03 – Amethyst


Sakura did most of the talking.


Somehow she ended up taking up residence on Sasuke’s bed, legs drawn up to her chest with arms wrapped around them. Every now and then her toes would wiggle within pink-colored socks as she rocked her body gently. The wool hat was finally off her head revealing more of the soft shoulder-length pink tresses that would never grow another inch for the rest of her immortal life. Her eyes seemed to light up with an inner glow whenever she spoke about something particularly exciting; not that her teammates could understand why. She was only explaining to Sasuke the basic job of S.W.A.T. which made Naruto’s head nod every now and then in an effort not to fall asleep with boredom.


Sasuke, for his part, was riveted with all the new information he was absorbing like a sponge. He sat with his arms crossed over the back of the office chair; gaze trained squarely on the girl who didn’t seem to shy away from his pestering questions. As Sakura began to lecture him on the different levels and branches of spirit warriors, Naruto finally interrupted curtly.


“Oh Christ! Are you seriously going to sit here all night talking about that, Sakura?” He arched his neck to look at Sasuke, who appeared upside to him since he was lying on the floor and resting upon his elbows. “Didn’t Kakashi tell you any of this stuff?”


Sasuke’s lips tightened; embarrassed to have to admit this. “We never really spoke much,” he finally confessed in a low mumble. “He’d only show up once in a while…or rather let me see him once in a while, but other than that he kept to himself and was content to protect me from afar.” He scratched absently at his upper arm, gaze lowered as he finished quietly. “Besides, he seemed more interested in my brother than me.”


Naruto and Sakura exchanged a quick glance before the blond sat up with a heavy sigh. He ran fingers through his hair restlessly and eyed the sword propped against the wall. Sasuke had finally cleaned the blade, and its dull gleam seemed just a tad bit more ominous than it ought to be. Next to it, Sai lay in silence; his gaze still trained on the television screen (a Chinese drama was now airing), though its volume was lowered, so he could still hear what was being said behind him.


“Damn Kakashi,” Naruto muttered irritably. “Bet he didn’t even teach you the basics.” He paused and then turned around to face Sakura and Sasuke. “But what about your brother?” he asked with a raised brow. “If I remember correctly, he was a fine spirit warrior. You’d think he’d teach you a few things here and there.”


Sasuke shook his head. “No. He never wanted me to be a part of it, so he deliberately kept me in the dark. From the moment I got the sharingan, he was eventually forced to tell me just what kind of side job he did. It all finally made sense why my brother was sometimes late in picking me up from school or whenever he went to buy groceries and it would take him forever to return.”


Sakura’s features fell in pity. Sasuke turned away from it, not sure if he appreciated that expression. He didn’t need anyone’s compassion, especially when he knew what price he and his family had to pay for being involved with this kind of business in the first place.


“That sword,” she finally asked quietly. “It belonged to him, didn’t it?”


“Yes. I saw him use it only once, and only because I ignored his orders to remain home while he went to fight.” His red-tinted eyes seemed to soften at the memory; a barely visible smile coming to his lips. “My brother looked so awesome then,” he continued in a whisper. “And I think a part of me decided that it would become a spirit warrior like him, even if I knew it was a dangerous job.”


He stopped abruptly as if checking himself before looking up to meet the curious green eyes (he still couldn’t get himself to look at Naruto for longer than a minute).


“What I don’t understand is why…how…” This time he did force himself to glance over at Naruto – who was trying to stifle yet another yawn – before turning to Sakura again. “You said something about different kind of spirit warriors. What did you mean by that?”


“Just like there are different kinds of humans with different talents and abilities, the same can be said for spirit warriors. There are those with enormous powers and those who are just good enough to fight your basic yōkai. However, not all spirit warriors are immortal. There are some mortals, though rare.”


“Why’s that?”


“Isn’t it obvious?” Sakura asked kindly. “It’s the reason your entire family no longer exists.”


“They were too stubborn to want to become Immortals,” Naruto chimed in rudely. “How foolish.”


“Naruto!” Sakura cried out with widened eyes.


“It’s the truth though,” Naruto continued relentlessly; blue eyes flashing with a hard glint that was not lost on the teen clutching the back of the chair with slightly trembling fingers. “The Uchihas, through the ages, always thought they were better than everyone else just because they were among the founding spirit warrior clans. They believed that mortal warriors could and would be more efficient in the long run; hence banishing and considering us immortals as tainted beings. They even went as far as trying to eliminate us.”


Sasuke’s brows shot up at this causing Naruto to give a cruel smile. “Oh yes. There is a way to get rid of immortals, so don’t think we’re that safe from every damn thing. Either way. That mentality seemed to have passed down from generation to generation and thanks to that, other clans sought ways to harness the Uchihas abilities for themselves. If the blasted fools didn’t want to choose the path of living forever, why not just eliminate them and take those powers for themselves? Many pointless wars were started because of you people, and what have you got to show for it?”


“Naruto!” Sakura cried out in disbelief, but the blond was too far gone to be stopped, and she could only watch in dismay as potential teacher and student clashed in a silent battle of wills. Sasuke’s lips were thinned to the point of nearly disappearing; his eyes shining just a little too bright though he refused to back down from the colder look thrown at him.


