Title: me wa kokoro no kagami; the eyes are the window to the soul
Genre: Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Pre-Relationship, Time Travel, Het, Slash
Relationship(s): Gen; Referenced/Implied: SasuSakuNaru, ItaSasu, NaruHina, ItaIzu, JiraOro
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, Implied/Mentioned Incestuous Feelings
Author Notes: this is part 1 of a series, though this fic can stand on its own as a fix-it.
Word Count: 50,025
Summary: “We’re going to send someone back,” Naruto said with confidence, his voice holding strong at their incredulous looks. “Far enough back that we can change things.” “Send someone back?” Kakashi asked, bewildered. “Time travel?” Sasuke asked, just as shocked. Surely that hadn’t been what Naruto meant? Naruto nodded enthusiastically, a blinding grin gracing his face, making it into a once more familiar sight. “Time travel!”
Sakura’s eyes were green. They were a rather distinct color and Sasuke could name several times off the top of his head that he could remember them changing shades. When they were first assigned together on a team as a newly made genin, they were a pale mint that sparkled with something like excitement. When they faced off against Zabuza for the first time, they were shaded, the hidden fears creeping up and coloring the irises with their darker leanings. There was a dullness to them the night Sasuke left, the rain pouring down over them. He remembers how broken Sakura looked at that moment, right before he knocked her out and left her on a bench. She got some warmth back by the next time he saw her, her eyes determined and steely as she stared up at him. He could see the surprise, the shock, but her anticipation was swimming in her eyes, there for all to see so long as they looked. They shift, from a soft cool tone to one of a more saturated shade, always depending on the mood or the situation. They were jade stones staring at him with affection, love, betrayal, hatred, caution, and then trust.
Naruto’s eyes were an almost absurdly azure blue. They were all the typical things one would use to describe blue eyes: like the sky on a cloudless day, the reflection of a clear sea reflecting back, pools of bright blue that one could swim in. They were all of these things, though not consistently. They are shaded towards mood and circumstance, much like Sakura’s, but Naruto’s had the distinct difference of changing as he developed. As a child and a genin, his eyes had been described as cerulean and full of passion. After he had learned the truth about the Kyuubi, about Kurama, however, things had changed. Sasuke could remember seeing Naruto with blood-red eyes, their slitted pupils narrow and intensely focused on their target. He could remember the fear, the confusion, that those eyes had caused; the panic that had broken out when they had made their appearance. There were also the golden eyes of sage mode, their pupils once more distorted, though this time they resembled the frog summons, rather than the wrathful Kyuubi no Kitsune. Brimming with nature chakra, they were admittedly a sight to see. The real wringer, however, laid with the eyes that are an incandescent amber, off-set by the double pupils that were the combined effort of the nature chakra and the Kyuubi chakra meeting and joining in Naruto’s body. Blue, red, gold, amber, always staring at him with determination and friendly comradery.
Kakashi’s eyes, in direct contrast to the lighter eyes of his first two students, a dark coal grey, bordering closely on a soft black color. Objectively, Sasuke knew that they had once been the color of a night sky, his eyes sparkling like stars as his genius was at work. Sasuke hadn’t been there, so he couldn’t possibly say, but he imagined that they had sharpened after the death of his father, grew pointed corners like obsidian as he was forced to deal with life on his own. Maybe they had grown brighter or more full of life while he was with his own genin team, or maybe they hadn’t. Sasuke wouldn’t be able to tell. What he can say is that the contrast between Kakashi’s raven black eye and Obito’s ruby Sharingan is a sight to behold. Sasuke couldn’t imagine Kakashi without it, which makes seeing him after the war an odd sight. He would get used to it eventually, the double black eyes that reminded Sasuke distinctly of the soft supple scales of one of his snake summons. Eventually. For the most part, the overlaying image of the rubescent eye remains; the eye that was distant then caring, a pattern that had repeated until it ended with a welcoming look in his direction, accompanied by a firm squeeze on his shoulder.
As for his own eyes? Sasuke had seen many things. He had been through hell and back, scraping along the dirt with brittle nails as he screamed hysterically at the sky, his eyes blurry from pain. He had spent nights laying awake as he stared up at his white ceiling, thoughts spiralling downward into an empty abyss, his empty eyes, dark and foreboding, as he teared up. Red rimmed eyes often appeared as he forced down uncontrollable grief, shoving sadness away with anger. He had glared menacingly with black eyes, bottomless pits of malice hidden in their depths. He had shared love and then hatred, a cesspool of benevolence just under the surface. His eyes were black and then red and then red and purple. His eyes were, at their very core, empty and full of regret.
The world, at large, survived Kaguya, Zetsu, and Madara. People had died, and people would grieve, but the world would continue on past the Fourth Shinobi War. They would survive for generations to come, true, but they wouldn’t live. They would keep moving, devastation in their wake, but they wouldn’t ever be the same. People would be scared, cautious, afraid. They always were after war. Except, this was different from any other shinobi war. This had been against the gods and while they had come out the winner, the numbers lost, gone for good, made the win feel like a loss.
Konoha was no longer even a thought on the map. Other villages were gone as well, flattened along with a large portion of their civilian populations. It would take years, decades, to deal with the aftermath of this war. Before they did that, before they truly started to rebuild only to learn it wouldn’t ever be the same, they cried tears of joy and sorrow as they hugged both warm and cold bodies.
Sasuke watched the bustle of the camp around him, a warm cup of broth held lightly in his hands. Naruto was a welcome presence on his left and he was certain that as soon as Sakura got off of her shift, she would take her place on Sasuke’s right. He was not happy, not content, but he was comfortable in the knowledge that he hadn’t completely lost his place with the family he had found all those years ago. There was the vaguest notion in the back of his mind to fight Naruto, to truly find out who was the stronger shinobi, but he couldn’t bring himself to voice it. They could do what they’ve done for years. They could fight and snarl and beg, but how could it ever be like it used to? They had fought together for once, in perfect sync, and Sasuke couldn’t imagine anything that felt as good as that. Watching Sakura hold her own, protecting her boys when they needed to breathe, even for just a second,had left a similar fire swelling in Sasuke’s chest. A fight between any of them now would be bitter and unfulfilling.
“I don’t like it,” Naruto broke in, his voice a muffled grumble as he sipped slowly at his own cup of broth. “So many people lost…so many lives just snuffed out.”
Sasuke glanced over, taking in the bags under Naruto’s eyes, the way his posture was slumped over, most of his body weight against Sasuke’s side, and said nothing.
“It’s not right,” Naruto finally said, anguish leaking from his voice. His eyes were dull as they stared at the ground, lost.
“Then do something about it,” Sasuke replied, meeting Naruto’s gaze. “You don’t like it? Change it.”
Sasuke didn’t know what exactly he meant, what he was trying to imply or get across to Naruto, but a spark entered the blonde’s eyes and suddenly he was gripping his cup tightly as Naruto abruptly stood, eyes narrowing as he muttered to himself. There was an urgency to his movements that left Sasuke curious, but he let the blonde leave without confrontation. Naruto was smart when he wanted to be, and Sasuke’s words had given him something to think about, to stew over. It was better than letting him drown himself in the sorrows of yesterday.
“Is Naruto alright?” Sakura asked softly as she approached, taking a seat a few inches from him.
Sasuke offered his still warm broth, giving a small twitch of the lips in Sakura’s direction when she smiled brightly at him. “Are any of us alright?”
Sakura hummed, admitting his point, while she finished off the rest of the warm liquid. “Where’s he going?” she asked once she was finished, delicately setting the cup on the ground between them.
“No idea,” Sasuke admitted, shrugging his shoulders. “I told him if he was unhappy with the outcome, he should change it. Then he got this look in his eye and left.”
Sakura pursed her lips and hummed again, considering, before she shook her head, obviously deciding to let Naruto be just this once. She glanced at him, biting her lip to worry it between her teeth. Sasuke allowed her to look, never breaking his gaze from her examination.
Sakura let out a quiet huff, her soft smile sad and resigned as she inched closer to rest her head on his shoulder, her gaze locked onto the fire that was crackling in front of them. “It’s never going to happen.”
Sasuke gave his own sad smile, even if she didn’t glance up to see it. He took her hand in his, their calloused palms rubbing together as he squeezed it gently. “No, it’s never going to happen.”
Sakura let out a little giggle, a borderline sob, before she buried her head in Sasuke’s neck and he let her. At this point, they had already known the answer to her question. They would never have been more than friends, not after what Sasuke has put Sakura through. Sasuke knew that Sakura would have welcomed him with open arms, that she would have smiled and borne any hurt he thrust upon her, but he couldn’t do that to her. He’s spent so much time hurting the people he cared about. So much time dismissing bonds, breaking them, until all he had been left with was himself. He wouldn’t ever love her like a wife, but he loved her like a friend and he wouldn’t jeopardize that, not anymore. The very idea that he would throw away such a bond; it was preposterous.
Sakura’s tears abated soon enough, the pinkette obviously tired of crying over something she’d known since she was a child. She pulled herself away, taking her weight from Sasuke’s shoulder to simply sit beside him, their arms brushing as she wiped the clinging tears from her eyelashes. Silence remained between them for several long moments, neither of them in any rush to break the moment they were immersed in.
“I’m going to head to bed,” she said finally, breaking the comfortable silence around them. “I have a shift tomorrow.” She took the time to pick up the empty cup from the ground, sending Sasuke a small but genuine smile before she stood and turned.
Sasuke watched her leave, his gaze tracing her back as she walked towards the tent she shared with Ino. She ducked in and Sasuke turned back to the fire in front of him, the blaze dancing in the cold night air. He stayed there for another minute or two before resigning himself to going to his own tent. Naruto was off somewhere, planning something, and he wasn’t going to see him before retiring. Glancing over to make sure the night patrol was alert and aware, he headed into the tent he shared with Team Taka. Karin was out like a light, her breathing steady as she used Suigetsu’s blanket-covered thigh as a pillow. The white-haired man was scowling in his sleep, his blanket drawn up to just underneath his chin.
Jūgo nodded at him from his corner of their cramped tent, his amused smile directed at the duo in front of him. Sasuke shared his own amusement through a raised eyebrow before he laid himself down on top of his blanket. He closed his eyes and tried to breathe deeply, hoping, praying, that the nightmares would leave him in peace just this once.
Burning eyes stared forward, bloody tears tracing paths down swollen and bruised cheeks.
“You must move forward.”
“How can I? How can I move forward when the people I want to meet at the end of the path are no longer there waiting to meet me?”
“…An interesting question, my son. You’ve given me something to think about.”
Naruto secluded himself for a total of forty-five hours, without sound or movement. The world moved on without him, people collecting the dead, burning some, burying others. Some of the bodies would be stored and carried back to their villages, regardless of the fact that the buildings were no longer standing. Sasuke stood outside of the tent, debating with himself, before leaving Naruto alone. For the blonde to be that quiet, for that long, he’s was either dead or onto something. If even a goddess hadn’t been able to take Naruto down, Sasuke doubted anything else could.
Sakura walked past him at the twenty-four-hour mark, determination in her stride, but Sasuke grabbed her arm gently and didn’t waver under the glare she sent his way. He shook his head and let her mull over his advice. She clearly didn’t like it, believed she knew better, but she let him make the call. She reluctantly nodded, silently agreeing to leave it alone for a bit longer, before she gently tugged her arm out of Sasuke’s grasp. He knew he wouldn’t see her again until Naruto finally showed his face. She was busy, after all, even if the thought of not seeing his friend for an unknown amount of time made his chest sore.
Kakashi found him forty-four hours into Naruto’s self-imposed exile. He grabbed a seat across from Sasuke, the cool evening air caressing his light hair. Sasuke knew it was cowardly, but he couldn’t bring himself to meet his eyes.
“Was there anything I could have done,” Kakashi started off, slowly, gently, “That would’ve saved all of us some pain?”
Sasuke didn’t need to think about it. “No,” he admitted, just as gently. “I needed to make my own decisions, my own mistakes. I would have stopped at nothing to chase what I thought was the only way to lay my family to rest.” Sasuke knew himself; he was incredibly stubborn and often struggled with other people trying to make decisions for him, especially when he had been dealing with so much inner turmoil.
Kakashi was quiet for a second, taking in Sasuke’s words, before he hummed, accepting Sasuke’s confession. “Would you have chased after him no matter what?” Sasuke finally looked up, raising an eyebrow, unsure what exactly Kakashi was asking. “If you had known something wasn’t right that night, would you still have left the village?” Kakashi clarified, his coal eyes boring into Sasuke’s.
Sasuke was taken aback for just a moment, his gaze startled as he considered what Kakashi was asking. Would he have chased after Itachi if he had known something else was going on? He would’ve wanted answers, surely, for any suspicious activity that night. Granted, he had been so incredibly young at that point, would he have even noticed anything weird? The trauma from seeing so many dead bodies, seeing his family wiped out before his eyes, would’ve made his reaction to things volatile at best. Even if he had been presented with evidence that Itachi hadn’t been at fault, Sasuke wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t have hunted his brother down anyway. Even if it had only been to drag the truth out of his lying, too caring, face. Sasuke would have chased Itachi until his dying breath.
He had proven that if nothing else.
“I would’ve chased him to the end of the world,” Sasuke blurted, uncharacteristically blushing at his outburst. He didn’t know why he was flushing, why he felt caught out after his confession, but he didn’t let the bubbling feeling of shame stop him from answering. “If I had known that he did what he did for me, I would have chased him down to fight him and then demanded to know why he didn’t take me with him.”
Kakashi gave him a sad smile like he understood. And maybe, Sasuke realized through his embarrassment, he did. Kakashi had always been loyal to Konoha, but what kind of thoughts must have gone through his head at seeing Obito again? Had he wished the other man had told him of his survival? Had Kakashi, for just a moment, imagined what it would’ve been like being at Obito’s side for all the years they were separated? From what Sasuke understood, Obito had always watched their other teammate, Rin, with adoration. Had Kakashi watched Obito while no one was looking? Had he hidden his desire for companionship behind too many masks to count? It sounded suspiciously like his own relationship with his teammates and he wondered if it was true that history repeated itself. There were several versions of Team 7 and they had all had some type of romantic tragedy nipping at their heels; an oddity for sure, if not slightly suspicious.
