Disclaimer: I certainly don't own Naruto and I certainly make no profit off of writing fanfics.


"If you attack Konoha, I will have to fight you… So save up your hatred and take it all on me, I'm the only one who can take it! It's the only thing I can do! I will shoulder your hatred and die with you!" - Uzumaki Naruko

Shoving an annoyed Suigetsu from the room, Sasuke folded down the lock before turning to face Itachi. His older brother remained silent despite Sasuke's expectant stare, sipping carefully from a warm cup of sake and keeping his dead right hand limp in his lap.

Itachi felt a touch absurd when he realized that he was more than willing to die at Sasuke's hand but quite unwilling to live as a cripple. Rationally death would seem like a lesser punishment.

Sasuke cast a quick glance around to be sure that there were no lurking and overly interested members of Taka around before crossing the room to take a seat on the tatami opposite Itachi.

Reaching out with a smooth hand, the Uchiha Clan Head scooped up a saucer and wordlessly held it out for his brother to fill with alcohol. "Drunkard." Sasuke muttered under his breath as Itachi obeyed, but not before finishing off his own saucer in a swift gulp.

Unfiltered rice wine flowed freely from the bottle as Itachi topped them back up, swirling a cloudy white in one cheap wooden saucer and then in the other.

Raising a thin dark brow, Itachi decided to forgo trading half-hearted insults with his brother in favour of wordlessly motioning with his cup for a toast. Smirking at the sour look that crossed Sasuke's face at the needless courtesy, the elder Uchiha drawled out a low "Kanpai" and clicked their dishes together.

The younger Uchiha threw back the booze in one gulp, enjoying the pleasant burn as the sake curled down his throat and spread warmth though his gullet. Sasuke quickly poured another saucer of the sweet nigorizake and swallowed it down greedily. The pleasant haze that alcohol brought him would smooth the harsh corners that cut through his memories of a future past that he could never forget and steady his thrumming nerves.

Carefully sipping the last of his second bowl as Sasuke gulped down his fourth, Itachi stared at his younger brother with a touch of concern. "And to think you implied I was the alcoholic." He sighed, pushing aside fraternal worry and divorcing himself emotionally in preparation for the task ahead. He needed to be a shinobi of Konoha, not a fretting older brother.

"There's going to be another war." Sasuke bit out, staring down at the last milky droplets in his saucer with a pensive expression. Thinning his lips, the Uchiha Clan Head poured another cup of sake. "And it's going to suck balls."

Humming lowly, Itachi refilled his own bowl and nodded in agreement. "They typically do." Old battlefields burned behind his eyes in a tide of bloody memory, and Itachi frowned at the crimson wastelands of his childhood.

A soft tingling rose on the back of Sasuke's neck as the effect of the sake began to set in. Under the influence of alcohol, he grew more animated and rolled his eyes at his older brother. "Naruko is going to do her magic power of friendship thing and unite the whole world behind her against Madara – Tobi, or whatever his name is."

"Is that so?"

"Yes." Sasuke snorted, sinking into a low lounge on his side and propping his head on his elbow. "I'm not really sure what she did entirely, since I was otherwise occupied and all the information I have about it was hearsay."

Cradling his dead right hand in his living left, Itachi massaged slow circles into the back of his knuckles and fixed Sasuke with dark eyes. "Occupied with?"

"Killing Danzo. Killing Kabuto." Sasuke chewed the inside of his cheek and dragged his hand across his flushed forehead. "Running away from everything and everyone I ever knew."

"I see."

Scowling at the shame that he felt under his older brother's nonjudgmental gaze, Sasuke pushed on doggedly. "Not that it matters a whole lot really, since by that point all of Akatsuki was neutralized or defected like that paper woman."

"I would presume you're speaking of Konan."

"Pein's main squeeze?"

Pleading to the spirits under his breath for patience in dealing with his drunk and unusually crass brother, Itachi snatched the bottle of sake away from Sasuke's questing fingers and sighed. "Yes. His main 'squeeze'." Then the former nukenin frowned in thought "Though I'm unaware of any other paramours."

"Come on. A man like that with all those dead bodies he controls at all times? You just know he was up to something perverse."

