Title: Inheritance of Hatred: Chapter 14
Pairing: Eventual SasuNaru
Summary: In the midst of war, Naruto has only one goal: to bring Uchiha Sasuke home. And to that end, he will risk it all to retrieve the one person closest to his heart.
“You’ve got a lot of nerve, brat, bringing him here,” Tsunade snarled, her clothes whipping around her as she strode briskly down the darkened hallway. “Do you have any idea what would happen if the other Kages-”
Naruto jogged to keep up, struggling to hold his emotions in check. “Baa-chan, please! Just look at him, that’s all I ask.”
The Godaime finally stopped at the end of the passageway, pausing before the shut door. A small window was situated in the corner, casting soft moonlight over the two of them. In the dim light, she looked older than her normal youthful illusion, tired and haggard. She could see the hope in his eyes, the faith he had in her powers and compassion. He always reminded her vividly of Nawaki, the brother she’d lost so long ago. It made her fonder of Naruto than she cared to admit, and so it pained the Hokage deeply to see him committed to such a burden.
The jinchūriki reached a hand up, grabbing at the doorknob. Tsunade stopped him as he began to turn it, heaving a sigh. “Naruto, stop and think for a minute. This isn’t-”
“I’ve done nothing but think for the past three years!” The blond bit his lip, bowing his head in frustration. He’d expected this argument from her, but that didn’t make it any easier. “He…”
Tsunade dropped to one knee, looking up into the young teen’s face. “He’s an S-ranked criminal, Naruto. Do you know what that means?” The pain in his expression tore at her heart, but she pressed on. “Even if I can heal him, what then? Think of all he’s done. The other Kages will demand he stand trial-” She couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence, but Tsunade was sure he was aware of the implications: Sasuke could very well be executed for his crimes. “He isn’t your responsibility! Why suffer on his behalf? Think of your dreams, all that you’ve worked for. You deserve to be happy-”
“I can live without happiness!” His voice bounced loudly off the walls, echoing down the dim halls. Naruto took a quick breath, trying to steady his rampaging emotions. “I…can live without happiness,” he repeated quietly. “But…I can’t live without him.” He finally looked her straight in the face, blue eyes determined. “I won’t.”
Pressing her lips together worriedly, the older woman looked from Naruto to the door and back again. It was moments like this that made her feel as though the entire weight of the world was upon her shoulders alone: being Konoha’s leader meant that the villagers looked to her to guide them and make difficult decisions. According to shinobi law, Uchiha Sasuke’s life was forfeit the minute he’d decided to act against the Leaf. And yet…Tsunade found it extremely hard to condemn him.
For a long few minutes, the pair stood unmoving in front of the door. Exhaustion dragged at Naruto relentlessly, but he forced himself to remain alert. This was more important than a few hours of sleep. “Baa-chan?”
Sighing, the Godaime averted her gaze, resigned. Tomorrow, the other leaders would give her hell for what she was about to do. But tonight, her conscience could not turn away from Naruto’s pleas. “All right,” the woman said softly, turning the door knob and pushing. “But I can’t promise anything.” She ignored the blond’s relieved words of thanks, steeling herself for what lay inside.
The interior of the room was softly lit with white light, coming from the overhead lamp. Sakura sat stiffly in a chair against the wall, flinching when the door opened. She tried to smile, but the effect was ruined by her puffy, reddened eyes and tear-stained cheeks. “Hokage-sama,” the girl greeted quietly, rising to her feet.
Tsunade waved her hand briefly, indicating for the kunoichi to sit back down. “How are the others?”
Sakura sniffed, wiping reflexively at her wet face. “Kakashi-sensei and Yamato-taichou are being treated for chakra exhaustion, but Shizune said they should be fine in about a week. Shikamaru and Sai only had minor injuries.” She dropped her gaze to the bed.
Inhaling sharply, the Hokage took her first look at the shinobi lying there. His dark hair was damp with sweat, sticking wetly to his scalp. Various cuts and scrapes dotted his exposed skin, any other injuries concealed by his clothes and the thin blanket someone had draped over him. The pale skin of his face was flushed, looking ill and drained of color. Tsunade regarded Sasuke’s handsome face coolly: he looked eerily peaceful in unconsciousness, and too young to already be a wanted criminal. He could easily have been just another young Leaf ninja, living an ordinary life in the village. But fate had dealt Uchiha Sasuke a difficult hand, and the Godaime couldn’t help but wonder if there was something she could have done in the past to change their present outcome.
Naruto moved to stand next to her, eyes focused on Sasuke’s face. She noticed him touch the unconscious teen’s hand briefly, before turning slightly to watch her.
