Disclaimer: 42 chapters in, if you still think I own Naruto, I don't know that another witty disclaimer will change your mind.

Author's Note: One week between updates? What is this, 2012?

Chapter Forty-Two: Not What it Once Was

It was March, but the night was still cold. Itachi regretted chasing after his mother without putting on his jacket. He'd caught up to her and Kakashi down the block, but their conversation was long, and he was nearly shivering by the end of it.

"I can't seem to do anything right with him," Mikoto said miserably. "I keep trying to do the right thing and it keeps blowing up in my face."

"You shouldn't have jumped to conclusions," Itachi warned her. "But I'm sure Sasuke understands why you did. He's just embarrassed because you did that in front of his friends. It won't change anything. He does love you."

"I'm gonna drown my sorrows in ice cream," Mikoto decided, looking up at the sign for Cold Stone. They had a pretty large one right across the street from Mangekyo.

The mention of ice cream was enough to make Itachi shiver. "Kakashi, why don't you come back to the bar and have a drink with me?"

Kakashi looked at his watched and sighed. "Yeah, I've got time." He turned to Mikoto. "Get me a large cup of chocolate chip cookie dough. I'll be there soon. Mikoto crossed the street, as Kakashi and Itachi turned around to head back to the bar. "I'm worried about Sasuke."

"Story of our lives right now, right?" Itachi joked.

"Not about the alcohol, though god help that boy should he relapse again," Kakashi added the last part under his breath. "No, I'm just talking about in general. He doesn't seem very happy."

"I see it too," Itachi agreed. "I didn't really notice it until Mom was back, but it was there before."

"I think his life has been a long period of unhappiness with minor bits of happiness sprinkled in," said Kakashi. "If it wasn't for Naruto, I don't even want to think how bad things would be for him. He should have never stopped seeing that psychiatrist."

"He hasn't really," Itachi said. "I'm pretty sure he and Mom went to see him a couple of weeks ago. And I think Sasuke's had an appointment in the last week."

"Maybe we should go with him some time," Kakashi suggested. "It would give us a chance to talk with his doctor, and give some context to some of some of Sasuke's issues." The wind picked up, and Itachi shivered again. The streetlight overhead went out, shrouding their part of the sidewalk in darkness.

Itachi noticed a car pull up in front of Mangekyo, and a man wearing a brown overcoat got out of the car and walked to the bar. "It's closed," Itachi yelled down the street, but the man paid no word and opened the door anyway. "Is he deaf?" Itachi asked as they picked up their pace. When the gunshot rang out, Itachi and Kakashi broke into a run.

When they got to the door, the man turned to run, gun still in hand. Itachi tackled him to the ground and made a grab for the gun.

"Naruto, call the police," Kakashi instructed when he entered the bar. Sasuke was soon outside, helping Itachi wrestle the gun out of the man's hand. Itachi had his arm around the man, putting him in a choke hold. Sasuke held his arm down and bent his wrist, forcing the gun to point to the parked cars outside.

With a grunt, the man elbowed Itachi in the gut with his free hand, and Itachi recoiled, giving the man the perfect moment to get out of the chokehold. Itachi heard Kakashi ordering directions to the teenagers inside the bar ("Give him some room. Sakura, apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Can you hear me, boy?") as he gasped for air.

The man used his free arm to punch Sasuke in the face, giving him the moment to run. Itachi stood to chase after him, but the man ran right back to the car that was sitting, parallel parked in front of the bar with his blinkers on. He jumped inside the getaway car, and pulled it closed as Itachi reached the car, clawing at the window and tugging at the locked door. The man gave a smirk as the car accelerated and pulled away.

"GBE-734," Itachi murmered, reading the license plate. "GBE-734. GBE-734." He kept repeating it like it was his job. When the police arrived, it would go a great deal to have the license plate of the getaway car.

He entered the bar, ignoring everyone else's questions and screams and concerns as he searched for a pen and a piece of paper. "GBE-734. GBE-734." He found a pen, but no paper, so he wrote it on the back of his hand. Only then did he look up at the rest of the room.

Kisame's brother, Suigetsu, was the one who was shot. He was bleeding on the floor, with Sakura holding a towel on his chest, trying to stop the bleeding. He was shot in the chest. Fuck. The rest of the room was in chaos. Naruto and Gaara took Hinata away from Suigetsu's body. She was hyperventilating, and Itachi wondered briefly if this would cause her to miscarry. No, better not think like that.