His musings were interrupted by Naruto’s sudden appearance outside his tent at the forty-five-hour mark. He was mussed, his clothes creased and the bags under his eyes were even worse than they had been just a couple of days ago. His eyes, however, were brighter than they had been in what seemed like forever. There was a twinkle within them that Sasuke hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing for weeks now.
“I’ve done it,” Naruto told them, ignoring the bustle of people preparing for bed. “I know how to fix this.”
“How?” Sasuke asked, not exactly sure what Naruto had done. The other teen looked manic, his bright look such a huge contrast to everything surrounding them.
“We’re going to send someone back,” Naruto said with confidence, his voice holding strong at their incredulous looks . “Far enough back that we can change things.”
“Send someone back?” Kakashi asked, bewildered.
“Time travel?” Sasuke asked, just as shocked. Surely that hadn’t been what Naruto meant?
Naruto nodded enthusiastically, a blinding grin gracing his face, making it into a once more familiar sight. “Time travel!”
“You’ll have to be the one to convince the Kage,” Kakashi told Naruto later, once the shock of Naruto’s declaration had worn off. They’d relocated to Naruto’s tent, waiting for Sakura’s shift to end so they could all discuss how exactly Naruto’s time travel scroll would be used. It was a bit of a cramped fit, but Naruto had been given one of the larger tents, simply because everyone had been too grateful for his help to give him one of the rattier single person tents traveling around the camp. Sasuke knew that he’d offered to let others stay with him, though he hadn’t seen anyone besides Naruto come and go from the tent for the couple of days he’d been watching it.
“They’ll listen to you,” Sasuke nodded in agreement, letting Naruto’s slightly shocked look go ignored. “Take Kakashi with you, that way you have some political power behind you.”
“Won’t you come too?” Naruto asked, frowning.
Sasuke couldn’t help the twitch of his lips, the soft smile that wanted to make its way onto his face. “They won’t exactly be excited to see me.” And they wouldn’t be. Naruto and the general remaining Konoha shinobi population might have been willing to put up with him, willing to work with him and listen to his suggestions, but the rest of the Allied Shinobi Forces hadn’t felt even a fraction of the affection his ex-village did. He’d stomped all over the place, angry and obnoxious. While Konoha is willing to forgive and forget, the others villages aren’t. Sasuke was still paying for his sins and the others villages wouldn’t stand by and let him forget that.
Naruto grimaced at the reminder, a sheepish expression making its way onto his face as he rubbed the back of his head. “Right. Nevermind.”
“If they agree to this,” Kakashi broke in, his expression serious, “then someone needs to be sent back. How do we get them to agree on one person? How can we make that decision?”
“Why only one?” Sasuke retaliated, knowing full well there was a gleam in his eyes at his own words. “Send Naruto. He can make anyone like him with enough stubborn effort. Then send one or two more people, so other bases can be covered. Hell, they should send you. You have enough of a reputation that shit would get done quickly enough.”
Kakashi looked flattered for all of a second, surprised affection on his face before he nodded hesitantly. “True. They should send you and Sakura as well then.”
“Yeah!” Naruto agreed enthusiastically. “If just us two went back, you and Sakura would be totally suspicious of us being weird. Sakura is the best medic the world has seen since Ba-chan. Besides, you helped me defeat a goddess. If there’s anyone I want to take back with me, it’s you.”
Sasuke hated the fact that he was close to crying at Naruto’s words. They were kind, friendship and familial love spread throughout them. Naruto had faith in him, something no one had much of these days when it came to him, and it burned in the most pleasant of ways. But before his mask could break, Sakura stuck her head into the tent, blinking when she saw all three of them huddled together.
“What are you idiots planning?” she asked suspiciously, looking like she wanted to back out if their answer was unsatisfactory.
Naruto got a mischievous grin on his face, humor in his eyes as he answered, “We’re discussing time travel. Care to join?”
Sakura just gave him a blank look, unamused by what she believes is to be a joke. When none of them broke, she narrowed her eyes, in concern. “You can’t go back alone. You’ll mess it up.”
Naruto yelped, offended, but Sakura cut him off with a casual, “You’ll have to take us with you, just to be safe.”
The two shared an excited grin, their friendship a soft, easy thing. Sasuke met Kakashi’s eyes and felt something like love bubble up in his chest.
“The Raikage wasn’t exactly excited about four Konoha shinobi being the ones to go back,” Kakashi told Sasuke sarcastically, his eye-rolling as he mentions the consistently unruly A. A’s unwillingness to deal with any Konoha shinobi, let alone Sasuke, isn’t exactly a surprise.
“Gaara was for it, though,” Naruto added, slurping up some noodles from his bowl. Sasuke wasn’t exactly sure where the blonde had gotten the ramen from, but he was the hero of the Fourth Shinobi War, so he was not surprised that someone had found some to give to him. For all Sasuke knew, there was a special ramen stand set up somewhere meant specifically to keep Naruto happy and well-fed.
“Gaara believes you’re the savior of the world,” Sakura replied with a snort, not once looking up from her medical notes. She’d been scrounging up any and all information she could, desperate to get as much information as she can. If they were going to go stumbling around in the past, Sakura would be the sole medic on the team. Naruto had advanced healing, of course, but you never know when something could go wrong and they’d need someone to save a life.
“I am the savior of the world,” Naruto muttered around his noodles, unashamed of using his newborn notoriety to his advantage. Sasuke couldn’t really blame him, especially given how he had been treated in the past. Still, Naruto’s ability to find ramen, even in a sageforesaken war camp, wasn’t the topic he had been hoping to broach with his team.
“I don’t agree with A,” Sasuke started, breaking up the fight before it even started, “but I can admit he has a point. Everything can be traced back to Konoha.”
Sasuke was telling the truth. A lot of the fucked up things that had happened, ignoring the whole Kaguya aspect of the war, could be traced back to Konoha and the shadowy roots of the village. Madara had been a spiteful man by the end of it, and his determination to get revenge against his clan and the village he had helped found was one of the best examples of the Uchiha curse at its worst. Ignoring his lapse of judgment when it came to his ideas of peace influenced by Zetsu, Madara hadn’t even been close to being of sound body and mind by the time the war came to fruition. The Uchiha clan had always felt too much, regardless of the type of emotion it was. When an Uchiha was in love, obsession threatened to follow. When one was angry, malicious and volatile anger took over their actions. It was their curse and they had known it. The fact that others have only recently learned this is another strike against them. They had hidden the fact that sometimes, Uchiha just went bad. Not all of them were bad, not even close; but when they did go bad, they didn’t just quit at the starting line. Uchiha went bad in the worst ways, willing to tear the very foundation of the world down to the ground to suit their desires.
It hadn’t just been the Uchiha at fault, however. Sasuke still boiled with rage when he thought of Shimura Danzō and his shady tactics. The man had been a blight upon the world and Sasuke only felt satisfaction when he thought of his demise. It burned, just a little, that he would be alive once more when they went back, but Sasuke doubted anyone would argue against killing him at the earliest opportunity. The man was dangerous alive and any plans would have to be constantly changed to try and fit around his maneuvering.
The Kage had agreed that going back before the massacre was their best bet, if only so Kakashi, as the only one who would be an actual shinobi at that point, would have the chance to get to Danzō before he helped lead the Uchiha clan to its ruin. The clan had been willing to negotiate at one point before Danzō upped the ante with maliciously spread rumors, and Sasuke was sure they could get there again. Itachi had been a shoo-in candidate to be the next Hokage and Sasuke was more than sure Kakashi would be able to convince the Third Hokage to nominate Itachi as a candidate in order to placate the clan. Itachi might not be that excited about it, but he’d shown more than once that he’d do whatever he had to do to keep the village and the clan from coming to blows. The Uchiha clan was well known for wanting nothing to do with Madara, so they should hopefully make good allies down the line.
Going back that far would also allow them to establish themselves as geniuses. It would take a little work, but they could come across as a team and Kakashi would offer to be their sensei, outwardly stating that they reminded him of himself. They would have time to climb the ranks and have the ability to get out of the village far sooner than they had the first time around. The sooner they traveled and got the political climate of the other villages under control, the better off they’d be in the long run.
Naruto was talking excitedly with Sakura, their previous argument forgotten in the wake of Sasuke’s damning statement. No one said anything to contradict him, just nodded along, before they broke off into a different conversation. Now his two more excitable teammates are discussing something, though Sasuke didn’t know what. Instead, he turned his focus to a quiet Kakashi. The man had gone along with Naruto’s plan with very little questions, trusting his student without reservations. Sasuke knew Naruto appreciated it, but he also knew that he hadn’t picked up on the hesitation Kakashi displayed when agreeing to go back with them.
“What made you hesitate?” Sasuke asked quietly.
Kakashi knew full well what he was talking about, so he didn’t ask him to specify. He gave him an assessing look like he was not sure Sasuke could handle the truth, but Kakashi must have found whatever he was looking for because he sighed, his shoulders slumping, and there’s something like exhaustion lining his face. “Obito,” Kakashi confessed with a tired whisper. “I’m tempted to try and change his future. He was stupid and selfish, but he was also manipulated into being that way. He would have already committed enough crimes to get him executed, but if he came forward and helped end things—,” Kakashi cut himself off, uncharacteristic concern and apprehension making their way into his voice.
“You want to save him,” Sasuke gently guessed , understanding that feeling deep in his bones. If they had agreed to go back after the massacre, Sasuke would’ve rallied to have some type of plan to bring Itachi back to the village. He had committed genocide on the orders of a hungry war hawk, but he was Sasuke’s brother. He had traumatized Sasuke at a young age, and it probably wasn’t healthy to want him as close as Sasuke did, but he wouldn’t try to change his feelings. What both Obito and Itachi had done was both physically and mentally abusive, but they had found themselves living in a darker world than they had thought. If they could once more become who they had been before their actions broke the world, Sasuke knew that both he and Kakashi would welcome back their respective rogue Uchiha in a heartbeat.
“Changing things will mean that a lot of the knowledge we have will become useless,” Sakura’s voice cut in, her conversation with Naruto rising in volume as she argues with the blonde. “I’m not saying we can’t change anything, because obviously that’s why we’re going back, but too much too soon and suddenly we don’t have the advantage.” Sasuke tuned back in because she had a point, and he was greeted with the sight of a pouting Naruto, clearly chagrined at Sakura’s scolding. “With us planning on becoming genin so much sooner, we won’t be a part of our original Chūnin Exams. We’ll have to advance in rank quickly enough that our cover of geniuses holds strong. Meeting Gaara and confronting Orochimaru during the exam isn’t going to happen.”
Sasuke grimaced at the mention of the snake Sannin. Orochimaru, might have turned over a new leaf now, but he was nowhere near redemption at the time they were returning to. He would be a problem to be dealt with when they could officially be out of the village. Sasuke wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.
“Orochimaru was still in contact with the village during the time of the massacre,” Kakashi added, shocking Sasuke.
“Yes,” Kakashi nodded. “According to some of the papers I found, he was the one that gave Danzō his Sharingan arm, which means he had to have been given access to all the dead bodies after the massacre.”
Sasuke wrinkled his nose at the image his mind creates, one of his former senseis dissecting his dead clan members, but the confession didn’t exactly shock him. Orochimaru has been obsessed with the Sharingan for as long as Sasuke had known him, so learning he was the original creator of the arm Danzō carried wasn’t a surprise. It did leave a slightly unpleasant taste in his mouth, though.
“So we’ll just have to plan around that,” Sakura stated boldly. “Danzō will be dead, so there will be no reason to ever gain that many eyes and put them in a severed limb.”
“You clearly don’t know Orochimaru,” Sasuke said darkly. “He doesn’t need a reason.”
Sakura’s face twitched in horror, but she quickly hid it with a grimace.
“With Danzō gone, however, that will leave Orochimaru in an interesting position,” Kakashi said slowly, his mind clearly at work. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but Orochimaru was Root. The official story that was told was that he was experimenting on his fellow shinobi, but it makes me wonder if maybe he had permission. He’s incredibly good at seals in his own right and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a hand in the ones that kept the Root agents silent.”
The idea was an interesting one, Sasuke admitted to himself. If Danzō had given Orochimaru permission to experiment on his fellow shinobi, it would change the politics behind Orochimaru’s punishment. Danzō had proven himself to be a sadistic tyrant all over again, but if the case was ever made, Orochimaru could possibly be permitted to return to the village on a sort of heavy probation. He had been under the purview of Danzō, after all, just following orders from the Hokage’s most trusted friend. Yes, Sasuke could see how that could work. It wasn’t a particularly good excuse, but if Orochimaru could prove to be useful in the past, Sasuke would have something to work with. The Sandaime had forgiven worse with shittier excuses.
Funny, how so much strife went back to one war-hungry, decrepit old man. Funny, and yet Sasuke couldn’t bring himself to laugh.
Interlude: Undisclosed I
“You have an odd look on your face, father. Something you wish to discuss?”
“Your bother said something to me that has left me questioning things.”
“Fate and free will; and the ability of those determined enough to change it.”
Sasuke kept his eyes closed and his ears open, unashamed as he eavesdrops on the conversation taking place outside of his tent. It was incredibly early, the sun not yet reaching the horizon, and the rest of Team Taka was fast asleep. Sasuke usually woke early, but the sound of muffled footsteps had woken him even earlier than when he usually rouses himself awake. He was more or less the first one up when not on patrol, so he was vaguely curious as to who woke up before him this morning.
“Naruto,” Gaara’s calm voice said, soft in the early morning dawn.
“Hey, Gaara,” Naruto answered just as softly, a shuffling sound following.
“I wanted to ask for a favor,” Gaara said hesitantly, his voice pausing slightly.
“What is it?”
“You will not meet me at the Chūnin Exams,” Gaara started, “so I will not be beaten into realizing I am more than a monster. Naruto, would you find a way to help me sooner?”
“What? Of course I will! You didn’t have to ask,” Naruto replied, obviously disgruntled.
Sasuke could hear the smile in Gaara’s voice as he said, “I know. That’s not the favor. The favor I’m asking…I wish for you to help my father. Keep him from being killed by Orochimaru. Save him, please, so he can be alive to see I’m not who he feared I’d be. That I grow up to be my mother’s son.”
