14 – Silver




The soothing musk of a summer evening; when the heavens were filled with indigo and tangerine clouds alongside a fading sunset.


The hero.


A gentle breeze licked at his flesh as he lay on his back; his sheathed sword by his side. His school blazer draped across the top of the water tank’s ladder, its sleeves dancing ever so gently with every gust of wind. With his hands beneath his head, lashes closed, and a lollipop stuck in his mouth (a treat from Sakura’s basket of goodies), he painted a picture of repose despite the bustle of activity below.


I am a hero.


Beneath him were amorous teenagers prone to using the school’s rooftop for their private affairs. Unaware of his silent presence, they blushed with intimate confessions, dared to explore blossoming bodies in the safety of shadows, giggled over illegal content (the lewd magazine or video watched on mobile devices), or simply chose to be loners musing over the depths of their loneliness. Further below, was the hub of youthful indulgence; where students hovered around the raging bonfire signaling the end of the school festival and the official beginning of summer vacation.


It had been an enjoyable day, all things considered. School festivals had never been his thing; having denied several hopeful girls in the past the pleasure of accompanying them on such frivolous affairs. However, Haruno Sakura could be quite persuasive when she chose to be, and at the end of the day he had found himself still chuckling and laughing over some of the rather ridiculous (yet creative) stunts his fellow classmates had conjured up as entertainment.


The reluctant hero.


He lifted his right arm and splayed his fingers across the sky. He closed an eye and squinted, with the other, to see through them; absently marveling at how ‘normal’ this all still seemed considering how much he had changed in the past week.


(and what a week it has been)


To his classmates and teachers, he was still the aloof genius they had always known. He attended school the day after he was given the green light from Tsunade – to a place that hardly blinked as he walked through familiar halls and rooms. While in the other realm, his escapades in defeating the shape shifters had earned him unwanted celebrity status. Everyone wanted to know how he (they) had done it, but Tsunade and Jiraiya – the masters of spin – had woven a tale where the particulars were masked under layers of simply thorough investigation by S.W.A.T.


While some had been content to believe that story, some families/clans were still skeptical especially “A” – the boisterous and intimidating leader of the Kumogakure. According to Sai – who had attended the meeting of clan heads – “A” had expressed his doubts on how a mere ‘kid’ like Uchiha Sasuke had been able to sniff out someone as dangerous as Orochimaru. Everyone, and their mothers, knew the history of the evil and mad genius, but history had told them Orochimaru must (and should have) passed away centuries ago. It was simply impossible to put the blame on a dead man. There had to be someone else behind the scenes despite the evidence presented.


Evidence being the collective disintegration of all the shape shifters around the world, the moment the main source of its strength had been destroyed in the cave.


Speaking of which...


Sasuke frowned and lowered his arm.


Jiraiya had told them that there was no such cave. When he and his team arrived, he had simply seen the quartet comatose, sans Sasuke, on the cliff next to the waterfall.


“But we saw it!” Sakura had insisted, when the four of them were ‘interrogated’ by Tsunade, Jiraiya, and Kakashi. “It was there, wasn’t it?”


She had looked to her companions for help, with he and Sai nodding in agreement, while Naruto stifled a yawn and tried not to fall asleep.


“We searched the entire location,” Kakashi said quietly. “But all we saw was the giant tree and not much else. Our most gifted sensors weren’t able to detect any underground cave or cavern that might have housed Orochimaru all this time.”


“We’re not sure what happened,” Tsunade continued. “But whatever you all did, it worked and for that we are eternally grateful.”


Sasuke had gone into details of everything that took place especially after the others had been unconscious. However, the more he talked, the more fantastical and surreal it sounded until even he had to wonder if he had simply imagined the whole thing. He began to feel foolish and embarrassed at the intense (pitying) looks he was receiving until he caught the brief yet heated glance from the ‘bored’ Naruto.


They will not understand, those eyes seemed to say, remember only those who are destined to see the cave will do so. We were lucky on that day and that’s that. You’ve done all you can. Let it go.


Fine. He would let that go including not mentioning the weird purple spiritual being that had assisted him during the fight. What had Orochimaru called it again? Susanoo? He allowed a small smile to come to his lips. That would be his little secret – at least a secret only he and Naruto knew about. It was no use revealing that ability to anyone else. Any good warrior knew it wasn’t prudent to reveal all your cards at once.


A loud crackle jarred his thoughts, forcing him to admire the brilliant colorful sparks of fireworks now dotting the darkening sky. Flecks of gold and silver danced across his shadowed features and reflected brightly in his eyes. He swirled the lollipop around his tongue, savoring its sweetness as the faint ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ of enthralled students drifted toward him. He withdrew the dessert from his mouth and licked his lips slowly; the cherry flavor now settled upon his taste buds. He sucked lightly on the little red orb remaining, faintly aware that this subtle motion was only doing more to remind  him of something he had vowed not to dwell on (too much) since it happened.


