The smell of honeyed milk, summer rain and jasmine evaporated from his senses, leaving nothing but the odour of moss, dusty stone and damp earth to assault his nose. Sasuke's eyes snapped open at the loss, his hand automatically going to grab at the body that was beside him. Yet, his hand touched stone slab and nothing more. Gone. He sat up so fast the world tilted on its axis for a split moment, his legs unsteady underneath his sudden weight when he scrambled to a stand.
The campfire was out, nothing but cindering ash in the pit, casting the cavernous room of the decaying Uchiha hideout in looming shadows. Still, his eyes searched and for one lurid moment, he thought he had dreamt it all. The fight, Itachi, his twin, nothing but a dream-scape's torturing. He, unfortunately, was no stranger to nightmares, nor dreams so pure and real that when you awoke, the real world became the dreaded torment. Then he saw it. A silhouette standing in the open doorway to the outside world, new born sunlight bathing them in warm yellows and soft oranges. Tall, lithe, barefoot and long hair down and blowing in the light breeze. He was standing behind Hari before he even knew he had moved at all.
Thought she was gone? She had never been here? Or perhaps she and Itachi had left, casting him to the same decay the very building they inhabited was rotting from? Perhaps it was all, either way, he could not bring himself to say any of it. Oh, he felt the words, so many, too many, right there, bubbling at the very top of his throat, and yet his tongue and lips were nothing but dead flesh, refusing to move or part. However, Hari picked up the slack, head turning to gaze over her shoulder as she heard his voice, though no doubt she had felt his presence slither in. She smiled then. It was crooked, dimpled, too toothy and a bit too large for her face and yet, Sasuke couldn't picture another smile as bright.
"I just needed some fresh air. My mind feels a little foggy."
His eyes traveled to the scar splitting down her forehead, highlighted by the morning sun, and he had never felt the burn of his own curse mark as deeply as he did then. They'd taken different paths, traveled different roads, who knew they would eventually end up on the same one? Worlds and oceans apart and yet so similar, reflections really, that their lives had played the same tragedies upon them both. Nonetheless, Sasuke had been gifted his, asked for his, Harri had hers inflicted upon her. What must she see when she looked at him? A demented version of a what-if her?
"We can rest here for a while. This hideout was abandoned decades ago, it will be some time before any think of searching this place for us."
In truth, it had been Itachi who had led them to this collapsing building in the dead of the night. It was the only sure spot where they would not be discovered for a while, it's location long forgotten along with the death of their clansmen. Even Sasuke had not known of its existence, a bitter corrosive feeling came when the knowledge hit that a part of his own clan was right under his nose in Otogakure this entire time and he had not known.
"Rest… Rest sounds nice."
Hari turned away from him to face back outside, and Sasuke took the final step to stand beside her. The back of his hand brushed hers, knuckles skimming knuckles, and tentatively, he wrangled his fingers through her own thin ones, threading them together as he came to hold her hand. He couldn't remember the last hand he had held, couldn't remember the last time he had initiated any sort of physical contact that did not end in violence. As if sensing his thoughts, he felt Hari's fingers tighten around his own hand, returning the hold in equal measure. Too much to say, not enough words to express, not enough air in his lungs. Yet, Hari surmised all those missing years, all the pain, all the questions and horrors into three simple words. Tight, locked, clicking and chocking with held back emotion.
"I missed you."
He remembered those young years, filled with innocence and delightful ignorance, pretending she was beside him, rattling about his day as if she could hear him. He remembered glancing over his shoulder, about to speak, only to find emptiness. Back then, he had so much to say and no chance to do so. Now he had all the chance and yet could not land on any one word. Feverishly, he remembered Hari's own memories. Her whispered stories while locked in her cupboard. Her glancing over her own shoulder, mouth parting, then clamping shut and he realised, she had fell into the same trap he had. He found his voice.
"I missed you too."
She nodded, hair ruffling, though her fingers never slacked. Instead, he found his own and hers tightening. After all, actions spoke louder than words. He didn't know how long they stood there, stagnant in the doorway, breathing in the breeze and the feel of warmth radiating off each other, warmth that really existed and was not a conjuring from their young minds. For once, if he turned to speak, she would really be there to listen. Hari shattered their little bubble of intrinsic peace with a question.
"Where is Itachi? I couldn't find him back there."
Sasuke's hand retreated from Hari's automatically at the mention of his brothers name, her grip letting him go easy enough, though she followed his movement with a jagged frown. He took a step back, away from the light, retreating to the shadows. Old habits died hard. Hari's shoulders grew stiff at his dismissive voice.
"He is out, keeping watch likely."
