15: Flames


Enraged? Yes. Amused? Even more so.


(the audacity of humans)


They never learned, did they?


It scoffed as it strained against a weakened seal; the familiar and robust sensation of increased control giving it new life. In this human’s subconscious – this ‘cage’ in which it had been trapped for centuries – Kurama had made a reluctant home. While it had tried to bare its fangs and rage against the injustice done since its creation and to seek the freedom he so rightfully deserved, there was still a small part of him that actually cared for the human vessel.


How pathetic.


But then again, it was entirely his fault it was made to have these feelings. Previous vessels had never made attempts to acknowledge its existence other than being a burden. They were unwilling to look past their roles as ‘saviors’ while it languished in the darkness waiting for the opportune moment to strike. It considered itself lucky they had chosen its current vessel when he was just a baby for it meant breaking free was much easier than the foolish humans had expected. Its destruction of that cursed village should have been much more satisfying. It should have gloated with pleasure at their wails of suffering…if it had been able to. For the child’s parents final act of courage and determination – despite being on the thresholds of death – was to re-seal at least half of his power, with the vacant promise that it would eventually be used for good no matter what.


Fine then, Kurama had thought with bitterness. It would live within this child and see how long he could last in a world that would no longer welcome him with open arms. It would slowly eat away at the child’s feelings of innocence; feeding him with thoughts of hate and loathing until he was old enough to exact even more revenge on its behalf.


It was the perfect plan. It had been the perfect plan until –


(I know you are upset…and I would be too)


…the child had dared to acknowledge its presence!


(I have no one else to talk to, and everyone keeps saying I have something terrible inside of me, so I wanted to see it for myself. I know you don’t like me, and I’m not all too happy that you’re in me either, but as long as we’re going to be in this together, we’re just going to have to try to get along. All right?)




That was all it was; a child so desperate for companionship, it had turned to the one thing responsible for creating that terrible emotion in the first place.


Kurama would have laughed at the irony of it all (and perhaps it did at the time), but it was more stunned at the sight (and voice) of the youngling to really find an answer. It assumed their first meeting was nothing more than a fluke, but when the child continued to make attempts to speak to it (mostly in one-sided conversations); Kurama realized it had a vessel that was unlike any other. Where the others had treated him like a nuisance – including his mother – this child had felt no real fear confronting him. Damn the consequences.


It angered Kurama for reasons unexplainable. Its duty/role was to destroy and to fester on human greed, hate, and anger. Just what in the world was this child trying to do? In retaliation – or to rebel against his attempts to ‘soften’ its personality – Kurama took advantage of those moments of weakness; when the child’s hurt would enable it to show a bit of its strength and unleash its fury upon the wicked humans who deserved its wrath.


(and yet…)


When would it begin to realize it was beginning to fight on the boy’s behalf? When would it begin to realize that every hurled insult or physical abuse directed at the child would enrage it even more? That it longed to actually ‘protect’ this naïve vessel and not allow him to fall into the wrong hands? This need became an urgency with the appearance of Uchiha Madara into their lives. Kurama decided to become more vocal in its attempts to make the young man see reason.


(but how do you get through the mind of a human so eager to accept the first real signs of acceptance from anyone? How do you make him understand that he’s nothing more than a tool and will forever be considered that no matter how ‘loved’ he is?)


To its chagrin, Naruto had chosen to ‘silence’ him during those turbulent years; content to remain a slave to Madara’s insidious woos. It had tried to explain to the young man the troubling history it had with the Uchiha. Of how two clans – from the very beginning – had sought for the rights to claim it for themselves, and that when the Uchiha lost said right to the Senju, it was a festering feeling of jealousy and retaliation that remained for generations.


It was ignored, and for the first time in its life, Kurama feared for its existence.


The funny thing? Madara had more than enough opportunities to extract it from the boy, yet the eccentric man had done nothing of the such; choosing to lie to those who asked or to delay what should have been inevitable. Kurama would watch as time slid by, as Madara grew even more erratic with his emotions, until his ‘deserving’ death. It had fought on the young man’s behalf, for Naruto had finally given the permission to do as it pleased on that fateful day. And perhaps it was a good thing Naruto would have no memories of the bloody battle, for it hadn’t been pretty. Still, it would have been a fool not to realize that even in the throes of death; Madara had held on to that lone yet potent emotion, which still baffled Kurama to this day.


(forgive me…Naruto. It turns out I am not as strong as you thought I was…forgive me…everything…)


Had that emotion permeated itself into Naruto’s subconscious in some way? Was it the reason that despite it all, the young man still found himself unable to resist the Uchiha clan throughout the years? There were those who still shunned and despised him, but many more that were just as drawn to him. It was a never ending cycle when it came to that clan, and now – after everything he had gone through – they were back to square one.


Did Naruto never learn?


Apparently not, for there was this new kid to interfere; another Uchiha who actually dared to threaten it.


/“And if you dare take him away from me, Kurama, I swear I’ll make your life a living hell.”/


The audacity of that brat!


It roared, dispelling the pitiful spells and magical chants swirling around it. No one told it what it could and could not do! Especially not another Uchiha provoking it for dominance! So what if it was simply the young man simply being too possessive over his newfound feelings for Naruto? It had watched, in wicked amusement, at the silent/desperate signals the kid had given over the past year whenever it came to the vessel. It hadn’t been surprised at Sasuke’s decision to become Immortal, and though Naruto had done his best to keep the boy at arm’s length all this time; the slow chipping away of that protective barrier he had erected after Itachi’s death, was beginning to crumble all over again.