Itachi favoured Sasuke with a disturbed look, then refilled his own saucer and guzzled it in an effort to burn away the horrific images such an implication conjured. "I wonder if Orochimaru had greater influence over you than I realized."

"What exactly are you implying?"

"Enough of this." Itachi decided, moving on to hopefully more productive conversation. "Madara against an alliance of all the shinobi villages. How was he not almost instantly annihilated?"

"He had an army of Edo Tensei zombies resurrected by Kabuto. And after I killed him, there was no one to tell them to go home."

Silence hung in the air as Itachi digested that, staring at the lacquered table in thought. "I suppose this means that I shall have to dig up the graves of all the Uchiha and make sure their remains were all completely incinerated."

"Madara never went that far." Sasuke growled, flopping onto his back to stare at the ceiling and pushing aside the part of him that was more than willing to sacrifice some ignorant peasants or prisoners for a few moments to see his parents again. "I don't know if it's because he at least had that amount of respect for the family or if all the bodies were truly burned."

"Even so. It never hurts to be cautious."

"Do as you will."

Flicking red eyes towards the clock hanging on the wall, Itachi took in the time before leaning forward towards his brother with an earnest gaze. "I understand this is difficult, but we do not have the luxury of playing games. I need to know everything you remember."

Sasuke told him.

Hours flew by as the brothers haggled over details of future battles, debating troop movements, the decline of society against a backdrop of flames, and the ever-rising tide of loss. Tentative plans formed, little more than guidelines for conflicts that had never occurred and hopefully never would.

The sky was just beginning to lighten pink for dawn when Sasuke found the conversation between himself and Itachi winding back to battles that would be occurring in the near future. Rubbing tired grit from the corner of his eye, Sasuke scraped his dry tongue across the roof of his mouth and stared out the window at buildings just visible over the weaving trees in the Uchiha garden.

"Konoha is going to be destroyed, absolutely obliterated by Pein in a month. You're going to look out that window and see nothing but one giant crater."

Chills slithered down Itachi's back as he followed his younger brother's gaze and pictured desolation in the place of the village he'd chosen to sacrifice almost everything for. "And there's nothing that you can do that will prevent it?"

"How would I know? I never actually met Pein. I don't know his secrets, and even if I did I'm not a master of making friends out of enemies like Naruko was – is."

"I have." Itachi turned back to stare at his brother with an unfocused look. "But I can think of little that would drive him to so suddenly and so publicly move against Konoha. For all his power, Pein is typically very cautious."

"So I've heard."

"I would assume that if he had collected the first eight of the bijuu, that he would be willing to go that far for the last of them. But unless the situation has changed vastly since my departure, Akatsuki should only be in possession of five of the bijuu. When they attacked Konoha, were they in possession – even temporarily – of the other eight?"

Shaking his head slowly, Sasuke bit his lip as he ruffled around the recesses of decades old memory. "No. Akatsuki secured the Rokubi shortly before the assault on Konoha, but my attempt at capturing the Hachibi only ended in bringing back a decoy. Pein would have known that before attacking Konoha."

Itachi furrowed his brow in thought. "Would he have attacked simply because Naruko was gone? Is her presence that important when it comes to the defence of the village?"

Snorting in derision, Sasuke waved a lazy hand. "Not damned likely. I wasn't here to see it, but Pein annihilated Konoha. Destroyed it to the foundations with the same ease that you have finishing off a box of pocky. Naruko only beat him with sheer dumb luck and her appeal to his better nature. That month off she had training with the toads made her stronger, but not that much stronger."

Rubbing a slow circle into the back of his numb hand with an idle thumb, Itachi hummed low in thought. All the pieces were there, he just had to fit them together... "Perhaps an emotional outburst? Pein fought and killed Jiraiya just a short time before the invasion, and the Sennin was his shishou. That might have still meant something."

Giving the table a distracted, sour frown, Sasuke blew a gusting sigh. "Speaking of which, I'm going to have to save his ass aren't I? I don't even like that old pervert."

For the first time in hours, a touch of laughter sparked in the older Uchiha's eyes. "Now Sasuke, you have to learn to get along with the in-laws. In fact, some time at the bar with the Hokage would do your relationship a world of good."

"Fuck off."

