Inheritance of Hatred: Chapter 15

Title: Inheritance of Hatred: Chapter 15
Pairing: SasuNaru
Rating: PG-13
Status: WIP
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.

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Sasuke closed his eyes again, shutting out the image before him. He wasn’t expecting this so soon, wasn’t ready for the discussion almost certain to occur. If Naruto was sitting here so peacefully, then most likely he’d been brought back to Konoha. A surreptitious glance out the window and towards the skyline only confirmed his suspicions. That knowledge instilled a strange feeling within him: it was disconcerting to be here once more, in the home he’d turned his back on and abandoned three years ago. It was here his darkest memories surfaced most vividly, opening wounds in his soul he’d tried to bury for most of his life. It was here he’d learned that love could fail, that families were fragile.

And yet, little brother, you still call it home.

It had been unconscious, a slip in thought, surely. But then again, in turning against Madara…hadn’t he sided once more with the Leaf?

As death comes to embrace you, you will realize what you are.

And what exactly was he? He had betrayed his country, friends, and remaining kin all within a few short years, severing any connection or bond he’d possessed in the process. He’d joined forces with wicked men, all for the sake of revenge.  And yet…Naruto had saved him.

Why?

Abruptly, the blond shut his book with a crisp snap, causing Sasuke to nearly jump out of his skin. “Okay, I’ve waited long enough.” He turned to look pointedly at the back of the other shinobi’s head. “I know you’re awake, bastard. You could at least turn around and thank me for saving your life.”

A tendril of anger flashed through him, and the dark-haired teen jerked his head to face his former teammate. “I didn’t ask for you to save me.” Sasuke was met with Naruto’s trademark smug grin, and it infuriated him for reasons he didn’t dare to recognize. “Why the hell do you chase after me?”

Sighing, the jinchūriki crossed his arms over his chest, looking at him intensely. “You haven’t figured it out? Why do you think I brought you home to Konoha?”

“This village means nothing to me, and that includes everyone here.” Sasuke tried to sit up, hissing when a flash of pain shot through him from the motion. He was surprised when a hand caught his wrist, steadying him firmly.

“Calm down, you’re in no shape to be moving.” Naruto gestured to the IVs hanging off to the side. He sat lightly down on the side of the bed, unfazed by the glare the Uchiha threw at him. “Baa-chan said it’d be a while before you’re fully recovered.” Actually, the Hokage had expressed serious doubt as to whether or not Sasuke’s body could ever completely heal from such extensive damage…but Naruto didn’t think this was the time to mention something like that. “Do you want some water or something to-”

“What do you want from me?” Sasuke slowly maneuvered himself until he was sitting up stiffly on the bed, eyes wary and suspicious.

Naruto blinked, momentarily caught off-guard. “I wanted you to live.” He took a quick breath, lowering his voice. “And why did you save me? Sasuke, I-”

Whether it was due to some instinctive reflex or exhaustion, Sasuke turned away, effectively cutting Naruto off. “I don’t know.”

An awkward silence followed; the only sound in the air was soft shuffling as the blond sat back down on his chair. Sasuke didn’t know how long they sat there like that, completely quiet and unmoving. He counted each breath he took, drawing in each measured lungful of air like it was a lifeline until sleep finally reclaimed him.

.

.

Not surprisingly, Naruto was gone the next time he slowly opened his eyes.

Kakashi sat in his place, also paging through a book. This one though, with its lurid orange cover, was instantly recognizable. It was a sight he hadn’t thought he would ever see again after leaving Konoha, and it brought on a sudden wave of nostalgia. Such a little thing, but it was enough to evoke memories of simpler days: training under the jewel-bright leaves of tall trees, eating steaming bowls of ramen in the open air of Ichiraku…and two friends who believed in him with blind faith.

Rain pattered steadily against the window, filling the air with the gentle, steady sounds of water falling. Sasuke looked distractedly out the window, watching gray clouds drift across the darkened sky. Wind tugged at the trees and whistled past buildings. Light fog hovered over the wet streets and ground like ethereal ghosts.  He could almost feel the cool touch of chill air on his bare skin, invisible yet icy. Perhaps it was the somber weather or his nostalgic state of mind, but the dark-haired shinobi found himself remembering a country where days like this were common. He could almost see perfectly the misty landscape of Wave Country, threaded with deep blue rivers constantly replenished by rainfall. There had been a half-finished bridge and a too-strong masked boy…and Naruto.

Exhaling, Sasuke sat up gingerly, aware of Kakashi’s gaze on him. He didn’t return the look immediately, opting instead to pick up a glass of water that had been set on the bedside table and raise it slowly to his dry lips.