(It didn’t mean nothing, Sasuke, and don’t you ever forget that.)


As if he could anyway.


It was his first kiss with anyone…ever! And there was an unwritten rule that one was never to forget such an important moment in his or her life, wasn’t there?


(better than any fantasy I could conjure up)


His cheeks burned in recollection of that moment, where a small part of him had rejoiced at the idea that it had been Naruto to take the initiative after all. Where Itachi had ‘forced’ the older man to make a move, the tables were turned in his case. There was something intensely gratifying about it; of knowing that Naruto had finally given in at a time when both were simply relieved to have survived such an ordeal.


Unfortunately, Naruto had just about continued on as if that event had never taken place; not that one could blame him - for between spending hours being interrogated and then treated for his wounds (those rods had done more internal damage than they had thought), neither man had the time to really spend alone. Once Sasuke had his wounds treated, Tsunade had insisted he return back to civilization as quickly as possible.


“But what about Naruto…?”


“We’ll take care of him,” Tsunade had reassured. “Besides, it’s best he remains here especially with what’s about to take place. You are already aware of how…eh…fragile he becomes once The Calm arrives. You, on the other hand, will need to prepare yourself for more battles. Unfortunately, you might not even have Sakura and Sai as backup because their powers are considerably weaker during that time. However, if you should ever run into trouble, the Hyūga are willing to assist. Like the Uchiha, they too have the ability to withstand the effects of The Calm. It might last for only twenty-four hours, but it is going to be the longest day of your life, Sasuke. Train, get enough rest, and if you should ever need help, we’ll be here for you as best we can.”


The Hyūga, huh? He groaned in disbelief.


The last time he had been acquainted with that clan, they had tried to kill him. What were the odds that their ‘working’ relationship was going to get any better this time around?


“As long as they don’t get in my way,” he muttered and sat up slowly, just as he felt the air beside him charge with the presence of a new arrival.


“Ah, Sak…” he began only to falter as he arched his neck to notice the smiling towering figure. “Ka…Kakashi?”


“Yo,” came the cordial greeting. “Enjoying your school’s festivities?”


Sasuke shrugged lightly and looked down at the ‘ants’ that made up the student body. Many were already drifting toward the gates and it was only a matter of time before the party was officially over.


“It was all right,” he replied quietly. “Where’s Sakura? She left rather abruptly earlier.”


“She’s up to her neck with new patients,” Kakashi responded as he sat beside the younger man. “Some warriors just returned from their mission in Algeria. Very difficult situation there expunging the yōkai in that region. Speaking of which…” He smiled and gently nudged the boy’s shoulder with a fist. “Once The Calm is over, you can begin looking forward to traveling all over the world to deal with such cases. Exciting, huh?”


As long as Naruto’s my partner, I don’t mind, he would have liked to say aloud, but he settled for giving a small smile and trying to act nonchalant about it.


“Why are you here?” he asked instead. “It’s rare for you to talk to me in private these days.”


Kakashi looked sheepish; his lips quirking lightly beneath the mesh black face mask. He looked away from the questioning dark eyes. “Is it so wrong to want to spend some time with my former ward?”


“Cut the bullshit. You wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t something you wanted to tell me. You’re not one for idle chit-chat. You never were.”


“Ouch.” Kakashi held his stomach and pretended to look hurt. “Low blow.”


He received an even darker look for his attempt at a joke. He finally relented with a wave of his hands in surrender and a light laugh.


“All right. You got me. Looks like nothing escapes your observation skills.”


The smile vanished as abruptly as it appeared; his eyes now narrowed with thought. “Have you been given your assignment regarding The Calm?”


Sasuke nodded. “Tsunade-sama says I’m to work with the Hyūga clan when the time comes. Not sure how smoothly that’s going to go considering we’re not exactly on friendly terms.”


“They might not be ‘friends’ per se, but they are professional enough when it comes to a common objective. In this case, your job is to eliminate yōkai likely to become Malevolents. Personal vendettas and feelings will have to be put on the back burner for now. Your rendezvous point is at midnight on Friday. You must meet at the gates of the S.W.A.T headquarters at that time.”


“And what about you?” Sasuke queried. “Will you be weakened as well? And is it just the Hyūga clan that’s going to be active that night?”


“No,” Kakashi replied. “You will also have the Yuki clan, headed by Haku. They are a small family, but quite powerful. But you need not worry about them. They are usually based in the Northern region and they can handle the yōkai there just fine. Tsunade-sama, you and the Hyūga will be concentrated in this region and the South will be handled by Jiraiya-sama and the Kaguya clan. As for me, I’ll be wherever I’m needed the most. I might not be completely at a hundred percent, but I’m still strong enough to deal with better than average yōkai.”


