“Foolish little brother…” He was terrified.
“… not dead.”
“Run, and cling desperately to life…” He was running.
“Live, Sasuke, until you’re strong enough to face me again.” He wanted to die.
“…down, Sakura. He’s…”
There was blood everywhere. Splattered across walls, smeared on the ground, soaking into the clothing of the corpses scattered around the estate. He didn’t know why he was running. There was no point. His brother was a prodigy unlike any the Uchiha clan had seen in over a hundred years. If Itachi wanted to kill him, he was going to die.
We can’t die yet, remember? We still have to kill him.
“You’re weak because you lack hatred.”
He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. Everyone he knew from the academy had come to see him in the hospital, but he didn’t want to see any of them. They came in droves with cards and flowers and things he didn’t care about. They thought they were being helpful, supportive, caring. He didn’t want anything to do with anything of them. At the most, he wanted them to stop worrying about him so he could disappear into nothingness without a care in the world.
“Maybe there’s more to it than what we know, Sasuke.”
No, there isn’t. He told us why. He told us what he wanted. Why would he lie?
Wake up. We both know what happens when we start this train of thought.
He let out a strangled noise and choked on it immediately, rolling onto his side and wheezing and coughing uncontrollably. He could hear someone talking, possibly to him, but he couldn’t speak past the lump of nausea in his throat. He worked extremely hard to prevent himself from throwing up, and within seconds he was relatively certain he would lose the battle.
He spent probably a minute laying on his side with his eyes squeezed shut, swallowing compulsively in an effort to quell his nausea. It was keeping him from throwing up. It was not making him feel any better.
He braced one shaking arm against the ground for support and sat up, his other hand hovering over his mouth as he anticipated what would surely be a grand round of vomiting any minute now. His eyes were burning and it was giving him a headache, so he didn’t want to open them and risk making the pain worse. This had not panned out to be a good day.
“S-Sasuke-kun?” Sakura’s very familiar and almost welcome voice reached him, and he cracked his aching eyes open. Everything seemed brighter and more colorful than he was relatively sure it was supposed to be. Sakura was sitting beside him, on the side that he had rolled towards in the midst of waking up and choking on air. She looked like she’d been crying a lot. He wondered if they’d thought he was dead as much as he had.
He would’ve responded, but he didn’t want to risk projectile vomiting all over her. He swallowed again, clenching his teeth hard and closing his eyes again. Slowly, he lowered the hand that had been hovering over his mouth, and spent a moment testing the waters. It didn’t seem like he was going to be sick after all. That was a relief. He had enough trouble keeping food down half the time anyway.
He straightened up the rest of the way, noting with some relief that some kind soul had pulled out all the needles that stupid masked kid had hit him with. There must’ve been four dozen of them laying in a neat pile somewhere. He would have to thank that person.
“How do you feel?”
He turned towards the source of the almost unfamiliar voice, blinking blearily. The very first thing that he registered, before all the other aspects of the scene taking place literally two feet to his left, was the fact that Kaisuki’s eyes weren’t their usual bright red. They weren’t hot pink, either. They were green. It had to be the irou-nin that had healed Kakashi-sensei before – Kaisuki had referred to her with the placeholder name “Shiranai.” After a moment of scrutiny, he followed the irou-nin’s gaze to the unconscious person laying on the ground in front of her.
His face was ashen. His skin looked clammy, and there was blood all over the front of his vest. He looked positively dead. Shiranai’s hands were bathed in green light as she used irou-ninjutsu to repair the damage that had been done. Kakashi-sensei looked far too terrible for the extent of the injuries to only be external. He had probably reopened the internal wounds he’d received several days ago in his fight against Zabuza.
Sasuke swallowed hard, glancing up at the blonde he had just noticed leaning over Shiranai’s shoulder. He had a hand on her shoulder and, judging from the soft blue glow enveloping his fingers, he was lending her his chakra. Kaisuki had mentioned before that this mystery irou-nin hadn’t had enough chakra to fully heal Kakashi-sensei before. Sasuke didn’t understand why she couldn’t just pull from Saeka. She certainly had plenty of chakra to go around.
“He’ll recover,” Shiranai said, her eyes flicking up to meet his for a moment. “The wounds he sustained before reopened, and he’s lost about two pints of blood within the past few days. He’s in pretty bad shape, but he should pull through if you keep him well hydrated.” She paused, frowning slightly more than she already had been. “I would say that you should hold off your return trip for at least a week, though two would be better.”
Sasuke nodded, unsure of what to say. He still didn’t know this person’s name. Because they were still wearing Kaisuki’s appearance, he didn’t even know if this person was a “she.” He was assuming this person was female because most irou-nin were women, and her speech pattern was definitely feminine, but really, he didn’t have a clue who he was talking to.
