Sometimes, when a person wishes long enough, and hard enough, that wish will come true. And sometimes, when that wish comes true... they'll wish it hadn't. (LeexSakura)(NarutoxHinata) (Fixed some...
Chapter Six: Reunion
It was over.
They had watched as the memory had been pulled passed them. Everything had been relived in crystal clarity, as though they had lain in the infant's place at that moment once more. They hadn't made it easy on Itachi, but the man had finally battered down their defenses.
Fear had paralyzed them. The struggle had sapped them of their resources.
It had never been a battle they could have won together, though they had fought countless ones in the past, side by side. The situation had changed now. This was a fight that only one of them could face.
Because only one of them could return to the real world.
One body. Two souls. He knew this struggle. Never could both be free. Only one could dominate. Only one could live that life. The other must be buried away forever. It was a sad circumstance, but right now there were more important things than the friendship they had shared, or the lives they had lead before this.
Their friends' lives were at risk. Konoha itself was in danger. The kyubi could never know release.
So now it was up to him.
After all, who better to defeat Itachi...
It was quiet. Nighttime in the hospital had always been still and peaceful. Occasionally the nurses would play soft music over the intercoms; something to sooth the newer patients who were too proud and tough to admit that they were frightened to be here. Only the youngest children ever admitted fear. The others kept it locked within, though the nurses were adept enough to know which patients needed the extra care.
But no music played tonight, and there was nothing restful about the quiet. The staff had their orders, what few orders they had been trusted with. There was no peace in the silence tonight. Tonight it was a prelude to the coming events; a living thing that held its breath in anticipation. She could feel it bearing down on her; watching.
This was it. Finally!
Sakura hurried down the hall, her boots treading soundlessly against the linoleum, before coming up to a halt beside the door she could now reach by reflex alone. Still nothing. She took a deep breath, forcing herself to relax, to be calm. The curtains would be open. They always were. She took another breath, opened the door and stepped inside.
Ino sat in the chair at the foot of the bed, sucking juice through a straw, Tenten's abandoned magazine spread out upon her lap. On the bedside table Hinata's cup remained untouched, the paper wrapper still covering the top of the straw. The Hyuga woman's face remained buried in the sheets beside Lee's best impersonation of Naruto. And slumped against the wall was Neji; his head tilted back lazily and he ignored Sakura's entrance. All in all everything appeared normal. But it was only an appearance.
"Is she awake?" Sakura cast a casual hand in the Hyuga's direction and tried her best to avoid looking out of the window.
"There's juice, right?" That was all the answer she was going to get, but she understood Neji's question well enough. They had to be careful now. They may no longer be alone.
Ino set her emptied cup aside and stretched. "Tsunade still pissed?" Code again.
Sakura shrugged, feigning indifference. "She'll get over it." Yeah, she's been called. A deliberate look from the head nurse as Sakura had rush passed told the pink-haired woman as much. That had been her task; to raise the warning. Tsunade would summon the others. If this was it, they had to be ready.
Lee's chest rose and fell in abrupt movements. Just as the ventilator would do, Sakura noticed with a small hint of pride. The machine still popped beside the bed, but the hose had been cut, the severed ends hidden behind the bed. He had to be ready to move in an instant, and it would take precious time it he had to unhook himself from the machine. They had since stopped using the throat tube. Only the mouthpiece was visible after all, so there was no need. Chouji couldn't remain in character with the tube anyway. The decoys still remembered to breathe after the ventilator's noise, but no one had been able to pull of the effect as well as Lee. Of course, as with anything else, he had practiced in his spare time. Life for Lee was all about training.
Training, and his friends.
Now all that was left was the waiting, she told herself. The seconds ticked by. Sakura moved to sit at the feet of the man who had stolen her heart. Images of Itachi breaking through the glass beside the bed and plunging the Kusanagi into Lee's chest filled her mind and clenched her gut. She had to be ready. She had to keep him safe. She couldn't lose another.
She couldn't lose Lee.
Not that Lee wouldn't be ready himself. He was a more capable fighter than she, Sakura had to admit it. And she knew better than to believe his relaxed posture and deep breaths. Lee was as ready to pounce as anyone. It was nearly impossible to catch him off guard.
Hinata's breath came in a quivering gasp; she didn't raise her head.
