Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto

Safe Zone (Riskverse TNG #1)

by Tonko 1 review

History repeats, sort of. (Unrequited yaoi, almost all OCs, this centers on Naruto and Neji's adopted son, and Hinata and Kiba's second son, grown up from the first-generation Risk stories.)

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst - Characters: Kiba - Published: 2006-10-01 - Updated: 2006-10-01 - 7740 words - Complete

(A/N: Uzumaki Makoto grew up, and his plotbunny grabbed on and wouldn't let go. Here is the beginning of his story, on the off-chance anyone besides me wants to know it :P)

The pounding in Makoto's head was surprisingly loud, until he realized it was in fact a fist attacking his door. He forced his head up from the pillow and located the clock. Exhausted despair knotted in his throat. It was only forty minutes since he'd been sent home.

He'd been on his feet for forty-eight hours, an unending ordeal of untangling chakra blockages and reopening twisted and blown tenketsu as the seven patients had arrived one by one, wounded hauled back from the border skirmish, seven out of twenty injured that had required his particular type of skill to treat.

Hours of work on each hadn't always ended in success. They'd lost three despite all their efforts, and Ochiro Megumi would never see combat again, now suffering chronic heart problems.

He'd been so looking forward to the chance to forget about it all for awhile.

He stumbled to the door and pulled it open, clutching at it to stay upright. Eyes and head aching, he squinted at the intern who stood on the landing that ran the length of the second level of the building. Mika was silhouetted in the late afternoon sun, and she ducked her head in apology, looking a little intimidated. Makoto blearily realized his six-foot-five height and two-hundred-pound bulk probably appeared a little thuggish without his white doctor's jacket. Mika had never seen him out of it until now.

"Sensei, sorry sensei, but we need you, there's, uh, a situation." Her entire demeanour projected how sorry she was to wake him, but the urgency was equally clear.

"What... kind?" He asked scratchily, swallowing to clear his voice.

"I don't know, sir, but they've blocked off the entire third floor with Anbu. Sasahara-sensei said they needed you specifically."

Makoto rubbed his face, trying to muster urgency instead of dread at another chakra-related emergency. Of all the times for Sakura-sensei to be off training people in Suna. He shook his head hard and hoped that he would be awake enough to repair the damage instead of worsen it. It must be as bad as the previous one, if Ken wasn't up to it. But why couldn't they have called Kazuo, Makoto moaned plaintively to himself, he was years more experienced than Makoto, and acting team lead with Sakura-sensei away. But Mika was waiting.

He lurched forward before remembering he was only wearing a t-shirt and boxers. He retreated back inside and rummaged hurriedly for a clean pair of pants before pulling on his medic jacket. He fought with his hair in overtired frustration, cursing under his breath when he caught some on a button and tore out a few of the long brown strands. He kept it long out of preference for the look; he had no idea how his father Neji or any of the other ninjas with hair that long managed it in combat. Scalp smarting, he tied it at the base of his neck as he went out the door.

Anbu were indeed barricading the third floor of the hospital, but it was clear by the deployment they were there to keep something in, not anything out.

He was directed to go around to the emergency stairwell, leaving a disappointed Mika behind.

He climbed the steps doggedly. The hyperawareness to chakra that had brought him to this vocation was faded with exhaustion to far below even the average ninja's levels. He had to wait until he reached the third floor landing to identify the mass his dulled senses could barely feel. How was he supposed to help if he couldn't do the one thing he was good at?

Among a gaggle of nurses and doctors, Chief of Surgery Sasahara stood, leaning back against the wall, looking as exhausted at Makoto felt, which provoked a stab of annoyance. The man hadn't even been up for eighteen hours, let alone forty-eight, and Makoto sighed inwardly at his tendency for acting the martyr.

"Sensei..." he started quietly, leaning on the narrow banister.

"Makoto-kun, thank goodness," one of the nurses murmured as he spoke, and he gave the man a smile that he was pretty sure was closer to a grimace.

"Makoto!" There was a flurry of motion and Ken pushed off from the door, where he'd been leaning, face pressed to the narrow window. "He's holed up in our prep room. Please get him out." Ken plucked at his jacket with thin fingers, eyes wide, and shot a rattled look through the window at the room across the hall.

"Who...?" Makoto frowned at Ken, and followed his gaze. The angle was poor, but he could spot an Anbu crouched outside 3-11, Chakra Prep, guarding against what was inside the room.

Makoto knew the room like the back of his hand, given that he'd spent the vast majority of his time over the past two days in or near it. It was next to the primary vascular surgery theatre, where he'd spent the rest of his time assisting with the repair of debilitating and deadly tenketsu blockages and other chakra flow problems. Ken, the newest fully qualified member of the chakra circulatory team, was the only one on duty now, the only one awake enough to be.

