Hey! I'm not dead, though college seems to be trying to kill me.

Sorry for the long time it took to update but, please, don't go to my other stories and tell me what to update or to stop writing them and focus solely on this one. I write for pleasure and by telling me what to do, it starts to feel like a job.

I hope you like the chapter.


Doubt

疑う (Utagau)

For a long time, Naruto tried to imagine how it would be like to take Sasuke back to Konoha.

When he felt particularly hopeful about the future, he imagined them buying a brand new house where they would live together until Sasuke was old enough to move out and live by himself. He imagined taking his son to the Academy and celebrate his graduation like all the other parents, watching him with his Genin team, pass the Chuunin exams and become a Jōnin.

He wanted to believe in a happy future where he could watch his son grow in his village like any other child. Sometimes, that wish was so strong that he almost packed their bags and planned their return. However, reality always shattered this dream and his fear, or maybe his paranoia, about the hostility of the villagers and the other ninjas towards Sasuke, continuously made Naruto postpone their homecoming.

He could take the blame, the distrust and the accusations. Hell, if he could, Naruto would direct all the hatred they had for Sasuke towards him if it meant to spare his child. But, no matter how hard he wanted it, the blond ninja knew that was one thing he couldn't protect his son from. This was why they were heading towards a secret backdoor in the village's hospital with their faces covered with hoods, sneaking in like criminals.

"Tou-chan?" Sasuke asked, his eyes covered with bandages and a fearful expression that made Naruto's heart ache. "Where are we?"

"We're in Konoha… in the hospital" Naruto answered, trying to sound as cheerful as he could for his boy's sake. "Tsunade Baa-chan works here, you know? So we brought you here so she can take care of you better."

Sasuke's opened his mouth in awe. "We're in our village?"

Naruto had to try really hard not to let emotion slip through his voice. "Yes, we're in our village."

The boy nodded and buried his hooded face once again on his father's shoulder. "I wish I could see it…"

"You will. Don't worry, you will."

Kakashi placed a warm hand on Naruto's shoulder and the two exchanged a meaningful gaze which required no words.

"Let's take him to the observation room" Tsunade said.

Yamato and Sai decided to wait in the lobby, while Naruto, Kakashi and Sasuke followed Tsunade through the white corridors of the hospital, avoiding looking at anyone who walked by them which, by the way, was becoming incredibly difficult as it seemed that the entire village had decided to go the hospital that night. Why couldn't they just enter one of the empty offices and treat Sasuke in secret? Naruto's heart stopped every time some random villager greeted the Hokage or simply walked too close to him.

Finally, Tsunade found the room she was looking for. They sat Sasuke in a strange chair connected to what it looked like a giant microscope and undid his bandages.

"Sasuke? I need you to open your eyes for a bit" the Hokage said softly.

"They hurt…" the boy whimpered.

"I know. I promise I'll give you a pill after I see your eyes, but you need to be brave just a bit longer, okay?"

The boy was clearly terrified, but he nodded anyway and let the medic-nin check his eyes scrupulously for half an hour without making a peep. Meanwhile, Naruto was sitting in chair next to his sensei, his mouth opening and closing like a fish as questions multiplied in his mind. Kakashi grabbed his arm and shook his head, silently telling him to be quiet and let Tsunade do her work.

Finally, Tsunade turned off the eye-microscope-thingy and put some eye-drops on the boy's eyes before bandaging them once more.

"I'm very proud of you, Sasuke" the Hokage said, patting the child's hair. "You behaved like a man."

"Thanks… but I am going to see again, Baa-chan? Can you heal me?"

Tsunade looked at Naruto who immediately walked to his son. "I think I know what happened to your eyes. There are three different kinds of chakra and DNA on them and the pressure is too much for them. If I stabilize them, your eyes will start to heal by themselves and you'll be able to see again."

"Really?" Sasuke asked with a hopeful smile on his lips before turning head towards Naruto and grabbing his coat. "Did you hear, Papa? I'm gonna see again!"