Sighing, Tsunade rolled up her sleeves and closed her eyes, letting chakra flow to her hands and wash carefully over the patient. Expertly, she probed carefully through tissues and muscles and organs, winding down blood vessels and examining chakra pathways.
And what she found horrified her.
Just barely, the Hokage managed to stifle a gasp. The injuries Sasuke had sustained were unlike any she’d ever seen: multiple organ systems were scarcely functioning, and his heart was beating at a frightfully weak rate. But the most alarming damage had been done to his chakra system: the pathways were all dotted with perforations, as if half corroded away by acid. As a result, his energy was continually leaking out, draining him of the necessary chakra to keep his body running. A chill ran up her spine at the severity of it: he ought to have died days ago.
And yet, chakra was still pumping throughout his body, albeit feebly. Tsunade opened her eyes, more confused than ever. Team Seven had only returned just a few hours earlier, after a two-day journey. With the extent of his injuries, Sasuke’s chakra reserves should have run out already. How was he still alive?
Unexpectedly, her probing fingers felt an anomaly, an oddly strong pulse of energy coming from near his heart. Frowning, she shifted to the side, hands pulling down the blanket covering Sasuke’s chest. Naruto breathed in sharply next to her, but Tsunade ignored it.
There. Directly over his heart, someone had placed a strange marking. It was dark red in color and scrawled in a sloppy hand, as if done in a hurry. The Godaime squinted, trying to make sense of the messy characters. It appeared to be some sort of seal. Placing one finger on its center, she sent a flicker of her own energy down it, following its course and trying to discern its purpose.
Naruto bowed his head. “Baa-chan, I-”
Abruptly, Tsunade’s hand darted out, grabbing the hem of Naruto’s jacket. Before he could stop her, she yanked it upwards fiercely, exposing his torso and chest to view.
And there, also above his heart was another seal, identical to the one on Sasuke. The Hokage’s face was frozen in shock, disbelief rising in her like a tidal wave. “Naruto, what have you done?”
For a minute, the blond didn’t speak. Instead, he gently reached for Sasuke’s hand again, running a finger along cool alabaster skin. “I saved him.” He tugged his shirt back down. “Sasuke saved me, so…I saved him.”
The first time Sasuke awoke, it was in a firestorm of indescribable pain. The very blood pumping in his veins felt like molten lava, coursing too hot against weakened vessels. It contrasted sharply with the chill he felt in his hands and feet: they barely responded to his attempts to move. Each breath he took sent sharp jolts through his chest and pulled frayed muscles. Vaguely, Sasuke recognized the instinctive urge to scream in his throat. In his weakened state though, his vocal cords could only managed a low gurgle. Even that small action renewed his already unbearable agony, heartbeat skyrocketing.
“Help me get him outside!”
He seemed to be moving, though how was beyond him. The teen felt bone-wearying tired, unable to even summon up the energy to open his eyes. His mind was completely overloaded, dizzy from the massive amount of signals and sensations wracking his form. Sounds echoed in his ears dully, words distorted and meaningless.
Abruptly, he was lowered onto the ground, blades of grass poking like minute pins into his back. Hands ran over his forehead, pushing up his hitai-ate.
“Sasuke-kun, hang on!”
The voice seemed to come from far off, though it was somewhat familiar. He managed to crack his eyes open the barest amount, catching sight of someone with pink hair leaning over him. The light flooding into his vision brought on a fresh wave of nausea, pushing the Uchiha firmly back into unconsciousness.
Sakura quickly placed her left hand on Sasuke’s forehead, the other seeking out his heart. She had to inhale slowly to settle her nerves before reaching out with her chakra, examining his injuries. On the exterior, Sasuke appeared physically fine: minor to moderate cuts and bruises were scattered over his skin. However, Naruto’s grief-stricken expression told her the worst lay where the eye couldn’t see.
“Oh, God,” she breathed out in alarm before she could stop herself, withdrawing her hands quickly as if burned.
“What are you doing, Sakura? You gotta help him!” Naruto dropped to his knees next to her, one hand shaking her thin shoulder.
She couldn’t do it. The very thought ravaged her soul with unbelievable torment, despair forming a cold weight in her heart. She’d only glimpsed the internal injuries, and the medic already knew there was nothing she could do: whatever Madara had done to him had left Sasuke barely alive. After healing Yamato-taichou, Sakura hardly had enough energy for a minor healing, never mind a major surgery that the dark-haired shinobi would require. This was far, far beyond her capabilities. If only they could get him to Tsunade…but she was at least two days away, back at the joint army’s headquarters. For a few seconds, time seemed to stop: the voices swirling around the pink-haired girl faded to a dull hum of sound as she stared down at her former teammate.