“How are you feeling?” She asked, looking up at him directly, her eyes sweeping over his body. He was sure he looked about as awful as he felt. He didn’t want to reply to her question. He especially didn’t want to reply honestly. But she was an irou-nin, and she was healing Kakashi-sensei without any prompting, so he didn’t really have a reason to distrust her. He still didn’t want to answer her, though. Not in front of Sakura and Naruto.
He scowled at his instructor’s thumb for a moment, before he quietly replied. “I’ve been better. My eyes hurt and I’m sore, but it’s nothing a little rest won’t fix.”
She stared at him for a long moment before speaking again, “Your Sharingan is still activated.” She told him, and he blinked, confused. How was his Sharingan still activated? He’d been unconscious! “One of the chakra receptors to and from your eyes may be partially paralyzed, if one of those needles hit you in the right spot. I can take a look after we get back to Tazuna-san’s house.”
He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, so he decided not to reply. After a moment, Shiranai lowered her gaze back to her task. Sasuke glanced over his shoulder at Sakura briefly before he began the painful task of picking himself up off the ground. His muscles didn’t want to cooperate with him. And he didn’t want Sakura’s help, though he knew she’d give it in an instant.
“You shouldn’t-…” Sakura began, but Shiranai cut her off.
“He can get up, Sakura,” she chided gently, raising her gaze to look at the pink-haired girl. “After the shock his nerves received, it’ll be good for him to move around a little and improve his circulation some. Just make sure he’s steady and don’t let him fall.”
Sakura didn’t say anything, but he was sure his teammate was silently protesting the irou-nin’s decision, despite the fact that, well, Shiranai was an irou-nin and Sakura was nothing more than a smart but very useless genin. He silently thanked Shiranai and continued straightening up, one arm thrown out to keep him balanced. She’d been right. Now that he was moving around, it felt like large portions of his body were completely numb, while others just felt out of place.
Sasuke straightened up and looked past Naruto when he saw an approaching silhouette, quickly identifying the person as Tazuna-san. He hadn’t died. That was a good thing, he supposed. The bastard had nearly gotten four of the five of them killed, but they were in charge of his safety, so Sasuke had to be a little grateful that his first A-rank mission hadn’t ended in complete failure. Even if he was still furious with the man for being such a complete idiot.
The older man walked up to them, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand before taking a swig out of his flask. He looked a little green.
“Do you feel any better, Tazuna-san?” Sakura asked from over Sasuke’s shoulder. He heard her standing up behind him, and watched as she walked over to their charge. The man looked like he had been sick and wanted to be sick again. Sasuke knew that feeling all too well.
“Ha, no, not really.” He said shakily. Sasuke frowned. He seemed to have missed something. “I might have to do that again.”
Tazuna’s eyes drifted over Sakura’s shoulder, to something that was evidently behind Sasuke, before he turned his attention to the Uchiha briefly. Sasuke watched him open his mouth to say something, but he closed it quite suddenly, and just offered up a very forced smile. The black-haired boy raised an eyebrow. He was definitely missing something.
Well, whatever sea monster washed up on the bridge, it’s obviously behind us. Just don’t throw up.
I’ve seen a lot worse than sea monsters. I’m not gonna throw up.
He turned halfway around, looking to his right to see what all the fuss was about. Everyone had been extremely quiet, with the exception of Shiranai, who had purposely and easily engaged him in conversation. Naruto had been oddly silent the entire time, and now that Sasuke was thinking about it, his blonde teammate had been white in the face. Sakura also looked like her nerves had been rattled, though she seemed to have managed to master herself a little better than the highly emotionally reactive Naruto.
He knew what he was looking at in less than a second. There was blood everywhere. Splattered across the ground, soaking into the clothes of the mangled corpses that lay haphazardly on the cement. A lump jumped into his throat. This wasn’t the work of Saeka. That girl could butcher and slaughter with the best of them, but not like that. The wounds she inflicted were always concise little wounds that killed in an instant. Punctured vital points, slashed wind pipes, and opened arteries were her preferred way to kill.
Whoever was responsible for the bloodbath down the bridge from him had used some kind of blunt object, and they had been strong. Strong enough that what appeared to be single blows had ripped off the heads of some of the deceased. Some of the bodies had holes the width of a fist through their chests. He could see compound fractures, he could see ripped off limbs, he could see bodies that had been battered and beaten beyond recognition. Some of their heads looked like nothing more than bloody pulps.
The pattern of blows looked like that of someone who fought with their bare hands. How was there someone who could do that with their bare hands!? Where had they gone? He was frozen solid, staring at the numerous bodies. He couldn’t even count them all because they had been reduced to such slop, they could have been twenty men or five men. He just couldn’t tell.
