Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the thumbnail used. Those belong to Kishimoto-sensei and their respective artists.

A/N: This chapter is a flashback, pieces from Sasuke's past that led to where Naruto found him. A side chapter to The Price. Therefore it is merely entitled Nightmares. I uploaded this again because it was pointed out that it wasn't spaced out between scenes, while its' a late editing nothing besides that has changed about this.

Additional Warning: This chapter contains rape and other dark themes. If your uncomfortable reading please turn back now.

I dream in darkness
I sleep to die
Erase the silence
Erase my life
Our burning ashes
Blacken the day
A world of nothingness
Blow me away

From "Sweet Sacrifice" By Evanescence

Nightmares

It had only been one year, but within all the time he found it hard to tell only one year had passed. It felt like an eternity, no matter how many times he slept hoping not to wake he always would and the nightmares would continue to turn in his mind, even in the waking hours. They became more vivid after he finished his endless, always exhausting training. Forcing himself to use up most of his chakra just to keep the pace with the snake sannin, refusing to be beaten by him. Since when had he become that competitive, something he obtained through always wanting to be better than his elder brother and then competing with the blond dobe all the time.

He hadn't even considered the fact that he continuously challenged him, always condescending, cold, arrogant towards him. But the real truth of it was, he had been that way because he was so irritable about being drawn to him. Didn't anyone ever wonder why he hated the fangirls, well other than the fact that they were annoying as hell. He wasn't interested, and it wasn't until he was forced to spend time with a team that he found another reason he wasn't interested in dating anyone, he had taken an unhealthy interest in a certain blond, one that was very much male.

Sure, you have to actually test the theory, well it had been tested, it drove him insane when they trained together, always having to keep himself in check. Of course his blond teammate never noticed it at all, he was always oblivious to why he got so irritated when Naruto touched him. An arm over his shoulder, the times when they fought and Naruto had him pinned to the ground, every single time it took all his self control not to let his urge to kiss him, to do something take over. It also never occurred to him that Naruto only saw it as Sasuke not liking human contact at all, which was true as well.

Then of course that time they'd fought in the Valley of the End, Sasuke had almost stayed, seeing Naruto so driven to keep him there. But after what he'd almost done, he couldn't stomach the idea, Itachi had made an appearance and it had reminded him fiercely of his sworn vengeance. He wasn't going to let anyone stop him from getting his revenge. Not even the only person that seemed to really care about him, the person he knew he was falling in love with, though he would never admit it, not even to himself.

Another reason he'd left was because it sickened him how close he'd come to almost actually killing the blond. It made him think later on that Naruto was holding back because he couldn't stand the idea of killing one of his 'precious people.' That in turn led to him having a small kindling of hope that his teammate had some kind of interest in him. But Sasuke only stopped the thought deciding that it was because Naruto considered him his best friend, something he couldn't deny he viewed Naruto to be. He was the only person that had taken a genuine interest in Sasuke as a person, much like his brother had done when they were younger.

That, was another thing that made him doubt everything. Made him fear the closeness he was obtaining with Naruto, even if he wouldn't admit he was afraid of it to anyone. He didn't want to risk caring for someone and then be betrayed or let down. With his brother it wasn't such a strong feeling as what it could become if he stuck around Naruto. That was such a strong pull and want to be close that he knew he wouldn't be able to stand it if Naruto didn't return the feelings or if something happened to him.

Sasuke knew it was dangerous on so many levels to be Naruto, he's a ninja, a powerful one at that, continuously growing and getting stronger, and he also has that demon inside him. Sasuke wasn't stupid, he'd paid attention to why his brother had come after Naruto, it was because of that demon, that rogue group he was a part of had taken an interest in jinchuriki. They wanted that power for themselves, he was sure of it. The only way to obtain such power was to strip the demon from the vessel, something he could never handle happening to Naruto.

He had been dead set on meeting with his brother, to exact his revenge, but by the time he arrived it had become a cover so that his need to protect Naruto, to prevent Itachi from taking him and most likely killing him wouldn't be noticed. Obviously it wasn't, no one saw it, but there were plenty of times when he regretted not telling Naruto about how strongly he felt for him, especially now, after spending a year in this hell. He doubted his own decisions and felt weak for it constantly, he was supposed to be living the life of an Avenger, not that of a love sick weakling yearning after someone he'd betrayed and left after coming close to killing him.

He wasn't worthy of Naruto or anyone else that had ever cared about him, never had been. When he wasn't following in his brother's shadow he was stabbing his friends in the back and selling his soul to the devil. He was following his brothers' plans, doing as he was told and now he couldn't take it back, he had to live with the consequences to his actions, even if it destroyed him completely.

He lay on the bed in the private chambers he'd been given shortly upon arriving. There were strict rules to not bother the Uchiha and that no one touch him. Sasuke knew why, and it wasn't because he needed a new vessel, he'd seen the way the snake had looked at him. He wasn't stupid or blind, it was something he watched out for.

During training over the past year, the snake had slowly started to mess with him. Pinning him down and leering at him, getting entirely too close to him when Sasuke was reading scrolls with new jutsu's in them. Then there were the times when he was forced to have meals with the snake, alone. Those were where it really got under his skin. The snake would watch him eat before he would touch his own meal.

Then once the meal was finished he always found ways to keep him in the private quarters longer than necessary. Sasuke wanted to protest to eating with the snake period, he would have preferred to have his meals in the peace and solitude of his own quarters or even with other servants to the snake. The only one brave enough to even glare at him was Kabuto. But of course the consequences to denying the snake were not something he was willing to deal with over something as petty as eating in the same room as the bastard, vile pedophile or not.

The threats towards anyone who even thought about him had offered enough reprise to keep everyone from messing with him. They would walk around him, refusing to look at him, and of course, with his own strength surpassing that of Kabuto, no one really wanted to invoke his wrath anymore than they wished to piss off the sannin.

It was never anything to be overly concerned about, until this past week. Kabuto no longer watched the two train having decided that working in his lab and updating and documenting his and the snakes experiments was more entertaining. So, Sasuke had to spend the entire day with the snake, alone. He trained with the snake at least five days at a time and then was left to train on his own. It was no longer a matter of him needing to be taught anything, he'd caught on within the first lesson. But the snake sannin merely wanted to enjoy his company. Something Sasuke hated, he'd never cared for the snake sannin, he was only interested in the power he could grant him. He was getting stronger, immensely stronger, but he no longer required one on one training with the perverted snake.

His fourteenth birthday was approaching soon, of course it really didn't matter, but somehow the sannin had known when his birthday was. He promised to have a gift for Sasuke, which was not something he wanted, a gift from the snake was far from a gift. He recalled the gift he'd received from the snake on his last birthday in this place, he'd presented him with the knowledge of how to unnerve and disgust your opponent, a lesson he'd learned firsthand.

He shuddered at the memory of that snake forcefully kissing him, thinking that was an appropriate gift to a thirteen year old. His mind had somehow wandered to a thought of his first kiss, though it had been accidental, it was something he didn't want to forget. He sighed and turned over on his side letting his mind go back to what had happened during the past week, which made him dread how close his birthday was.

It had started with a hand on his shoulder while Orochimaru addressed his other servants. Sasuke was always made to attend the hearings as he was named the snake's primary student. Another reason for his obsessed assistant to hate him. Then after the last meal of the day, by which time Sasuke was already nodding off, completely exhausted. As he made to leave, the snake sannin had pinned him to the wall and kissed him. He'd dug his nails into the curse mark which forced a yell of pain to part his lips and allowed the snake to force that disgustingly long tongue down his throat.

The next day Sasuke ignored all of the sannin's persistence that they have their meals together. He'd resigned that he would rather starve and therefore ate only what he'd taken from a servant as he made his way to his chamber alone as soon as training was finished. The next day the sannin had refused to allow him to starve himself and had ordered Kabuto to take meals to his chamber instead.

Sasuke was slightly surprised that the sannin didn't punish him, but then he recalled that he really got away with a lot more than anyone else. Yet another reason for Kabuto to hate him, Sasuke smirked at the memory of when the sannin had nearly killed him over a few cross words about Sasuke's attitude. The sannin had then become pretty pissed asking if Kabuto thought of him as oblivious. Of course the smirk died when he recalled how said sannin then completely exhausted him, and the training left him bruised and beaten because of his rage. Damn Kabuto for invoking the bastard.

The fourth day had been entirely different, the sannin had instead ordered his servants to train with Sasuke, all of them attacking him together. They had been easy to defeat, but being outnumbered had exhausted his strength and by the end of the day he had been more exhausted than was customary. The sannin had refused to allow him to eat his last meal of the day alone and at the end, he was forced into another kiss, and then the snake had groped him.

That of course led to Sasuke fighting back, which ended violently and not in his favor. Time spent with Kabuto to recover from the harsh beating he'd gotten for kicking the sannin in the balls and giving him a broken nose. The first time he'd been too shocked to fight back, but the second time it happened, he was already irritated by how exhausted he felt and let his anger and disgust get the better of him.

The fifth day had been usual, training, meals, and then returning to his chambers where he was. He wasn't expecting a visit from the snake nor the threat he'd given him. Only a few hours ago the snake had him pinned to the wall by his throat and had hissed in his ear telling him that on his birthday the games would end. He had then threatened him that if by that time he still persisted in fighting him there would be hell to pay.

So now Sasuke was left to his room and his thoughts, dreading his birthday more than he ever had since Itachi had slaughtered their entire clan. He would prefer all the love letters, and screaming fangirls over what the snake promised. As much as he knew the snake could very well kill him, and that he would make his life a living hell if he fought him, he refused to let the snake have his way with him. He had too much pride to allow that and he would do everything in his power to keep him from getting what he obviously wanted.