"He got away," he told Kakashi and Sasuke, who were both standing by the door. "I got the license plate, though." He showed them his hand. "What happened?"

"The guy just came in, pulled out the gun, and shot him," Sasuke said, panic in his voice. "What the fuck!" It wasn't a question.

Just then, Neji joined them. "This wasn't an accident," he said in a quiet voice.

"What do you mean?" asked Kakashi.

"He came in armed, pointed it straight at Suigetsu, shot, and left," Neji said. "This was deliberate."

"Why would he want to kill Suigetsu?" Sasuke asked. "I've never seen this guy before in my life."

"I didn't say that he wanted to kill Suigetsu," Neji said. "Maybe someone with a lot of money wanted Suigetsu dead.

"But who—" Sasuke stopped talking. "You don't think..." he trailed off, giving Neji a meaningful look.

"I wouldn't put it past him," Neji told Sasuke. "He's obviously been involved with really shady people before."

"Who are you guys talking about?" Itachi asked, confused by the whole situation. He heard police sirens from a distance.

"Suigetsu was blackmailing Hinata's father," Sasuke told them. "He had proof that Hiashi's company financed the people who were helping Madara hold Mom in New York."

Itachi recalled his meeting with his PI, Yamato, earlier. Yamato was investigating why the charges against Hashirama Senju, the doctor who used illegal drugs on their mother, were dropped. He linked the DA to the Mangekyo Industries corporation, but one large question was how they were able to finance it. Now it all made sense.

"I've gotta go," Neji said, pushing past Itachi and Kakashi. Kakashi grabbed his wrist.

"The police are going to need your statement," he told Neji.

"They'll get it," Neji said, pulling his wrist from Kakashi's grasp. "But first, I need to get my father's statement." He rushed out the door towards his car.

Moments later, the ambulance was there, and the police right behind them. The paramedics rushed in and began to lift Suigetsu onto a gourney. As they brought Suigetsu out, two officers came in.

"What happened here?" the first one, a tall man with red hair, asked.

"Can we please go to the hospital?" Sasuke asked. "Someone should be with him."

"Are any of you family?" the other officer, a lanky blonde, asked. Family, Itachi thought. He needed to call Kisame. He excused himself and pulled out his phone while everyone else handled the situation.

"The young girl in the back," Kakashi said, pointing to Hinata. "She's pregnant. The victim is the father. She needs to see a doctor too."

"Let's take her out to the paramedics then," the blonde officer said, walking towards the back. She put an arm around Hinata's shoulder, and Ino put one around her other shoulder. They helped walk Hinata outside to the ambulance.

"We'll give our statements at the hospital," Sasuke insisted.

"We can give them now," Kakashi told his godson. He turned to the redheaded cop. "I don't have much to say. Itachi and I," he said, indicating Itachi, who was talking to Kisame on the phone, "were walking down the street when we saw a man walk up to the bar. We heard a gunshot, and we came back in time to see him trying to run away. These two," he pointed between Sasuke and Itachi, "tried to stop him from running, but he got away."

"Kisame's on his way to the hospital," Itachi announced, hanging up. "I have the license plate of the getaway car. GBE-734."

The redheaded officer reached down to his walkie-talkie and pressed a button. "Put an APB out, license plate GBE-734." He released the button. "What type of car?"

"Looked like an SUV, black." The officer repeated the description into the walkie-talking.

"We're going to need statements from all of you," he told the room as the blonde rejoined him. "When you're done, you can leave."

It was agonizing for Sasuke, the waiting. After taking Kakashi's name and phone number, the blonde moved on to Itachi, while the rehead talked to Sakura. Finally, after Itachi gave his statement, the blonde moved on to Sasuke, who recounted his story.

"You should go to the hospital to and get that eye looked at," the blonde told him. The shooter had punched him in the eye during the escape, but Sasuke couldn't feel anything.

"Go on without me," Naruto urged him. "I took a different car anyway."

Sasuke walked towards the door when he decided he needed something. Itachi was gone, so he couldn't ask his brother if they still had a handgun under the bar. Who knows if Hiashi will target the people Suigetsu told, too? Sasuke knew about Hiashi's illicit dealings, which might make him a target.