"Y-Yeah, I heard her" Naruto answered a bit relief but also worried. Tsunade's expression was still apprehensive.

"To stabilize the eyes, Sasuke will need a small surgery. It's simple, but delicate so I'll need a few hours to get everything ready. Meanwhile, Sasuke needs to spend the night here."

Naruto's blue eyes widened. "Here? In the hospital?"

"It's the only place where I can get access to to the material I need" Tsunade explained.

"What about the secret hospital for the ANBU? Couldn't you just take what you need there?"

"That would waste a lot of time and resources, Naruto. Besides, here I have more back-up from other experienced medic-nins without forcing them to leave their other patients."

"But…"

"Dad?" Sasuke asked. "What's wrong? Why don't you want me to be here?"

Naruto looked at his son and his heart dropped. He couldn't just tell him that he didn't want people to know he was there out of fear they would recognize him and try to hurt him. Sasuke was nervous enough, there was no need to make things worse and made him feel even more hated than he already did.

"I'm not worried, Sasuke" Naruto said, pulling his son close. "I just thought Baa-chan could treat you better in another hospital."

The blond helped Sasuke get up and put his hood over his face before they left the office. Tsunade was talking about getting him a private room when Sasuke started pulling Naruto's sleeve.

"Tou-chan, I need to go to the bathroom" the boy said.

Fortunately he couldn't see Naruto worried face. "What? Now? We're almost in your room… can't you wait just a little longer?"

The small raven shook his head and pouted. "I've been waiting since we got here because Baa-chan wanted to see my eyes. I can't hold it anymore!"

Naruto stared at both Kakashi and Tsunade, hoping that one of them would back him up and tell Sasuke that he needed to hold it. Instead, they both shrugged and Tsunade even told him where the nearest bathroom was.

Traitors.

"Fine… Let's go" the blond said.

The bathroom was miraculously empty when they got in and Sasuke refused to let him help.

"I can't pee by myself!" the boy yelled in outrage.

"I know that. I was just trying to show you where the toilet is" Naruto answered back, earning a very angry pout from his son.

"I can find it, Dad. Blind people don't need other people showing them where the toilet is!"

Naruto rolled his eyes. "Alright, just… hurry up."

True to his word, and stubborn as always, Sasuke managed to find the toilet by himself, as well as the sink to wash his hands. When the bathroom door opened, Naruto swiftly covered his son's head with the hood from his coat and pulled him out of the bathroom, his heart beating hard against his chest.

Maybe if he hadn't been so worried about avoiding the old man entering the bathroom, he would have noticed the young mother and her son on the corner before slamming against her.

In slow motion, Naruto saw Sasuke lose his balance and trip on the other kid's leg. He fell on the clean, white floor and his hood slipped down his head.

Sasuke's face was uncovered in front of several people in the Hospital.

Naruto was ready to pull a kunai and step in front his son to protect him from the angry mob that would definitely try to murder him. His hand was already closed to the dagger when he felt a strong, gloved hand stop him from behind.

"Wait" Kakashi whispered so softly that Naruto barely heard him.

Slowly, he looked down at Sasuke, who was trying to stand up. The woman that he had bumped into was also staring at him, not with horror or rage. Not even recognition. Her brown eyes widened with maternal worry the moment she noticed the bandages on Sasuke's face.

"Oh! I'm so sorry… Are you alright?" she asked, kneeling in front of Sasuke while still holding her five-year-old son by the hand.

Sasuke lifted his head towards the sound of her voice and shook his head. "I'm alright."

Naruto helped him get up and Sasuke grabbed his hand.

"Well, I'm still sorry. We both are. Right, Kureno?" she turned to her child. "Apologize to Nii-chan."

The boy frowned at his mother and then at Sasuke bandages. "Why? His eyes are all covered up! It's not my fault!"

"Kureno! Those are bandages. His eyes are hurt, that's why he can't see. Apologize this instant!"

