to Kyuu's instructions to regain his sense of balance.
This time it was a little easier. He knew what was happening, at least.
"Are you alright?" Itachi asked, still, seemingly, from far away.
"Fine. Balance is off. I'll get used to it." Naruto said as little as he thought he should, but it was still more information than he'd like to give out to someone he didn't quite trust yet, even though he knew he'd be able to in the future.
"You want to tell me who you are now?" Itachi asked bluntly. It surprised Naruto, seeing as the man had only just been inquiring as to his welfare.
"Only if you tell me why exactly Akatsuki is targeting Sasuke."
Naruto couldn't see Itachi's face very well, but he thought it might've just darkened a bit.
"I vaguely remember hearing about a Jinchuuriki while I was in the village. You were about the same age as my brother. I saw you once, when you were running through the village one evening."
"Probably so. I did that a lot as a kid." Naruto said, thinking back to that time, trying to remember if he had ever seen the man as a child. But it was harder now. He was beginning to forget his first childhood. And it was so long ago… Or at least it seemed so.
"Why do you know S-class secrets?"
"Because I do." There was an irritated silence. He sighed and elaborated. "I really can't tell you, Itachi. If anything, me being here right now is even bigger than S-class. I can't tell you anything until I can trust you."
There was a sigh. "You're a stubborn one."
"I pride myself on it." Naruto said. He could feel the corners of his mouth quirk up. It was nice to see that Itachi had at least a little personality under his mask.
The world was almost through with its spinning and lurching. Itachi's voice almost matched his proximity, now, at least.
And he could focus his eyes, too. Itachi was leaning against a tree across from him, wearing a sleeveless black shirt. The man's lean arms were crossed over his chest and his face wore a rather irritated glare. Though, Naruto was sure that, to anyone else, it would have looked like the usual blank façade. Naruto looked away from the dark eyes and down to his lap.
He lifted a hand to his head and ran it through his short hair. After a second, he clenched his hand and growled at himself. He nearly threw himself to his feet, forgetting how much strength his muscles held now. He saw Itachi draw a kunai, startled by his movement, but Naruto didn't move to attack him. He paced a short distance unsteadily, his frustration allowing him to forget that, by all rights, he shouldn't have been able to move so quickly after fusing chakra systems with Kyuu.
He didn't pay much attention to Itachi, but his senses told him that the man had risen to his feet. Naruto didn't look at the man, even when he suddenly broke his jutsu and strode out of the clearing. And he didn't say anything when Itachi followed him.
He'd just realized. If fate was going to fuck with him by making things harder for him in this time- which was what seemed to be happening - he was going to take any opportunity given to him to fuck with fate just as much. And if that thing happened to be trusting someone who had been trustworthy from the start, what reason did he have to pass it up?
He didn't really think that he could just sit down, change his mind, and tell Itachi his life story and expect the man to believe him. So instead, he planned to make a gesture. Not a grand one, but one that he hoped would pay off in the end. By the time they reached their destination, Naruto finally managed to get his roiling thoughts under control in the back of his mind, and he knew exactly how he was going to go about his gesture of faith towards the Uchiha behind him.
Itachi had kept his kunai out, and had followed Naruto at a reasonable distance, maybe thirty feet back, so that he had a good warning if Naruto's unpredictable behavior was turned towards him. In front of them was Gato's compound. The same one that Naruto had entered to eavesdrop on Gato's plans earlier that week.
There was no one here, Naruto could tell. His natural chakra sensing abilities seemed to come easier after merging chakra with Kyuu, just like they had in his own time. The entire area was abandoned with the exception of himself and Itachi. It was a huge stone compound, but like most egomaniacs, Gato seemed to have had it built to focus around himself. There was a straight-away entrance that Naruto strode through, which led him and Itachi through a long succession of huge double doors.
Still, Itachi didn't speak. Naruto wondered about that. For all the man knew, Naruto could have been leading him into an epic trap. But, hey, if an Uchiha wanted to cooperate for once, who was Naruto to stop him?
