When Sasuke opened his in Naru's mind he didn't know what to expect but what he saw was beyond what he thought possible.
It was absolute carnage.
Cracks ran along the sewer walls he remembered from the last time he was in her mind. He once again wondered if her mind was a sewer because of the Kyuubi or from her childhood. If it was the latter, what could possibly have happened to her to make her mind like this? Pushing those thoughts aside he observed his surroundings.
In some places there was no wall at all and other parts of the walls were crumbling and falling. It was eerily silent and he made his way down the halls towards the demon foxes cage, only the sound of his breathing and the splash of water as parts of the walls fell. As he turned a corner, a large portion of it suddenly broke and started falling. He jumped out of the way and saw a flash of red coming at him out of the corner of his eye. Dodging, he realized that it was some of Kyuubi's chakra and that it wasn't headed for him but the broken part of the wall. The chakra stopped the falling debris and wrapped around the wall, acting like glue, holding the broken pieces together. Looking around he saw waves of red chakra traveling along the walls and holding them together. That explains why she has so much access to the foxes chakra. With this much of it moving freely around her mind she has easy access to it.
"You gonna stand there the whole time or get in here, idiot boy."
The sudden appearance of Kyuubi's voice in the dark silence that had enveloped the sewer was such a shock that Sasuke jumped. Instead of commenting, he just walked down the hall and into the doorway that led to the demons cage.
Standing in front of the bars that held back the most powerful demon in existence, Sasuke held back the shiver that threatened to travel down his spine. He met the red eyes full of blood lust and rage. The monster truly was terrifying and once again Sasuke silently admired Naru for being able to stand this thing.
He tensed when a jet of chakra suddenly shot out, but watched as it went by him and out into Naru's mind scape. Raising his eyes back to the fox, Sasuke decided to get this meeting over with. "You most likely know why I am here."
"You want to know what you need to do to heal her mind, am I right?"
"You have no idea what you're getting yourself into. Are you sure you want to help her? After all," the fox chuckled, " you have only tried to kill her time and time again."
Sasuke briefly closed his eyes. "I want to help her."
The fox stared at him silently and Sasuke started to get worried. What if the fox won't help him? How will he help Naru?
"Very well. I take it you only bothered to learn how to destroy minds with your sharingan?"
He tried everything to keep the relief off his face as he answered. "Yes."
"I sometimes wonder who is more of a demon when it comes to you ninjas. Use your eyes to gently dig into her mind until you find her memories. This didn't just happen because of that ink idiot tried to rape her. The events of her childhood that were painful enough were locked away and all of those experiences that built up, caused this. That boy was just what caused her to snap. You need to find her in each memory and help her through it. Guide her out of it, comfort her, and help her through each memory. With each memory you go through, the more stable her mind will become."
The fox started chuckling and Sasuke almost dreaded asking why. "What is so funny and why are you suddenly so interested in your hosts' well being?"
The fox continued to laugh to itself for a while before relenting. "Just the fact that you are going to have one hell of a life with her as your mate. The longer she is like this the more permanent some of her changes will be. Oh, and while you may have gotten her submission once don't count on it to stay. The girl is a hellcat. There is also the fact that she has so much of my chakra that she gained some of my rarer abilities."
The Kyuubi stopped talking as he was suddenly overcome with laughter. Even in his hosts situation it was still hilarious to think of the Uchiha brats reaction to the certain ability she gained.
Sasuke, on the other hand, had frozen as soon as he heard the fox utter the word mate. He was half-listening to the demon kitsune while his thoughts were racing. Had he somehow claimed Naru as his mate? How? The only thing he could think of was when he bit her neck. Sasuke almost blew his stoic mask and smacked himself on the head. A males way of claiming its female was by biting them on the neck, leaving their mark. When he bit Naru he was claiming her and she bit him in return. The only thought he had was that Naru was going to be pissed when she was back in her right mind. His thoughts were racing so much hat he almost missed it when the Kyuubi talked about Naru gaining new abilities. Almost.
"What kind of new abilities are you talking about?"
"Oh, I'm not going to ruin the surprise. It's for you to find out but it shouldn't be long now before it happens."
Sasuke narrowed his eyes but knew that that was all he was going to get. "How long should it take to go through all of her memories?"
"I'd say about a few days if you can stomach more than one memory a day. A week or longer if you can't. Some of the things that have happened to her are cruel even by my standards."
Sasuke frowned. If the fox even thought they were cruel then what on earth had Naru gone through in the leaf village? Nevertheless, he would try to get through them as quick as possible. He had already stalled his progress on finding Itachi. With a nod to the fox, Sasuke closed his eyes and withdrew from Naru's mind.