Sasuke took a deep breath and wrapped his fingers around the hilt of his sword; the first stirrings of anticipation bubbling in his stomach at the idea of getting into battle again. Funny how once you tasted the thrill of engaging in such fights, you became more addicted to the concept of killing. Did this mean he was becoming mentally twisted already?


“Pity Naruto can’t be a part of all the fun,” he found himself muttering. “I’m sure he would have loved to be able to take down as many yōkai as he possibly can.”


“Perhaps,” came the quiet and almost hesitant reply, which caused Sasuke to look at the older man sharply. He frowned.

“What do you mean?”


Kakashi sighed heavily. “I’m sure you’re right in assuming that Naruto would rather be out and about slashing and dicing his way through yōkai. However, I’m sure even he would tell you that he’d rather wish to remain underground during that time.” He paused and studied Sasuke’s face for a moment. “You’ve seen how he becomes once he’s in the midst of transforming to Kurama, and how he tends to lose himself…well, it’s ten times worse during The Calm. Naruto’s seal weakens much quicker and Kurama usually takes over in less than ten minutes. Despite our strongest warriors, including Tsunade and Jiraiya, joining in to help keep the bijuu in check, it almost got the better of them. They barely survived, but plans were already in the works to develop something much stronger to restrain them. We had hoped Itachi would be willing to assist, but when that plan fell through, more time and effort was put into the ‘back-up’ they’ve been developing over the past few years.”


He stopped abruptly, realizing he was talking too much. However, one look at the intense expression on the boy’s face was enough to let Kakashi know that stopping now would probably earn him a sword wound in his most vital region.


He cleared his throat. “The original idea had been that a member of the Uchiha clan would be able to subdue Kurama’s influence during Naruto’s transformation. No one had foreseen Itachi’s unfortunate passing, and many had doubts that you’d be able to reach your full potential. However, when we realized just how good you were at developing your skills and how you were able to control Naruto from going berserk, it was a wonderful icing on the cake. It would have been perfect for you to remain with Naruto during The Calm, but…”


His voice trailed off.


“But? But what?” Sasuke asked through lips that felt numb. “I’m no longer needed?”


“Not that…” Kakashi began quietly. “It’s just that Tsunade-sama and Jiraiya-sama do not run a dictatorship and they must have the input of other powerful leaders in the spirit world. Remember the back-up I was talking about? Well, they’ve decided they are going to give it a whirl this time around. Some of the leaders do not fully trust that you still do not have ulterior motives when it comes to Naruto, so they would rather send you out to deal with The Calm and have the back-up protect Naruto…or better yet the bijuu.”


Sasuke’s face gave nothing away, though he felt as if someone had dropped a chunk of ice into his heart at the same time. He should have known that something was up. That despite Tsunade and Jiraiya’s assurance that everything was going to be ‘okay’, they wouldn’t hesitate to throw him to the wolves if the time came. Hadn’t Naruto once voiced his doubts about just how loyal those two were to him?


(he’s always been used anyway. All they care about is the thing inside of him, isn’t it?)


“This…this back up,” he finally asked in a voice devoid of emotion. “What is it exactly?”


“An Uzumaki,” came the quiet statement, which had Sasuke blinking in surprise.


“Huh? I thought…?!”


“That Naruto was the last of his clan just like you? Yes. However, one must never underestimate the determination of S.W.A.T and its leaders when they need their goals accomplished.” Kakashi lowered his voice as if afraid that what he was about to say would be heard by others. “This is highly classified information, Sasuke, and I really shouldn’t tell you this but…if you hadn’t become a spirit warrior, this creation – a blend of Naruto’s DNA and remains found of his parents – might have never been completed. She is a humanoid called Karin, and her only function is to control the bijuu during The Calm.”


He gave a small smile as if hoping to reassure the dumbfounded teen. “I wouldn’t worry too much about her taking over your place anytime soon. Like I said, she is just a test run and who knows? She might turn out to be a dud. Although, I have seen her at work, and she is quite impressive -”


“Do Sakura and Sai know about this too?” Sasuke asked tightly.


Kakashi’s silence was all the answer he needed. He looked away; fingers tightening around the sword. How long had they all known? Had even Naruto known about this? That while he was foolishly acting like a lovesick idiot promising to protect the blond during his most difficult time, this so-called ‘Karin’ was being manufactured ‘just-in-case’? How much of a fool did they take him for?


“Hah,” he laughed bitterly. “Why do I get the feeling that no one really trusts me in this damn spirit world? That just because of my last name, everything I do is going to be doubted and scrutinized and judged. I can never win, can I?”