He couldn't escape, he knew better than that, no one could and he had seen what happened to those that tried. That had been something the snake sannin had shown him days after arriving. It was not something he wished to go through nor would be foolish enough to attempt. Those who tried to escape were dragged back by their throats, beaten to within an inch of their lives, drugged, imprisoned for days, tortured, and then handed over to Kabuto to experiment on. If they killed any of those within this place, they were then handed over to the snake, Orochimaru would feed them to his snake. Another sight he had not enjoyed, that snake was huge and even though it seemed to tolerate him, he knew the snake would most likely enjoy eating him.

Four days, he had four days to find a way to get out of what the snake promised, nothing really came to mind. He couldn't escape, he wasn't strong enough to kill the sannin, yet. He could take out everyone else but the amount of energy it would take and then to make an escape, it wouldn't be long before the sannin went after him and then he was screwed. So he just laid there contemplating what he could do and coming up with nothing.

Four days later, the day had started out as usual, morning meal, training, lunch, training, then the last meal. Sasuke hardly ate anything at all that day, and by the last meal he merely picked at his meal. The snake let him sit there and mull over everything for a while then ate his meal quickly. Sasuke tensed when he felt those eyes on him and felt his stomach twisting to the point that he felt he might throw up what little he had eaten today.

The snake stood and Sasuke flinched slightly which made the sannin smirk and watched him walk over to the back of the room. Sasuke felt his stomach lurch again as the sannin unlocked and opened the door on the far right of the back wall, Sasuke knew it led to the snake's private chambers.

The sannin turned and faced him, leaving the door open, he walked over to Sasuke who was still sitting at the table and held out a hand.

Sasuke looked at him with a glare, there was no way in hell he was willingly going to walk into this. Sasuke stood and took a step back. The sannin only smirked and then said in his smooth, slithery voice that made Sasuke's insides churn.

"Come now Sasuke-kun, it will be much easier if you don't resist."

Sasuke hardened his glare and took another step back. Orochimaru sighed and put his hand down, then Sasuke found himself pinned to the wall by his throat. Sasuke immediately activated his sharigan and kicked his leg out to strike the snake in the gut. His hit landed and when he was released he aimed a knee at the snake as he was bent over. Then Sasuke made his way to the door quickly.

His hand still on the door handle to leave, he hissed when his hair was grabbed painfully and his head was forced back to look at a very pissed off Orochimaru who had blood trinkling down his lips. The snake licked his lips and Sasuke turned and made to punch him only to have his fist caught and then both wrists were held over his head against the door and the snake sannin used his own body to press him into the door immobilizing him.

Sasuke struggled, trying to break free, to do anything, but the sannin merely tightened his hold and pressed against him even more. Sasuke felt like he was going to be sick and let out a protesting hiss when he felt that sickening tongue on his neck and then moving up along the side of his face.

He shivered when Orochimaru hissed into his ear, "You're going to pay for that dearly, Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke felt his stomach knot and barely suppressed a shudder of disgust. Before he could think to do anything else he felt a slight prick on his arm and then he blacked out.

When he awoke, his head was pounding, and his mind hazed, it took him a moment to remember what had happened. As soon as he did he felt panic rising up in him but shoved it down so that he could assess his situation. He made to move only to find that he was tied down, leather from the burn on his ankles and wrists. He also noticed that everything was pitch black, he was blindfolded as well.

He jumped when he heard a low hiss to his right, "Ahh, so you're awake."

Sasuke felt a chill go down his spine and finally noticed that the chill in the room was because he was completely nude. He barely suppressed a shudder, this was not going to end well. He felt himself shift as the bed he was on dipped and his stomach threatened to jump into his throat. He swallowed to keep it from doing so and soon felt the cold, long, bony hands of the sannin run down his side forcing him to shift away and shiver in disgust.

The sannin chuckled, "Still insistant that you can fight me?"

Sasuke suppressed the urge to retort and hissed when he felt sharp nails dig into his right thigh as he was pulled back to the middle of the bed. He felt the warmth of blood run down his leg and tried to focus on the pain in his leg rather than the words the sannin spoke next. But the sannin had expected that from him obviously, since he had shifted and leaned over to hiss into his ear making Sasuke turn his head away only to have his chin grabbed painfully to hold him still.

"Instead of giving you something for your birthday, I decided it would be better to take something from you since I have given you a means to power."

Sasuke suppressed his initial response to yell out or cuss the sannin out and clenched his fists and his eyes that were closed since they were useless with the blindfold. He felt a hand run up his left thigh and rest on his hip and fought back the urge to pull away. The hand that was gripping his chin moved slowly down his neck and down his chest to move next to his hip instead. The bed shifted again and Sasuke felt a strong urge to vomit as he felt flesh touching his thighs as Orochimaru straddled his hips.

Sasuke tensed when he felt the brush of heated flesh against his stomach as Orochimaru leaned down to whisper in his ear again, moving his hand up his chest and across his shoulder to rest next to his left shoulder.

"This is going to be much easier on you if you relax Sasuke-kun."

Then he felt that tongue against the shell of his ear and shuddered and tried to stop the reaction his body had, to no avail. The sickening feeling grew even stronger and he had to clench his teeth to keep the bile from rising in his throat. His mind was on overdrive trying to tell him to do something, anything to stop what he knew he was powerless to do stop. His hands and legs were tied down, he was drugged and that had left him unable to really move much at all, and he was blindfolded. Weak, you can't even fight back, you're just going to lie there and take it like a little bitch?

He hated hearing his own mind telling him what was painfully honest, but that didn't mean he could actually stop it, what the hell could he do against someone stronger than him and being immobilized like he was. But that did nothing to lessen the revulsion or the stab at his pride and only managed to enrage him more. Yet he still refused to cuss or rant, to say anything, words would be useless, he knew the snake sannin would take what he wanted regardless of what he said. Words were futile, but he refused to make it easy.

He jerked away when he felt that damn tongue on his throat and as punishment the sannin bit down onto his curse mark sending unyeilding, agonizing pain straight through him. He bit his lip to keep from screaming out from the pain of it. He could feel the warmth of blood on his neck and he shivered again when he felt a hand moving down his thigh and then back up to teasingly brush across his shaft.

He clenched his jaw and tensed at the heat that coursed through him when that damn tongue circled the mark on his neck teasingly. He felt disgusted by the reaction it had because of the light caress on such a sensitive spot on him. He mentally cursed that damn curse mark for being a highly sensitive spot that had such a strong effect on him. Orochimaru then pulled away and he felt that tongue run along the side of his face again. He turned his head away harshly and hissed lowly in his throat when the hand now on his hip again dug it's fingernails into his flesh.

Then that tongue licked the shell of his ear again and Sasuke turned his head the other way. He felt like he was going to be sick when the sannin lowered himself on top of him, their bodies flushed together. Sasuke wanted to scream, wanted to get his hands and legs free and beat the shit out of him, but he still couldn't summon the strength to do more than pull at the bindings on his wrists, his legs felt strangely numb and useless.

The sannin grabbed him by his hair and forced him to arch his neck and lean his head back forcing another hiss from Sasuke. Sasuke felt those damn lips on his throat, bitting hard enough to draw blood before that long tongue licked the blood up and caressed the wounds in a mockingly apologetic gesture. Sasuke let out a groan of protest when the sannin wrapped his hand around his shaft once more and then teasingly traced a finger up and down his cock forcing it to come to life against Sasuke's wishes.

He couldn't help the wave of shame that came over him that he was responding to the vile pedophiles' actions. He clamped his mouth shut when that mouth was on his again. That led to the sannin's hand releasing his cock only to move up to his hip again and dig his nails painfully into his flesh. When Sasuke let out a gasp of pain that tongue slid in between his lips.

In his disgust, rage, and shame, he bit down on that damn tongue and Orochimaru pulled back with an angry hiss releasing him and sitting back on his thighs. Sasuke flet bile rise strongly in his throat at the taste of the mans blood and turned his head to spit out the blood. When he turned his head back to it's original position Orochimaru had recovered and he was struck harshly across the face in a stinging blow that left him hazed for a moment.

Then he felt his legs grabbed painfully and forced apart as Orochimaru situated himself in between them. The haze from being hit was gone and he felt panic rise up in him again. With the panic he felt that he couldn't shove back down came that sickening feeling. There was no way he was going to just let this happen to him, he had never intended anything to happen, but his legs were being parted and his hips were being lifted against his will.

He tried to will his legs to close, to struggle against him, but they woudln't listen to him at all and all he could do was vainly pull at the restraints around his wrists. He could feel his sharigan flaring with his uncontrolled panic and let out a groan of anger when he felt the head of the sannins' cock at his opening.

Then his panic gave way to the blinding, seering pain as he was nearly ripped in half. He never noticed the scream he let out or the laughter from the sannin. Before the pain subsided the sannin pulled out only to slam back into him, over and over until Sasuke felt the haze of pain, disgust, and utter shame force painful, hoarse screams from his throat as he continued to pull at his restraints until the ripped flesh of his ankles and his wrists started bleeding.

He could feel the burning tears inside him, the tears in his eyes soaking the blindfold and only adding to his self loathing and revulsion. He was infuriated that he could do nothing to stop the pain, the inner torment he was going through and the severe blow to his pride and self confidence. He couldn't stop the man above him from forcing himself into him over and over again, he couldn't do anything but scream out at the raw pain that sent fire up his backside and agony to course through his back.

When the bastard forcing himself inside him finally came the cum mixed with the blood from the violent way he'd taken him. Sasuke let out a hoarse cry when he pulled out and away from him. He shuddered when he felt a cold hand caress his cheek and hissed when he tried to bite him and ended up getting hit across the face again. This time he felt his own blood in his mouth, his lip was split at the very least.

He shivered when that vile tongue licked the blood from his lips and pulled back with a disgusted hiss. Orochimaru chuckled and grabbed hold of his hair in a painful, vice like grip. Then he hissed into Sasuke's ear, "This is far from over Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke shivered again and pulled at his restraints again as the bed shifted and Orochimaru got up. He heard him slither away, he never really thought of the man as much of a walker and right now he wanted nothing more than to strangle him and decapitate him with his sword. Which now that he noticed it was probably in the dining room where they had meals, he berated himself for never thinking to use it to cut of the snakes' balls. He would rectify that as soon as he had it in his hands again.