Sasuke came out of Naru's mind and let the silent girl go. He knew what he needed to do now but was hesitant to do so. If the fox thought they were cruel and the memories caused her to become like this then he was anxious about seeing her memories and helping her through them.
He looked down at said girl and saw she had fallen into a restless sleep on his lap. Her brow was furrowed and her mouth was pulled down into a frown. Every now and then a whimper would be released. Comparing this to the smiles he was so used to seeing made him wonder how many of those grins were fake. How many times had Naru been hurt by those bastards and come to them the next day as if nothing ever happened?
Sasuke closed his eyes and took a shuddering breath to calm himself down. Naru had to be exhausted from her ordeal and she needed to rest. He opened his eyes again and stared down at her. The Kyuubi said she would gain new abilities due to her constant use of his chakra, but the frustrating demon refused to answer.
Another thing was the fact that he had unknowingly claimed her as his mate. Surprisingly, he didn't fell any negative feelings about that. Thinking back to all of their time together when they were younger, he only ever tolerated Naru out of all of the girls in their year-minus Hinata. She was his equal in strength and determination and they have been rivals all their lives. He grew protective over her when they were placed on the same team and almost never let her out of his sight. He cared for her more than he did anyone else and respected her more than the Hokage and even Kakashi. She was the only one who knew how painful his childhood was.
He winced as his thoughts traveled to their pain. When they fought at the Valley of the End, he had accused her of not knowing the pain he felt from losing his family and not having the need to get revenge on anyone. From what the fox told him their positions were reversed. He didn't understand the pain of her past, not the other way around.
While he was thinking, he had reached up and started running his fingers through her hair and holding her to his chest. That was the scene Juugo, Karin, and Suigetsu came back to. Juugo smiled softly because he could tell Sasuke loved the girl. Suigetsu pouted because Sasuke always got the hot girls. Karin on the other hand was seeing red. That blond bitch had done something to her Sasuke. She knew it! She was going to beat the crap out of the girl and Sasuke will finally see that she is the only girl for him.
"Sasuke! What has the bimbo done to you?"
Two sets of crimson eyes immediately met the jealous red eyes of Karin. Sasuke's eyes narrowed in anger and Naru let out a ferocious growl in pain and anger. She hated the stupid red head and wanted to kill her. Her body was reacting to her thoughts and she jumped off of Sasuke as she felt her body changing. Her hands and feet turned into paws, her ears went to the top of her head, her face lengthened into a muzzle, fur sprouted all over her body and a stinging sensation appeared at her tail bone. She dropped to all fours and growled.
In Naru's place was a fox. Only this fox was an orange-red and stood about the height of Sasuke's waist. Nine long tails whipped behind her. As she growled she revealed several long, white, and sharp teeth and they could see her claws were just as sharp. Naru's red eyes remained but now they had a yellow tint around the pupils and were fixed straight on Karin.
Naru noticed that the girl and the boys behind her were staring at her in shock but she only had eyes for the red headed bitch who annoyed her so much. In a flash of orange-blond fur Naru had pounced at the unsuspecting girl. She dug her claws into her shoulders and bit at her neck. Karin screamed and tried to push her off but only made her claws slash down her chest and arm.
Sasuke watched his teammate with shocked eyes. When the fox said she would gain new abilities, turning into a fox never once crossed his mind. Karin's pain filled screams made him realize that as much as he hated the girl, he couldn't let Naru kill her.
Standing up he ran over to her and grabbed the scruff of her neck. He pulled her up and away from Karin, grunting as she struggled to get back to her. When she almost got free, Sasuke swore and sent a current of lightning through her. Her body jolted and went still as she lost consciousness. She started shrinking to the size of a normal fox and her nine tails blended into one as she went limp. Holding her new form in his arms, Sasuke turned to a bleeding Karin who was looking at him with tearful eyes.
"S-Sasuke! See w-what it d-did to m-me? We n-need to g-get rid of her!"
Any chance Karin had of Sasuke helping her evaporated when she called Naru an 'it'. Sasuke's eyes turned colder than they already were and Karin flinched back in fear as she tried to stop the bleeding.
"Suigetsu, take Karin away and wrap her wounds only. Go." Suigetsu grimaced but picked up Karin and took her out of the clearing. Sasuke took slow, but deep breathes to calm down before turning to Juugo. "Juugo, what news do you have?"