Everything was so much more vivid with his Sharingan. He wanted to be sick.
No, we agreed that we weren’t going to throw up.
I won’t. I won’t. I won’t. I won’t. I won’t…
“N-nii-san! Who did this!?“
His stomach lurched, and he jammed a fist into his gut. He wasn’t going to be sick. He hadn’t eaten enough yet to throw up. He could wreck his blood sugar and potentially faint if he did. He had skipped breakfast and they hadn’t gone back for lunch yet, and he’d just been engaged in fierce battle. He couldn’t throw up now. He couldn’t. If he fainted, it would highlight his terrible eating habits, and if he highlighted his terrible eating habits, questions were going to be asked and his team would demand to know why he would sometimes skip breakfast, and then lunch, and then dinner. They would want to know how often he didn’t eat breakfast (he never ate breakfast). They would want to know if he skipped any other meals, and how often (sometimes he skipped lunch too, and once in a while he’d miss out on eating for an entire day). They would essentially force him to tell them about the night terrors and the nightmares.
And he absolutely wouldn’t. Not now, not ever.
He swallowed compulsively several times, turning his attention away from the massacre. He felt even sicker than he had when he’d first woken up. His hands were shaking, and his knees felt incredibly weak. He probably should’ve waited longer before getting up. Now that he was standing, of course, he didn’t especially want to sit back down, but he didn’t want anyone to know that he wasn’t feeling too well.
“Sasuke,” he turned around to face Shiranai, who was scrutinizing him carefully. He was almost intimidated by it and he wasn’t entirely sure why. He hadn’t had anyone look at him like that since…
“Sasuke!” He froze in the front door, his shoulders hunching up. He’d be so close to getting out, and he’d been caught. He was already falling behind his brother and he hadn’t even been given a fair shot at the academy yet. He couldn’t even sneak out of the house to without being caught. That was pretty pathetic.
“Y-yes, okaa-san?” He replied sheepishly, turning around and slowly walking around the corner into the kitchen. His mom turned to him, raising an eyebrow and looking at him very carefully. He swallowed hard, and smiled, trying to pretend with his best efforts that he wasn’t still feeling awful.
“You can’t go out if you’re sick.” She said, and his voice rose with his indignation.
“I’m not sick, okaa-san! Really, I’m just tired because…”
The memory trailed off into nothingness, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. His stomach did a few flips and tricks in his gut and he swallowed hard to clear out the lump in his throat. He wouldn’t vomit. He wouldn’t vomit. He wouldn’t vomit. He wouldn’t vomit.
“Alright, it’s time for you to sit back down,” Shiranai said after a pause, sounding very much like the mother of a young child in that moment. She was talking to him as though he was her five year-old. He wanted to throw up. “You’ve lost all the color in your face and I don’t want you to faint before we get back to Tazuna-san’s house. So sit down. Sakura, make sure he doesn’t fall.”
Sakura nodded silently. She looked a little miffed about being ordered around by this complete stranger, though Sasuke had no idea why. This person was probably at least decades older than them. She had seniority over Tazuna-san, too, though she didn’t appear as interested in exercising it.
Despite her feelings, Sakura didn’t want him to fall, for obvious reasons. So, she stepped back over to his side, looking worried as she always seemed to when he was mildly injured in any way, shape, manner or form. He wanted to ignore her offer of support, and he almost did. Then, as he very slowly tried to bend his knees, he realized that if he tried to get back to the ground on his own, his legs were going to give out underneath him. So, though he wasn’t sure that he’d actually be able to hold himself up if his legs did give out, he reached out to place a hand on her shoulder, and she held onto his arm as she helped him to sit back down.
He was disgruntled about needing help more than anything. He didn’t like asking for help in any circumstances. He especially didn’t like asking for help in front of Naruto, and so he’d made a point to never do it, as the blonde would surely never let him hear the end of it. Though, considering the current circumstances, he supposed it was possible that Naruto would let him live this one down.
“Tazuna-san,” Shiranai spoke up again after probably fifteen minutes of silence stretched over them. The older man, who had been staring at the ground, the railings, the construction material, and various other things that weren’t piles of bodies, with his hand over his mouth and his face a little green. At that moment, he looked up carefully, and Sasuke could see how he was purposely avoiding looking towards the bloodbath on the end of the bridge.
“Could you find something that could be used as a stretcher to get Kakashi-kun back into town?” The green-eyed woman requested, glancing over at him with a gentle look in her eyes. The light that had been enveloping her hands slowly faded away, and she placed her hands in her lap and straightened her posture.
“Y-yea, yea, no problem.” Tazuna-san said after a beat, looking like he was more than happy to get away from the area. Sasuke didn’t blame him.
