A/N. I bet you all thought I abandoned this story, right? Well, I'm alive! Though I'm sorry for all the time it took me to update this. The Blue Screen of Death killed my laptop and most of the information got lost. Like this story and others. Now, I'm backing up all my works in everything I can think of. OneDrive, Google docs, etc etc, but damn did it hurt to have it all erased. My motivation was almost nonexistent for this story. I barely finished rewritten my outline and have at least one chapter more written. So yeah, updates will come at snail pace. Twice a week or maybe once a month, but they will come. So, uh yeah.
(Comments feed my broken heart :c)
If there is one thing Sasuke hates the most about all of Kakashi's flaws, it's without a doubt, his permanent habit of coming late to every meeting he's had over the time he's worked in a team (Barring important missions, of course). That and mostly focusing on team exercises and the kind, instead of individual training. Sasuke's known for a long time team seven was the first team his former teacher had ever taken and, now that Sasuke looks back, it clearly showed his lack of experience by how he has taught them.
Kakashi's been used to being a team leader or an anbu captain—He wasn't a mentor but someone made to lead and guide. He knows how to take charge of situation and use the advantage of the skills people have to offer to be able to complete a mission in a way that only few can.
Sasuke begrudgingly agrees that Kakashi is a strategic genius.
So going from that mindset to teach inexperienced kids must have been difficult for him, especially considering they were the first team he accepted and that he kind of sucks at the nurture aspect of the job.
Sasuke faintly knew and recognized that; he just didn't give it much thought. It was just something Sasuke never really bothered thinking about and just shrugged it off as Kakashi's incompetence and Konoha's lack of ability at assigning teams.
Now, though? Now he thinks about it often. How Sakura screamed like a banshee most of the time and was more interested in how she looked than in training, while Naruto's stubborn and boisterous personality always got them in trouble. He even admits he acted like a brat those times, though he did have the ability to back up most of his boastings.
Separated they were hard to deal with; together, with their constant fights however, they were a nightmare and Sasuke is somewhat amazed Kakashi hadn't attempted to kill them in their earlier days as a team. Because going from expecting certain kind of competency to something that's clearly less than academy level if he's trying to be positive, well… it's eye opening, to say the least.
That, and headache inducing most of the times. He understands now—because even Suigetsu's idiocy hadn't prepared him enough. Probably because from all his flaws, the Kiri ninja had skill.
He's not entirely sure that he's not going to crumble in relief once he sees Naruto, someone that from all his faults it's an excellent fighter. He hopes that when he demands for a spar, he won't lower himself and hug him in relief when he accepts. And he will. Sasuke's going to make sure of it.
Actually, now that he thinks about it, he is kind of terrified he would do something as embarrassing anyways, because teaching is screwing him over. He constantly itches for a good fight or something to help him release the tension that's been forming in his muscles since walking wasn't an action painful to accomplish anymore. He really needs to unwind without using his chakra as his coils are still kind of burnt out as his medical skills are few and simplistic. So a spar would probably solve most of his problems and would keep him from annihilating all the people in—
"Wake up, pretty boy, they're coming."
Well, at least teaching others is increasing my patience, Sasuke thinks as he answers with a grunt, not bothering to inform her he's been meditating and not sleeping, as he opens his eyes and stands up. He follows Rowan's gaze and sees the people slowly coming, no longer jogging as they started, but at least they're not almost crawling as they were the first week Sasuke made them run around Woodbury.
"Is Martinez coming?" he asks, because is mostly Martinez the one who acts like his guard dog, usually exchanging places with her in teaching how to handle guns and survival in general while Sasuke deals with physical conditioning and hand to hand.
"If you went to the meetings for this stuff you'd know Martinez is preparing for a mission," she says just by the time Sasuke's hearing picks up the conversation going on at the front.
"—and It's not fair he always tells us what to do but always spends all the time relaxing," a breathless boy close to his age says to the ones near to him, thinking Sasuke won't be able to hear him.
Haley, a twenty year old, chuckles. "Tell 'im that yourself to see what he does, Patrick."
"If you've the balls, then I'll support you." Noah, an eighteen year old, pats his back before increasing his speed and running all the way to where Rowan waits for them next to the handmade cooler. The children that stay and watch are walking towards them, water bottles in their hands.
After a long groan from Patrick, no one more bothers speaking, choosing to not waste the little breath they have.
"You've a ten minute break," Sasuke says when everyone is within earshot.
A guy who's never done any serious exercise in all his twenty-three years of life, groans. "Come on, man, we just came. You used to give us twenty minutes!"
"Stop it, Garg," Zach says to his friend, knowing the ones who complain are the ones getting the worse beat up.
"Don't worry, just this day you'll rest ten minutes. Then you will return to the twenty minutes break of always."
There's a hopeful surprise on the younger faces as they shout in triumph, while the older ones look suspiciously wary. Sasuke approves the caution and he makes sure to share that by nodding at the ones who are looking at him in the eye, waiting for what's to come.
Giving a whole minute for the naïve to bask in their joy, he adds, "Net time you'll do two more rounds."
The silence that follows mixed with their muted misery as the only loud present is greatly satisfying. Now he understands what Orochimaru, Kabuto and Kakashi felt whenever they made him do impossible exercises. It almost makes him want to smile.
Gargiulo stands up, face red from the running and rage. "What about you, huh? You're always there sitting and not doing anything!"
Sasuke pats his leg with the cane he no longer needs but still uses for the easy weapon it provides. However, he knows thanks to the doctor that the injury that took him almost three weeks to completely heal, most people in this world heal up in months. He uses that knowledge to his favor, already made sure he erased that information from the Doctor with his sharingan.
"Yeah, right, as if you really need that. If you believe that—"
Sasuke stops him from continuing talking by placing the cane under his jaw. Easily erasing the large distance separating them with a quick sealless shunshin.
"If you know I don't need my leg to destroy you, then why provoke me? You forget I'm not making you come; I don't demand you to run, so don't complain. When you die, don't blame me either, you fool."
Sasuke leaves him setting on his spot, not waiting to see if he'll stay or not.
"How you seem to have recovered, stand up. I'll beat reflexes on you. Be prepared to block."
Holding loosely the cane at his side while making a show of favoring his uninjured leg, Sasuke stands in a loose position while waiting for the others to do the same. Usually, he makes them do physical conditioning at least two times a week for two hours to build stamina, while other two days are for building their attack and defensive prowess by teaching them the Academy's forms.