So you wish to claim him, do you? Kurama sneered; looking down to the comatose figure drowning in a pool of black ink blossoming around him. Then come get me, Uchiha Sasuke! I gave you a free pass the last time. However, I promise not to go easy on you this time around! Come to me…WHAT?!


Past the swirling chants and spells, there was something unmistakable approaching; a familiar grinding sound that was quickly following by a flash of bright red and the excruciating pierce of heavy spiritual chains that could only belong to the Uzumaki clan.


(damn it!)


It knew that girl was trouble the moment her presence was sniffed. Kurama glared and snarled as she appeared before it; with hair as red as Naruto’s mother – who also had the blasted ability to keep it chained like this. However, the similarities stopped there, for while Kushina’s chains had been troublesome to deal with, this clone’s abilities were not quite as comparable. Kurama realized this quickly, for the one wrapped around its hind legs was already loosening with every strain toward her.




It grinned in victory. “How low will the Spirit World go in its attempts to control me?” came the taunt as it broke apart the chains around its legs.


The girl’s eyes widened in surprise, but she gritted her teeth and clapped her palms together to concentrate even more. She sent forth even more of the chakra chains; the effort making her grunt with pain and fall to her knees beside Naruto’s still body. Beads of sweat dotted her forehead and threatened to blind her as she blinked them away furiously. She would not give in. Not when everyone had put so much hope and trust in her.


“Give up,” Kurama sneered. “You are almost to your death, you weak imitation of once great warriors. Your creators should be ashamed they allowed you to exist.”


It snapped apart the chains wrapped around its torso and lunged for the girl; all fangs and snapping jaw, ready to take a bite out of what she had to offer. However, it was stunned to find itself flung back with such force; it would take another second to realize it was the girl responsible…no…not quite…




“Didn’t…anyone…teach…you…not…to…fuck…with…an…Uzumaki?” came the barely audible gibe as Naruto lowered his trembling arm to flop back to his side. He was smiling; a weak and bloodied one, but a smile all the same as he met the wide crimson eyes behind the foggy glasses. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced,” he wheezed and lowered his lashes. “Damn…this sucks…”


“You shouldn’t speak,” Karin ordered, though she was still trembling from the surge of chakra to lace through her at Naruto’s assistance. Even in this weakened state, to think that this man still had enough to cause some damage to Kurama was astonishing. “Conserve your energy. My job is to make sure it does not kill you. I will protect you as best I caAAAARGH!”


Watching her being lifted and flung like a rag doll against the cage, had Naruto wincing and trying to get up again, but damn if even that little act was like walking through quick sand. His body was not cooperating with him, and as he darted a worried glance in her direction; he feared she was not going to make it.


“Damn her,” Kurama growled and snapped away the remaining chains impatiently. “Damn you too, Naruto!”


“Couldn’t you give her a break?” he panted and tried to sit up. “She’s my only relative, you know.”


“No, she isn’t. She’s a pathetic excuse for your parents and you accept that?” It pounded on the ground angrily. “Do you not find it a travesty?!”


Naruto lowered his head wearily. This feeling of emotional and mental draining…as if everything was simply being sucked away from him. It was a terrible feeling and he was powerless to resist. How he had even managed to conjure up enough chakra to help Karin was a miracle in itself. All he wanted to do was sleep. Sleep. Just sleep it all away.


“Travesty, shmavesty,” he murmured in a drunken slur. “I don’t give a fuck anymore, Kurama. This is just so tiring, you know? If you wanna kill her, then kill her. You know I don’t have the power to stop you at this time anywa-”


“No…not…yet…” came the low choked words from behind him, causing both Naruto and Kurama to look up in surprise.


Karin was struggling to her feet; despite the troubling spreading bloody stain on her once pristine robes. Her glasses were gone, but it did nothing to deter from her rather wild beauty, or maybe it,” she finally grunted and took another trembling step forward. “And even if it costs me my life…it is what I have sworn to do.”


Kurama studied her in silence for a moment.


(the audacity of humans)


She could barely stand and yet she dared it. Naruto could barely think and yet he dared it. And there was, of course, the Uchiha boy who actually threatened it. This really was too much.


It threw back its head and laughed; a deafening sound of bitter mirth that shook the very foundations they stood upon.


(enough of this farce)


And with a grin full of wicked intent, Kurama let forth a final roar of victory and engulfed the two beings trapped within its lair. It was finally its’ time to teach the Spirit World a thing or two about dealing with powers beyond their comprehension.





Midday, and for the first time since they began, the spirit warriors could finally have some time for themselves.


Sasuke hung on to the sword he had plunged into the earth to steady himself. His legs trembled violently, barely supporting him. He was drenched with not just sweat, but the stink and stains of all the dead yōkai he had killed since this nightmare began. The sweatshirt he had worn was long discarded and the tee-shirt beneath was a pitiful excuse for scraps of clothing still clinging to his battered flesh. Blood oozed from raw wounds; scratches and bites he was unable to avoid in the thick of combat. His throat and mouth were now so extremely sensitive, that even the act of swallowing was torture in itself. He must have used his fire technique so many times he lost count. As for his eyes…


“Fuck,” he cursed as the world shifted on its axis again and everything doubled upon itself.


He had used his sharingan a bit too much, and as if that wasn’t bad enough – when a situation had risen when all their lives had been in danger – he had dared to use Amaterasu to finish the job. The end result? A right eye that could barely open, and the left that was close to being useless.


He shuddered as yet another deafening shriek filled his ringing ears, and he squeezed both eyes shut to try to block it out.


(what kind of a world is this?! Just what the fuck did I sign up for?!)