“Naruto, would you be able to henge into someone of an appropriate height so you can help Tazuna-san carry him?” The woman requested of the blonde. “Do you have enough chakra left for that?”
Naruto pulled his hand back from Shiranai’s shoulder, offering up a strained grin, “Yea, no problem, Izumi-san. I’ve got tons of chakra left!” He didn’t sound like he was lying, just judging by the amount of energy he was exhibiting, but Sasuke knew his mind was probably still on the corpses laying not even a hundred yards from them. Naruto had never been exposed to that much death. Sasuke had been exposed to way too much of it. Neither of them had really needed to see it.
Izumi is her name, apparently.
When did Naruto find out her name? I feel like I missed a lot of stuff.
Well, yea, we miss stuff all the time. How do you think Itachi managed to delude us into thinking he was-…
Don’t even start.
“Thank you, Naruto.” She replied, offering the blonde a warm smile. Naruto flushed a little, interlacing his fingers behind his head and grinning more genuinely. He was so uncool. “Sakura, Sasuke, why don’t you two walk back with Tazuna-san? I can stay here with Naruto and we’ll look after Kakashi-kun.”
Sasuke blinked. Admittedly, he was feeling much better now that he had sat down, but he didn’t really feel well enough for travel. He was going to have to do it eventually, but he really wanted to put it off for longer. He was still sick to his stomach, and his head had started pounding since he’d sat back down, and his eyes continued to ache. He felt shaky and weak, and his skin felt clammy and cold. He needed to get some sugar into his body. He knew he wouldn’t have been able to eat breakfast, but he was regretting not eating something. He was probably going to collapse on the way back to Tazuna-san’s.
No, we agreed on not fainting, remember?
Easier said than done.
He nodded mutely, unable to really refuse… Izumi’s idea. He was going to have to make the trip eventually, and his chances of fainting probably weren’t going to be any better whether he waited or not. Sakura was staring at him, frowning. He ignored her, pretending to the best of his ability that he would be fine, even though he absolutely wasn’t. He swallowed another ball of nausea down and, after a brief second in which he seriously considered telling Izumi that he’d rather wait a while longer before heading back, Sasuke stood up.
In retrospect, he probably should have just told the irou-nin that he didn’t feel well enough for travel yet. She probably would’ve given him another check up and perhaps thought of a way to get him safely back to Tazuna-san’s house without him having to do much walking.
And as the ground rushed up towards him, he faintly wondered if Izumi had been a mother. She certainly reminded him of his own.
Naruto’s head shot up off the table when he heard sounds of movement from down the hall, where Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei had been sleeping. After Sasuke had fainted, getting him back to the house had been a chore, and once they’d gotten him into a bed, he’d fallen dead asleep and hadn’t woken up since.
It had been several hours since they’d gotten back. Tsunami-san and Inari had gone out to get dinner fixings and some things for Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei, while Tazuna-san had been out working on the bridge with his re-recruited fellow workers. Naruto, Sakura-chan, and the relatively newly recovered Kaisuki had been waiting for one or the other of their injured and unwell teammates to wake up. It had been pretty dull thus far, but now Naruto had perked up at the sound of movement. If he had been a dog, his tail might’ve been wagging.
“What is it?” Kaisuki asked him curiously. “Does it sound like someone woke up?”
He nodded enthusiastically, “Yea. Someone’s moving around back there.”
Sakura-chan let out a relieved sigh, “Who do you think it is?”
Naruto shrugged, “I dunno.” He caught Kaisuki smiling and shaking her head beside him out of the corner of his eye.
“It’s probably Sasuke,” she said. “Kakashi-sensei wouldn’t be awake yet. He might sleep until tomorrow morning.”
The three of them waited with baited breath as the sound of slow, perhaps unsteady footsteps made their way down the hall. A moment later, one Uchiha Sasuke stepped around the corner into the room, digging the heel of one hand into his left eye and bracing himself against the wall with the other. He looked awful. Naruto had thought he’d seen the Uchiha look pretty gnarly before, but this moment took the cake. His face was ashen and clammy looking, and there was a slight tremor running through his whole body. He looked like he would fall over at any given moment.
As if he were clairvoyant, Sasuke’s knees chose that moment to buckle and the Uchiha lurched forward. For once, Naruto beat Sakura-chan and Kaisuki to the jump, lunging forward and catching the Uchiha before he hit the ground. Sakura-chan was beside him in an instant, grabbing one of Sasuke’s arms while Naruto got a better grip on the other, and they guided him into a chair. He was shaking all over, even with them holding him up, supporting pretty much all of his weight.
Kaisuki appeared, gently pushing past Sakura-chan once they had gotten the black-haired boy secured in a chair, and cupped Sasuke’s cheeks so she could tilt his head back. He looked exhausted.
