Hinata opened her eyes and looked around groggily. The first thing she saw was a woman with long blond hair leaning over Naruto, her hands glowing green. Then she saw Guy walking around the room, a worried look on his face. As Hinata watched, Naruto opened his eyes and slowly sat up and looked around. Upon seeing Hinata, Naruto gasped, then screamed, then bolted out of the room, yelling about how Hinata "wants to kill me!"
"Naruto!" Hinata gasped out, sitting up straight. She looked around, eyes wide, slowly realizing that it had just been a nightmare.
Guy-sensei, sitting nearby with an exhausted look on his face, gave Hinata a tired smile. "Another of those crazy dreams, eh?" he asked. Hinata nodded. "Don't worry, Hinata, if I know Naruto, the last thing you have to worry about is him doing something to hurt you. He's more likely to worship the ground you walk on for looking over him like this than he is to hurt you or fear you."
Hinata bowed to Guy. "Thank you, Guy-sensei," she said softly. "Now, please, get some sleep, I'll keep watch for a while." The tired man nodded and, settling himself slightly more comfortably in his chair, was soon asleep. Hinata was surprised the man slept so quietly, but she wasn't about to complain. Pulling her chair up to the side of Naruto's bed, the shy girl gently took his hand in hers and stroked it, hoping to comfort him. "No matter what happens, Naruto, I'll always be here for you from now on," she said quietly, wishing he could hear her. "I promise."
Sasuke looked around the small village where he and Jiraiya found themselves at the moment. "This is just another town with a bunch of brothels, old man," he said cynically. "Why would Tsunade be here?"
Jiraiya snickered and pointed at a building to Sasuke's left. "See that place?" At Sasuke's nod, Jiraiya continued, "Tsunade is known as the Legendary Sucker, and with good reason. That place is one of the most well-known gambling halls for miles. If we're going to find Tsunade or anyone who's seen her recently, we couldn't ask for a better place to start looking than one just like that."
Sasuke thought about that a moment. "So you mean to tell me that while we're out here trying to save my friend's life, this woman could be out here gambling away her money?" he asked, a sour look on his face. Jiraiya nodded grimly. Sasuke fell silent, his glare intensified. Jiraiya smiled slightly; the boy had reason to be annoyed, but his sulking still struck the white-haired pervert as hilarious.
Sasuke sighed. "All right, let's get this over with," he said. Jiraiya nodded, and the two entered the gambling hall Jiraiya had pointed out to Sasuke before.
Naruto had long since stopped sobbing; he had no tears left to cry, it seemed. Now he simply lay curled in a ball, arms around his legs, shaking and wishing it would end. Even if it meant his death, at that precise moment, he didn't care, just so long as the torture ended.
Then he heard it. "I'll always be here for you from now on," Hinata's voice said. "I promise." Naruto thought at first that this was just part of the genjutsu, meant to make the coming tortures worse, but then he saw the look of shock and worry "Itachi" had on his face at that moment. That told him that the voice was, somehow, real, and Hinata had just said that to him. Naruto would likely never know it, but her voice had just saved him from the worst tortures Itachi had meant to bestow upon him in this torture-ridden genjutsu world.
Naruto faced "Itachi" with a newfound grim determination in his eyes. Itachi sighed. "Well, Naruto, it seems the tortures I had planned originally will no longer work. I'll have to show you a new one, then," he said, after which his body seemed to simply fade away. Naruto groaned; a new horror surely awaited him now.
The next thing Naruto saw was a very detailed recreation of what Itachi had shown Sasuke so many years ago, Itachi killing off the Uchiha clan. Unlike Sasuke, though, Naruto was shown something else. Itachi approached a man who had been standing in the background all along. Said man was tall and spindly, wore an orange swirl mask and a black cloak adorned with red clouds, and, Naruto saw, possessed the Sharingan!
Itachi's voice spoke. "Madara Uchiha," he said. "The arrogant fool, he goaded me on to destroy my clan. He was the one who wanted the clan gone, not to destroy Sasuke, as some may think, but because they refused to go along with his plans and take over the Leaf Village. What Madara never knew is they were in fact making plans to go through with his stupid coup, I told him they refused! Then, to prevent them from going through with it, I was ordered to destroy them. I regret doing it everyday, but there's nothing I can do now. Not for them anyway. But maybe...maybe you, Naruto, can do something for Sasuke. Point him to the true object of his vengeance, your precious Leaf Village! Yes, Naruto, the order came from the Leaf Village!"