She did not follow him back into the room, though she did turn to fully face him, the light at her back almost giving her a halo. Her head cocked to the side and Sasuke's gaze fled from her. He had spent years, near on his entire life, hating Itachi. Loathing him. Dreading him. Missing him in some sick sort of way. That insidious hatred, that vile anger, it was hard to turn off, even with the truth now out and fluttering in the open. When you spent so long feeding your anger, becoming the hatred, it was hard to see or be anything but. In short, Sasuke didn't know how to turn it off, what he would be if he did, or if it was even possible any more. Hari's voice grew thin and spiney.
"Likely? How long has he been out there?"
Sasuke wondered over to the fire-pit, lighting the fresh logs he placed within the circle with a small fire Jutsu, his own porcelain skin flashing red as the fire burst to life. Still, he refused to make eye contact with Hari. From the hazy, horrid flashes he had seen of Hari's life, she was incapable of hatred, at least, the kind of hatred Sasuke had nurtured inside of himself since a young boy. She would not understand, wouldn't be able to fathom such a feeling.
"Since our arrival here yesterday evening."
In a way, it was both a curse and a blessing. Hari loved deep and hard. It was shown by her, albeit reluctant, but quick acceptance of Itachi's and Sasuke's own past. Even those pathetic, rancid people she had been housed with, Petunia and Vernon, was it? She did not hate them for their actions. She felt pity, underlined with a sad sort of poignant understanding. That snake man came the closest to ringing hatred out of her, and yet, that was still dampened down with sharp regret and a dose of empathy. Sasuke had made hatred his life, wrapped it around his marrow and aching bones for safety, Hari had made love hers, and in so, it was hard for them to meet in the middle.
"And you didn't think to swap watch? To wake me up so I could relieve him? Or to bring him a cloak? Sasuke… It has been raining for most of the night."
Sasuke's reply was tart and biting. Berries picked before their time.
"I took watch from within the building. I thought it best he stayed outside."
Away from you and the possibility of me waking up to another slaughtered family member. Sasuke pushed the voice back. He knew the truth now. He knew and yet, he still could not shake the images from his mind. His mother, father, clansmen's bodies strewn all over the compound, blood painting the white brick crimson, Itachi's eyes glowing in the dark. He had spent so long blaming him… How was he supposed to not do so anymore? He heard Hari sigh sadly.
"Honestly, Sasuke… I understand. I do. Trust is not given within hours, but to keep him outside in the rain? We cannot face Akatsuki, Orochimaru and Konoha while also facing each other. Aim that anger and hatred of yours at someone who deserves it, like Danzou. You will eventually have to give that trust over, or it will be the ruin of all of us and their victory."
Silenced rained down upon them and once again, with so much to say, Sasuke remained mute. He heard her sigh once more, swiveling back to the outside, beginning to stroll out of the door shoeless. Sasuke stood, voice hoarse and husky.
"Where are you going?"
She stopped in her tracks and he could see her fingers flex at her side, as if she was fighting to stop from clenching them into fists or to come back and hold his hand once more. By the tone of her voice, and when she turned her head to look at him from over her shoulder, he would guess it was the latter. There was no anger there, no indignation, just compassion, sorrow and a broken kind of conviction.
"To our brother who is hurting and aching just as much as we are."
Then she walked away from him. Sasuke swore, kicking one of the logs out of the fire, watching avidly as it hit the wall and exploded into sparks of orange and ruby, lighting up the scratched and warn Uchiha fan painted on the walls surface. He wandered over to it, ghosting his hand along the faded and flaking paint. How long had he dreamt of his family? Whole, united, happy? Yet, their home was gone. Mother, father, dead and buried.
Still… Itachi and Hari were just outside that door, still there. None of them were whole any longer, none of them were happy, not even close, not yet… But there was a chance to be. Step by step. Day by day. It was time to turn his face from the past and to look at the future. It was a new day, a new age, a new dawn for the Uchiha. His hatred would not be the cloud to block that sunrise.
"Are you done wasting time? We have work to do."
The male in question stood up from his crouched position in the clearing, plucking up a long lock of hair that must have been cut free from a shuriken or kunai. Black. Curly. Gotcha. He took a gander around the clearing, taking in the state. Broken trees, scuffed grass, and the odd Kunai laying on the floor here and there. A fight took place here, as well as the clearing just through the pass of trees to his right. Two… No, three people here, another three in the clearing to his side. Strong, and yet the fight had not escalated to devastation… Interesting. It meant he still had time to catch up.
"You have fucking work to do. I have something else. Something important."
He wondered over to the patch of blood soaked dirt, a small impression of a body indented upon it. Tall, long limbed. It fit the description and the dreams plaguing his mind, sent to him by his god. Find her, find her, find her, find her. The voice pulsed in time with his heart beat, with the chug and flow of his blood. Oh, he liked blood. He liked it a lot. A body had fallen there, bled out well enough to cause death within seconds, and yet, by the trampled grass by where it's feet would have landed, it had gotten right back up and carried on the fight.