“Where’s your brother buried?” Naruto asked suddenly.


“Naruto -”


“Where is he buried?” Naruto snapped impatiently.


“I don’t know! I don’t know, all right?!” Sasuke finally yelled out; knuckles turning white with the effort. His heart was a pounding drum in his chest. He felt he couldn’t breathe; every fiber in his being drawn taut as if ready to snap at just the littlest thing. Just what the hell was Naruto trying to pull here? Why the hell was he doing this? Why was he trying to make him remember one of the worst days of his life?


“Of course you don’t,” Naruto sneered. “Because he was damn smart enough to make sure his body was never found. Who needs to have their bodies chopped up into pieces just so their special powers could be sold to the highest bidder? That’s the kind of world we’re living in, Sasuke. Welcome to your new life.”


“That’s enough, Naruto!” Sakura hissed as she rose to her feet with a fist clenched; more than ready to drive it into the blond’s face. However, Naruto was already ahead of her. In a near graceful motion, he leapt to his feet as well and began to back away.


“I’m going to take a walk,” he announced flatly and left the apartment before anyone else could say another word.


“That asshole,” Sakura growled and stomped a foot in frustration. Sai got up and gave a slow nod to the couple.


“I’ll go talk to him,” he said quietly; leaving as well before he could be persuaded otherwise.


For a while, neither Sakura nor Sasuke said a word to each other; the magnitude of what had just transpired weighing heavily on them. She wished she could say something to ease the turmoil she could feel rolling off the lowered dark head before her, but what could she say really? For all his anger, Naruto really did have the right to –


“Why him?” came the low moan as if wrenched from the depths of his soul. “Why him of all people? He fucking hates me, and I’m supposed to learn anything from him?” He gave a low laugh of bitterness before looking up again. The red tint was now a little brighter. “I might as well go back to living the way I was. There’s no way we can work together.”


“He’s not usually like that,” Sakura said quickly with a weak smile. “It’s just…he’s been through a lot over the years…centuries if you want. Sometimes it can just all come to a head, you know?”


Sasuke sighed and lowered his head to the chair again. “If he hates it so much, then why did he become immortal? I don’t get it.”


Sakura bit her lower lip. “I can’t speak for him, but in my case…” She shivered and wrapped her arms around her waist; the memory of that miserable night filling her mind again. “…I was afraid,” she finished in a trembling whisper. “I was afraid of Death and I was given a choice, so I took it.”


She could still remember Tsunade-sama’s kind features – her savior - and she bit harder still.


“What happened to you?” Sasuke asked curiously. “How did you…die?”


She started as if goosed and looked up with haunted eyes.


“Die…how did I die?” she spoke haltingly as if Sasuke was no longer in the room with her, and indeed the room itself seemed to dissolve and she was back in that claustrophobic yet lavish boudoir. Layers of the finest silk and lace were wrapped around her young body, which in a few hours would be tainted with the hands of the feudal lord who purchased her for quite a large sum of money.


The flickering flames within traditional lamps cast golden hues upon her creamy flesh, and despite the warm night, she shivered and hugged herself tightly. She could hear the loud laughter and conversations below; where the wedding party was still wrapping up for the night. She longed to throw herself out the window; recalling the heavy, drunken breath of her new husband as he proclaimed to the world that he had bought his bride for a pretty sum. How they had laughed and praised him for being so daring; for having the guts to purchase a geisha-in-training who would never know freedom again.


With a harsh sob, she rose to her feet; nearly tripping over the yards of fine cloth to dash toward the balcony. She would do it this time. She would climb the narrow railing and fling herself to the ground as hard as she could. She would be nothing more than splattered brains and broken bones in just a few moments. Yes. Let him marry that then. Let him have fun sticking his fat, ugly penis into the vagina of a dead woman.




“Oh God,” she choked out when the wooden railing wobbled as she tried to step on it. Fear seized her in a vice grip and she backed away until she was sobbing into her arms on the floor.


Coward, her mind roared. You’re nothing but a coward, Sakura! Why don’t you just do it? End it now! Save yourself from the horrors of what awaits you! He’ll be here in a few minutes and then it’s all over. You know it’s going to be all over!


“Okay,” she panted breathlessly and tried to rise to her feet again. “Okay…this time…this time, I’ll…”


She gave a little cry as she heard the unmistakable footsteps outside the door. Panic filling her insides, she dove for the nearest object; not really thinking of what she was planning to do with it. It turned out to be a pair of golden scissors (just one of many bridal gifts showered upon her), and as the screen door opened, it was to reveal the weathered yet stern face of her mother-in-law.


“Just what do you think you’re doing, you insolent child?” came the harsh words. “Put that scissors down and look presentable, for God’s sake!”


“Don’t come any closer!” Sakura screamed; eyes wide with fear and a look that was borderline psychotic. So much so her usual stoic mother-in-law actually took a step back in concern. “I’ll stab myself if you do!”


“The nerve!  You’ve obviously had too much wine to drink this evening. Give me those scissors right now…what on earth are you doing?!”


