Full Summary: Terribly weakened after his fight with the Hachibi (eight-tailed demon), Sasuke is forcibly taken back to Konoha, much to his distaste. With the bonds of Team 7 already severed, Naruto tries to once again befriend Sasuke, hoping that he could still save the youngest Uchiha. But Sasuke remains cold and ruthless, loyal to the man that will be Konoha's downfall, Uchiha Madara.
Context: My plot begins a few months after Pein's rampage on Konoha. This means that Naruto has already mastered the "sage mode". Slightly diverging from the manga, Hachibi is successfully captured here by Team Hawk led by Sasuke. Tsunade is still the Hokage.
Warning: Male/Male romance and angst. SasuNaru, with bits of SaiNaru.
Chapter 1: Waiting
It had not even rain.
But the heaviness in the air lingered in the surroundings, making every thing feel moist and uncomfortable. The unrelenting and peculiar humidity of the environment soon made the villagers of Konohagakure feel somewhat uneasy and vulnerable. There seemed to be an unbreakable and tense silence pervading the whole village. Though normal town activities still continued, the whole vicinity of the proud Konoha still gave the impression of overwhelming immobility and stupor. It was like a genjutsu was performed in the village, crafting a trancelike mood to affect everyone. Every one can feel it, but no one can seem to put a finger on it. Perhaps the only thing that anyone can do was to wait…to anxiously wait for something to happen.
Wait for something, or someone to break that tomblike silence.
If they only knew, if only Konoha knew that what they were eagerly waiting for was coming right at them, with the intention of not only breaking that silence, but crushing every thing in its path.
Maybe the perplexing humidity or the deathly silence was the least of Konoha's problem after all.
It had not rained in Konoha for six months. Even a drizzle remained non-existent.
In some cities in the Fire Country, this might not be an odd occurrence. But in Konoha, it's a different matter. Rain comes in the village quite as often as Amegakure's. Surrounded by a dense forestry and numerous bodies of water, rain should come up frequently. 'This is indeed a strange phenomenon,' the Godaime Hokage thought as she surveyed the village from her office window. What made this no-rain phenomenon more difficult to comprehend was the fact that even though it had not rained for a long time, the air still felt so humid and heavy. Like a foreboding feeling.
Sighing, the Hokage bit her lip and tried to go back to her desk, momentarily stopping to check the amount of paperwork that had suddenly appeared.
"Shizune…" The Godaime said as she brought her fingers to her temple. "What did I tell you about continuing this tomorrow? I have someone to meet today, and I think you know that."
"Ah yes, Hokage-sama." The secretary briefly tensed before replying. "But I also believe you can finish all of these before that appointment. If we delay these works like last time, it would pile up again. And that means more work, Hokage-sama." Shizune said, emphasizing the word 'more'. "You can totally do this. I believe in you."
Saying the last part with an apparent smirk, the Hokage only managed to utter a single "Che", before rolling her eyes, and thinking that the brat must have rubbed on Shizune as well. With all this 'I-believe-in-you' speech and that annoying grin, yeah, he must have. Speaking of the brat—
"Hey old haaaag!" The door to the office suddenly slammed open, as a 16-year old blonde teen with visible whisker marks on his tanned face entered, sporting an arm sling bandage tied across his chest, with the ends behind his neck.
Following the medical report that came in a few days ago, Tsunade already knew that the sling was not only for the injured right arm, but also functioned as a supplementary support for the fractured ribs that lay underneath those baggy orange clothes, which by the way, was tattered and burnt in some places. There were noticeable bruises too on his face and arm. Tsunade frowned at the gaki's appearance, finding no heart to retort at the rude greeting, and only managing to look up.
"Yo, Shizune-san!" Naruto waved before taking one of the seats across the Hokage. Shizune nodded and smiled for acknowledgment.
Raising an eyebrow at this, the Hokage rested her chin on her palm and focused her attention on the brat. The gaki was, undeniably, an easy distraction. With that loud voice and appearance, indeed he is.
"What do you want, gaki?"
"Well, uhh, you see…" Naruto mumbled while raising his uninjured arm to the back of his head, like in an apologetic or nervous manner.
Tsunade's brows furrowed, "What? Spit it out, Naruto. I'm a little busy."
Naruto's expression suddenly became serious. Looking straight to the Hokage's eyes, he said, "I want to visit him, Baa-chan."
The Hokage somehow knew this was coming, and only looked back at Naruto's eyes with a seemingly grim expression as an immediate response. Naruto stared back, but with eyes filled with pleading and determination.
Shizune could only look apprehensively between the two stubborn blondes, not wanting to disturb the tense aura.