Motion pulled his gaze away from the window, and Makoto felt suddenly guilty as Sasahara turned slightly and Makoto could see the mess of bruising and the neat row of medical tape strips holding closed a long cut on the right side of his face. He wasn't being all that dramatic today after all.

"Hyuuga Hazuki," Sasahara muttered, and Makoto's eyes widened, feeling the hooks of worry settle into his chest. Sasahara went on wearily, "He's fucking insane, he's loaded to the gills on Fright and he's overreacting. Woke up, flattened me and two nurses before coming up here and tearing apart the entire floor and then holing up in there. Attacks anyone who tries to go in. Doesn't appear to understand speech just now, either."

Hazuki must have been brought in just as Makoto had been leaving. And, Makoto thought as the shock wore off, trust Hazu to somehow create an uproar even in the hospital.

"Overreaction..." Makoto trailed off, dread eating away at his exhaustion like acid as everything fell into place. Fright was an old chemical warfare gas, released to incite severe unease and nervousness in people, and mainly used to aid with causing panic in civilian targets. Ninjas were effectively immune, familiar with handling uncomfortable emotions.

It hadn't popped up in years because of the over-cultivation of its main plant ingredient, from what Makoto knew. It had been in the poisons section of his medic training, but was one of the types no one actually expected to encounter.

But here it was.

And with an overreaction... every effect was increased exponentially, with visibly spectacular results.

It was better than anaphylaxis and death from an allergy, but, depending on when it happened, not by much.

"Don't we have..."

"No," Sasahara flushed, skin blotching red, furious and embarrassed. All antivenoms and poison antidotes were supposed to be regularly checked and replenished. "The last vials were used last month in the poison chemistry workshop for the fourth-years."

Like the poison, the antidote could be inhaled. Without it, someone had to go in and sedate him with one of the injectable tranquilizers, because all the gaseous ones interacted very badly with Fright, by foresight of the poison's designer.

But why on earth would Hazuki retreat to Chakra Prep? If he had been overcome by a violent fear response, that room was not a place where Makoto would expect a ninja to feel safe. It had windows that, at this hour, were flooding a rather bare square room with light. There was a spare gurney, a counter along one wall with drawers and cupboards, lightscreens for x-ray films, and that was all.

"Sensei, none of the symptoms..?" Makoto ventured. Sasahara shook his head.

"He didn't present with them. Either they just didn't occur, or the blood loss was too severe for them to appear."

Makoto's stomach lurched, his heart tripping up and then beating faster. Of course Hazuki was badly injured, he'd arrived unconscious. And that explained why they hadn't simply physically subdued him right away, or shot him with a sedative dart. The strain, even in the few seconds before the dart took effect, could send him into fatal shock.

And they couldn't wait it out for long, because apart from the many problems with closing down a wing of the hospital and tying up Anbu, Hazuki could die of his wound. If he was bleeding, and with the effects on the rest of his body from the stress the drug was exerting on his circulatory systems, it could go as badly as would shooting him or restraining him.

"We were preparing him for abdominal surgery, but he's torn the tape," one of the nurses was saying, "He was bleeding through the prep bandages when he went by me."

Went by? Hadn't attacked? But Sasahara's face... "Did-did he hurt anyone else?"

"No, I got the worst," and even Sasahara's usual martyrdom couldn't disguise his relief at the lack of further injuries. "He knocked a few others on their asses, but he wasn't interested in them, just... ran. Got up here and stayed. I think he's more fearful than aggressive right now." Yes, it was still Fright, after all, just insanely amplified.

"But he's backed into a corner," Ken said, and wrung his hands, looking petulant at his inability to do anything about the invasion of the prep room. Strange choice of a corner, Makoto thought again, still wondering why Hazuki hadn't just tried to escape the hospital altogether.

At least this way he was easy to find. Half the town would know about this in a few hours, and wouldn't Hazuki be laughing, later, when he realized the commotion he caused.

Makoto crouched down and reached for the medical kit that was leaning against the wall at Sasahara's feet. He pawed through it, pulling out two preloaded, capped syringes, each containing enough sedative to knock out someone his size, let alone Hazuki's shorter and much slenderer mass. He was glad his years of practice at his vocation prevented his hands shaking.

He shouldn't need both doses, but if Hazuki got violent, it might take that much. Makoto could probably call up clones fast enough to hold him down, but then he'd have to pray that the stress and exertion didn't do fatal damage.

He moved to the door, sidling awkwardly past Ken and staring through the wire-reinforced glass, past the stationed Anbu, at the room across the way.

"I wouldn't have called you here, Makoto, but--" Sasahara started, but was cut off.

"Everyone else is on missions," a grim, familiar voice came from the stairs rising to the fourth floor. Hazuki jerked around to see Inuzuka Kiba squatting like a predatory gargoyle on the half-landing, utterly still. Akamaru's huge bulk was behind him. The massive dog was lying down, but his eyes were slitted open, ears flat against his head, teeth just slightly bared.