There was a silence after that before a sniffle sounds from Naruto’s direction. “Gaara, man, of course. It’ll be my own personal mission, I swear it.”
Sasuke closed his eyes and when he opened them again a beam of light was slowly making its way into the tent. He stretched and held back a yawn, blearily seeing that the other three occupants hadn’t moved an inch since the last time he’d been awake. He scratched his stomach for a moment, trying to get his brain back online, before he reached for his pack and stood, heading out of the tent. There were rotations for bathing and he’d been waiting three days for his turn in a functioning shower, so he was eager to get there before the rush of the day started and the hot water got used up. He was zipping up the tent when he spotted Naruto deep in discussion with Shikamaru, the Nara genius leaning back against a boulder while Naruto nodded along to whatever he was saying. Sasuke is curious, but he figured any advice Shikamaru had would be shared among their group later in the evening.
Turning away, he almost didn’t spot the Hyūga heiress watching Naruto from across the field. She was standing in the direction of the showers, so Sasuke made his way over to her, his stomach heavy at the sight of the longing in her eyes.
“This is your last chance, you know, to tell him how you feel and to get him to understand,” Sasuke told her as he approached, not bothering to sugarcoat his words.
It showed just how much Hinata had grown that she didn’t blush at his assertions. She just tilted her head, showing her willingness to listen.
“I would go for it,” Sasuke continued, pausing to stand beside her.
“I always thought,” Hinata started hesitantly, “that you two…”
Sasuke smiled sadly because maybe, in the very back of his head, he had too. Team 7 had always been a mishmash of hormones directed at the wrong people. Naruto had wanted Sakura, Sakura had wanted Sasuke, and Sasuke, while mostly busy with revenge, had only ever let Naruto close enough to feel anything. Just before he left, he had felt something more for Sakura and he knew that she had opened up to Naruto by that point as well. Naruto always had felt strongly for Sasuke, so maybe, if Sasuke had stayed, they all could’ve agreed to something when they were older and more mature. The three of them, together, sounded right. It wouldn’t feel right though, not anymore. They were bonded together, stronger now, but there was wasted potential that would always linger in the backs of their minds. They had headed towards the path of the Sannin far too quickly for them to be undamaged, though they had avoided their particular fate for now. Still, anything between the three of them, regardless of the combination, was dead in the water. Like he had told Sakura, it was never happening, not between any of them.
“No,” Sasuke finally answered, “Not now. Not after everything.”
Hinata didn’t ask, just nodded, before taking a breath and heading towards Naruto to take the spot Shikamaru has just vacated. Sasuke didn’t bother to watch how their conversation went, didn’t particularly want to know how it would end. Instead, he nodded a greeting towards a disgruntled Sakura as she walked past with an equally disgruntled Temari, a small smile on his face as he headed to the showers.
Clean and dressed in clothes with slightly fewer holes in them, Sasuke made his way back to his shared tent, taking his time to walk idly through the camp. There was still some activity around, but there’s less time dedicated to collecting the dead. Word had spread of the time travel attempt that would take place tomorrow, and if all goes well, this future will blink out of existence. Hopefully, when the four of them had gone back to the past, there would no longer be any need to collect bodies for burning or burials.
“Sasuke-kun,” Karin greeted when he ducked into the tent, a scroll spread out across her lap.
Sasuke nodded, glancing up to see both Suigetsu and Jūgo were nowhere in sight.
“Sasuke-kun,” Karin said again, this time tentative. He peeked up at her as he settled his bag next to his blanket, an eyebrow raised in question. Karin bit her lip lightly, clearly unsure, before she started speaking again, “I was wondering… when you go back, could you find me sooner? Orochimaru has become something like family, but before you were there… it wasn’t a fun place to be. He never cared before you. It would make me feel better if I knew you were looking after me. After us.”
Sasuke watched her, a realization coming to mind. Suigetsu and Jūgo had vacated the tent for the specific purpose of letting Karin be their spokesperson. They, all three of them, wanted to be with Sasuke and not Orochimaru. It hit Sasuke, just as suddenly, that he wanted them there too. While Naruto and Sakura have turned into his deeply cherished siblings, Karin and the rest of Team Taka were the best friends in his life. They weren’t exactly family, not the way Team 7 was, but they were important to him. They matter and their pain caused him suffering.
“Of course,” he replied, meeting her eyes.
She gave him a watery grin and Sasuke could abruptly see the Uzumaki in her. The idea of introducing a younger Karin to Naruto, showing her that she still had family, was a good one. It caused him to give her a rare smile back. He won’t be able to save Karin’s mother, there just wasn’t time, but he could do his best to get into contact with her during the Chūnin Exams. He wasn’t entirely sure where the other two members of Team Taka had been at that point, however. If he had to follow the worst-case scenario, he could get Karin out of Orochimaru’s clutches, as well as Suigetsu and Jūgo. He had done it once and he could do it again.
“I’m going to go see if Sakura needs any help in the medic’s tent,” Karin said, wiping at her eyes to quickly get rid of any happy tears that had formed. “I’ll see you tonight.”
Sasuke watched her go, a ball of determination making its way into his heart. Naruto had his own personal mission and now Sasuke had his.
Interlude: Undisclosed II
“Have you reached any conclusions, father?”
“About fate and free will?”
“Ah, yes, I have.”
“I’ve decided to shake things up a bit.”
“I’m going to break away from fate, my son, and we’re going to see just how much destruction will rain down from the damage it does.”
“And how exactly are you going to do that?”
“Fetch your brother and perhaps I’ll find it in myself to share.”
They stood off to the side, no one daring to get closer to the large sealing array on the ground. Karin was painstakingly drawing seals down his back, the ones on his chest, stomach, and arms, already drying. Naruto was grinning down at a slightly blushing Hinata, fondness written on his face. Sakura was unashamed as she had only an arm covering her chest, the seal requiring her full back with no obstructions. The chest portion had been done out of sight by Ino and the blonde is just finishing up the seals on Sakura’s shoulders. Kakashi was clearly exasperated as Gai grinned at him, unrepentantly bothering him as an amused Tenten finished the seals on his arms. The seals were close to being finished and once they’re were dry, they could truly get things started. There’s a hush falling through the crowd the closer they get to being ready to start, an anticipatory feeling filling the air. Everyone wanted a different outcome, whether it’s was simply less death or the prevention of a single person’s passing. They all wanted the Fourth Shinobi War to be wiped from existence.
“Done,” Karin said in wonder, staring at the marks now covering Sasuke’s skin. She’d done a good job, her hand steady as she slowly made her way through the seals Naruto had provided her with. It tingled slightly, the seals empowered with Kurama’s chakra in the ink Naruto had given them. It’s was not a bad feeling.
“You guys ready?” Naruto asked as he approached the seal, stopping just before he would’ve stepped on the edge of it.
Sasuke nodded, turning back to give Karin a soft smile. She was teary-eyed once more, but she was also one of the strongest women he knew. She pushed him slightly, careful not to mess up the seals, before she took her leave, heading back to stand with the rest of the crowd. Sasuke made his way forward, stopping next to Naruto. Kakashi was next, pale skin bared as he nodded at them. Seeing his bare face, even in such circumstances, was still a shock. Sasuke had been taking glances at him for what had been close to an hour, and still, the sight was odd. At least he hadn’t tripped over his feet like Naruto had when Kakashi first had showed up for the ceremony sans mask. Sakura had gaped when she come out of her tent, but she at least had kept her footing. She was obviously more used to it now, because she approaches last, not once glancing at his face. They all did her the courtesy of not glancing at her bare chest. She was their equal and there was no reason to ogle her.
“Ready?” Naruto asked, voice drifting out to reach the crowd.
“Ready,” the three of them said at the exact same time, waiting.
Naruto gave a nod to Gaara and the Kazekage gave a serious nod back. With that done, Gaara lead the crowd in drawing their chakra forward. Time travel, while thought about before, had never been attempted. The idea of it wasn’t ludicrous, per se, but the amount of chakra needed for such an event? Astronomical. Not even Kurama, at his full strength, would’ve been able to send a single person back, let alone four. So while the seals written on them were the keys that sent them back, the seal on the ground was there for the crowd to funnel chakra into. Once there was enough, they would add their own and their seals should activate, successfully sending them through the time stream and into the past.
It took roughly ten minutes for the weaker shinobi to peter out, stronger and stronger nin cutting off their chakra drain. Soon it was only Jonin and then Kage. Finally, the last amount of chakra that can be donated was cut off and all four of them simultaneously started siphoning their chakra into the seal. It had to be done in a pattern, starting with Naruto and ending with Sasuke, for the circle they had formed to work. They all kept a baseline of chakra flowing into the seal, but they would hold back most of their efforts until their section of the circle had been reached. Naruto’s part took time, both his and Kurama’s chakra going in to feed the seal. When they had both decided that it’s enough, Naruto reached out and grasped Kakashi’s hand. His seal abruptly lit up, a red glow appearing on Naruto’s skin as Kakashi started to feed in his own chakra. When he finished, he grabbed Sakura’s hand and his seals started to glow a silvery-white color. Sasuke wasn’t sure what exactly influenced the seal color, as they have all been given the same ink to be drawn on their skin, but he couldn’t finish the thought before Sakura reached out and grasped his hand, pale green glowing from her seals. Sasuke started concentrating immediately, sending as much chakra into the seal as he could spare. When he was down to a trickle, he cut himself off and grabbed Naruto’s hand, squeezing it tightly. He glanced down briefly, fascinated by the purple glow illuminating his skin.
There was suddenly a deafening silence. Sasuke didn’t remember closing his eyes, but he couldn’t bring himself to open them now that he’d noticed they were closed. There was no ambient noise from the crowd, nor from the nature around them. Nothing penetrated the unseen bubble of nothing. There was a pause and then a pull from his core. Confused, Sasuke’s brow furrowed. The chakra portion of the sealing should have been over. Before he could try and voice his concerns, Sasuke felt a sharp burn in his eyes. He flinched, unprepared for the searing pain. It felt like a burning fire had been lit behind his eyes. The Rinnegan hurts , but his Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan was causing him pain like he’d never experienced before. He didn’t know what the hell was going on and, not thinking about it, he let Sakura’s hand go and he reached up to clutch at his eye. Nothing bad happened, though at this point his mind was clouded in pain, and he found himself touching blood, wet and warm, running down his face. Concern shot through him and then suddenly he was not touching anything; because for just a brief moment, he didn’t exist. Then he was gasping awake, vision dark, as he sat up from what felt like an uncomfortably stiff bed.
He was hyperventilating immediately, his eyes tearing up from pain as he struggled to take in a gasp of breath. His body felt odd, different, and he felt like he no longer knew how to make himself breathe. All around him is darkness, just black nothingness, and he could feel something tightly wrapped around his eyes.
“W-What,” he struggled out, chest burning as he wheezed, choking down lungfuls of air.
“Calm down!” a concerned voice called out, a soft hand suddenly resting on his upper chest. “You’re alright! You’re in the hospital.”
Sasuke was shaking, and he could feel how weak and stiff his joints were. Confused, he managed to croak out, “What happened— to my eyes?”
“…you were injured,” the female voice replied eventually, hesitantly taking her hand off of his heaving chest. “I should go get the head medic.”
“No, please,” Sasuke said again, coughing at the barely-there whisper of his voice from his ragged throat. “My eyes?”
“…they were bleeding, when they found you,” the voice replied gently, the hand returning to rest lightly on his shoulder as a sign of comfort. “They had to perform surgery, but we won’t know any more until we take the bandages off…”
Sasuke stopped breathing for just a moment, concern flying across his brain, but he’s was familiar with the difference between the darkness of covered eyes and having no sight whatsoever, so he forced himself to calm down, the pain in his chest slowly giving way, and he nodded slightly, tiredly replying, “Thank you.”
“Of course! I’ll go get the doctor,” the nurse replied quickly, rushing out of the room.
As soon as the door closed, Sasuke struggled to get up, groaning in pain through clenched teeth. This didn’t happen last time, he thought as he struggled to pull himself out of the bed he had previously been resting on. All of the hospital rooms had the same layout and if he was correct, the door to the bathroom should be right—yes, right there. He clumsily opened it, shutting it behind him and fumbled with the lock. He reached around awkwardly, bumping into the wall twice before he found the sink that was supposed to be resting in front of the bathroom mirror. Swallowing down his nerves, he carefully started to remove the bandage wrapped around his eyes. As soon as he did, he started to sense light and some of the panic edging in his mind left. Even if his vision wasn’t what it had been, he could still fight if he could sense shadows and light. He took off the bandage, squinting in the bright light of the hospital bathroom, and he had to blink tears out of his eyes. He continued to squint, starting a rhythm of widening, then narrowing his eyes to try and focus his vision. The longer he did this, the quicker he realized something was very wrong.
Brown hair choppily cut short was poking out from the remaining bandage around his head. There was a mole below his right eye. One startled onyx eye, the other Sasuke’s familiar Rinnegan. He felt his chakra pulse, weak but there, and his Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan faded in and then out quickly, confirming its presence. Air let itself out of his lungs, a whooshing sound loud in the otherwise silent bathroom.
“What,” Sasuke asked in disbelief as he stared at his eyes in the familiar face of Uchiha Izumi, “the ever-loving fuck is going on?”
Interlude: Undisclosed III
“I must thank you for not fighting Sasuke.”
“Why fight when I would’ve been dead either way? What’s the point fighting him when it’d only have killed both of us?”
“At least you got a choice.”
“Now, there’s no need to be bitter.”
“Bitter? You have stolen our bodies in order to allow those disgusting—”
“All four of you were chosen for a reason. One of you had reached the end of your lifeline. Two of you caused unimaginable destruction among the living that could not continue. And the last of you, well, I’m just not particularly fond of anyone who could treat my children with such cold disdain.”
Something had, quite clearly, gone terribly wrong with their attempt at time travel. Sasuke studied his face, turning his head and then sticking out his tongue, Izumi’s image copying him in the mirror. He stared incredulously at Izumi’s confused face in the mirror. He was supposed to have ended up in his younger body, waking up in his house. After the massacre, he had stayed in the hospital for a week as he was monitored for emotional breaks. He had been depressed and angry and they had only let him go when he had forced himself to calm down long enough to get approval to leave. Of course, he hadn’t been calm in any sense of the word, just numb enough to pull it off. His care after the massacre was subpar at best and was probably one of the reasons he had held no guilt for leaving the village in order to chase power. Still, while he obviously had once more found himself in the hospital, he was very much not in his own body.