“Gaining my freedom!” Sakura shrieked hysterically. She had yanked handfuls of her thick long hair to begin snipping away unevenly…the tresses falling around her like gossamer pink clouds. “Don’t come near me! I warn you!”


“You’ve lost your mind!” the older woman cried out. “Come back here and let’s be reasonable. You’re clearly distraught.”

She laughed out loud, snipping away faster and faster; fingers running through hair that no longer burdened her. Her feudal lord of a husband had worshipped the unique nature of it, but not anymore. He’d just have to deal with having a wife with an unpolished coif from now on.


“I’ve always hated my hair long, did you know that?” she was still shrieking, unaware she was walking backwards as she did this and leaving a trail of her hair before her. “I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! I hate him!”


As if on cue, the screen door opened again, and this time it was to reveal the red-faced pudgy visage of her portly husband. He took one look at the scene and bellowed in disbelief.


“Just what do you think you’re doing?! Come back here, you wench! I’ll teach you ways to disobey your husband!”


But she shook her head violently, muttering words that sounded eerily like ‘no more, no more, no more, never again’. She hardly felt herself climbing the very railing she had balked from earlier. All she could see were the now panicked (though angry) faces of her husband and his mother (and behind them more guests from the party showing up to see what the commotion was all about).


She stood, albeit shakily on the narrow wooden ledge, and spread her arms out.


Ah, how wonderful the night breeze was upon her heated flesh. How weightless she felt despite the clothes whipping around her gently. She closed her eyes and decided to no longer think. This was going to be the end. She had been an embarrassment to her parents from the day she was born; her ‘odd’ way of being such a bookworm, always talking about seeing strange creatures that no one else could see, how they had sent her away because they were afraid of her ‘abilities’, and now…the ultimate humiliation. She would be free from all of that now. In Death, they could no longer reach her.




She had no idea who screamed, but the fall itself was nothing as dramatic as she had envisioned. The pain, however, was a whole other matter. Her skull must have shattered to bits because the world had somehow taken on a disjointed look –


(azure skies)


…and her mouth tasted really funny, sticky, and wet.


She could vaguely hear voices; voices she was all too familiar with and she wondered if she really was dead at all. She hated to think she had even failed at something as simple as falling off a building, for the idea of spending the rest of her life in a hospital or being treated like a vegetable was more than she could bear. She tried to speak as she felt a shadow over her. She couldn’t see this person (or persons) and yet she was damn sure her eyes were open.


“…call the ambulance!”

“…cannot believe she did that…”

“…she’s always been a strange one…”

“…she’s not dead yet…still breathing…someone hurry…”


So I’m really alive after all, she thought sadly, yet almost ashamed that a small piece of her was glad for it. God, how weak she was to be afraid of finally going to the other side. Maybe she did deserve to be a trophy wife for the rest of her life.


“Not very fun to think about, is it?” came the quiet and very clear voice right next to her ear.


She tried to turn her head to face the person; but she needn’t have for its owner leaned over her. Wise, beautiful brown eyes bored into her fading ones, and a hand reached out to caress her forehead tenderly.


Who are you? Sakura asked, sure that she was not actually speaking out loud and yet the woman, with the very big bosom and weird marking on her forehead, smiled in understanding.


“It doesn’t matter who I am now, Haruno Sakura. The question is…do you want to be saved from this Hell that is your life? What if I offered you a chance to be anyone you wanted while living forever?”


A vampire? You want me to become a creature of the night?


“Far from it, my dear child. I’ve been watching you since you were born. You have a special gift that would make you very indispensable to us. Come with me, and I will teach you all that you could ever know and so much more, but you must make your decision quickly. Your human counterparts are about to take you away.”


“And so I did,” Sakura finished quietly. She was back on Sasuke’s bed, though lying on her back with her gaze trained blindly to the plain white ceiling. “I still don’t know how or what she did to me, but the next thing I knew…I was wide awake in her home; not a blemish or wound on me. I won’t lie and say it didn’t feel strange the first few weeks or so, but eventually, you get used to it.” She lifted her arm and splayed out as fingers as if examining them for the first time. “The only downside is that the way you die is the way you remain.” She caressed tendrils of her hair and rubbed them between her fingers. “It’s like your real self remains suspended in time, so you look and sometimes remain eighteen in physical appearance, but your mind ages with every year that ticks away.”


“…but you’re almost like vampires,” Sasuke remarked quietly. “And here I thought those things were just figments of someone’s overactive imaginations.”


“We don’t drink blood,” Sakura explained with a soft smile. “We eat and sleep and breathe just like you. The only difference is that we are…well…immortal for the most part and have really strong spiritual powers. Mortal spirit warriors can be strong, but it’s limited – which is why your brother…”


She stopped and cleared her throat. “I guess why Naruto was so upset is because Itachi had the choice to become Immortal, and he refused. Just think of how powerful he would have become then; your power is ten times…no a hundred times more potent in that state. We could have used someone like him at S.W.A.T. but no matter how many times he was courted…he was adamant on remaining close to you. I guess I could understand his reasoning for that. He loved you very much.”