There were a lot of things that scared Kankuro. Possible injury and death to his siblings for one. The danger that a certain international terrorist organization posed to his village and his people for another. But stepping into the Hokage's office reminded the Kazekage's older brother to appreciate a lesson that had been well taught to him by his sister and by Naruko.

Blonde people were crazy; irredeemably nuts.

There was nothing overt to suggest it when the trio from Suna entered the Kage's office. The room was clean. There was no blood – or Kami forbid, garish orange – on the walls. There were no intimidating bodyguards looming over him with a not-so-subtle thread to break his face.

There was just the flinty tawny chips that last of the Senju called eyes staring into his soul.

The puppeteer couldn't help it. He squeaked and shuffled behind his sister.

"Wimp." Temari muttered under her breath as she squeezed past, giving Kankuro a much less potent version of the Hokage's stink eye. It would take her a few more decades to get up to Tsunade's level.

Ancestors help him. At least Chiyo-baasama hadn't gone completely around the twist.

"Hello Tsunade-hime, I see you're looking as chesty as usual."

He took it all back. Kankuro took it all back. Chiyo was just as bonkers as the rest of them.

Shuffling towards the door, the puppeteer made an effort to look as tiny and unremarkable as possible. Maybe if he stayed quiet they'd forget about him.

"Make it quick." Tsunade snapped irritably, glaring even harder at Chiyo's smut face and resisting the urge to find the nearest bar. "I have a lot to do and very little time to do it in, so speak up."

Rather than let the Sand Village's elder needle the Hokage, Temari put on her professional face and stepped forward. "After our recent conflict with Akatsuki, the Kazekage decided that a joint effort to take them down would be best. Once he heard that Konoha was in conflict with Hidan and Kakuzu, he ordered us to make our way here and offer support."

Tsunade gave the other blonde an indecipherable look before reaching into her lowest desk drawer and pulling out a scroll. Even five years ago she'd have never considered working with an old enemy like Suna on something so sensitive and important to the village, but Naruko was changing everything. It was a new era.

So rather than assign the foreign trio some made up irrelevant mission, she threw Team Kakashi's mission scroll at Temari. "All the details you need are in there. If you move quickly you might be able to catch up before they find a leave and move off track."

Temari dipped her head in thanks, turning smartly on her heel and striding from the room with her nervous brother in tow. Chiyo gave the Hokage a last cold grin before following after her compatriots.

Light flickered behind his eyelids as he curled into a ball and groaned. Everything was electric green, psychedelic hallucinations skittering into spiders that blazed through the cracks of his mind. At some point Sasuke managed to shove his fingers down his throat and vomit, spewing sick all over his front and filling the air with the acrid sweetness of stomach acid and poison.

It wouldn't kill him. His years of training under Orochimaru had involved being bitten and filled with so much venom that his own blood was a biological weapon. The Uchiha was immune to almost any chemical, and even those he wasn't he could overcome through the sheer fortitude of his hardened body.

But that didn't mean it wouldn't hurt.

Pain rippled up Sasuke's spine, stabbing red hot along the vertices of his spine, and he choked out a bitter laugh. It was just another day in the life of the Hokage. He hadn't thought that they would bother trying to kill him at a meeting of the Gokage, what with how high the risk of accidentally poisoning the wrong leader was, but they'd proven him wrong.

At least the poison hadn't hit until he'd safely returned to his own lodging. Sasuke would rather avoid the embarrassment of loosing control of his motor functions and pissing himself in front of the other Kages. It wasn't exactly austere and dignified.

"Shhh, just ride it out Sasuke."

A warm hand slipped into sweat soaked dark locks, smelling of iron and wet dog. It wasn't a pleasant smell, but the Uchiha found himself sightlessly leaning into the touch anyway. "Kakashi." He rasped, vocal chords straining. "Lock the door."

"I already took care of it. And everything else before you ask." His former sensei muttered, cradling Sasuke's head in one hand while the fingers of the other sought out the Hokage's pulse. "I'm good at following the rules if you recall." The joke was dark and bitter, but it got a rusty laugh out of Sasuke. To think they'd made it through enough poisoning attempts for there to actually be an informal standard procedure.

With his body moved into a safe space and hidden from enemies that might try to take advantage of Konoha's weakness, Sasuke had nothing to worry about. Kakashi was by his side and would make sure that he didn't choke on his own vomit or start bleeding from the ears. All that was left to do was ride out the remainder of the poison and get cleaned up before the morning meeting.