Halle-fucking-lujah to that. He was finally on the right track. He had been too late to the coastline where he found her washed up shitty ship. He had been too late to the base she had destroyed. He was too late for this little skirmish... But he would not miss his chance a fourth time. The bastard behind him piped up, forcing him to roll his neck in agitation. The crunch of bone did nothing to ease his tension.
"If I leave you to your own devices, you'll either destroy a village or end up dismantled and buried six feet under. That means more work for me and no pay out."
He ignored the unimpressed man, a shark-esque grin lighting up his face as he held the lock of hair up, watching it glint blue in the mid-morning sun. So, the dreams had been right after all. He should have known his god never would lead him astray. There really was another him running around, the other chosen favourite, the yang to his yin. The fucking bone to his blood. However, that also meant the clock was ticking. He better get a move on.
"Hide and seek is over little fucker, Hidan's coming for you..."
She found Itachi perched underneath a towering oak tree, cross legged and reclining, a few feet into the dense woods that encapsulated the decaying building she had awoken in. No doubt, despite his relaxed stature, he was alert to his surroundings, given his gaze had lazily slid to her when she approached. She didn't say anything as she took a seat next to him, resting on a protruding gnarly root. A hello seemed redundant, good morning too bland and lacking and all the things she did want to say seemed too heavy and intense to lump upon him in greeting. So, the only noise between them for a long while was the song of wind rustling through branches, shaking off the nights raindrops as they spluttered and splattered to the forest floor.
"He does not trust me."
Hari bit her lip, a hint of copper dancing across the top of her tongue. What was she to say? Lie? She had never been a good liar, despite what her scared hand made people think. Furthermore, there had been enough lies and deceptions thrown upon them, Hari didn't want anymore darkening their doorstep. Especially in the crucial first days of… Whatever this is. In truth, Hari thought, none of them knew what to do or say. They were all stuck in a limbo.
Sasuke had spent most of his life trying to kill Itachi, making it his soul aim, his very being, leaving him hollow and goalless, his identity fractured when the truth came out. Itachi himself had spent a majority of his life playing the villain, hiding the truth and shrouding himself in misery and betrayal, that he had long forgotten how to simply be and not act… And Hari? Well, she had come for them, but she felt like a dog. A dog who would chase a car, excited, determined, energetic. Only, she had caught the car, found her brothers, and now that she had… She had no fucking idea on what to do afterwards. She had not thought that far ahead. She, in full honesty, had never really believed she would make it for the plan to count. How many times had she meant to of died? How many times was she surprised when she saw the next sunrise? Too many. Her plans had always been short term because that was all she had thought she deserved and owned, a short life.
But now… Now Sasuke would have to change his views, stop transforming his identity to his goal and learn to find himself without outside circumstances and stimuli effecting it. Itachi would have to cut the acting, stop playing the part others had written for him and begin to step out of the shadows that had previously offered him shelter and safety. And for the first time in her life, Hari would have to plan ahead of the next big battle or the next mountain she would inevitably have to climb. In short, they had to find themselves, their true selves, and that sort of self reflection was never an easy or quick task.
"Give it time. All this… Everything, it's a lot to take in. You're soaking, if you're not careful you'll get ill. Here."
Hari leaned over the short distance separating her and Itachi, placing a soft hand upon his shoulder, channelling her chakra out of her palm and through his clothes and skin in small, warm, lapping waves. It was good to see his skin, hair and clothes dry. It was even better to know she could convert spells into Jutsu's, even if they were only hot-air spells used for drying. Reluctantly, she pulled her hand away, letting it rest on her bent knee like its partner. Itachi cast a quick scan over himself, even going as far as to run a hand through his loose hair, noticing its lack of water rivulets running down and onto his shoulders and back.
"A trick from the U~Izaido?"
The heady scorn placed upon the name U~Izaido was not lost on Hari. She could only swallow in response. Did he see her as U~Izaido? Was that contempt partially levelled her way? Who knew. His face was back to carven marble, no emotion in sight. Still, she found herself trying to smile through the wince. By the twitching in her cheek from the forced smile and the frown pulling at the corners of Itachi's brows, she had failed miserably.
"They are an inventive race. Fred and George were brilliant at-."
She cut herself off. Fred… Fred was dead. She had been so busy, so focused on getting to her brothers after the war, the reality of it had never really hit. Fred was dead. Gone. No more pranks. No more bad jokes. He was… He was dead. Along with so many others. Dead. The feeling of Itachi's hand landing upon her own snapped her out just short of a panic attack.
