This is My Place

"Please understand, Sakumo."

Sakumo didn't. Wouldn't. Couldn't.

But Ran was pleading with him to. Her big green eyes were begging him to please, please understand and he couldn't help it.

Ran hadn't taken their parents' deaths well. It was a black stain on her heart and whatever loyalty she had to Konoha had dried up. ANBU didn't offer her any solace and whatever peace could be found among her team didn't give her comfort. Their parents had never failed Konoha, but Konoha had failed them.

Her headband was gone. She didn't even take it off to sleep as far as Sakumo knew so he understood in an instant how bad this was. He didn't know where she was going, of course, but then Ran probably didn't either.

Sakumo shifted his weight and the tree branch was standing on rustled a little. They were only a few kilometers from the village and maybe he could have talked her into coming back with him and forging ahead and just forgetting this. Their parents were gone, but they had no shortage of family who loved them and always would and this would destroy them.

"It doesn't mean anything anymore," she said. "I can't pretend. Please, Sakumo."

He stared at her and for a short eternity wondered. What would his father do? What would the village think? What would happen?

But his little sister was in pain and confused and lost and he was her older brother. She needed him when she skinned her knees and when her teammates made her angry and when she didn't have the strength to stand any more during their parents' joint funeral. She needed him on the nights she came home from her ANBU missions and stared blankly into space, lost in the void of her own mind and grief. She needed him when she wouldn't eat and her body began to eat away at itself.

And she needed him now.

And knowing that drowned out the sound of his own headband as he dropped it to the forest floor below and it landed somewhere with a metallic clank. He leapt from his branch to hers and landed, whisper quiet beside her.

He reached out a laid a hand upon her arm, rubbing his thumb briefly over the black ink of the tattoo that marked her bicep and then he met her eyes. "We'll have to stop for supplies eventually," he said. "So let's try to get as far as we can before that. We'll need the head start."

Ran's expression was caught somewhere between horror and awe. "Sakumo, you can't," she protested.

He smiled at her. "When Mom and Dad let me hold you after you were born, I told you that I'd always protect you, that I'd always be there," he said. "I promised you that. And I'm not breaking that promise now."

She stared at him, her eyes misty. Then she began to cry and threw herself at his waist and he wrapped his arms around her shoulders, realizing just vaguely that he had not seen her cry since she was a little girl. Not even at the funeral. She had been stone and that, he thought, had been Konoha's fault.

"C'mon," he said after a minute and he straightened a little and pushed her to arm's length as she wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her over-sized jacket. "We'll only have a couple of days before they realize what's happened. Let's go."

"You're leaving Konoha," Ran replied, as if trying to bring weight back to the situation. "For me?"

Sakumo smiled at her and knew that this would be worth it. Even if he ended up some head on a spike, this would be worth it in the end, because he could live knowing he had of deserted his village for his sister, but not the other way around. "At first I came here to stop you," he replied. "I'm sorry about that. I guess I forgot where I belonged for a minute there."

For the first time in months—since the funeral, since everything—Ran smiled at him. It was weak and hesitant at first, a mere shadow of the radiant grins he had once known her for, but it was a start and it made this worth it.

"Come on, Mei-mei," he said. "Ib nee."

1. So let's just say this is, like, if there was a "bad future" scenario. Like what, I don't know. Maybe Danzo came to power or maybe this is a universe where the Uchiha run things. Whatever. The idea of Ran becoming a missing-nin occurred to me once a long time ago and I wondered how Sakumo would react. Then I dope-slapped myself, because the answer was obvious. If Ran was going to leave the village, he'd leave with her.

2. The point is that Sakumo is, first and foremost, Ran's big brother and as far as he's concerned SHE is his job. Konoha is just an employer.

3. So he's kind of a nod to Simon Tam in the Firefly verse AND Itachi in some small way.

4. And my own brother in some smaller way I guess.

5. "Ib nee" is a nod back to the idea that they have their own language. He's basically telling her "let's go".