Title: Dreaming of Sunshine
Summary: Life as a ninja. It starts with confusion and terror and doesn't get any better from there. OC Self-insert.
Author's note: You know, it kind of seems like I've started a craze here, with the SI's. XD Little Acorn by Colours of Iris, Konoha's Beautiful Lotus by Supernatural Crossover Girl, Hacia el sol by lucife56 … and more, I'm sure.
The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true. ~ Galadriel; Lord of the Rings
Sasuke didn't show up to dinner. We'd made it a tradition, after completing a mission to have dinner at my place. And he didn't show up.
A cold hand gripped my heart. I knew, I knew it was coming soon, but it couldn't be now, could it? We'd only just got back this morning. I was going to train with him tomorrow, see if I could…
My mind was tossing and turning. Sasuke wouldn't leave, would he? He wasn't the same as canon Sasuke. He didn't… he wouldn't…
"We should go and look for him," I said, sounding distant even to myself. "Naruto?"
"He probably just got caught up training," Shikamaru said. "You shouldn't worry." He was picking up on my feelings, I knew he was, but he couldn't know why I was so worried. It probably looked like I was over reacting, but I couldn't help it.
"Sheesh, he's turning into Sensei, being late for dinner," Naruto complained. "Let's go drag him here. One really late person on the team is enough."
I could just imagine how annoyed Sasuke would be at that comparison and a ghostly smile traced my lips. It wasn't enough, though, to shake my feelings.
There were so many big events that I hadn't been able to touch, hadn't been able to affect at all. This was one that was small enough, personal enough, that I could … that I should have been able to alter. Should have been able to change.
"Want me to come too?" Shikamaru offered with half lidded eyes. The fact that he was even offering to do something…
I nodded. "Mum will be here in case he shows up…" I said thoughtfully. If I treated it like a mission, search and rescue… "We'll check his apartment… team training grounds… the training grounds by the Naka River…"
Those were the most likely places that he would be. If he was still here at all.
"Alright," Shikamaru said calmly. "I'll take the apartment. We'll meet up by the library once we're done."
I nodded. It didn't matter if Shika thought I was making a big deal out of nothing, at least he was taking it seriously. "I'll go to the Uchiha grounds," I volunteered.
The Naka river wound through the entirety of the old Uchiha district. The place was creepy, especially this late at night. It was just dead; a ghost town. There were a lot of training grounds though, the Uchiha had been a serious ninja clan. Sasuke still used them sometimes, when he didn't want to be disturbed.
"Sasuke?" I called timidly, feeling anxious. What if I was right? What if I was wrong? Hadn't there been Sound ninja involved? What if they were still here? But they couldn't get in to Konoha, could they?
I spread my chakra sense as wide as I could, slowly moving through the empty grounds and…
One person. I locked onto the position and made a beeline for it. I doubted anyone but Sasuke would come here.
It was Sasuke. He wasn't training though. He was sitting slumped against the base of a tree, idly toying with a kunai.
"Sasuke," I said, half in greeting, half in relief. It faded a little, when I looked closer at him. He was battered. It was possible that it had come from training, of course…
He looked up. "Shikako? What are you doing here?"
"You missed dinner," I explained. "We were worried."
"Oh." He looked around, then ran a hand through his hair. "It's later than I thought, I guess. Sorry."
"What happened?" I asked. "You're hurt." I suspected I knew. I hoped I was wrong.
He looked away. "It's nothing."
"It's not nothing!" I said, voice uncharacteristically sharp. I took a deep breath and tried to tamp down on my fear and anxiety as Sasuke stared at me with wide eyes. "Please, Sasuke. Tell me what happened."
He paused. Looked away. For a second, I thought he wasn't going to say anything. But then he spoke. "There were these ninja… They said. They said they were from Orochimaru. They called themselves the Sound Four."
My mouth went dry. "Here?" I croaked. "In the village?" Not just waiting for him. Not just outside and ready if he left, but here.
Sasuke nodded. "They wanted me to go with them," he confessed quietly.
"You didn't," I said. "You didn't go with them."
His hand reached up and curled over the mark on his neck. His eyes were very, very dark.
Don't you dare, Sasuke…
"'If you remain in this village,'" he quoted. "'You will never become strong. Every day, you're slowly decaying. Spend enough time here, and you'll forget all about Uchiha Itachi. Orochimaru will give you power.'"
"They're wrong," I said. "You won't forget about him. We're the reason you want to kill Itachi. You think… you think I don't want him dead too? You think I don't want to stop dreaming about-" I cut myself off. My voice was rising, sharp and tight and I could hear the ruined rasp beneath the tone. This wasn't the time for that. It was never the time for that. "Orochimaru came from Konoha. That's what made him strong. Itachi became strong here. Jiraiya. Tsunade. Sensei."
Listen to me, Sasuke!