“It’s not a matter of winning or losing, Sasuke,” Kakashi replied quietly, but Sasuke interrupted angrily.


“Now I think I see why my brother really didn’t want to be a part of all this. No matter what he did, he must have faced the same silent persecution, didn’t he? That no matter how much he fought, how many times he nearly lost his life for those ungrateful assholes, they judged him all the fucking time because of his last name! The spirit world will never forgive my ancestors for what they did, will they? So why would they start with me?!”


“Sasuke -”


“I don’t want to hear it! You’re all the fucking same! You use and use and use people for their skills and never give a damn about them otherwise! What kind of monsters are you?!”


“Isn’t that the way it is everywhere?” Kakashi asked pensively. “Even in the human world, Sasuke, do humans not take advantage of others when needed? We are really no different from the sins and crimes committed everyday below.” He waved his arm toward the dying bonfire. “We are just a little more sensitive in this realm.” He rose to his feet and dusted the seat of his pants. “I’d advise you not to overreact or do anything rash. The leaders who are still out to label you ‘traitor’, will be the first to jump all over you should you take a misstep. Just do as you’re told and there should be no problems.”


“Is that a threat?” Sasuke asked in a low voice.


Kakashi stared at the lowered head and noticed the blanched knuckles of the younger man’s fingers around his sword. He smiled bitterly.


“Take it as you will, Sasuke. I said more than I should have tonight.” He gave a two-fingered salute. “Take care of yourself. I will see you after The Calm.”


And with that, he phased away from sight, leaving behind the immobile silhouette of a young man lost in tumultuous and troubling homicidal thoughts.





Friday morning arrived with little to no fanfare.


He was surprised to find that he had slept rather well the night before considering he had spent the better part of the day veg’ing out in front of the computer playing ‘normal’ video games and binging on unhealthy snacks. He had turned off his cell phone and purposely ignored Sakura and Sai stopping by to see him. His barriers were now strong enough to keep them away, and they probably got the message after their third attempt to get in.


A quick shower, a bowl of cereal and some dry toast for breakfast, a hasty check of his emails (including several frustrated ones from Hamazaki-san wanting to know when the hell he was going to get some feedback on the newest games he had sent to Sasuke – said games were still unopened and sitting by the front door),  a brief overview of his wallet (train and bus passes, some spare change, his IDs), and he felt he was ready for whatever came his way today.


He strapped the sword across his back and finally stepped out of his apartment for the first time in two days.


He blinked hard at the glare of the fading sunset and took a deep breath, but even that wasn’t good enough to prevent the obvious ‘change’ in the air.


(can’t hardly breathe)


It was a Friday, yes, but there was something heavier in the air; a thick sensation that had nothing to do with darkening clouds or the promise of rain.


To the casual/human eye, there was absolutely nothing wrong. It was a beautiful evening and many were making the best of it. Children – in the thralls of summer – enjoyed splashing around in makeshift pools or around water hoses while parents watched on with amusement. Couples in love were lost in their selfish bubbles of happiness, while the highways bustled with vehicles darting to and fro their destinations without a care. It was your typical Friday evening except for the overwhelming ‘pressure’ that threatened to flatten him to the ground with every step he took.


What the hell is this?


If he was already feeling this way – and it was just a few hours to midnight – he could only imagine how overwhelmed the other spirit warriors might feel.


“And it gets worse,” came the quiet voice behind him.


He spun around to face a rather pale-looking Sakura, who managed a weak  and apologetic smile. Sai was nowhere in sight.


“You shouldn’t be around here,” Sasuke finally said, wishing he wasn’t concerned considering that she was just a part of the many he had put in his do-not-trust list. “You don’t look so good.”


“Thanks for your concern,” she replied, while hugging herself as if she were freezing. Since she was dressed in a pair of jeans and tee-shirt (and it wasn’t even that cold this evening), it didn’t make much sense for her to act that way. Still, he would have been a fool not to notice the sadness in those green eyes.


“I had to see you,” she continued in earnest as if afraid he’d walk away before she could get a word in. “Is there something you want to talk about?”


“Shouldn’t I be asking you that question?” Sasuke asked tightly. “You S.W.A.T. folks do know how to keep secrets, don’t you?”


“What are you talking about?” she asked with genuine bemusement on her features. “I don’t -”


“Don’t play dumb with me,” Sasuke hissed irritably. “You knew about Karin, didn’t you? Why didn’t you mention it earlier?”


“Karin?” She blinked as if not sure of what the name meant before it slowly dawned on her. She began to shake her head and had to trot after Sasuke, who had noticed and huffed before beginning to walk away.  “Wait! Wait! Yes, yes, I know about Karin, but that’s a project that was discarded once they realized you were on board to help with Naruto.”