He had no idea what he had been expecting when talk of The Calm had started; even when Neji had tried his best to brace them for what was to come. It was as if every damn yōkai in existence had decided to show up today and aim for him in particular. He knew the others were doing their best to fight back, but Sasuke kept feeling that they really all just wanted a piece of him. They had smelled his blood and knew what he represented. Hadn’t that always been the case from the beginning?


“You should rest,” came the quiet voice from behind.


He jumped at the gentle touch of her hand and shrank away from the contact before he could control himself. His skittishness almost earned him a fall on his ass, but he managed to steady himself again with a sword that was coated with thick (almost black) blood.


Hinata didn’t seem to notice his actions, or if she did, she chose to ignore it. Like him, she was no longer as ‘pure’ as she had once appeared. Those royal-like robes had been discarded to reveal a plain but much more fight-effective shirt and pants beneath. Covered with streaks of blood, her features still managed to look serene though exhausted. She gave a weary smile and held up a small bowl of congealing rice cakes.


“You should eat something,” she said. “You can barely stand. If you want, I can try to heal you a little before you return out there. We should be done soon.”


Done soon? Was she in fantasyland? Did she not see or hear all the screeching out there? There was no end to this! Even if they continued fighting until the morning, those bastards would keep on coming!


“I…” he began to protest, wincing at how strained his voice sounded.


“Do as she tells you,” came the firm command from someone who had no plans to take “no” for an answer.


Neji was striding toward them, and if Hinata was a bloody mess, he was even worse. Sasuke did not want to really acknowledge this, but watching Neji in battle had been absolutely awe-inspiring. This guy simply didn’t give a fuck and was ready and willing to fight anything that would get in its way. His wrath was ten times more whenever he noticed his ‘precious’ Hinata-sama in trouble. If Sasuke didn’t know any better, he would have sworn those two were in a relationship even though he was sure they were related by blood.


(or did the Hyūga clan just marry within themselves? Strange)


Still a part of him was pissed that Neji didn’t seem to be showing any signs of weariness. It was probably one thing the older man was going to use over him next time. With a grunt, Sasuke tried to straighten himself instead of leaning like a drunk over his weapon. He managed half of the way, until his knees buckled again and he sat heavily on the ground with a wince.


(damn it!)


“Here you go,” Hinata offered as she knelt beside him. She placed the bowl and a bottle of water within reach and dug into her shirt to withdraw what appeared to be a small jar of some green pasty stuff. “I will rub this on your arms and chest, if you don’t mind. It will absorb into your flesh and should help heal some of your wounds. I am not as good as Haruno Sakura, but I can try my best.”


His fuzzy gaze tried to gauge the shy woman’s expression, but he must have said something in gratitude because he was sure she smiled. He took one of the rice cakes and nearly swallowed it whole; his stomach craving nourishment despite the gore around them. Her hands on his flesh were cold at first, but as she began to rub in soothing circular motions, a welcome warmth seeped into him almost making him sigh in relief.


So what if she wasn’t as good as Sakura? Hinata was doing a damn fine job anyway.




Neji, who was leaning against the wall of the abandoned warehouse they were using as a ‘camp’ of sorts, watched the proceedings in silence; a pensive expression on his visage.


Uchiha Sasuke, eh? Perhaps the elders really did have a reason to want you on their side.


It annoyed him, but it was an annoyance that was tinged with cautious admiration. To think that the boy he had once considered a liability would be able to rescue them, not just once, but three times in all, was amazing in itself. There had been moments during the ‘cleansing’ (for Neji refused to acknowledge this madness as anything but a purging of unclean souls), when their Immortal lives had teetered dangerously on the edge. So yes, there was no risk of dying, but they also couldn’t risk having less fighters. If enough yōkai had an advantage and could suck away your life force, what good was one’s Immortality then?


He shuddered as he recalled the power of Amaterasu when it was finally summoned. Of how those black flames had been quick to consume Malevolents more powerful than he had ever encountered. The elders were no doubt watching their every move, and they must have cheered at the sight of Sasuke unleashing his powers today. It was one of the reasons they had lobbied with S.W.A.T for the opportunity to work with the young man. In turn, if Sasuke was to approve of the Hyūga style of fighting, perhaps someday he would be willing to join their ranks. Why continue the generational rivalry between both clans? Why not just work together?


Or so their naïve thinking was.


Neji rolled his eyes and stretched aching muscles. There was no way in hell that Sasuke would want to join their clan. It would be a blow to his pride, and oh what pride the Uchihas always had.


“…eyes still bleeding,” Hinata was saying as she dampened her handkerchief, with some water, to press tenderly against Sasuke’s face. “How is your vision?”


“Not at a hundred percent,” Sasuke admitted reluctantly, though he appreciated the gesture. He patiently sat still and allowed her to wipe his face; hoping he looked less like someone who had just waded through a sea of blood. “But it will be fine eventually…I hope…”


“We had better hope for that,” Neji interrupted; for it was a little troubling to see Hinata dote so much on the newcomer. He tried to quell the jealousy and pushed himself away from the wall. “If you’re healed well enough -”


“Let him rest for about ten more minutes,” Hinata urged quietly. “We can meet up the others then -”


“We do not have the time for that,” Neji cut in impatiently. “It’s either he fights with us, or he can go back home.”


Sasuke’s jaw worked and giving a small but tight smile to Hinata, he rose to his feet; albeit unsteadily. Looked like Neji was challenging him, and who was he to back down from a –




“What was that?!” Hinata cried out at the inhuman wail to reach them. It was far different from the usual shrieks yōkai gave when killed, and as the trio dashed out of the building and into a dull summer afternoon, they didn’t need a visible sign to tell them that something was terribly wrong.


“Something’s coming!” one of the other warriors bellowed as he dashed toward them. “All the yōkai…look…!”