Uchiha Izumi was memorable for the simple fact that she had been the only other Uchiha Sasuke could remember getting any emotions out of Itachi. There was Shisui, of course, but he was more of an elder brother figure to Itachi. Izumi, if memory served, had been one of the few candidates being considered for Itachi’s future spouse. She had been fond of Itachi and Itachi had tolerated her presence, so their father and mother had encouraged their friendship, even if tolerating her had basically translated to not glaring at her when she talked at him. Sasuke had never particularly cared for her, but he hadn’t been the one eventually marrying her. Izumi had died, just like every other Uchiha besides Sasuke. She had never been in the hospital, having taken a sword through the chest, held under Itachi’s Tsukuyomi for only a second before dying. There was literally no feasible way she could have been alive, let alone alive enough for Sasuke to be running around in her body.
Swallowing, Sasuke lifted up the hospital shirt he has on, slowly revealing a pale stomach and then heavy bandages. His chest twinged in pain as his arms rose higher, a clear indication that something had injured him in that area. If Izumi had been run through, how had she survived? Had she made it out last time and no one had told him? Impossible, surely. Had she maybe died in the hospital, and no one had wanted to give him even worse news? Possible, but still not likely. Something had gone wrong during the time travel and when Sasuke met his eyes in the mirror, he thought he might know what.
His eyes. The Rinnegan had hurt, but it was the excruciating pain from his Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan that concerns him the most. He had never felt a pain that intense before. He’d bled from his eyes, before he carried Itachi’s eyes, and it had hurt. He’d had his eyes removed before. That had been nothing compared to the hell Sasuke had gone through in the time stream. His eye had reacted to something in the time stream and it had caused this weird body-swapping scenario. What, exactly, had gone wrong?
“Uchiha-chan,” the nurse called from the opposite side of the door, startling Sasuke. “Are you alright? Did you find the bathroom okay without seeing anything?”
“Y-yes,” Sasuke stuttered out, dropping his shirt quickly. He stumbled awkwardly, still not used to Izumi’s preteen body. He wrapped the bandages back around his eyes, darkness once more encompassing his vision. He cleared his throat. The last of the gravel finally left it, revealing Izumi’s soft drawl. “Um, could someone explain to me what’s going on?”
“Of course,” a male voice answered. “Please, come out here and I can examine you while we explain.”
Sasuke took in a nervous breath before hesitantly reaching out to the door handle, turning it and letting it swing open. The gentle hands of the nurse found his arm quickly and he was directed towards his bed.
“Good morning, Uchiha-chan,” the man, who Sasuke assumed was the doctor, greeted him. “My name is Amari Junji and I assume you’ve already acquainted yourself with your nurse, Miyata-san.”
“Yes,” Sasuke nodded in affirmation, allowing Miyata to position him onto the bed.
“How are you feeling this morning, Uchiha-chan?” Amari asked, the ruffling of papers making it apparent he was looking at Izumi’s chart.
“Sore,” Sasuke answered shortly, uncertain about the complicated mess his emotions were. “I’m confused, Amari-san. What exactly happened? What’s wrong with my eyes?”
There was a pause, the sound of clothing shifting, before the nurse sat down beside him, her voice soft as she told him, “If you need to hold my hand, I’m right here.”
“According to the reports,” Amari started, his tone grave, “Uchiha Itachi suffered a mental break and proceeded to massacre the majority of the Uchiha clan.”
Sasuke couldn’t hold back a choked gasp, hating that he’d teared up behind his bandages. He knew full well what had happened. He’d lived through this before. He’d lived over a decade with his family gone. He shouldn’t be tearing up at hearing it all over again.
“I’m so sorry, Uchiha-chan,” Miyata whispered, her arm wrapping around Sasuke’s shoulder.
“You said the majority,” Sasuke gasped out, struggling to hold back his emotions. “Does that mean someone else made it out?”
“Yes,” Amari said comfortingly, pity clear in his voice. “Uchiha Sasuke made it out alive.”
“Sasuke,” Sasuke muttered, speaking his own name with confusion. Quite obviously this time was the same as his past, or it seemed to be, so why was Izumi here?
“He was the only one spared of any injuries,” Amari confessed. “You were lucky he stumbled upon you when shouting for help. Otherwise, you would’ve died along with the rest of your clan.”
Sasuke remembered finding Izumi’s body, of course. He had passed out after Itachi’s mental attack and had woken up in a silent compound, covered in blood. He wasn’t quite sure how long he had been out, only that it had still been dark out and that no one had come calling for the missing Uchiha. Danzō might have had a hand in the lack of response to the chaos that went down that night, but Sasuke would never really know why the village had taken so long to respond. He had stumbled through the streets, tears of anger and anguish streaked down his cheeks when he had tripped, falling over. He had snarled at nothing, looking over to see Izumi’s lifeless body lying outside of her house, a trail of blood leading from her house to the front stoop. Either she had made it that far before dying, or someone had moved her body after the fact. Regardless, she had been one hundred percent dead when Sasuke had lived through it the first time. Clearly, something had changed that night.
“Can I see him? Sasuke, I mean,” he asked quickly, not wanting to let the opportunity pass. If he was in Izumi’s body, then was it possible that Izumi was in his body? Was that a thing that could happen?
“You really need some rest,” Miyata cooed at him, patting his hand.
“I want to see him,” Sasuke insisted, his voice growing louder and more shrill. “If he’s the only one left, I need to be by his side. If we’re the only Uchiha alive, that makes me his guardian. I have the right to see him.”
“Of course,” Amari mumbled, a sigh on his lips. “Let me take a look at your chest wound and then your eyes. If they’re okay, you can go see him immediately after.”
Sasuke tensed, apprehension lining his body. He didn’t care if the doctor checked his chest wound, as it was mostly easy to ignore the small amount of pain radiating from it. His eyes, however, were a different story. How in the hell was he supposed to hide the damn Rinnegan sitting in his eye socket? Sasuke started to sweat nervously as he took off his top, raising his arms to let the doctor and nurse unwind the bandages.
“Huh,” Amari gave a considering hum. “That’s odd. It seems to have healed rather quickly.”
“I’m a fast healer,” Sasuke cut in, not wanting the doctor looking too closely. They would have used medical ninjutsu on such a serious wound, but some of the rawness of the wound should’ve remained. Sasuke didn’t feel like the wound was still raw, and he had no answers, so letting them think he had some type of healing ability was his only option.
Amari gave another considering hum, poking a bit at the tender wound before pulling away and giving Sasuke his shirt back. The wound must be healed enough not to need a bandage again because they didn’t offer him any new ones. Curious, Sasuke reached up to finger the wound and was surprised to feel smooth scar tissue. It still hurt like it was still healing on the inside, but the scar tissue was older than it should be. Izumi had never had this type of healing. No Uchiha had had accelerated healing. What exactly was going on? Sasuke thought in confusion. Nothing was making any sense.
“And now for your eyes,” Amari said, reaching to unwrap the bandages on his body. On Izumi’s body. Whatever.
It felt like an eternity for the bandages to come off and Sasuke was careful to only open his right eye, his vision swimming shortly before becoming clear once more.
Miyata was a red-headed nurse, with her headband wrapped around her arm, out of the way. She was in the standard nurse’s uniform, though she must have had to special order it given how tall she was. Sasuke was surprised at her height. Amari, in contrast, was actually pretty short for the average man, with mousy brown hair accompanied by square glasses. Sasuke couldn’t see any visible headband, but the man was wearing a buttoned lab coat, so it could be anywhere.
“There you are,” Miyata said with a gentle smile, her voice kind.
“Your other eye seems to be healing well,” Amari hummed, bringing out a flashlight to examine Sasuke’s right eye. “Does the empty socket feel weird?”
“E-Empty socket?” Sasuke stuttered out, blinking at the bright light shining in his eye.
“Yes,” Amari confirmed, putting away his flashlight. “Your left eye had to be removed due to a blood clot. It was completely healed after the removal. Is the socket sore? Would you like me to take a second look at it?”
“No!” Sasuke shouted, coughing when he startled the two medical professionals. “No, I’m fine. Please, take me to Sasuke-kun.”
He got a weird look from Amari, a hesitant suspicion, but the man allowed Miyata to help him up from the bed and into a wheelchair as soon as he finished wrapping a bandage around Sasuke’s closed eye. Miyata wheeled him out of the room, though Sasuke found himself thoroughly distracted. According to both the nurse and the doctor, Izumi had had surgery to remove one eye. What had they done with the eye? By the time Sasuke had woken up in her body, his Rinnegan had replaced it. Was it possible that the original Izumi had survived with no interference on Sasuke’s part? Or had his appearance had something to do with her mysterious recovery? Sasuke held back a growl, frustration eating its way into his chest. He had exactly zero answers for any of his questions. He has no idea why his Sharingan had interfered, nor why it had sent him into the wrong body.
They turned a corner and stopped in front of a generic set of doors. Miyata opened one of the doors and backed them into the room, stopping before turning Sasuke around to shut the door. When she turned to face Sasuke she let out a surprised gasp, a nervous giggle leaving her lips. “Oh! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know anyone else was in here. Forgive me, Shimura-san.”
Sasuke’s entire world stopped for just a second, his body tensing in a fight or flight response. Disbelief coursed through his veins as Miyata turned him around to face the elder. There he was, the bane of Sasuke’s existence, standing at his younger counterpart’s bedside like he had any right to be there. Had he visited Sasuke in the original past and Sasuke had missed him? Had he done something to Sasuke while he was out cold? Anger coursed through his veins and he bit his tongue so hard he tasted blood. He couldn’t attack Danzō for multiple reasons. One, he was in no shape to fight. He didn’t have the entirety of his chakra at his disposal and he was in an unfamiliar body, with unknown strengths and weaknesses. Two, any plans they had had for Danzō’s death were out the door. Something had gone wrong with their attempt at time travel. Not only was Sasuke in the wrong body, he suddenly realized, but he had no certainty that his teammates were where he expected them to be. Were they in their bodies? In someone else’s bodies? Or, worse, had they not made it back at all? Three, Miyata had yet to leave, which meant there was a witness. If Sasuke attempted murder, Miyata would get in the way. Sasuke wasn’t about to go around killing innocents, so much to his displeasure, Danzō would have to live another day.
“Shimura-san,” Sasuke greeted stiffly, muscles bunched up as Miyata wheeled him closer to the single bed in the room.
His younger body was laying there, breathing deeply as he slept. He looked so small in the white sheets, his pale skin almost blending in with the bedding. He had never realized how pale he had been after the massacre. How sickly he must have looked.
“And this is?” Danzō asked, a strange tone in his voice.
“This is Uchiha Izumi, Shimura-san. She is the second survivor of the Uchiha Massacre.”
“Second survivor?” Danzō asked before he shook his head, turning back to look at Sasuke’s limp body. “Of course, forgive my memory. I’m an old man these days and much escapes me.”
“It’s no problem,” Miyata replied brightly, locking Sasuke’s wheelchair in place. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go change your sheets now that you’re up and about, Uchiha-chan. I’ll let Shimura-san keep you company.” With that, Miyata exited the room, a skip in her step.
Silence descended and one of Sasuke’s reasons to not take a swipe at Danzō had just left the room. They didn’t exchange any words, both of them just quietly watching Sasuke’s younger body’s chest rise and fall. Danzō shifted beside him, causing Sasuke to twitch and glance up, his single eye meeting Danzō’s own bared eye. He paused. Weren’t Danzō’s eyes supposed to be brown? Sasuke could’ve sworn that he remembered the look in the elder’s eyes when he had finally realized he was going to die. The way the cedar color had darkened in fury at his predicament; yes, Sasuke was certain he remembered the bastard’s eye color. Seeing him now, however, Sasuke saw coal gray staring back at him. Was it possible that something as significant as an eye color was another change in this altered past? Was Sasuke even in his own past? Was this some type of dimension-hopping nonsense that Naruto had thought was time travel? Danzō looked away, his gaze once more on the younger Sasuke’s prone form, but Sasuke couldn’t help but feel he’d seen those eyes somewhere before.
Had he been mistaken? Surely not. No, those eyes were familiar, but not from Danzō. But where had he seen them before? A flood of memories sparked and he saw a grim face, seals glowing silver as the world went dark. If Sasuke was in Izumi’s body, was it possible that the others had ended up in other bodies? If Sasuke was here, did that mean that Danzō was really—
Danzō’s head whipped around, surprise shining in his wide eye. “Who—?”
“It is,” Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief, anxiety melting from his shoulders. His body relaxed, the confirmation that Danzō wasn’t the one in the room with him, but Kakashi stuck in his body. He quickly reached up and unwrapped the covered side of his head, opening his eye to reveal the Rinnegan.
“Sasuke?” Kakashi asked in shock, glancing down at his younger body. “You too? What is going on?”
“Hell if I know,” Sasuke grimaced, joining Kakashi in his vigil. “If we can end up in any old body and I’m Izumi and you’re Danzō, where the hell, or more importantly who the hell, are the other two?”
Interlude I: Kakashi
Kakashi had lived in a dark fog for the majority of his life. There were days when the sun valiantly fought to break through the gray that surrounded his world, but it never quite succeded. His father had restored his honor through suicide and Kakashi was bitter and resentful because he had loved his father with his entire being, and then the man had left him. Alone. To face the scrutiny of the village that had driven him to commit the act in the first place. Kakashi hated that he was stronger than his father, the ability to stand straight in the face of such derision ground into his bones.
He stood straight, followed every rule to the letter, and was left devastated when doing so resulted in the death of all those he loves. Obito was an idiot and Kakashi mourned. Rin died for the village and Kakashi mourned. Minato stared death in the face and stood strong and Kakashi mourned. Always Kakashi was left behind, always he was given hope in his foggy world only for the sun to become eclipsed by another storm cloud. The fog grew thick and Kakashi found himself lost.
For years he had seen no hope. He was recruited by Root and couldn’t bring himself to care about the shady tactics that Danzō used. What did it matter to Kakashi if an ally was assassinated by his hand? The world was dark and full of evil, so Kakashi didn’t care if he added to it. He listened to his orders and he performed like the perfect soldier he was. It was the only reason he could imagine why Danzō chose to approach him. Kakashi had followed every single order he was given. Why shouldn’t Danzō believe Kakashi would follow that one as well?