I couldn't tell what he was thinking. I couldn't tell if he was even listening.
"He can't offer you anything, Sasuke. And he wouldn't, even if he could. The only person that Orochimaru looks out for is Orochimaru. Everyone else is a tool."
"I know," he admitted softly. "They said the curse seal was killing me."
Carrot and the stick. You'll die if you don't come. They had to have some kind of cure, or antidote.
"You don't use it though," I said. He was talking. That had to be a good sign. "And Tsunade is the best medic-nin in the world. If anyone…"
I trailed off. I wished there was something I could say. I wished I was more eloquent, had better arguments, was a better speaker.
Because… if Sasuke tried to leave now… I'd fight him.
I didn't want it to come to that.
"You are strong," I said softly. "Look at what we've done since we became Genin. How many A-ranks have we done? How many battles have we fought? How much have you learnt? Sharingan, Chidori… you are growing stronger. We are growing stronger."
He stared at me for a long while, then smirked tiredly. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
I scoffed weakly. "You guess."
Was that it? Was that enough? Had I convinced him? Had he convinced himself?
"What should we do?" He asked.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He's staying. He's going to stay. "We need to go and see the Hokage."
We met up with the others at the library then headed to the Hokage's Tower. It wouldn't have been as easy to get in to see her if it hadn't been quite so late. Or if we hadn't had Naruto with us, because he just didn't take 'no' for an answer.
Considering we hadn't explained anything, and he was there solely on faith…
"What is it, brat?" Tsunade-sama barked. "Do you know what time it is? I'm supposed to be out of the office by now."
"Sasuke has something to say," Naruto responded, shrugging off her annoyed greeting.
Her golden eyes focused on Sasuke, taking in his slightly battered appearance.
"Orochimaru has ninja in Konoha," Sasuke said bluntly.
She sharpened to attention. "Details."
Security was currently tight and Tsunade had done a lot of work to remove any of Orochimaru's plants in Konoha, I thought, biting my lip. Either she'd missed one… or it was something more than a simple spy.
Is there a traitor in Konoha?
The answer was immediate.
But whatever his dealings, and I knew he had them with Orochimaru… it didn't make sense for him to let Sasuke out of the village. His driving force was to make the village as strong as possible and Sasuke was the last of the Uchiha…
He'd been involved in the whole Uchiha Massacre thing, though, and that was a clusterfuck and a half.
Something niggled in the back of my mind. Danzo. The Uchiha Massacre. The Sharingan? No, he already had many of them, didn't he? Had he given some to Orochimaru then? The implantation had been his work, hadn't it? But that wasn't… that wasn't what bothered me…
What was it then?
Danzo. Uchiha. Itachi.
My eyes turned to Sasuke, almost automatically. Itachi had left Sasuke alive despite everything. Had kept him alive from whatever clean up procedures could have happened. Had come back to Konoha to remind them of that.
Itachi was dangerous. There was no doubt about that.
If Orochimaru just happened to take Sasuke… just happened to do whatever… well, that wasn't anything that could be Konoha's fault, was it?
It was a chilling thought. Pure supposition, though. Sheer guesswork.
It was good timing, too, with the mess at the border. All the high level ninja occupied either there or on missions…
Or was it?
You can't think everything is part of a conspiracy. He had managed to stir Sand into attacking us, but that didn't mean Orochimaru was behind every skirmish that happened. Even though it provided an excellent opening for the Sound Four…
And the attack on Waterfall…
That way lies paranoia. I scolded myself.
"At approximately 1700 hours, I encountered four shinobi in Training Ground Eighty Five," Sasuke said formally. This was a briefing now, not a conversation. "They identified themselves as the Sound Four; Tayuya, Kidomaru, Sakon and Jiroubou. They knew who I was and appeared to be looking for me." He shifted a little, uncomfortable. "Their goal appeared to be to convince me to leave Konoha and return to Hidden Sound with them. They were skilled fighters and at least one of them had a curse seal."
So they had fought. But four against one…
"They left?" Tsunade asked.
Sasuke shrugged. "They didn't seem to want to take me by force. They could have," he admitted, though it was grudging.
"You think they're waiting for you outside?" She asked, steepling her fingers.
This can't have been easy for Sasuke, admitting that they thought he would defect. It wasn't a good look. Bad enough to have someone else cast doubts on your loyalty, but worse to have to do it yourself.
He shrugged. "That was the implication."
"How long?" Tsunade asked. I could almost see her mind whirling. "How long did they give you to decide?"
Sasuke looked a little startled. "I… they didn't say. But they didn't seem like patient people."
Tsunade nodded, scribbling something on a piece of paper then jabbing a finger at Naruto. "You. Go to this address. Find Ibiki. Tell him to be here ASAP." She turned to us. "You two, put together a list of available Genin for a combat capture and retrieval mission." She turned to Sasuke. "And you, will tell me everything."