And look they did for it appeared that the spirits were desperately trying to flee – not from the spirit warriors – but from something much darker…sinister…overpowering.


“Is…isn’t that coming from the direction of S.W.A.T?” Hinata asked in a voice that was barely audible.


Rumbling darkening clouds – as if a nuclear bomb had exploded in the distance – sped toward them with a gut-churning stench of sulfur (death) and smoke (death). The yōkai caught in the clouds’ path were disintegrated at contact. Flashes of lightning intermingled with the clouds, and the spirit warriors could only watch in fearful silence as what had once been a murky, gray afternoon became a scene from the depths of Hell. It was a sudden darkness that blocked out the sun; not even allowing a ray to break through.


“Get back into the building,” Neji was commanding as he reached out for Hinata. “We have to stay low until it passes!”


And yet even as he said this; even as the hairs on the back of his head stood on edge; he would have been a fool not to realize what chakra this belonged to. Hadn’t he just fought with him/it a year ago and still had the scars to show for it?


To think the bijuu has escaped despite all their plans…we are all doomed.


“Let’s go!” he bellowed again as he noticed Sasuke still standing in place with his gaze turned toward the heavens. “Sasuke! Come with us now!”


It was just about upon them; the force of the clouds’ destructive quality uprooting electric and telephone lines, road signs, statues, cars and anything in its path. It was a goddamn tornado of Death, and yet this stubborn brat refused to budge. Neji, who could barely hold onto Hinata, now, pressed against him, tried to take a step forward – whether to beat some sense into Sasuke or to yank him to safety by force. However, the wind was so strong, he could barely see in front of him. He held up an arm to shield his face, bracing his feet as hard as he could, while cursing his damn long hair for getting in the way. He squinted through the flying debris to see what was going on.


“Sasuke!” he yelled again. “Don’t do it! Whatever you think you can do, you cannot deal with the bijuu’s power! You will die! Its strength is enough to take down Immortals! Do not tempt fate!”


Was it his imagination or was that brat actually smiling? And not just any smile, but a smile that appeared to be full of confidence and almost mocking. He watched the boy, who had just minutes earlier been on his last legs suddenly let loose a surge of chakra into his sword.


“As you wish, Kurama,” Sasuke seemed to bellow (or at least it sounded like that to Neji). “I accept your challenge, you son-of-a-bitch!”


And with a roar that should not have come out of the mouth of such a young body, Neji watched in horrified fascination as Uchiha Sasuke ran toward the jaws of Darkness and allowed himself to be swallowed whole.


“Oh God,” Hinata sobbed as she fell to her knees and covered her face with trembling hands. “Oh God! What are we going to do?!”


Neji couldn’t trust himself to speak as he knelt by her side to wrap his arms tightly around her quivering form. He could only stare at the spot where Sasuke had once stood; the vivid image of that young man taunting and inviting Death, the lasting impression he’d forever have.




Holy shit!


(so this is what you really look like, Kurama)


“Whoa!” He leaped out of the way as the outstretched paw and claws nearly took a chunk of his flesh before it buried itself into the ground and created a miniature earthquake. Without giving the boy a chance to breathe, it attacked again, this time sweeping away several vehicles and a house in the process.


“Why don’t you stay still and let me have my way, Uchiha Sasuke?” Kurama taunted as it towered over the figure that appeared as an ant to it at this stage in the game. “I promise it won’t hurt too much if you just stay still!”


It lunged again, and Sasuke was barely lucky to escape this time. Thank goodness for Hinata’s decision to heal him right before the shit hit the fan. If not, he would have been Kurama’s finger food in seconds. He sped toward the right hind leg, only to cry out in pain as one of those damned nine tails whipped around to smack him aside as if he were nothing more than an insect.


He slammed hard into a wall, though smart enough to prevent his head from making contact. Unfortunately, the rest of him wasn’t so lucky and he could feel bones cracking within him as he struggled to regain his senses. He swallowed the glob of blood to fill his mouth, though not fast enough as some dribbled down his chin. He wiped it away with a shaking arm.


Damn…this isn’t going to be easy at all.


“The audacity of humans,” Kurama growled as it scratched at the ground impatiently; seemingly unaware of the craters it was beginning to form with that act. At this rate, the entire city was going to have to be re-designed and Sasuke doubted even the Cleaners had that much energy to get it all completed in one night.


He staggered to his feet; sword held before him.


“Isn’t it funny, that while the real world sleeps and is unaware of this, you are here about to die for their sake? Did no one tell you that I can rip through the barrier between our world and theirs and make their lives just a little more miserable than it already is?”


“Then why don’t you?” Sasuke sneered. “If you are capable of doing all those things, what’s stopping you?”


Kurama grinned; the spittle from its widened jaws dropping to the ground like rain. “Why I had to indulge in your little game first, Uchiha Sasuke. You challenged me to a fight and here I am to accept it. Let it not be said that I never fulfilled my obligations. It would have been rude of me, wouldn’t it?”


“Where is he?” came the quiet question that hardly betrayed the thundering of his heart. His grip around the sword tightened. “Where is he?”


Kurama cackled and without warning, swung its tail again; sending Sasuke flying into several parked cars. This time the boy didn’t move for almost five minutes.


“Where is he? You ask.” Kurama patted its stomach and seemed to burp. “In here with that new relative of his…and a few of those blasted warriors who tried to get in my way. I’ve had a good meal already, but one more morsel of an Uchiha wouldn’t…hmm…interesting. Interesting indeed!”


For around the still comatose boy, a shade of purple chakra was beginning to form into an oh-so-familiar shape of an opponent it had fought centuries ago.