Sasuke shook his head, still not breaking his stride. “Please don’t feed me another bunch of lies, Sakura. I really can’t deal with anyone’s bullshit tonight.”


He leapt gracefully over a low fence; absently noticing that Sakura did the same, but with less finesse. She was panting a little more than she would have, and to his chagrin, she really did look like she was going to pass out soon. Dare he say that she actually looked more ‘human’ than ever before.


“I’m not lying,” she gasped and reached out to grab his wrist. “Please, listen to me. Yes, Sai and I knew about Karin – and I’m sure many others that work at S.W.A.T. knew too, but like I said, she was no longer talked about when we knew you were capable of taking care of Naruto. Tsunade-sama herself said she was going to try to talk the leaders into discarding her.”


“Guess those talks fell through,” Sasuke replied with a frown. “She’s going to be used tonight and look…I’m glad they’ve got back up and all that shit, but how do you think that makes me feel? It would have been nice if someone had mentioned this to me in the first place, then I wouldn’t have made those dumb promises to Naruto.”


“I don’t think they’re dumb,” came the quiet response. “And I doubt Naruto thinks they’re dumb too.”


He finally stopped walking at the misery in that voice; looking over his shoulder to notice her head was lowered, and she was shivering.


“He really would have loved for you to be there with him tonight, but he also realizes how much you’re needed out here too.” She looked up with a tremulous smile. “It’s so frustrating not being able to do anything during this time. I hate feeling this helpless and weak.” She threw up her arms. “If this is what it felt like being human…I never want to return to that state ever again. Sai can’t even get out of bed. I envy you…in so many ways.”


Sasuke scowled and would have said something when she seemed to suddenly tip over as if pushed by an imaginary force. He dove forward instinctively, wrapping his arms around her trembling body.


“I’m…I’m sorry,” she panted weakly. “I’ll be fine. Honest.”


“Go back to your apartment,” he ordered thickly into her hair. “You don’t have to worry about me -”


“See him,” she whispered against his chest. “Please…go see him before you leave tonight. Shizune will take you to the underground dungeon where he’s been kept for the past few days. Hurry before he forgets who you are.”


At that, Sasuke felt his heart skip a beat in fear. To be forgotten? After everything they had been through together? Impossible! That would be ten times worse than his already established unrequited feelings.


“And maybe you can finally spell it out to him just how you feel about him,” Sakura added with a feeble yet warm smile. “For some individuals, being straightforward and blunt about such things always gets through their thick skulls. Subtle hints hardly ever work with them.”


Sasuke felt the color rush up his cheeks at the obvious observation and stepped away as if afraid she would read into his soul if they remained any closer.


“I…I…better go,” he stuttered and turned away. “Go back quickly. Their stench is getting stronger. Give Sai my regards.”


He leapt away from sight before she could give an answer, not that he would have stuck around to listen anyway. His heart (and mind) was still reeling with the information he had learned, and all seemed to center on the possibility that he would be too late to see Naruto.


At S.W.A.T there was a sense of urgency in the air and yet a stillness that was not lost on him. The usually bustling offices on the main floor were empty except for a lone janitor cleaning an already polished floor. He didn’t even look up to acknowledge Sasuke’s presence as the mop continued its steady dance across wood.


The door to Shizune’s private office was open, and the woman in question was fast asleep with her head upon her desk and a pile of paperwork just begging to be finished. This was unlike the secretary. The sharp spirit warrior was usually quick to notice any new arrival in the building let alone her office.


“Shizune,” Sasuke called out loudly.


Her start and low gasp as she sat up and pretended to look as if she hadn’t been sleeping, would have been funny, if he still wasn’t feeling anxious. She blinked several times at the sight of the young man.


“Sas…Sasuke?” she croaked in disbelief. “What are you -?”


“I need to go to the dungeon where Naruto’s kept.”




“The dungeon,” he repeated slowly as if speaking to a child. “Where you  have Naruto locked up right now? Can I see him?”


Shizune eyed the clock and then looked back at him, the sleep now all but vanished from her visage. “We usually don’t allow anyone to go down there especially when it’s so close to the hour. He’s already probably started going through -”


Sasuke slammed his hands on the desk and leaned close until inches separated their faces. In a steady and calm voice - making sure every word was enunciated just in case it wasn’t sinking into her fuzzy-sleep-induced mind – he made his intentions clear.


“I need to see him. Please.”


At least he was a little bit polite.


She must have finally noticed how serious he was, because she gulped and rose unsteadily to her feet.


“Fol…follow me,” she replied hastily, “but you cannot stay for too long or Tsunade-sama will have my head. We really aren’t allowed to let anyone else besides the special warriors delegated to protecting him…”


She realized she was rambling and decided to shut up. Besides, with the way the boy was looking at the moment, she doubted anything she was saying was going through. He looked determined for some reason or another.