Sasuke made a low sound of derision and looked away; though his cheeks were tinted with color at Sakura’s deduction. Either way, it still didn’t explain a lot of things, and though he had to wonder why a part of him felt a little ache at asking this, it was just the way Naruto had acted toward the whole situation in the first place. Sakura’s words weren’t helping either.


“Did…” He cleared his throat and tried again. “Were they close? My brother and Naruto?”


Sakura shrugged lightly. “I don’t know. I know he and Kakashi were, but Naruto was often a loner, and if he made friends with anyone, they were rare.” She smiled sadly. “After you watch a lot of your mortal friends grow old and die, you tend to want to keep your distance and not get too attached.”


“I see…” He captured his lower lip between his teeth. “So it really was him back then.”


“Back then?”


Sasuke shook his head lightly. “Something that happened to me…and my brother a long time ago. I just remember a fire and my brother not being able to reach me and then someone coming in to rescue me from the flames. It was probably Naruto…or maybe someone that looked like him.”


Sakura smiled softly. “I wouldn’t doubt it. Naruto does have a kind heart; maybe too kind sometimes. He’s just had a very rough time of it the last few years, so please bear with him. I’m sure he’ll come around eventually.”


“I’m not holding my breath.”


She laughed and rose to her feet. “I’ll let you get some rest now. It’s been a long day for everyone and you’ve got school tomorrow, don’t you?”


Sasuke blinked hard. In all the excitement, he really had forgotten he had some homework to finish up. He glanced at the clock. It was almost one in the morning. Shit.


“Sorry,” Sakura winced in apology. “We’ll leave you now. I’ll set up a barrier using the barrier wands.”


“Barrier wands?”


“Uh huh.” She reached for her bag to dig through it, removing a pack of what looked like bronze bamboo sticks. She took two out and wrapped her hands around them tightly for a few seconds before removing them to release a flickering green flame that gave off no smoke. “Come…I’ll show you how it’s done, so you can do it yourself from now on. Barrier wands are effective for short-term use or for those who cannot sustain concentration for too long. They aren’t as powerful though, so extremely strong yōkai have the potential of breaking through. However, these should be fine for now, but if you have any problems, I’ll leave our cell phone numbers for you to reach us.”


She led him outside the apartment, where the entire building was much quieter as most of its occupants were fast asleep. Sasuke watched as she stuck the wands into the walls on either side of his door and stepped back with a nod of accomplishment.


“There. Don’t worry about anyone seeing them…and by that I mean other humans. The barrier is invisible and so are the wands. If you want to extinguish the flames, just cover them like this…don’t worry, they won’t burn you…and try to channel your chakra into them…remember to will the energy surge to be cool. I know you Uchihas have an affinity for fire, so this could take a little practice. Here…give it a try.”


Sasuke did as told, although slightly nervous as his fingertips hovered over the flames, but true to her word; they did not burn at all. It almost felt like moving your fingers through something feather-like. Taking a deep breath, he wrapped his entire hand around each wand; closing his eyes and feeling the flames tickle his palm as he concentrated.


Uchihas have an affinity for fire, eh? No kidding. He could already feel the bubbling heat forming in the pit of his stomach, and he had to grit his teeth in an effort to let his mind conjure up the chakra needed. He tried to think of the coldest things possible. Ice cream. Ice blocks. Snow…


(the eyes of a certain angry blond)


“Oooh…you’re doing great,” Sakura praised in delight. “Looks like they’re almost gone…oops…back up again.”


“Fuck,” he cursed as he lifted his lashes and eyed the flames that were now brighter than ever. “Almost had it.”


“It’s all right. Just keep practicing, and you’ll get the hang of it. You need to get some sleep though. I can’t be held responsible for you being late to school.”


Sasuke gave a wan smile and released the wands. He accepted the pack she gave him and mentally vowed to practice sometime in school tomorrow when no one else was watching obviously.


“Thank you,” he mumbled self-consciously just as she was about to leave. He hated to admit that it already felt empty and lonely without the trio to keep him company.  “I…uh…really appreciate it…all of you…including him.” He resisted the urge to roll his eyes.


Sakura grinned. “It’s our pleasure. You can trust us, all right? Goodnight!” She spun on her heels to walk away, but stopped to look over her shoulder with a mischievous glint in her eye. “Oh, and I hope you don’t mind, but I borrowed a couple of your BL novels. I’m especially loving the one called “Pool Boys”. I’ll return them soon. I promise!”


Sasuke sputtered and turned a lovely shade of red in an effort to try explaining just why he had such a collection in the first place. Unfortunately, Sakura was already laughing and skipping away.


(ah what the hell. Let them think whatever they like)

Her lingering smell of sakura petals (and roses), would remain with him long after she was no longer visible to the naked eye. He wondered if it was the same scent she always had from the day she fell off that building over a hundred years ago, though – as he prepared for bed – he found himself thinking about Naruto and Sai’s deaths as well.


Who made them immortal, and had it been their choice to be so?


He seriously doubted Naruto would ever tell him such a story considering how shaky their relationship was. They would have to learn how to get along with each other in the first place, and that – Sasuke thought with a heavy sensation in his heart – was a miracle that might never come to pass.




Sai found him on the rooftop with his gaze trained on the opposite buildings and a frown on his visage.