And finally, in their last day of training, he always makes them all fight against him so he can see how much they have improved and what he needs to work out.
That's the day they dread the most and he patiently waits for. They'll have two free days without him after this; he has to make sure they're going to feel the training even while resting until next Monday comes.
"Ready?" he asks before launching forward.
Almost two hours later, Sasuke is once again sitting with his legs crossed and closed eyes, groaning bodies are sprawled on the grass laying across from him. They seem to have grasped the importance of teamwork when one is as weak as they are. Their plan was faulty and gave much to be desired but at least he finally got a light work up from them.
He's lowered his standards so much is not even funny.
"Here," Rowan voice calls from his left and Sasuke extends his arm to receive the water bottle with only a nod in her direction as recognition of her actions. Rowan huffs but still sits next to him, drinking her own water, her irritation clear in her brusque movements. The slight tremble of her hands the only hint indicating her uneasiness, as it always happens after these kind of mock fights.
"You know it's creepy how you barely sweat whenever this 'all against one' happens, right?"
There's no answer coming from him, but he doesn't think Rowan expects one from him. She just continues being silent next to him as both look at the people finally attempting to stand up, looking red in the face and so tired; their heavy breathings accompanying the sweat that falls from their skin. The ones that escaped the worse helping the others that are worse and are barely able to move.
"I hope we never find ourselves fighting on opposite sides," Rowan mutters solemnly as they continue to watch. This time Sasuke does bother to look at her from the corner of his eyes, only to find her steadily staring at him. "I was one of the snippers that day you first woke up. You stopped my gun with a pen. I didn't even think that was possible, but the things you can do are really terrifying."
Sasuke gives her a condescending smirk. "Are you afraid of me then?"
She swallows. "I am. You're really frightening for someone so young."
"And yet you're the one who constantly requests to shadow me."
"Someone has to do it." She shrugs, placing the water bottle on the ground next to her before settling against a trunk. "Besides, you kind of remind me of my younger brother."
Sasuke can let the conversation die there, but he still has to wait for the Governor to come from a briefing he send a clone to spy, so he doesn't currently have anything better to do until it dispels. He mentally shrugs and once again throws her a look. "Does your brother also scares you?"
"Not in the sense you think, but yes. Though I was referring more of your eyes; they're similar." He arches an eyebrow and she rolls her eyes at him. "He had dissociation so he couldn't really feel much of anything. Or understand what he felt, anyways. His anxiety didn't help him much either."
Narrowing his eyes, Sasuke turns his head to glare at her better, the 'explain' on them heavily implied.
She crosses her arms, unimpressed. Though Sasuke can still notice the way her eyes soften and her lips briefly tremble before she sighs. "You look like he always did when no one was looking at him. He was good at imitating other people's emotions but only when he was around people. When he was alone though, it was as if he didn't know how to act. You both look at everyone like people on a magazine. Maybe it was because emotions didn't come easily to him, or at all."
"It sounds useful," he says, taking a gulp from his bottle.
"He used to say that, too: the pros outweighed the cons. But… I remember the day our dad died. He was nineteen and from when we received the news to the funeral's day, he looked lost. He told me he loved our dad and that he knew he should feel sad, but there was nothing. He had to put something in his eyes to cry and to accompany mom looking like a normal grieving son. In the end he even wondered if he actually loved anyone."
She looks at him with a frown. "When I look at you, it reminds me of him before he went to a doctor. There's a weight on your shoulders it shouldn't be there. Too heavy for someone your age to carry it alone."
Sasuke returns her gaze evenly.
"Are you offering then?" he says at last, a cruel smirk forming on his lips as his eyes slowly bleed red. "Do you presume yourself strong enough to carry my sins? I can show you, if you want. Don't go blaming me if you end insane though."
There's fear in the tenseness of her shoulders and the smell of cold swear. She clenches her jaw, her frightened eyes never leaving his mismatched ones. But her determination only lasts a couple of seconds before she's blinking and looking away.
"I already told you: You scare me. I don't think I would be of help."
Sasuke snorts, his eyes returning to normal as he stands up. The Governor wouldn't be in his house, but he can still sneak in and read some of his documents without alerting any guard.
"Do you have someone important in your life, Uchiha?" Rowan asks when he gives his first steps away from her.
No, he wants to answer, as there's no one alive. However, his eyes drifts unconsciously to the bandage covering his palm.
"I do," he ends answering, perhaps because of the personal story she offered.
"Are they alive?"
"He is." Sasuke clenches his hand before turning his head and throwing a nasty smirk at her. "I'm waiting for him to come so I can kill him."
Without looking back, he walks away, leaving the still exhausted people he's had to teach and his guard behind.
"What a surprise is seeing you here, Uchiha," the Governor says as he notices his presence in his home. He's getting better; now it only took him three minutes to spot him. "If you continue coming here to rest, others will get the wrong idea."
It disgusts him the techniques the Governor uses to get a rise out of him. They are mostly comments that poke insistently to find some weakness under his façade. He's good at masking most up but his temper has let the Governor know that family is one quick way to make him loose his cool. That and that he loathes crowding, insinuations, innuendos or even simple flirting directed on his person.
Since then, the Governor has made sure to use subtly one of them to rile him up from time to time.
"I don't think anyone would be able to rest in peace with the biter you have in your closet. You know why I'm here," Sasuke snaps. It doesn't make the other tense but the coldness in his presence grows. It's true that since the Governor has learned Sasuke won't mention it to anyone, he's relaxed as much as someone can when someone has the clear upper hand on him. But he still doesn't know why Sasuke keeps it squirt and that's enough to make him constantly wary.
Even so, the governor hasn't gotten rid of his daughter and that by itself says a lot about the man's psyche.
"You come here for a lot of things, how could I guess which one is this time, um?" The Governor, sitting now in front of his desk, starts looking into some of the papers sprawled across the surface, placing two more he's brought inside a notebook. "Should I assume that you're planning on taking another supply trip?"
Sasuke gives a grunt as his answer. He's also reading the papers, though without that much attention, knowing the Governor wouldn't read any important document when he's in the same room with him.
"You've chosen a bad moment to leave. Hasn't Rowan informed you we had a mission?"
