I received such a positive response from the first story I posted, that I decided to go ahead and start up-loading this one as well. Again, this one is mostly complete, but does need tweaking so I'm not sure how fast up-dates will occur.
On to disclaimers: This was actually the first sasunaru story I started writing (over a year ago) and as such, I didn't know yet why Itachi murdered his clan, nor anything else regarding his tale. Consequently, although this story is placed in the naruto universe, it really goes off the canon as Itachi is still alive, Sasuke still hates him, and Naruto is still wrestling with his inner Kyuubi. Once I learned more regarding how the actual story progressed, I thought about changing this one to make allowances, but in the end, I kind of liked it the way it was and so, for better or worse, it remains "as is".
Disclaimer #2: There will eventually be citrus. Be forewarned. I'm assuming you, as the reader, like this kind of thing, otherwise . . . why are you here?
Disclaimer #3: No, I don't own Naruto, nor do I make any money off of this fanfiction. Truthfully, I don't even own much Naruto parifanalia (sp?). I do own a really cute shirt with a chibi fox sitting on a ramen bowl with some fishcakes inside. I wear it when I go to the gym. Nobody gets it :-(
Ok, enough and on with the story. I hope you enjoy. In the end, as an estimate, this will probably be 50,000-60,000 words. Again, just an estimate and highly subject to change.
"Naruto-" the Hokage breathed. How long had it been since she'd been so shaken. Damn, but she couldn't even hold her hand steady long enough to push a stray piece of blond hair from Naruto's face.
"Lady Hokage?" Beside her, Sakura stood, eyes downcast as she looked helplessly at her friend, a choking sob thick on her lips. "Is there nothing . . . " Sakura couldn't finish. No, she wouldn't finish that sentence. There had to be something. But Tsunade only shook her head as she answered. "He's beyond my help. I can heal the body, but the mind . . . "
"He went to far this time."
"I know Kakashi. But, I don't think he had a choice," Tsunade answered.
Looking down at his feet, all Kakashi could think was that the boy had never had a choice. Not since the day the Kyuubi was sealed inside him. Still, Naruto had never let it stop him. Instead, he'd used the power to save the ones he loved. Used it to save everyone. Everyone but himself. "He killed them," Kakashi muttered. "He killed them all." Actually, that wasn't quite true. One had managed to get away. The One had escaped. But somehow Kakashi was ok with that. He'd seen the end of the battle. Naruto had Itachi in his grasp. Staring down into those swirling eyes, he heard Naruto growl, "I won't take this away from him too. You're not mine to kill." Those were the last intelligible words he'd heard the boy say before Naruto lost his battle with the Kyuubi. Even in his last moments of sanity, Naruto's only concern was for Sasuke.
As if reading his mind, the Hokage said, "Not all of them. He let Itachi get away." All Kakashi could do was nod his head. But still, the Akatsuki had gotten what it deserved. They'd tried to take the demon from Naruto, craving it's power for themselves. But in the end, they'd underestimated the Kyuubi and paid the price. And, so had Naruto.
Suddenly, the whole room shook as Tsunade planted her fist into a nearby wall. "Damn! There has to be something. His body's still alive. There has to be something of Naruto left in there! If there wasn't, we'd all be fighting the nine-tails by now."
Kakashi stared down at the boy and wondered if Tsunade was right. Looking at him, it was difficult to see past both the damages and changes to the Naruto they'd all come to love so much. His physical wounds were horrendous and barely healed. The seal on his lower abdomen faded in and out in a never ending parade of change. Unconscious and still fighting against the restraints, his fisted hands and clenched jaw barely hid the claws and fangs now extending from his body. While the elongated ears and whiskers were difficult to ignore. And, Kakashi knew that if he were to raise Naruto's closed eyelids, it wouldn't be ocean blue orbs staring back at him, but fiery red ones brimming with hatred. But above all of that was the angry red chakra swirling around the boy's body, daring anyone to breach it's barrier.
Sakura's voice was small and pained as she asked, "What if he is still in there? What if Naruto's fighting it, all alone. If there's even the smallest chance . . . "
"And, if we give him that chance. If we allow Naruto time and he loses . . . what then?" Asked Tsunade.
"What do you mean?"
Tsunade looked down at Sakura with sad eyes. "I'm the Hokage. I have to think of the protection of this village. If Naruto can't win this time. If the nine-tails is just to strong . . . can we afford to take that risk?"
Sakura's eyes went wide in alarm. "No! No, I know what you're thinking and you can't do that! I won't let you kill him. I won't!"
Tsunade felt her heart breaking all over again. She'd thought this boy would be different, that he was strong enough to withstand anything. "Sakura, I don't want to . . . "
"It's not that simple," Kakashi answered.