The Jōnin let Icha Icha Tactics fall shut wordlessly, his dark eye examining Sasuke critically. “How do you feel?”

The water slid down his parched throat, sending shivers up his spine. “Fine,” the Uchiha answered shortly, draining the cup before speaking again. “How long have I been here?” There was another question on the tip of his tongue, but Sasuke restrained it.

“Almost a month now.”

The cup slid out of the younger ninja’s fingers, landing with a muffled thump on the bed sheets. “What?”

Fluidly, the Copy Ninja picked up the discarded cup and set it back on the table, out of harm’s way. “You’ve been comatose for a little over three weeks,” he said calmly, eyes expressionless. Kakashi noted the way Sasuke’s eyes flickered briefly to the door. “Naruto was called away by the Hokage.” He could plainly see the indecision in his former student’s face, torn between a need for answers and detachment that had become habitual over the past few years. It somewhat assuaged his conflicted conscience, and sparked a tiny flare of hope within the older ninja.

Sasuke leaned back, grunting at the sluggish response from his limbs. “How am I alive?”

The silver-haired man hesitated for several moments, weighing his words carefully. “We rushed you back here, and Hokage-sama treated you herself.” He was aware that the explanation was far from adequate, but Kakashi did not think it was his place to share the rest of the tale…that was something Naruto alone ought to do.

Luckily, Sasuke seemed to accept his words without suspicion, thoughts apparently occupied with something else. “I would’ve thought my execution was imminent the moment I was brought back here.” His voice was layered with bitterness, expecting an answer not to his liking.

Kakashi bit his lip, though the action was obscured by his mask. “There have been more…pressing concerns for the generals.” Instantly, he regretted his choice of words: the dark-haired teen immediately looked up with distinct wariness in his eyes. The Jōnin pretended to not see this, flicking his gaze away and towards the window. “The joint army has been occupied for the past few weeks with eradicating the remainders of Madara’s army. In comparison,  you being unconscious and barely alive was hardly an immediate cause for alarm.” The silver-haired man rubbed reflexively at his bandaged left arm, half covered by his shinobi uniform. It had been a brutal month, fraught with countless setbacks and delays, failures and defeats. Though the threat of Madara had been eliminated, his inhuman forces were extremely difficult to overcome in combat, especially with the Zetsus’ ability to perfectly mimic other ninjas. The tide had finally turned just nine days ago, when Ibiki and his team of interrogators finally managed to break through Kabuto’s mental defenses and forced him to release his Edo Tensei technique. And even with their hard-earned victory, the Five Shinobi Nations still had much to do in the aftermath of war. Until now, the other four Kages had paid little attention to Sasuke, but Kakashi knew better than to think that would be the case for much longer.

The reality was that many, many lives had been lost, and there was a real chance that the survivors would sooner or later turn their grief-fueled anger towards the last remaining Uchiha.  Again, the Copy Ninja glanced to the door. He hoped Naruto understood what was to come. At that moment, Sasuke exhaled in frustration, causing the Jōnin to turn.

He held his hands up at face level, eyes examining the pale skin critically. “My chakra isn’t responding well.” The dark-haired boy frowned, a thought crossing his mind. “Was a seal placed on me?”

This time, Kakashi paused for a full minute before responding. “Whatever technique Madara used on you…inflicted extremely severe damage to your body, especially your chakra pathways. I don’t know the specifics, but-”

He stopped, sensing three chakra signatures approach. A few moments later, the door opened to reveal a tired-looking Tsunade, with Naruto at her heels. Neither was smiling.

The Hokage nodded briefly at Kakashi before stepping fully into the room, allowing space for the jinchūriki and the third individual to enter. He was a middle-aged man that Sasuke didn’t recognize, though he could clearly make out the Kumogakure forehead protector tied around his waist. The shinobi bowed briefly to the Copy Ninja before taking a seat against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest.

Clearing her throat, Tsunade looked directly at her patient. “My nurses informed me you’d finally awoken. I see you’re recovering well.” Her voiced sounded slightly strained, as if the calm tones came at a struggle. “I don’t know how much Kakashi or Naruto told you, but I’ll give it to you straight, kid: you’re lucky to be sitting there at all. Your chakra system suffered more damage than I ever thought possible for someone to survive through. I healed what I could, but the rest depends on your own body’s resilience.” She looked wearily at the Kumo shinobi, as if exasperated. “Due to…certain circumstances, it has been requested that we evaluate your condition.” The Godaime gestured offhandedly to the seated man. “This is Kusuri Igaku-san, chief medical officer of Kumogakure. He has been asked to perform an examination on you and to report the results back to the other Kages.” Tsunade did not hide the look of displeasure on her face, but otherwise made no move to prevent what was to occur.