She led him down hallways he had never seen before; lit only with flickering oil lamps that created ominous shadows on stone walls. An arched ancient door, which required a rather large key to unlock it, was the entrance to the bowels of the earth. Sasuke would briefly marvel at the carved depictions of warriors combating the most grotesque of yōkai before it slowly shut behind them as they began to descend the flight of narrow spiraling stone steps. Like above, their only source of light was the oil lamps placed along the walls. It was much colder down here, but rather than it being due to the change in the atmosphere, it had to do with the overall ‘energy’ in this place.


It was stifling.


Even as every step took them deeper and closer to their destination, it was a sensation of being pushed from all sides by an invisible wall of pressure. Sasuke was beginning to get an idea of how it must feel to be a pancake on a sizzling frying pan - and was this close to chucking up everything he had eaten today - when they finally stood on solid ground again and to a sight he would never soon forget.


Before them yawned a cavern  - as wide as a baseball field -  where about fifteen spirit warriors sat in a neat semi-circle on the ground before a golden cage as high as the one he had seen in Naruto’s ‘mind’. They were all dressed in white robes with heavy black beads around their necks, reminiscent of the ones the frog sages wore back at Mount Myōbuku. With eyes closed and hands clasped, they appeared to be in  a trance-like state; none acknowledging the presence of the visitors. There was a low humming sound emanating from them, which seemed to reverberate around and within the walls –


(and into my soul)


Written on the ground – and forming a circle – were strange markings and symbols; some of which he recognized from the many books he had perused in S.W.A.T.’s library. These were spells and chants designed to ward away evil, and as Sasuke peered past this spiritual barricade, it was to see a sight that nearly had his knees buckling in pain and longing.


(Oh God…Naruto…)


He was still human, that much was certain, but it was his position that was heart-breaking. Stripped down to nothing but a pair of black boxer shorts, his hands and legs were spread-eagled and clamped to the wall behind him in steel chains and straps that must have weighed a ton if not more. On his sweat-slicked chest was a set of strange brown markings to form an X – as if it were an extra chain to hold him in place. His head, which had been lowered, slowly lifted until familiar cerulean (though slightly dulled) eyes met his across the expanse of space.


The familiar jolt shot right through him and Sasuke forgot to breathe. He could barely even hear Shizune’s whispered words beside him.


“He has be in that position to restrain Kurama when it tries to escape. It was decided this was the best way.”




Shizune cocked her head at the hoarse request. “What?”


“I want to be closer,” Sasuke pleaded unable to tear his gaze away from the ones that held his captive. They beckoned silently (if he dared). “Can I…even if it’s just for a few minutes?”


She was already shaking her head. “This is as far as I can let you go, Sasuke. I promised to bring  you down here, and I’ve done so. Getting any closer is dangerous. I cannot -”


“I don’t want him to forget!” he cried out before she could finish; startling the poor woman who was taken aback by the passion in his eyes. “Please! I don’t plan to let him escape. I just want…I don’t want him to forget me.”


She bit her lip and prepared to argue, when Naruto’s voice drifted to her.


“I’ll behave,” came the low words accompanied with a weary smile. “I promise. I need to talk to the kid for a bit too.”


“Urgh. I could get fired for this.”


“You’ve been working here since fucking dinosaurs roamed the earth, so I wouldn’t worry about your job anytime soon.”


“Shut up, Naruto,” Shizune retorted with a smile, even as she was shaking her head and walking past the priests/warriors who still hadn’t budged or acknowledged they were even there.


She got to the cage and pressed her fingers against the large yellow seal where a sudden surge of chakra had the paper peeling back and its keyless lock swirling open with a single click.


“Ten minutes,” she said tightly. “I’ll be waiting at the top of the steps. And don’t worry about the priests listening in to your conversation. They’re already in their world…wherever that is.”


She spun on her heels and left them alone, still mumbling something about making up some kind of story for Tsunade later on.


However, now that he was finally alone with Naruto…Sasuke found he was hopelessly regressing back to the flustered kid who didn’t know what the hell to do with himself. It didn’t help that Naruto was scantily clad and the poignant memory of those quirked lips against his, was rushing back with a vengeance. Just what the hell had he come here to do anyway?


“You look prepared for tonight,” Naruto finally broke the silence, once it was clear the boy had no intention of speaking first. “Ready to kick some yōkai ass, huh?”


Sasuke shrugged and dug his trembling hands into the pockets of his jeans. “I don’t know what to expect tonight, so I’m just going to go out there and do my job.”


“Someone sounds bitter.”


“I was supposed to be here with you,” came the low complaint. He still couldn’t get himself to look directly into those eyes now, though his face was still as hot and as feverish as he felt inside. “It was my promise. I was going to be with you during this time and look…they want to keep me away.”