The choose of pronoun makes him know the Governor is participating, so it must hold some kind of importance as the man doesn't leave in just any supply run.
"Were you planning in bringing biters inside?"
The Governor looks up, probably already knowing he's trying to fish for information. "I was concerned by the fact the barrier's power diminishes once you leave."
That's a no then. Though even in the missions Sasuke accompanies them to bring biters to the entertainment of the people in Woodbury, the governor doesn't come.
"The biters only realize Woodbury is there, they still can't trespass the barrier I made."
"It still worries the people inside who sees them lurking when you're not here."
"As if you really care, governor," Sasuke mocks, before he stands up. "Don't forget that your act doesn't work with me. I already informed you; my part of the deal is done. Just keep yours."
Not waiting an answer, Sasuke turns around, an easy genjutsu to disappear at ready. Perhaps a bit dramatic but infuriate others is what he has to let out some steam without causing damage lately.
"You and I aren't so different," the governor says, stopping him from continuing. "I can see it in your eyes; how you sought control, how you are barely holding it yourself. You haven't said anything about my daughter to the others. But I have to wonder, it really is to have the upper hand, or it is because you would have done the same?"
Itachi's small smile while being under the Edo Tensei comes into his memory without permission and his shoulders tense slightly. He can feel the palm of his right hand tingling as his eyes change into the purple and red combination. He glances over his shoulder, meets the governor's gaze.
"Don't ever compare me to you," he snarls, face twisting into something ugly and disgusted before he shunshin's away from the room.
It is later when he's jumping through trees with the morning light and the small bag he carries over his shoulders whenever he leaves, that he thinks in the governor's words. Because it's those times, when Sasuke is alone in his room or taking one of those trips the governor still thinks are for supplies that he ponders about how the world he's currently in reassembles what he wants to create in his own world. There's a common enemy lurking, always close and dangerous, making the people suspicious, as they sharp themselves, never letting forget that without being prepared, they'd die.
However, instead of unite them against a common cause, it has made them wary of the unknown, highlighting the faults mistrust can cause when survival is the only thing that matters. Morals are lost and like in the first days of Academy people close into the small groups they've first formed, not all that brave to go into another one or let others in.
It's worse than the Academy, of course. The fear makes it worse and it's clear to see it from an outside perspective.
Sasuke wants to think that under him it would be different. He would be able to herd and mold them into what he wants. A world without corruption and people like his brother than are used as scapegoats for the ones in control to retain their power.
There won't a governor in his world to take advantage of people weak wills.
But that's not true, isn't it? How many people like the Governor are there in his world who would act the same? How many 'governors' would there really be?
The governor disgusts him, so why hasn't he killed him yet? Is it because he understands his twisted motives of always wanting to be in control even if he doesn't like it?
"You and I aren't so different."
The branch he steps on cracks at the misbalance on his chakra but Sasuke is already jumping onto another sturdier one before it gives in under him. He stops, takes a map from his bag and opens it. It's filled with red dots and blue lines. Parts he's already searched and others with too many biters. He's been searching the surroundings from where the portal opened but so far there's been nothing coming up.
Though the last place he went had a town with a library that wasn't surrounded by those beings and he's discovered democracy by rummaging through the aisles.
It sounded like an answer from what little he's been able to understand. There are more ideologies and he really just wishes to sit and read, but it's already Sunday and the sun is starting to hide. He doesn't want to run when it's dark so the book about this world's politics rest heavy inside his bag alongside two other more.
He sighs, curls the toes of his feet that feel constricted insider the boots he now wears and readies for another jump.
"Come on, bambi, look up," he hears someone mutter, stopping him dead on his tracks. The sounds comes from far away and it's only thanks to his sharp senses that he manages to even pick it up. Then there's the sound of a projectile being thrown before it smacks flesh. Sasuke jumps somewhere near when the unmistakable sound of an animal dying reaches him.
He hides behind leaves and sees a man holding a weapon walking towards the bleeding doe. He's gruff looking as the few people not from Woodbury that he's seen are. There's another smaller man with a cap following with similar slanted eyes as his own. He's smiling as he looks at the wounded animal, two dead squirrels on his hold.
"We're lucky, this will lasts us for two days at least."
The gruff man grunts as he starts lifting the doe and with a practiced ease he bleeds him out, opens the soft belly and takes the insides to then put them inside a bucket the smaller man carries, ignoring the look of utter disgust the other gives him.
"… I seriously don't think Beth gave me the bucket for that."
"We're close. Carol can make some soup with them. Let's go."
The smaller man nods absently, resignation written all over his face. "Probably for the better. Hershel says Lori's date is close. The baby could pop out any moment now. Better to save the meat for when that happens."
"You talk too much."
Sasuke ignores any more of their conversation and glances at the path that would take him to Woodbury before looking towards both men are leaving. He probably shouldn't bother following but they're not that far from Woodbury, a couple hours at best, and they seem to be from a settled group.
His fingers trace lightly the fabric of the bag by his side before he lets out a soft exhale. Sasuke then follows the two figures from above.
Being silent comes easily and even if the trees aren't as strong as they were in his world and he has to stay on top of some as he waits for them to advance, he still manages to not break any more branches.
It's an hour after, that Sasuke hears commotion ahead. The others below him don't notice but they still seem to know that danger is close. It makes him know that the place where their group must be staying is one surrounded by biters.
With a slight bend of knees, Sasuke jumps to another tree, this time aiming for a higher place. He follows the noise until the forest recedes and then building the trees hides is revealed.
"It's a more secure place than Woodbury," Sasuke mutters as soon as he sees it. The fences are a flimsy protection but the walls of the buildings inside are sturdy and the place seems easy to protect.
A quick recollection of the books he's read to understand better this world makes him know that what he's seeing is a prison as it doesn't seem like a place run entirely by military.
The beings that surround the place seem to have noticed the two men he left behind as they start moving towards them. The people he's noticed are behind the fences but outside the buildings notice as well; they ready their weapons.
Sasuke has an idea of what's going to happen so he doesn't linger, choosing instead to inspect better the place; look for another entrances and weak points.
It's not until he's almost on the posterior part that he finds a liability. Part of one of the biggest buildings is partly destroyed, along with the fence. There is as great amount of biters wandering, but most seem to be inside. Only a couple are close of the bundlers.