Sasuke bristled at her last words, but grit his teeth. It was an effort to sit up: putting up a fight in any way was out of the question. He stiffened as the man approached his bedside, but forced himself not to flinch. The Uchiha could feel Naruto’s gaze on the back of his head; he could almost sense the worry coming from the blond like a soft nudge. In fact, he could feel it. His chakra, though reacting sluggishly, suddenly swirled nervously with foreign emotion. And it felt different, slightly warmer underneath his skin than usual. It wasn’t something he took much notice of before, but Sasuke now felt the change acutely. Was this a side effect of his injuries?

His train of thought ground to a halt as Igaku extended his arm, spreading fingers and holding them several inches over Sasuke’s arm. The dark-haired shinobi felt chakra probe at skin and muscle, sliding past tissue with an oily slickness. Though the older man’s face was impassive and set, the Uchiha could plainly see the thinly veiled distrust in his eyes. It wasn’t unexpected, but Sasuke clenched his fists nonetheless. It took a good deal of self-control, but he managed to not move for the next few minutes as the man finished his evaluation.

“All right, Uchiha-san,” the medic said at last, withdrawing his hands. He didn’t look at the younger shinobi, turning instead to Tsunade as he rose to his feet. “May we speak outside, Hokage-sama?”

Frowning, the Godaime nodded, hand reaching for the doorknob. Beside her, Naruto started to approach the bed. However, the older woman grabbed him by the arm. “You come too, brat.”

As the door shut softly behind the departing shinobi, Sasuke narrowed his eyes. He understood well how precarious his situation was and expected this temporary peace to soon be over. “What’s going to happen to me?”

Sighing, Kakashi straightened up. It seemed time was running out. “The war is over, Sasuke. To most other shinobi, you represent the enemy side. The time has come to determine your fate.” It pained him to be the one to tell him, but the Jōnin knew he had to be prepared. “The other four Kages have requested that if you were found to be physically able, you will stand trial for your actions against the five shinobi nations.”

“And if I refuse?” Sasuke glared defiantly at the door, fingers digging into the blanket fibers.

“I’m afraid that is not an option given to you.”

.

.

“He’s still recovering! Tell them to wait!” Naruto’s hands were clenched tightly, knuckles turning white from the pressure.

“I am sorry, Uzumaki-san,” Igaku bowed lightly, taking out a scroll from his tool pouch. “But my orders were explicit. Uchiha Sasuke is recovering quickly. At full health, he could again be considered a threat to the other nations, as well as Konoha. Before that happens, action must be taken.”

The blond shook his head furiously. “But he’s injured! Baa-chan said-”

“I was wrong, Naruto,” Tsunade cut him off wearily. “Igaku-san saw the same thing I saw when I looked him over last night: Sasuke’s body is healing. Slowly, yes, but I have no doubt he will make a full recovery.” Medically speaking, it was extraordinary: she didn’t think it was humanly possible for such enormous damage to naturally fix itself. And yet, that was exactly what was occurring with Sasuke. The Hokage glanced at Naruto, heart aching at the despair in his bright blue eyes. She’d known this would happen sooner or later, but still she’d healed the Uchiha. Had she only made it harder on Naruto?

The Kumo medic shook his head disbelievingly. “I was taken aback, too. There is much evidence of grievous wounds in all his systems, but somehow they are regenerating.” Shrugging, he bowed again to Naruto and then Tsunade. “My apologies, but I must send my report to Raikage-sama. Thank you for your hospitality.”

The two watched as the man strode steadily back down the hall, disappearing around a corner. Inhaling slowly, the Godaime looked at the jinchūriki, placing a hand on his slightly trembling shoulder. “Naruto,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“But how?” He looked thoroughly overwhelmed, his stance stiff with frustration. “You said he wouldn’t be well enough for a long time at least.”

Tsunade nodded, crossing her arms tiredly. “Yes, but it seems something has changed.” She watched as Naruto shivered, rubbing his hand sadly over his chest.