“We had company,” he said without looking around to acknowledge Sai’s presence.


“I felt it too,” came the quiet reply. “Who do you think they were?”


“Only one way to find out.”


He took a deep breath began to run; legs pumping at a steady pace until they became nothing more than a blur. And just when one thought he was going to run right off the roof and to his death several stories below, he leapt in a most spectacular fashion; allowing the familiar rush of defying gravity to fill his lungs until it could expand no more. He resisted the urge to ‘whoop!’ in delight, and settled for a small smile instead. It felt good to beat against the wind like this; to feel it try to keep you back as you burst through the invisible barrier set against you. It seemed to scream that it was unnatural for anyone to be able to jump such long distances (like you were flying for fuck’s sake!), but Naruto had come to realize that no matter how many times he did it, the thrill was like a shot of adrenaline to the system. He loved it, and besides, it was as good excuse as any to take his mind off what had just happened in Sasuke’s apartment.


Damn if that kid looking at him with such anguish hadn’t struck a nerve, much to his chagrin.


He landed lithely onto the rooftop where Neji and Hinata had stood earlier. He barely heard Sai appear beside him, only instead of leaping, the guy had drawn himself a pair of wings on each shoe.


“Surprised you didn’t go for a flying car,” Naruto teased as he fell to his haunches to investigate further.


“Thanks for the tip,” Sai replied with a smile. “Maybe next time.”


He stooped beside Naruto and ran his fingers across the stone surface. “Spirit warriors…and not your average kind either.”


Naruto was nodding; the frown back on his visage. “I think I’ve felt this presence before, and if it’s who I think it is…damn.”


Sai watched him carefully. “Who?”


Naruto rose to his feet and paced to the ledge. “What clans have authority over this section of the city?”


Sai dug out his notepad of endless information (apparently), and raised his brow. “Nara, Akimichi, and Yamanaka.”


“Couldn’t be any of those three,” Naruto deduced as he spied something glowing dully beneath a water pipe. He reached out to pick it.


“What’s that?” Sai asked as Naruto stood to hold a tiny broken piece from what must have been black quartz.


“Morion,” Naruto murmured. “Members of the Hyūga clan tend to wear a ring around their index finger. That ring is made of black quartz or morion. It’s the only mineral that can neutralize their powers when not in battle. Someone was careless.”


“The Hyūga?” Sai looked incredulous. “They are daring to encroach on another’s territory already? I’m surprised the clans here haven’t shown up yet.”


Naruto smirked, for as if on cue, he heard the unmistakable sounds of three spirit warriors arriving right behind them.


“Looks like they noticed too,” Naruto remarked before turning around to face the motley crew. He nodded at the leader; a man about his age whose features looked like he would rather be anywhere but here. His black hair was tied in a ponytail above his head, the diamond studs in his ears gleaming beneath the pale moonlight. A lit cigarette dangled from the corner of his lips, and he took a quick drag before crushing it beneath a leather boot.


“Naruto,” he greeted calmly.


“’Sup, Shika,” Naruto greeted jovially.


“Don’t ‘sup me,” Nara Shikamaru – for that was his full name – replied with a light snort and shake of his head. “Didn’t think you’d ever come out of your retirement.”


“I got the itch again,” Naruto replied with a snicker. “What can I say?”


“I thought you were suspended,” the lone female in the group remarked coldly. Her waist-length blond hair seemed to shimmer with every gentle gust of wind; teal-colored eyes filled with intelligence yet boredom most pretty girls like her tended to have. She was dressed in a pair of skin tight black shorts and matching tank top revealing her toned arms, abs, and legs – despite the cold weather. Apparently, she wasn’t shy about her physique.


“You wish I was suspended, Ino,” Naruto greeted with a deliberate examination of her body from head to toe. Her blush and huff before looking away had him grinning again. He nodded at the final member, who was busy digging through a bag he had draped around his shoulder to pull out a chocolate bar. His heavy-set figure betrayed just how good a spirit warrior he was. His long red hair fell to his waist, and as he just about swallowed the entire candy, his cheeks puffed out with relish at his dessert.


“Hi, Naruto,” came the garbled yet cheerful greeting. “Long time no see.”


“Nice to see you again, Chouji.” He stepped toward Sai. “You all know him, don’t you?”


The trio nodded, and Ino took a step toward the ledge, her gaze trained on Sasuke’s apartment. She must have seen something she didn’t like because her lips thinned in disapproval.


“They’re just talking,” Naruto explained with a roll of his eyes. “She’s not hitting on him. But damn, Ino. Isn’t he too young for you? You’re like a hundred and fifteen or something, aren’t you?”


“Shu…shut up!” she sputtered in embarrassment. “We’ve been watching him too, you know.”


“Which is why we’re here,” Shikamaru interrupted with a pointed look at Naruto. “We felt the presence of the Hyuga and came as fast as we could. Did you see them?”


“No.” The morion burned a hole in his pocket, but he refused to show it to them. “Sai and I just arrived a few moments ago.”


“We might have missed them by just a few minutes,” Chouji replied as he examined the surroundings with narrowed eyes.