He walked behind the bar and looked under, where the bottles of alcohol all were. He reached under and felt around a bit before he felt cool metal. He pulled the small handgun out from the shelf and made sure it wasn't empty. He put it in his pocket and high-tailed it out of the bar.

The ride to the hospital was a blur for Sasuke. He'd left the handgun sitting in his glove box while he rushed inside. A nurse directed him to the emergency room waiting room, where he found Itachi, Kisame, and Sakura all waiting.

"What's going on?" Sasuke asked.

"They're operating on Suigetsu," Itachi told him. "Hinata passed out from the stress, but the doctors are looking after her and the baby."

"I can't believe this is happening," Sakura said, her voice shaking. "W-Who would want to kill Suigetsu?" She was on the verge of tears. Itachi looked up at Sasuke, who made eye contact. He nodded his head to Kisame, who was sitting with his head in his hands. Itachi shook his head. So he didn't tell Kisame about Hiashi. That was good.

The others soon started to arrive. Gaara and Kiba, then Naruto, then Ino and Shikamaru, and finally, Kakashi and Mikoto arrived with some coffee and donuts.

"I have a feeling we're all gonna be here a while," Kakashi said.

Mikoto ran up to Sasuke the second she saw him, pulling him into a deep hug. "I'm so glad you're okay." Sasuke could feel himself starting to cry and he returned the hug.

Hinata was okay. The baby was okay.

It turned out, that by the time she was taken away by the paramedics, things were bad for her. She was having contractions, and screaming in pain. And for someone only twenty-two weeks pregnant, early labor was bad.

The doctors spent a lot of time with her, and they concluded that it was a case of false labor, brought on by the stress. Hinata was to be kept in the hospital for a few days, and she would be confined to bedrest until the baby came, but she'd be fine, and so would her son.

Sasuke was the first person she asked for, after Neji. When he went into her room, the sight of Hinata scared him. She was so pale, and she looked like something death passed over. Sasuke immediately took her hand in his.

"Suigetsu..." she whispered. "How's Suigetsu?"

"He's still in surgery," Sasuke told her. "But they got the bullet out. That means there's a good chance he'll be ok."

"Where's..." she took a breath, winded. "Where's Neji?"

Sasuke hesitated for a moment. "I don't know," he lied.

"What happened to him? Is he okay? What if someone goes after him too—"

"No one's going after Neji," Sasuke assured her. "I promise you, he's fine. He went to take care of something."

"What could be more important than this?" she asked, tears in her eyes. "I need him now."

"Why don't I go out in the hallway and call him?" Sasuke suggested. Hinata nodded, and leaned her head back, relieved. "Everyone's going to want to see you now. They're relieved about the baby."

"Someone has to stay out there and wait for news about Suigetsu," she told him.

"I'll be there," he promised, leaving the room. Naruto, Ino, and Sakura were waiting outside for him, and he was immediately accosted by them with questions.

"Is she okay? Can we go in?" Sakura asked.

"She's just tired right now, but you can go in," Sasuke said. The girls left Sasuke and Naruto behind. Naruto pulled Sasuke into a hug. They'd been at the hospital for over an hour at this point, and Sasuke was beginning to be tired.

"Where did Neji run off to after he gave his statement?" Naruto wondered. He must not have realized that Neji left before then. Sasuke didn't answer him, just held him tighter.

After a moment, he pulled out his phone and dialed Neji. It went straight to voicemail. Sasuke bit his lip and put the phone back in his pocket.

"I'm going to find him," Sasuke decided. Neji had been gone long enough that it was beginning to worry Sasuke.

"I'm going with you," Naruto said.

"No," Sasuke told him, shaking his head "It's too dangerous." Naruto furrowed his brow in confusion.

"You're not telling me something," he realized. "Sasuke, where's Neji?"

"I'll tell you another time," Sasuke said, pulling away from his boyfriend.

"You're gonna tell me now," Naruto insisted.

"It's better if you don't know, but I promise, I'll tell you later."


"I love you, Naruto," Sasuke told him, cupping his face and giving him a deep kiss.

"I love you too, Sasuke, but—"

"Trust me," Sasuke told him. "I'll be back later."

Sasuke didn't get very far before Itachi found him.

"I know this is a bad time, little brother," he said, putting a hand on Sasuke's shoulder. "But I have to go out of town for a couple of days."