“Kill the Sandaime Hokage. Do not get caught.”
“Yes, Danzō-sama,” Kakashi had replied, emotions numb as he went to follow his orders.
He left headquarters, analytical mind at work. How should he go about this? Poison? No, too suspicious. He could attempt a regular assassination, but the Sandaime Hokage was no pushover. Kakashi had no idea if he could beat the man, especially if the element of surprise was taken out of the equation. Plus, Kakashi would have to find someone to blame it on, and Danzō hadn’t specified anyone else in his bad books. Perhaps Kakashi could use a rare poison, one that looked like the Hokage had died in his sleep from old age? Yes, that might work. Kakashi knew a man in Kirigakure that—
“Woah! Sorry, old man!” a child shouted from beside him, apologizing for having run into his legs.
Kakashi looked down and felt the fog lift from his mind. He looks so much like his father, he couldn’t help but think, a wave of emotion threatening to spill into tears as he stared down at a grinning Uzumaki Naruto.
“Naruto!” an angry voice shouted from somewhere in the crowd, breaking the moment between them. Naruto laughed obnoxiously, giving one last sheepish grin towards Kakashi, before he took off, running down the street as he tried to escape.
Kakashi watched him leave and found he had been holding his breath the entire time he had met the little boy’s eyes.
Kakashi’s mind was clear for the first time in years and he felt horror at what he had become. He was worse than he ever was as a child; he was no longer a shinobi, but a murderer in the making. He didn’t follow the code any longer, that much was obvious by his uncaring attitude at being ordered to kill the leader of his own village.
Kakashi paled. He was going to kill the Sandaime Hokage without even questioning it.
Kakashi had immediately run to tattle to his target, confessing the orders he had been given. Hiruzen had dismissed Kakashi from his office and it was only later that Kakashi was informed that Root was once more going to be disbanded. Kakashi was accepted into the regular ANBU corps and Hiruzen kept him close, both trusting he would not betray him, and in order to keep an eye on him. Because Kakashi had shown his hand.
The world went on around him as Kakashi threw himself into changing. He was still serious and followed rules when on a mission, but he arranged his personality around the only person who had ever made Kakashi truly think about the life he led: Uchiha Obito. Kakashi started showing up late to things, using the excuses Obito had been entirely genuine about. He grinned sheepishly behind his face mask, smiling eyes doing all the emotional work he needed. He shaped himself into a new human being and he isn’t wasn’t happy about being dragged out of ANBU to become a sensei, but he was not surprised.
His world soon revolved around his genin, the students he wanted to see flourish, and Kakashi found himself close to content. They weren’t his Team 7, not really, though the similarities were there. A love triangle in the making, he couldn’t help but think fondly. Maybe they’ll make it work, he thought later, watching them care about each other in a way he had never managed at that age.
They didn’t make it work, of course. Because nobody Kakashi cared about could ever be happy.
After all the pain, the blood, the tears, they were gathered together once more, the second Shinobi war Kakashi had had to fight in, finally over. He watched his students and he felt the burst of emotion that translated to home. That feeling of warmth he had thought he would never feel again erupting in his chest. They had hurt each other, almost beyond repair, but they were here now, a family finally formed.
He hesitated in agreeing to travel back in time, the ever-looming shadow of Obito hanging over his head, but how could he say no to his family? To the boy, almost a man, who had once upon a time saved him by simply smiling at him? Kakashi agreed for his family and fought to keep any uncertainty from staining his facade of confidence.
He wanted to say he was surprised when he ended up in the wrong time, but considering his luck, he couldn’t quite muster the strength. Seeing Danzō’s grim visage was an unwelcome sight and hearing that he’d missed the Uchiha massacre by just a few days was almost crippling. He went to Sasuke’s hospital room, despondent as he stared down at his unconscious student. What will he say, Kakashi wondered, when he wakes and finds nothing has been changed at all?
His musings were interrupted by a nurse and when she mentioned another Uchiha survivor, Kakashi finally admitted that he was in some kind of shocked state. The numbness of overflowing emotions was threatening to overtake him, if only for a moment, when the petite preteen next to him stuttered out a meek, “K-Kakashi-sensei?” and he was greeted with his student’s eyes in the wrong body.
When Kakashi asked Sasuke if he knew what was going on, the boy grimaced, the expression on his face odd for such a delicate-looking girl. “Hell if I know,” Sasuke replied. “If we can end up in any old body and I’m Izumi and you’re Danzō, where the hell, or more importantly who the hell, are the other two?”
Kakashi returned the twisted expression, thoughts racing. If they could be anybody, how on earth would they find them? Was there any correlation to which body they end up in? Was there a reason Sasuke was Izumi and he was Danzō? Kakashi, if he was being honest, was almost afraid to know the answer.
“They’ll want you to meet with the council,” Kakashi cursed, a scowl set upon his face as he stared down at Sasuke’s limp body.
“What? Why?” Sasuke asked, blinking in confusion.
“You were too young to have to deal with it last time,” Kakashi started slowly, mind racing. “You only entered the compound after everyone was already dead; Izumi would’ve been in the compound as it went down.”
“She was the first casualty,” Sasuke revealed, a dark look crossing his face.
Kakashi pursed his lips at that information, trying to clear his thoughts. Izumi had been considered an adult among shinobi, so she would probably become Sasuke’s guardian.
“They’ll still want to try and force a guardian on you,” Kakashi stressed, doing his best to get his point across. “I don’t want you going in there unprepared. Danzō would’ve been removed from the council by now, disguised as retiring in the face of tragedy. I won’t be there to help you, Sasuke. If we’re not careful, you could find yourself in a dangerous arrangement.”
Sasuke returned his distressed look and they fell into silence, worry eating away at them as they waited for the inevitable shitshow to start.
Interlude II: Sakura
Everyone had nightmares. Sakura was not special because of her frequent night terrors. She knew that Naruto had frequent nightmares featuring a multitude of different subjects. When he was younger, they had featured faceless parents abandoning him and angry villagers no longer holding back their violent ire. They had grown more specific as he grew older, vague people turning into those he cares about. He confessed this to her, after the war, some of the bodies still warm as they just laid on the ground, the fatigue of battle still lingering in their veins.
“I’m scared,” he had explained after sharing, “of what my nightmares will look like now.”
It turned out Naruto had his first peaceful night of sleep that very night. That feeling of relief and peace after a good night’s sleep destroyed the blonde, bringing a newfound wave of guilt that cured his peaceful nights. All Sakura could do was be there, comforting and understanding, as Naruto fell apart under the weight of those he felt responsible for.
Kakashi had once said he never dreamed, but rather his nightmares always seemed to be formed in the waking world. After seeing his face when Obito’s identity was revealed, Sakura had finally understood what he meant.
Sasuke, of course, never shared any such sentiments with her. While younger, even if he had had a nightmare in front of her, she didn’t even know if she would’ve been able to deduce what they were about. She thought he might tell her now if she asked, but she didn’t bother to push. He had nightmares, she knew, because they all did after the war. The blood, the pain, the dragging feeling of hopelessness that had insidiously made its way through the shinobi ranks. Sakura knows more than one person had been awoken from dreams of death and destruction.
Sakura was not special because she had nightmares. She was a little different because of what she had nightmares about. The war had been scary and she knew she was emotionally and mentally scarred in some capacity from it, but she didn’t dream of terrified faces as they burned on the battlefield. No, Sakura’s personal nightmares had started years ago, slitted golden eyes looking past her to hungrily take in something behind her that she could never quite see.
Orochimaru was her frequent nightmare companion and it fueled her fear and hatred of the man even now. He could claim to have turned over a new leaf all he wanted, his dry wit and cutting sarcasm even welcomed by some in the desolate camp, but Sakura would not forget what he did to her; to her family. He had tempted Sasuke, tugging and manipulating until the young boy had turned his back on his team and his village, following Orochimaru down a power-hungry path littered with tripwires and dangerous creatures. She would never look at him and think ‘he’s not half bad’. She would always remember her nightmares after Sasuke had left, the genuine terror rushing through her veins when images of white fingers digging into pale flesh made their way into her dreams.
A rock that had kept her grounded during that time had been her parents. Naruto had been gone on his training trip and Kakashi, while willing enough to see and speak to her if she sought him out, had made no move to return any comradery she might have shown him. Accepting he hadn’t been ready for the companionship he clearly craved, Sakura had trained with Tsunade and dreamed of Orochimaru.
One night, after a particularly gruesome night terror, her father had rushed into her room, his concerned shouts shaking her from a now-forgotten dream. He had rubbed her back gently as she had sobbed into his shoulder, blind terror wracking her body as she shook in his arms.
“Musume,” her father had shushed, rocking back and forth in an attempt to comfort her. “Look at me, ‘Kura-chan.”
She had shakily shaken her head, tears still streaming from closed eyes.
“Please,” her father had begged, “look at me.”
She had gulped down a breath, chest quivering heavily, as she finally glanced up to look at familiar pale green eyes.
“It’s going to be okay,” he had reassured, a hand coming up to pet her tangled locks. “Always remember ‘Kura-chan: whenever you feel scared or alone, look into a mirror. I’m always there with you.”
She had sniffed, nodding slightly, before she had clung to him once more, wariness hovering over her.
Her father’s sentiment, that because they had the same eyes they were always together in spirit, had stuck with her for years. Any time she had felt alone or scared, she would find a mirror and comfort herself with her father’s warm gaze.
So when she swam into consciousness, her mind fuzzy, she could only picture their shared eyes in her mind as she froze, tensing uncomfortably. She kept her eyes closed, hesitation wracking her as she did her best to catalog her surroundings without sight. She was a medic-nin, a damn good one at that, so she could immediately tell something was wrong with her body. It felt weird to her, almost unnatural. Sakura, when tensing, could feel her muscles shift and ache, the stretchiness of her muscles apparent in her tense limbs. This amount of power and fluidity in rigid muscles was unfamiliar to her, and she found herself growing childishly scared.
A brief thought entered her head, fear shooting through her veins, before she vehemently dismissed it, not allowing it to form into a full thought. No, she thought incredulously, flexing her hands as she clenched them into fists and then uncurled them. No, it wasn’t possible.
Sakura’s eyes sprang open almost unconsciously, a white ceiling in darkness the first thing to greet her vision. She raised herself up, climbing out of the bed she was resting on so fast that she tangled herself up in the bed covers, tripping and falling, her arms coming up just quickly enough to save her from a busted head.
The white arms she saw almost glowed in the darkness around her. Her vision was off, she quickly discovered, as she saw more in the dark than she had any right to. Her ability to smell was weird too, her nose twitching as she took in the various scents in the room. She’d never had this sensitive of a nose. Besides, she thought as panic started to set in, she could just tell from her position that she wasn’t supposed to be this tall at such a young age.
Her lungs expanded and contracted quickly, fear setting in as she untangled herself, eyes searching the room for doors. There were two doors, one in front of the bed and one off to the side, on the other side of the bed from her. Sakura hesitated, glancing at both doors before she went for the one directly across from her. She turned the knob and it was greeted with what looked to be a tiled bathroom floor. She blindly ran her hands against a wall, blinking rapidly and squinting when she found the switch and light flooded the room.
Pale green eyes with slit pupils met her reflection in the mirror, Orochimaru staring back at her in horror. She was frozen, prey staring at the body of a predator, and she could feel herself falling into a panic attack. Dread suffocated her as her eyes, now with narrow pupils, teared up in confusion.
“What,” Orochimaru’s voice choked out, slimy and silk smooth, “happened to me?“
Interlude III: Naruto
Naruto put a lot of stock in familial love.
He didn’t meet his parents until he was a teen, so up to that point, he spent his entire life thinking he had been abandoned while hoping they had passed before their time and that they hadn’t just given him up because of who he was (what he was).
Naruto craved attention, whether it was good or bad didn’t matter, so he acted out. He was naturally exuberant, so he just added “obnoxious” to his personality and suddenly he was the loud troublemaker of his age group and he had eyes trained on him. Almost all of them were hostile to some degree, but he didn’t care. He was seen and that was what mattered. He had no parents to see him, so he’d find another way to meet his needs.
When he finally got his headband, still smelling faintly of Iruka-sensei, Naruto felt the first stirrings of love. Naruto had always trusted Iruka to a certain point. He yelled at Naruto a lot, but Naruto also pushed his buttons to get that reaction, so he didn’t blame him. He never hurt Naruto or insulted him. When he said something criticizing to him, he meant it as a way for Naruto to improve and not in a way to destroy confidence. It was not until after Naruto learned what he was, after Iruka showed he was willing to die to protect Naruto, that Naruto stopped seeing Iruka as a sensei and instead saw him as a father-figure. Naruto wouldn’t tell him this, he could just imagine the tears that he would shed during such an emotional conversation, but he really was the father figure Naruto looked up to during his childhood.
It started a chain of events surrounding love and family that Naruto never saw coming.
Joining Team 7 was a trial and he simultaneously loved it and loathed it. Naruto could recognize jealousy in himself, so he was well aware that a part of his rivalry with Sasuke had been caused by that little green emotion. Naruto was charmed by Sakura’s looks and he saw the way she sighed as she pined after Sasuke and it caused the little monster to rear its head.
Sasuke had had a lot of things Naruto hadn’t. He’d known what it was like to have a parent love you. Someone to hold you after a nightmare or someone to ask after your day. He’d had a brother, someone to teach him and be a confidant. Naruto had only had himself. The Old Man had shown up occasionally, but it had always felt like he did it to keep a critical eye on Naruto, and not out of any genuine love. Naruto had never felt concern from a relative for his well-being and he envied Sasuke for his fortune.
And then Sasuke’s family was gone and Naruto winced at his old bitter thoughts.
They weren’t a family. That was an important detail that Naruto thought about often. When they first started out, they weren’t a family. Kakashi found them all annoying on the best of days, even if he did care for them. Sakura felt frustration for Kakashi, obsession for Sasuke, and disgust for Naruto. Sasuke hated everyone, including them, and their team couldn’t even pretend to like each other, let alone think about being a family.