There was a gaping tear in Kiba's shirt and bloody defensive scratches on his arms.

Makoto opened his mouth partway, and found nothing to say. Hazuki had attacked his own father... Kiba's sharp black eyes were not as still as the rest of him, fear and worry and bitterness smouldering in the unflinching stare. Makoto dropped his gaze, uncomfortable with awareness they both had that Hazuki's reaction was hardly surprising.

Hazuki may have ended up with the eyes and name of his Hyuuga mother, but the alpha personality traits he had inherited from his male parent, combined with their polar opposite combat philosophies, set the two at constant irrational odds since Hazuki had hit puberty. They did not get along.

"He'll listen to you," Kiba said flatly. The stormy emotion in his eyes was frozen out of his voice, all except a resentful certainty that sent apologetic guilt slithering through Makoto.

Hazuki's sister Hige would have been the first choice for this. Though they didn't spend as much time together as they had when they were younger, their twin bond would still have been the best option against someone in Fright. But she was not in Konoha. Neither was their older brother Hizashi nor their mother Hinata.

And apparently Makoto was next in line.

Kiba could be right. Makoto had known Hazuki very nearly as long as the rest of them. He even remembered when the twins had been just born, Kiba lifting his four-year-old self to peek over the edge of their crib at the week-old babies. He'd been fascinated with them at the time, and in the subsequent years had seen them often when the two families met and during play around the village.

At twelve, Makoto had been with eight-year-old Hazuki during an attack by his misled Main House cousin, leaving Makoto protective and Hazuki in complete fixated hero-worship.

And then they'd grown up, and the childish bond had faded. It had to, as Hazuki shot so far past Makoto in fighting skill so that they made chuunin the same year, Makoto aged sixteen, Hazuki twelve. By then they were in different circles, Makoto backing out from combat for good and quietly getting involved in scholarship and medicine, Hazuki well on his way to becoming renowned as the dangerously effective jounin he now was.

Four years ago, when he was eighteen and Makoto twenty-two, Hazuki had moved in next door to Makoto in the bachelor apartment building in the north quarter of town, and they were suddenly neighbours, and now they were peers.

Makoto had been happy enough to be able to get reacquainted on more even footing, having followed Hazuki's progress through his friendship with Hazuki's elder brother Hizashi, having always had a sort of detached admiration for the little boy he'd babysat and entertained and protected, now all grown up to become one of Konoha's elite.

And despite Makoto's meek introversion and Hazuki's swaggering playboy arrogance, they got along, beginning with a neighbourly comfort born out of their pre-existing familiarity.

Hazuki liked to borrow things, and had no problems inviting himself in when Makoto opened the door. Makoto would never have done likewise, and after the initial shock at the rather impolite brashness, was surprised to discover he enjoyed Hazuki's company.

Their interests converged in the oddest places; historical television, jigsaw puzzles, manga, a shared loathing for soba noodles, among other things. Makoto enjoyed Hazuki's humour and tendency to talk non-stop when given the chance, and his oddly contrasting tendency to listen when Makoto spoke. Having grown up raised by Uzumaki Naruto and with Uzumaki Akemi for a sister, he'd gotten used to unthinking interruptions when enthusiasm overtook them. Makoto had never gained his other father's dignified presence, unfortunately--Neji never got interrupted.

Makoto tended to trail off when he spoke, letting others fill in the rest, which they usually did. Hazuki just gave him an expectant raised eyebrow until he finished.

For all that, he hadn't the slightest idea what Hazuki liked about him, aside from his being an easy source of snacks and comic books and videos. He would have thought that was all, but for the fact that Hazuki hung around for a bit after getting what he'd come for, often even loafing silently around the little apartment if he'd happened to come by while Makoto was studying case files or medical journals.

What appeal that had when held up against the social life Hazuki led was hard to imagine. Most nights when he was in town, Hazuki went on bar crawls with his Anbu cohorts, or held drinking games in his apartment, or went off to hunt down someone to sleep with.

Hazuki's boastful, charming personality didn't allow for the general Konoha population to expect that he would care to spend time with the underwhelming and awkward Uzumaki son, but--

"Inuzuka told us to get you," Sasahara said, not trying to hide his scepticism.

Makoto bit down on the inside of his lip, avoided Kiba's eyes, and slipped out into the hall.

Hazuki might let him close enough to treat him. If not... Makoto pressed his lips together and refused to let go of hope.

There was a particular kind of trust between them that had grown with their renewed friendship. Makoto wasn't sure, but he thought it was perhaps because, for all intents and purposes, Hazuki was a solo operative.

With a reputation of being wild in combat, he often boasted that his fighting style meant that a team would only keep him tied down. Akemi had commented once that it was because Hazuki was too impatient, too focused on his own goals, to gel with anyone as a team member, but that alone he was daring and clever enough and, most importantly, skilled enough, to produce excellent results. So he was assigned as adjunct member of Inoko and Kenta and Haru's team, but their primary role when they went with him was support and backup, while Hazuki executed single-man infiltrations.