All thoughts about Neji were gone from Sasuke's head. Suddenly, confusion washed over him. "Where are you going?" he demanded.

"I have business to take care of in New York," Itachi told him. "I'm going to get to the bottom of why the charges against Hashirama Senju were dropped. I've been planning this for a couple of weeks."

"Then why didn't you tell me before now?" Sasuke demanded. He suddenly realized that Itachi's PI had finally gotten him Tobi's address. That must be where Itachi was heading. "Itachi don't go there. Don't get mixed up in it."

"In what?" Itachi asked.

"I'm not an idiot," Sasuke said harshly. "Tobi is bad news. He's the mob. One of Uncle Madara's old associates."

"How do you know that?" Itachi asked Sasuke with narrow eyes.

"Because you're easy to snoop on," Sasuke said, abandoning all pretense. He couldn't let his brother paint a target on his back by confronting some mob don. "Itachi, please don't go. We have Mom back, she's alive. Can't we just count this as a win and move on?" He saw a very rare flare of anger in Itachi's eyes.

"Senju used Mother to experiment illegal drugs on and kept her away from us for over ten years," he said, his voice steadily rising. "Tobi helped it along, and Hiashi Hyuga bankrolled all of it. I'm not going to just let them get away with what they've done. If Uncle Madara was here, he'd be at the top of that list, but he's already taken care of that for me."

"Itachi, please," Sasuke begged. "We just got Mom back. What if Tobi decides he's better off with you dead? What if he decides he's better off rid of all of us? We're finally safe."

"No one's safe, Sasuke," Itachi yelled. "Suigetsu is dying on an operating table right now because of Hiashi Hyuga, and I just know that Tobi is just as involved. For all we know, Hiashi tipped off Tobi, and Tobi was the one who actually sent that thug after Suigetsu. How long before he sends one after you, or me, or Kakashi? We know what they did. You know what that makes us for these mobsters? It makes us loose ends."

"So what's your plan?" Sasuke asked, his temper being spurred on by Itachi's. "You're just gonna go in there and yell at him?"

"Someone needs to find out what Tobi knows about us," Itachi said. "Sasuke, you're my little brother. I'm going to New York to protect you. To protect our family." He didn't leave any room for arguing. He started to walk away, but Sasuke knew he couldn't let him go.

"What if you don't come back?" he asked. Itachi turned around and gave Sasuke a long look. "We're playing a dangerous game, little brother. But I promise you, I'll be back." He left Sasuke standing alone in the hallway, thinking about everything.

Sasuke couldn't stop Itachi, not if Itachi was dead set on this. He could tell Kakashi and Mikoto, but he wasn't even sure they would be able to dissuade his brother. He remembered the gun in his car, and knew he had one job.

Dying sucks.

Suigetsu couldn't really tell what was going on right now. He had no sense of time or space. He felt a faraway pain in his chest, and a throbbing in his head, but other than that, he felt fine.

He couldn't see anything, at least not in the tradition sense of "seeing". He couldn't really feel much beyond those distant pains and aches. He couldn't really hear, or smell, or taste. He just felt dreamy, but not like he was asleep. He felt...transcendental. Is that even a word?

When people say their life flashes before their eyes in the moment before death, they're wrong. Well, not really wrong, so much as...not right. It wasn't like he suddenly had flashbacks of memories. He didn't see himself getting on the bus for his first day of school, or having his first kiss.

He felt feelings. That was what was flashing back to him. Every feeling he'd ever felt in his life, from happiness to sadness to anger to pessimism, from pleasure to pain, from disgust to despair. Some of those feelings were associated with memories, but he couldn't really place them. He tried to summon them to his mind, but they were fleeting, like a dream in the moments after you wake up.

Had it all been a dream?

He had felt anger. Anger at his parents, anger at Kisame, anger at life. He'd felt anger at Karin, that girl from his high school. He'd felt anger towards Neji and Hiashi, who were supposed to be his in-laws in a few months. He'd felt anger at himself.

He had felt love. He loved his mom and dad, before they were tragically taken from him in his childhood. He loved his brother, who did his best to take care of him all his life. He'd felt love for other people, too. He'd fallen in love with Sasuke at one point, or at least he thought he had. Now, it was someone else who had caught his interest. Did he love Hinata? He couldn't picture her face, or recall any specific memory, but he felt love when he thought her name.