He forced himself to calm down but that did nothing to lesson the humiliation, rage, and the need to scrub away his skin. He took a few ragged breaths and with every breath he felt the rawness of his throat, reminding him that he had screamed and making him feel ever worse. He felt filthy, contaminated, soiled to the point that he thought it seeped through his blood and felt as though it was decaying his bones as well as his mentality. How in the hell could he let this happen? How could he allow that fucking snake do this to him, make him feel like nothing more than the child he never wanted to admit he was. He felt the strong urge to cry and vomit all at the same time.


It had taken a few weeks to completely heal, three times, that snake had raped him three times in one night. Since the snake sannin was set on Sasuke becoming his new vessel he had ordered Kabuto to heal him completely. But he had scars, scars that couldn't be healed and left him feeling even more distant and utterly cold, and that rage burned even more. He now hated the snake more than he hated his own brother. After he was completely healed the snake had tried to get to him again, but was promptly met with the blade of his sword.

The sword never left his side, inside his chambers or not, it was always at his side and he had turned his focus to training with it. He also gave the snake back the sword he had previously owned and through means of threats and a solid beating he had forced Kabuto to get him the materials and scrolls needed to create his own sword. The sannin had told Kabuto when he'd run to him complaining that it was his own fault for not giving Sasuke what he wanted.

Another reason for the obsessed medic nin to hate him, he'd have to kill him one day Sasuke knew. But he decided that he would do that another time and since the medic nin proved to be useful, there was no need to do so unless he foolishly provoked him. But Sasuke did doubt that Kabuto would be foolish enough.

A year followed and he now had a sword that could slice through the stone statues within the building without much effort and easily cut through bones with the same amount of effort and force.

It was an accomplishment that helped with his wounded pride and he had now struck more fear in everyone there except the sannin than that of the snake sannin. He refused to address him by his name, the first time he had been beaten to within an inch of his life, but the times that followed the sannin had merely snickered at his persistance.

It wasn't a matter of him using his hatred for him to refuse to address him by his name, he just didn't see any need for it considering that he knew he was growing to become close to stronger than the sannin and thus he shouldn't be referred to as though he was that much weaker than him.

Now fifteen and still very violent, though cold, and vicious at the same time if anyone dared touch him. As long as the snake sannin didn't touch him inappropriately he wouldn't try to kill him or cut off his fucking arm. Anyone else suffered quick, instant deaths.

Sasuke was against meaningless killing most of the time, he preferred not to, his morals from being raised in a warless, less violent village had brought that to his mind. Then of course the seemingly cold and torturous ways the sannin killed so easily was sickening to him.

He refused to allow himself to become like the sannin, he would never kill for absolutely no reason, or for petty reasons. But his heart had hardened in the time he spent around him and what the snake had put him through. He left the base only when accompanied by Kabuto or the snake himself. He was never allowed to be far away from them if they left the base for some reason. Today they were relocating since the leaf ninja had located their current base.

Sasuke felt the chakra of Naruto, Sakura, and two others he didn't know. So he refused to leave and the snake's inner apprehension of him leaving entirely was what kept both him and Kabuto in the base. There had been an explosion in the inner chamber that had been their initial reason for deciding to leave. Sasuke sat on top of a rock just outside the rubble of the caved in inner chambers. He was waiting for his ex-teammates to arrive.

Once he felt the arrival of Sakura and two others he stood and walked over to the ledge to look down at them. He smiled mentally, She's grown up quite well for one that used to be quite annoying, she isn't weak like she used to be. He then grimaced mentally, his expression remained entirely impassive and stoic. His eyes never showing his inner emotions, he'd perfected that long ago, a side effect of being with the depraved snake for so long.

There was another team member, most likely his replacement, pale skin, black hair and eyes, and emotionless expression. A sad excuse of a replacement really.

His new attire was not something he particularly cared for, a long sleeved shirt that left the middle of his chest open, a hideously huge purple rope around his waist and bulky, baggy, black shorts that went a few inches past his knees combined with shoes and the wrappings around his legs for his taijutsu, which was now perfected.

He felt his heart jump into his throat when he saw the blond dart out of the building to stand next to Sakura. He'd certainly changed, Sasuke wasn't oblivious to how sexy he looked now, nor would he deny it to himself that the blond had grown into a much older and more mature and very tempting physique, of course he pictured that the dobe didn't even notice how attractive he had become.

He felt those endless, impossibly blue eyes meet his and smirked cracking his expression for a second. The racing of his heart and the jolt of emotion blocked out their words and whatever else he said. Then he found himself gracefully landing to stand beside Naruto and his instincts kicked in, all the rage he felt, the need to snuff out those emotions because with them came emotions that would break him he withdrew his sword.


Twice, he'd crossed the dobe's path twice during this insane war that reached every corner of the entire continent. He'd lost track of Karin and Suigetsu hours ago, only Juugo was anywhere he could detect. He cut down the nin's headed his way, immobilizing them instantly, before they could even detect he'd been there at all. He always made sure to keep to the shadows, in the last year he had been helping Konoha from the shadows, as well as Suna. But neither village seemed to notice it at all, they still sent ninja out after his team, though they never did directly manage to attack or catch him.

He'd met up with plenty of old classmates from the academy, from Konoha, but they didn't see him or notice who it was, thankfully. If the one person he had started helping Konoha and Suna for found out it was him then everyone would know. He'd crossed his path twice, and had worried over Naruto noticing who had risen the hair on the back of his neck and taken down the ninja surrounding him in a dark forest when he was without his usual stamina. Sasuke knew Naruto's habits well.

He had stayed behind to watch over him when this war started. He'd watched in awe as Naruto fought endlessly for four days straight, keeping watch over everyone when they slept, helping to tend to those that were wounded, and taking lead when no one really knew what to do.

He directed the ninja fighting alongside him when they were surrounded, when they looked as though they were against impossible odds he had led them out of the situation with minor injuries. But Sasuke had seen the toll, he could feel the depletion of energy, and then the enormous growth of energy after every time.

Throughout the course of one year the blond dobe was more than an equal match for Sasuke. He was extremely talented with taijutsu and nijutsu, but wasn't any good with genjutsu. That was where Sakura came in, always at his side, always having his back. Sasuke had to say he had a lot of respect for her. She was fiercely loyal to Naruto and they watched each others backs well, while he made sure to gaurd them from the background when they were spent.

Sasuke felt an anger building in him from seeing Naruto grow to be a deadly, powerful, and very intelligent ninja. He knew that the dobe's dream of being hokage could be obtained after the war was done and over with. He took leadership well, and saved countless lives, not to mention that he hadn't waited for anyone to tell him to lead, he just took the position when it had become an issue without any Jonin present to lead them.

Kakashi had orginally been the one to lead those on the front lines of the bloodbath of a battle that lasted forever. Sasuke knew that Kakashi knew Naruto would take the lead, but he also knew that the council and the elders would look past Naruto's efforts and accomplishments, they would see him only as the jinchuriki.

The only remaining one, since the blond had defeated the rest of the akatsuki, well with help from Sasuke of course. The akatsuki had also managed to recapture Killer Bee as he was known to be. That had been something Sasuke had been made to do while in the company of Madara, a way to prove his loyalty. Sasuke regretted it every moment because he saw how violent it was and kept seeing Naruto in his mind when he saw the empty shell of what had been the vessel of the demon.

The lack of remorse and thrist for power made him feel digusted with himself because he saw himself in them. He detested the heartlessness and coldness that was Madara. But there was still one more member left, Madara himself. That was the one Sasuke was heading after at this moment.

That was why he was searching for his teammates. He made it to the shoreline of the mist country and could smell the blood of innocents in the air. The mist had covered his movement well and thanks to all the intense training the snake sannin had put him through, he'd become quite adept as masking and supressing his chakra signature. It was something that became a way of survival when the war had started, of course he did feel a lot more quilt for the war than he cared to let on.

The Raikage had been enraged that Sasuke had been the one to capture his brother and then the akatsuki had killed him by sucking the demon out of him. At the time, Sasuke had been set on convincing the akatsuki that he was out to destroy the village after learning of his brother's death. Of course, leading the life of an avenger helped to pursuade them. But he wanted Madara's trust so that he could get close enough to him to discover the location of his scrolls.

Along with the ultimate level of sharigan, Itachi had given him the location of his own hidden scrolls, that of his clan, and a possible location to Madara's. It hadn't been definite that Madara's scrolls would be there, but Sasuke had also obtained the exact location Orochimaru's and Kabuto's scrolls. That was something that had taken torture by means of the sharigan and the slow, torturous defeat of Kabuto possessed by his beloved master. That was something that made him feel sick inside, how could someone be that devoted to someone as morbid and vile as the snake sannin? But killing him the way he had filled him with pride.

Sasuke smirked at the thought, he'd always hated both of them and slowly killing the medic nin had helped him lesson that rage. But when he'd found that peice of Orochimaru's soul and managed to torment him as well he had his revenge. It made him question his own sanity that he felt no remorse or guilt in the slightest for killing the two the way he had or destroying their minds and souls in the process.

At first he had been set on destroying the village, that was until he'd truly thought about it, Itachi had given everything to protect the village and him. He wasn't going to let his brothers' death be in vain, even if he'd been the one to cause it.

The emotions he felt for his best friend, at least he still called him such in his head, and rival, had only grown over time. He could no longer deny he was in love with him. He went out of his way to protect him and because Sakura protected him when Sasuke was doing something else, he protected her as well. He helped the Konoha and Suna nin because he knew how much Naruto cared for them. He was truly amazed by how big of a heart Naruto had, he fought to protect the people of a village that had hated him, degrated him, and belittled him and then helped another village that had done the same to someone just like him.