“Sasuke, can you tell me what’s wrong?” She asked, speaking slowly and clearly. The Uchiha swallowed, shivering violently.
“H-haven’t… eaten…” he replied, his voice hoarse and barely above a whisper. There was a brief pause as the information sunk in. Sasuke had been the first one awake that morning. He’d been up before even Kakashi-sensei, who generally rose at all kinds of ridiculous hours of the morning. They’d all assumed that he’d eaten while they’d been sleeping, especially since he hadn’t eaten much the night before, and he hadn’t mentioned at any point in time that he was hungry. And then, of course, they’d engaged in battle for nearly an hour, Sasuke had been beaten pretty badly, and then he’d fainted and slept for another four hours.
It was going on six in the evening and Sasuke had burned through probably twice as many calories as he’d had available for burning.
“Hold him upright,” Kaisuki said hastily, stepping away from Sasuke. Naruto squeezed Sasuke’s shoulder as he listed forward a little. He watched his best friend as she ransacked the cupboards, looking for something. “A-ha!”
A moment later, she had found a spoon and returned to Sasuke’s side. She opened the metal container she’d pulled out of the cabinet and dug the spoon into it, and only then did Naruto realize that it was sugar. She was giving him a spoonful of sugar. It made sense, considering the circumstances, and he probably would’ve been happy to eat it himself, but Sasuke hated sweets. He would probably hold a grudge for that later, if he didn’t fight her about it now.
“Sasuke, hey,” she called, grabbing his chin and tilting his head back. “I know you hate sweet stuff, but I need you to eat this. It’s just sugar. It’ll get your blood sugar up enough so you can function. Don’t you dare throw up on me.”
Sasuke made a thin sound of protest, but he opened his mouth anyway. Kaisuki dumped the spoon into his mouth, and he gagged, but worked his jaw until he could swallow it. Naruto had no idea what the guy’s aversion to sweets was. He didn’t know how anyone could honestly not like candy.
Four mouthfuls of sugar later, Kaisuki let go of Sasuke’s chin and Naruto helped him to lean back in the chair more comfortably. Sakura-chan stood on the Uchiha’s other side, biting her thumb nail and observing worriedly. She looked like she felt helpless, and Naruto couldn’t blame her. All he was doing was keeping Sasuke from tipping over in his chair and hitting the floor. Kaisuki was probably receiving instruction from Izumi-san, and there wasn’t really anything else to do.
Over the course of another fifteen to twenty minutes, Kaisuki passed the time by forcing more sugar down Sasuke’s throat.. His skin was still clammy, and he was still shaking pretty bad, but he was steadily regaining more of his consciousness. That was certainly a relief.
“You can let go now,” Sasuke grumbled around the half hour mark. Naruto tilted himself to the side so he could see the Uchiha’s face. He was met with a sour glare. He returned to his normal upright position and released Sasuke’s shoulder.
“No need to be a dick.” Naruto grunted at him halfheartedly. “Did just save your stupid life.”
Sasuke threw him another nasty glare, but it wasn’t nearly as effective when he looked as terrible as he did. Naruto rolled his eyes dramatically, but his heart wasn’t really in it. He’d had too many close calls regarding Sasuke’s wellbeing lately, and he didn’t really want there to be any more of them.
“Why didn’t you eat this morning?” Sakura-chan spoke up after a brief pause, sounding a little high strung and a lot upset with the Uchiha. Kaisuki had already busied herself in the kitchen, slamming things around as she furiously made a snack for their idiotic teammate.
Sasuke looked over at her, and Naruto saw him hesitate. He saw him divert his gaze elsewhere, and judging by the look on Sakura-chan’s face, she noticed it as well. Sasuke was hiding something. He was doing a terrible job of it, too.
“I wasn’t hungry.” He muttered. “I didn’t exactly expect to be engaged in a life or death battle this afternoon.”
He saw Kaisuki whirl around with a large knife in her hands, and his face drained of color. She was livid and she had a large, sharp object in her hand. Naruto didn’t really think she’d hurl it at Sasuke’s head, but the knowledge didn’t comfort him. Kaisuki did rash things when she was truly infuriated, and if her flashing eyes were any indication, she was really mad.
“Are you an idiot?” She snapped, gesturing towards the Uchiha with the knife. Her voice was beginning to rise. Naruto was glad the kind people who lived in this house weren’t home. “What kind of shinobi are you, that you don’t have the common sense to eat before conducting your tasks as a ninja when you know you’re on a dangerous mission and could end up in a ‘life or death battle’ at any given moment!?”
Sasuke, for once, didn’t quite seem to have an arsenal of retorts at his disposal. He froze for a good two seconds, looking like he wanted to bolt from the room, before anger overtook his expression and he snarled at her, “It’s really none of your damn business what I do or don’t do!”