And then they spent more time together and Kakashi grew softer, Sakura started to include him, and Sasuke’s bad attitude towards them all turned to indifference and then grudging fondness. They slipped towards something like comradery. Naruto remembered feeling content.
Then things started to change once more and Naruto got confused. Naruto had never had anyone to explain to him the different kinds of love, though he was starting to pick up on them on his own. The love between a mother and son was different than a husband and wife. Naruto loved Iruka like a father and he was starting to suspect that he might love someone in a more romantic sense. He looked at Sakura and felt a flutter in his chest. He looked at Sasuke and felt an identical flutter. Naruto felt so much and didn’t understand any of it.
It was only after Sasuke had abandoned them and Naruto was on his training trip that he realized the opportunity that has now passed them. Naruto wasn’t always the smartest, especially when it came to his emotions and feelings towards other people, but just this once, he had a stroke of brilliance. He had loved them, his teammates. Sasuke and Sakura were people he believed he could’ve had a family with. An unorthodox one, sure, but a family nonetheless.
When he returned to Konoha, he took a look at Sakura and while he felt joy at seeing her again, that flutter of potential was so muted it was almost gone. He knew, even if it was at the back of his mind, that their potential as partners was over. It was a sad realization, that the potential of something more had been cut off before it had ever really begun, but Naruto had never let anything keep him down for long, so he smiled and loved loved them in a different way instead.
The three of them would never exchange vows, but they would make a promise to each other. It took a war and an intolerable death toll, but they all eventually clasped hands, determination in their straight backs as they risked everything to better the world they lived in.
Kakashi was the older brother Naruto always wanted; a troll to the core, though an affectionate one.
Sakura was his sister, her brilliance obvious and her kindness one of her best qualities.
Sasuke, as has been deemed by destiny, was his brother, the yin to his yang. Sasuke was the moon to his sun and they orbited each other in a happy dance.
Naruto the sun, Sasuke the moon, Kakashi a planet, and Sakura the stars.
They were a family, at last, and it proved to Naruto that he had been right to hold the love of a family above all else.
Which is why when he woke up in an unfamiliar room, the air as dry as a desert, he was immediately scared. He was wary and suspicious, sure, but he was mostly scared. Because something was wrong and he was not where he was meant to be. He wasn’t in his old apartment, springing awake to make his way to find Sasuke since he knew the other boy would be with his clan. He wasn’t dragging the amused Uchiha behind him as they went in search of the rest of their family.
No, instead, Naruto was greeted with a Sunagakure ANBU nin appearing in front of him, the shinobi immediately getting on one knee as he bowed his head in respect, an apology spilling from his lips.
“Kazekage-sama,” the man said, the gravelly tone of his voice striking Naruto, “please hurry. Gaara is losing control of Shukaku.”
Well, Naruto thinks as he stands, his actions stiff as he moved, his family was going to kill him because he clearly screwed something up.
“She’s too young,” Mikotado Homura’s stern voice cut in, his unsmiling visage solemn as he addressed the gathered council.
“She’s an established shinobi,” Aburame Shibi argued stoically on his behalf, the clan head sat in between a grim-faced Nara Shikaku and a scowling Inuzuka Tsume.
Sasuke pinched his lips together, fighting the urge to add his own two cents. Waking up in the past in the wrong body was bad enough. Having to deal with the consequences of being someone else was even worse. Izumi hadn’t survived the first time around, so when Sasuke had woken up, there had been no guardian to argue over. He’d been handed over to a therapist and a social worker and then given leave to go home. Sasuke had gone to the therapist a total of two times before he deemed it a waste of time. The social worker he’d been given had been incompetent in young Sasuke’s opinion. Looking back, the poor woman had been a civilian social worker. Of course, she wouldn’t have known how to handle a child from a prominent clan. Sasuke had eventually stopped contacting her and she had taken the hint; Sasuke had only had to deal with a ‘guardian’ for a year after the massacre. With Izumi alive, there were now new complications.
Technically speaking, as the oldest Uchiha living in Konoha, Izumi gained custody of both Sasuke and the clan finances. Sasuke, as Izumi, would hold the clan seat on the council as well as be interim clan head, until Sasuke either reached the age of maturity or he successfully became a genin. To the shinobi part of the village, thirteen-year-old Izumi was an adult in their eyes and she was a perfectly capable guardian to Sasuke. To the civilians, who didn’t quite understand the life of a shinobi regardless of their close proximity, it was just one child looking after another.
Mikotado and his current partner in crime, Utatane Koharu, should have known better. They had both been shinobi before retiring and becoming part of the council. They had been elected to represent the civilian faction of the village, but they still knew better. Which means they had ulterior motives.
“She’s only a genin,” Utatane brings up, her tone making her disapproval of Izumi clear. Sasuke did his best not to meet her eye.
After seeing Kakashi in Danzō’s body. it had immediately become clear that any previous plans had to be scrapped. Neither of them was who they were supposed to be; it was a good bet that Sakura and Naruto were running around as other people as well. Sasuke had suddenly been thrust into the role of caretaker, while Kakashi had to face Danzō’s web of deceit. Kakashi had to tackle Root without making anyone suspicious of his activities. Danzō, because of his actions, would’ve already been dismissed from the council, so Sasuke wasn’t going to find an ally in him there.
Currently, the most significant threat to them existed in the aging bodies of Mikotado and Utatane. Danzō’s scheming partners and the type of people who wholeheartedly agreed with something as atrocious as the Uchiha Massacre. Sasuke had directed his anger towards Danzō during his rampage because the other two hadn’t been the ones to give the orders; they had, however, agreed with them, making them just as disgusting and immoral as Danzō had been. Sasuke wouldn’t meet either of their eyes for fear that he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from activating his Sharingan and showing them exactly the amount of pain they were willing to put a small child through.
“A genin is an adult in the eyes of the shinobi world,” Yamanaka Inoichi piped up, meeting Utatane’s look with a stern one of his own. “Uchiha Izumi is Uchiha Sasuke’s legal guardian.”
“She’s too young,” Mikotado stressed once more, turning to look at the Sandaime. “Hiruzen, you can’t possibly allow this child to fend for both herself and a young, traumatized boy. How is she to defend herself and the boy? I say we assign them a guardian until she can sufficiently prove she can provide for both of them.”
Sasuke snorted slightly at the elder’s words, rolling his eyes. Even if Sasuke only took D-ranked missions for the rest of his life, the money left over in the Uchiha vaults would keep both him and his younger self in comfort for three lifetimes. The Uchiha clan vaults held money to help the entire clan. Not to mention, Sasuke thought with a grimace, all of the money each individual clan member would’ve had for personal reasons. Most Uchiha were in the shinobi ranks and would pay taxes to both the village and the clan. Civilians did the same, though they had added taxes related to whatever businesses they were involved in. Any money kept in their houses was no longer going to be used by them; if Sasuke really wanted to, he could probably go through everyone’s houses and gather together another small fortune.
The Uchiha had always been rather frugal. They purchased the best weapons and battle gear, true. Expensive, yes; but then they carefully took care of them. Thrown kunai were meticulously collected if given the chance. Children were taught how to sew in order to keep their clothes in relatively good shape for a long time. It was a remnant from the Warring States Period when they were fighting the much richer Senju. They had never quite lost their more tight-fisted tendencies when it came to money.
“Are we then going to assign a guardian to every orphan who can’t protect themselves?” Akimichi Chōza asked, bringing up a rather valid point.
There were plenty of orphans in Konoha who had to fend for themselves. Hell, look at Naruto: he might have been getting the regulated orphan stipend from the village as a child, but he had had to find his own place to live. Sasuke was only vaguely aware of the details, but he did know that Naruto had had to carefully budget everything in his life. Ramen was his favorite food, but it was also the cheapest instant food there was. Being as disliked as he was, he never kept his money in a civilian-run bank, too scared that they would ‘misplace’ anything he gave them. Most shinobi clans operated the same way, keeping clan funds within the clan’s hands, though civilian born shinobi mostly still opted to use the banks their parents had always used.
The civilian council arguing for the last two Uchiha to be put under a designated guardian was incredibly suspect in Sasuke’s opinion.
“Homura,” the Sandaime interrupted, ignoring Chōza’s pointed question. “Did you have anyone specific in mind? You’re rather insistent about something you know better on.”
“We simply think that these two have been through enough and that they shouldn’t be burdened with too much too soon,” Utatane cut in, getting an agreeing nod from Mikotado.
“I believe the two should be put in Shimura Danzō’s care,” Mikotado replied, his eyes sharp as he confidently revealed his plan to the room.
Sasuke looked up at that, eyes boring into the side of the Sandaime’s head. Mikotado and Homura knew damn well that not even two weeks ago Danzō ordered the entire Uchiha clan to be exterminated. For them to suggest that Izumi and Sasuke be put under his care was an atrocity. They knew the truth and yet they wanted to hand over seemingly innocent children to that complete sociopath. Sasuke’s mood darkened, venomous words on his tongue, when he paused, considering.
Danzō was gone. Sasuke blinked at that, fighting back the urge to grunt in surprise. Kakashi was currently occupying Danzō’s body, which meant that if they were put under Danzō’s care, they would be dealing with an ally and not the enemy that the body’s original occupant was. In fact, Sasuke realized, it would give them a damn good excuse to be seen interacting. They wouldn’t have people wondering why one of the Uchiha survivors was so close to someone like Shimura Danzō.
“Homura,” the Sandaime repeated, but there was a chastisement in his voice, an incredulous look in his eye that was quickly hidden away.
“Danzō-san?” Sasuke cut in, careful to make his younger sounding voice hesitant and vulnerable.
“Do you know him?” Shikaku spoke up, giving Sasuke a sharp look when he hesitantly nodded.
“He visited me and Sasuke in the hospital,” Sasuke started off slowly, bringing his voice up from the shy whisper he had started with. “He was very kind.”
The Hokage visibly grimaced for half a second, a flash of regret quickly hidden away before anyone else looked in his direction. “You don’t have to accept a guardian,” the Sandaime told him, looking at him with an imploring gaze. “You are legally an adult.”
“I want Danzō-san’s help,” Sasuke replied, biting his lip to stop a sneer from forming. He could see it in the way Sarutobi’s shoulders hunched and in the way he closed his eyes for just a second too long to be a blink; he would agree to Mikotado and Utatane’s demands. He would ignore the advice of his entire clan council. He would hand the last two Uchiha over to the man who helped orchestrate their family’s demise. Sasuke felt hatred boil in his gut as he met the older man’s eyes, smiling shyly up at him. This man, this weak, miserable man, was pathetic. If Sasuke had really been ignorant, if he hadn’t come back and ended up in Izumi’s body, he would be sentencing two innocents to pay the price for a crime that never happened. He would let an innocent Izumi trust a man that had ordered the boy she loved to kill her and her family.
Sasuke vowed to make it a point to get the man out from under the hat as soon as possible; he didn’t deserve it.
“Why don’t you head on back to the hospital and see how Sasuke is doing?” Sarutobi said gently, a kind smile on his face. “I’m sure you’ll want to be there when he finally wakes up.”
“Yes, Hokage-sama,” Sasuke nodded, standing and bowing after the clear dismissal. Several of the clan heads looked weary at Sasuke’s new predicament, some of them knowing full well that Danzō shouldn’t be as trusted as he was. Sasuke thought about the clan members they had lost to Danzō’s clutches and he silently made a vow as he exited the meeting room.
He would do everything in his power to help Kakashi uproot the poison that Danzō had spilled into the foundation of Konoha.
Sasuke was idly looking out the window, trying to get used to his new depth perception, when there was a rustling of sheets behind him. His heart skipped a beat at the sound and he whipped his head around, clocking onto the shifting body laying on the bed.
“S-Sasuke?” he stuttered out, feeling awkward at addressing someone else with his name. In retrospect, it was going to get weird fast referring to himself as Sasuke and his younger version as Sasuke. With a mental note, he resigned himself to having to answer to Izumi instead of Sasuke. He’d have to work on it. For now, he’d just refer to his younger self as Sasu. Izumi had used it once or twice, so it wouldn’t be too out of character.
The younger boy let out a sort of hissing whimper, his eyes squeezing tightly shut as his hands balled up into fists, the white hospital sheets caught in his grasp.
“Hey, it’s alright,” Sasuke tried to soothe, wincing because he knew damn well that it wasn’t. He had once laid on that bed, fighting his way to consciousness as Itachi’s cold voice spoke cruel words on repeat. He knew this younger version of himself was experiencing hell as he pushed his way into opening his eyes, into getting the first glimpse of what life was like now that everyone he had once cared for was gone.
“Aniki!” was the cry that escaped the younger Sasuke’s lips as he shot up in his bed, tears streaming from his wide eyes as he sobbed loudly, his breathing loud and wet as he stared at Sasuke.
“Hey,” Sasuke said awkwardly, hesitantly approaching the crying boy’s bedside.
The younger Sasuke flinched at his voice, wild eyes staring at him with something akin to fear. Sasuke winced at the sight, stopping his approach before he startled the kid too badly. He remembered waking up alone, terrified and confused as he cried for his older brother. It had taken several minutes for him to stop hyperventilating, the realization that he was crying out for his clan’s murderer falling upon him. He had been a mess for days after waking up, crying and screaming as the devastation he faced registered fully. He hadn’t had anyone come to visit him those first delicate days, alone except for a nurse who came with his food and the single doctor that explained to him exactly what had happened since he had been unconscious. He would eventually grow numb enough to be released, only forced to see his therapist and social worker.
Sasuke had grown volatile the longer he had been left alone, the anger at his circumstances festering until all he could think about was avenging his clan. Sasuke had fallen to the Uchiha Curse of Hatred so easily. He was determined that Sasu wouldn’t go down such a dark and lonely path.
“Sasu-k un,” Sasuke states with as much confidence as he could muster, approaching calmly, making sure to keep his hands in Sasu’s line of sight. The boy was still sobbing, though his attention was firmly on Sasuke. He didn’t flinch again, though his eyes were still wide and glassy looking. “Hey, Sasu-kun, it’s okay, you’re alright,” Sasuke assured him, finally standing at his bedside and carefully uncurling his fingers from their tight clench on the bed sheets.
“A-Aniki, h-he—,” the younger boy stuttered out, his tight grip transferring to Sasuke’s hand.