Makoto's fathers had mentioned, over the years, that even after their team had been disbanded, they would check in with each other after returning from missions, that the touching base had been most important after the worst ones.

He and Hazuki were neighbours, childhood friends. Not teammates. And yet Hazuki had started checking in with Makoto.

Hazuki would come, regardless of the hour, after arriving home from a mission, waiting till later only if Makoto was still on a shift at the hospital. Usually it was only to stick his head into Makoto's apartment and say hello. Makoto would look up, or wake up, and return the greeting, and that was the extent of it. He'd become accustomed to it now, even getting uneasy whenever Hazuki wasn't back on schedule.

It wasn't always easy greetings, though. Sometimes Hazuki lingered with a casual air that rang patently false, instead of bounding out to find friends and drinks, and Makoto would wave him inside. They'd drink, or work on the ten-thousand-piece puzzle in the wooden frame that took up a good quarter of the floor in the living space of Makoto's one-and-a-half, or watch whatever happened to be on the television, or all three, until Hazuki decided to leave, or they both fell asleep.

A few times, Hazuki had stumbled in bloody and filthy and dazed, before even having gone to report to headquarters. Each time he'd swayed silently in the entry until Makoto had peeled off bloody clothing, pushed him into the shower, and bandaged anything that needed bandaging.

And there were those rare occasions--only six or so times in the past four years-when Hazuki had apparently come while Makoto slept, but without waking him, creeping in silently. The times Makoto had woken up to feel a warm place on the edge of his futon and find traces of travel dust or crushed leaves or blood. He never mentioned it, of course.

But there had been a seventh waking some months back, when Makoto woke to a warm, solid presence against his lower back, and turned to find Hazuki curled tightly into himself on the edge of Makoto's bed, still in uniform, dried blood flaking everywhere.

Makoto had sat up silently after the initial moment of shock, verified nervously that Hazuki wasn't bleeding out or comatose or otherwise in danger of dying, and then settled back down. When Hazuki finally woke and started to slink away, Makoto rolled over to watch him, not bothering to stifle the sounds of his movement. Hazuki froze and he looked warily over his shoulder. Makoto just nodded sleepily when the guarded white eyes met his, and, after a few seconds, Hazuki had relaxed. He'd walked out standing up straight, and had returned an hour later, cleaned up, with takeout breakfast, and said absolutely nothing about what had happened.

Checking in to let a friend know you were still alive was one thing, but Makoto had never really understood why Hazuki came to him after the bad missions instead of seeking out his sort-of team members or one of his many jounin buddies or lovers-of-the-week. Makoto trained to keep basic combat skills, but he wasn't a fighter. He couldn't imagine--didn't want to contemplate--what Hazuki must feel when he appeared at Makoto's door with haunted eyes and strained features, what lurked behind false grins and too-loud laughter of those times, didn't know what, beyond his medical expertise, Hazuki could possibly be getting from him.

Hazuki was the hero, the warrior, one of the most skilled, self-assured people Makoto had ever met. He was brave, confident, strong, capable of all the things Makoto wasn't.

For one thing, Makoto overreacting on Fright certainly wouldn't have warranted this much caution, he reflected with a humourless snort.

He moved past the two Anbu towards the exam room's double doors. He was fully awake now, his fear for Hazuki and the potential fatality of the whole mess mustering enough adrenaline to jolt him back to fully functional, even so far as to return a serviceable level of his normal sensitivity to the chakra fields around him.

And boy, he was really going to crash after this.

A long, silent breath helped him focus properly on his awareness of Hazuki's chakra ahead of him, filtering out the sharply tuned systems in the Anbu to either side and the exhausted and stress-fuzzed mass of the other med-nin behind him.

Hazuki was coiled tighter than the Anbu, chakra flowing insanely fast, except one place where it hitched and stuttered, the wound.

The racing flow was not controlled. It was torrential, as from an uninhibited fight-or-flight response, but magnified a hundredfold, and it was haemorrhaging energy at a terrible rate, along with keeping Hazuki's body running at full alert, drastically slowing all it should be doing to heal.

If he wasn't brought down from that state, Hazuki would crash too, and from far more than exhaustion. There could be irreversible shock from loss of blood, or tachycardia from the drug, and then his heart might just give up...

But it wasn't likely, Makoto told himself silently, repeating it as he walked forward. Hazuki was young and tough. That vivid presence Makoto sensed past the doors wouldn't just stop.

Two concentrated spots blazed in Hazuki's aura, and Makoto knew the Byakugan was activated, and trained directly on him.

At least Hazuki knew he was coming.

He reached out to push one of the swinging doors. There wasn't time to waste wondering if Hazuki would allow him in, or attack. He'd find out quickly enough.