He had felt depression at one point. Back in high school when he was mostly friendless, and his brother had more time for his friends than for Suigetsu. He'd ended up becoming the class clown, trying to get any sort of attention from his peers that he could get. He'd felt depression again after Sasuke broke things off with him. He'd filled that void with as much kinky, anonymous sex as he could.

He had felt ashamed on more than one occasion. During his mother's funeral, he had cried so hard that his father told Kisame to take him outside. He'd felt ashamed about that for a long time. When his father died, he didn't let himself shed a single tear.

He had felt lust. It was probably one of the stronger emotions he could recall. Names floated in his mind, conquests he had. Starting with his neighbor when he was fourteen, and ending with Hinata Hyuga.

He'd felt friendship, mostly in that last year of his life. Sasuke and Jugo, and then everyone else when he went to college. Sakura, Ino, Shikamaru, Neji, Hinata, Gaara, Kiba, and even Naruto, the kid he'd tried to hate for a while.

During the course of his life, when he'd experienced these emotions and feelings, they'd never overwhelmed him. But in death, they hit him like a wave, all at once. And he was being pulled under the tide. He could barely breathe, which was fitting considering where he was.

He didn't really know why he was dying. He couldn't remember any memories. He thought he might have been shot, but he could have been stabbed. He wasn't sure. But why was he shot? He didn't feel fear in the last moments, he knew that much. It must have been a shock.

He'd always thought near-death experiences were, well, like the movies. A guy is sent to the cosmic planes where he can see his life, or maybe meet dead loved ones. He thought there would be a light, or even a darkness. But this was neither, or maybe it was both. It was neither and both at the same time.

He had a nagging feeling that he had a lot left to say. He wished he could remember something so that he'd know what he had left to say.

He was surprised that there was no fear in him right now. There was fear in that wave that kept hitting him, but he didn't feel afraid. Maybe death was what he was supposed to do now. Had he lived a full life? He must have, if he wasn't afraid to die.

He wondered if they'd miss him...his brother, and that girl he loved. Damn, he couldn't even remember their names anymore. Slowly, the rest started to leave him. The emotions which had seemed overwhelming a second ago (if it was a second, there was no time for him right now), the names, the thoughts. They all abandoned that person who couldn't even remember his own name.

He was nothing now. No memories, no emotions, no thoughts, nothing.

Except the pain.

If he could think, he'd probably assume the pain was the last thing keeping him tethered to the mortal world. And it might have been. It seemed like he didn't exist anymore, but that pain was still there.

And suddenly, he started to exist again. He remembered his name. He remembered his feelings for that girl. He remembered Hinata's name. He remembered what her face looked like. He remembered their first night together, he remembered the day he found out he was engaged to her, he remembered the tender moment they'd shared on New Year's Eve.

He remembered his family. His brother Kisame, and his parents. He remembered his childhood, before his family was torn apart. He felt laughter as he recalled one of the jovial memories of his youth.

With the memories came the pain. The pain, which had at one point been a faraway, dull ache, had been growing steadily. It was there, and soon, he couldn't even think about his family, or Hinata, or his friends. Soon, all he could think about was how bad it hurt, and he wished he would just die already.

Then, the light that he'd been expecting to see that whole time finally arrived. He was relieved, maybe the pain would end now. He ran towards the light, and found himself staring up at a white ceiling.

"He's awake!"

Neji pulled into the Hyuga mansion's driveway, almost blind with rage. He'd never had rose-colored glasses when it came to his uncle, but he didn't realize until now that his uncle was truly evil.

A small part of him still clung to the hope that his uncle wasn't responsible. But the rational part of him knew that wasn't true. That shooter had come into the bar with the express intent to kill Suigetsu. There was no one who could have hated Suigetsu enough personally, except for maybe Hiashi.

Hiashi, who Suigetsu had blackmailed. Hiashi, who had been beaten at his own game by someone less clever than him. Hiashi, who had nothing to lose and everything to gain if Suigetsu was killed.

The mansion was eerily quiet when Neji went in. Hiashi obviously wasn't home, the lights were all out. It might have been for the best. Neji walked slowly through the house, without turning any of the lights on. He came to the door to his uncle's office and let himself in.