Juugo looked from the fox that Sasuke was cradling gently in his arms to meet his eyes. "We have a lead on where Itachi might be."
Sasuke listened carefully to Juugo. He was the only one in his group that he actually liked and Sasuke knew he could trust him. Juugo told him how some animals told him where some Akatsuki hideouts are and how to get to them. When Juugo was finished giving his report Sasuke went to the fire in the middle of their camp and got some of the meat from their meal yesterday. Holding Naru in one hand and the meat in the other he sat down against a tree. He placed Naru down in his lap and stroked her smooth fur. He gently shook the little fox and waited as she woke up.
He would never admit it but watching her in her fox form wake up was actually quite cute. Her nose and eyes scrunched up and her tail fluffed up. It only lasted a second though, before her eyes snapped open and she hissed at him. She started struggling and bit his hand to get loose. Sasuke jerked his hand back and scowled at the little fox that had jumped in front of him. He held up the hand that had the meat and shook it in front of her.
"Do you want to eat or not?"
He watched as she eyed the meat and took a step closer before she looked at him and stopped. He held the meat beside his head and waited for her to come to him. She stared at him again before jumping from his leg to his shoulder. She wrapped her tail around his throat, not restricting, as she climbed around his head towards his hand. She nosed the hand that had the meat and made a whining sound. Relenting, he let her eat the meat from his hand.
When she had finished, she looked at him. They stared into each others eyes for a few minutes before Naru licked his cheek and jumped into his lap. He stared at the place where Naru had been perched in surprise at the affectionate action. When he felt her nudge his hand he looked down to see her licking the bite mark on his hand. When she was done she curled up in his lap and looked at him. He looked back and sighed. He started to scratch her behind her ear and his lips twitched when she closed her eyes and started to purr. When she was back in her right mind he so wasn't going to let her live this down. That made him frown. What will happen when she is back to normal?
Across the camp Juugo sat quietly, watching his leader. He could tell by looking in Sasuke's usually blank eyes. He cared for this girl, maybe even loved her. Throughout all the time he has known him he never showed any positive emotions to anyone. This girl, Naru, hasn't even been with them for a day and already Sasuke is more relaxed and, not happy, but calm, even if it is only to himself and the girl. He rather liked this new Sasuke than the old one and he won't let Karin ruin that. The girl needs to give up and see that Sasuke will only ever choose this girl and no one else.
A nudge on his hand startled him and he looked to see the girl in her fox form looking at him curiously. He must have been so absorbed in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed her leave Sasuke's side. Looking up Juugo silently asked Sasuke permission. It took a while and he hid his amusement. It seems Sasuke has a possessive side. Eventually he nodded and Juugo slowly raised his hand to Naru's head. Placing his finger tips on her head near her ear he started scratching. Naru closed her eyes and rubbed herself against his hand before climbing in his lap and laying down. Moving his hand from her head to her back her marveled at the silky quality of her fur as it slid between his fingers. The moment was ruined however, when Suigetsu and Karin came back, the latter's arms and neck covered in bandages that were already slightly red. Karin took one look at the fox in his lap before a devious gleam came in her eyes.
"Sasuke, see? She's nothing but a harlot! Even as a flea-brained animal she is flocking from man to man!"
Unfortunately for Karin, what she thought would make Sasuke get rid of the blond girl only made her placement on this team even more precarious.
Sasuke seemed to finally snap. His sharingan was activated and spinning so quickly the commas blended together. Karin's smile faded as she realized that she somehow pushed Sasuke over the edge. Even Suigetsu was backing away from her.
"Karin." Sasuke growled. "The only reason you are here is because of your ability to sense chakra from long distances. You are not here to fight among the others, flirt with me, or attack anyone that has my seal on their body. The harlot as you so called Naru, has my mark and the demon fox lurking within her mind says that it means she belongs to me. Now the second I find someone who can detect someone from a long distance, will be the second you are out of my sight. Now shut up and do not say one more thing or I will put you in my most painful genjutsu and leave you here."
By the end of Sasuke's little speech Karin was in tears. She turned away and sat against a tree with her back towards them, not making a sound. Throughout the whole ordeal Naru never moved except for a twitch or two from her ears.
Sad emerald eyes stared out the window of the wooden house Yamato had made. Sakura wasn't the only one who was sad. Barely anyone was talking. Naru's situation had them all down and she just had that... presence about her that helped them relax. Without her it was just sad, tense, and silent.
She scanned the woods around her, already knowing she wouldn't find any traces of her friend. They had completely lost her trail. Kiba said that she smelled like a fox and her scent got lost in the forest with all the other animals. They now had no idea where she was and no way to find her. All their hopes were down.