“Well, well, well,” Kurama remarked with amusement. “Looks like an old friend has stopped by to pay a visit. I knew you showed signs of being able to conjure up Susanoo back at the cave, but this is quite impressive. Madara must have more faith in you than once assumed.”


Now in its complete form, Susanoo was just as tall as Kurama and had the appearance of a warrior, though its clothing and armor was a throwback to its original owner’s era. Its four arms held onto undulated blades glowing and thrumming with barely suppressed chakra. Its features resembled that of a tengu, and as it took a threatening step forward, the earth shook with its presence.


Sasuke groaned and lifted heavy lashes.


Wha…what’s going…ah!


His aching eyes widened in awe (and slight fear) at what he was sitting in. The Susanoo back at the cave had looked nothing like this! What the hell was this thing? And how was he to know if it was for him or against him?


“Well don’t just sit there!” Kurama howled. “It’s yours to command, Sasuke. Tell it what to do and it will do so. Really. You should try to get along with your abilities. It’s what makes you a good warrior.”


Sasuke gritted his teeth. What the hell was wrong with this damn fox? Did it think all of this was a game?! It kept talking as if they were simply having a sparring match! This was infuriating!


He waved his arm in a slicing motion and just as Kurama had said, Susanoo responded in grand fashion. Two of the undulated blades went flying toward the beast; nearly making contact if Kurama hadn’t leapt away but only to retaliate with a wave of chakra from its tails. Sasuke cried out in pain as they were tossed to the side, but he bit his lower lip and held on; daring Susanoo to attack again until a direct hit was made.


I can’t sense you anywhere, he thought with increased panic as both creatures performed their dance of Death. Why can’t I sense you anymore, Naruto? Do you really no longer exist? Was that really our last farewell? Damnitdamnitdamnit!


“Aaah, this is no fun,” Kurama complained. “You are not giving it your all, Sasuke. Why are you crying already? Do you not want him to live, eh? Is this the way you fight for the one you love? Pitiful. Maybe you don’t deserve him after all.”


“SHUT UP!” Sasuke roared with a fury and frustration that was wrenched from the depths of his soul. He raised the sword above his head and leapt as high as he could. Damn the consequences of his sudden rash decision. “Give him back to me, goddamnit! GIVE HIM BACK!”


Despite his angry tears, he would notice the forming black ball of energy around the widened jaws. It felt as if Kurama was drawing in every dark chakra around him. However, with a frown of determination…


“As if I’d let you,” Sasuke growled and with all the strength he had left, he used Susanoo’s four arms to deflect the incoming attack. The effect was immediate as Sasuke felt the ball’s energy sear though his pores and into his bones; almost rattling them until he was sure a few more ribs (and maybe a femur) were shattered in the process. Susanoo was also beginning to disintegrate, but refusing to give up, Sasuke jumped out of his protective shield and allowed himself to be swallowed by the beast – his sword at the ready.





(a foolhardy decision, Sasuke)


(why do you fight so hard for him?)

(you should know the answer by now)

(you are all the same, aren’t you? What makes you any different from the others? Do you know how hard it is to be in this vessel that allows himself to be hurt time and time again? It becomes frustrating and appalling after a while)

(…I’m sure it does…and I know you’ve seen just about everything he’s been through, but I am not like them. You should have sensed it by now)

(I refuse to let him be used any longer and if it means eliminating him from this world, then so be it. He has suffered enough, don’t you think?)

(But you’re being selfish, Kurama. You choose to think for him. Why not let him make the final decision on whether or not to live? If he’s survived with you all this time, what do you think his answer would be?)


(I only ask you to give me a chance to prove myself…to both of you. And if it means fighting with you every other day until you say “yes” to me, then so be it. I am willing to deal with your stubborn nature)

(you are a strange one indeed – even your brother gave up after a while)

(I am not my brother)



(will you give him back to me?)



(what is my motivation to do so?)

(I love him)

(you and every other inconsiderate asshole before you)

(with all my heart)

(where have I heard that before? *yawn*)

(I’m being serious here!)

(yes, you are, so what? I’m enjoying my time out, so allow me to rampage a little more, goddamnit)

(you’ve done enough for one day. The Cleaners are never going to forgive you for this)

(screw them all…and all those self-righteous spirit warriors out there)


(you know you’re going to have some explaining to do when this is all over. In fact…I’m thinking Naruto might be in trouble too)

(and whose fault is that?!)


(you are such a…urgh. Now I see where Naruto got some of his habits)

(should be the other way around – that kid has ruined me…why are you smiling?)

(no reason)

(don’t be mistaken! I can still be cruel and mean if I choose to be!)

(and no one is going to take that reputation away from you anytime soon, so please…)



(…don’t screw it up, Uchiha Sasuke. Do you understand?)


(I am always going to be a part of him, don’t you forget that)


(and because I’m guessing he might have heard some part of our conversation…I think it spares you the embarrassment of having to actually confess your feelings to him in person)







There was a brilliant flash of light; so blinding that spirit warriors in other regions would swear they had witnessed it at the time.


Neji and Hinata – as well as their fellow fighters – who had remained hiding in the warehouse, would look up in mute fascination as the skies cleared just as quickly as the dark clouds had appeared. They rose slowly to their feet and stepped outside again where the destruction was still absolute, and yet…


“It…it smells…” Hinata began softly and closed her eyes as the first drops of rain began to fall from the heavens. “Wonderful,” she finished with a breathless laugh while lifting her hands in jubilation. The other warriors – usually stoic – dared to do the same, while Neji remained immobile with his hands crossed before his chest in thoughtful silence.


Just what the hell did you do, Sasuke? he pondered as he watched the final cleansing take place. And just how fearful should we all be of the powers you now possess?