As the voice stopped, Naruto saw Itachi speaking to the Third Hokage and three older people. As the Third walked away, seemingly thinking hard, the dark-haired man of the group spoke to Itachi. "You will destroy them, Itachi," he spoke. His voice was gruff but also cold and calculating. Naruto hated it instinctively. "The Third Hokage will never order this, he is a peace-loving fool, but I will order it. Destroy your clan before they destroy us all."
Itachi bowed. "Yes, Lord Danzo," he said simply before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
Naruto's entire world seemed to shatter at that moment. The village he had always believed in, trusted in, and thought to be all that was good...was a freaking sham! At least the Old Man, the Third Hokage, wasn't the one behind it. But still...the leaders of the village had ordered the decimation of an entire clan, and why? To protect their own FUCKING power! Naruto's rage at the old man, Danzo Itachi had called him, came to a boil. Naruto leaned his head back and roared at the injustice of it all. As his rage became more and more potent, Naruto was surrounded by a cloak of red chakra. As it took on the appearance of a fox and sprouted a single tail, everything in Naruto's vision went black. The Kyubi, unable to completely snap Naruto out of Tsukuyomi, had done the next best thing: Naruto was now unconscious and would spend the next several days as such, waiting for the arrival of Tsunade.
Shortly after she spoke, Naruto's entire body seemed to stiffen, then convulse. A short time later, his body was cloaked in red chakra! Just when she was about to panic and waken Guy-sensei, he stiffened again, then the red chakra vanished, and Naruto seemed to finally be really resting. His body, stiff and tense before, was now relaxed. He seemed to be simply sleeping rather than suffering now.
Wishing she could believe she had somehow helped her long-time crush, Hinata took his hand in both of hers again and, laying her head on his chest, closed her eyes. Within minutes, she was asleep as well. Despite the slight cramp in her back caused by the position in which she rested, Hinata hadn't slept so well or so soundly in years. Unbeknownst to her, her slight shift in breathing awakened the green-clad Jonin. Surprisingly, he remained quiet as he simply smiled at the scene before him. "I won't wake her," he thought.
Sasuke and Jiraiya were getting frustrated by now. The only tip they'd gotten claimed that Tsunade was somewhere in town, but no one knew exactly where. "Come on, Sasuke," Jiraiya said, heading for a bar nearby. "Let's get something to eat and continue this search tomorrow."
Sasuke just nodded, too tired for once to even argue. He and the Sannin had been searching this damn town all day long, and there had been no sign of the Legendary Sucker. Not watching where he was going, Sasuke suddenly bumped into something. Looking up, all he could see was the back of Jiraiya's red cloak. "Um...Jiraiya?" he said, trying to figure out why the man had stopped so suddenly.
Jiraiya, meanwhile, was pointing at someone in the back corner, mouth dropped open in shock. Sasuke followed the pointing finger and saw a woman, blond hair in pigtails, a diamond on her forehead, appearing to be about thirty. Sasuke was about to say something more when Jiraiya burst out, "TSUNADE!" Sasuke looked at the object of Jiraiya's shock and had to reevaluate everything he'd been thinking about this "Tsunade" character.
"This...is the great medical ninja Tsunade Senju?" he said to no one in particular. Her brown eyes showed experience, he had to grant that, but the rest...he just had to say it. "Hn, she doesn't look like much."
Tsunade got up very slowly, glaring at Sasuke. Sasuke was surprised to feel a small amount of Killing Intent being directed at him. Looking at the rising woman, Sasuke saw a vein in her forehead twitching. "Hm, her forehead's even bigger than Sakura's," he thought to himself. He had the intelligence to keep his thoughts to himself this time, though.
Tsunade walked over to the black-haired brat who dared insult her. "You don't think I look like much, huh?" she said, bending down and looking the kid in the eye. Sasuke, to his credit, stood his ground. He just looked her in the eye, not flinching, not moving. "All right then, come on...kid." That said, she turned and stalked outside into the street. Sasuke, curious, followed. Tsunade watched the dark-haired boy walk outside and had to give a small smile at him. "He's cocky, but he's at least got the nerve to stand up to me. Gotta give the kid credit, he's got guts," she thought to herself.