Turning away from the window she observed everyone's faces. Yamato and Kakashi looked sad but it seemed they were discussing what they should do now. They were probably trying to keep themselves occupied so they wouldn't think of Naru. Ino was leaning against Choji just staring at the floor. Shikamaru was sitting with his back against Choji's and both of them were just watching everyone else. Hinata was laying with her head in Neji's lap and was silently crying while Neji stroked her hair. Tenten, Lee, Kiba, and Shino were sitting near them.
As Sakura looked at them she felt her eyes water. First she had lost Sasuke, then Naru, because someone she had grown to trust had tried to rape her. As she thought of Sai – if that was even his real name - she felt fury and loathing on a level that beat anyone else.
She didn't just loathe him though, she hated herself. She still couldn't do anything for Naru. She was always protected and even when she trained hard she still couldn't do it. She couldn't help but feel it was her fault that Sai got as far as he did. If she had just been stronger then maybe she could have helped her.
A hand on her shoulder made Sakura realize she was crying. Wiping furiously at her eyes she looked up to see Shikamaru. "What is it?"
He just scanned her face and sighed. "It's not your fault."
His eyes were stern as her sat down beside her. Seeing Shikamaru – lazy and rarely motivated for anything, Shikamaru – so serious made Sakura keep her mouth shut.
"I know you, Sakura, and I know what you are thinking right now but this is not your fault. It's Sai's fault that this happened but it is also all of ours." He knew he was being cold but they all needed to come to terms with this. He knew his last comment had gotten everyone's attention. "We couldn't see the pain Naru felt and we were even a cause of it when we were younger. We also didn't bother to help her. It is as much our fault as it is Sai's. He was just the breaking point for years of pain."
Sakura slowly started crying again as she heard the truth in his words. Shikamaru pulled her into a hug as he let her cry. Being Naru's teammate made his words all the more true because of how close they were but he knew it wasn't them who had caused Naru the most pain. It was Sasuke. He was her first real friend and he betrayed her and shoved his hand through her chest. Looking around he could tell that everyone but Tenten, Ino, Hinata, and Sakura realized it.
Shikamaru looked over Sakura's head and out into the woods beyond. Determination not usually seen shown in his brown eyes. Wherever you are Naru, we will find you and make sure you are safe. I promise.
Sasuke had moved his team. They had stayed in one place to long so he had them pack up and get moving in the direction of one of the Akatsuki hideouts. Naru seemed to have developed a liking for her fox form for she hadn't changed back. She also seemed to enjoy getting on his nerves but she was always able to do that. When they had been getting ready to set off she had disappeared and he had almost lost it until he saw her watching him from where she had curled up in his bag. He didn't like her being out of his sight for any period of time.
Now she was nestled in between his neck and shoulder as he ran. Her soft tail was wrapped around his throat to help her hold on and she occasionally started pawing or gnawing on his hair. He didn't know what her deal was with his hair but it was really annoying. He didn't do anything though. She wasn't fighting him again or trying to escape and if playing with his hair allowed that to continue then he would allow it.
He was also glad that he was able to travel in silence for once. The ripping he had given Karin and the beating by Naru seemed to have finally knocked Karin off her high horse. He couldn't wait until he found someone who could take her place.
"Guys, split up and find any sign that Itachi is near this hideout. Karin, east, Juugo, south, Suigetsu, west. I'll take the north."
Once again he was glad that he had taken care of Karin because he saw her eyes narrow when she realized he had no intention of leaving Naru. They all went off to their destinations with only a small protest from Suigetsu. He absentmindedly reached up to scratch Naru behind her ears as he went on his way.
It was about twenty minutes after they split up that Sasuke felt a change in Naru. Her fur stood on end and her ears flicked towards the right. It was when she started growling and unwinding her tail that he realized what was going on.
Apparently Naru could her from long distances and heard someone coming this way that she didn't like. She started to jump off his shoulder and his hand snapped out and grabbed the scruff of her neck. She was hissing and spitting, trying to get out of his hold, by the time he held her in front of his face.
He wanted to see how far her hearing went. It took about five to ten minutes for the people Karin sensed to reach them but if it took near enough to that time for this person to come then he had just found Karin's replacement. He placed Naru in his arms and held her still while he waited for the threat to arrive. While he waited, he rubbed Naru's back to calm her down. It worked, since she stopped trying to run but her ears never stopped flicking in the same direction. It took him awhile but he realized there was a pattern. Every few seconds her ear would twitch was consistent, always happening with the same time span. It was steady and it reminded Sasuke of a heartbeat or the flapping of a birds wings.