The Hyūga clan was definitely not going to let this slip by.





He lifted his lashes to the sight and warmth of sunlight on his features.


Before him, his English teacher’s voice droned on monotonously. Outside the windows, thousands of sakura petals floated with the gentle caress of mid-morning breeze; creating an illusion of pink rain on a clear day. Birds chirped happily on sturdy branches, a couple daring to hop onto his window sill to serenade him.


There was a sharp whistle from below, which forced him to look up with a start. He craned his neck a little to look out the window. For a moment, he wasn’t sure of what he was seeing until the man in the green tracksuit stepped back with a wide grin and a sheepish expression.


Right there. In front of the whole damn school. He was standing in the middle of what looked like a circle…no…not a circle…a heart. He had drawn a heart on the ground with the words…




…scribbled inside of it. Only he had forgotten to put an extra ‘o’ at the end of that word.


Still…he blushed in pleasure at the sight; ignoring the English teacher calling his name to answer a question. He had no idea when he climbed onto the sill or pushed open the window; neither was he planning to question why Naruto was patiently waiting with open arms as if jumping out from the third floor was perfectly normal. But he did it. He would jump no matter how high he was because he had fought hard for this and he deserved every damn moment with…




He rubbed his nose (and probably bruised ego); glaring at the floor as if it was responsible for his shattered fantasy/dream. With a low groan, he got onto his hands and knees, pushing aside newspapers with blaring headlines ranging from “INEXPLICABLE TORNADO RIPS THROUGH JAPAN” to “FAMILIES CLAIM TO HEAR STRANGE BOOMING SOUNDS FROM SKIES” to the non-stop television coverage of people swearing they had seen some weird activity from their homes the other day.


(strange things indeed)


He chuckled at their obliviousness and rose to his feet to prepare himself for the day. Though it was just about six in the morning, it was never too early when it came to his new daily ritual (well, at least for the past four days).


By the time he arrived at S.W.A.T, an hour later, it was to the now embarrassing sight of admiration and awe in the faces of the workers there. He was treated with a little more respect these days especially from ‘veterans’ who had doubted his allegiance in the first place. Sasuke knew there was going to be another meeting of clan leaders by the end of the week, and he had been cordially invited. As of today, they were still awaiting his answer. Besides, if he had to listen to Tsunade and Jiraiya try to apologize to him (on behalf of those stuck up elders) one more time over their decision to use Karin, he was going to punch something. In fact, he was beginning to think going to that meeting and punching each and every leader – especially “A” – in the face was a pretty good idea -


“Hallo, Handsome,” Sakura greeted with a cheeky smile once he stepped into her office in the medical unit. “You’re looking much stronger today.”


“Been doing the exercises you told me to,” he admitted as he allowed plunked himself onto the examination bed for another round of checkups. She had healed him as best she could the day after The Calm, but since he wasn’t Naruto, there were still a few parts of his battered body that needed a little more time to recover.


Halfway through Sakura’s poking and prodding, Sai popped in to say “hello”. After catching up with minor pleasantries, he announced that he would be traveling with Kakashi, in a couple of days, to North America. They would be scouting for some new talent (possible new Immortals) within the next few weeks.


“We’d invite you to come along,” Sai teased. “But we get the feeling you’d rather be here with a certain someone.”


Not for the first time today, Sasuke felt his features burn at the insinuation. He figured that it was now an open secret about his commitment to Naruto; after all, who the hell chose to stay beside a comatose patient all day – three days in a row? If it hadn’t been for Sakura finally forcing him to go back to his apartment last night, it might have been four in a row.


When Sai finally left, there was a brief moment of companionable silence as she worked on her computer while Sasuke remained on the bed, swinging his legs back and forth gently. He finally cleared his throat and asked timidly.


“So…uh…no change yet?”


Sakura smiled without turning away from the screen. “No change, but he is responding to your presence, so that’s a good sign. His vitals are still stable, and his brain waves do show activity.” She stopped typing long enough to look at him; concern in her eyes and voice. “However, I still cannot tell you if he will regain his memory completely. You just have to keep doing what you’re doing, okay?”


He nodded solemnly; that hard chunk of fear settling in the pit of his stomach again. Doubt – like an incessant fly – refused to leave him. What if it was all for naught? That everything he had fought so hard for, was nothing more than a farce? That Kurama had finally won by making it impossible for Naruto to be ‘hurt’ again by an Uchiha despite his promises.


“Cheer up,” Sakura urged as she moved over to sit beside him. She cupped his cheeks and pinched them playfully. “Naruto’s not going to forget you that easily anyway. Once he opens his eyes and sees your face, bam! It’s going to be like magic.”


“Yeah right,” Sasuke grumbled and escaped her clutches with a playful poke at her forehead. “When he sees my face, he’ll probably run for the hills.”


She laughed. “And I trust you’ll run after him to bring him right back to where he belongs, eh?”


He lowered his gaze and kicked his feet a little faster. “Maybe,” he mumbled. “Anyway…” He cleared his throat again and forced his voice to remain steady. “What ever happened to Karin?”


Sakura’s shoulders drooped a little. “She’s under care. Kurama really did a number on her too, and word is they might scrap her eventually since she wasn’t able to pull it off. You should be happy about that, right?”


Should he? Yes. It would mean he wouldn’t have to deal with her meddlesome attitude, but at the same time…




“What was that?” Sakura asked.


“I said, she is a part of him too…in a weird way,” Sasuke mused with a sigh. “She’s like his sister or something. So…I’m thinking a part of him would want to know he had a relative out there instead of being all alone. At least I had the pleasure of knowing what a family was like and I had Itachi…he…he’s never really had anyone. Know what I mean?”