He could use the hole to go inside without the people inside knowing. It would be easy to stick to the ceiling and go to the building they're using ads living quarters. Killing them would offer him a secured place, but... He can make seals like I'm Woodbury to protect it from biters and even humans. He can construct traps to hunt and make the entrance harder. He can turn the place into a fortress.
However, make the electricity work, turn the ground into fertile soil, clean and organize everything in place: make the place habitable? That wouldn't be easy. He remembers his genin days doing C-ranks and while not difficult, they were strenuous jobs. Though what he learnt while doing them will now be helpful with restoring the place. However, while Sasuke knows he can do it even if he recognizes it would be an arduous job to do, it would still be a waste of time when there are people here that could aid him.
Why do it when there are volunteers already working on them?
It's always good to have a backup plan. And a safe house is even better.
Looking up at the sky, he sees it's already late. It's not really cold, however, and there's a nice roof above the building hidden from prying eyes that he could use to sleep. So, nodding to himself, he jumps while he takes some paper and ink from his bag, a simple seal already in his mind. This place is not that far from Woodbury but it would still do good to have it tagged, that way he would be able to always find it.
There was something captivating about how the sun slowly came to be in the sky, with its light, warmth colors and lazy ascend. The sounds surrounding the trees increasing steadily even in the middle of the cold of winter, leaves looking sad and dead but not as much as they did when he came into this world. The days are getting longer, a sign of spring being near, if the similarities between their worlds also follows the stations.
Kurama, even with the desperation filling his chest, still takes his time to watch the dawn, almost religiously, every day. He finds solace in its view, though perhaps it's the beast in him, the one that is a fox as well as a being made of chakra, who makes him awake at early hours, just to catch some sight of the rising sun in the same way the patches of light across the ground in cold weather turns him drowsy and lazy with its warmth, making him yearn to not have a goal to pursue so he could just lay and rest, let the nice heat caress his fur.
However, he knows that even if he tried to reach that comfort, he won't be able to truly enjoy it, so it's better to not let his thoughts dwell in them. Not now.
Perhaps when he finds Naruto and can assure himself of his health with his own eyes and senses, he will be able to enjoy the benefits of what being outside a human offers. Before the whole jinchuriki ordeal came into the human's minds, he used to pass the time in clearings, surrounded by trees similar to the one he currently is, just lying on the grass, napping. Those didn't have the noise he finds now in nature, though that most likely was caused by the anger and hatred his own chakra possessed, scaring the animals away. Now, that he has, shall he dare say it, mellowed, and malice doesn't to him like a second skin, no one is scared of him anymore.
It probably helps that he's not as big as an apartment complex, too.
"Do I want to ask why you're sulking to that beetle?"
Eyes not leaving the small insect who is being bold enough to try to rest on his ears, he glances up at Tyresse, "I'm not the one who is suicidal enough to not recognize a predator when it sees it. That's why I hate insects."
His sister, who has been packing behind them, lifts her head up, "Hate is a strong word, isn't it? Some hate a specific one or two, but all insects?"
Snapping his teeth at the flying monster, Kurama growls, "They remind me of a younger sister. She's an energetic annoyance on a good day."
He sees the siblings exchanging a look. "Your… 'sister' reminds you of an insect?"
"She is a seven tailed beetle."
"… Of course. That's reasonable."
Kurama stands when the beetle finally flies away. He looks at Tasha before his eyes go to where the others have finished packing. "Is everyone ready?"
He receives a nod as an answer and with little else to add, he turns around, showing his back, to carry the heaviest bag. The car stopped working two days ago and they've been reduced to walk. Kurama is not weak anymore and has gained some height, so he's being doing anything he can to hurry their slow pace. He knows that he currently would have better chances at searching alone, but he also accepts that Sophia needs companionship from others like her. Since he can remember, humans have worked better in communities. They're a weak specie that gains from forming numbers, unlike himself.
Thus he stays, because anytime that he seriously considers leaving, he only has to look at her resolute stance and bright determined eyes to make his resolution crumble. He just knows that if he leaves her and Naruto finds out, he would look at him with disappointed eyes. The boy is quick to anger but, while he can deal with his temper, is his disappointment usually laced with understanding that is the hardest to deal.
Probably is because of the itch so similar to guilt he feels whenever the humans he finds himself surrounded with ask for a rest, that when he catches an annoyingly familiar scent his irritation only growls, making his fur stand to no end and tense the muscles underneath, making his posture go as tight as string.
"Stand up. Rest is over."
Ben, who was leaning against a tree, groans. "Can you give us a couple minutes? We've been walking for hours, you know?"
His face is covered with an arm. He hasn't seen how strung he is, hasn't heard his warning.
Adam snorts. "Not to complain, but the Ben's right. If we're going to encounter some walkers, we need to at least be able to run."
"Dad's with me, see?"
"I said stand up, everyone!" he snaps and that does it. Ben immediately grabs his weapon, as does everyone else before moving closer to each other until their backs are at arm length. The humans are no longer afraid of him but there's still certain wariness he senses on them that has not yet faded. Still, they trust his instincts. It has saved them a couple times now.
"A horde?" Tasha asks.
"No. Something worse," he growls, his head turning from side to side, before tilting it upwards. "Grab your bags."
"Then what's wrong?" Sophia asks, voice slightly breathless from moving too quickly to go for the long metal stick she now carries.
"Him," he says, pointing up at the branch of a tree where not a second later that cursed Uchiha appears, legs slightly bent and eyes as disinterested as they always are. Though there's a tiny smirk on his lips now, more amused than surprised.
"Don't look at him in the eyes. Never look at him in the eyes," he growls, not heading his own advice and meeting the Uchiha's gaze.
Sasuke scoffs. "Why would I waste the sharingan on weak people I can easily kill without it?"
"Sadistic pleasure? That sounds right up your kind alley."
"My kind? Wouldn't that be yours? Not that you would be able to do much in your current form, of course. You're so small."
"Small in comparison of your ego? Even in my real form I would still be small, brat."
There's a thick forming on Sasuke's eyebrow, similar to the way it formed when he was young and still on team seven. "Considering all of you can be compressed into some seal so easily?"
"I know, it sucks. Wish we could have done the same with all your family. Less egomaniacal bastards hell-bent in world domination all around."
The air is heavy and thick around them.