He let his thoughts wander to what he had to do regarding his teammate. He shouldn't have left Naru like this for so long and he needed to start on fixing her mind before she got any worse. He had postponed long enough but he hadn't been anywhere safe enough for him to go into her mind without the worry of being attacked. Also, if he were honest with himself, he wasn't sure if he wanted to see Naru's memories.
Ten minutes later had Sasuke nervous and excited. He had a replacement for Karin, for one, but Naru had changed back to her human form and was constantly moving in the direction the threat was coming from. It was only the seal on her neck that kept her from charging off. If she changed back to her human form than the threat must be serious.
He heard the flapping about a minute later. The steady thump, thump of giant wings was hard to miss. It was only when he had to reach out and bring Naru behind him that he saw a flash of black, red, and yellow.
Looking up he saw a blond man who kind of looked like Ino on top of what looked like a clay bird. That wasn't what caught his eye though. What did was the Akatsuki cloak. Tightening his grip on Naru he activated his sharingan.
It had been a sad and tense night for the others. The morning showed no change in the behavior. It was only because of Hinata that anything changed at all. The normally quiet teen had taken one look at the desolated faces and snapped.
"Enough! Enough of this! We lost her trail, so now we just sit and mope? We should be thinking of ways to find her, not sitting here and sulking!"
Everyone stared in shock at the usually quiet and meek teen. None of them could ever remember hearing Hinata raise her voice, let alone full out yell. Neji spoke up first, speaking calmly, so as not to rile his cousin any further.
"What do you suggest?"
Hinata stood at the edge of the room, her pale lavender eyes glaring with unusual ferocity. She turned to her teammate. "Kiba, what did Naru smell like before you lost her?"
Kiba tensed against Akamaru's side, but answered. "Her scent was slowly changing to something like a foxes, but not completely."
Hinata nodded. "Her scent was lost near the river to the north, right?"
Kiba nodded. "There was a fox den that she had passed and her scent mingled with theirs. That's how I lost her."
Hinata turned to Kakashi. "Kakashi-sensei, your nin-hounds couldn't find any trace of her scent on the other side of the river, right?"
Kakashi nodded, still shocked at seeing Hinata take control.
"Did they check the tree's?"
Everyone went silent. They hadn't thought of that. They had assumed that Naru had reverted to a more animal mind-set and stuck to the ground instead of the trees. But if she retained enough sense to know she could jump through them then she would have been able to move faster.
Kakashi and Kiba bolted outside, both of them going to the river only a few yards away and checking the trees for Naru's scent. A stunned silence was left behind and Hinata started blushing as she realized what she had just done.
Tenten laughed. "Don't be. That was amazing! How did you think of the tree's?"
Hinata kept blushing but her new-found confidence didn't waver. "I thought about what I knew of Naru when she lost control when using the foxes cloak. I realized that while her mind was lost, she still used some of the more physical abilities ninja use, like jumping through the trees or walking on water. After I realized that, I thought about the fact that if she knew she was being pursued, and retained enough of her knowledge to know that she was faster in the trees, that-"
"That she could hide her scent by water and other foxes." Shikamaru finished. Hinata nodded.
Kakashi and Kiba came back at that moment. By the broad grin on Kiba's face, they all knew they had her trail again. Everyone rushed to pack up, new hope giving them energy. It was only when they were finishing, that Neji saw the hawk. He recognized it as a messenger hawk and called everyone down. The hawk flew to Kakashi and he pulled the scroll off of it. It was a tense silence as Kakashi read the letter.
"Tsunade-sama says that intel has come in of Sasuke's whereabouts. It's in the same direction that Naru's scent goes."
Sakura stepped forward. "You think she found him?"
Shikamaru hummed. "It's most likely what she did. Remember, her trail kept zigzagging but went in the same direction."
Neji contributed. "She always seemed to know where he was, too, and had no trouble tracking him when given the chance."
Kakashi rolled up the scroll. "Sasuke must have taken Naru with him. We must also assume he has a lead on Itachi. We know our mission, we know what we're going into. Are we ready?"
Everyone straightened up. A collective, "Hai," went around the room.
Kakashi nodded. "Then lets go."
I have not forgotten this story and I will try to have the next chapter up soon. Updates will be sporadic, because of all the ideas I have bouncing through my head. Next chapter won't be for awhile because I plan to go see Snow White and the Huntsman, and all the commercials are not helping me focus on typing.