Kureno stared at Sasuke, slightly ashamed. "Sorry…"

"It's okay" Sasuke answered.

"I hope you get better soon" the mother said, smiling at Naruto and greeting the Hokage before leaving.

Tsunade walked towards Naruto and whispered in hear. "Leave his hood down."

The blond's eyes widened in shock. "What? But…"

"Just do it" she went on, her eyes unwavering.

Naruto didn't have to tell her what would happen if someone recognized Sasuke. He didn't have to remind her that not only was his son's life on the line but also her reputation for hiding an international criminal from the alliance, even if he wasn't that criminal anymore.

"Dad?"

Sasuke was pulling his shirt again, most likely wondering why they were just standing there. It broke Naruto's heart to see his little boy staring at him blindly with so much innocence on his face. He didn't want Sasuke to get hurt, but he didn't want him to spend the rest of his life hiding either.

"Let's go to your room, okay?"

The boy nodded and they continued walking down the busy corridors of the newly built hospital.

No one seemed to recognize Sasuke. Even when they stared right at his face, no one, civilian, ninja or medical staff, seemed to know who he was. Everyone paid more attention to Tsunade and Kakashi and barely noticed the blind boy and his panicky father.

The only thing Naruto could do was blend in with the crowd and pray for the best. Thankfully, Sasuke was blissfully unaware of the danger. When two nurses noticed him and pinched his cheeks, saying how cute he was, Naruto thought he was going to have a stroke while the raven just sulked and touched his swollen face with the biggest pout ever.

"Are there yet?" the boy asked for the sixth time.

"We're almost there."

"That's what you said an hour ago!"

"No, that's what I said three minutes ago."

"And we're not there yet. Can you hurry up?"

"Can you stop being a brat?"

Behind them, Kakashi chuckled.

"Sensei!" they hissed at the same time.

"Sorry, sorry…"

When they finally reached the room, Sasuke changed into his pajamas and crawled into the hospital bed. His surgery was scheduled in the morning and Tsunade still needed some time to get everything and everyone ready.

"Naruto, may I have a word with you?" the Hokage asked.

Sasuke looked up; he didn't want Naruto to leave him.

"I'll stay here with you, Sasuke" Kakashi said promptly. "Your father will be right back."

"That's right" Tsunade said. "I just want to talk to him for a while. He can spend the night here with you."

Sasuke nodded, though he still seemed scared about. The less he thought about his eyes and surgery, the better.

"So… I heard you want to be an ANBU" Kakashi said. "As former ANBU myself, I have to tell you that it isn't easy. Only the best shinobi can become one."

"Huh? You're an ex-ANBU?" the boy asked. "What is it like? What did you do? How did you train?"

As Kakashi entertained Sasuke with his endless stories as an ANBU, Naruto followed Tsunade to her office on the top floor of the hospital. Her desk was a mess of papers and scrolls and there were two bottles of saké hidden under a chair.

"Do you usually drink in the hospital, Baa-chan?" Naruto asked with a frown.

"Rarely and never before going to treat a patient" the blond Hokage assured him with a frown.

Naruto sighed and rubbed his temples. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, it's just…"

"I know. You're worried and scared."

"Tell me the truth" Naruto asked, his voice failing and making him look like a boy again. "Is Sasuke going to be alright?"

Tsunade reached for Naruto hand and grabbed it. "I didn't lie, Naruto. I know what needs to be done and I'm optimistic about Sasuke's situation. That's not the reason I brought you here to talk."

Visibly relieved, Naruto let out a breath and stared at his Hokage. "Then… what do you want to talk about?"

"First of all, I wanted you to know why I told you uncover Sasuke's face" she explained. "I've wondered about it for a while… about the risk of his identity being discovered, I mean. I wanted to know how much his memory still lingers in the villagers' minds."

"It was a huge risk, Baa-chan."