The blond opened the last set of double doors and had to admit that the straight-away approach was far quicker than sneaking around in musty air ducts. And he rather liked the imposing figure he cut when he threw the final set of doors open, even though there was no one in the room to witness it.
This room was Gato's office. It was magnificent, Naruto had to admit. There were all sorts of weapons hanging on the walls, and he could hardly believe that every single one of them was a real, working weapon. Some of them were so polished you could use them as mirrors. There must have been dozens of weapon there, but that wasn't what really took Naruto's attention.
At the back of the room, there was a safe.
It wasn't huge, or nearly as flashy as Naruto would have expected from Gato. Actually, it was rather about the same height as the man had been, and about three feet wide and deep. Naruto walked around Gato's magnificent desk, which was situated in the middle of the large room, and made a beeline for the safe behind it. He noticed that Itachi stayed on the other side of the room, next to the door.
Naruto turned slightly and raised a brow at the man. Itachi said nothing. He didn't even move. He just studied Naruto's movements quietly, and, Naruto thought, suspiciously.
"I'll be using some chakra. Don't throw that kunai at me, please." Naruto said dryly as he turned back around. Without getting an answer, he brought some chakra up past the skin of his right hand and forearm, forming the oh-so-familiar blades of wind around them. He reached out and touched the tip of his middle finger to the outline of the safe's door.
There was a drilling sound, or rather, a very high-pitched screech, as Naruto's blades cut through the metal. Without the key and combination, it would take something like this, or a large blast to open Gato's safe. Naruto didn't want to destroy the contents of the safe, so he did this, which was far more pain-staking and irritating with the noise it created and the time it took. He would honestly rather have blasted it open.
When he was almost done, he glanced back to see that Itachi still stood in the exact same spot as before, which happened to be directly behind him.
"Itachi, you might want to take a few steps to one side." The man's eyes narrowed, but he did as Naruto suggested. As Naruto's bladed hand reached the second hinge to the safe, which was right above where he had started cutting, Naruto took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He slowly moved his hand through the hinge and tensed when the two ends joined each other.
There was an ominous clicking sound, and, as the door to the safe fell towards Naruto, he only just managed to move to the side in time to avoid a spray of weapons. There were more than could possibly have been stuffed into the safe, so Naruto was fairly sure that they had been in a scroll of some kind. They all shot out on a straight path, which happened to be on a collision course with the door to the office.
There were a number of dull thunks as the weapons made contact with the heavy wood where Itachi had been standing moments before. The trap sprayed weapons for a good five seconds before spitting out one last kunai and dying out. Naruto clenched his teeth.
He hadn't managed to get out of the way of the amateurish trap completely.
There was a huge rug on the floor of Gato's office that was rather thick and plush. Naruto had seriously overestimated his reflexes and his ability to dodge effectively. Together, these two things had resulted in his tripping on the rug and earning a kunai to the shoulder. Of course, this wasn't what Naruto was gritting his teeth about. He couldn't handle a measly old kunai wound.
What was worrying him quite a bit more was the razor wire around his throat.
Two shuriken had been shot out of the safe at once. One caught itself in the cloth of his shirt at his shoulder, near the kunai wound, but didn't sink into the skin. Connecting it to the other was a short, thick strand of dulled razor wire, which wrapped itself around his throat three times as the other shuriken's momentum swung it around his body. The razor wire had been dulled on purpose, meant to incapacitate any thieves that wanted to break into certain safes, and that was the only reason that the wire hadn't cut his throat when it first made contact.
Instead, it was slowly grinding away the skin on his neck from the moment the other shuriken anchored itself in the cloth of his shirt at the small of his back on his right side. Which happened to be the spot that he could reach with his right hand if only that arm didn't have a frickin' kunai in it!
He gagged and dropped to his knees, and before he lost the last bit of breath in his lungs, he gasped out "Itachi!"