Sasuke gave himself over to the pain. It was no less than he deserved.

"Alright, I'm gonna hit the sack early." Naruko declared, swiping the last droplets of grease from her mouth with her sleeve. Kakashi-sensei had wrangled up a few hares for supper when they'd finally stopped for the night, and after the slightly charred meal she was ready to crawl into her sleeping roll and pass out until morning.

Sakura looked over the fire with eyebrows raised "Already?" If there was one word that described Naruko it was energetic, and over the years of being assigned to the same team the pink-haired girl had become intimately familiar with the blonde's tendency to vibrate with vigor all through the night. So Naruko going to bed right after supper was pretty strange.

Scratching the back of her head sheepishly, Naruko grinned. "Well, I was up pretty early today, so I figure it would be a good idea to head to bed early tonight, yeah? I can stay up if you guys need me to, but right now I just wanna lay down and die for a few hours."

Kakashi exchanged an amused glance with Yamato before shaking his head. "Go." As far as the jounin was concerned it was teen drama at its finest. The blonde probably wanted to cuddle up for a few hours and daydream about her boyfriend. Maybe if Konoha was at war he'd have no patience for Naruko's stereotypical teen girl daydreams, but at the moment he found it a bit cute. Minato-sensei and Kushina would be having a blast if they could see their daughter now.

Casually giving her team leader a thumbs up, Naruko turned towards her drab tan patch-covered tent and wriggled inside. It was a bit of a tight fit, seeing as how she'd bought it when she was twelve and a poor orphan, but it was still her sanctuary. Once she turned the flaps down, she could stretch out in the darkness and really think.

For the past couple of weeks her life had been a complete rollercoaster. Asuma-sensei was killed, village politics were choking the life from her team, and they'd come toe to toe with Akatsuki. Now she was on a mission to hunt down another rogue ninja while surrounded by her precious comrades, and any of them could be killed in an instant, just like Asuma-sensei had been. The thought was enough to make her break out with cold sweat.

When she'd been on her journey with Jiraiya Naruko had known that things wouldn't always be easy, but she'd never imagined how complicated things would become. She had enemies pressing in on all sides and the only thing keeping her head above the water was the new emotional support she was suddenly getting from Sasuke. But even that was a torpedo to her sense of equilibrium.

Naruko had always had a certain passionless expectation of the world. She took strength from her friends, but didn't let any of them in. It was part of being a jinchuuriki. There was always that invisible wall between her and everyone else. Or at least there had been, until Sasuke smashed it down with the fire of his kisses and the heat of his hands. He was destroying her perception, but it was the sweetest poison…

Running a tongue over her suddenly dry lips, Naruko snaked a shaking hand down the front of her shorts. Trembling fingers slipped over blonde curls to find her throbbing nub, and with a hitching breathe Naruko found herself soaking.

A few times on her journey with Jiraiya she'd dared to touch herself, but back then it had always felt furtive and wrong. Like she was doing something that wasn't meant for someone like her. But with the hot possessive gaze of a certain Uchiha fresh in her mind, Naruko dared to dream. She wanted more than a quick lonely spat of self-pleasure in the night.

Naruko wanted. She wanted Sasuke between her knees, his calloused fingers tracing up the heated flesh of her. She wanted him inside her, stretching her wider and deeper than her furtive touches could, marking and owning her and being owned in return. She wanted to lock her legs behind his hips, urging him into her very womb so he could empty there, making her swell with children. And when she pinched her swollen nipple, she pretend that it was Sasuke cupping her breast while he nibbled along her earlobe, his breath ragged as he told her he loved her.


Tearing her hand out of her panties, the blonde stared incredulously at the stretch of tent next to her head. "What?" she snapped, face burning with a mixture of arousal and shame. If it was the last thing she ever did, Naruko was going to strangle Sai.

Silence hung heavy as the ROOT agent struggled to find the right way to put it. "How do you know when you've formed a bond?" he asked haltingly, his voice thickened by confusion. It was an unusual display of emotion from the normally passionless shinobi, but Sai couldn't help it. Being on Team Seven was knocking out the foundations of his world.