But he did so because it was the right thing to do, not to prove anything, but because he couldn't stomach the idea of standing by and doing nothing. So Sasuke protected them because he knew why Naruto did and he refused to let his efforts be in vain with his life being in danger everyday this war continued.

Sasuke directed his thoughts to his task, he had to find those two, Suigetsu had said he would be coming to the mist country when he could to find the other swords. Sasuke stopped perched on a tree to see a destroyed village and felt Juugo land in a tree behind him. The villagers had been slaughtered and Sasuke felt his stomach churn at the sight, a flashback of how his clan had been killed came to mind and he turned and headed back towards the water.

Juugo followed behind him and Sasuke stopped at the edge of the water when Juugo said quietly, "Sasuke-san, are we going to just leave him here? There are Sand ninja as well as Mist ninja here and they are sure to be able to kill Suigetsu . . . "

Sasuke cut him off, "He will deserve it if they do. I have told him time and again that meaningless killing is not something I will tolerate. If they don't kill him then I will come back and do the job myself."

Juugo said nothing else and when Sasuke made to leave again he followed. They soon came across the water back within Konoha grounds and found a place to rest for the night among the trees. By early daylight Sasuke headed back towards the main battlefield, it would take them a few days' travel to get there, but he refused to head out and search for Karin until he knew his old teammates were alright.

He planned to meet with them face to face once he had Madara's scrolls, there was no point if he didn't have the complete set of the most dangerous S-Rank ninja from Konoha. It was a way for him to try and convince the Leaf nin as well as the council, elders, and Hokage that he was trying to make amends. Of course the fact that he had never once taken the life of a nin from Konoha or Suna helped with his plan.

He had a voice in the back of his head telling him that Naruto would never except him back, that there was no way he would forgive him. But Sasuke found himself wanting to block it out, he had to try, if nothing else he had to try. There was nothing left in his life if Naruto didn't forgive him. He also worried about whether or not Naruto felt the same way, whether he would be disgusted by Sasuke's feelings for him. Whether his attempts and the only person giving him the will to live would make it worth it in the end.

He had come to terms with the idea that Naruto may not feel the same way, he could live with that if Naruto forgave him and at least allowed him to be at his side as a friend. It would slowly kill him and it would be beyond any pain he had ever endured, but it would have to be enough if that was the only way he could be at his side.

Once they found another place to rest for the night and had their usual ration bar dinner with a sparing amount of water Sasuke sat in silence mulling everything over in his mind. His thoughts were interrupted by Juugo's soft spoken voice. He could stand Juugo, he didn't ask unnecissary questions and usually left him alone.

"Sasuke-san, may I ask a question of you?"

Sasuke looked over at him from his perch on the limb of a tree. Juugo was across from him, the moonlight through the trees enough for him to know where he was at exactly. He hadn't noticed that he was used to the pressence of Juugo's chakra when they were traveling together or that he felt relatively at ease with him as a teammate.

"Hn," was his response with a very slight nod, he knew Juugo knew he was giving him the go ahead to ask.

Juugo nodded, "Arigato, I don't mean to pry Sasuke-san, but this Naruto you are doing this for, is he worth it?"

Sasuke tensed at the question, since when had Juugo taken such an interest in his reasons? He was caught off guard by the question as well as puzzled by the concerned tone. It was almost as though Juugo actually did care. But Sasuke wasn't going to believe so easily, he'd been mislead and lied to too often. But he figured he would tell Juugo the answer, without going into detail.

"Hai."

Juugo nodded once more and was silent for a moment, but then inquired to continue pursuing his curiousity, "Is that what you do for someone you love?"

Sasuke closed his eyes at the sudden wave of emotion, he'd been doing all he could to keep the longing he felt at bay. He really didn't like talking about his emotions, it always made them rise up in him. Most of them were unpleasant and left him feeling exhausted to have to deal with. He remained silent for long enough for someone to assume he wasn't going to answer. But Juugo had traveled with him long enough to not take his silence as a means to him not wanting to answer. He knew Juugo saw it as more of a way of him not being able to express the words or wanting to avoid the conversation. In this case it was both.

He normally never pried and persisted, but tonight it seemed that he planned to do so. Not but a few minutes later he said, "If that is truly how you feel for your old teammate, then I shall do all that I can to help you pursue your wish. I will remain at your side no matter what."

Sasuke felt a long forgotten emotion wash over him, Juugo's devotion as well as his words made him want to trust him, to tell him some of what he was going through. But his pride was going to prevent that, it was a weakness that had cost him on so many levels. A weakness he detested and wasn't willing to admit to having, needing a comrad, a friend, someone to confide in. It was something he had lost when his brother had killed his entire clan, something his brother's actions had instilled in his heart to never let happen again.


He couldn't believe this man they had encountered upon finding the hidden scrolls of Orochimaru. He'd been distracted from the task upon having to spend so much time looking for his teammates and helping Naruto and Sakura. So when he found them, finally, he was surprised at how easy it was to do so and shocked by the one left to gaurd them. Who was this man kidding, trying to tell such lies?

The three had set off to find Madara's scrolls, the man knowing the location and the snake sannin's scrolls giving hints. This man had said that he was Sasuke and Itachi's half brother, a son to Fugaku, his father. That had been a complete shock, there was no way that was possible, surely his father wouldn't have . . . his line of thought was ceased as he recalled the information in the scrolls of Madara and that of his brother. There was so much there, staring him in the face that said everyone from his clan was capable of that and so much more.

It had been through reading his brother's scrolls, though skimming and not letting anything sink in, that he'd found proof that this man was indeed his half brother and his father and a few other ninja's from his own clan had saught to take his life. He only knew one thing about him, his name was Kuro and he reminded him of Itachi.

He was cool, calm, distant, but had a sense of power about him that seemed to cloak him in an outer shell that left Sasuke feeling like a child next to him. The same as what Itachi had often made him feel. He was taller than him by a good few inches, his black hair less tamed, his skin tanner than that of what was usual for Uchiha's, but he had the crimson eyes of an Uchiha. He didn't have the ability to strengthen the sharigan, but that didn't mean he was less skilled.

Between the three of them, in the course of six months together, protecting the ninja of Konoha and Suna in the shadows, it seemed as though Kuro was dropping his guard, willing to become more like a brother. They had often saved each others lives, something that was bound to happen during a war. Trust was not an issue there, but trust with one's emotions, secrets, and regrets was something entirely different and left one more vulnerable than what they were on the battlefield.

Shortly after they had obtained Orochimaru's scrolls, finding Madara wasn't a problem, it was surviving long enough to be able to fight back against him that had become perilous. The two had remained at his side even while he still tried to assist and protect Naruto and Sakura, along with the Leaf and Sand nin when he could despite the threat of having Madara pursuing them. The scrolls he'd found of Madara's was another reason he hunted them, but after reading through them Sasuke knew it was mostly because he needed an Uchiha.

He found it very disturbing, the way both Madara and Itachi's scrolls described the intentions of his clan, if it hadn't been initially the same and then confirmed once more by Kuro he wouldn't believe it.

How could his family be so cruel, so heartless and cold, how could they live with sacrificing innocent children of their own blood to continuously revive a cold blooded killer? How could his own parents stomach the idea of sacrificing both him and his brother? How could his father want to kill his own son, regardless of the fact that it was an unwanted child and would disigrate his name. It was sickening and he still felt a tug of denial, trying to say that his clan had been wronged and forced from their rightful place of power. But then he would tell himself that those were what he had been taught to believe, a way to brainwash him into believing dying for the sake of his clan would be honorable and justified, even before it had been realized or told to him that it was what was to become of him.

All because he was weaker than his elder brother, he regretted the thought as he thought that he would have been devastated if Itachi had been the one to be sacrificed. If he had known the truth then he would have never of left to seek revenge, but just to be at his brother's side and try to help him in anyway he could, try to convince him to let him stay at his side. A small part of him had never been able to let go of the devotion and adoration he held for his elder brother, he'd never been able to fully erase the idea of the one he had once called aniki. He had always loved his brother, always looked up to him, even in his insane and unhealthy thirst for revenge he was still mesmerized by his control and power, it radiated from him in waves, something he wanted to obtain, that level of power.

They were now slowing down to find a secluded and sheltered place for the night, it looked as though it would rain. They had moved into the country of Sunagakure so they had to settle with a torn apart cliffside that created a crevace resembling a cave. The desert was often cold at night, but that wasn't what bothered Sasuke about stopping, the desert was open as well and he preferred the shelter of mountains and a forest. His two comrads noticed his discomfort and he was taken back when Kuro walked over to him and threw an arm over his shoulder with a brotherly mocking smirk on his face.

His voice was playful and cheerful, something that startled him coming from someone so silent and calm all the time; "Ne, don't worry Sasuke-kun, you have two worthy ninja traveling with you despite what you may think. "

Juugo didn't hide his snicker, nor did Sasuke hide his scowl, he shrugged off Kuro's arm and sat down on the ground with a scoff. Kuro glanced over at Juugo who just gave a slight shrug and then Kuro moved over to Sasuke and sat down next to him. Sasuke moved away from him and Juugo walked off deciding to himself that he would keep the first watch and allow the brothers some privacy.

Sasuke glanced at Kuro who was watching him, that only made his scowl deepen and his eyes harden and he focussed straight ahead to avoid his gaze. Kuro chuckled, "You really are an ice princess."

Sasuke glared at him, a hint of unrelenting anger in his eyes, something Kuro noticed easily, he only smirked and then said; "Well you are, you want to act all distant and cold, but inside you're far from that. You're such a damn girl, all emotional and shit."

Sasuke bristled, "Shut up, I'm not a girl."

"Then stop acting like one and trying to bottle up everything, brothers are allowed to tell each other things you know. You can trust me, I trust you, and with more than my life Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke's glare and scowl faded and he looked at Kuro seriously, "Why?"

Kuro looked away to gaze ahead of him and said in a calm voice, one that reminded Sasuke of Itachi and made him internally flinch; "Because, you're a lot like Itachi."