There was a slowing, minutely, in the flow and in the frantic bleeding off of chakra when Makoto reached the threshold. Makoto held his breath, just the slightest bit hopeful, and kept going, pausing only an instant before pushing the door open just enough to enter.

He released his concentration and the finer details of the chakra flows around him blurred at the edge of his senses. Hazuki was right in front of his eyes.

He was breathing hard, harsh audible pants rasping from him as he cowered, trembling and sweating, in a wobbly defensive crouch in the corner where the counter met the back wall. He tensed to a poor approximation of alert stillness when Makoto stepped inside, too worn and weak to stay completely motionless.

The room looked very little like it had when Makoto had left barely more than an hour ago. The gurney was overturned, the mattress and sheet strewn on the floor. Boxes of gloves, canisters of swabs and syringes and sealed packets of bandages from the countertop littered the floor.

There was a good bit of mess, but at a glance there didn't seem to be significant damage to any item or surface. Kiba's attempt at entry must have been quickly aborted.

Makoto kept his gaze away from meeting Hazuki's directly, hoping that would help prevent any violent reaction to this violation of what was, for the moment, Hazuki's space.

The bright sun pouring through the windows just under the ceiling flooded the room with light, reflecting mutedly off the blue-white tiled floor and leaving no defined shadows. It picked out the reddish highlights in Hazuki's thick brown hair and brightened the green of the seal on his forehead so it stood out in sharp contrast against the greyish pallor of his sweat-coated skin.

He was on all fours, teeth bared and parted in a panting grimace of terror, white eyes wide, the raised veins of the Byakugan making a taut web at his temples. The slight points of his canines that normally gave him a rakish look made the terrorized-animal impression even stronger. His short hair was matted and even more messy than usual and he was covered only a pair of torn and bloodstained uniform pants.

Makoto couldn't stop his ingrained clinical gaze from running down Hazuki's length, searching for damage. From what Makoto could see, his uncovered skin was free of visible bruising or laceration, but blood had indeed soaked through the bandages around his middle and, far more worryingly, streaked down his side. Fresh wet areas reflected the light and Makoto had to hold himself back from just hurrying over.

Hazuki watched Makoto, widened eyes following his every motion as he sidled away from the doors and then lowered himself slowly to the ground a good four meters from Hazuki. He could feel the weight of the syringes in his pocket, and tried not to let panic coalesce from the rising frantic need to treat Hazuki.

The frightened expression Hazuki wore was disturbing beyond the towering fear. It was devoid of any intellect or understanding, the face of a creature who had no understanding of why anything was happening, and the bone-deep terror that went with it.

There was, however, a brief twitch of his eyes, a tiny frown of eyebrows coming together. A hint of recognition.

Hazuki lurched slightly, taking a loud breath, fingers curling against the tile floor. His nostrils flared and Makoto blinked. The drug might well have made Hazuki over-sensitized to external stimuli. He didn't have the sense of smell his father and sister did, but right now he might be close to it.

Was Makoto's scent familiar? Maybe that was why Hazuki had retreated here, instead of fleeing the building. That added a little credence to Kiba's theory, anyway.

He kept his face slightly downturned, not wanting to appear aggressive in any way, and let his eyes slowly meet Hazuki's.

Hazuki shrank away, huddling back. A grunt of pain escaped him as the movement pulled at his wound, but all the while he didn't look away, and Makoto's chest tightened painfully at the terrified, lost gaze.

"Hazu," he said softly, and Hazuki lurched again, his gaze breaking from Makoto's, looking to the door, and he made a frightened whine in the back of his throat.

"They're not coming in here. It's just me," Makoto said. His voice rasped slightly, the normal baritone cracking, and he swallowed. "No one's coming in here." There was no sign that Hazuki understood his meaning, but he looked away from the exit and back at Makoto. The sound, if not the words, had his attention.

"You woke me up in pretty, mm, spectacular way this time, you know," Makoto went on steadily before he mired himself down in thinking of what to say. He kept his tone low and conversational. "Mika came... to get me. You've met her, remember? You said she was... she was too skinny for your tastes. She's a good intern, though, I think she'll end up in neurology. But she came to get me, and I guess I was surprised, but here I am... and I just need you to let me fix you up..."

He continued, rambling wherever his sentences led, lamely commenting on the weather outside and then the sad state of the spider plant on his windowsill, and then the possibility that Hizashi would bring back some of that chewy honey-flavoured candy from his trip to the capital.

The grip of debilitating fear still held tight, but Hazuki was gaining some focus, head tilted slightly to the side as he listened. He darted another quick glance at the door, the shoulder nearest it rising in an instinctive defence, before gathering himself slightly, tilting forward.

"Yeah, that's it, you just need to come over... come over here. Never mind the mess or anything... most of that stuff's sealed so we can still use it anyway..." Makoto murmured, and leaned forward himself, hopeful, reaching out slightly.