Silence reigned for a whole minute before the last one who spoke finally stood up.
"Please Baa-chan! The (ANBU) guards just don't even let me take a peek! How can I know if that bastard's okay? He's injured too you know, and they… What if they—? "
"What if they're pushing him too hard? We just got him back, Baa-chan! We did everything we can, and he's finally here. And now, we can't even see him. Sakura-chan and I… We can't even know if he's fine, if he's—
"We don't even know if those council bastards are treating him well. Or if they let him rest at all, or—!"
"Damn it, brat! Shut up!"
Wide-eyed, both Naruto and Shizune stiffened. The older blonde was now standing, both palms flat on the desk, with seething annoyance clearly written on her features. "We've already talked about this, Naruto." Naruto's face scrunched up, remembering the "little talk" they did have hours before the start of the retrieval mission.
"We had an agreement that if you succeed in the mission, of retrieving that Uchiha brat, I will examine him. After the physical and mental examination, we will leave then him to the Council, to see if there is anything amiss. The interrogation is part of their job and they need to make sure of certain things. He had been under Orochimaru, and according to the recent reports, affiliated with the Akatsuki…" Tsunade stopped as she noticed that the brat seemed to be glaring at her, daring her to continue her 'accusation-laced' statements. Defiantly, the Godaime continued, "…To see if he is not planning on doing something he shouldn't, Naruto. I think you know what I mean."
"No, old hag, I don't know what you mean."
"Che, stubborn aren't we? Well, two can play this game, Naruto, and my answer is 'no'. You are not allowed to visit that brat. As of the moment, you are not even allowed to see him."
Naruto clenched his fists in anger. "And why is that, Hokage-sama?" Shizune flinched upon hearing the mock respect, knowing fully well that the younger blonde only addresses the Godaime in this manner when he is extremely agitated. "Why the hell can't I?"
"Well for starters brat, have you seen yourself in the mirror? Look at you! You look like garbage. You're bruised and wounded everywhere. And that—," Tsunade then pointed at the burnt marks at the lower section of the gaki's jacket—with the blazed parts extending all the way to the knee, "is overkill, don't you think?"
"Tch! It's a fight. What do you expect? I have to bring him back somehow, and I don't see any other goddamn way to go through that bastard…"
"Shut up, brat, I am not finished." Turning her attention to her desk, she tried to search for some thing amidst all the mess of checked and unchecked documents and scrolls. Flicking one report scroll, she continued, "Don't be too naïve, Naruto. I think we are all aware of the fact that the Uchiha did not come back on his own accord. The fight that you have, those wounds, and this report prove that. He was forced to go back, and he clearly did not like it…
...He almost killed you again, Naruto."
Without looking back at the gaki, Tsunade continued, "Kakashi and Yamato's reports reveal the same thing. You caught him at the worst possible time, where all of his chakra seemed to be drained and his eyes are in no condition to function. Although it is still quite impressive that he managed to fight the four of you, I must say. But that is not the point here, Naruto, what I'm trying to say is that—", Tsunade then looked straight to the gaki's eyes, "He is not happy to be here and we are still unsure of his motives and plans. We need the Council to assess his situation first, without any external disturbances, and that could take a few days at least…
…That is why we need to wait, Naruto. You need to wait."
Naruto then looked down, almost in defeat. Deep inside, he knew that every thing Tsunade said was true. And it hurt more than he wanted to admit it. 'Why is it so painful?' Still, he cared deeply for his teammate. He was his first friend. His first bond.
"But Baa-chan, I just…I just want to make sure if he's fine. Sakura-chan and I just want to know if he's safe and –."
"I know, brat. You don't have to worry about his safety. This is my village and now that he is here, that makes him my responsibility. That is to say, rest assured, I am keeping an eye on him, and all the activities of the Council. I am the goddamn Hokage after all." She then said with a smile. "Have a little faith in me, Naruto."
Naruto looked up, and without falter, smiled back. "I know that Baa-chan and I do trust you. It is just that those Council bastards…"
But before Naruto could finish, the door to the office slammed open again, revealing an exasperated pink-haired kunoichi donning a medical ninja uniform. Glaring to the youngest one in the room, she said with gritted teeth, "NA-RU-TO! You baka!"
"Don't 'hey-sakura-chan me'! What do you think you're doing?"
"This is the second* time, Naruto!" Clenching her fist, Naruto could almost hear her knuckles cracking as Sakura moved toward him. "The second time you left the hospital without my permission! How many times do I have to tell that you are not healed yet and so leaving the hospital is out of the question! You have serious injuries, Naruto!"