“I know,” Sasuke cuts him off, not letting the boy say what he was thinking. “I know, Sasu-kun.”
His younger self just cried after that, finally letting go of his blanket completely, both hands now grasping tightly onto Sasuke’s person. Sasuke lets him, encouraging the distraught boy to wrap his arms around his neck, letting his small body curl into his. Sasuke suddenly found himself forced to hold back his own tears, memories colliding with the present as he was reminded once more of his own journey through grief.
It took close to an hour before the younger boy’s sobs started to wane, exhaustion overwhelming the tired boy. He fell asleep in Sasuke’s arms, hands clenching tightly to the bottom of Sasuke’s purple shirt. He positioned him so he’s laying on the bed, but he didn’t try to extract himself from the tight grasp.
“I forgot,” Sasuke said lowly, his voice just above a whisper, “what it was like to wake up and know my entire world had ended.”
A firm hand landed on his shoulder, Kakashi a comforting presence as he stood somberly behind Sasuke.
“I can’t know the magnitude of losing an entire clan,” Kakashi stated darkly, Danzō’s rumble-y tone making Sasuke twitch slightly, “but I do know what it’s like to lose family. My father was all I had and when he—when he killed himself, I was alone. There was Minato-sensei, of course, but…it’s not quite the same to a child who loses a parent.”
Sasuke sniffed slightly, fighting back tears as he hung his head, leaning back into the chair. Grief was different for everyone, but Sasuke found himself grateful that Kakashi can relate, even if it’s was only a little. They both saw their parents’ dead bodies, realization and horror ripping through their veins as they were forced to grow up far too quickly. Both of them were considered prodigies in their own ways, both of them holding the burden of a taboo past. Kakashi had to deal with the unwanted attention that came from being the White Fang’s son, and Sasuke had to deal with being the last Uchiha, never being able to answer the whispered questions of why it was him that survived that night. Naruto was in a similar boat, orphaned from the day he was born, but it was different. As harsh as it sounded, Naruto wasn’t forced to remember his parents being cut down in front of him. Their misfortune wasn’t a contest, but there was a difference that Sasuke and Kakashi were intimately familiar with.
“We need to figure out what went wrong,” Sasuke muttered, refusing to break down into tears. He was almost an adult and here he was crying like a child. Frankly, they didn’t have time to mourn the past, not when they were living it. They had to regroup and figure out a new plan of action; Sasuke needed to get his hands on Naruto so he could strangle the idiot.
“I’m going to strangle Naruto when we find him,” Sasuke told Kakashi, bitterly sharing his thoughts as he gently ran his fingers through Sasu’s hair. “I’ll try to let go before he dies, but I make no promises.”
Kakashi snorted slightly, a reluctant smile making its way onto Danzō’s wrinkled face. “I would usually be all for strangulation, but I don’t know if it was actually Naruto’s fault.”
Sasuke looked up sharply, eyeing Kakashi as he paused his petting. “What do you mean?” Sasu grumbled slightly when Sasuke tensed, a discontent frown falling onto his face. Sasuke quickly resumed the ministrations, absentmindedly humming in comfort even while he stared at Kakashi.
“Something went wrong while we were in the time stream,” Kakashi explained, shuffling closer and taking a seat in the chair Sasuke had previously vacated. “I went over that seal just as much as Naruto did; it was airtight. We should be exactly where we wanted to be; not here—not after the massacre, and certainly not in the wrong bodies.”
“So what went wrong?” Sasuke asked, knowing that Kakashi didn’t have an answer. Sasuke pursed his lips, the memory of the journey causing his right eyes to twitch. Something had definitely gone wrong while they were going back in time, and Sasuke thinks he might know what contributed to it. His Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan had felt like lava was running through it. He’d let go of Sakura’s, breaking the circle they had once formed, but he has a gut feeling that the attempted seal had already gone wrong long before Sasuke let go.
“My eyes,” Sasuke started slowly, trying to remember all of the details from their brief journey as he could, “did something while the seal was activated. My Rinnegan burned a bit, nothing too bad, but my Sharingan burned so bad I wanted to tear my own eye out of my socket. I also let go of Sakura’s hand at one point.”
Kakashi frowned at that, his hand coming up to touch where Obito’s Sharingan had once been. “I don’t have a Sharingan anymore, so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but it sure sounds like it. What came first: the eye pain or breaking the circle?”
“The eye pain,” Sasuke responded immediately, grimacing slightly at the phantom pain the thoughts produced. “Definitely the eye pain. I was so thrown off that I didn’t even think about it before I let go of Sakura’s hand to clutch at my eye.”
“Is there anything in the Uchiha archives that mentions the Sharingan having any hidden properties?” Kakashi asked, grasping at some idea that Sasuke can’t see. “The Sharingan gives the wielder the ability of enhanced perception. You have increased speed and you can easily predict moves, so well in fact, that it looks like you already know them. Is it a stretch that the Sharingan might have some untapped time properties? How studied is the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan, anyway?”
“It isn’t,” Sasuke replied, his mind racing. “Madara had his, of course, so he was able to find the hidden writing on the sekihi. I saw it and I’m pretty sure Itachi saw some parts of it as well. The clan didn’t really get to study the effects because no one had the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan. Madara was an outlier and as soon as he deciphered it, he went psycho and abandoned the village.”
“Is there any advanced form past what you have? Is there a possibility that there’s still more of the sekihi that hasn’t been seen yet?”
Sasuke opened his mouth to deny that train of thought before he stopped, brought up short as he actually focused on what Kakashi was saying. There weren’t any further forms of the Sharingan, was there? Surely Madara would’ve achieved that simply to make himself stronger. The only eye that holds more significance that Sasuke can think of is—
“The Rinnegan,” Sasuke whispered in shock, his eyes widening. “Madara read the sekihi before he left the village, which means he never actually saw it when he had his Rinnegan. There could be more written that only a Rinnegan could see!”
Excitement coursed through Sasuke’s veins, a new sense of purpose filling him. All he had to do was get to the Naka Shrine and once more make his way to the room where the sekihi was stored. Then maybe he could get some answers on what exactly went wrong with their time travel misadventure.
It should be easy.
“I-Izumi?” Sasu’s voice broke through Sasuke’s elated thoughts and his visions of ease cracked and shattered. Nothing would be easy, especially not when he had to be responsible for a younger version of himself.
“Sasu-kun,” Sasuke cooed, doing his best to imitate Sakura when she talked to younger children. “How are you feeling?”
“It w-wasn’t a nightmare, was it?” Sasu asked, his eyes rimmed red as he looked up at Sasuke. “I-Itachi really—he really…,” Sasu trailed off, a hiccuping sob ripping its way from his throat and Sasuke was once more handling an armful of a sobbing child.
Sasuke made eye contact with Kakashi and gave him a sharp nod, letting the man know he would get it done. Kakashi nodded and turned, leaving the room to let the two Uchiha mourn in peace. He would have to visit the pair of them to ‘officially’ introduce him to Sasu as their new guardian, but for now, it would just be an empty room, save for the two massacre survivors of an almost extinct clan.
Interlude IV: Kakashi
Kakashi left Sasuke to comfort his younger self, both uncomfortable with the charged feelings in the room and with the fact that he was currently wearing the body of the man who had been one of the major contributing factors to said pain. He’d come back to the room later, once Sasuke calmed himself down, and then he would go about introducing himself to the younger version of his student. For now, Kakashi would get back to planning what he had been doing while Sasuke was meeting with the two councils: trying to find a way to disband Root.
The Sandaime had already ordered the organization to be dissolved, though all Danzō had done before Kakashi took over was take the organization into hiding. Kakashi knew the general location of the hidden complex that housed the agents, as well as several of the shinobi’s identities, but that wouldn’t actually get him that far.
Danzō had had his fingers in so many different pies, all over the world, that it would be difficult to weed out all the missions he would have to cancel and all the agents he would have to recall. He would have to come up with some reason for why he had suddenly changed his mind and decided to follow the Hokage’s orders when he originally ignored them.
First, he thought as he made his way out of the hospital and down a busy road, he would have to find Sai. The younger man was just a child at this point, newly instated to Root. The teen wouldn’t have gone through that much training yet, which means that some of his original personality should still be intact. Plus, his brother would still be alive at this point; hopefully that would help him hang onto the humanity he had forgotten for so long.
They had had to leave the sardonic teen behind in the future, but that didn’t mean that Kakashi was willing to let him suffer in their new present. He wasn’t part of the original Team 7, but he was part of their family nonetheless. Sai had been with them for so much in such a short amount of time. His kohai was in a similar situation; Tenzō had been a part of Kakashi’s life for years, but it was only recently that he had been a part of Team 7. Both of them were struggling in this time period and Kakashi would hate himself if he didn’t do anything to help them out.
Tenzō had escaped from Danzō’s control a year or two ago, but that didn’t mean that he was healed from his time with the other man. He had suffered under Orochimaru and then been immediately put under Danzō’s tutelage; he had never had any time to just breathe. While he was safer now, the Kakashi of this time period was nowhere near stable enough to really help anyone back on their feet. He would make an attempt for Tenzō’s sake, but he wouldn’t really succeed all that much. Now Kakashi not only had the opportunity to do it, but the major threat that lay in the village was eliminated without any need for them to interfere.
“Danzō-sama,” an agent greeted him as soon as he walked into Danzō’s house. The agent bowed deeply, no emotion in his voice as he welcomed his superior home. Though the mask the manwas wearing hid his face, Kakashi could clearly see the long auburn hair that was pulled into a high pony-tail. Tsunade had made a point to go through some of the old Root files after Danzō’s death and she had recruited Kakashi to help her. When he was part of Root he hadn’t known this man’s name, but now he had much better information. Yamanaka Fū rose from his bow, his mask unblemished and blank as he awaited his leader’s orders.
“Send out an announcement: I want every Root member within fifty kilometers to congregate in alpha base’s main chamber. Something urgent has come up and all are to be informed of it.”
Any other shinobi would have questioned why so many people were needed for an announcement, but Fū simply bowed, accepting Kakashi’s instructions.
“Also,” Kakashi added as he walked past the other man, “tell Saru to gather every file on the youngest recruits; those from ages one to fifteen. I want them hand-delivered to me in no more than an hour.”
“Yes, Danzō-sama,” Fū replied before the man was gone, leaving Kakashi alone as he made his way through the house.
He hadn’t been in Danzō’s personal home in a good decade, but he still remembered the way to the man’s office, where Root agents could get in contact with him when he wasn’t hidden away in Root’s underground complex. The office was impeccable, not an inch of dust anywhere in sight, and Kakashi gently sat down, a grimace gracing Danzō’s lips when he heard his knees pop.
Kakashi could admit that he had felt, not old, but not as young as he once was. All he could think about after the war was finally over was how ready he was to retire. He wouldn’t have had the chance to, of course, not with the way Tsunade had been determined to make him the next Hokage, but it had been a persistent thought that kept popping up late at night. He could admit now, though, that he hadn’t really realized what old was. Kakashi’s body had been worn down and tired, sure, but Danzō’s was even worse. The man was no pushover, power wise, as evidenced by his ability to fight Sasuke, but he was in no way in his prime. His joints ached and his back made it almost impossible to keep a dignified, straight posture. Kakashi wouldn’t doubt it if one of the reasons the man was always so grumpy was because he was in a constant, vague sort of pain. It made Kakashi wonder about the Sandaime, but before he could really think about it, Saru appeared before him.
Aburame Torune was currently infiltrating as the ANBU agent Saru, rather effectively if Kakashi remembers correctly.
“Danzō-sama,” Torune announced himself, bowing exactly like Fū had, no emotions in his voice.
“Leave the files on my desk,” Kakashi said, waving the other man away with a gruff scoff. Torune followed the instructions exactly, bowing once more before he exited the room, closing the door securely behind him.
Kakashi would have to go through all of the files before him, would have to find some way to get a support system set up for all of the children that have been under Danzō’s abysmal care, but for now, he simply opened each one long enough to catch a glimpse at the pictures paper-clipped to the front of every report.
He found Sai after looking through almost half of the files, disgusted at how young each child was. He knew, logically, that Sai wasn’t actually the boy’s name: it had been given to him for the purposes of infiltrating Team 7. Still, nothing had prepared him for seeing Sai’s picture next to the name Uchiha Seiichi.
Kakashi stared at the report, his mind shocked into blankness as he tried to process the information. It had been a joke, how closely Sai resembled Sasuke. Dark hair, pale skin, dark eyes. There were plenty of people, not just the Uchiha, who fit that description. Sai had never manifested the Sharingan, so how was anyone supposed to know he was an Uchiha? Skimming quickly until he reached Sai’s blood relatives, he carefully took in the information.
Father: Uchiha Hibiki (Deceased), Mother: Saitō Yua (Deceased), Aunt: Uchiha Hazuki (Deceased), Cousin: Uchiha Izumi (Alive)
Kakashi blinked, staring down at the innocent kanji that linked Sai to Sasuke’s new body. Kakashi carefully closed the file, letting out a sigh as exhaustion started to hit him. Clearly, even though they had believed something to be simple, there was always a shocking revelation waiting to reveal itself to them.
Resigning himself to a long night, Kakashi once more opened Sai’s file and settled in, determined to learn as much about the boy that might still be able to be Uchiha Seiichi.
Interlude V: Sakura
Sakura was tense and incredibly uncomfortable as she meandered about Orochimaru’s bedroom. The room was gently lit now that she’d found the light switch, but it still held an ominous air to her, the shadows in the room making her feel twitchy and paranoid.
There were plenty of reasons why she was scared of being in this exact situation. Seeing Orochimaru when she looked in the mirror was like a nightmare come true. Sakura had always known how outsiders saw Team 7; Sasuke as Orochimaru, Naruto as Jiraiya, and Sakura as Tsunade. They weren’t wrong, for the most part, as each of them had adopted and modified the training they received from their perspective sensei.
Sasuke was far more blunt than Orochimaru’s pretty lies, but there was a slipperiness to him that has become ingrained; always avoiding answering questions he had no intention of addressing. Naruto was kinder than Jiraiya had ever been, but there was a calculating gleam in his eyes when he was serious, a sense that he was weighing his options more than he ever had before. Sakura herself was never going to be dependent on alcohol like her shishou, but she had learned how to hide her true feelings behind a blustering attitude and a false naivety.