“Damn.” Shikamaru frowned. He was still watching Naruto intently. “This is not good. You realize that, don’t you? With Sasuke’s powers becoming more evident, more rival clans are going to show up.”


“Then you handle them,” Naruto replied with a raised brow. “You let me do my job, and I’ll stay out of yours.”


“What do you mean?”


“I mean that Sasuke’s my problem, and I’ll be in charge of him as I was directed. I don’t need you three meddling in our affairs. Got it?”


“You have a nerve,” Ino began, but Naruto raised a hand to silence her with a finger outstretched, though his gaze was still fixed on Shikamaru.


“Not another word, Beautiful, or you’ll be wanting to claw out your tongue for a week.” He focused on Shikamaru again. “So? What say you? You let me, Sai and Sakura handle Sasuke, and you do the dirty work of keeping the enemies away…or maybe you three have plans to take him too? Never did trust your clans anyhow.” He gave a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.


“Don’t be silly,” came the calm reply. “If we were interested in him, we would have taken him months ago. We have no interest in the Uchiha. All we care about is keeping the peace in this city. We are not naïve enough to believe we won’t begin dealing with an influx of rivals. Just promise not to cause any unnecessary problems, Naruto. Your track record recently hasn’t exactly been…stellar.”


“Fuck you,” Naruto hissed.


Shikamaru smiled and reached out to place a hand upon the blond’s shoulder. “Easy now. We’re not your enemies…yet.”


Naruto shrugged off the friendly gesture and sneered in derision. “Stay out of our way. If I even get a whiff of you near him, I’ll kill you all. I swear it.”


For a moment, Shikamaru’s lips thinned in annoyance before he shrugged lightly. “Let’s go, Ino…Chouji. There’s nothing more to see here.”


The other two leapt into the air and vanished from sight, leaving Shikamaru standing on the ledge for a moment in quiet contemplation. He finally turned around to face Sai and Naruto.


“I realize why you were chosen to be with Sasuke, but I won’t lie and say that many of us weren’t worried as well. We know your unlimited potential especially when you get into that state. If you go berserk again, Naruto, we really might have no other choice but to take you out. Most of the clan heads have discussed that and come to an agreement. I’m not sure if Tsunade or Jiraiya told you, but…try to control yourself as best you can. All right?”


Naruto remained silent, though it was clear that this bit of information was news to him. He looked pale, but furious at the same time. Just how much were that old hag and perverted bastard keeping from him?


(from the day you were born, you were always a curse. Remember?)


“He’s finally gone,” Sai said quietly. “It really does appear as if we do not have much time, Naruto.” He watched the blond’s profile. “You do realize what this means, don’t you? You’re going to have to put your differences aside with Sasuke and begin training him as quickly as possible.”


At Naruto’s stubborn silence, Sai clenched his jaw tightly. “For God’s sake Naruto. Why do you dislike him so much? It’s not his fault he was born into that family, so why take out your frustrations about Itachi upon him? Is it because you see Itachi when you look at him? I wasn’t even aware that you two were that close -”


“That’s enough, Sai,” Naruto interrupted tightly. “You don’t have to begin lecturing me like Sakura for fuck’s sake. I am more than aware of what I have to do, so lay off me, all right? Secondly, it’s got nothing to do with Itachi...much. I’m just pissed that they, and I include goddamn Kakashi in this, didn’t even bother teaching him a damn thing! How irresponsible is that?!”


“Then do the right thing and fix what’s been broken as best you can.”


“I’m not fixing a damn thing,” Naruto grumbled as he walked past Sai, though his paranoid side wondered if he and Sakura had known about the clans’ decision when it came to his biju mode. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes to gather himself. What was the use of getting upset over this now? Hadn’t he always known he wasn’t really trusted by the higher ups? This was his fate after all.


He lifted his lashes and spoke aloud. “I’m going to do the best I can and that’s it. It’s up to the brat if he learns quickly or not. Anyway, let’s go find the apartment. I’m done for the day.” And beneath his breath, he mumbled a “Can’t believe I get to share space with you either, you clean freak.”


Sai smirked but said nothing. He had never worked with Naruto before, and had only gone by the rumors and tales told about him while at S.W.A.T. However, just after a day in this man’s presence, Sai was beginning to have an idea of just how fascinating this spirit warrior really was. No wonder he was looked up with awe, fear, and exasperation.


Uzumaki Naruto really was an enigma, and Sai doubted there was anyone out there who could truly understand (and deal with) the force of nature he was.






Sasuke barely made it with five minutes to spare.


He ignored the glare the teacher on duty gave him as he dashed into the building and toward his locker. He changed into his school shoes and tossed aside the two pink envelopes sitting atop his books. He had no time to figure out who his new lovesick fans were, but he did feel ten times more revitalized than ever. For the first time in days, he had actually had a dreamless night, and the bags under his eyes weren’t so prominent today. He had no headaches. His eyes didn’t feel like someone had poured hot oil into them, and he had managed to deflect two half-formed yōkai on the way with merely a channel of his chidori (Sakura had told him what it was called when he explained some of his new found powers to her). Luckily, he remembered to pocket the mineral remains for appraisal later. If what Sakura had said was right, he hoped he’d get a good price for them.