"Yet, that is not the only thing you have picked up from them."
The pad of his thumb ran across the raised skin of scarred flesh streaking across her knuckles. I must not tell lies… She jerked her hand away from his, nostrils flaring widely as she gulped in as much air as she could. The scorn, it wasn't aimed at her. It was aimed at them. Vernon, Petunia, Umbridge, Voldemort, Dumbledore… Nonetheless, it was too soon. The flesh may have scarred and knotted over, but the memories still felt to young, too volatile to poke and prod. Her voice was glacial.
"Do you wish to speak of your own scars? No? Then let's not delve into mine."
She regretted the biting retort as soon as it had left her mouth. Itachi's hand pulled away from her, his gaze casting low as he slid further away, retreating. Hari grimaced, eyes scrunching tight. How could she expect them to let their guards down and open up if she could not bring herself to do the same? She couldn't. She had no right. But still, the thought of bringing her memories into words somehow made those memories all the more real. And she was no where near ready for her demons to become blood and bone. She slid off her root perch, sliding into the little nook of the tree base besides Itachi, legs bent to her chest, arms cross over knees, her own thumb now stroking the scar that Itachi had brought light to.
"I'm… Sorry. I just-… I can't speak of… Not yet. Perhaps someday, just not today."
He gave her a small smile, all bird boned and fragile. He understood, even if her voice and words were just fractured shards of glass. Someday would come, until then, they, Hari especially, would take it day by day. She was good at that.
"We have many more days to cross those bridges."
Hari nodded at Itachi's statement. The reassurance that there would be many more days, like she hoped there would be, spoken by Itachi of all people, lit a little spark of fire within her chest cavity. It was all good speaking those words yourself, believing them, but to have someone else echo the sentiment, well, that was a warmth that was hard to describe.
"I am… Glad you got to see mother and father, at least once."
Itachi turned away from her as he spoke in a soft, lilting tone, staring out and into the great forest before them, mind somewhere else. He was talking of her trip to the land of the dead. She had not yet considered Itachi's feelings or reaction to the memory, in fact, she had hardly considered much since she had awoken next to Sasuke in a collapsing room.
It must have been a bittersweet discovery. To see through her eyes mother and father, proud and smiling, see the filled compound and know deep down, he had placed many of them there for the sake of Sasuke. Hari did not envy the life of Itachi, she supposed, like how he did not envy hers, for they were no strangers to hard choices and still both had ended firmly on the side of family.
"And I'm sorry you or Sasuke won't see them again. Not for a long while if I have a say in the matter."
Itachi gave a deep sigh, as if he was bone wearingly tired.
"We have a long fight ahead of us. No one will rest easy with the knowledge of our unification."
Hari gave a chuckle, deep and long. That would be an understatement. Someone in Konoha had colluded with the U~Izaido, kidnapping her and handing her over. Someone high up with a lot of pull. Of course, she doubted the reason was what she had been used for, to fight Voldemort, but she had her own suspicions. What was it the Dumbledore had said? Jealousies had torn the two races apart. Wizards wanted to know how they could preform what they did without wands, and the chakra users wanted to know about extended life spans, and, Hari would guess, there were things either side could do that the other couldn't. It wasn't a coincidence that it had been an Uchiha taken and used. The Sharingan took in all it saw, copied it, adapted it.
Her eyes had seen what the U~Izaido could do.
There, right there, the secrets of the U~Izaido was hidden within her eyes. The person who had handed her over to Dumbledore wanted that, planned for it. The person had never expected her to die over there, no, they wanted her to come back… Along with all the techniques her eyes had picked up. Somewhere, in Konoha, was a person waiting for her arrival, ready to take her fucking eyes. Not only that, Danzou was lurking there, unquestionably angered when he learns of their alliance and Itachi's and Sasuke's defection from Otogakure and Akatsuki… Danzou… Could the two be one of the same? The coup and her kidnapping… Fuck. There were still too many unanswered questions to fully form a hypothesis. The only solid thing Hari could land in on the matter of Konoha was Danzou's death. He needed to die. No questions asked. For what he had done to their family, to Sasuke, to Itachi… He would bleed his payment.
Orochimaru would be pissed, his vessel that he had been training had broken from his leash. He didn't seem the type of man to put that much effort in and submit without a pay-out. He would come for Sasuke and he would bring all his horrors with him. And for those horrors, for what he had done to innocent people, to her brother, he too would need to die.
Whatever this Akatsuki was planning, Itachi knew of it and therefore became a liability they couldn't let wander off. Not while he could still talk. They too would come… There was no lack in adversaries here, Hari knew. They had their work cut out for them and Hari didn't think, even if she asked nicely, if they would simply come at them one at a time. Still, this wasn't the first insurmountable odds Hari had faced, neither Itachi or Sasuke, and if they truly wanted peace, to build a new home, to live the rest of their lives, they would have to fight through it. Freedom, funny enough, wasn't often free.