“You’re such a crybaby -”


“I am not a crybaby,” he pouted and looked up and into the smiling visage before him. The warmth in that expression was enough to have his heart thudding just a little bit faster. “I just…wanted to be with you,” he finished shyly. “That’s all.”


“And you are,” Naruto said quietly. “Unless you’re a clone of Sasuke…you showed up anyway.”


“But I can’t stay -”


“I wouldn’t have wanted you to anyway. I’m not a very pretty sight when this shit goes down according to some trusty sources.”


“I don’t care.”


“I might have killed you.”


“I survived last time.”


“It’s not the same, kid.”


“I’m not kid, and I don’t care. I can take care of myself and you.”




Sasuke huffed in exasperation. “You look like hell.”


Naruto chuckled and shook his arms lightly, causing the chains to rattle. “I feel like it too. It’s been touch and go the past few hours…getting a bit worse now…see…?”


He nodded downwards, forcing Sasuke to finally take notice of the still faint but dark rings and markings forming around Naruto’s bellybutton. Before he could control himself, his fingers reached out to trace its outline; hardly aware of the soft intake of breath his touch caused or the clenching fists being formed.


“Your seal…”


“Yeah,” Naruto breathed thickly. “It’s about to leak. Kurama’s getting a little impatient. So every now and then I burst into a fever like you’d never believe. I start raving and ranting like a lunatic, but it subsides after a bit. You caught me at a good time.”


Sasuke’s fingers stopped their movements, but only to now press his hand against the taut abdomen. “Why?” he whispered with an ache that was wrenched from within. “You go through so much pain for it…why? If…if it’s taken away from you…?”


“I die,” came the quiet response. “Kurama is like my life force, Sasuke. It’s a curse and a blessing at the same time, and it’s something I’ve had to live with all my life. Besides, I can’t really consider him a bad guy. No one wishes to be trapped inside another human being for all eternity, so who can really blame him if he wants to get some fresh air every once in a while?”


Sasuke bit his lower lip and took a step closer. His hand felt like it was being scorched slowly. The heat emanating from within Naruto was  terrifying and yet he couldn’t pull away. Even Naruto’s breath – with every word uttered – was akin to being thrust through a steam room. He was burning up. Time was slipping away.






He looked up again, this time to hold blue eyes that seemed just a little too bright, prisoner. “Say my name,” he begged in a quiet whisper.


Naruto’s breath caught at the strange request. “Wha…what?”


“My name,” Sasuke repeated, his hands slowly moving up to cradle Naruto’s cheeks. God, how they burned.


“Your name…?” came the trembling, bemused query. “I don’t underst-”


“Please…” Sasuke begged. “Say it over and over again, so you don’t forget. So you never forget who I am.”


Naruto’s breath shuddered. His throat tightened at the pain and fear in those simple words, for it all made sense now. Oh, how he understood and panicked at the same time. How he knew that maybe, just maybe there would come a day when he would no longer recognize or remember this young man who was beginning to mean so much more to him than he had ever realized. He swallowed and lowered his lashes as their foreheads met and their breaths mingled as one.


“Sas…Sasuke,” he finally whispered; savoring the name upon his tongue. Relishing in every enunciation and syllable as if learning a whole new language for the first time. He suddenly felt like crying.  “Sasuke. Uchiha…Sasuke.”




Never had his name – that cursed and damned name to so many – made him want to burst into tears. He listened to Naruto repeat it over and over again, not stopping even when he shyly allowed his lips to steal away his name from the trembling ones before him.


He kissed Naruto, not with an expertise that would have impressed anyone, but with a sincerity that was felt with every gentle nudge of teeth and gentle collision of tongues. He didn’t flinch when Naruto groaned and moved in to deepen it; straining against chain and shackles; desperate for more than just a meeting of lips. He wanted to be in and with this man in a way that would have made those pathetic BL games look like child’s play.


“Fuck,” he panted breathlessly when they finally pulled apart for air. “You’re really not helping matters, you know that?”


Sasuke, who wasn’t faring any better himself, could only manage a weak nod as he pressed his lips against the exposed neck; wincing at just how heated the flesh had become. It was a miracle Naruto’s skin wasn’t beginning to flake off just as it had been when he was transforming. Still he knew it was getting dangerous being here. Naruto’s eyes were beginning to change hues; those familiar blues flickering back and forth between orange and red.


“I’m leaving now,” he said quietly, knowing there was still so much more he wanted to say, and that if he was to dare do as Sakura had suggested; that he simply blurt out that he was hopelessly in lo-


(not now…I can…I can’t say it)


He cleared his throat and continued softly. “I hear they’ve got someone to take care of you in my place. She’ll probably do a good job. Since she’s literally a part of you.”