There was a momentary silence and an agonizing pause before Itachi appeared at his side, carefully pulling the second shuriken from his shirt and peeling the razor wire from his throat. It was slow work, as Itachi had to be careful not to damage Naruto's throat further, but after a minute, the wire was gone and Naruto was yanking the kunai from his shoulder. He took a long deep breath before hacking at the sudden relaxation of his lungs. He finally caught his breath before he looked up to see Itachi still holding the bloodied wire with an expression that suggested he wasn't sure what to do with it.
"And that…hah… is why - cough - I brought you along." Naruto said with a slight grin.
Itachi's eyes narrowed once again, though Naruto thought that it was curiosity this time instead of suspicion. "I suppose that was a sort of trust exercise?"
Naruto blinked before he burst out into laughter. "No. No. Believe me. If I wanted to test you, it certainly wouldn't be at the risk of my own life. Though it worked out nicely enough."
Itachi gave him a deadpan look and Naruto calmed down a bit. "Really. I just misstepped. I was stupid. No tricks, I swear!" Naruto raised his hands in the air in a surrendering gesture before he realized that he was still holding a bloody kunai in his hand. He gave a sheepish look to Itachi before dropping the kunai down into his sleeve.
He could have sworn a laugh escaped Itachi's lips right then and there. But he might have still been a bit confused and was imagining things.
"What's so important in that safe?" Itachi asked, changing the subject and dropping the razor wire on the ground after pocketing the two shuriken. He wouldn't have much use for dull razor wire anyway, Naruto mused.
He pressed a hand to his still sore throat, which was slippery with blood, although he felt chakra already moving to heal the vicious wounds. He stood shakily and stepped back next to the safe, taking a cautious peek inside of it before stepping wholly in front of it. Inside, he could see the remains of the hair trigger that had been set to go off if the safe was ever opened without the key.
In addition to that, there must have been at least twenty-five scrolls situated on three heavy, metal shelves.
He had to wonder why a normal man like Gato, without chakra, would use so many ninja fail-safes, but Naruto didn't feel like thinking too hard about it. He figured the man must have trusted at least one ninja to set up such a system of storage and protection.
Without looking to see the scrolls' contents, Naruto took two of the bottom ones and tossed them back over his head at Itachi. He already knew what was in each of them; after all, from witnessing Gato access one before when he'd been snooping around. He heard the man catch them and unroll one.
"Money?" Itachi asked. "Why are you giving this to me?"
Naruto almost laughed at the openly surprised tone. "Every single one of these scrolls in filled to the brim with Gato's life's work. I'm distributing the spoils of war. Oh, by the way, this is his hideout."
"Right, I figured that much out all by myself." Naruto couldn't withhold the snort of amusement that bubbled up from his chest. He winced as it jarred his throat. "And, again, why are you giving this to me?"
"Well, I figure you need some money that you can rely on without killing anybody or draining away at the Uchiha fortune, am I right?" He didn't get an answer. He let the words linger in the air for a second before continuing. "Plus, you've just proved that you're trustworthy, and that has perks."
He still didn't receive an answer. He didn't turn away from the safe, but took out one of his own scrolls, unrolled it, and started stowing the money scrolls in it. He heard the rustling of cloth behind him as Itachi moved closer to him. He forced himself not to turn around.
Two hands reached over his shoulders and he stilled his movements, ready to move away at any second.
"Don't move." Came a quiet order from behind him. Naruto felt the slide of cloth against his throat and almost panicked as the sudden sensation of being choked reared once again in his mind. He forced himself still again when it dawned on him what exactly it was that Itachi was doing.
He was bandaging Naruto's neck wound.
Naruto fought not to smile as deft hands swiftly wrapped the cloth around three or four times. As he was tying the knot to keep the cloth in place, Itachi spoke again.
"Does this mean you'll tell me exactly what's going on?"
Naruto laughed again at Itachi's persistence and, with another smile that the man couldn't see, nodded an affirmative.
So, umm, I completely thought that this place would be great to start one of the one-shots I promised you guys off at, but that might just be me. I mean, if you cut off the last three lines, it would be great. But, hey, tell me what you think. ^.^