"Sasuke's too stubborn to die, you're too contrary and I'm a scrappy thing. We'll make it through. We have to."
He did not reply to her, he only reached into his trouser pocket, seized something from its depths and held it out to her. Wearily, she held her hand out and accepted the item.
It was only as it was deposited into her own hand, with the sun shining on its patchy paint that she recognized what it was. The wooden and glass dragonfly toy Itachi used to make dance above her crib. It was a lot smaller than she remembered, her age and size diminishing its grand presence. It also had an addition. A little hole drilled into its head, a cord threaded through, transforming the little toy into a necklace. One of it's wings was broken, just a shard of stained glass protruding from the wooden body. Its paint was old, the pearlescent blues and greens warn and gone completely in places, cherry wood peeking out in patches along its thin, bumpy body.
Her fingers tightened around it, her palm threatening to bleed from the broken wing, but it only made her grip onto it harder. It wasn't just a toy. Not to her. It was childish innocence. A past she had snatched from her, from them. It was dreams and hopes she had thought long dead. Her voice choked out the tears her eyes denied from falling. It showed that Itachi had not forgotten her, which is what she had feared when she first stumbled across him in that field. Not for a moment if he kept it on him.
"You kept it? After all this time?"
It must have been one of the few things he had taken with him when he left the compound all those years ago, after… After what he had done. In his darkest moment, he had spared a thought for her. That… That touched something profound and fervent.
"It was not mine to throw away. I had always hoped you would come back for it."
Hope… That's it. That's what this little broken toy represented. Hope in all its glory. Hope for Hari. Hope for Itachi. Hope for Sasuke. Hope for all of them. Personified into wood and glass and chipped paint. Hari forced herself to unfurl her fingers, to stare dead on at the toy, to take it in as much as she could.
"It's broken, it's wing is missing."
Itachi tentatively took it from her slack grip, widening the cord out, keeping it dangling between them. Hari ducked her head, allowing him to slide it along and place it around her neck. It felt so heavy on her chest, but it was a good sort of weight. When she looked up, the fragile smile was back, but it was stronger then before.
"Broken it may be, but it is still good."
Hari chuckled, pulling her hair free from underneath the cord so the necklace could sit straight and true. Her voice wavered in the air, highs and lows shaking with barely held back emotion, despite her trying to make light of the situation.
"Just like us, aye?"
It came out less of a joke and more of an honest question, Hari's own insecurities and worries haunting the edges of her smile. Could there really be a happy ending to their story? Itachi nodded, reached over hesitantly, as if expecting her to flinch away, before he pulled the last lock of hair free from underneath the cord. He did not let go of the curl, rather running it between his thumb and forefinger. Just before he spoke, he used his free hand to come up and flick her gently on the nose.
"Just like us."
Hari's nose scrunched on reflex before she laughed. An authentic, rustic laugh. She tried to do the same to him, but as her finger got close, he ducked out of the way, and she swore, underneath the sound of the wind and rustling leaves, she heard him laugh too. Muted, quite, but still there. Before Hari could give it a second go, determined to get that bloody nose and a louder laugh, there was the sound of shuffling feet and a distinct cough coming from just to their side.
They both stalled, smiles dropping as they swiveled to face the new arrival. Sasuke stood there, shadow stretching long and dark. In his hands were three bowls, steaming and bubbling. He cautiously made his way over, coming to a stop in front of them, before sitting down and to Hari's surprise, he held the first bowl out to Itachi.
The message was clear. All was not well, real life did not work that way. Problems, especially ones buried so deep within yourself, did not fix themselves over night. They would still have their issues, personal and external, but at least Sasuke was now willing to try to forge the bridge over troubled waters. They all were. That's what counted. Itachi offered Sasuke a smile, full of understanding, as he gently took the offered meal. Hari too smiled, hers simply full of teeth and dimples, as she took her bowl next.
Too caught up in the peaceful morning moment, Hari did not look down at her bowl and food as she scooped some out blindly and took a bite. Instant regret hit her hard. Looking down, there was no wondering why. Whatever it was, was lumpy, half boiling hot, lumps freezing cold with charred flecks of… Something black sprinkled through. Her face scrunched and her throat refused to swallow as the food began to tingle her tongue. As politely as she could, she turned her head and spat the concoction straight out, head shaking back and forth as she tried to fight down the bile threatening to rise.
"I can't do it. This is bloody awful soup! It tastes like burnt woodchips slathered in paprika algae."