Speaking of which, he wondered if he’d get to see them after school today. They’d probably come back to his apartment, and hopefully he’d be mentally and emotionally ready for them.


(especially for him)


He would never admit to anyone that he had spent the morning, while brushing his teeth, trying to come up with ways to approach Naruto. He had practiced from polite greetings to simply telling Naruto to shove his attitude up his ass and to be his goddamn teacher. However, Sasuke had a feeling that if he went that far, Naruto really might get pissed off and kill him for the hell of it. Best to play it safe and act like the obedient student.


“Good morning, class!”


There was the familiar scrap of chairs across the floor as the students rose to their feet to do the customary greeting. He sat back down and dug into his bag for the appropriate textbook (Math first thing in the morning) and nearly missed the tail end of the teacher’s comments.


“…new student today. Introduce yourself please.”


“Good morning,” came the cheerful and oh-so-familiar voice, which had him looking up so quickly, he almost gave himself whiplash. “My name is Haruno Sakura, and I’m pleased to meet you!”


What the hell?!


She grinned and bowed politely, eliciting several sighs of delight from a majority of the male students and some envious looks from their female counterparts. Dressed in the short green plaid skirt, white shirt beneath a white sweater, dark green knee-high socks, and a matching green bow on top of her head, Sakura could very well pass for a second-year high school student without rousing any suspicion. She winked at Sasuke as she was told to sit in an empty seat in the front row, and it was only then that he realized his mouth was open and he was about ready to drool on his desk.


What the hell was she doing here?!


Unfortunately, he couldn’t read minds and was left to stare at the back of that pink hair; mind racing at the notion that if she was here, then Sai and Naruto could be around the grounds as well!


Needless to say, the rest of the class was torture for him. Between staring at Sakura and looking out the window in case Naruto or Sai would pop up to surprise him, he couldn’t concentrate much on one of his favorite subjects. The bell couldn’t ring fast enough to signal the end of lecture, but just as he assumed he’d have an opportunity to speak to her, she was surrounded by a group of girls (and some love struck) boys who wanted her attention. He left the room with a frown of consternation, only to grunt with pain as he bumped hard into someone.


“Will you please watch where you’re going,” he began irritably, only to lift his gaze to meet the now familiar dark eyes filled with amusement.


“Shouldn’t I be saying the same? You’re looking well this morning, Sasuke. Did you sleep all right?”


Sasuke tried to form some kind of coherent response, but failed miserably as he took in the man dressed just like him; dark green blazer over a white shirt and black pants. Sai smiled – or at least Sasuke assumed it was supposed to be a friendly smile, but it came across as a little calculated. He took a step back and tried to gather himself.


“You’re here too,” he finally said quietly.


“That’s right. I’m a third year student apparently,” Sai mused with a shrug. “Still, it’s a good way to protect you. There’s a barrier around the school in case you haven’t noticed.”


He hadn’t until now. it would explain why he hadn’t felt the presence of any pesky yōkai since he arrived. In fact, now that he thought about it, most of the yōkai usually seen hovering around some students seemed subdued or not visible at all. That would explain things.


“Thank you,” he mumbled in embarrassment.


“No problem. Just go about your day and try to forget about them. We’re here to protect you, remember?”


Sasuke nodded, though there was one thing still bothering him. He looked down the hallway behind Sai, perhaps assuming he would be strolling down with a group of adoring boys hanging on to his every word. Naruto seemed to have an aura of ‘cool’ around him; something that was sure to attract attention whether he liked it or not.


God, he hoped Naruto hadn’t chosen to be a student. Sasuke had a feeling he couldn’t deal with it.


“If you’re wondering about your sensei,” Sai said with a small smirk. “He’s in the only place where he’s not likely to cause any trouble or stand out. You’re smart, aren’t you? You should be able to figure it out.”


Unfortunately, he would have to wait to do his investigating as the bell rang for the next class to begin. He forced himself to focus on his studies, and by lunch time, he had almost forgotten his quest to find Naruto until Sakura accosted him on his way to his favorite eating spot.


“Phew!” she gasped breathlessly with pleasure etched all over her features. She looked even younger than her age; her happiness almost contagious. It really could be easy to fall for someone like her. “I’ve forgotten how crazy high school can be.”


“You couldn’t have been to high school back in the early 1900s,” Sasuke replied with a raised brow.


“Silly. I did a few undercover assignments in high school settings before, but it’s been a while.” She eyed his lunch bag. “Hmm? Where are you going by the way? You don’t like eating in the cafeteria?”


Sasuke wasn’t sure he wanted to share this information with her, considering it was his ‘secret’ eating spot, but then again, she was going to be his guardian, wasn’t she? What was the point in hiding the information from her anyway?


“I usually eat over -”




(what the fuck?!)


The deafening shrill whistle so close to his ear had him nearly screaming in surprise. He spun around to confront the jerk responsible for the prank, when the words died in his throat at the sight before him.


(of course…why didn’t I figure this out earlier?)


Whistle still between his pursed lips (as if ready to let it rip one more time in case Sasuke did anything stupid), Uzumaki Naruto was dressed in a green tracksuit with the school’s emblem etched on his chest. He grinned mischievously around the object ignoring the icy glare now coming his way.