Struggling not to reach through the canvas and strangle Sai, Naruko fought down her irritation at being so suddenly interrupted. "When you're ready to fight for someone, and not because someone ordered you to do it. Just because you don't want to see them get hurt." She huffed out snippily, pulling her sleeping roll up to her chin.

It was a shorthand answer that didn't really satisfy Sai's curiosity, and they both knew it. So when the ROOT agent eventually sought clarification neither of them were surprised. "Is it not the duty of all Konoha shinobi to try and protect other Leaf-nin?"

"It's about going further than that." Naruko sighed. "It's about being ready to make sacrifices and break the rules and put your own life on the line." Her words weren't the most polished, but the blonde wasn't sure how else to express something that had always seemed like speechless instinct.

In any case, it seemed like that was enough, because after a few heartbeats she heard the sound of Sai's footsteps shuffling away.

Naruko was alone again, but the moment was gone, so rather than try and relocate her fantasies she rolled over and tried to sleep. It was a long time coming, and by the time dawn rolled in she was still staring at the canvas with dried out aching eyes.

Mud slicked up between his toes, and with a grimace Jiraiya drew his cloak tighter around himself and slipped into Amegakure.

Jiraiya was pretending to be an errant rice farmer from the countryside, putting all his skills as a shinobi to use trying to avoid the sleepless vigil of whatever entity it had been that dispersed its chakra through the clouds and mist.

The rain had soaked through to his skin, plastering the cheap cotton of his shirt to his back. Jiraiya's signature white mane was reduced to a close-cropped bristle of wet strands, sacrificed for the sake of his disguise. All in all, he was thoroughly miserable, but that was nothing new to the spymaster.

Pressing his hand against his mouth, Jiraiya warmed his fingers with the wet heat of his breath before slipping into the nearest bar.

Darkness and the thick smoke of opium greeted him, but Jiraiya just quirked a smirk and oved deeper into the den of sex and vice. For decades he taken part in the most depraved and immoral activities for the sake of getting Konoha information. A little bit of alcohol and herb was nothing to him.

Letting his eyes trail down into a redhaired whore's cleavage, Jiraiya grinned lecherously while slipping her a handful of coins. She wordlessly passed back a pipe full of opium, cooing senselessly at him while he lit up and inhaled the sweet taste. "It's been a while since I enjoyed the company of a beautiful woman like yourself." He admitted.

A hot tongue trailed over the curve of Jiraiya's ear, and a bold hand dusted over his crotch as a blond whore came up on his other side, crooning for his patronage in the common language of prostitutes. Jiraiya was tempted of course, since he loved all pretty women, but he managed to deflect them all with apologetic promises and sweet words.

Slipping through the press of sweat and warm bodies, Jiraiya threw his elbows up on the counter with all the hamfisted grace of a farmer after a long day in the fields. "Give me the cheapest you've got." He demanded roughly, scratching at the thin white beard he'd started to grow after a week in the wilds.

The bartender scoffed, carelessly fishing out a beaten wooden mug and filling it with watered down sake. It was little more than thinly mixed piss to anyone with a sense of quality, but nonetheless Jiraiya quaffed it down and demanded another.

There were certain habits Jiraiya had picked up during his years undercover. First, he needed to sacrifice all vanity. Second, he needed to get used to the feeling of blood and dirt caked under his fingernails. Third, he needed to learn how to swallow down the most disgusting plebian cocktails with an iron stomach. Having done all that, the toad sage managed to fit in with the rest of the reprobates looking for a cheap thrill in the nameless tavern.

Licking his lips, Jiraiya shoved his empty saucer back at the bartender and offered a sleazy grin. "Give me another one, ya bastard." He demanded lightly, all coarse teasing and amusement. "Or do ya have nothing better than rabbit piss?"

Weathered skin puckered at the dark-eyed bartender scowled, his thick lips pursing. "I've got better if you've got the coin to pay." He pointed out roughly, one hand groping under the bar while the other was held out in a silent demand.

Jiraiya dropped a pair of beaten copper coins in the bartender's hand, sneering rudely as he accepted the slightly higher quality trash that was offered. "Cunt." He muttered, slurping noisily and ignoring the drunken debauchery around him. The vast majority of spycraft revolved around being unremarkable. Everyone suspected the quiet loner lurking in the dark corners, while no one suspected the wrinkled pervert half-dead in his cups.