“That is so far from my point-…!”
“Guys-…” Sakura tried to intervene, but she was shouted down immediately by the growing volume of Sasuke and Kaisuki’s fighting. Naruto watched the back and forth, unsure of what to do. He didn’t really think he’d be able to persuade them to stop hollering at each other. As long as they didn’t get violent, he supposed it wasn’t really a big deal, but they were supposed to be a team. Sasuke and Kaisuki didn’t fight much, but when they did, it was catastrophic. Kaisuki had told him that, in the past, Sasuke and her fighting had seemingly led to Saeka attacking the Uchiha and putting him in the hospital more than once. Whether the fighting had actually influenced Saeka’s decision to go on the offense or not was unclear, but if it happened now…
Naruto didn’t think he would be able to successfully stand between Saeka and Sasuke. He doubted he’d get killed or even injured, but it would be no difficult feat for Saeka to dodge around him and slash open Sasuke’s throat.
“… That has nothing to do with this!” Sasuke shouted, slamming his fist on the table and standing up. Sakura-chan jerked forward a little as if she expected the Uchiha to fall over, but he didn’t. He stayed standing up, and as time progressed, he was looking better and better. That was good, Naruto supposed.
On the other hand, Sakura-chan was looking like she was about to start crying at any moment. He could see that her eyes were starting to water as she tried to get a word in edgewise, but neither of their two fighting teammates were paying any attention. Naruto swallowed hard, summoning forth his courage. He was probably going to get lynched for this, and he might end up making Sasuke yell at him, but Kaisuki would stop when she realized that Sakura-chan was about to cry. She would be willing to drop it, even if the Uchiha pursued it.
“It has plenty to do with this!” Kaisuki shrieked, white-knuckling the knife in her hand. Her jaw was so tight, Naruto was sure she was going to end up breaking her teeth. He took a step forward, lifting his hands in peace, and opening his mouth, but before he could speak, Sasuke snarled with a voice so hateful, so enraged, it made him stop in his tracks, it made his voice die in his throat, and it made his stomach twist into a horrified knot.
“Why do you even care!? We’re not friends anymore, you freak!!” Sasuke snarled at the top of his lungs, his hands clenched into shaking fists, his eyes full of nothing but hate. Naruto stared at his teammate, his lips parted in shock at the language Sasuke had chosen to express himself with. He couldn’t actually believe that he had just said that. Naruto literally could not believe it.
Kaisuki froze, the anger melting off her face momentarily. Then, with a kick to Naruto’s already knotted stomach, her eyes flashed hot pink, and then back to red. Sasuke seemed to be so blinded with rage, and it had happened so fast, the Uchiha didn’t appear to notice it. If he had, he probably would’ve flinched back and lost all his anger in a heartbeat.
Kaisuki’s bright red eyes welled up with frustrated tears, and she abruptly turned on her heel and stormed towards the door. Sasuke glared what looked like all the hate in his being into her back, and Sakura-chan opened her mouth to say something, probably to call Kaisuki back, but before she could get out their red-eyed teammate’s name, she turned on the ball of her foot with suddenness that made them all jump and hurled the knife she’d been holding at Sasuke.
The Uchiha didn’t even have time to dodge it. The knife embedded itself in the wall behind him, and his eyes widened in shock and then fear when he saw that Kaisuki’s eyes had turned pink and they weren’t switching back. Saeka glared murderously at Sasuke, an expression Naruto had never seen until that moment. He supposed if a girl like Saeka looked at him like that, he’d probably also be terrified of her.
“You’re not even worth that much,” Saeka spat venomously. “Weakling.”
Without another word, she stalked out of the house, slamming the door behind her with such force, the windows rattled. Naruto swallowed hard, staring after her. He looked over at Sasuke, whose face was white as a sheet of paper, his shoulders shaking. He’d probably been expecting to be killed. Naruto then looked over at Sakura-chan, who met his gaze with her tearful green eyes. He wanted to stay and offer her words of support, but he couldn’t leave Kaisuki and Saeka in their current, evidently shared mood. If Saeka couldn’t be calmed down quickly, and if Naruto didn’t find something to say to her that would persuade her to do otherwise, she may very well return later that night and rip Sasuke apart in his sleep.
“Sakura-chan,” he said quickly, heading for the door. He hoped he was effectively indicating the urgency of the situation. “I have to go after her. Make sure he eats something.” He added, brandishing a finger at Sasuke as he fell back into his seat shakily.
She stared at him in confusion, but then her eyes widened. She sniffled, wiping her eyes, and nodded. He shot her a thankful grin and tore out of the house after Kaisuki and Saeka. He didn’t have a lot of ideas as to where they may have gone, and while someone who had only been missing for thirty seconds might normally be quite easy to find, Naruto knew better. According to Kaisuki, Saeka had speed rivaled by none. At least, none that they knew of. The girl was frighteningly fast, and so really, for all Naruto knew, she could be on the other side of the island.