"I know… However, Uchiha Sasuke left the village eleven years ago, at the age of thirteen. The last time he was seen was when he was a teenager and now he is presumed dead. If he were 'alive', most ninjas would expect to find a young man, not a small child."

"So… you're saying that no one will recognize him?"

"No. But those who could recognize him easily already know what happened. Sasuke wasn't exactly social, not many people knew him. If they looked at him now, some could think that he resembles Uchiha Sasuke, but that would be it. Besides, his whole DNA has changed. It is legally impossible to identify him now."

Naruto looked down, his hands curling into fists against his pants. "Still…"

"I'm not telling you to bring him back to the village right now" Tsunade went on. "I just want you to think about what I said."

Naruto nodded, but didn't meet her eyes.

"There's another thing I wanted to talk to you about" Tsunade went on. "It's about the surgery."

Naruto's eyes widened with fear once more. "What about it?"

"Like I said earlier, it's a simple surgery, but very delicate. I still need to study about it a little more, but I can't do it alone. I need the help of another medical-nin with extraordinary chakra control to stabilize Sasuke's."

The blond blinked, confused. "What about Shizune-Nee-chan?"

Tsunade rubbed her eyes and her lips thinned into a line. "She's on a mission in the Land of Lightening. She won't be here for another week and I can't just call her back. It would ruin her mission."

"But…? What are you gonna do then? Sasuke needs this surgery soon! You said it! Isn't there anyone else who can help you?"

"Yes, there is" Tsunade answer, her eyes serious and worried.

It took a few seconds for Naruto to realize who she was talking about.

"I'll go talk to her, Baa-chan" the blond said. "I own her that. It's the least I can do."


After a long day working, the only thing Sakura wanted was a warm bath; eat her favorite dish for dinner and go to sleep. So far, she had accomplish two of her goals and was about to carry out the third.

She had successfully avoided talking to her teammates during the past weeks. She didn't want their pity or talk about what happened. She knew they would come to talk to her eventually. They were her friends, despite the fact that they didn't see her point of view, or rather, they preferred Naruto's.

When she heard someone knocking on her door, Sakura sighed. Ino had tried to talk to her, but she didn't want to listen. She wasn't ready to her one of her best friends explain why she had lied to her face for years.

When the knocking didn't stop, Sakura got up. Since Ino wasn't going home so easily this time, she would have to tell her to leave. However, when she opened her door, she didn't see Ino.

There was a man on her porch. A young, blond man with blue eyes and whisker marks on his cheeks.

Sakura gaped as she stared at his face and his sad smile. For a while, she wondered if she wasn't dreaming.

"Hello, Sakura-chan."

Three seconds later, Naruto flew to the other side of the street with the strength of her punch.

"You" she mumbled, glaring at the teammate she hadn't seen for seven whole years. "I'm going to kill you, Naruto."

Naruto got up and spat blood to the ground. He didn't try to evade the punch, but he could have sworn that it was stronger than he remembered.

"I'm so sorry, Sakura-chan."

"Sorry, my ass! What are you doing here?" she roared as she grabbed the blond by the collar.

"I know I hurt you" Naruto said sadly. "I know I don't deserve to ask you to forgive me."

"You're right, you don't" Sakura answered. "Do you have any idea how it felt like be left behind by your own teammates like I meant nothing? Or to find out that you had lied for seven years? How could you this to me? Make me believe that Sasuke-kun…"

There were tears in her eyes now and she hated herself for showing that weakness. It made her even more furious to see the genuine look of sadness on Naruto's face. She didn't want to think that she had missed him too, not now.

"Sakura-chan…"

"Why are you here, Naruto? Why did you come back now?"

"Because of Sasuke" the blond answered.

Sakura's green eyes widened and her grip on his collar loosened considerably.

"He's in the hospital. He needs your help, Sakura-chan."


Sakura reacted pretty much how you'd expect. People having been telling me on the reviews that once Sakura found out the truth, she would punch Naruto… I thought it was a good idea.

What do you think: should Naruto bring Sasuke back?

See you next time!