"But Sakura-chan! You know I'm a fast healer and I'm bored. I've been there for almost a week! Just give my room to someone who actually needs it. I can heal by myself. Heh, just wait and see."
Finding the little skirmish a little amusing, Shizune can't help but to feel at ease. She felt that the tense atmosphere earlier seemed to lighten a bit. However, looking at her mentor's expression seemed to imply otherwise. The Hokage's eyes were still fixed on the brat, with her brows furrowed in concentration.
"Is there something wrong, Tsunade-sama?" Shizune asked, getting the attention of everyone.
"Oh my, how rude of me!" Sakura then exclaimed. "Ohayou, Tsunade-shishou, Shizune-san! I am so so sorry for my intrusion!"
"It's fine, Sakura." Tsunade said while raising her hand in response. Turning to Naruto, "Brat, go back to the hospital."
"Eh? But Baa-chan, I'm fine already.."
Tsunade glared, "Go. Back. Now. And if you repeat this little escapade of yours again, I will personally be the one to incapacitate you. Get it?"
Naruto gulped. "H-hai! I'm going now. Sheesh old hag, no need to go all sadistic on me. Let's go Sakura-chan."
Relieved, Sakura prepared to follow her teammate. "Not yet, Sakura. I need to ask you a few things. You go on ahead, Naruto. I'm sure Sakura can keep up. This won't take long."
Confused, Naruto only nodded and waved. "See ya later then, Sakura-chan! Bye Shizune-san, Baa-chan!"
Sakura looked at her teammate as he exited the door, then focused her attention again on her mentor. "You wanted to ask me something, Tsunade-shishou?"
The Hokage paused for a minute, feeling a familiar chakra near her window. 'I guess it is already time. I can't finish these paper works after all. (Sigh) So much for optimism… But before that…'
"Sakura, I think the brat's right. It has already been a week since you returned from your last mission**. And Naruto's injuries are still pretty evident. His right arm is still basically useless."
Tsunade continued on, "With Kyuubi's healing prowess, this is quite unsettling."
Sakura visibly flinched upon hearing the mention of the nine-tailed fox. She already knew about the powerful demon fox sealed inside her best friend's body, but she still doesn't have the heart to get used to it. The whole idea of sealing a demon in an innocent infant is really appalling, and she saw how Naruto suffered just because of it. She saw how Naruto "changed" during their fight with Orochimaru at the Bridge of Heaven and Earth, and during Pein's attack at Konoha. It was a painful sight and she never wanted to see that again. She hoped never to see Naruto go through all that again. Never.
Even though she knew that it is only a wishful thinking.
As long as the Kyuubi is inside Naruto, there's always a chance that the Kyuubi will resurface and wreak havoc. Naruto may be strong, but every one has weaknesses. Everyone has their breaking point. No matter how strong someone is, they can still be broken. Just look at Sasuke…
"I am sorry, Tsunade-shishou. I should have told you about this sooner. I have been observing his wounds every day and…and it seems like his injuries are healing rather slowly…like a normal human would."
"But Naruto's not normal." Tsunade continued. "Either there is something special about the wounds he received or…something's wrong with the seal. I'm betting it's the latter. Che, the demon is as stubborn as his host…"
"Sakura, please continue on observing him and tell me if you sense anything wrong, either with the wounds or Naruto himself. I will expect a daily report regarding that."
"Hai, I understand. Please leave it to me!"
Tsunade smiled and stand up once again. "Now, if you'll excuse me, my escort's here. I have to go visit someone."
"Hm. Your other teammate. Uchiha Sasuke."
After walking just a few paces outside the Main Office, Naruto finally let out a sigh of relief and leaned against the wall. Panting, he slowly walked through the hallway and gripped his shirt feeling the painful jabs of the unhealed ribs. 'Damn it.'
'It burns, doesn't it?'
'Thrice. He tried to kill you thrice. How does it feel, Kit? Does it hurt?'
'…Shut up, Kyuubi.'
'Do you want me to heal you? I can stop the pain. I can even make you forget. Just let me out, Kit.'
Gripping his side tighter, Naruto stopped walking and closed his eyes…
["Look at you! You look like garbage. You're bruised and wounded everywhere…"]
[That's overkill, don't you think?"]
'Let me out.'
["He almost killed you again, Naruto."]
"Overkill, huh? Do you hate me that much, Sasuke?" Stepping outside the tower, Naruto felt the wind brush against his face. He suddenly felt colder and tried to hug his body to keep warm as he made his way back to the hospital.
AN: Please don't be harsh. This is my very first fan fiction. Reviews are highly appreciated and thank you so much for reading!