Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Wraiths and Strays


by miriya 0 reviews

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Drama - Characters: Itachi,Naruto - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2007-09-04 - Updated: 2007-09-04 - 1644 words

Plz to be telling me I'm not the only one all unf unf unf over the last few chapters? Because I am. (Also, don't expect this sudden run of things coming out at a decent pace to last; the inspiration is flowing, but time is so short and the to-do list is too long.)

Act III, set to Tom McRae - The Boy with the Bubblegun .

Wraiths and Strays, Act III
(I cannot hit to hurt, or cause you pain)

The first days are always the hardest. There is always time needed to adjust, whether captive or captor, to the presence of something (or someone) not entirely planned (or wanted). The first days are the contained stresses of lines constantly being drawn and crossed and drawn again, correcting as needed until some semblance of peace can be attained. Usually, it ends when a captive is broken, but Naruto is not the fragile type, and Itachi is no more strict than he feels he must be.

And so the first days are mostly Naruto learning what he can get away with, and Itachi learning what he can stand. As the snow quietly buries their empty corner of the world, Itachi and Naruto build something of a truce, hesitant and fragile as it might be. Effectively, Naruto does not try to leave the house, and Itachi does not crush the bones of Naruto's legs to dust.

Naruto understands that without a solid working knowledge of genjutsu, he will never be able to go past the line of trees beyond the house without Itachi's knowledge and consent. After a few hours of testing (and confirming) the thoroughness of Itachi's jutsu, Naruto decides to work off some steam by chopping wood. Itachi lets Naruto try to figure it out for himself for a while, but when his patience runs out he rises from his place near the fire to teach him how to split the abused cedar into proper pieces as opposed to mangling it to ruin with the worn axe.

Despite the ego shakedown, Naruto slides open the door at sundown to announce that there is no more wood left for him to beat on, and that Itachi had damn well better cook something extra good for the effort he's put in.

Itachi responds with a few packets of beef-flavored ramen, and regrets it almost immediately. After several hours, Naruto is still chattering away at him like he were an old friend. He doesn't stop until Itachi turns over in a pointed display of going to sleep.

The next day, Naruto is up early, practicing his shuriken throwing against the trunk of an old tree. Itachi spends most of his time out of Naruto's reach -- a part of him is afraid that the blond will search him out to ask advice, and that bothers him more than he is able to admit.

Itachi spends most of his days meditating near the fire. Naruto wonders what Itachi could possibly have to think about for such a long time; Naruto does his thinking in motion, recalling Sakura's smile and Sasuke's glare in every kunai and kick that strikes wood.

Sometimes when Naruto is tired, he will attempt to mirror Itachi's stillness, but in those times the thoughts just won't come. Instead, Naruto holds the image of a snow white forest in his mind, and imagines the sound of ice shattering, one cold piece at a time.


"I suppose you're going to kill me soon," Naruto says one morning, between mouthfuls of warm venison stew. His expression doesn't change as he speaks -- if anything, he simply looks curious. "After the snow melts."

Itachi's indifferent pose is betrayed only by the slight lift of his shoulders. His eyes are dark as he raises his head to look at the younger shinobi. "That's the core of it. Unless you are speaking of me, personally."

Naruto laughs harshly. "What? Too lazy to take it all the way and finish me yourself? Or maybe you just don't want to mess up your nails." His spoon thumps against the tatami floor as he turns away, a scowl darkening his face. (Itachi thinks that Naruto's hair has grown noticeably in the last few days, and is slightly irritated by the way it covers his eyes. It's one of the few things Naruto hasn't complained about during the course of their time in the old house. Itachi wonders why it's crossed his mind at all, but then again Itachi has always been slightly compulsive about his personal appearance, as well as his surroundings -- he has the feeling that Naruto has realized this as well, which would explain the amount of time he spends milling around the house when it's too cold for practice, shuffling objects seemingly at random.)

Itachi studies Naruto for several minutes, observing every nuance presented in his posture. Naruto's head hangs low between slumped shoulders, limp arms extending into clenched fists that rest at his sides. Itachi is intrigued by Naruto's attitude as usual -- a casual (if not sparing) conversation turns to musings on his death, and if anything he seems mostly upset that Itachi has not claimed killing rights.