Sasuke closed his eyes, guilt, pain, and jealousy rising in him. He decided that he would answer in his own cold tone, the one that was always indifferent, "If that's what you think."

Kuro looked at Sasuke sharply, he could see the tenseness in his shoulders and the cold, guarded glint in those dark eyes. Kuro sighed, "He was a good person, strong, fierce, but he was so hard to read just like you. It takes getting used to to be able to read that very slight glint of emotion in those black eyes, in that passive, stoic expression. I was starting to think that anger and rage were the only emotions you felt at all."

Sasuke scoffed and replied with his indiffernt, "Hn," Kuro smirked all the more. He knew from being around Sasuke long enough to take that as his way of saying, 'Go on.'

"Well, I'm not so blind as to not see how you look at the blond you expend a hell of a lot of energy protecting. I can't decipher the connection between you and the pink hair kunoichi. But the blond, that right there is painfully honest, the scowl on your face."

Sauske bristled and looked away sharply, Kuro sighed. "You are very much an Uchiha, trying to brush it off, or possibly fighting it. But then again, you just might be trying to mask a fear that he doesn't feel the same way about you."

Sasuke looked sharply at Kuro and he knew Juugo was listening closely in his silent way. Kuro shrugged, "It doen't matter to me that you're in love with a guy, who the hell am I to judge you anyway? But trying to push it aside, trying to tell yourself that it doesn't exist is idiotic. You've got to tell him, even if he freaks out, or holding a complex emotion like that will kill you Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke sighed, "Hn."

Kuro laughed, "Geeze, you're worse at admitting how you feel than Itachi-san ever was. He normally came back with a sarcastic retort, all I get out of you are monosylybals. He loved you more than he let on you know, proud to be a big brother, but ashamed at how he tore the connection between you. He was pissed at himself for it even more when you left Konoha and sold your soul to that snake. Allowing yourself to become a pawn to the snake pissed him off more than he would ever let on, but in the end he still wanted to die the same way so he didn't intervene. You were the only person he wanted to kill him, the only one he ever saw as fitting for the pain he caused you, the pain you went through because he warped your mind when you were helpless to defend yourself, when you could do nothing to stop it."

Sasuke closed his eyes with a curt nod, he knew all of this now, but it was too late to change it all now. Kuro sighed deeply, "Itachi-san was a pretty selfless person, knowing he was dying even back then, yet still trying to sheild you from the harsh truth about the fucked up family you had. He didn't want to tarnish your idea of what they stood for, and he wasn't protecting the village near as much as he was protecting you. He left, became a rogue ninja, a member of the Akatsuki so that you could remain in Konoha, in a village not running rampant with war and bloodshed. He knew it was him or you and he refused to let it be you."

Sasuke sighed, "I know all of that already, I know about his deal with the Hokage, to keep me in the dark he left. To keep the Hokage from killing me, he left, I know that. Drop it already."

Kuro sighed, "You're not well versed in opening up and trusting anyone are you?"

Sasuke huffed and didn't answer, Kuro nodded curtly and continued, "I wouldn't expect you to be. Being raised by that clan would instill hiding and shoving down your emotions. But one day it will be the end of you, sooner or later the glass will fill up and shatter and that's going to leave you in worse shape than what you're in right now Sasuke-kun."

Sasuke sighed, he knew Kuro had a valid point, knew he was right, but he didn't want to pursue how he felt, everyone he had ever cared about, everyone he had ever let get close had either left, decieved, or he had left them behind. He'd caused pain to the one person he knew he cared for more than anything and everyone else, they had decieved him, lied to protect him, and were already dead.

Kuro sighed beside him, "Sasuke-kun, you should take up writing."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at Kuro as he turned to look at him quizically, "Writing?"

Kuro nodded, his expression serious, "Yeah, writing. It was something of a calming method, a way to vent when you can't bring yourself to trust anyone. The scrolls, if you actually read them, which I doubt, were more than just scrolls. They were journals, especially the ones Itachi left to you. Girls have always been better at conveying emotions, at being able to express them, but guys, we all suck at it. So instead, take up writing your own scrolls, write out your thoughts and how you feel in the form of a journal."

Sasuke huffed, but he didn't argue or really say much of anything. He did keep his own journals, he had to when he left Konoha. Brooding had drove him to it. He was losing his sanity without a way to vent. He hid his scrolls back in the ruins of what used to be the sound village. He had been working on other scrolls throughout this war, but he had done that while Juugo and Kuro were either asleep or elsewhere.

Kuro cut into his thoughts, "Or you could try music, you know playing the flute or something."

Sasuke scowled at him and Kuro laughed, "Sorry Sasuke-kun, it had to be said. Willingly going after that snake, I would have assumed that you would have turned into a snake charmer. Can you still summon that huge snake?"

Sasuke sighed, "Hn," to which Kuro sighed and shrugged, "You're not one for conversations. Guess it's a Uchiha thing, your aniki was the same way. Only short, sarcastic answers, sometimes threats. But you, I get 'hn's' or maybe a word or two if I'm persistent."

Sasuke fought the urge to roll his eyes and averted his gaze out to the desert around them. It was already night, and the wind was starting to chill and tease the sand all around them. The clouds overhead had moved on, not wanting to lavish the desert with much needed rain. Kuro shifted next to him and Sasuke saw him stand out of the corner of his eye.

Kuro walked past him to the open desert and said over his shoulder with a grin that reminded Sasuke of Naruto. "I'll eventually get you to talk to me you know. I'm quite stubborn and I did manage to get Itachi-san to admit that he actually wanted you to be happy after all."

Sasuke watched Kuro walk away and then in a few moments Juugo was sitting next to him silently. Sasuke crossed his arms over his chest and let himself fall into the cat nap he was used to from being a ninja for so long. His nap was interrupted by the familiar chakra coming close to where they were and traveling fast. Juugo and Sasuke were on their feet and standing next to Kuro in an instant. Sasuke's right hand touching the hilt of his sword on instinct. The lavender, ominescent scent of the Uchiha clan, a scent Sasuke knew well, wafted over them.

The three of them tensed and Sasuke turned on the ball of his foot, stepping back just as Madara landed behind them. Juugo and Kuro both jumped back and Sasuke glared, his sharigan flaring dangerously at the man before him. He was quite used to seeing the face of his ancestor. The long, black hair, the pale skin lumiscent in the moonlight, tall and slender, elegant, a pressence of power, control, mystery, to anyone else it would be entrancing, alluring, but to Sasuke it angered him. His elder brother had that pressence and having killed him with his own hands, he hated the pressence, the scent, all of it.

The thin lips curled in a smirk on the ageless man's face, smooth despite his age, the beauty that the Uchiha clan possessed. He still wore the cloak of the Akatsuki, no weapons in his hand, but the kunai and shuriken were not beyond Sasuke's enhanced sight. As dangerous as it was to use the full strength of his sharigan, against one as strong as Madara, an S-class nin, he wasn't taking any chances. He could feel the warm tears of blood seeping from his eyes, the turning wheels of the sharigan burning with a lust for the blood of the man glaring at him with sharigan eyes.

"Ahh, Sasuke-kun, how nice to see you again."

Sasuke refused to say a word, he waited in a calm exterior for Madara to attack first. A single moment before Madara lunged with a kunai ready, Sasuke saw it and in blinding speed drew his sword and easily parried move after move. Juugo and Kuro watched, barely able to keep up with the speed and marveled at the grace and purposeful movements the two fought with. Both were unbelievably fast, swift, no wasted movements or strikes, all of them meant to kill, to weaken their opponent.

After a few minutes of the sound of clashing metal and swift dances across the sand, stirring up small whirlwinds of sand in their wake, the two broke apart a few feet away from one another but having moved at least fifty paces from where Kuro and Juugo stood. Juugo immediately noticed the distance and the slight lean to Sasuke's left foot as an indication that it had been Sasuke that had forced them so far apart.

Kuro resisted the pull to his wrist for a moment before he followed Juugo across the desert, heading towards the forest of Konoha. They had to put distance between them, had to find a way to somehow assist Sasuke or get some help from someone. When Madara had tried to move towards them Kuro had looked over his shoulder to see Sasuke block his path and lunge to force Madara back, away from them. He quickened his pace and Juugo swiftly followed.

Sasuke glared at Madara and the two ended up in a battle of wills as to who would move or speak first. That was an unlikely battle Sasuke would lose, he remained silent and immobile, but ready to attack if Madara so much as flinched. Then he felt the slight pull as his eyes locked with the swirling red and black of Madara's sharigan. But that was insignificant against the level of sharigan Sasuke weilded. He easily shattered the alternate world Madara had tried to force him into, his eyes reacting on the defense that Itachi had given him. Madara stumbled slightly, an exasperated sigh passing through his lips.

Madara instead glared and Sasuke was caught off gaurd by a powerful wave of wind throwing him through the air. He managed to turn in the air enough to dash across the rising, jagged rocks rising from the ground, a summoning jutsu morphing and disfiguring the sea of sand. He barely touched each rise as he moved across the rocks, refusing to get hurt by any of them. He wasn't a genius for nothing and some summoning jutsu wasn't going to get the better of him.

When the ball of his foot set down on one of the tips of a rock, it suddenly caved, pulling him down with a grip around his ankle. Sasuke caught the edge of the rock around him, gripping it with both hands, even with his sword in his right hand. When he felt a violent pull that pulled him half way into the rock, he spun his sword around his hand and thrust it into the solid side of the rock and grasped the hilt with both swords. Then he focused his chakra into his feet as he pulled forward on the hilt, freeing himself with a growl low in his throat.

He pulled the sword free and used his feet to kick off the side of the rocks and back towards Madara, focusing a blindingly fast summoned chidori and forming it into a lightning blade. It was a earth shaking, powerful blow that cut through the ground and created a cliff that formed a waterfall of sand into a dark abyss, missing Madara by mere centimeters.