She locked gazes with Sasuke, face still shuddering in disgust. Sasuke, however, was blank as he blinked once, twice, a third. His voice was just as deadpanned as his face.
That… That was oatmeal?! Glancing over to Itachi from the corner of her eye, she saw he too was having trouble swallowing, but he refused to spit it out like she had. Fair enough. He had a stronger will then she did. Hari tried to smile placatingly, it was a nice gesture after all, as she gently took Sasuke's bowl from his slack hands, not trusting that he wouldn't eat it himself and get food poisoning.
"I'll go cook us up some actual breakfast that won't leave us bedridden for the next few weeks."
Discretely, while Sasuke was focused on Hari, Itachi spat his own mouthful out, handing his own bowl over to Hari when she offered to take it. Sasuke caught the action and scowled, crossing his arms over his broad chest as he aimed his ire at Itachi.
Yet, underneath the scowl and imperious set of lips and upturned nose, Hari could sniff a hint of mischievousness. The big bastard knew he couldn't fucking cook and had turned the tables on them. That was why he had not taken a bite when Itachi and Hari had. He was… Sasuke was joking with them. The lightness of the situation lessened the blow of being victim to the food. Hari chuckled as she began to walk back to the hideout, Itachi standing to follow, Sasuke bringing up the rear.
"Ground rule number one; Sasuke doesn't cook. It's just a horror show."
"He left… Sasuke willingly left with Hari and Itachi?"
Kakashi stood tall next to a silent Sakura, the tale of their confrontation hanging heavy in the air.
His voice was placid, tepid, even if there was a whirlwind storming inside of him. None of it made sense. Of course, he had missed half of the confrontation between the Uchiha's with his own showdown with Kisame, but with Sakura's own recount and a quick recon of the fields after Kisame had retreated left but one conclusion. Sasuke had come. A little fight had broken out, nothing major, another oddity seen as it was between Itachi and Sasuke, and for some Kami forsaken reason, Sasuke had left with Itachi and Hari Uchiha.
Not only that, but according to his only student left, Hari Uchiha contained the ability to… To fucking resurrect herself. According to Sakura, the youngest Uchiha had a hole blown into her chest, laid dead for a good few minutes, and yet clambered back up with not a single scratch and even more Chakra than what she had gone down housing. This… This was a fucking shit show. Tsunade slowly rose from behind her desk, wondering over to the large bay windows of the Hokage office, hands clasped behind her back.
"Sakura, you are dismissed."
Sakura's head hung as she swiveled on her feet and marched out of the door, casting one last glance backwards before she shut the door. It didn't take long for the silence to be filled. However, it seemed more like Tsunade was talking to herself rather then him.
"I've always had my suspicions, but this…"
Kakashi's head cocked to the side a fraction, frown prominent underneath his mask and forehead protector.
"I do not believe I am following."
Tsunade still refused to face him, keeping her back to his gaze and looking upon the sprawling lands of Konoha. Kakashi had never heard Tsunade's voice so small and lost before.
"If Itachi worked alone that night, if the massacre was how it was depicted by the elders… Sasuke, after all he's been through, would never willingly align himself with Itachi. Resurrected twin or not."
Kakashi crookedly shook his head.
"I cannot lie, the same thought has crossed my mind. But, as it is evident Sasuke has aligned himself with Itachi, and I doubt he's defected to Akatsuki, which means Itachi has defected from Akatsuki, then…"
Slowly, the train of thought began to piece itself together bit by bit, trepidation nipping on the lining of his gut and bowels. Tsunade turned to face him then, a wretched little smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
"Then the story of the Uchiha massacre is not what we've been sold."
Many people underestimated Tsunade… A grave mistake people didn't often make twice, and if they did, they did not live to make it a third. She had lived through multiple wars, climbed the ladder to become Hokage without flashing her Senju ties to expediate the rise and had an uncanny knack of seeing things others missed. She was simply just not as flashy as her counterparts, Orochimaru and Jiraiya, and that lead to her being mistakenly labelled at the weakest of the trio. Yet again, a mistake one did not make three times.
"Furthermore, I have a sneaking feeling that Hari Uchiha's own abduction, the following lack of investigation and retrieval, was instigated by the same person. Which means this person has the pull to preform a coup on a fifth of Konoha's populace, abduct children and sell them to alien races for reasons not yet known and still keep the standing that allowed them to act in such a way without suspicion being thrown upon them. Plus, when news leaks from my office, which it will inevitably do, I do not believe this person will take the news of a united Uchiha front well…"
When Kakashi had first wandered into the Hokage's office, Sakura picking up his trail, he had not thought the focus of the topic would be happenstances long past. In truth, he had been more focused with the ability to escape death that this Hari Uchiha seemed to wield. Yet, now that Tsunade was, seemingly in full game mode, threading a picture that was hard to look upon, the trepidation turned to full blown dread. No longer was his voice placid.