The outsider perception about them wasn’t wrong and Sakura was sure that the others in Team 7 thought something similar to everyone else. Sakura, however, was blessed to know the unfortunate truth.
Sasuke, while not a pervert, dealt in secrets and manipulation much like Jiraiya did with his spy network. Naruto might have picked up several of the man’s tactics, but it was Sasuke who would always be the silent observer of the group. Naruto, on the other hand, was far more like Tsunade than Sakura could ever be. He created bonds with the people around him and then was destroyed when something happened to them. If Naruto’s will had been any weaker than it was, Sakura didn’t doubt that the devastating blow of Sasuke leaving might have broken him. Tsunade had collapsed under the fracturing of her own love, while Naruto had learned to love more fiercely than ever before.
That, unfortunately, left Sakura as the Orochimaru of the group. It was awful to think about, and Sakura grimaced because that was what she was doing, but she truly was the odd one out of the group. Tsunade and Jiraiya, always dancing around each other. Naruto and Sasuke, always chasing after the other in order to keep even. Then there was Sakura and Orochimaru, the third wheel in the Team 7 dynamic. Orochimaru, whose morals didn’t exist. Sakura, who pretended not to be fascinated by the darker side of medical ninjutsu. Sakura was the Orochimaru of the group because she was the last student of Team 7 left in the village. She was the Hokage’s student, the prodigy that had surpassed her teacher.
The only difference between her and Orochimaru was that she found a moral line and never crossed it. Orochimaru had taken a running leap and vaulted over it without a care in the world.
Sakura shifted, frowning at the dark truth her thoughts presented. She didn’t have time to ponder on her similarities with the man whose body she was occupying; instead, she needed to find a way to get out of this situation.
Glancing around, her eyes zeroed in on the closet located on the right side of the bed. Orochimaru, thankfully, wore thin bedclothes to sleep in. If Sakura planned on ever leaving his bedroom, she needed to actually get dressed. When she opened the closet, she flinched back. She scolded herself, embarrassed at her reaction to Orochimaru’s familiar uniform. The plain garb , along with dark pants and that ugly purple rope, hung offensively in front of her. There were multiple uniforms all organized in front of her, each pressed and professional looking. Every shinobi carried multiple articles of the same clothing, as their job was very destructive to clothing. It was honestly a toss-up on what shinobi spent more money on: clothes or weapons.
Eyes catching on a bright color among dull ones, Sakura moved past the memory inducing outfits and instead fished out a silky smooth fabric, eyebrows raising as she took in the rather busy pattern that decorated the fabric. Sakura had never seen Orochimaru wear anything as bright and patterned as this fabric was, though that didn’t surprise her.
The montsuki was in no way the usual formal black, but rather an obnoxious bright sky blue with rather complicated patterns that suspiciously resembled snakes. The design had several different blues, as well as purples, swirling throughout the pattern. Underneath was a plain white under-kimono. There was a more traditional pair of black hakama draped over the hanger, the trousers slipped neatly within the confines of the outer layer surrounding it. Sakura debated with herself, her eyes flickering over to Orochimaru’s usual outfit before she pulled out the bright one in her grasp. She had no idea why Orochimaru had the outfit, but she couldn’t bring herself to dress like the man, regardless of the fact that she was currently said man.
She avoided looking in any reflective surface, not wanting to see Orochimaru staring back at her. She especially made sure not to see anything when putting on the trousers. No need to feed her nightmares. A quick search on the bottom of the closet revealed straw zori with white tabi socks tucked neatly under their straps. Slipping those on took no time at all and finally, Sakura was dressed and forced to turn towards the door she now knew was the exit to the bedroom she’d sequestered herself in.
She put it off, instead turning inward to try and think of a plan. She knew that she was going to encounter something disturbing on the other side of that door. There were clues that she’d put off putting together until now, but she had to face them. The youth in Orochimaru’s features was a clue, though, with the way the man continued to escape death, it was not the most important one. Another clue was the fact that Sakura had woken up in a room that very clearly belonged to said man when as far as she knew, camp rumor put Orochimaru as bunking down with Tsunade, though Sakura had done her best to never be in her shishou’s tent, just in case there had been any truth to that rumor. If Sakura had ended up in his body, she should’ve woken up in the said tent. The most important clue, however, was the fact that their attempt at time travel throws things all out of whack.
Sakura was forced to admit to herself that not only was she in Orochimaru’s body, but she was also probably in his body in the past, which was a trip to think about.
She didn’t know what had gone wrong, not exactly, just the brief feeling of a build-up of pressure before a hand slipped from hers, but clearly something significant had happened. Sakura wasn’t sure what she would find on the other side of that door, but it couldn’t be anything pleasant. If she truly was in the past, and the jutsu had worked at least halfway, then she suddenly had to deal with the unforeseen circumstances of Orochimaru’s ilk. There was no guarantee that she’d even invaded Orochimaru’s body in the time period they were aiming for; her body wasn’t right, so what guaranteed the time was?
She needed to get herself through the door and find out where and when she was. She needed to find her team and completely change their plan of attack. As she shivered slightly at the idea of leaving the room, she also acknowledged the fact that she needed to get out of Orochimaru’s body. She didn’t want to be here and if there was anyone with the knowledge on how to jump out of a body, it would be Orochimaru. The man wasn’t here, but his notes must be lying around somewhere. With Sakura’s intimate knowledge of the body, surely she could find a way to escape her confines without hurting or killing someone.
Resigning herself to her fate, Sakura pulled open the door and stepped carefully out of the little safety it held.
Interlude VI: Naruto
Naruto was stiff as he followed the ANBU shinobi out of the room and down a hallway, both of them going at a brisk pace. Naruto was tempted to run, to try and find his way out of the building, but he didn’t know where he was in Sunagakure, nor did he know how to work the body he was in. Because he could try to ignore the fact that he was three inches taller than he was supposed to be, and maybe even ignore how differently his body was built. He couldn’t really ignore the ANBU shinobi that kept glancing back at him, worried and panicky as he tried to pick up the sedate pace Naruto had set.
Naruto, in a twisted set of circumstances, had somehow ended up in Rasa’s body. He was currently the Yondaime Kazekage, whose son was being assaulted by the one-tailed bijū, Shukaku.
Naruto picked up the pace, adjusting as fast as he could to the heavier body he was occupying. There was a significant weight difference between Naruto’s original body and the sturdier body that a grown man has and Naruto had to adjust as he finally started to run, keeping up with the ANBU in front of him. It was difficult; Naruto felt incredibly uncomfortable and he was continually conscious of the fact that he wasn’t in the right body.
The Sunagakure ANBU led him out of the building and into the starry night, the chill of the desert leaving goosebumps on his skin. He shivered even as he ran, following the shinobi even though now that he was trying, he could actually sense the angry chakra Shukaku was leaking all over the place. Naruto almost stumbled as they draw closer, the abrasive chakra a shock when he had just started growing used to Kurama’s newly friendly chakra.
Naruto did stop this time, staring blankly ahead as a fully released Shukaku screamed into the sky. He felt panic set in quickly, a choking sound exiting his mouth as he frantically reached inside of himself. This wasn’t Naruto’s body, there wasn’t any seal to keep Kurama inside him, but Naruto still searched because he couldn’t even give voice to his fears.
To the idea that now that he’d finally gained Kurama, he had subsequently lost him.
Naruto searched, frantic, and could only let out a relieved breath when he felt the stirring of Kurama’s chakra within his gut. There was an echo in his mind like Kurama was trying to speak to him, but the brush of chakra he felt was weak and incredibly tired. Kurama was stuck in this situation with him and he’d have to let that be enough for now. Kurama couldn’t help him at the moment, so it was up to Naruto to deal with their current situation.
With that in mind, Naruto finally focused on Shukaku and the destruction the bijū was causing. More ANBU had fallen in at his side and they waited anxiously for Naruto to give them orders, all of them watching in horror as Shukaku made his way from the outskirts of the village walls to the more populated center.
Naruto could guess how this ended the first time. It took a powerful shinobi to take down a bijū, even the one-tailed Shukaku. Rasa would’ve had to use a significant amount of force to get Shukaku knocked out in order for Gaara to reemerge as the dominant mind.
Naruto had a different method.
“Stay here unless I signal for you,” Naruto stated harshly, trying his best to sound as stern as he always imagined Gaara’s father would be. Naruto didn’t know any of the Sunagakure signals, but he knew himself well enough to doubt he’d use them even if he did. Naruto took a moment to create a clone and sent him off down into the barren streets. He hoped that none of the ANBU tried to question what kind of clone it was because it was very clearly not a doton clone. He just had to hope that they were more terrified of Gaara and Shukaku than they were observant.
“Shukaku,” Naruto said as soon as he gets close enough, his back straight as the ichibi turned to face him, an angry snarl on his face. “I think that’s enough.”
Shukaku roared at him, a crazed gleam in his eyes as he reared back to attack Naruto.
“Gaara,” Naruto continued, ignoring the charging bijū, “it’s time to wake up, son.”
Naruto had never met Rasa, only had stories of the man before his death. Only knew as much as any shinobi was willing to talk about after the Yondaime Kazekage was resurrected with his predecessors. Naruto didn’t need to meet the man to know how out of character Naruto’s actions were for Rasa. Rasa had been cruel and harsh with his youngest son, blaming him for his beloved wife’s death, sealing a bijū inside of him with a shoddy seal.
Naruto’s entire strategy was based on the fact that he was not acting like Rasa would.
Shukaku was still poised to attack, but even in his crazed state, Naruto’s words were suspicious.
“It’s time to stop this,” Naruto continued on, Rasa’s voice strong, but soft, as he addressed both Shukaku and the unconscious boy inside of him. “I won’t allow this to continue.”
“Finally learned how to act like a father?” Shukaku’s high pitched voice echoed, the grumble shaking the ground slightly as he sneered down at Naruto. “You want to save the son you never cared for?“
“I want to save both of you,” Naruto corrected, looking Shukaku in the eye. “I don’t want you to suffer any more than I want Gaara to.”
Shukaku very clearly didn’t believe him, a scratching scoff escaping him, but before he could do much of anything, the clone Naruto had created earlier caught him off guard, the seal in his hand slapping loudly against Shukaku’s right arm. The ichibi let out a scream of surprise, shock written across his face, before his oppressive chakra started to dwindle away. Shukaku didn’t have much time to do anything besides turn to stare at Naruto in confusion before he was gone, once more sealed away into Gaara.
His clone dispersed and Naruto was left alone with an incredibly tiny version of his future friend. The black under Gaara’s eyes was just as vivid as in the future, and Naruto felt a pang of sadness travel up his spine. Gaara was so young, just a little kid, and he’d been struggling far more than Naruto did at his age. Naruto might have been ostracized, but he had a stable seal and ignorance on his side. Gaara had been tormented on all sides, constantly bombarded by the village’s unfair expectations and Shukaku’s slowly spreading madness.
“Kazekage-sama?” a hesitant voice asked, a different ANBU dropping down next to him.
Naruto glanced at them, taking a moment to identify the shinobi. Though Naruto had never seen Yashamaru in person, Gaara had been willing enough to tell Naruto about the man his father had sent to test him. According to Gaara, the man had looked a lot like his mother. Yashamaru had tried to understand Gaara’s plight when no one else would. If Naruto played his cards right, he could get the man’s help for what he had planned.
“Please retrieve Gaara and meet me in my office. There’s something I wish to discuss with you.”
“Should we take Gaara to a medic?” Yashamaru asked politely, ever careful not to seem rude. Naruto felt bitterness towards Rasa at this, had to wonder just how careful Yashamaru had to be in his goal of trying to love Gaara.
“Take him to my office,” Naruto grunted back. “I’ll be along shortly.”
Yashamaru followed his orders, a tightness to his mouth giving away his displeasure at Naruto’s orders. Naruto understood and didn’t blame him. He didn’t know that Naruto was the answer to their problems, that Naruto could help Gaara more than anyone else in the village could.
He waited for Yashamaru to leave before he looked out at the damage Shukaku’s impromptu release had caused. Naruto didn’t know the protocol of fixing a village, especially one that was not Konoha. He would need to search Rasa’s office to try and find anything on how to run a village. Naruto was wrong-footed and unprepared for the task he was about to embark on, but he couldn’t just leave. He couldn’t try and strike out on his own, in search of the rest of his family. Naruto had made a promise to Gaara before he left; if Naruto ran off with Rasa’s body, then there was no hope of keeping his promise. He had to help Gaara and then he could try and figure out what had gone wrong with his seal.
Naruto used his ability to sense Shukaku in order to find his way back to Rasa’s office. He kept a stony frown on his face as he stalked down the halls ordering several ANBU to start preparing for repairs in the village. He couldn’t give any more detailed instructions, so he dismissed them as he entered the room where Gaara’s chakra signature rested.
He also needed to find a map of some sort; he couldn’t always track down Gaara to find his way around. He needed to know how the village worked if he was going to pull this off. He grimaced at the idea, not looking forward to it in the slightest.
“Kazekage-sama,” Yashamaru greeted stiffly, Gaara’s young body still cradled in his arms. “I really think we should take Gaara to see a medic.”
“He doesn’t need a medic,” Naruto dismissed with a shake of his head, closing the door behind him. He approached swiftly and snatched an inkpot and brush off of the desk in front of them. He tested the ink briefly, making sure it was of quality and able to conduct chakra, before he turned to a confused Yashamaru. “He needs a new seal.”
“Kazekage-sama?” Yashamaru stuttered out, his grip on Gaara tightening slightly.
“I’ve been in contact with a seal master,” Naruto lied, coming closer to kneel before the pair before him. “Not giving him a real seal was a mistake on our part. He can’t control the ichibi without an anchor. I’ve found him one.”
“And you know how to do this? You were taught how?” Yashamaru rushed out, tensing as Rasa lifted Gaara’s shirt to gain access to his stomach.
“Sure,” Naruto appeased him, ignoring the fact that he was about to write a seal to contain a bijū off the top of his head. “How hard can it be?”
With that said, Naruto got to work, pointedly ignoring Yashamaru’s worried gaze. He couldn’t get distracted. He had to stay focused.
Naruto had made a promise, and when he did that, he kept it.