Then the two were engaged in yet another dance of quick movements, clashing metal, kicks, punches, and blows, none of which landed on either warrior. Sasuke could sense his chakra wanning, but he still continued to fight with everything he had. He could also sense Madara's chakra dimenishing, keeping the sharigan active and the exchange of fire and lightning jutsu's between the two was eating away at their energy.

The two stood twenty or so paces from each other, panting, their expressions stoic, but a hint of weariness in their stances. Sasuke jumped back just in time to dodge a down pour of kunai and shuriken and soon enough he was moving with the same blinding speed as before, his movements fluid as he dodged and parried lashes from kunai and sword alike. Madara had to say he was impressed that the much younger man was able to easily keep up with his speed, mirror his attacks, and counter them as well. The jutsu he had tried to use to make this a quick battle proved useless.

He has learned to control the sharigan quite well, truly the heir to the clan, no wonder his father wanted him to be the next vessel for me. Such speed, skill, grace, and softer edges than that of his elder brother. He would make the perfect vessel, and to top it off the level of sharigan, granted to him from his elder brother. I would only need to take those eyes, snuff out his soul, and bind my soul to this boys' body.

Sasuke lunged, his sword shattering the sword in Madara's hand and running him right through the middle before the elder man could react. Sasuke growled, twisting the sword in Madara's gut, "I won't be snuffed out so easily."

Madara grinned, his hand gripping the blade, but Sasuke twisted the blade once more and pulled it out of Madara's side forcing the man to his knees clutching his right side. Sasuke knew the blow would force him to bleed to death, he staggered back a step, the landed lightning blade that move had forced him to take had shocked his left side making it dangerously numb. Sasuke's hand over his heart, pulsing chakra into his chest was the only thing that kept the numbing shock from getting to his heart. But his internal organs felt twisted and cooked, his muscles cast on fire, but the nerves were shot, rendering his left arm to limply remain at his side.

Madara glared up at Sasuke, "Foolish boy, did you think you could kill me so easily?"

Sasuke smirked, "There will be a time for that."

Madara coughed, the action sending fire throughout his body, a metallic taste bitter in his mouth. Sasuke averted his gaze momentarily upon feeling the spiking chakra of Juugo and Kuro, they were calling out for him, the chakra levels of Madara were falling thin and Sasuke knew he would soon lose consciousness.

Sasuke glared heatedly at Madara, his sharigan still active was unsettling, anyone else that had sustained a blow like that would not be very conscience let alone still have a kekkei kenkai still active. Sasuke kept his gaze alert, his grip on his sword still set, he wasn't going to let Madara get the better of him, he had doubts that even if he decapitated the ancient nin it would kill him. He adjusted the sword in his hand to test that theory, but before he could do more than change with foot he leaned on, he was was thrown back with a yell, another powerful gust, wind jutsu and with god-like strength sent him flying through the air and then colliding with the familiar trees of a forest he knew very well.

He felt the branches break under his weight with startling pain and the air getting knocked out of his lungs and metallic, bitter taste of his own blood hitting him until he finally reached out with his right hand to grab a branch. He felt his heart stutter painfully and let go of the branch falling the twenty feet to place his hand over his heart and continue focusing chakra into it. He felt Kuro approach him, catch him before he fell and then land on the ground with Sasuke in his arms.

Sasuke flinched when Kuro jerked forward a slight amount, a bloodied sword running through his chest, Sasuke hissed at the blood spraying onto him. Sasuke locked eyes with Kuro, those fading crimson eyes glazing over in his approaching death, Kuro brought a shaky hand up and two fingers poked him in the forehead. Sasuke closed his eyes reflexively and felt Kuro slump forward, Sasuke's arms reaching out to catch him, to cradle his distant brother in his lap, his head resting on Sasuke's thigh.

His mind raced, memories, feelings, flashes of times when Kuro learned new techniques, memories from when Kuro had interacted with Itachi. He could hear murmurs of their coversations, often hearing his own name being said between the two. He felt a knawing pain in his chest as he was filled with the memories of his dying brother in his arms, a brother that had a split personality, one that had taken to trying to get to know him towards the end. Sasuke now had everything that had been Kuro in his mind, how he felt, what he thought, how he truly was beneath the shell. He could write the scrolls Kuro had talked about filled with the life Kuro had lived before the two of them had met.

He did recall the few conversations, the jests and pranks Kuro pulled on him, just to try and get a rise out of him. Sasuke heard a ragged breath and opened his eyes to look down at Kuro, he knew his own eyes were now glazed in tears and blood. Kuro brought a hand up to wipe a tear from Sasuke's eye with his thumb, "Sasuke, don't run from how you feel, one day you will have to embrace it or lose him forever . . ."

Sasuke nodded, he couldn't muster the strength to say anything, after having Kuro's memories implanted in his mind it hurt that much more that he was lying in his arms dying, holding to the last bit of life to give Sasuke advice. Why did so many people have faith in him, why in the hell did they care? Why do all the ones I even acknowledge I care about end up leaving me in the end?

Sasuke felt Juugo behind him, pulling on his arm, trying to get him to let go of Kuro, to leave his side. Sasuke clung to Kuro's form, and his own sword was picked up and aimed at him in a downward slash, cutting across his face from his left eyebrow, across his nose and to the right, bottom part of his cheek. Sasuke flared at the pain, the pain helped him gain back some of his thought process. He lunged forward, tackling Madara and knocking him into a tree. Sasuke rolled on the ground, grasping his sword and jumping to his feet to turn on the ball of his foot and run his blade through the shocked Madara's throat.

The sharigan in Madara's eyes faded and his black eyes became a glassy gray. Juugo took that moment to pull Sasuke back and Sasuke reluctantly left Kuro behind to follow Juugo away from the area. It took him a moment to realize that Konoha nin's were heading their way, probably because of the flare of chakra in the area.

The two ran through the forest quickly, Sasuke remembering to deactivate the sharigan, to mask his chakra, but his left side was pulsing, his legs were throbbing, he could feel blood on his back, the blood on his face, and from his eyes due to using the sharigan for too long made it difficult to move stealthly. Juugo led Sasuke with a firm grasp on his right elbow, Sauske's hand still focusing on running chakra into his heart.

Close to dawn they came across a small village, but by then Sasuke was barely conscience enough to notice anything about the village other than the houses and torches burning. By the time they set foot in the village Juugo had to catch him before he fell face first into the ground. The next events were nothing more than a blur.


Journal Entry

According to Juugo, we are in a non-ninja, precivalized, old village that not many know about. He also said that the village had previously been a place of home to him, before the curse mark had been activated in him. He had met Kimimaru in this small village. It's peaceful, but everyone is secretive, which is fine with me, I don't need pointless questions about how I came here or why I am in the condition I am in.

Kuro, my half brother, he kept saying that I should let someone get close, the exact opposite of what Itachi had instilled in my mind. Itachi had severed all ties with the clan, slaughtered them, that in itself had brought me to never allow myself to trust another living person ever again, to never allow myself to care. But when I learned the truth of my brother, that changed, I was swamped with emotions I thought I had long since locked away. Emotions that left me vulnerable, confused, angry at myself for being so damn blind. How could I not have seen that my brother still cared about me, that he still wanted to protect me, how could I not have seen how evil my own family truly was? Better yet, how could I underestimate my own parents and their pension to do whatever it took for power, to regain control over the ninja world as their ancestors did before them?

I've been a fool, all this time shutting out my emotions to the point where I couldn't express how much I did care for Itachi, even when he died, even though I had been the one to kill him. I couldn't express my need to have a brother, a family, to be close to this half brother that knew Itachi on a different level than I did, someone who understood my brother and could have understood me, I let my foolish stubborness keep me from ever trying and now it's too late. Now he's dead and I can never have that connection with the only member of my family I had left.

Not only that, I still can't wrap my head around coming clean to Na . . . the dobe about how I feel. I hate to admit that I fear he won't feel the same way and shoot me down, that he won't forgive me. I nearly killed him, broke his trust, left when he begged me to stay, ran from the developing emotions, the pull I felt towards him. I was afraid of getting close to anyone and I knew deep down that if I allowed myself to get close to him it would possibly become a stronger bond than that of the one I had with Itachi in my childhood. I would fight for every moment, savor his pressence, his scent, which is engrave in my mind already, his touch, if he offered it. I would come to rely on all of it, on all of him and then I would be completely vulnerable.

Even if I did confess my feelings for him, who's to say my feelings would be returned. I don't think I could survive being rejected like that. But I would deserve it, would deserve to be rejected after what I did. He strives to help others, to protect everyone, he's so utterly selfless it's almost sickening. How can someone that grew up being hated by an entire village, someone who was treated like trash growing up be so damn selfless, so cheerful, and so aggravatingly bright. He's loud, obnoxious, charges into things headfirst, and he's the epitome of heroic to the point it's idiotic. But for some reason I can't get him out of my mind, I strive to protect him, to protect those around him to save him the pain of losing them.

He's infectious, his code of morals, his drive to protect others, to help others, now I'm going around saving the lives of allied nin's, villagers caught in the crossfire of this war, I'm laying my life and the lives of my . . . comrads, team maybe, on the line to help him in his ambition to save as many lives as he can. On top of that, I was running around trying to avoid the bastard set on taking the sharigan powers from me, avoiding him in hopes we could take him.

The bastard is dead now, but it cost me the brother I never got to know, and now I am at the mercy of this small village. If not for them I would be dead from fighting that psychotic bastard, and Juugo saved my life as well by bringing me here. He's fiercely loyal, but he is getting curious, asking me questions and my instincts tell me not to trust him, don't let him get close.

But then Kuro's words come to mind and I try to remedy that, but I was never good at expressing how I feel, at opening up. I guess I have to try, Juugo had proven time and again that he is trustworthy, that he is loyal and won't betray me. But I still find it hard to open up, to find the words to convey how I feel. Hence, I started this blasted journal, also another of Kuro's suggestions. Maybe one day I might find a way to express how I feel, until then I will have to rely on the journals, which have become increasingly personal lately, even more so than the journals while I was in Sound. I need to go back and gather those before I meet up with Team Seven and deliver all the scrolls.