Kurama clenches his teeth, but doesn't answer to the taunt. He can sense the anger boiling from Sasuke because of his words. Kurama has gained a good reign of his anger in comparison to before, unlike Sasuke who drowns in it. He could easily make him snap with a few choice of words. Sasuke knows this, too, Kurama can see it in the way he stands and looks just a hair away from battle.
But they both know nothing will be gain from it. They, sadly, need each other to go back. And Naruto.
That doesn't mean he will trust an Uchiha, of course. So he sighs and looks away. He wants to think he's the mature one in this conversation, but that glimpse he catches in the Uchiha's eyes is satisfaction and that grates his nerves.
"Let's cut the crap, brat. We need each other, so we'll have to wait until we can try to kill each other." He lets out an exasperated breath. "I don't trust you, but I'm sure you know Naruto does. So we'll have to wait until one of us finds him so we can have him as buffer, because the way I see it, without him, we'll try to kill each other."
Sasuke stares intently at him for long seconds. His eyes don't morph into the sharingan but Kurama can see a speck of red in them. It's not reassuring.
The fog of dull emotions recedes from the Uchiha, a soft exhalation escaping through his nose. He gives a glance to the others before saying, "Go straight from where I came from until you reach a stream. Follow it until you reach the chakra signatures. Go to them. They're inside a fortress like place. Use it as a base for them while you search for Naruto."
The 'Ditch them' is pretty clear in his words. Considering he hasn't acknowledged his companions, aside that calculating first glance all shinobis give to determine the treat level one has, it's not so hard to guess though.
Kurama can practically taste the offense radiating from the people behind him. But he won't raise an issue of it. Is not the time for it, so he accepts the offer for what it is.
"And what about you, brat?"
"I'll check periodically. And if I find him, I'll led him there."
"I suggest to not use any overpowered technique or sage mode if you know it, the natural energy here isn't friendly," he says, mostly because he doesn't like feeling like he's owing him something to an Uchiha, even if it's information he may or may not use. "If you find Naruto first, beware of emotional outbursts."
The usual Uchiha grunt is his answer. He then looks up to the sky, posture shifting slightly for a jump. "Don't destroy the place, fox."
"Don't go mind raping people, freaky eyes."
There's a hint of a smirk as the Uchiha's eyes flash red, pinwheels spinning.
"Don't look," Kurama mutters, but nothing happens. The Uchiha jumps to another branch soundlessly, only taking him a couple seconds for him to be away from sight.
Kurama follows him with his senses until that fog of apathy is easy to ignore. There's a conversation already starting. Not loud as they unconsciously talk in whispers, trying to decide if the brat's words are real. Adam's words are mostly annoyed grumbles and Tyresse is even doubtful.
"Nine," Sasha finally says. "You know him better, what do you think?"
Kurama looks over his shoulder, his eyes not looking at her but at Sophia standing close, taking into account her disheveled state, strands of hair stuck to her sweat covered forehead and clothes already too dirty for comfort. Her eyes are slightly sunken, cheeks sharper than before because of the lack of current meals, body thin but strong. She's no longer the kid he has found a little more than a month ago; someone who barely could take care of herself. Still a child but a resilient one.
He looks at the others and sees the same. They're tired and want to rest for at least one night without having to always wonder if they'll be safe. Sasuke's attitude hasn't sold it in their minds, but they want to believe. And that's the problem, isn't it? Hope is a dangerous weapon, worse than any physical pain could sometimes be.
He remembers people being kind to Naruto when he was very young, offering discounts on stores and candies when he entered looking hesitant and afraid. He remembers Naruto giving bright smiles after buying, a skip on his step that spoke of innocent naivety. He remembers him returning with a grin, eyes alight with happiness, a hand held out for a greeting and an enthusiastic shout of 'Hi, mister!' only to receive cold eyes and disgusting realization.
"We're not attending," the person would say with a harsh tone, fear palpable on the way they gripped their broom. "Go away."
Rinse and repeat. Once, two, three and more times more. But not that much. Word quickly spread when there's fear empowering it.
"The demon boy has bright blonde hair," they would whisper, not loud enough for Naruto to catch but Kurama did. "It has whisker marks, the marks of the fox."
Kurama remembers wishing the seal holding him was not so tight, wishing he could be able to let more of his chakra outside it so he could enhance his jinchuriki's ears, enough for Naruto to always hear what they all whispered of him. To crush that hope that always manifested when he met someone knew.
He now hates that self and is so glad his plans never succeeded. Not that it would have done anything if they had as it wasn't long before rumors spread and every adult in Konoha knew what Naruto looked like.
Yet, the hope a young Naruto always felt, only to be soon crushed was more painful than the name calling and avoidance did to him.
Can he give someone hope? Can he give them that when he was not so sure of the outcome himself? Sasuke may be one of Naruto's precious people but his history of betraying others isn't exactly sparkly clean.
He probably wouldn't bother, if they all were adults. But he looks at Sophia and sees the confidence she has on him. The same he and his siblings gave Naruto when they put their trust on him.
Perhaps if the kid didn't have blue eyes. Perhaps if Sophia didn't have blond hair.
The wrong shade, the wrong texture, but—
"I'll go check. You can rest in the meantime."
"I'm faster," he answers Donna in a way of explanation. Taking a last glance to Sophia, he adds, "I'll be back soon."
He then leaves without giving them more. The sounds of the start of a conversation becoming distant with each step he takes. He runs until he reaches the stream before turning left, following the current.
It's twenty minutes after leaving that he halts. He hasn't picked any signature yet, but he has a familiar scent near. It's faint and just barely there, but at least not gone. He can help but be glad it hasn't rained for a couple days; he wouldn't have noticed otherwise.
Fifteen minutes later of top-speed running following his nose, he comes across a couple of dead walkers. There are a couple of broken makeshift arrows going through their heads. He sniffs. A slow smirk forming. While the scent is not the same as the stuffed doll Sophia still carries around had, it smells similar to the blankets they found on top of the car. The stuff Sophia's group left for her was full of different scents and he memorized all in case he could find some to interrogate about Sophia's mother.
What were the odds? He asks himself as he walks the last steps to where the sounds of grunts and moaning is coming from. I've found the group.
Or part of them at least. They're across a fence that surrounds what looks like a small town. There are only a few he can see, but he senses more inside. He recognizes their smell too, slightly tangy because of the sweat and lack of proper cleaning, but strong in the way the trail he found weeks ago on that car wasn't.