"Hinata?" Ino glanced over at her friend. They had all heard her, and the sound was nothing new. The girl had been crying a lot these passed few days, almost as though she had been making up for the days when she hadn't shed a tear. It seemed with Naruto was gone she no longer felt she had to be strong for him. No one could blame her. If anyone had earned the right to cry it was Hinata. She hadn't left this room in nearly a week, and hadn't ventured from the building for nearly two. Her devotion to the blonde man was sincere. But if she was going to lose it now-
Her face. Ino's words of consolation died in her throat.
The corner of Hinata's eye was marred with raised veins. The Byakugan was active, Ino realized. The dark haired woman's hand clamped tightly around Lee's, her fingers turning the skin beneath them white. Lee, thankfully, didn't so much as twitch an eyelid.
Pale blue eyes rose to meet green ones. Though in his current position Neji had not seen what the others had noticed, he was aware that there was something passing between the women - unspoken. His kekkei genkai responded and he peered about cautiously.
They had company.
He watched the figures flit across the roofs of the village. They had received Sakura's warning, the Copy-nin and the hokage. It had come in the form of a message from the nurses' station at the hospital, asking Tsunade if one of her patients could be given some juice. Sakura had made the call and, per the hokage's orders, the nurses had informed her of any such requests.
Kakashi hadn't gone home; there was no reason for him to be there. Not when he might be needed here, so far from his apartment. Once the call came through he had left Tsunade at her office without another word, pausing on his way to his assigned post just long enough to inform Iruka. Now, from his perch in the shadows, only a few hundred feet from the hospital, his Sharingan easily picked out the gigantic sword strapped to the back of one of the intruders.
"Is it them?" Iruka squinted into the dark. From this distance he couldn't make out anything other than two small figures alighting from building to building. Though he couldn't see the details of the two people he knew without hesitation that they were heading to the hospital. Konoha shinobi would have no reason to dart across the rooftops at that speed during the night. There were far easier and faster ways to reach the hospital than over the rooftops; everyone knew this. These ones were clearly not to be trusted. Their pace was quick, even frantic. They kept low to their path, the posture of veiled passage. Had the jounin not been watching for them Iruka was positive the intruders would have gotten by unnoticed.
But, if it was them, and this entire situation was about to end, why did he have such a bad feeling about this? "Kakashi?" The Copy-nin didn't answer. Iruka realized the same trouble echoed within his friend's thoughts.
This is too easy. Something was definitely wrong in Kakashi's opinion. The invaders were out in the open. True it was dark out, and they were traveling silently and - apparently - cautiously, but a real shinobi knew better than to go traipsing up to their quarry in the open, even in the middle of the night. The Akatsuki were making this too simple, despite the effort of trying to appear wary.
"They're drawing our attention away." Kakashi whispered and Iruka stiffened beside him. "They want us watching the hospital."
Kakashi was on his feet, sailing over roof tops towards the hospital.
"I'll bring the others." He called over his shoulder. "Go and warn Tsunade. They know where Naruto's hidden!"
Iruka didn't bother to wonder about the details. There was no time to waste. He swore and leapt from his hiding place to meet up with Tsunade. Unless they had moved in on the intruders, she and Jiraiya were laying in wait five blocks down, on the other side of the hospital. They were supposed to converge once the bastards were entering the hospital, but then Jiraiya had never been one to follow orders.
Iruka never questioned how Kakashi would know where to go once he had gathered up the team and dealt with the ones moving towards the their hopeful trap. It didn't surprise him that the masked jounin had learned of Naruto's sanctuary. The man was former ANBU, emphasis on the 'former'. He knew how to move, act and think like an ANBU, but now he held no unwavering allegiance to the special op's creed. He would rebel against the hokage if he felt it necessary. He would do it if lives were at stake.
If there was one thing Iruka was certain about when it came to Hatake Kakashi, it was that the man always had been one step ahead of the game.
Make that two things, Iruka corrected himself. If Kakashi truly cared for someone he'd stop at nothing to see that person safe.
Iruka thanked the gods that such a man cared for Naruto.
A spark; a blue flicker of light, beyond the window pane. Again it flashed, blinking brilliantly against the dark sky. Sakura couldn't stop herself. It was too odd to ignore.
Glass shattered outward onto the pavement and the pink haired woman was leaping from the window to the tree below. Another strong push of her legs and she was atop the store that sat across the road from the hospital. She didn't pause; didn't hesitate. He was dangerous, but so were they. She had to get to him.
Kakashi's Chidori filled her ears like static.
A curse from behind; Ino was there. Sakura didn't stop. Three bodies twisted before her in the moonlight, dancing that dance she knew so well.
That dance of death.