"What makes you think you're worth the effort?" Itachi asks, his voice carefully neutral.

Naruto stiffens immediately, a low growl escaping his parted lips. Instantly, Itachi activates the sharingan, still as death as Naruto slowly turns to face him. It's somewhat amusing, Itachi thinks absently, how simple it is to strike nerves with him.

And just like that, their fragile truce is broken. Naruto lifts his head and gives Itachi a look full of hate, but beneath it Itachi can easily trace the undercurrent of pain.

Entranced as he is by this display of emotion, Itachi is ready when Naruto attacks. He is aware of the fact that any serious battle will destroy the most useful room in the house, so when Naruto comes for him he responds with a vicious kick that sends Naruto rolling across the tatami, using the pause in action to throw open the sliding doors and step out into the frosty morning air.

A part of Itachi welcomes the fight, and he wonders if this is more an outlet for Naruto's excess energy than an angry response; after all, each of the jinchuuriki he has encountered so far have been violent creatures, and Naruto, despite his compassion, is no different in that respect.

Naruto and Itachi both understand the futility of this battle. Both know, undoubtedly, which is the stronger shinobi. Itachi will not kill Naruto, even if he wants to -- Naruto's time of death has already been determined by those above him, and to destroy those carefully-laid plans now would be to seal his own death as well. Naruto will not kill Itachi, even if he has the opportunity -- Itachi is his last link to Sasuke and his own redemption, and without that link he may as well be dead.

Armed with that knowledge, they fight bitterly, the necessity of landing killing blows replaced by frustration at their helplessness. They fight like wolves without teeth or claws, trading ugly punches and kicks that hurt, but will do no lasting damage. They wheel around each other, scattering snow in their wake, and Naruto is screaming his fury into the frigid air as he empties his weapon pouch into the space where one of two shadow clones prepares a fire jutsu. Temporarily blinded by the sun's reflection off the snow, Itachi skips backwards just enough to avoid a frantic kick to the kidney -- he misjudges his step, however, and one of Naruto's clones lands a brutal punch to his temple. Naruto comes for him with glittering kunai in each fist, and Itachi sways back, feigning disorientation for just long enough to find an opening; he strikes, open-handed, and his palm catches the underside of Naruto's chin. He finds satisfaction in the tooth-shattering crack that echoes across the clearing as Naruto tumbles across the trampled snow.

It takes a moment for Naruto to rise, and Itachi takes the time to assess his own aches and bruises. Naruto has landed a few solid blows, even managing a successful swipe across his forearm with a kunai. It's a shallow wound, but it stings, and Itachi frowns in annoyance; despite his own vicious regiment of training, it has been several months since Itachi has fought so long without resorting to genjutsu, and he can feel what a mistake it has been. The side of his head is awash with pain, brilliant light blossoming behind his eyelids each time he closes his eyes.

Across from him, Naruto is forming a dangerous blue sphere in the palm of his hand. Itachi's skin prickles with the energy flooding the clearing, and he can almost see the malevolent chakra of the Nine Tails twisting around Naruto in hot red waves.

/There is only so far genius can take you/, Itachi thinks wryly. /Well/.

He feels the familiar, disorienting pull as the tomoe in his irises lengthen and begin to spin with renewed intensity. There is a split-second of dizziness, the sensation of falling backwards, and then he blinks it away.

And then Naruto charges with an angry cry, the rasengan whirling in his hand with all the fury of a compacted hurricane. Itachi snaps off a shuriken, precisely aimed, and when it is deflected by the invisible barrier of the Nine Tails' chakra, Naruto lifts his head to Itachi in a feral snarl.

Itachi does not hesitate to catch Naruto in his tsukiyomi -- Naruto halts mid-stride, eyes wide and unseeing, the rasengan sputtering out like a smothered candle in his cupped palm.

It takes Itachi a moment to realize that something has gone very wrong. As he slips from consciousness, he hears a sinister snarl, as if from a distance.
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