Kurama smiles, because now it's not only empty hopes he can give. The place is big and more like a fortress than he assumed from the Uchiha's words.
He can work with that.
Kurama turns around and leaves the place.
It doesn't matter how many missions he's had in which he had to travel for long distances, surviving with little food and water; always following a routine and fitting certain roles. It doesn't matter how being outside, walking or running, has become more of a second nature to him. Because, it doesn't matter how much time passes, he doesn't think he'd ever think less gloriously of that first shower after spending so long without them. Seeing all the grime pooling on the tiles that is always there on his body even when one tries so hard to be clean among nature. Dry skin being thoroughly scratched until it turns red and healthier feels like paradise. Trading fingers across clean, soft hair makes an exhale of pure bliss leave his lips.
Showers are glorious.
He doesn't stop the content hum echoing the small room that leaves him. Everyone is awake so he's not worried of waking anyone up like he was yesterday night with Clementine being the first to shower and the first to fall asleep. Michonne was the last, though it took some convincing from their part. By the time it was Naruto's turn, Andrea and Clem were already enjoying the bed. Naruto knew how he got while showering after a long absence of it, so with a resigned sigh and a curse at how close the bathroom was to the room, he took the floor to sleep on.
Now though, with being able to clean himself properly, Naruto can let some of the weight he's been carrying fall from his shoulders. A weight he hasn't known was still there. Although… how long has it been since he last showered? A day before he went to fight fourth shinobi war? A week before all the whole ordeal blew up on their faces? How long has he been running from one mission to another; worry after worry?
The war has only lasted close to a month, but they barely had tents to sleep at night, showering was nigh impossible. A quick water technique was enough to clean the sweat from the body as to not alert the enemy of their presence even if they hadn't know exactly if the white zetsu or the Edo Tensei shinobi were able to smell them. A month, then? That doesn't sound right though. It's been longer. So much longer since he returned home. Practically months in which fighting, running and just plain surviving had been his only thoughts. Then he's came to this world and had to worry about how to return home while trying to ignore the loneliness of his situation. Luckily, he's met new people to befriend and while, he worries constantly about their safety, teaching them whatever can be used of help is not so hard. Especially while he's also able of learning everything he can about this new world he finds himself in.
It's not been hard to him, though he admits keeping watch at nights while leaving them to rest more hasn't been of good to his health. But he can't whine about it; he's the one bursting with energy, after all. He can easily survive with only four hours of sleep a day, unlike them. They're strong, he doesn't deny it, but they're still civilians and he's a shinobi. His job is full of danger and used to this kind of things. And although being a shinobi makes one used to certain things that are so far from the level of normality is not even funny, it's also the same mindset that takes as important things others ignore while classifying as weird or unimportant things most wouldn't.
Like enjoying a simple shower for the wonderful experience that it is.
The water is cold like the room, but as he lets his forehead rest against the wet tiles and breathes in, he can feel some peace flowing through him. The energy of nature around him easily accepts his half-assed meditation attempt and welcomes him as one of his own. His mind is clear of concerns for the first time in a long and he can feel some type of closure is happening. One he hasn't realized he needed to do.
Kaguya is sealed alongside Zetsu. The Nine Tailed Beasts are free. Madara is gone, too. The Edo Tensei are free to return to their rest.
The war in his world is over.
Yes, the war is over, he accepted this long ago, but for some reason it now feels more real. This changes of atmosphere makes it clear for some reason. And while there were a great number of injured, even with all he did to help them by shrouding them with Kurama's chakra, he's not really anxious to search for a solution to return to the Elemental Nations. Not really. It doesn't mean he won't do his best to return—because he will.
Yet… he can find into himself to be worried because, well, his friends are there. He's concerned about their safety, of course, but he trusts them to be fine and do well.
And isn't that the wonderful thing about friendship?
He doesn't know how it works in this world but he's sure that the bond one forms while fighting is one of the strongest. Because believing in the strength of others to watch one's back takes a great deal of trust. And he trusts a lot of people in his own world. In the same way they trusted their future to him, he trusts them to build something from the ruins of the war.
"The war is over," he repeats again, this time out loud in a whisper, a couple drops falling inside his mouth. There's a sob forming in his throat, but it doesn't feel like sorrow. Being clean just feels really nice. He's a shinobi and while is an unspoken rule to enjoy always the simple things, that particular notion has always been true to him. He remembers being in a small cubicle, cold water similar to the one he's showering with, falling on his body. He remembers a small bar of soap being left for him to use and remembers all the times spend trying to learn how to use it to clean himself. All the times he took advantage of the water to silently cry while the other kids showered in the stalls far from his own.
He remembers the first time showering in his apartment and feeling the unfamiliar warm water.
But he's a jinchuriki; he's never had the option of being normal unlike others. That's maybe why he never questioned why children had to start so young in their lessons to be a ninja like some civilians do, because he understands that to be a shinobi one must have a special mindset, because being a shinobi is a lifestyle. Shinobi's life is a dangerous thing, but it's his lifestyle. And being in this strange world makes him miss it. He misses the weird quirks every shinobi has, misses the adrenaline that killing a walker doesn't give. He misses letting his hotheaded temper shine through without receiving looks of surprised fright. He even misses how easy is for bickers to turn into something that would look violent and totally unsafe, but are only friendly spars.
He misses his friends. The ones he made in Konoha and the ones he made while fighting the war. He knows he gives his trust too quickly and easily but he can't feel bad about it; Naruto consider them all his family. Everyone deserves to be given trust. Everyone deserves to not be lonely. Everyone deserves to be loved and if he's the only one to give it completely, then he will. He made a promise to return and see what they've made and he wants to show what he's learnt. And he knows his family, the one he made for himself, will wait for him, because he's sure they will believe in him to do it in the same way he believes on them.
A smile blooms on his face. Excitement and longing twirls inside of him. He stands upright, a not so quiet 'Believe it!' leaving his lungs. He shuts the water off with a laugh in time to hear Clementine calling his name. He cleans some of the tears that's formed with the back of his hand and grabs the towel.
"What's up?" he says as soon as he opens the door. Clementine startles but recovers quickly. She's holding his jacket.
"Your clothes," she says, her eyes dubiously glancing at his naked chest. "You won't try to wear them like Michonne, right?"