Hazuki immediately pulled back, and Makoto felt a brief twist of panic. But it had been a smooth reaction, a maintaining of even distance, not a shocked recoil. Still, it was clear that approach wasn't welcome.

"Shh, Hazu, sorry... sorry, I won't do that again..." Makoto apologized, trying to stifle the urgency from his voice, falling silent rather than letting it be heard. He straightened up, letting out a brief huff of relief when Hazuki tilted back towards him, continuing to keep the distance even. After a second, he even closed the gap just a bit, leaning farther forward, grimace of fear slackening slightly, eyebrows lowering with the effort of muddled concentration.

He paused for a long moment, staring at Makoto. He swayed, uncertain. He shifted his feet, redistributing his weight, and then he gasped out a moan and hunched around his wound, awareness turning inward with pain.

Makoto froze as he watched Hazuki struggle for long seconds, fast, erratic breathing broken by coughing moans. When his gaze cleared at last, the terror was back to its original intensity, and now layered heavily with desperation. Hazuki dragged his gaze back to Makoto's and pleaded mutely at him to make it stop.

Come to me, Makoto thought to him, please. He swallowed and spoke again. "You'll feel fine soon, Hazu, we'll patch you up... and you'll be back to your normal self," he murmured. He moved one hand from his lap to the floor in front of his crossed legs, turning it palm up, sliding it just slightly out before him, offering.

Hazuki stared, and then lifted one hand from the floor, reaching out tentatively, hand splayed, shaking.

Yes. He did know that Makoto wasn't a threat, that Makoto could help him. He just had to get to him.

Too far to touch, hopefully too far to frighten, Makoto copied some of the movement, raising his hand slowly, not reaching much farther or moving very quickly, willing Hazuki to defy the drug-induced terror enough to come to a familiar source of comfort.

"Please come, Hazu, come on... I'll fix you up, like always," he urged softly. "Doesn't matter when or what. Come on."

And he did.

Inching, limping, gasping, he came away from the wall, freezing at intervals as terror closed in. But he didn't move back, only forward, laboriously closing the distance.

Three meters


One meter.

Half a meter.

Makoto just barely resisted grabbing when Hazuki came within arm's reach, drawing back his own outstretched hand, settling for making motions of encouragement as Hazuki approached. The tension was draining slowly but noticeably from Hazuki's stance and his chakra system as he approached, Makoto didn't dare cause it to return. Hazuki would need all the energy he had left.

When Hazuki's reaching arm hovered over his hand, though, he raised it just enough to curl loosely around the clammy, too-cool forearm.

Hazuki went rigid, and then he released the Byakugan and fell forward the rest of the way. Makoto caught him, heart in his throat, manoeuvring the shaking weight so Hazuki didn't jostle his wound and make it even worse.

"You did it, you beat it," Makoto murmured, worry still eating at him as he quickly searched for any injuries they didn't know about. No other blood, no warning bruises or outward signs of head trauma or broken bones. Just the seeping rip in his side. "So brave."

Hazuki wormed as far forward as he could, his whole body still trembling, weak arms clutching. He pressed his face into Makoto's thigh, burrowing against his stomach. One arm snaked around his back, the other hand grabbing feebly at the fabric of his jacket above his waist.

Makoto curled one arm around his head, hand smoothing at the rough sweat- and dirt-matted hair. He leaned over him.

"It'll be better soon," he whispered. "We'll fix you up." Gathering chakra in his free hand, he touched Hazuki's upper arm, shocking the area into temporary numbness. It wasn't too healthy for the nerves, but they'd recover, and Makoto could not let Hazuki feel the needle.

He retrieved the syringe from his pocket, pulling the cap off with his teeth. He shook it, squeezed a drop out, and injected the amount required. The excess sedative wouldn't be needed after all, and that was one less complication to worry about.

It went to work quickly, Hazuki's rapid gasps slowing quickly to long, even breaths, his body going limp. Thirty seconds and he was completely out. Makoto stayed hunched over his slack weight, tracking the changes in his chakra until the commotion from outside drew his attention.

Kiba and Akamaru were first through the door, and then skidding out of the way to let the medical personnel pass. Kiba's expression ran through momentary naked relief before his glower returned, renewed worry as one part of the ordeal ended and the next began. Makoto stared at him dumbly for a second before he was distracted by hands prying his grip from around Hazuki.

Someone righted the gurney and Hazuki was carefully lifted up off him. Sasahara snapped at him to move, but he couldn't, could barely process the words, shaking his heavy head slowly in apology to his superior. How strange that it was dark, he thought. Hadn't there been sun?

Someone's knees collided with his shoulder. "Makoto's out, Sensei!" he heard a nurse exclaim as he listed to one side.

"No fucking kidding! Someone move him!"

He was caught by steady arms, and dragged, supported against a warm, furry wall. "Mako-chan," Kiba's emotion-choked growl filtered through the chatter that was snapping through the room, the nickname recalling the other time, the seal. "You got him, you got him."