“What do you mean?”


Sasuke searched the bemused visage for a moment while wondering if Naruto was messing around with him. However, the blond looked genuinely confused, causing him to ask carefully. “You don’t know about her?”






“Who’s Karin?”


“I am,” came the firm voice, which had both men looking up at the same time.


Standing at the bottom of the steps, with a hovering Shizune in the background, was a beautiful bespectacled red-head with a hand on her hip, clad in the same white robe as the other priests. There was a no-nonsense attitude in her demeanor, and she exuded an air of propriety and authority that slightly rankled Sasuke. He frowned and straightened his posture.


“That’s Karin,” he repeated stiffly.


“What do you mean she’s literally a part of me?” Naruto asked, only to give a low grunt of pain as something within him balked in retaliation at her presence. “Fuckfuckfuck…notgoodSasuke…youneedtoleavenow…fuck!”

He doubled over- well as far as he could go; his clenched fists and body straining. Veins and muscles were taut against his sweat-slicked skin, painting the perfect picture of the human body and yet a terrifying promise of what was to come.




“You heard him,” Karin declared loudly. She had her hands clasped now and the humming from the other priests was beginning to get louder. “You must leave now, Uchiha Sasuke. It is almost time for you to meet with the other warriors.”


Sasuke gritted his teeth and turned back to face Naruto, whose head was lowered again; the damp strands of blond hair blocking his pained features from view. Not to be deterred, Sasuke cupped his cheeks again and forced his face up; staring intensely into now dull reddened eyes to whisper fervently against his lips.


“Do not forget me, Uzumaki Naruto. I’ll come back here immediately the Calm is over and take you away. Do you hear me? I’ll be back to take you away from all of this. You’ll wait for me, won’t you?”


Nothing but a low guttural sound came from the blond, but Sasuke was not about to leave without a fight.


“Do you hear me?!” he roared. “You let him answer me godddamnit!”


At first there was no response – no flicker of recognition - until those lips quirked into a small smile and the whispered words escaped them.


“You are such a pain-in-the-ass, Sasuke. You’re driving Kurama nuts, you know that?”


Sasuke smiled grimly and leaned in to claim one last kiss; no time to savor the rewards now, but to leave an imprint; a reminder of just who and what he was to this man before him.


“Wait for me, Naruto,” he whispered harshly. “And if you dare take him away from me, Kurama, I swear I’ll make your life a living hell.”


He spun on his heels and walked out of the cage, which was promptly locked and sealed by Karin even before he got to the steps. He would hardly give her a glance as he walked by her, but there was no mistaking her warning that followed him as he began to climb.


“He will never belong to you, Uchiha Sasuke. Try not to cling too long to your pipe dream.”


An array of insults burst into his mind at that, but he held back his tongue especially since Shizune was all but dragging him back to the surface as quickly as she could manage.


And none too soon, for already waiting at the gates, were Neji and Hinata Hyūga along with five other seasoned members of their clan. Their usual traditional garb made him appear ordinary and out of place, for they gave an air of haughty royalty that was rather annoying.


There was a tense silence as they appraised each other in silence – the mutual aura of instinctive (and perhaps generational) dislike permeating the air. It was finally Neji who broke the silence with an outstretched hand and a small but strained smile. He would still never understand why his clan leaders had been so gung-ho on getting their hands on this weak excuse for a warrior. Even worse was knowing that many were now considering him a ‘hero’ for defeating Orochimaru – allegedly.




“Perhaps we should let bygones be bygones for tonight, Uchiha Sasuke,” he said aloud. “I look forward to working with you tonight.”


Sasuke stared at the offered hand for a long moment before reluctantly clasping and releasing it just as quickly. “Likewise.”


“Shall we?” Neji invited, and not waiting for Sasuke’s response, he leapt swiftly onto the nearest building where they all landed beside him and waited with bated breath.


Sasuke’s lips, still tingling from his promise to Naruto, were licked slowly as he felt every fiber of his being begin to thrum with adrenaline. He placed a hand  upon the hilt of his sword as he felt it then –


(ten minutes to midnight)


– the inexplicable chill to suddenly fill the air. The other warriors were just as tense, though their expressions gave nothing away – well perhaps for Hinata whose features looked a bit too pale.


Otherwise…the stillness was complete. Not even a gust of wind.


“Do you hear them?” Neji asked beneath his breath. “They are coming...prepare yourselves, warriors.”


Sasuke unsheathed his sword and closed his eyes, for just as the human and spirit world was now frozen in time,  his heart could hear the gut-wrenching wails of agony as Naruto began the fight of his life in the depths of Hell.


The Calm was finally here.



Chapter 15

Naruto Home












Web page layout designed and coded by {suser:ladyoz}