Naruto doesn't bother to glancing at the dark skinned woman sitting on one of the beds. He knows she only used the clothes the governor gave them to sleep just because Andrea washed hers as soon she entered the shower. It's not totally dry but she's stubborn enough to wear them. Naruto only hopes she doesn't get sick.
"Don't worry, Clem. I'm not like Mich here." He receives a grunt but he ignores it; his attention is on the clothes on Clementine's hands. His shirt is dry unlike the rest, but his jacket is dry enough. So he puts them on before returning to the bathroom for the underwear and jeans one of the soldiers gave him.
"We'll be going," Michonne says as soon as Naruto steps out of the bathroom for the second time.
Andrea rolls her eyes. "The governor said they would return our stuff after we left."
"Are we leaving or not?"
"Oi! Wait for me! Clem, stop Michonne. I want breakfast, too, damnit." Naruto secures the tags with all his shuriken and kunai firmly on his wrists before he follows Andrea, and Clementine Michonne outside, a guard trailing back.
"This is…" Andrea trails off as soon as someone opened the door for them. Naruto is still too far behind to make out what she's seeing but he doesn't need to ask Andrea about her awed tone; Naruto has been able to feel the energy signatures around him when he showered, after all.
"… I've never seen so many people," she whispers, Clementine silently nodding next to her. Michonne doesn't say anything, but Naruto can sense she's anxious.
Andrea goes to the closest person, a woman that soon introduces herself as Chloe, and asks about the place. She's nice enough to answer and even follows them to the building the governor told them go, but Naruto can easily know why she's done so. He can feel the eyes of the people surrounding them on him—their curiosity. It makes him wonder how the gossip works in Woodbury for them to already know he's Sasuke's friend.
It also makes him wonder what kind of impression Sasuke's made because they seem honestly baffled with the honest smiles and friendly waves he gives to everyone. Naruto huffs, tilting his head to the side to see the two small figures approaching to their position. Three seconds later, two girls appear around the corner of a house, one clearly dragging along the other.
Naruto slows his pace. Nodding at the two girl's direction when Michonne looks at him.
"Hi, my name's Naruto," he says when they're close. One's clearly more interested to see him than the other one.
"Are you really Uchiha's friend?" the older one asks ignoring the exasperated 'Lizzie!' coming from the other one. The smallest one turns to him. "I'm sorry, Lizzie's just curious."
"No problem. I approve of enthusiasm. I'm all for it." He nods sagely at them and grins. "So, she's Lizzie, what about you?"
The girl tilts her head slightly down. "My name's Mika."
Lizzie let's Mika's arm go and steps closer, her brows furrowing close as she inspects him. Naruto tilts his head to the side and lets her. The girl is curious, he can sense that, but there's something unique about her emotions. They're kind of muted and dull, apathetic. It reminds him of Sasuke somewhat. His former teammate also feels like that when there's nothing to raise the torrent of emotions that sometimes floods from him.
It hurts when he sees it. And it must hurt Sasuke, too. To have that storm of feelings, mostly negative, raising into something uncontrollable and wild—controlling his actions and making him into something that's not entirely him. Having to feel all that when his normal day to day spectrum is muted must be truly awful.
Naruto wonders if this girl is like that, too. Does she know how to distinguish her own emotions? Has she felt truly happiness or sadness? Does she even know what they are? Has her emotions piqued into something far away from her control, making her question what's wrong with her?
He remembers crying while not knowing why. Remembers touching his tears, asking himself if that's what sadness felt like. But he used to always feel that void inside him, like hunger but not quite; like an itch he couldn't scratch to relieve himself. Growing and growing until it was more like desperation. The kind that makes one want to scream and not stop. But muted. As if the energy to do it wasn't entirely there.
That was before though. Now he grins at Lizzie and lets her inspect him, Mika practically oozing exasperation and secondhand embarrassment at her side. Her eyes linger on the empty pouch tied on his leg and the necklace he wears before she meets again his gaze.
"So, are you really friends?"
Naruto's head throws back as he laughs, his whole body shaking with amusement. Mika's face is gold.
It takes five whole seconds to calm himself. He nods, his grin perhaps a little too wide. It does nothing to Lizzie but it seems to make Mika relax. "Yeah, we are. The bastard will most likely deny it until he's blue but we go way back." He chuckles a bit. "You actually remind me of him."
That does seem to get a spike of emotion from her: surprise.
"Really?" Mika asks, her voice full of disbelief.
Naruto can feel the attention of the people around them. Chloe turns slightly to hear better and even their guard seems to pay attention.
He really wants to know what kind of impression Sasuke has made. It probably isn't pretty.
He ignores them all and shrugs. "Not in the way you think of. Sasuke was an ass even when we were kids. Probably more of an ass. Now he's most likely to ignore everyone so his bastardness isn't shown as much."
"And I remind you of him?"
He frowns. He shouldn't speak about his abilities with all these people around already suspicious of him. They're guarded and distrustful, some even downright spiteful, but it's obvious Sasuke already made a reputation. Naruto has his friends to think of, too. Wariness isn't so bad in a healthy dose.
"I said not in the way you think of," he says with a light tap on her scrunched nose. "Your emotions are similar look. Oi, don't put that face. I mean, for example, one's curiosity is kind of yellowish. Bright yellowish. But yours and Sasuke's are, uh, a whiter yellow? Like a really, really soft yellow."
It's clear on her face she doesn't understand.
"Gah! Why I'm so bad at explaining things?!" In one fluid movement, he sits down with his legs crossed in front of the two girl. He shows her his right hand and lights his fingers with Kurama's chakra. The girl takes a light step back, but his rambling comes to fast for any panic to settle. "Okay, look. I can sense other's people emotions. Curiosity is this color. Kind of. It changes with other emotions." He makes the light go softer until it's almost white. The fire-like look turns into something more like water. It's actually hard to do it with his current control, but, well. "See how it's now? That's how yours looks like. More like water than fire. Sasuke's kinda of like that, too."
He puts the chakra away, but Lizzie's gaze is still fixed on his hand. As is Mika's, though she quickly looks up at him. "You can see people's emotions?"
"Uh, not exactly?" Naruto crosses his arms and tilt his head from one side to the other. Michonne, Andrea and Clementine had asked him about it, but they mostly shrugged it off as one his especial quirks. He couldn't explained it then and he can't explain it now, but he is more of an action type of guy anyways. He lifts both of his palms up. "I can show you."