A kunai spun up into fingers that knew the size and weight by reflex. She flung her wrist out, and heard the rewarding grunt of pain from the tallest of the three; Itachi's partner. Neji sped passed her, his legs stronger and faster, his Juken echoing loudly as he drove experienced hands into his enemy. Kakashi spun out of Neji's way, clay tiles clattering to the ground as he passed over. The blue light died, but the Copy-nin did not back off.
And Lee leapt in, Konoha Reppu knocking Neji's victim from his feet. Naruto's lithe body was mimicked perfectly in Lee's control. He wouldn't drop the faÃ§ade now. Not until they were dead. There would be no room for error in this; no chance that Naruto's true situation would be discovered. A fist drove down, but the shark-man rolled aside, the hand crashing through clay and wood. Naruto's voice growled into the dark and he was gone again, moving faster than Sakura could see.
The cherry blossom flipped into the air, a trailing foot catching the Uchiha off-guard as he battled against her sensei. The dark man faltered and a pale leg swung out as Ino drove her heel into Itachi's face. The man grunted, and leapt back to avoid a kunoichi fist.
They look so much alike. Sakura watched black eyes shift to red. He was summoning the Sharingan. It seemed a little late to do so in Sakura's opinion.
And there was Hyuga Hinata, striking from behind and driving a palm into the back of his neck. A sickening crack and Itachi's head lolled oddly to one side; his body slipping to the roof, the red fading from his eyes. Her Byakugan reflected the moonlight and Hinata was moving again, cornering the man her cousin clashed against. Double Jukens punished Kisame's body until his movements seemed more like convulsions than impact recoils. The two Hyugas spun away in harmonized movements at the sudden noise above and Chidori crashed down once more, white-blue light drawing crimson from the man's skull.
Kisame melted into a lifeless heap at their feet. His sword slipped from his fingers and clattered loudly from the roof to the ground below.
"Well shit," Ino sulked, pushing stray blonde hairs from her face, "that was too easy. Any idea where the real freaks are?"
Flesh seemed to melt and the corpses before them became the logs they had once been. Ino harrumphed a sound that her friends translated into 'it figures'. "Fucking brothers... way to stay original."
"Nice of them to give us some credit." Sakura huffed, insulted.
"They know where Naruto is." Kakashi stared down at the ruined tiles and splintered lumber. "We've got to get the others." And then he was running for the hospital; for reinforcements.
Hinata bound from the building and followed the eldest jounin closely, her friends trailing behind. She was silent in her pursuit, her expression calm, a perfect porcelain mask. She no longer cried, no longer vented in fury. She was poised, focused and Sakura understood. Nothing else mattered to Hinata at the moment; not even her own emotions.
This is Hinata's strength, Naruto's best friend realized, this is what she fights for.
The Hyuga was at her deadliest when those she loved were at stake.
The door opened soundlessly, well oiled hinges giving way without disturbance. Beyond that Iruka could see nothing. The passageway was pitch black, the moonlight outside shining in just far enough for the jounin to realize that there were no light fixtures at all. Plain concrete walls and floors did little to refract the dull light inward any further.
Tsunade paid it no mind, her fingers trailed against the walls as she moved onward blindly. Jiraiya and Iruka followed, keeping close to the hokage. The door closed with a gentle click behind them, casting them into complete darkness. Iruka reached out and felt for the walls, paying close attention to the sound of the sennin's breath before him so as not to lose his comrades. No one spoke. They had been silent since Iruka had first found the pair and alerted them of the situation; a necessary precaution, they understood.
Iruka had always thought that there was more to the hokage monument than simple adoration of Konoha's heroes. Landmarks were appreciated and even expected, and Konoha was the largest of the hidden villages. But the faces of their leaders carved into the side of a mountain seemed a bit... ostentatious, even if their home was the largest. So the thought of a hidden chamber beyond the stone faces-
He collided with the wall that was Jiraiya. The pair ahead had stopped moving.
A thin yellow line of light waned across the floor towards them. They had reached a door, he surmised. A fist grasped his shirt and warm breath fanned in his face.
"The place where you now stand, you will tell no one about." Gondaime's voice rasped softly. "This has been a secret of my predecessors since Shodai's image was first carved into this rock. It is a safe-haven; a place of protection. Not even the ANBU know of it. Shizune and I brought him here." Him. Naruto. "Once this is over, and Itachi and his friend are dead, this place will be secret again. After that you will never speak of it again."