"So, we are trapped. If this person has that pull, any kind of inkling that we're onto them will lead to unfortunate accidents for all of us. Additionally, any move to aid or begin talks between us and the Uchiha to try and glean any knowledge will be stalled, if not out rightly slaughtered."
Tsunade pulled away from the window, stepping back into the shadows of the room, eyes hooded but rebelliously sharp.
"Whoever this person is, they have backing. Strong rank. Resources that are only meant to be accessible to the Hokage and a plan we, as of yet, can not fully conceptualize."
Kakashi didn't miss a beat.
"In short, Konoha is not safe for the Uchiha, perhaps not even safe for us now that we have found the breadcrumbs this person has left behind."
The smoke of revolution and resolution bloomed in the shine of her eyes, refracting all light out like her irises were crystal prisms.
"No… No it's not. But neither will we stand idle."
She strolled to her desk, lifting files here and there, skimming through before discarding the magnolia folders into a hazardous, tilting pile. She had a plan and Kakashi wasn't a hundred percent sure he was going to like it. Not one bit. It already sounded like it would take too much effort and he had a new icha icha paradise book to get through. Why did he become a shinobi again? When was his retirement years available to him?
"I need you to intersect Naruto and Jiraiya before they re-enter Konoha. With them, I need you to find the Uchiha. Speak with them, uncover the truth, offer what little aid we can. Do not return to Konoha. In two months time, I will be leaving on a diplomatic summit with Suna's Kazekage. Once I am out of Konoha boarders, rendezvous with me there and share what you have learnt."
Kakashi spluttered, rubbing the back of his head dazedly.
"When this person learns of a united Uchiha front, they will wish to act. I will not be surprised if nothing short of war is declared."
Tsunade hurled him a look that could only be interpreted as 'no shit'.
"That is where I come in. Obviously, I do not know who I can and who I cannot trust here, and this person has resources and enough status and rank to stir up enough fear within our government to follow along with whatever move they will make next, even without the Hokage's blessing… But I can stall this for as long as I am able to. Long enough for you to find the truth and for us to weasel out a few of those we can trust. Long enough for us to formulate a plan that will, hopefully, align with whatever the Uchiha are plotting."
What she was asking from him finally solidified in his mind. If the news spread to this person while he was out of Konoha doing the Hokage's work, she would not be able to vouch for him if she wanted to keep her own cover and to expose the perpetrator. If this person's spies were as far stretched as Tsunade was hinting at, then they would soon learn Kakashi was in contact with the Uchiha…
"If I leave and this person hears of my venture towards the Uchiha… I will be branded a traitor…"
The fire in her eyes died as she levelled them at him, a sad grimace quaking the planes of her face.
"Our forefathers failed the Uchiha before, I do not wish to make the same mistake they did. If I am correct and the coup of the Uchiha was instigated by an outside force, we are liable for the death of a clan. I do not know about you, but I do not want the remaining survivors of that clans blood upon my hands because I refused to correct course. Even so, our government is being moved like a puppet by a person who sees no trouble with culling a section of our people off. Who's next? The Hyuuga? The Nara? Us? Even if not for the Uchiha, we need to stop this for our own people and their wellbeing."
Kakashi's eyes slid shut.
"You're using the tragedy of the Uchiha to uproot the corruption in our government. This has nothing to do with them…"
"Even if I am, everybody wins."
Kakashi had an urgent need to scrub a hand down his face, a pounding headache setting up shop at his temples.
"Not many will side with you, or the Uchiha. They, Itachi and Sasuke's legacy alone will not win favours. Hari's time with the U~Izaido will cast suspicion. Not many have forgotten the destruction of the Nine-tails commanded by the Uchiha. The hate runs deep…"
Realisation hit and Kakashi's voice trailed off into the air.
"Hari's abduction, the attack by the Nine-tails, the massacre… They are too close to be a coincidence."
Tsunade appeared to have found the dossier she had been searching for, as she sat and slowly began to pick her way through it.
"Even if it was two people or more, they were working together and one of them is still within our lands. The power to exert control over a jinchuriki, to hand our people off like cattle and to perform a mass murder without repercussion is as much a threat today as it was back then. Do you see why we need to act now?"
She found something within the folder, plucking out the piece of paper and eyeing it wearily before she hastily folded it and slinked it into the folds of her kimono top. Safe. Hidden. Secret.
"That is why you do not wish for me to bring Naruto back, why I must intercept them before they reach our gate… He's in danger too… I will rest for the evening and leave when the moon hits its peak."