Leaving the lights off, he sat down in his uncle's leather chair, one which no one was permitted to sit in, save the head of the household. Neji felt an immense power just sitting there. He opened his uncle's drawers and started looking through them for the gun he knew would be there somewhere. He wanted his uncle to fear for his life.

His fingers wrapped around the cool metal, and he placed it on the desk in front of him, facing the door. And then he waited.

It was another half hour at least before Hiashi finally arrived. Neji heard the car outside, pulling into the driveway. He heard the front door open and close in the otherwise silent house. He heard his uncle talking, probably to either their butler who acted as his personal chauffer, or perhaps on the phone.

The light outside of the office turned on, and a couple seconds later, Neji heard the doorknob turn. He placed his hand on the gun.

His uncle had, indeed, been on the phone. When he turned the light on and saw Neji sitting in his chair, an angry expression on his face and a gun on the desk, he jumped in surprise.

"I'm going to have to do, Mr. Takagawa," he said stiffly, hanging up his phone. "What are you doing at my desk?" he asked his nephew with a cold expression.

"I'm going to be asking the questions tonight," Neji said in a calm voice, wrapping his fingers around the handle of the gun. "Do you know what happened earlier?"

"Obviously something that put you in a very bad mood," Hiashi said dryly.

"We were at a baby shower for Hinata," Neji informed his uncle. "We were all there, Sasuke, Sakura, Gaara...even Suigetsu."

"I'm not surprised that mongrel would be leeching on to any occasion to get a present," Hiashi commented.

"There were no presents tonight," Neji said, his voice becoming dangerously low. "But something very bad happened at the end of the party." He waited to see if his uncle would give up the ghost, but that wasn't looking likely. "Someone came into the bar and shot Suigetsu."

"Good," Hiashi said with a glare. "That boy was no good for anyone in this family. We will all be better off with him dead."

"He's not dead, uncle," Neji said, although he couldn't know that. At this point, he couldn't stand to let his uncle know he won. "But someone died." That got the response from Hiashi that Neji was looking for. His brows burrowed in confusion. "Hinata was right next to Suigetsu when he was shot."

"Hinata," his uncle breathed. And for a second, he didn't seem like a monster. But Neji knew he was.

"Hinata's going to be alright, at least physically," Neji told her uncle. "Mentally is another story. I'm not sure how well she'll handle the miscarriage." His uncle's face showed more emotion—fear, anger, sadness—than Neji had ever remembered seeing in it. "You killed your own grandson," he accused.

"I-I didn't do any of this," Hiashi said immediately, composing himself. "You said someone shot him."

"It was as if someone was paid to shoot him," Neji said, leaning back in the chair. "And I wonder who would have the motive and means to arrange for a hit."

"I wasn't the one who put the hit out," Hiashi said.

"So you admit there was a hit," Neji said, sitting straighter in the chair and raising the gun. "If you didn't put it out there, who did?"

"Your friend made a lot of enemies when he tried to blackmail me," Hiashi said pointedly. "Hopefully now he'll learn—as will you, and all your other friends—that there are things you shouldn't meddle in. I made some associates aware of a liability, and they took it from there."

"I hope you're proud of yourself," Neji said, standing up, keeping the gun aimed on his uncle. "You killed your own grandson, you could have killed your own daughter. Was it worth it?"

"I had no way of knowing any of this would happen," Hiashi said defensively. "Why wasn't I informed Hinata was in the hospital? I'm her father, damn it!"

"You're a monster, is what you are," Neji said. He wondered whether it would be worth it to pull that trigger. He could do it so easily.

"That golddigger was ruining this family," Hiashi shouted. "He would have extorted our family into the poorhouse had I not taken this action. I did what any father would do."

"You decided to murder someone!" Neji yelled. "Suigetsu was a good man! He was doing his best to do right by Hinata and the baby, and he had not asked you for a single cent!"

"It was only a matter of time," Hiashi told him. "He already extorted me into giving him a house, into giving him a job. The little shit might have been noble enough now while I was taking care of all of Hinata's medical bills, but what about after? What about when he would be responsible for diapers and day care and a decent school? How long before he takes more and more from us?"

"He took nothing from us!" Neji yelled. "You're the one who takes things away. You take and you take and it still doesn't satisfy you! You couldn't just let him win, and be a decent human being." He took a few steps closer to his uncle. "You're more than just a monster. You're greedy and cruel, and too prideful for your own fucking good! You're the devil."