That in itself has my stomach in knots and gives me headaches from the stress it causes, I will have to meet with Naruto. He's the only one I trust with both my and Itachi's scrolls. I will have to write down the memories from Kuro as well, since he was the one to suggest all this in the first place. That I meet with them personally to deliver the scrolls, that they were the least likely to kill me on sight. So I have decided who to give what scrolls, but only Naruto will have the scrolls from Itachi and me, the other two can have the rest. Kabuto's can go to Sakura since she is a medic nin and will understand most of it better than the other two.

Kakashi, well he can have the more complex scrolls of Madara and Oro . . . the snake bastard. Other than that, it's covered, now all I have to worry about is what the meeting will entail. I will have to make sure Juugo knows that I only wish to stay long enough to give them the scrolls and my instructions/requests. Going through the torrents of emotions and mending my relations with my old team will have to wait until after the war, now is not the opportune time for that level of drama to begin with.

But of course, I expect it to become problematic with the dobe, he's persistant and will want to talk and all that. But personally, I don't think I could handle it . . . not that I believe I would ever be able to. The last time we met one another, I tried yet again to kill him, not wanting the connection I had, nor the feelings I felt when he was near. But now, I feel them all the time, added with a tormenting longing, this void inside.

Sasuke let out a deep sigh and rolled up the scroll, it would possibly be the last one before his meeting with his old team. He had asked Juugo to find a way to contact the village and only yesterday they had recieved a reply saying that they would meet with him tomorrow. He had to travel to the outskirts of the village, alone, and there would be Anbu present in case he tried anything. He was still a rogue ninja after all. Sasuke quickly sealed the scroll and placed it in the pack he had acquired from one of the villagers with the rest of the scrolls. He had to set out in one hour if he was to make it to the designated area in time.

Juugo was set in going with him, but Sasuke had told him he would have to remain outside the area's borders. He wasn't going to disuade Juugo or threaten him, his loyalty ran deep and though he didn't talk much he was stubborn enough to rival Naruto. Sasuke took a deep breath and closed the pack, he had a canteen, ration bars, and a few of his old trademark ninja tools, the wire, the shuriken, and kunai's. His sword was long since gone, having been left to rust in Madara's throat. He didn't want to go back and try to retrieve it, he was certain that the Konoha nin's that found the bodies were sure to have confiscated the sword by now anyway. He walked across the room in the small hut to the door and opened it to find that Juugo was leaning against the building waiting for him silently.

Sasuke smirked at him and closed the door behind him, before he could take more than two steps a small girls voice drifted over to him. She was only six years old, black hair, pale skin, and brown eyes, she had a childish grin on her face and was wearing a pink dress as she ran over to him and latched onto him with tears in her eyes.

She looked up at him, "Sasuke-niisan, will you come back?"

Sasuke adjusted the pack on his shoulder and picked the little girl up to carry her like he did often. They had been in the village for at least two months now, both recovering and getting some much need rest. The little girl in his arms had taken to pestering Sasuke, and she was sweet, innocent, and overly cheerful. Her older sister and mother had helped in nursing Sasuke back to health and he had taken a liking to the small girl.

She didn't ask needless questions, though still curious about everything, she had talked him into reading to her countless times, and she had come running over to the hut he slept in one night offering companionship when a nightmare had left him shaken. In turn he spent a lot of his time enjoying the peace of the village with her, first as a thanks to the mother and sister for helping him, then because the little girl had gotten under his skin.

The way he was with her vaguely reminded him of how Itachi had been with him, still the elder, but affectionate, caring, and brotherly all the same. Sasuke had made a note to come back and visit the girl, look after her. She also told him that she wanted to be a ninja one day and he had sworn to come back and train her personally. She clung to him wrapping her small arms tightly around his neck, her tears dampening his skin and his white yakata.

Sasuke sighed and with the hand not holding her to him he ran his fingers gently through her hair, "Ari-chan, I already told you I would return soon."

She nodded into his neck and then looked up at him, "I know Nii-san, but I don't want you to go."

He smiled gently at her, something that still suprised Juugo and himself, but that smile was only for this little girl in his arms. "I have to go, but do you trust me to come back?"

She nodded and he kissed her forehead before setting her down and kneeling down in front of her. He tucked her hair behind her ears and wiped away her tears with his thumbs, "Ari-chan, while I am gone, behave for your obasaan, and don't aggravate your nee-chan too much. I will come back and if you behave yourself I will start teaching you what we talked about. Deal?"

She nodded energetically and hugged him to whisper in his ear with a childish grin, "Deal Nii-san."

He hugged her back and then held her by her shoulders, "Good, I have to go."

She nodded and said while meeting his eyes, "Bye for now, but not forever."

Sasuke nodded, "Bye for now, but not forver," then he ruffled her hair and stood when she turned and ran back over to her mother standing in the hut directly across from where he had been staying. Her mother was short for a woman in her thirties, had a pleasantly plump figure, a kind face, those same brown eyes, pale skin, and black hair and was wearing a white shirt, brown skirt, and a blue apron over all of it. She smiled at Sasuke who nodded and then she waved with her daughter in her arms.

Sasuke took a deep breath and then turned his back to the village and he and Juugo made their way into the forest surrounding it, heading to the area he was to meet his old team. Sasuke didn't know if the knot in his stomach was from anxiety from meeting up with his friends or leaving the little girl that had forced her way into his heart behind.

For once, Naruto was the sole person on his mind, he was thinking about the ambitious little girl as well. She had aggravated him at first, automatically calling him Nii-san without asking for his name. She had attached herself to his side throughout most of his stay in the village, talked him into reading to her, and even though he never divulged her with why he was there, or anything on his mind, she had wormed her way into his heart. He found that he could still care about another person, he felt compelled to thank the girl for making him realize that, so he did all he could to appease her want for attention and allowed her to call him Nii-san.

Not only that, but he also allowed the girl to hold his hand, to hug him, to stay at his side at all times. He defended her like an elder brother when the boys her age taunted her, and he had already started to help her learn some of the basics for a ninja. Throwing kunai and shuriken under his watchful eye, he saw potential in her, she picked things up quickly and was smarter than the average six year old, a genius in her own right.

It had taken him quite a while to talk to her mother about possibly training her to be a ninja, even if he had to do so in their quiet village. But he had also informed her that there may be a possibility of training her in a ninja village, of her attending an academy. He was sure that even if Konoha didn't take him back, they wouldn't turn away a little girl with her potential. She had a bloodline limit, according to the talk he had with the girl's mother. It was a rare kekkei kenkai, one he hadn't come across yet or heard of, but it ran in the mother's blood, as most kekkei kenkai did. The mother was a rogue ninja having fled when she was pregnant with her first child, out of wedlock and the father coming from an enemy nation at the time. The younger daughter, Ari, was the daughter of a ninja from the Sand nation, and had been killed during the war in the first year.

Sasuke halted, they were getting close to the meeting point, having stopped the night before to rest. It was deep into the forest and Juugo had agreed to remain at their camp site. Sasuke would find it easier to locate his comrad that way.

He could already feel the chakra of Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi, along with at least six Anbu. He continued, the scent coming to him, the musky, spicy scent he knew by heart, the scent of Naruto. The minty, clean scent of Sakura, and the smoky scent of his old sensei. The Anbu, naturally gave off no scent and if it wasn't for Sasuke's heightened skills as a sharigan user, he was sure he wouldn't have sensed their chakra at all.

He jumped down from the tree only ten paces from where they were waiting and walked through the narrow pathway into the small clearing where the three were. Naruto stopped pacing looking over at him. Sasuke averted his eyes, he couldn't handle looking into those blue eyes right now, he was still worried about Ari and the death of Kuro was still too fresh of a wound for him to be able to hide the pain in his eyes. Though his expression was cold and stoic as always, Naruto had long since proved he could read the emotions in Sasuke's eyes rather well.

He heard Kakashi rise from his seated position and saw him pocket his Icha Icha Paradise book. Sakura stared at him for a moment before blinking and putting her hands on her hips with a sigh. Kakashi was the suprisingly the first to break the silence.

"Sasuke-kun, care to explain why you wished to meet with only the three of us?"

Sasuke gave a very slight nod and his right hand tightened around the strap of the pack on his back. "Hai, S-class, scrolls."

Kakashi's eye widened and he nodded, "You obtained the scrolls of the S-class criminals that defected from Konoha."

Sasuke sighed, "Hai, Kakashi-sensei."

Naruto finally decided that he was going to say something, and as usual he was loud when he did open his mouth.

"Oi, Sasuke-teme, you've been trotting around gathering scrolls with a war going on?"

Sasuke growled, "Do you want the scrolls or not?"

Naruto bristled at the tone in Sasuke's voice, "No shit teme! Is that all you've been doing?"

Sasuke glared at Naruto, but still didn't meet his eyes, "I don't see that it's any of your business dobe."

Kakashi cut them both off before they could argue further. Sasuke had expected Naruto to be pissed and yell, but he was actually just acting like his usual self. Sakura had yet to say anything and that made him nervous. Kakashi sighed, "How about you show us the scrolls and I will judge if they are authentic."

Sasuke removed the pack from his back and tossed it over to Kakashi, who caught it effortlessly. Sakura looked over Kakashi's shoulder as he opened the pack and pulled out the scolls. Sasuke cut in before anyone could say anything, "I do have a request on who goes over the scrolls."

Kakashi looked over at him, Sasuke briefly made the mistake of meeting his eye and looked away quickly. Kakashi nodded, 'Hai, Sasuke-kun."

He carefully moved over to Kakashi's side and pulled out two bundles of scrolls. Both were Oro-snake's and Madara's. He held them out for Kakashi, "These would be better deciphered by you. Madara's will require the sharigan."