Naruto has practiced with that sharing emotions thing to know he can expand it to not only the mark the Sage left him, which doesn't seem to be able to turn off so his mark is always giving his emotions away, but to both of his hands too. Something tells him he might be able to do it with his whole body without needing to turn into Bijuu mode. He doesn't think it would help him on fights but maybe that was what the Old Gramps Sage wanted to achieve by sharing chakra with all. He remembers he said something about connecting with others.
Ninshu, was it?
Lizzie smiles, instantly taking the hand that lit with chakra between her fingers, seemingly not caring of Mika trying to pull her arm away. She gasps when their skin meets and her grip tightens.
Naruto feels the already tense atmosphere thicken, though there isn't as much surprise as he's thought it would be. It's more like they were already expecting him to pull something weird. It's not reassuring.
"What's that?" she asks, something like wonder in her tone.
He ignores everyone, a small laugh escaping past his lips as he leans closer. "That's happiness."
She uses both hands. One to hold his and the other to poke his skin. The curiosity is there again, but there's something like incredulity, too. "Really?"
"Well, that's how my happiness feels like. Andrea's like a pleasant buzz and Clem's more like tickles. Everyone's feels a little different so it's hard to explain. You should sense Michonne's anger! It's all cold and terrifying, like being suddenly splashed with snow. Hard snow." He turns his head to see a scowling Michonne and gives her a nervous thumb up. "But she's really awesome!"
Lizzie's still playing with his hand. This time Mika's even approaching a poking at his other one. "It's warm," she murmurs with a smile.
"How do I feel, then?"
He blinks at Lizzie. "Uh, softer I guess? You probably feel everything that way, too. Kind of distant like? Dunno about you but Sasuke's happiness feels kind of the flame of a candle? Not enough to warm but enough to light some place. With a smug undertone, of course. He wouldn't be him without it."
Lizzie hums in agreement, as if she understands what he's trying to say even if he really, really sucks at explaining. Though she probably does as he catches something like insecurity in her. It's feeble, like her emotions and easily to shrug off as indifference, but it's there. He probably wouldn't have recognized for what it is without the time he has around Sai and Sasuke. It's mixed with curiosity and longing as she continues to touch his hand.
"It's nostalgia, I think. I told you, didn't I? You remind me of Sasuke. And another friend of mine, too. He was also an ass. Loyal and very brave, but still an utter ass."
"So you really are friends."
Naruto gives Mika a look. "Okay, seriously, what has that bastard done? Has he been an ass to you? Just tell me and I'll kick that stick shoved up where the sun doesn't—"
He turns to Andrea and sticks his tongue out, but he stands. Mika lets him go, but Lizzie takes his hand as soon as she can and doesn't let go.
"He hasn't done anything to us, but we usually help Rowan to pass the water."
"Pass the water?"
"After the classes are done," Mika adds with a cheeky smile. "The grown ups can barely walk."
He laughs and pats her head, once again ignoring the fact that most people are trying to subtly follow. Chloe isn't even bothering to talk.
"I can't picture you two hugging," Lizzie says from nowhere, frowning.
Naruto blinks. "What?"
"Well, you will see each other again, right? Don't you hug?"
"I kinda like my limbs where they are, thank you."
"Aren't you friends?" Lizzie looks at him like he's weird. "What will you do then?"
"Dunno? Hopefully he won't try to kill me. Though now that I think about it, most of our meetings go with him trying to kill me while I try to knock some sense on him. It always end in destruction. But, who knows? Maybe this time we won't need a doctor."
Andrea chuckles. "You should hug him then. That will surprise him."
"And kill me, too." He huffs, looking away from her with his nose up. "You won't bandage me later, so."
"I will, then," Clementine says. "If you're friends then you should show it. You haven't seen in so long, right?"
It's obvious he hasn't been able to really show Sasuke's personality through the stories he has told them. But, they've a point. It'd be pretty funny. Picturing Sasuke's face at telling him what he'll try to do makes him laugh, the real thing would be better.
"Okay then. I'll do it. I'll hug the lights out of Sasuke!" He smirks, giving a nice guy pose with his free hand. He then suddenly turns to Clementine. "But you'll bandage me, right?"
The giggles of the girls around him makes worth his possible death and lightens the tense atmosphere of those around him as they walk to the governor's house. It certainly makes the path shorter.
With a promise to see Lizzie and Mika when Sasuke's class starts, he waves at the ones that followed them. They have the decency to look sheepish.
"Wish me luck!" he shouts before entering the building. He can sense some amusement in the people around him.
He greets the governor with a smile. Andrea and Clementine following suit, while Michonne's barely graces him with a glance. She's more concentrated in looking to their surroundings, or maybe her sword. There's no many people, after all. There's a man wearing glasses that looks nervous and slightly afraid around his person who the governor introduces as Milton. The woman called Rowan in one corner is more curious of him, in a positive way he wants to think. She probably spends more a lot time around Sasuke. The other, and last, is also a man called Shumpert standing on the corner opposite to the woman's.
After introductions are done, they sit. The two guards, Shumpert and Rowan, remain standing as the governor places plates with fried eggs in front of them. He's talking about something, but Naruto's not paying attention. He's looking at wall he knows obscures his view to the entrance they came from their first time here.
"Naruto?" Clementine asks. It's then when Naruto realizes he's standing. He quickly takes off his jacket and tightens his Konoha headband.
"Sasuke's here," he finally answers.
A/N2. Another thing before I forget. I've been told that the next chapter is slightly... gay. Not to be offensive or anything! I know that there are probably better words to describe the next chapter's scenes between Sasuke and Naruto, but the only word that comes to mind is 'mawkish' or 'schmaltzy'and not everyone knows it. So yeah, mawkish is a perfect word, because apparently trying to do the Talk-no-Jutsu without fighting comes out pretty mawkish looking.
Because of that, it comes out my next question: now that the outline is practically a newborn, does anyone has any pairings in mind? I wanted to make this story gen, but Sasuke and Naruto's weird mawkish bromance gave me the idea to give some space for romance in this story-maybe some romantic interest between new and old characters will be good? It won't ocupy all the story, of course but hey, give me good reasons and I can see if I can add it.
Naruto and Sasuke will remain bros. Their relationship is kind of gay, but the best friendships are. Though, who knows? My story likes to surprise me.
And this author note has grown too much. So, bye!