"You'll take him, Inuzuka-san? There's a room three doors around the corner on the left where we take naps."

The other voices faded gradually.

"I have a vein!"

"Find the IV pole!"

"Anbu? So what? I don't care if you're the Hokage's personal guard, you will push the fucking gurney!"

"Saline ready, sensei."

"Ken! Make yourself useful and..."

Makoto woke slowly, confused as he did, trying to work out why his futon smelled like Ken's herbal soap.

The threadbare texture of the cloth under his cheek finally filtered in and he began registering the surroundings correctly. It was the third-floor nap room, the old mattresses functional but hardly new. He pushed himself upright and threw off the blanket.

He felt pretty good. Alert, no longer bone-tired, though from the night-dark outside the window, his internal cycle was now completely off.

The glowing clock on the wall proclaimed it nearly three in the morning. He'd been called down in the vicinity of three in the afternoon. Nearly twelve hours, then. Twelve emergency-free hours, at that. Quite a gift.

Retrieving his coat from where it hung over the foot of the bed, he found a note pinned to it. Hyuuga stable, ICU 2-12. It was in Sasahara's very recognizable scrawl, to Makoto's surprise and appreciation. He quietly left the room, mindful of the two sleepers occupying the other beds.

The place was silent with the night, no more floods of injured this time, and empty of all the visitors, or at least those who couldn't sneak in.

He stopped at the staff showers first, peeling off his wrinkled clothes and washing off the accumulated sweat and grime of the past sixty hours. Hazuki may have been able to smell him, but nobody else ought to.

He pulled on a change of clothes, tied up his damp hair, and headed for the second floor.

He passed a few people on their rounds and was cornered each time, pressed for details about yesterday. He shrugged self-consciously when they congratulated him on his defusing of the "Hazuki situation." It hadn't been impressive, it had just been urgent, and he had been the last resort. He was uncomfortable at the impressed looks. If there was one thing Makoto wasn't, it was impressive, except perhaps for his size, and that was bad enough. He left the amazing feats to everyone else in his family.

At the foot of the stairs leading down to the second floor, he met Hyuuga Hisa as she turned the corner. She said nothing about the incident, but raised a hand for him to stop and checked her clipboard, then nodded. "Cousin Hazuki was moved to 2-24, Uzumaki-sama," she said, and bowed slightly, her thin, silvered bangs falling forward to partially obscure the uncovered seal on her forehead.

"Thank you, Hyuuga-sensei," Makoto replied, feeling his face flush, as it always did when this happened. Three years previous, the Hokage had at last gained the opportunity he needed when Hyuuga Hiashi died, and negotiated with the new head, Hanabi, to repeal the clan law requiring the sealing of the Branch. Now many of the Branch--though not Hazuki, naturally--treated the entire Uzumaki family, even Makoto, with rather embarrassing deference, including some who were much older than he; Hisa-sensei was older than both his fathers, and head of Internal Medicine to boot. Of course, she didn't hesitate to order him around when the situation required it, but her verbal deferance to him got double takes from people all the time.

She continued on her rounds, and Makoto continued to 2-24.

It was a four-bed room, three beds occupied tonight. Both men in the beds near the door were patients Makoto himself had worked on, two of the four that had lived, and he paused to check their tenketsu, reassuring himself that they remained clear and open, that the light sedation that had helped them sleep was also keeping the chakra currents moving even and slow.

He crept round the curtain to Hazuki's bed when he was done, silently taking his chart from the rack.

Hazuki looked like himself again, the dirt and sweat and blood washed away, his expression smooth, all visible traces of the Fright long faded. His chakra was just as relaxed and even beginning to make inroads back into the damaged area in his side.

Makoto leafed through the chart, nodding to himself at the description of the Fright reaction, pleased to be reminded that the breakdown of the drug would be quick.

The prognosis for the side wound was reassuring as well. Nothing major had been punctured or torn. Once the bleeding had been controlled, it had been relatively straightforward, and in the end it was Hazuki's boredom that would be the most painful consequence as he waited for his muscles and skin to heal. He set the chart back and pulled out the stool that stood against the wall.

Once settled, Makoto sat and just listened for a long time, to Hazuki, to the two men behind him. They had lived. Some hadn't.

The dark and the quiet that blanketed the room were soothing, but were making him melancholy as well. The beauty of exhausted sleep after four consecutive shifts, Makoto thought sadly, was that he didn't wake from any dreams, didn't remember them afterwards. Small comfort now. The faces of the ones they'd lost were still vivid in his mind. He'd known none of them personally, but that had never had anything to do with his desire to heal.

If Hazuki had reported in uninjured, this probably would have been one of the rare times that Makoto came to Hazuki's door.

The first time he'd done that had been nearly a year after Hazuki had begun coming to him. He'd tapped softly, on impulse, having halted while passing Hazuki's door on the way to his own.