"How dare you talk to me like that!" Hiashi roared. "I am your uncle, and while you live under my roof—"

"You should talk more softly to someone who has a gun," Neji warned in a soft voice.

"You won't shoot me," Hiashi challenged. "You're too weak."

"You're starting to make me wonder what I'm capable of," Neji answered.

"If you're going to shoot me," Hiashi said, taking a step forward, "then shoot me." He took another step, pressing his chest against the barrel of the gun.

Neji's face contorted in rage at his uncle's smug expression, and he wanted nothing more than to just do it. He could end it all right here. End the pain, end the evil. His uncle was the devil.

Instead, he pulled his arm back at hit Hiashi over the head with the gun.

Hiashi cursed as he fell back, having not expected it. He growled in an uncharacteristically undignified manner before charging at Neji and tackling him to the ground. Neji grunted as he felt his uncle's weight on top of him. He rolled over so he was on top, but Hiashi did the same. The gun was out of Neji's hand now, lying on the floor out of arm's reach.

He reached his arms out for the gun as his uncle wrapped his hands around his throat.

"You're an ungrateful brat who is doing all he can to ruin the family!" Hiashi bellowed. "How dare you talk down to me! I built our family from the ground up."

Neji couldn't reach the gun, and gave up trying. He felt the airflow cut off, and knew he was going to die. He started to claw at Hiashi's face, dragging his fingernails down his uncle's face. He pulled and punched, but it was of no use. He didn't have much time before he passed out, so he did the only thing he could think.

He spat in his uncle's face.

Hiashi let go of Neji's throat to smack his nephew across the face. He tried to resume choking Neji, but his nephew had already taken a deep breath of air. As Hiashi's hands wrapped around Neji's throat again, Neji pulled his fist back and let it fly. He felt Hiashi's nose crunch under his fist, and his uncle howled in pain.

He took the opportunity to take control of the fight now, pushing Hiashi to the ground and wrapping his hands around his uncle's throat.

"I'll be doing the world a favor by ending you," he said as his uncle's face turned purple. His uncle, in turn tried clawing at Neji's face, tried pulling Neji's long hair, but Neji didn't let go. And soon, Hiashi's arms went limp, and Neji let go. His uncle's eyes had closed, and Neji didn't know whether he was passed out or dead. He was surprised to realize he didn't care.

He took a deep breath and stood up, looking over his uncle's body. He took two steps towards the gun to pick it up when he felt a hand around his ankle, and his leg was pulled out from under him. The bastard had been faking!

Neji reached out to the gun, but his fingers could barely brush it. Hiashi started pulling his legs closer, and soon Hiashi was on top of him again. Neji elbowed him in the gut, but he didn't stop moving. Hiashi tried to punch him, but Neji grabbed his arm and bit down. He could feel himself breaking skin as Hiashi punched him across the face.

Neji knew his only chance for self-defense was the gun, but Hiashi also knew it was the only way he would win the fight. They both lunged for it at the same time, and it was Neji who had it. He fumbled to turn off the safety when Hiashi grabbed it and twisted it away.

The two were wrestling over the gun, fighting for control on the floor of Hiashi's office, when the shot rang out.

Sasuke had a bad feeling in the pit of his gut. About everything. He had a bad feeling about Neji. He had a bad feeling about Itachi. He had a bad feeling about Suigetsu. Things twenty-four hours ago seemed to be so much less dangerous. There was drama, but Sasuke didn't fear for everyone's life. Now, Sasuke wasn't sure who's life not to be fearful for.

He drifted as he pulled into the circular driveway of the Hyuga mansion. He saw Neji's car there, but Hiashi's townhouse was there as well. Neji had been MIA for over an hour now, so Sasuke wasn't sure what to expect.

He shut the car off and grabbed the gun out of his glove compartment. He didn't even bother to close his door as he raced into the mansion, following the path the lights made for him. The only lights that were on in the whole house led him to Hiashi's office, where he saw Neji and Hiashi on the ground, wrestling over something Sasuke couldn't see.

Neji and Hiashi both looked awful from this fight. Neji's hair was all over the place, and Sasuke saw tufts of it on the floor. He was bleeding from his mouth, and had bruises along his neck. Hiashi didn't fare much better, with four long claw marks on his right cheek, a broken and bloody nose, and equally tangled hair.