Over his heart

And suddenly, she understood. The fast recovery, the impossible regeneration…it had to be because of Naruto. Clearly, the seal he’d placed transferred not only his own chakra, but some of the Nine Tails’s as well. And though it was a snail’s pace compared to Naruto’s rate of recovery, Sasuke, too, was benefiting from the accelerated rate and scope of the Demon Fox’s healing ability. Medically speaking, it was amazing to even think about the sheer power locked away inside the jinchūriki. It seemed Naruto had saved Sasuke in more ways than even he knew. But the realization only saddened the woman more. Oh, Naruto. She could see the burden weighing him down, invisible to the eye but heavy as a mountain on his shoulders.

“But they can’t…execute him, right?” His voice faltered over the words, unwilling to consider the possibility fully.

For a fleeting second, Tsunade considered offering him reassurances. But she knew better than to lie to the teen outright. It wouldn’t gentle the blow if the worst came to pass. “I honestly don’t know,” the Hokage sighed. “The technique you used hasn’t been fully tested. I’m not even certain if it can be removed or not.” While medical ninjutsu was her forte, the Godaime also prided herself on being fairly well-read about other branches of shinobi arts. This seal, however, incorporated a method she’d never seen before. It was tightly woven and intricate, tying itself to Naruto’s very life force. “If Sasuke is tried and found guilty…I’m sure research would be conducted on the seal.”

His hands clenched tightly into fists, but Naruto didn’t say another word. He bowed his head, barely moving as Tsunade gently pulled him into a comforting hug.

“It’s not over yet.”

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Sasuke instinctively looked up when the door opened again. His chakra refused to obey his body’s commands, remaining still and unhurried. So instead, he had to rely on his other senses to detect presences around him. It was strange, making him feel too bare and unguarded.

Kakashi took note of the solemn expression on Naruto’s face, immediately pushing off the wall. “I’m going to have a word with Hokage-sama.” It didn’t take a genius to realize that those two needed time alone.

The blond gave him the barest hint of a grateful smile, waiting for the door to shut completely before taking a seat on the vacant chair. “We need to talk, Sasuke.”

The other teen averted his gaze, directing his dark glare towards the window. “We have nothing to discuss.”

“We have everything to discuss, and we’re running out of time.” Frustrated, Naruto leaned forward and grabbed Sasuke’s chin. He pulled until the other shinobi’s eyes were finally locked on his, albeit with great reluctance. “I can help-”

“Don’t touch me,” the dark-haired boy growled, slapping the hand away. “I don’t need your help.”

“Sasuke, they’re going to make you stand trial-”

“I don’t care!” He grit his teeth hard, ignoring the throb of pain from his jaw. “Let them kill me, it’s not like I didn’t expect it.” The emotions swirling within him made his head ache, confusion and anger and regret each warring for dominance. Nothing made sense, from Naruto’s insistent care to a fear that he’d made the wrong choice. “A shinobi kills or is killed. The price for my weakness is death.”

“No, you’re wrong!” Naruto shook his head furiously, rising to his feet. “You did a lot of evil, it’s true. But you also helped us, Sasuke. That has to count for something.” Taking a breath, the blond lowered his voice. “They won’t execute you.”

“How the hell would you know? My family died on a whim of Konoha’s leaders, what’s one more Uchiha on top of that?” His voice had turned bitter and cold, breath coming harshly. Why had he helped them? They were Leaf ninjas, servants of the very village that had crushed his clan under its heel.

“You’re wrong about that,” the jinchūriki repeated. “That cycle of hate doesn’t have to continue!”

“I was born into it, as were you,” Sasuke hissed in return. “You’re a fool if you think you can change me or anything at all.”

“I can, and I will, Sasuke. Starting with you.” Naruto paused, nervousness piercing through his initial agitation. “I won’t let you die.”

“Why? Why can’t you-”

“Because you mean everything to me, Sasuke.” The jinchūriki exhaled shakily, frank blue eyes wide. “There is goodness in you, and there always has been.” In many ways, Naruto thought Sasuke had suffered more than he himself ever had. For the blond, he’d grown up with the loneliness and the solitude. The coldness of his childhood allowed him to better appreciate the bonds he had now with his friends. To him, they were precious beyond all other worldly goods. But Sasuke could recall the warm, peaceful years of his early childhood. He’d been loved by his mother, protected by his brother, and surrounded by a tight-knit family. When that was all wrested away in one fell swoop, it left him wounded in an unseen way that had transformed into bitterness over the years. It was harder because Sasuke had loved and lost….

A full minute of silence passed between them. Sasuke’s pale face was frozen in shock, the full force of Naruto’s words sinking in belatedly. “You’re insane…”

“Sasuke,” Naruto tentatively reached out his hand. “I-”

“No!” With a burst of strength, the dark-haired boy pushed the blond away. “Leave me alone!”