"I know that," Sakura snapped at her old teacher. "But think of all the times he's saved us. Naruto wouldn't give up on any of us, and I'm not giving up on him." And with that, she went to stand next to her friend. Ignoring the fearful chakra radiating from every pore of his being.
Slowly, a smile spread across Tsunade's lips as she wondered why it always took the young to point out the obvious. Not even turning her head, Tsunade yelled for one of the Anbu guards standing nearby. "Get me Hyuuga Neji," she demanded.
Sakura turned and gave a questioning look towards the Hokage. "Neji?"
"You're right Sakura. Naruto wouldn't give up on us," Tsunade answered.
"What are you thinking?" Kakashi asked.
"Using the Byakugan, Neji can see chakra. I want him to use it to see if any of Naruto's chakra is left, or if it's all the Kyuubi's." Then, looking gravely at Sakura, she added, "If there's anything left of Naruto, I'll give him a chance. But, if all Neji see's is the Kyuubi's . . . "
Sakura nodded her head numbly. "I understand."
Soon, Neji Hyuuga was standing in the room, appearing from seemingly nowhere, his blank eyes scanning Naruto's turbulent body.
Tsunade's voice was hard and cold. "Neji, what you see and do here today is not to be spoken of. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Lady Hokage."
"Good. Now, tell me what you see."
"I see what is, and isn't Uzumaki Naruto laying on the bed," Neji cryptically answered.
"Neji, we need to know if our Naruto is still in there," Tsunade answered.
Nodding his head once, Neji made the seal with his hands and cried, "Byakugan!"
Everyone waited while Neji stared at the boy. Inside, Neji was an unusual tempest of emotion. Naruto, someone he'd come to think of as a friend, was in serious trouble. He'd seen this chakra come from Naruto before, but never to this extent and with this much potential power. The sheer force of it was suffocating, so much so that he almost missed it. Almost missed the tiny hints of chakra fighting for life under all that pressure. And yes, fighting was the exact word needed to describe what he was seeing.
Sighing deeply, Neji released the Buyakugan and whispered, "He's there, or, at least his chakra is. But . . . "
"Go on," Tsunade demanded.
"It's weak and fading. I'm not sure how much longer Naruto can keep fighting. The other chakra is just to strong."
Sakura groaned, "This isn't fair! He needs our help and we're powerless. His mind is where the battle is and that's the one place we can't go."
In unison, both Kakashi and Tsunade looked at each other, similar thoughts running wildly through their heads.
"Could you do it?" Tsunade asked Kakashi, a thread of hope weaving throughout her voice. Shaking his head, Kakashi could only answer, "No, I've only got the one, and its never been powerful enough to do what you're thinking."
"What?" Sakura asked.
"That leaves only two who could do it," Tsunade said, completely ignoring Sakura.
"One, really," Kakashi answered.
"Two, one? What are you talking about?" Sakura asked again.
Tsunade felt her heart crash yet again. "Zero, actually. He'd be more likely to try and kill him again, not save him."
"But, he hasn't killed him yet," Kakashi answered.
"Humph, it hasn't been for lack of trying."
"Are you sure?" Kakashi questioned.
By now, Sakura was at her limit. "Would someone tell me what's going on! Who are you talking about? Whoever it is, if they can save Naruto, then I'll make them do it!"
Kakashi's one eye opened a little wider, his eyebrow shooting up as he stared back at Tsunade. "Actually, she may be the best one to send. I don't think he'd kill her right away. That way, at least he'd hear the message."
"But, how do we find him?" Tsunade asked.
"Simple. By now he'll know of the battle and that Itachi was there. It will be his best lead. He won't be able to resist showing up," Kakashi answered.
"Itachi . . . " the name slipped through Sakura's lips like a curse.
Giving a curt nod of her head, Tsunade stared down at her pupil. "You know who we're talking about now?"
Sakura nodded, feeling her limbs go cold and shaky. "Sasuke."
"Yes Sakura. Sasuke has the Sharingan and, I can only hope, that he's gained enough control of it to do what Naruto needs."
"He can get inside his mind," Sakura mumbled, more to herself than anyone else.
"But . . . but . . . " Sakura was chewing on her bottom lip. "He's tried to . . . "
At this Kakashi walked to Sakura's side. "It's a risk we have to take. If we do nothing, we'll be forced to kill Naruto ourselves. I think it's worth a try."
Fisting up her hands, Sakura's head shot up, her eyes full of determination as she asked, "Where was the battle?"
"You'll go then?" Tsunade asked.
"Of course." And then, looking back down at Naruto, she added, "I'll bring him back. I don't know how, but I'll make Sasuke help. This time, I'll save you." Planting a friendly kiss on Naruto's burning forehead, she looked back at her teachers and said, "Now, tell me where I need to go."