A half-drunk, grinning Hazuki had pulled his door open to reveal two of his jounin friends sprawled on the floor behind him. Playing cards and cash littered the area between them. "Fine, you win, but you buy the drinks tonight," Hazuki laughed over his shoulder at one of them, and then turned his full-wattage, drink-loosened smile on Makoto, eyes darkened to pale violet in the indoor lighting, the slight points of his Inuzuka-bestowed fangs visible in his grin. "Yo, Mako."

Makoto had been surprised to muteness at the unexpected presence of others, and darkly ashamed to not have detected them well before, or even have anticipated that Hazuki would be busy. How had he ever thought Hazuki would have nothing better to do?

He didn't mind the embarrassment. It went perfectly with the knot of disgust in his chest at the loss of the two genin that evening. He was too drained to sense people not five meters away. It was fitting, he hadn't been sharp enough to stop the damage the two boys had taken from killing them, either.

Hazuki frowned. The two jounin watched him with mild curiosity, understandably wondering what Uzumaki Makoto, of all people, could want with Hazuki.

"No... sorry, nothing. Never mind," he said quickly, stepping back. He shoved a loose lock of hair roughly behind his ear and nodded automatically in the three's general direction, looking at none of them, and walked the fifteen or so steps farther along the walkway to his own door, listening despite himself until he heard Hazuki's door click shut.

Makoto had shucked his jacket and whipped it into a corner, then slumped onto his futon, staring blankly at his collection of videos before finally jamming one into the player. He didn't really want to watch the old historical drama he'd borrowed from his parents, but sound would be better than silence.

Before the copyright warning had finished scrolling up, there was a heavy thump on his door. Too tired to be startled, and once again painfully reminded of his temporary lack of chakra-sense, Makoto shoved himself up and opened the door.

"What is that?" Hazuki shoved past him to stare at the television as the strains of the very dated overture opened the movie. "Neji-san's, right? Wow, I haven't seen one that in years."

Hazuki slid his foot under one of the floor pillows and tossed it onto the futon, flipping it up against the wall so he could lean on it. He grabbed the other one and tossed it in place next to his, then held up a can of sake from the unwieldy pile he had carried in. Makoto took it and slumped down next to him, gratitude and guilt fighting each other within.

He'd apologized. Hazuki had waved it away.

After that, it still happened rarely. Makoto always felt awkward about impinging on Hazuki's time.

No worry about that right now, though.

Makoto could feel the wounded bodies in the room with him, read every detail of their chakra if he concentrated. All three were stable, alive, healing. They didn't balance the ones he'd failed to save, but he'd accepted long ago there was no use in keeping score. One life didn't simply equal another. They weren't comparable.

Hazuki shifted in his sleep, and Makoto let his awareness return to this one bed, this one person.

The staggering relief that Makoto hadn't had time to feel earlier broke suddenly from wherever it had been building, and poured through him in a hot-and-cold wave, and he closed his eyes under the intensity, fists clenching on his knees.

It ebbed gradually, leaving something else in its wake, like a treasure washed up on the shore that until then had only glinted from under the sandy bottom.

It was all the old joys of their childhood and the unexpected rediscovery so much later, it was the indulgent annoyance at Hazuki's rude manners, and the deep appreciation for his company, the relief when he returned safely, and the gnawing pain when he was late. The perfect enjoyment when they worked together on the big puzzle, and the wistfulness of walking past Hazuki's door when he wasn't home.

It had started at some point ages ago, and grown so slowly that this was not a shock, only an understanding. Love him. Yes.

Makoto ducked his head and sighed self-deprecatingly at the revelation, gathering it up and tucking it away safely where no one else would notice it.

Hoarding a treasure was perhaps selfish, but this one was worth something only to him.

The place where it was hidden glowed warmly in his mind, comforting and painful at the same time.

He looked up at Hazuki, who slept on, oblivious. He would be swarmed with visitors, when the coming day's visiting hours began, and he would tell, grinning toothily, how he'd had the entire third floor at his mercy because he was just that scary. Makoto could hear the boasting already, and he smiled to himself in amusement.

He'd come and say hello properly, braving the others who would be here, quite willing to endure feeling like a mute, unwieldy statue as he towered over everyone, as long as he could see Hazuki properly awake for a minute.

No hurry to stay very long, though--Hazuki would be stuck in town for a couple of months while he healed, and anyway he'd be busy with everyone else.

He'd be more than ready to leave by the time he was cleared, of course. A vacation, Hazuki could enjoy, and usually did so in some extraordinarily hedonistic manner, but enforced downtime just had him desperate to be off on his next mission.

And off he would go, as soon as he had an assignment. Makoto felt an ambivalent ripple of admiration and anxiety come over him at the thought.

I know, it's who you are... It was most certainly part of what he... what he loved about him. Just... come back.
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