Sasuke soon realized what they were fighting over—a gun! He couldn't let Neji get shot. Would Hinata be able to handle that happening to Neji too? He raised his gun and aimed at Hiashi's desk, less than a foot away from where Hiashi's head was. He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Hiashi had let go of the gun and scooted back a few feet, dazed and confused. Neji wasn't much better. He was feeling himself for signs of a bullet wound before looking up and seeing Sasuke.

"What are you doing here?" Neji said, pointing his gun on Hiashi. Sasuke joined him.

"You were gone too long," Sasuke answered. "Normally someone would say thank you."

"Thanks," Neji said, wiping some blood off his mouth.

"Did he confess?" Sasuke asked, glaring at the man.

"He had a business associate put the hit out," Neji told him. "Or at least that's his story."

"A business associate?" Sasuke repeated. He shouted at Hiashi. "Was it Tobi?" Hiashi looked like a deer in the headlights. "ANSWER ME!"

"Yes," Hiashi answered immediately.

"My brother is on his way to see Tobi as we speak," Sasuke growled. "Neji doesn't have it in him to kill you. You're his uncle. But you're nothing to me. You don't know me very well, Hiashi, but I have killed people." Well, at least one person, if Kyuubi could be considered a person. "I will not hesitate to kill you if I think you're holding back information that could save my brother's life. Now tell me everything you know about Tobi."

"I-I don't know anything," Hiashi answered quickly. "He was appointed the CEO of Mangekyo Industries when your uncle retired."

"My uncle created Mangekyo Industries?" Sasuke asked. Hiashi nodded.

"It was a pharmaceutical company at first, testing out the Sharingan Project," Hiashi answered. "Your uncle needed financial backing, so he came to me. I gave him some money so he could do his testing, through Mangekyo Industries. When he retired, he put me in contact with Tobi, but I've never met him. I've only spoken to him on the phone. Twice."

"When was the last time you spoke to him?" Hiashi hesitated. "TELL ME NOW!" He fired a warning shot through the office window, and Hiashi jumped.

"A week ago," he said quickly.

"What did you two say?" Sasuke asked. "And God help you if you lie to me."

"I-I told him about Suigetsu blackmailing me. I told him he was a liability, as well as another associate who gave Suigetsu that information. Tobi told me he'd handle it."

"Devil," Neji whispered to himself.

"You have his phone number?" Sasuke asked. Hiashi nodded. "Where?"

"It's on a business card on my desk somewhere," Hiashi said quickly.

"Don't take your gun off him," Sasuke told Neji as he walked over to the desk and started looking through the papers.

"Not in a million years," Neji said, walking closer towards the door, keeping his gun trained on Hiashi. "How is Hinata? How Suigetsu?"

"The baby's fine," Sasuke said, still shuffling through papers. "She was going through some false labor, but that stopped."

"The baby—" Hiashi began, but Neji cut him off.


"Still in surgery when I left," Sasuke said, finding a business card with Tobi's name on it. "This is it." He was partly in awe.

"I thought the baby was gone," Hiashi said, his voice barely above a whisper.

"I figured the least I could do to you was make you think you killed your own grandson," Neji said. "The pain couldn't last forever, but it was enough to satisfy me."

"He's okay," Hiashi whispered, closing his eyes.

"Shut up," Sasuke said, putting his gun back up on Hiashi. "I am about to call Tobi, and if you make a single noise, I will end you right here and now. Do you understand?"

Hiashi gave him a nod, so Sasuke picked up the office's landline and dialed Tobi's number. It rang a few times before a secretary picked up.

"Office of Tobi Tsukyomi," the bubbly secretary said. "May I ask who is calling?"

"Hyashi Hyuga," Sasuke said in a dark and dangerous voice.

"Give me one second," she said. She put him on hold for a couple of seconds before he heard the line pick up again.

"What do you want, Hyuga?" Sasuke dropped the phone in shock. The voice he heard on the other end was not one he'd thought he'd ever hear again. And a twisted part of him deep down had to laugh. It seems death is not what it once was.

"I have to go," Sasuke said, almost running out of the room.

"Where are you going?" Neji shouted after him.

"I need to stop Itachi from boarding that plane!"