Iruka could only nod and mutter a weak compliance, the fingers slipping from his clothes. The distinct click of a key turning in a lock met his ears and the door opened slowly, a faintly lit room beyond.
Iruka blinked, trying to adjust to the light.
His eyes cleared and adjusted.
Broken furniture. Chairs and what had once been a table were scattered over the stone floor. A few pieces of the table smoldered as fallen candles burned at lacquered wood. The rest of the room was otherwise intact. Recessed shelves upon the walls held ancient looking scrolls, newer texts and paper lanterns, giving the chamber a cozy glow.
Tsunade released an epithet that would have made Jiraiya squirm, had he not been equally livid.
The only piece of furniture in the room that was still in tact, a hospital bed, was empty. Beside it lay the remains of a ventilator. The machine had been knocked over, its face plate broken off; its hose torn in two. The blankets lay partially strewn across the floor, empty of their inhabitant. An IV stand had been tipped over, the needle still attached to the tube, droplets of blood surrounding the tiny metal shaft.
And Naruto was gone.
The team hurried through the quiet streets, Kakashi in the lead. Shuttered windows and darkened street lamps added to the feeling that Konoha was no longer a safe place. They knew where Kakashi was taking them once he had set their path. There was nothing at the end of this road but the mountain, and because of it these streets were rarely traveled. The best view of the stone faces was from the veranda above the academy; no one came to this place anymore. The last of the alleyway fell behind them and after one final turn they stood at the base of the great rock.
Two men donned in dark cloaks stood before them expectantly.
That chakra, Neji sucked a breath in through his teeth. He had heard the Uchiha's had been a powerful clan, but this man before them clearly was blessed in his family's gifts.
Evidentially, seeing as he killed the others. He chided himself.
Yet the other troubled him even more. He remembered this guy. Kisame; the only one Neji could remember whose chakra could rival Naruto while he channeled the kyubi. And that sword; that bastard sword; Neji remembered that, too. The chakra drinker. He growled a warning to the others.
White wrappings unfurled from around that great sword, tiny black eyes watching the approaching shinobi.
"Shall we begin?"
"Love to." Ino snarled, and without another word the team was moving as a whole.
Steel rang out as shuriken drew up into fingers, Tenten and Ino launching into action. Sakura and Lee swept in from behind, his speed adding to hers as he drew her round and then released her, letting Sakura sail between the two Akatsuki, kunai discharging from her fingers with deadly accuracy. A torn sleeve, a flash of blood. Better than nothing.
Another song of steel and Kusanagi was free. Itachi balanced the sword in an expert grip.
Two formidable blades. The blonde woman in the team arched an eyebrow.
"Very nice," Ino purred, "but first you have to be able to hit us."
Twin Byakugan were before the man, pale hands moving, nearly synchronized, experts in their craft as they deflected the blade again and again, never allowing it to so much as tear the fabric of their sleeves. Itachi's focus was claimed and he didn't have time to notice when a thin young man with a dark scowl slid in from beneath, the two blades in his hands driving for the tendons behind their ankles. Itachi dodged unscathed. Kisame cursed at a sliced boot. As they moved the tai-jutsu master in Naruto's form combined his efforts with the silver haired jounin and battled against the shark-tooth sword, four kunai keeping the thing from touching their skin. Keeping that blade occupied so the others could act.
Itachi smiled, the shining steel of his weapon unstained with blood.
"Well done," he said, "such fine skills you all have. It's too bad you stand no chance of winning."
"Fight now," Tenten barked, "gloat when you're dead." Her words only brought a chuckle from the man.
Chouji popped the red pill into his mouth.
The Nara had noticed and shouted at the man. "Naruto has to be protected," Chouji turned a grave look upon is friend. "He'd never forgive himself if the kyubi got out. I'd never forgive myself if I didn't do this for him."
Shikamaru nodded and started counting, one-one-thousand flipping off of his back in a twirl of limbs and landing smartly on his feet /two-one-thousand/...
Sakura and Tenten slipped in behind Sasuke's brother, faces drawn tight as they ducked and dodged, landing punches to the man who was now twirling in defense, the blade whistling through the air. Hinata and Neji continued their assault from the other side of the man, palms striking out with sounds that jarred their ears. Itachi's knuckles bruised and bled as the grip of the sword was the only part of Kusanagi he was able to strike them with.
"Get back!" Shikamaru's command was answered abruptly by a rush of air from above. Lee and Kakashi dove away, leaving Kisame exposed. Chouji plummeted to earth, wings of blue light upon his back. His fist met a shoulder, the ground cracked and rolled back in waves as his impact followed through.