“I bet I know where she is.”
He came to a screeching halt in the middle of a crossroad. Naruto paused for a moment, clenching his fists several times. He knew that voice, now. He’d heard it before, and he’d never really known whether it was coming from himself or from another source. It spoke up so rarely, he often forgot that it could speak up.
“Alright, you shitty fox,” he snapped at the Kyuubi. “Where is she?”
“I ought to not tell you if you’re going to be a nasty little brat.”
Naruto wanted very badly to groan and perhaps yell loudly in irritation, but he was standing out in the middle of the street, and he didn’t really want the locals to think he was insane. So he clamped down on himself and let out a heavy, irate sigh instead.
“Okay, fine. Will you tell me where she is?”
“You forgot ‘please.’”
He could’ve screamed. “Please.”
He heard the demon fox sealed within him snicker, and he rolled his eyes at the cloudy night sky. “The unfinished end of the bridge. Where that lovely bloodbath was.”
Why on earth would she…? Deciding not to question it, as he didn’t really have any other leads, Naruto took off at a sprint. He raced through town, dodging around the few people who were outdoors. It looked like it would rain, and so most of the citizens of the small town had returned to their homes for the night. At one point, he thought he heard someone call his name, and it might’ve been Tazuna-san or Tsunami-san or Inari, but he couldn’t afford to stop, so he didn’t. If Saeka got too much headway on him, he’d never catch up to her.
He arrived at the bridge, and already his stomach was knotting with the memory of the scene he’d woken up to earlier that day. It was already dark out, so there weren’t any people around working on the bridge anymore.
Keeping his eyes peeled for signs of movement, Naruto walked down the bridge. He didn’t try to conceal himself, as he knew that Saeka was rather paranoid and didn’t react well when people snuck up on her – even though sneaking up on a sensory-type like her was pretty much impossible. She would still react violently if she knew he was trying to hide from her.
He saw the silhouette of a figure standing at the very edge of the bridge, between the last of the lanterns that lined the sides of the bridge, beyond the stains of red that still marred the cement. It would likely come out with a few rainfalls, and the blood and bodies had been long since cleaned up, but it was still unnerving to walk where he knew several battered, bloody corpses had been just earlier that day.
He started walking a little faster, and was about to call out to the girl he thought was Saeka when he realized with a lot of disappointment that it was neither Saeka nor Kaisuki. From his earlier distance, he could’ve mistaken them, but upon getting a bit closer, he could easily see that he’d been far from correct. A woman with ridiculously long hair stood at the end of the bridge, and as he stopped walking, she turned around to face him. She looked at him for a long, long moment, before sweeping her bangs out of her eyes and cocking an eyebrow at him.
“Yes?” She asked, her voice a little deep for a woman’s. Naruto blinked, before realizing he probably looked like he’d just received the worst news of his lifetime.
“O-oh, uh… sorry…” He stammered, unsure of what to say. “I’m… I’m uh… looking for someone. Yea, yea, I’m looking for someone,” he said hastily, realizing what he wanted to say as he was saying it. “She has black hair, she wears a purple scarf around her waist and she’s got bright red eyes. Have you… have you seen anyone like that around here, by any chance? Her eyes… might also be pink, if you’ve seen someone… like… that…” He trailed off into silence as he took in the look on the woman’s face.
She had been paying close attention to what he said, but her expression was mostly blank. His heart sank, and he spoke again, “I-I’m sorry to disturb you. I’ll-…”
“There was a girl like that who ran past the bridge as I was turning onto it,” she said calmly. “She looked like the person you’re describing.”
Naruto’s face lit up like the lights at a festival. “Do you remember which way was she going?” He asked hastily. The woman pointed to her left – the direction opposite of Tazuna-san’s house. That didn’t narrow things down very much, but he could track her if he could find more people who had seen her.
“Th-thanks, miss!” He said, waving as he turned around and took off again. She didn’t say anything further, and he didn’t bother to look back at her. He’d probably never see her again anyway.
It was absurdly late when Naruto finally got home, and he was exhausted. He’d been running around for a few hours, and he hadn’t been able to find Kaisuki. Defeated and yet hoping that maybe she had returned to Tazuna-san’s house, he slowly trekked back. He stepped up to the door, sliding the spare key out from under the mat and silently letting himself in.
He wanted to cry. He hadn’t been able to find Kaisuki anywhere, he was cold, he was soaking wet because it had started raining two hours ago (though it had long since stopped) and he’d refused to give in, and he was starving. He walked in, turning on the light over the sink and turning towards the table to see if anyone had left him dinner.