Demanding another cup of sake, Jiraiya glared down at the cloudy wine while rubbing at his bare left ring finger. A few decades past the western custom of marriage rings had been all the rage, and to the ignorant citizens of Ame no Kuni an old man nursing a drink while brooding over his ringless fingers was the exact image of a middle-aged divorcee.

The spymaster looked like he couldn't pay attention to anyone or anything but his own sorrows. So when he opened his ears and listened no one thought anything of it. Why would they? He was no amateur that assumed dark nights and black alleys equaled secrecy.

"There's been a pretty good harvest this year…"

"I appealed personally to the Tenshi and she brought me medicine…"

"I heard Konoha is gearing up for another invasion…"

"I wonder if Michi would like another kid…"

"Pein-sama has been giving us more rain than usual lately…"

"I swear on my ancestors, that woman never shuts up…"

Letting the conversation roll over him like a tide, Jiraiya continue to drown himself in cheap sake and accept the occasional puff of opium before rejecting the whores with a reluctant excuse. He had some money, but not too much, and maybe if they'd cut him a deal just this once he'd pay them back later...

Hours passed before the Konoha shinobi finally lurched to his feet, belching loudly with the stink of rice wine on his breath as he toddled towards the door. "I'd best get home." He slurred to the bartender.

Jiraiya managed to get halfway there before he was accousted by another whore, a deceptively soft grip settling over his bicep. "Whadda ya want?"

Purple eyes fluttered at him as she pursed her lips, leaning in with a sultry smirk. "Please," she begged lowly, breasts heaving with forbidden promise. "I need just a little more before I can leave this place. Don't you have any mercy?"

Dark eyes stared down as Jiraiya considered her tousled blue hair, drinking in the way her faded black kimono hugged her curves and how her heavy pink nipples peeked obscenely through the thin fabric to drag sensuously over his broad chest. "Alright." He rasped, one hand coming down to cup the meaty flesh of her arse.

The taste of sex on his tongue was bittersweet as Jiraiya kissed the whore fiercely, tangling his fingers in her indigo hair and pulling roughly. "I'm going to fuck you until you can't even walk." He promised huskily, stumbling after his newfound paramour with a jovial laugh as she led him up the stairs and into a cramped dank room.

Jiraiya accepted the sickly-sweet whore's kisses, slipping his calloused hands into the folds of her kimono and tracing his thumbs over the hollows of her ribs. She was young and slim, but just a touch malnourished, as most women in the sex trade in Amekagure were.

Tearing open the folds of his new lover's shift with a growl, Jiraiya lowered his mouth to her swollen nipple and suckled eagerly. First one and then the other were treated to his sloppy attention, soaking her breasts with his saliva as if he really were some graceless peasant throwing away his money on sex.

In some other world Jiraiya of the Sannin was Tsuande's somewhat perverted and goofy but still very loyal husband. Maybe it was Dan's death, or maybe the Senju princess has been inspired by his energetic good nature, but in either case that Jiraiys worshipped the ground his lovely wife walked on and never seriously thought of betraying her.

That Jiraiya was not him, and when he kicked off his hakama and slid his cock into the wet depths of yet another whore's cunt, this Jiraiya felt only satisfaction with the barest hint of shame. Such was the world they lived in, where women spread their legs and men scrabbled in the dirt for coin. Tsunade had never bothered to go on a single date with him despite the hundreds of offers he'd made, and after several decades as a spymaster, Jiraiya could no longer blame her.

They lived in a shit world.

Maybe one day a cleaner and better world would come, but until then Jiraiya would enjoy the sinful fruits of his labor, pounding away at yet another unscrupulous lover while she whispered the secrets of the village in his ears.

(AN): 5000 words. It's been a long time for this one. I suppose I should address a couple of things.

First, for this and any future updates the chapter length will be shorter (5000 vs 7000). Quiet honestly I don't even like this fic anymore, so I don't really want to write the excess filler stuff I used to.

Second, no, I'm not done editing. I just got bribed into finishing this first by Magery.

Third, I'm susceptible to bribes, as shown by this update. So feel free to show up on the discord server (yuF2GYx) if you want to try to beg/nag/bribe more updates out of me.