“What are you two naughty kids up to?” he asked and folded his arms across his chest; his quest to look like an authoritative figure not quite as effective. “Shouldn’t you be in the cafeteria eating?”


“We don’t want to eat there, sensei,” Sakura replied with a huff and sticking out of her tongue. “We’re going to our favorite place.”


“Oh you are, are you? And where would that be?”


“None of your business,” Sasuke snapped impatiently. He wasn’t sure if it was the idea of knowing Naruto was a teacher or that he was already setting out to be even more of a jerk with his new position, but he’d be damned if he was going to keep taking the subtle insults.


“Ooh? Someone’s suddenly developed a set of balls overnight,” Naruto sneered; blue eyes lit up with amusement. “Did they finally drop after all these years?”


Sasuke’s entire being flushed with heat and before he could control himself, he lashed out; clenched fist laced with chakra he hadn’t even been aware of conjuring up as he dove for Naruto. He could vaguely hear Sakura calling out his name, but all Sasuke could think – as his head pounded and his vision blurred – was to inflict some kind of pain on the smirking blue-eyed bastard in front of him.


And perhaps he would have, if Naruto didn’t suddenly do that vanishing act again, but only to appear behind Sasuke in a flash. Sasuke bit back his cry of pain as his chakra-charged arm was twisted behind him. He tried to attack with his free hand, but Naruto roughly thrust a thigh between his and arched his leg around Sasuke’s in a way to keep him immobile, before slapping a hand over the boy’s eyes.


“You really should practice restraint, Sasuke,” came the husky whisper into his ear; which sent a reluctant shiver of awareness down his spine. Naruto’s warm breath brushed his skin like a lover’s caress, and he burned at just how intimate a position they really were despite the numbing pain coursing through him at the same time.


“Consider this your first lesson,” Naruto continued in that same whisper that was now causing a whole other kind of ache within Sasuke. He swallowed and tried to even his breathing; hopelessly aware of just how delightfully hard Naruto’s body felt against him.


“Don’t attack your sensei if you aren’t ready to inflict some real pain on him. Besides…not in full view of your classmates, eh? We don’t want to give them a show, do we?”


“Fuck…you…” Sasuke grated through clenched teeth. For that, he received a low laugh that was punctuated with a hard squeeze of the trapped arm.


“You’re going to break it, Naruto,” Sakura cut in angrily. “Let him go already! People are beginning to look at us.”


That seemed to do the trick as Naruto finally pulled back, which in turn sent Sasuke falling to his knees with his throbbing arm cradled to his chest. There was no way he could look up at the arguing couple above him, for his entire being was still dealing with a feverish heat that had absolutely nothing to do with his twisted appendage. He tried to blame it all on those damn games and books he played and read; wishing to goodness that nights spent before the computer screen would not be confused with reality’s painful truth. It was one thing to find yourself being engrossed in make-believe stories of two male characters in love (or lust), but even worse was finding yourself attracted to someone who didn’t respect you and worse still, considered you a kid to be made fun of.


It would take him a moment to realize that there was something in front of him. He blinked hard and allowed his clouded vision to notice it was a hand…Naruto’s hand.


“I’m sorry,” came the tight apology as if forced to make it with a gun to his forehead. Except the gun was the pink-haired girl with folded arms across her chest and a thunderous scowl on her visage.




Sasuke looked at the offered hand as if it was likely to bite.


“Look, we got off on the wrong foot, all right?” Naruto continued with a heavy sigh. “I apologize. So…let’s try to just get along and get this thing over and done with. What do you say?”


What do I say? I say I want to know all about you. I want to know why you’re so angry. I want to know what makes you tick. I want to understand where you draw your strength from. I want to know just how close you were to my brother. I want to know if you loved him, and if you resent him for not wanting to join you for all eternity. I want to get stronger. I want you to treat me as an equal. I want you to give me a genuine smile for once. I want you to whisper in my ear like that again, but with words that will make me melt at your feet. I want -


“Hey, don’t leave me hanging here. Are you going to shake the damn hand or not? I’m not going to be nice forevURGHTHEHELL?!”


It had taken a moment, but it was the opportunity he had been looking for. With Naruto not quite on his guard and about to go into another rant, Sasuke had reached out for the hand and pulled with all the strength he could muster. The result was Naruto being lifted and tossed over his shoulder to land flat on his back with a rather painful thud. Just your basic judo grappling skill.


Sasuke got to his feet and dusted his hands together, while Sakura was doubled over in laughter.


The two men eyed each other in silence, and as Sasuke raised a brow in open defiance – daring the older man to do something in retaliation – Naruto shook his head and closed his eyes, a small reluctant smile coming to his features.


“The balls did drop after all,” he muttered and raised his middle finger in salutation. “Don’t expect me to go easy on you, Uchiha Sasuke. Today was just a lucky shot, got it?”


Sasuke nodded and dared to tell his damn heart to stop beating so fucking fast.


“Yes, sensei,” he said with quiet determination. “I will be ready.”




Chapter 04

Naruto Home


















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