He froze, eyes widening.
Kaisuki was sitting at the table, her head buried in her arms, a plate heaped with food sitting across the table from her. Had she been waiting for him? He sort of felt bad for stubbornly refusing to return sooner. That feeling went away, however, when he recalled why he’d been out there in the first place.
He stepped over to her side, gently touching her shoulder. She flinched slightly, sniffling and lifting her head up off her arms. She raised a hand and rubbed her eyes, sniffling several more times before she looked up at him. Her eyes widened in surprise, and he was sure he looked sort of devastated.
She’d been crying. A lot. It looked like she was about to start crying again, in fact. Naruto sat down in the seat next to her, wondering just what he ought to say. She was far beyond the point of being cheered up, and he was generally terrible with people who were crying, no matter their gender, age, or anything, really. He was just too uncool and awkward about it.
“You’re all wet,” she mumbled. “You should shower. I’ll heat this up for-…”
Naruto cut her off, shaking his head. “It can wait. Are you okay?”
If he’d wanted her to stop crying, that had been the absolute wrong thing to say. Immediately, a fresh onslaught of tears came pouring down her cheeks. She buried her face into her hands, her shoulders trembling as she shook her head. Naruto wanted to hug her, to offer her that physical comfort, but he was soaked to the bone, and he didn’t think they both needed to be wet. Instead, he reached out with one hand and petted her head. It was something her mother used to do for her, and it was a habit Naruto had adopted to comfort her when she was upset.
He remained quiet and patient as she cried, waiting for her to calm down some so she could speak. He knew better than to try and rush her to the finish line. He’d learned that several years ago, after she’d refused to talk to him for two days because he’d really upset her. Luckily for him, Kaisuki was terrible at holding grudges.
Eventually, she calmed down some, lifting her head up and brushing her hair out of her watering eyes. Her eyes were all puffy and bloodshot, and her nose was tinted pink. She sniffled again, wiping her eyes on her one sleeve, and wrapped her arms around her waist.
“I knew… w-we weren’t friends,” she mumbled softly, her voice cracking on a sob that she bit back. Naruto’s heart ached. He had already known more or less what she was going to say. “I just… I dunno. I thought… maybe something changed, since, y’know… He’s talking to us again.”
Naruto didn’t really have anything to tell her. He didn’t have anything helpful to say aside from, ‘well, it’s Sasuke. He’s a dick.’ And that really wasn’t helpful in this situation. He nodded silently, having absolutely no clue what to say. He’d talked with her after many of her fights with Sasuke in the past, but this… wasn’t like those times. Those times, they had still been friends, however strained. They had still been close, however tense. This time, Sasuke had said something truly awful, and he had meant it.
Naruto sort of wanted to kill him.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his voice soft. “I… don’t know what to say, Kaisuki. I mean, you gotta understand… Sasuke’s a lot meaner now than he was four years ago. I dunno what changed, really, but I don’t think it was your fault, and… I don’t know how much he means what he says. He’s said some pretty terrible stuff to me before, but I usually just tell him to go fuck himself. This is… obviously, different, and I don’t know if he meant what he said, but… well, actions speak louder than words, right?” He said, offering her a small, sad smile. She wasn’t looking at him, in favor of staring at her hands as they sat in her lap. “I try not to listen to anything he says, since he says he hates me all the time, but he saves my ass a lot, too.”
Kaisuki looked up at him, and he met her gaze evenly. Slowly, she nodded. She didn’t look like she believed him entirely, but he didn’t really blame her. Sasuke hadn’t been speaking to any of them until about six or seven days ago, so for the past five months she hadn’t gotten an opportunity to see how the two of them normally treated each other. At the same time, though, she looked like she would be willing to take his word for it, at least for now.
“I guess,” she finally muttered. There was a pause, and for a moment he thought she was going to start crying again, but she cleared her throat and wiped her eyes and looked up at him. “Go shower. You’re gonna catch a cold right before we head back. I’ll heat up your dinner.”
“Did you eat?” He asked as he obediently got up. She gave him a look, and he just smiled at her and winked. She chuckled, shaking her head and sniffling a little as she stood up and reached across the table to grab the plate.
“Go shower, you dork.” She said with a sincere smile. The immediate crisis had been averted (though he couldn’t tell if there had actually been one or not), and Kaisuki’s spirits seemed to have been at least somewhat lifted. No one had gotten injured, and Saeka had managed to keep her temper in check, despite how badly he knew she’d wanted to slaughter Sasuke on the spot.
Another win for Uzumaki Naruto, he thought with a sigh as he walked down the hall to the bathroom. With any luck, his future wins would be more about fighting and beating enemies and less about repairing broken relationships between his teammates. He really wasn’t suited for the latter.