Sasuke lay dying before her, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
Naruto raised his head, opening his mouth to call her again. He stopped, though, when he realized with a jolt that tears were sliding from her eyes. They rolled smoothly down her reddened cheeks, falling silently on her clenched hands. “I…I’m sorry…” Her voice was choked, words strained.
“No…” The blond grit his teeth, grabbing Sasuke by the shoulders. “Don’t die on me, you bastard!” He pushed Sakura brusquely aside, positioning himself at Sasuke’s side. Unhesitatingly, he raised a hand to his own mouth, teeth flashing out as he bit into a finger and drew crimson blood to the surface. With his other hand, he unzipped his jacket and rolled up the t-shirt and mesh underneath.
Before Sakura could register what was happening, Naruto had drawn a convoluted symbol over his heart. Leaning over the unconscious shinobi, he replicated the same design over Sasuke’s. Once finished, the blond sat back, yanking a worn book from his tool pouch. He flipped to one of the last pages, setting the open book in front of him before beginning a rapid procession of hand signs.
“He needs more time, right?” The jinchūriki didn’t look up from his task, pouring every bit of concentration into weaving the jutsu. “Then I’ll give him more time.”
The second time Sasuke tried to wake up, it was blindingly bright. Light reflected off white-tiled walls and ceilings, flooding the area with illumination. He felt as though he’d slept a thousand years, limbs heavy from lethargy. His vision was blurry, turning the cluster of people around his bed into unfocused pools of color. Distantly, he felt hands probing his chest, foreign chakra forcing its way down into his system like sudden chill wind.
“Shit, he’s waking up. Shizune, I thought I told you to increase the dosage!”
Belatedly, Sasuke took note of the rush of voices, hissing around his ears like a swarm of angry bees.
“I did, Hokage-sama! But his body is extremely resistant to the drugs we administered-”
Tsunade swiped at the sweat dotting her forehead. The teen was beginning to stir, far too soon for her liking. They weren’t even halfway done with the procedure and had been there for hours already. “Troublesome brat,” she murmured heatedly, returning her concentration to the chakra vessels in his upper arm. Most likely, he’d developed a high tolerance to medication during his time with Orochimaru and Kabuto. “Chieko,” the Godaime barked over her shoulder to another medic standing patiently behind her. “We’ll have to go the genjutsu route. Knock him out.”
Before Sasuke could even think to resist, a young woman with short black hair moved into his line of sight. She placed her cold fingers on his temples, chakra instantly seeping through skin and into his skull, bringing on a sudden wave of exhaustion.
“Sleep, Uchiha-san.” Chieko waited a moment, watching his eyes flutter and shut before she withdrew. A soft sound in the corner made both women turn slightly, looking to the door.
Kakashi slid stiffly into the room, leaning heavily on a pair of crutches. He nodded politely at Tsunade, lowering himself into an empty chair.
She snorted, giving him a halfhearted glare. “You should be resting, brat.” Her fingers continued massaging the skin along Sasuke’s arm, coaxing the muscles underneath to accept her chakra. “Or do you not trust me to heal him?”
The Jōnin rested his chin on a hand, cutting straight to the chase. “The seal. How bad is it?”
The Hokage hesitated a moment, her hands stilling. “Naruto’s lucky to be alive,” she said slowly. “Did you see it?”
“Enough to be worried.” The Copy Ninja bowed his head. Whatever seal the blond had used had left him unconscious for the better part of their journey back to base. It had been an arduous trip, to say the least.
Tsunade sighed, moving a few steps to the right to focus on her patient’s abdomen. “It reacts to Sasuke’s chakra levels. If his energy dips down too low, the seal automatically transfers some of Naruto’s over. But it’s an incomplete technique.” She bit her lip, eyes tracing over the marks on Sasuke’s chest. “It will continually drain energy, even past the point of usefulness.”
The Godaime turned away, wiping sweat off her brow. “Meaning that if Sasuke dies…Naruto will as well.”
The third time he awoke, Sasuke was exhausted. It was a tiredness that sank into his very bones, weighing him down like stones were set atop his body. He felt hollowed out, his limbs heavy and slow to respond. His vision focused gradually, giving the world around him an eerie, hazy quality. For a fleeting, wild moment Sasuke wondered if he was dead, or at least very near being so.
Instead, a pristine white room met his gaze, the early morning sunshine filtering in through the window and glinting off the tiled walls. It was almost perfectly quiet, save for beeps coming from the various monitors lining one side of his bed. It was only then that he noticed several IVs trailing away from his left arm, winding back into clear plastic bags filled with translucent liquid. He turned his head the other direction.
And there, sitting quietly on a chair with his nose in a worn old book, was Naruto.