Kakashi nodded and then Sasuke took out the scrolls from Kabuto and handed the thick bundle to Sakura. She took it with a serious expression confirming his thoughts on how much she had grown and changed. She looked as though he was giving her a mission, which he was to be truthful.

"A medic nin's, the one that worked under Oro . . . the snake sannin."

All three of his old teammates noticed how he refused to say Orochimaru, Naruto actually looked at him with understanding, as though he knew why Sasuke couldn't say the name. It made the knot in his stomach tighten and left him to wonder when Naruto had become so perceptive.

Sasuke sighed and took out Itachi and his own scrolls, he held them out towards Naruto. Naruto stepped over to him and took the scrolls, their hands brushing lightly and making Sasuke jerk his hand back. He'd felt a jolt run through him from that simple, brief touch. He closed his pack and picked it up to place it back on his back and stepped back from them.

He bowed his head to them and made to leave. Naruto opened his mouth to protest, but Kakashi cut him off looking sharply at Sasuke.

"Sasuke-kun, handing over these scrolls may not prove sufficient if you wish to regain your status as a Konoha nin."

Sasuke tensed and nodded curtly, "Hai, I never believed it would."

Naruto looked sharply at him, "Then why give them to us then, and why the hell the three of us to begin with. Were you hoping to reconcile, or did you just want to shove it in our faces that we are out fighting a war while you trounce around gathering scrolls."

Sakura glared at Naruto, but she still refused to say anything, Sasuke wondered if she could say anything, maybe the shock had rendered her speechless. Sasuke sighed and turned to leave. Naruto of course persisted, "Oi, teme! Why in the hell are you giving us scrolls on ninja you sided with. Did you stab them in the back as well?"

The cold tone in Naruto's words and the words themselves stung more than Sasuke wanted to admit. He steeled himself and his lips formed a thin line in his attempt to not say anything. He stepped forward, trying to leave, but then he felt Naruto's chakra spike and he found himself pinned against a tree by his throat. Sakura had shrieked, Kakashi was surprised, and Naruto was pissed. Sasuke didn't let the surprise rise to his features or his eyes, he met the glare head on, anger the only thing seeping through the cracks.

But as soon as he locked eyes with Naruto his anger died, Naruto was pissed, but their was pain in his eyes, a hurt expression on his face. Sasuke noticed the new scar on his left cheek, running diagonal across the whisker marks on his cheeks. Even in Naruto's anger, in his pain, he couldn't sense Kyuubi's chakra, it was as though it wasn't there, but wait . . . there it was, that very slight hint of the chakra of the fox demon, but well controlled, as though it was being suppressed by something powerful. So, he strengthened the seal, I bet the fox is pissed to be ignored.

Naruto let him go, but remained in front of him, refusing to look away, "You've been off the radar for a while, we thought you died or some shit like that. Now here you are, requesting to meet up with us, handing over really fucking valuable scrolls that I know had to have been costly and dangerous to obtain, and nothing. You won't tell us, your fucking team mates, your friends what the fuck you've been doing all this time? You've been moving about saving our skins, and the lives of countless Leaf and Sand ninja's, and you don't want to let me in on that! Why the fuck not, I'm your best friend damn it!"

Sasuke sighed and closed his eyes, breaking the eye contact, that caused Naruto to shove him against the tree roughly and Sakura cried out his name. Naruto ignored her and the rough shove forced Sasuke to lock eyes with Naruto once again.

"I give a damn, why can't you get that through your thick fucking Uchiha skull. We found Madara dead, with your sword through his throat and an unidentified Uchiha dead feet from him. Traces of your blood on him, and the genetics of your father. A brother to you, dead, you fought Madara, and your blood was on that other guy and I didn't know what the hell to think. Months, months without so much as a whisper that you were alive and then you pull this shit and want to leave me in the dark!"

Sasuke averted his eyes to his left, Juugo's chakra was spiking, but it was in calling, not in warning or him rushing to his aid. It made Sasuke's stomach turn, and he looked sharply at Naruto, "I don't have time for this."

He shoved Naruto away from him and tensed when Naruto grabbed his wrist and held him there. Sasuke glared at Naruto and hissed, "Let go."

Naruto glared at him and his grip tightened, "No, not until you tell me what the fuck is up with you."

Sasuke wrenched his hand away, "I have obligations now, take your damn scrolls and focus on your own life before digging into mine." Sasuke regretted the cold tone in his voice as much as the words when Naruto took a step back, hurt in his eyes. But Juugo's chakra spiking even more pulled him away from it and he leapt up to the limb of a nearby tree and disappeared.


He wasn't aware that Kakashi, Sakura, and Naruto had felt the chakra as well, they recognized it as a calling sign, not a warning sign. Kakashi stepped up behind Naruto, "He seems to have changed."

Naruto nodded, "Still a bastard. Let's get these scrolls back to the village, Baa-chan will want to see them."

They turned to leave and Naruto looked down at the scrolls, he recognized the seal on Sasuke's and put that one in his pack while the others weren't looking and followed behind them. Sasuke's words had hurt, but he had sensed the desperation to get away, a need to defend someone, a fear for someone's life in his eyes. It brought hope into his heart, hope that perhaps Sasuke was starting to let his cold heart be melted. What he had said about knowing Sasuke was the one saving lives in the shadows, that he was the phantom nin everyone talked about was true, he was the first to point it out.

Then that hestitation, the bitter look on Sasuke's face when he mentioned Orochimaru. That was something Naruto remembered well, he had noticed it the last time the two of them met, the snake's scent on Sasuke had angered him greatly. But he had feigned that it was because he felt betrayed by Sasuke. He knew Sasuke had ambitions, knew what he was doing was wrong and idiotic, but he was hoping Sasuke would see that himself. It would be the only way Sasuke would change his ways anyway, the stubborn bastard.


Sasuke felt his blood run cold, a sickening feeling rising in him, his throat went dry and soon he found himself on his knees, numbing pain, horror, a heartache he had only felt once in his life before. Juugo and he had entered the village to find it up in flames, the houses and huts burnt to the ground. The livestock, the small gardens for vegetables and flowers ruined. Sasuke saw the largest building serving as the schoolhouse, the place to worship their chosen gaurdian, burnt to the ground, only enough of the frame there to indicate what had happened to the villagers.

Juugo looked at him and Sasuke forced himself to get to his feet, he had to confirm what he already knew, had to finalize the facts staring him in the face. Every step weighed down on his heart, made each breath come painfully, made his heart pound in his chest. In his mind was the same chant over and over again, Not again, not again, not again.

Sasuke finally made it before the building, the metal through the door handles enough indication. Juugo walked around to the side, moving into what remained of the building to further investigate it. Juugo froze suddenly recognizing something that had survived the fire, a single kunai, held tightly in what remained of a little girls hand. He closed his eyes, Sasuke was not going to take this well.

He found it hard to take in himself, but Sasuke, he looked over to see Sasuke standing on the other side of what remained of the wall to the building. Juugo turned and moved over to Sasuke's side. Sasuke looked at him, a flash of a frightened child's expression and then the stoic, gaurded, cold expression hardened his black eyes. Juugo felt a jab at his heart from that small moment of Sasuke's gaurd dropping.

Sasuke closed his eyes for a brief moment and then he turned and walked away, heading towards the forest around them. Juugo followed him and could tell that Sasuke had no idea where he was going. He wasn't going to push for Sasuke to talk to him, not yet. But he planned to do so soon, as soon as they stopped to rest or within the next few days.

Fours days, they were along the borders of Konoha in four days, Sasuke ate near to nothing and slept very little. Juugo thought on the fact that Sasuke had refused to touch anything that remained of the village, and his intuitive mind was sure to have come to the conclusion that the adopted little sister was dead with everyone else in the village. Juugo could confirm that with the single kunai, something he had seen Sasuke give the girl.

He felt guilt eating away at him and couldn't imagine how Sasuke must feel. He knew of the tragic day he was forced to watch his elder brother slaughter his clan, killed his parents in front of him, set him on the path of an avenger. Kuro had tried to break through his shell, to get close to him and had died before he truly could. He knew that with the sharigan one had nightmares, a side effect of having the abilities. The nightmares could replay past events, make your worst nightmares feel like reality, slowly drive anyone insane. He was well versed in the powers and effects of the sharigan, having two comrads that possessed it gave one such knowledge.

But the stoic Uchiha, strong on the exterior, a mysterious, powerful, controlled aura around him, was still a child beneath it all. He was human, he felt emotions like anyone else. And he was hurting more than he could fanthom and he could do nothing about it because of the pride his comrad had and how guarded he had to be to make it as far in his life as he did. Juugo wanted to get to know the complex man, to truly befriend someone so strong would be an honor, but now, with that little girl finally snapping the weakened hold he had on his sanity, he didn't know if he could.

So he found himself following Sasuke into Kumogakure, into the village that was an enemy of Konoha and Suna, and they disguised themselves into complete opposites of what they truly looked like and made their way into the village posing as victims of the war. Now would begin the endless circle of a empty, shatter Uchiha that had to be constantly monitored from a distance. Juugo made it a habit, a daily ritual to make sure Sasuke woke, ate, showered, and followed him through the village. Within a few weeks Juugo had a job at a factory and he found them a place to stay. It would take a while to get Sasuke to talk, to act even remotely like he was alive.

All Juugo could do was hope that the blond shinobi from Konoha would find them and somehow save his comrad. He had no means or idea how to help him, so he only made sure Sasuke made it through each day, even if it was only a shell of who Sasuke used to be. He had opened his heart to someone, had gotten close to another human being and he had lost them soon after admitting he cared for the little girl. It took months for Sasuke to start writing scrolls, the first were memories of Kuro's life, then went into detail of how everything effected him, then an entire scroll about Ari and the villagers that had helped them. It was something, but Juugo knew it wasn't enough, nothing or no one in this village was going to be enough to truly save the young Uchiha, from himself.


A/N: This is continued in my story The Price which is now complete. Thanks for reading.