He blushed again as he met the knowing look in her eyes, forcing him to lower his quickly. “Forget what I said,” he muttered and jumped off the bed to reach for his jacket. “It meant nothing anyway. If they scrap her, they scrap her. No bother to me anyway. See you around.”


“Ah, Sasuk…!”


But he was already gone before she could call him back, not wanting to listen to whatever else she might say about his sudden change of heart when it came to the red-head. If Naruto ever awakened and decided that he wanted to have a ‘sister’ around, then who was S.W.A.T to say no? After all, it was their morbid decision to create her in the first place.


He shook his head and stepped out of the elevator, which led to the a much quieter floor with private rooms so comfortable, you’d think you were in a hotel instead of a hospital. There was a vending machine next to the waiting room, where he planned to purchase a couple of drinks while he kept Naruto company. However, nothing in the world could have prepared him for the sight of the person –dressed in the drab hospital gown which was opened behind to reveal a pair of bright orange shorts and a familiar faintly scarred back – kneeling before the vending machine. This person was desperately trying to reach for a coin beneath and was straining with all his might.


“Son of a bitch,” he complained and whined. “That was my last damn…HEY!”


The sudden hard kick to his ass nearly had him banging his head against the machine, causing him to turn around with indignation on his features.


“What the fuck do you think you’re…?!     Oh…it’s you.” There was a breath of an awkward pause, a sheepish grin; a rubbing of his head followed by the timid presence of an outstretched hand.


“You…eh…you wouldn’t happen to have 100 yen on you, would you?”


This time the kick had him flying into the corner of the room.





“I can’t believe you’d do that to a dying man!” Naruto wailed minutes later, when he was tucked back in bed again (more like Sasuke dragging him back to bed before any nurse could notice the commotion).


Naruto was met with stony silence; the NewType magazine an obvious blockade from reading the young man’s current expression. He cleared his throat and tried again.


“I’ve told you I’m sorry a million times already. What more do you want from meURGHMPHF!”


“Shut up and eat some more,” came the terse command as another peeled orange was shoved into his mouth to silence him.


Naruto sputtered and nearly choked on the fruit, though he managed to extricate it and chew a bit more carefully. The magazine was back up again, and he was glad that Sasuke was at least still sitting beside the bed – which was a good sign, right?


“It’s not my fault,” he grumbled after another few minutes of tense silence, broken only by the lowered volume of the flat screen television against the wall.


A page flip.


“I only woke up about an hour before you showed up,” he explained beneath his breath. “And I was so damn hungry, I had to eat something. They didn’t even leave me a cup of water here. I couldn’t find my clothes or wallet either, so I had to search for some loose change to get something from the vending machine. I really haven’t been faking my coma. I swear.”


Sasuke flipped another page; wanting to believe that Naruto was telling the truth and that he hadn’t been making a fool of himself whenever he came here yapping away his innermost thoughts and fears to a person he had thought ‘dead’ to the world. How many more times had he whispered those three words into Naruto’s ears or made shoujo-worthy vows to remain by his side to eternity and beyond? How many times had he worried himself sick, thinking, wondering, fearing that Naruto would awaken and not even recognize him? And yet – as unpredictable as he always was – their reunion would have to involve him mooching off his student yet again.


The man really had no shame.


“You’re supposed to be taking care of your sensei,” came the low whine as if Naruto had heard his thoughts. “And you treat me like this. How is that fair?”


When Sasuke stubbornly remained silent, he huffed and pouted. “I kept my promise, didn’t I? I didn’t forget you, Sasuke.” He paused and this time, his voice was much lower and the words repeated slowly as if trying to believe it himself. “I didn’t…forget you…I couldn’t anyway.”


Sasuke’s cheeks flared with color and he gripped the pages of the magazine a little tighter, especially as he recalled Kurama’s teasing all over again.


(and because I’m guessing he might have heard some part of our conversation…I think it spares you the embarrassment of having to actually confess your feelings to him in person)


Oh God.


What the fuck did he do now? Act as if nothing happened? Hope that Naruto would have forgotten that little part? Or was Kurama currently laughing its ass off inside there? Sasuke would bet that creature was.


“Oy,” Naruto finally called out impatiently and leaned over to tug on the magazine firmly. Sasuke struggled back to keep it place, but at the sudden loud ripping sound, both men were left holding onto a chunk of it.


“Now look what you’ve done,” Sasuke argued. “It was a new issue too, damn it!”


“I’m trying to talk to you and you keep shutting me out. What’s your problem anyway?”


“I don’t have a problem,” he grunted as he tried to reach for the other half, which Naruto was holding up and away from him with a smirk. “Give it back.”


“Hehehe…oops! Almost got it…not!”


“Damn it, Naruto!”


He ducked the incoming cuff intended for his temple and just as the boy leaned over again to reach for the magazine; Naruto wrapped an arm around his waist to pull him in quickly. He would hardly give Sasuke a moment to catch his breath or to process what was happening before claiming lips he had thirsted for the moment they said their farewells an eon ago.


(damn, I’ve missed you)


It was a rude thrust into Sasuke’s mouth; a demanding request for entrance into a warmth he craved like a junkie needing his fix. He moaned as his hips began to move on their own accord, swaying gently to meet the ones that matched his uneven rhythm. Either that or the boy was simply trying to get into better position; after all lying halfway across Naruto wasn’t all that comfortable.






God, this kid tasted so fucking gooooood. He couldn’t get enough. But wait….was Sasuke hitting his chest or something?




Sasuke was finally able to find the strength to pull away; a thin silver thread of saliva between them, features flushed, lips delightfully moist and swollen, dark eyes slightly glazed but still focused enough to show some form of disgruntlement.