Kisame crumpled, his sword screeching across pavement.
"Don't touch it!" Iruka burst from a door behind the battle; the hokage and sennin close on his heels. "It'll attack on its own!"
As warned, Samehada rocked back and forth slightly before flying against the concrete again, the hilt of the blade finding its way into its master's hand once more. The shark-man struggled to his knees.
"No-fucking-way!" Chouji was not one to swear as his partner did, but in this case he felt an exception was called for. Rarely - if ever - did a person walk away from Chodan Bakugeki. The substantially thinner man staggered on his feet before succumbing to the exhaustion that his family's jutsu caused.
"Sakura!" Shikamaru screamed and lurched into the fray, taking the cherry blossom's place and allowing her to aid their fallen friend.
Tsunade crushed a foot down upon Kisame's sword hand. "What did you do with him?" She shouted. Her victim groaned and pushed himself sidways, throwing the woman slightly off balance as his hand jerked free.
"Itachi," his voice was soft and composed, yet there was something behind it all, "I believe we have wasted enough time." The red-eyed man smiled, his fingers flexing around the hilt of his blade.
"I believe you're right." The ring on his right hand began to glow, his skin seemed luminescent.
"What-" Jiraiya knew that look. Though he had never witnessed it personally, he had heard enough of the Nibi no Nekomata - Nii Yugito's Two Tailed Demon Cat - to realize its presence when he saw it. "You idiots. You've bonded yourselves to the beasts you've stolen?!"
"Now that would be stupid, wouldn't it?" Itachi chortled, his features twisting and molding, taking on the feline characteristics of the demon. "I've simply borrowed its power for a time. But I doubt you'll notice the difference."
Neji backed away, pulling at Hinata's arm when she didn't budge. This was a demon. A fucking demon! They were in way over their heads with this! But they couldn't back out now. They had to think of something!
Kakashi focused his Sharingan. He wasn't certain he could do it anymore; he'd already burned though a lot of chakra. But if he could send Deidara's hand to another plane there was no reason why he couldn't do the same with the Uchiha's fucking head!
Naruto's tall figure stalked out from behind the group, "Leave him Kakashi," his voice grated, "Itachi is mine." Sakura stood and rushed after him. She trusted Lee; had absolute faith in his abilities. But she also knew better than to think he could take the man alone. Not now; not anymore.
"Wait, Le-" a hand plucked up hers. She turned.
The tall blonde stood beside her, his head shaking slowly. A small cloud of smoke and he was gone; Lee's features were once again his own.
Sakura whirled back to the man she had approached. He was still there, still stalking up to Itachi.
The red aura began to swirl around his legs.
Everyone had stopped moving. The world itself had stopped spinning, it seemed. She didn't know whether to laugh or to cry or to scream in fear for his life. Their friend stood before them, alive and conscious! He was here! He was really, truly here!
And he's going to take on Itachi?! No! He can't!
"Naruto?" Hinata could barely breathe and yet she found the will to speak. Her hand clutched her throat.
He paused only long enough to glance at her. His expression was cold, impassive.
The Mangekyo Sharingan was there in his eyes, dancing dangerously. Hinata's eyes welled.
No... her mind moaned where her voice failed. No, he'd never... not his best friend... Someone behind her began to curse Uchiha Sasuke's name forcefully. It sounded like Shikamaru.
"This has nothing to do with anyone else. I've got what you want, Itachi," Naruto's eyes - No, not Naruto's! Sakura's mind screamed - turned back to the ebony haired man. "And I think you already know why I've come here." The Akatsuki grinned, whiskered cheeks pulling back to reveal newly pointed teeth.
"Well, well, little brother..."
Sorry it's been taking me longer to get these out. I used to like to sit down and write one story a day, but these passed few days my head has just been a jumble of different stories for different platforms. I've had trouble keeping them straight. I'm working on one for Final Fantasy 7 [Post A.C.], an Inuyasha fic and then there's still that f*ing Sasuke/Sakura romance that is getting nowhere in my head. [Sorry, I'm really trying!]
But this one... I know it started slow, but THIS ONE is finally getting steam behind it. I promise you I will not let this story fizzle out into something lame. This one is going to blow your freaking socks off! (I hope-I hope-I hope!)
Please try to review because I want to know how my action scenes are working out. (Are the exciting enough? Boring?)
So anyway, keep reading, because someone's awake and we all know what THAT means!