The folder was tossed back onto the desk and Tsunade leant her elbows onto the table, stipling her fingers as she rested her chin on top. With the window and sun at her back, it was hard to see the gleam in her eyes but Kakashi knew it was there just as much as he knew they were walking a treacherous path.
"Be safe Kakashi… We, as of now, are a village in silent civil war."
NEXT CHAPTER PREVIEW:
Hari stood tall next to the gargantuan man, sly smirk flowering on her face.
"Kisame was just telling me that some of the Akatsuki members might be… Convinced to see things from our point of view."
Kisame sighed deeply, scratching at his cheek as he mentally ran through the members that would cause less trouble if contacted.
"Deidara may hate Uchiha's with a burning passion, but he loathes his forced servitude more. Sasori's… Artistic work will be a problem, but I'm sure we can come to a middle ground. Kakazu is only in it for the coin, Kami knows where Hidan will fall but it will be worth the effort and Tobi-"
Itachi cut him off sharply, all eyes turning to gaze at the normally stoic man.
"No. Not Tobi. Never Tobi."
Hari huffed, scowling hotly at Kisame and Itachi.
"No. We offer our help either way. We do not bargain the freedom of their countrymen, their families against our own. We ask them, they can decline if they so wish to. Just like the offers we're giving the Akatsuki. Either way, I will help free the rest captured."
Itachi gave her a bleak smile, voice placating.
"It is not our fight."
Everyone turned to face Sasuke, who had fallen silent up until that point.
"I helped Orochimaru chain these people. If not Hari's fight, this is my own. I need to fix my mistakes."
Hari sidled up to him, placing her hand on his shoulder, sending him a blinding smile that even Itachi, across from them, could feel the heat of.
"No. We fix them together. That's how family works. That's how we work."
"I know the Akatsuki members, my face will do well in convincing them. I also have knowledge of Konoha's attack tactics and how they work in battle. Sasuke, from the rumours I have heard, has garnered great respect from Orochimaru's underlings, and could help sway some of them to our side. He also has a few stout believers of him left in Konoha, a few ears that would be willing to listen to him and the truth of the coup. Hari's hope and fiery spark for rebellion and revolution is infectious, she is also adapt at preforming underground movements from her time with the U~Izaido. Word of her freeing the base has spread far, she will do well in inspiring the civilians and captured to stand up to Otogakure and Orochimaru, as well as gluing them all together under a common cause… It is risky… But if the wind is right, we might just be able to pull it off."
Kisame's indignation rang out.
"I had hope… But she's as insane as you two. A village? You're really planning on forming a village?! Of not just rallying an insurgence against Akatsuki, but against Konoha and Otogakure too? While we're at it, why don't we just scrap Otogakure and build the village right here!... Wait... That's what you're planning isn't it?... I'm getting to old for this Uchiha shit."
Harry looked up as the dust settled, Itachi's stiff form splayed over her own as he had threw them both out of the aim of fire. There, embedded into the wall of their hideout was a three sided scythe. From the door way, a shadow loomed with laughter.
A.N: Surprise!I'm not dead and neither is this fic! I know, it's been eight months and that's a bloody awful amount of time to leave between updates, but life really has been battering me lately, and you know what they say, better late then never! That being said, things are becoming easier with my epilepsy and school and I'm hopefully getting back on track. I just hope some of you have stuck it out and can forgive me XD.
Once again, I've had to chop this chapter in two as it reached a whopping 18k word count, and as so, the other half of this chapter is nearly ready to go, so there definitely won't be such a long wait between this one and next. I just have to comb through it and tighten some knots here and there, but at the very latest, it will be out next Sunday and that is a guarantee!
I'm also taking a slower projection with this fic. Don't get me wrong, as you can likely tell, there will be a lot of things going down, but I really want to intersplice that with little moments that humanize and bond the Uchiha together, as well as other characters that are coming into play (You can all likely tell who). So while there will be bombs raining down (so to speak), there will be little pieces of sunshine too.
Normally I would answer questions in this part, but a lot of the questions raised have been ones that will ruin what's coming up, so I have to keep mute this time. Just know that I'm not ignoring you (I really do read each review) I just don't won't to spoil the ride.
AS ALWAYS I ADORE YOU ALL, really, each review, follow and favourite keeps this fic going and my mad mind taking turns. When I first started writing this, I really did have no clue of the response it would gain, and yet it really does warm my little author heart that people enjoy this insanity. They also make me want to be a better writer, to push myself out of my comfort zone and explore different techniques, and really, all this is thanks to you guys. So thank you, really. Once again, sorry for the long wait, but I will try not to repeat it.
if you have a moment, drop a review! and I really hope you liked this chapter, despite it being eight months in the making XD. Until next time, stay beautiful! ~AlwaysEatTheRude21