“My…my legs,” Sasuke finally panted breathlessly, while trying hard to ignore just how firm and possessive Naruto’s hand was on his right ass cheek. The gentle squeeze to ensue was not helping matters at all. The ache in his groin was now something that was all too obvious. “They…they haven’t fully recovered yet…”


Naruto looked down at the jean-clad legs in question, and with a raised brow…


“What are you doing…?” Sasuke squeaked as Naruto lifted him by the waist to switch positions. As his body was lowered (almost tenderly) to the bed, Sasuke couldn’t help the immediate influx of BL scenarios to flash through his mind. How many simulations had he gone through where the exact same thing had happened? And to think it would be in a hospital room of all plac-


“If you think I have plans to fuck your brains out in here, you’re sadly mistaken,” came the husky whisper accentuated with a wicked grin which had Sasuke covering his reddened visage in humiliation.


Naruto laughed and tried to pull them apart. “God, you’re so damn easy to read, Sasuke. I really have to make you stop playing those things.”


“Sh…shut up,” came the muffled whimper behind the hands. “I wasn’t thinking about that at all.”


“Sure you weren’t.”


“I stopped thinking about you in terms of that a long time ago,” came the strained protest. “I know you’re not a character from a video game. You’re flesh and blood and…and…”


He couldn’t continue; his shame was absolute. He fully expected to be laughed at again or looked at with pity, but when there was the warm sensation of Naruto’s breath against his fingers, followed by feather-light kisses upon each of them, Sasuke’s breath caught and shuddered in response.


“I’m glad to hear that at least,” Naruto murmured as he licked at the trembling left pinky before nibbling gently on it. He raised his eyes to meet the feverish ones before him; eyes dark (with that familiar tint of red) watching and studying him with an intensity that made him blush.


“You did something no one else could,” Naruto continued as he lowered his gaze again. This time when he tried to remove Sasuke’s hands, there was no protest. He raised the left palm to his lips and placed a hard kiss upon it; his words bathing over the slightly sweaty flesh. “I did my best to hang on to my sanity while you fought with Kurama…and I have to admit I didn’t do it all alone. If Karin hadn’t been there to hold my hand and to remind me of who and what I was…I might not be here today, or rather, I really might have forgotten everything about you.”


Sasuke’s eyes widened. “Karin…?”


Naruto smiled and turned his attention to Sasuke’s right palm. “Yes, Karin. The one you thought was a pain-in-the-ass. She’s stronger than we gave her credit for, and she stuck with Kurama as best she could until he took over completely. Even when all seemed bleak, she still tried to keep me going.” His smile became a grin. “I know it’s weird to think of her as a sister, but it does feel that way.”


“She is your sister,” Sasuke whispered, a part of him wishing Naruto would stop with the teasing foreplay, while another prayed he wouldn’t stop.  He squirmed and fought back a groan. “You finally have someone you can consider a relative.”




“And she’ll always be here for you if you want that…”


“…and you?”


“…me what?”


Naruto raised a brow; a brief flash of his teeth as he fought back a grin. The boy’s face was becoming even redder. “Will you always be here for me if I want?”


Sasuke died a million pleasurable deaths, when he was saved the trouble of answering at the sensation of Naruto’s tongue and teeth against the hollow of his neck. He gasped and arched into the delightful pressure; his entire being taut as wire and throbbing with a need for this thing – this dark, deep, raging thing bubbling within – to be satiated once and for all (if ever).


He couldn’t wait another minute, but he would be the first to also confess that he was terrified at daring to make the first move. This was going to be his first time anyway, and if Naruto held true to his promise not to take him here, then all of this was pointless.


“…to me.”


“Hu…huh?” he gasped when he was finally allowed to come back to earth. Naruto was pulling away from him slightly; his head cocked to the side as if listening for something. “What’s going on…?”


“We’re leaving this place,” came the cryptic statement as Naruto over the side of the bed to grab the backpack Sasuke had come with.


“Wait…wait a minute…!”


“Someone’s coming,” Naruto explained quickly as he tucked the bag close to their bodies and reached out to clasp Sasuke’s hands tightly within his. “The last thing I need is for them to interrupt us when things were just getting good. We’ve got a lot to catch up on, right?”


“Yes, but how the hell do you plan to get us out of here?” Sasuke asked in bemusement.


“How else?” came the incredulous response. “Teleportation. Duh.”


“Teleport…?” Sasuke rolled his eyes. “You’ve never teleported before, Naruto. You don’t know how to.”


“Says who?” The blond tried to look hurt. “Just because you haven’t seen me do it, doesn’t mean I can’t. I just choose not to. You’d be surprised at all the things I can do.” This part added with a  playful wink that sent another rush of blood to regions Sasuke was already having problems trying to control.


“Now hang on to me and close your eyes-”


“I swear, Naruto, if you don’t do this right and you end up teleporting us to some random place, I will kick your fucking-”


“Oh for God’s sake, Sasuke. Just shut the fuck up already and trust me for once. Besides -”


“Besides what?” he queried even as he began to feel the surge of chakra enveloping them in a protective cocoon. But unlike the fiery flames emitted by Kurama during their battle, these were flames that soothed him, flames that made him feel like he was finally where he had always belonged. These were flames that promised to scorch whatever few doubts and fears he might have when it came to their relationship. And as he finally met those beautiful yet playful blue eyes, Sasuke felt his heart begin a wild staccato dance which left  him breathless.


(oh God…Naruto…)


“Wherever we go, Sasuke,” came the quiet whisper as their foreheads met and their clasped hands tightened. “I promise, with all my heart, to take very good care of you.”




Chapter 16

Naruto Home




















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