“Listen to me for once, you bastard! Why do you have to be so stubborn!”

Sasuke opened his mouth to yell back, but abruptly stopped. A strange sensation was flooding through his chest, like hot water splashing down. It felt too warm and too fluid, effortlessly mingling with his chakra. It was his anger yet not, intermixed with a feeling that was intensely sweet yet fiercely painful at the same time. It pulled at the emotions locked away inside his own heart, the ones he’d schooled himself to ignore. Only now, they were bursting to be set free, to be finally acknowledged. Seeing the soft look in Naruto’s bright sapphire eyes only caused his chest to ache more, filling him with a longing that made him shudder. But it’s not that simple.

“Sasuke,” Naruto breathed, leaning inwards slowly. He could feel the dark-haired boy’s indecision, the turmoil stirring inside his lithe frame. It floated on the edge of perception, grazing his awareness with soft touches of chakra. Years ago, he’d thought that all they had between the two of them was never-ending rivalry and resentment. But it had changed, gradually and hardly noticed like the progression of seasons. And now, he was acutely aware of the devotion that had grown and blossomed in his own heart. It was his fondest hope that it might one day be reciprocated.

Before the dark-haired teen could move or even protest, Naruto took advantage of his momentary stillness. Bracing a hand on the bed, he closed the distance between their flushed faces.

Sasuke gasped, the noise muffled as Naruto’s lips clumsily but determinedly slid over his. The urge to push him away flared instantly, but died just as quickly as warmth caressed his mouth in a gentle, soothing way he’d never experienced. The taste of their shared breaths was new and strange to him, enveloping his senses entirely. His hand found Naruto’s on the bed, hesitantly touching the warm fingers as his heart beat loudly in his ears.

The jinchūriki withdrew slightly after a minute, inhaling deeply. Their lips still grazed each other and Sasuke heard him whisper his name, felt the brush of moist skin against his as Naruto mouthed three words-

No, anything but that–

The blond barely had time to register the abrupt tensing in Sasuke’s body before he found himself flat on the floor, jaw stinging. He pushed himself up immediately, confusion bright in his eyes. “Sasuke-”

“Get out.” The hand he’d used to punch Naruto pointed fiercely at the door. “Just get the fuck out and leave me alone!”

“But I really do love-”

“Shut up!” But it was deep-rooted fear that gripped his form, refusing to accept whatever Naruto was trying to give him. “I don’t need your love. What use is it to me?” Anger tightened his throat, nearly choking him. “Where was love when Konoha turned against the Uchiha?” His voice had risen to screaming volume now, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. “Where was love when Itachi murdered my family? Love means nothing to me, you idiot!  I hate you! Get the hell out of my sight!”

The other shinobi started to his feet, opening his mouth to reply.

“No, leave him be.” A gloved hand gripped his shoulder, and Kakashi helped Naruto to his feet. The blond jumped at his touch: he hadn’t heard the door open.

Behind them, Tsunade moved to the bed faster than he’d ever seen her move. Chakra flashed bright in her index finger as she tapped Sasuke once on the temple. Instantly, his eyes fell shut, body falling unconscious onto the sheets. “Damn brat,” she muttered under her breath, but her face gazed down on the Uchiha with nothing but pity and understanding.

“Baa-chan, I-”

But the Hokage waved it off. “You don’t have to explain.” She sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. “But I think you need to give Sasuke some space.”

“She’s right,” Kakashi added, seeing Naruto begin to protest. “He needs time to think and to recover.”

The jinchūriki stilled, considering the Copy Ninja’s words. After a minute, he nodded, defeated. “Okay.”

“All right,” the Godaime clapped her hands, settling the matter. “Let me give you a mission then. She gently steered him towards the door, pushing him out into the hall. “A-rank construction assignment. Sakura and Sai are leading a group in the rebuilding of the Academy. I want you to go and help them out. I’m sure your kage bunshin will come in handy.”

Nodding, Naruto took one last look at the sleeping teen in the bed before turning resignedly away.

Kakashi waited until his chakra signature had faded into the distance before speaking up again. “How long does he have?”

Tsunade closed her eyes, feeling exhaustion deep in her very bones. “A week. The examination was merely a formality. The other Kages will be here by Friday.” Instinctively, both adults looked to Sasuke. “And we will decide his punishment.”

The Jōnin shook his head briefly. “Naruto will suffer.” But he knew there were so many things the blond didn’t yet understand about Sasuke.

“I’ll do what I can. Let’s have faith.” Pausing at the bedside, she drew a blanket over her patient. “For Naruto’s and Sasuke’s sake.”

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