"Tsunade," Sasuke spoke, falling into a battle stance. Tsunade just raised an eyebrow at him. She wasn't used to being addressed so informally. "You will come back with Jiraiya and me to the Leaf Village." And she certainly wasn't used to being ordered to do anything she didn't want to do, especially by some half-pint brat.
"I think not, kid," she said. "Why would I return to that hellhole of a village? There's nothing left for me there."
"Hn," Sasuke said eloquently. "Believe me, Tsunade, I know how you feel, there's nothing much left for me there either. But there is one thing, and for that one thing...well, that one person, really, I will drag you back to that village kicking and screaming if I have to. You will come back with us, and you will help him!"
Tsunade, taken aback by the boy's comment, paused. "Who...is this one person? And why would I need, or, more importantly, want to help him?"
Sasuke straightened himself slightly when he saw Tsunade wasn't going to attack him at that moment. "His name is Naruto Uzumaki," he said. Tsunade stiffened in recognition of the name. "He suffers under the effects of Tsukuyomi, cast by my older brother, Itachi Uchiha, meant for me, Sasuke Uchiha. He suffers for saving me from the foul effects of that dark jutsu of the Sharingan Itachi and I share. Naruto is my true brother, even if our relation is not by our blood. He saved me, and now, I will save him. If, as Jiraiya has told me, you are the only one who can heal him of these effects, I will drag you back, no matter the cost, even if that cost is my own life!"
Tsunade had to stop and re-think her position on this. The kid seemed deadly serious about giving up his own life to take her back, and she had no reason to kill the kid. Plus, the name he mentioned...Naruto Uzumaki...she knew that name. She never thought she'd hear it again, but oh, did she know that name! Turning to Jiraiya, she queried, "He lived?" Jiraiya simply nodded. "So now he's under Itachi's Tsukuyomi...so he got the Mangekyo Sharingan, huh?" At this one, Sasuke nodded grimly. Turning to Jiraiya, Tsunade growled, "But that's not the whole story, is it?"
"Indeed it isn't, Tsunade," he said. "Our old teammate paid a visit to the Leaf Village not long ago. Our sensei is gone, and the council of elders sent me to retrieve you to be the Fifth Hokage." From the lack of surprise she saw in the Uchiha kid, Tsunade surmised that he knew about that beforehand.
"All right," she said, her voice resigned. "I'm not coming back to be Hokage, but I'll come and take a look at Naruto at least." Then she glared at Sasuke. "We'll finish this later, kid."
When the three rejoined Shizune a few minutes later, the dark-haired medic looked from one to another, confusion evident in her eyes when she saw that Sasuke was unharmed. She met Tsunade's eyes and got another shock: her teacher's eyes were full of pain. "We're going back," Tsunade said.
Shizune gasped. "Back...to the Leaf Village?" she asked. Tsunade nodded. "Why? I mean, I'm glad, but why now, after all these years?"
Tsunade buried her face in her hands. "He's alive, Shizune," she said. "Naruto...he's alive!"
Shizune looked at Tsunade in shock. "You mean...Kushina's son?" she asked. Tsunade nodded, her face still buried in her hands to hide the tears that were spilling from her eyes. "My cousin...my cousin is alive!" Then she looked at Tsunade in confusion. "What does that have to do with why we're going back, though? Beyond the obvious, I mean."
Tsunade gestured for Sasuke to explain. "He saved me," Sasuke said quietly. "I was having a fight with my older brother, and Naruto took an attack for me. He's now suffering the consequences of it..." he trailed off, the guilt too much to handle all at once.
"What attack?" Shizune asked.
"Tsukuyomi," Sasuke responded. Shizune looked confused. "It's a jutsu of the Mangekyo Sharingan. It's a genjutsu and can last for months if the caster so chooses and shows the victim anything the caster chooses to show. The caster controls time itself within the world of the Tsukuyomi, so a single second of torture can last for what will feel like years to the victim. It's the worst kind of torture imaginable." Everyone could hear the fear and pain in the young Uchiha's voice as he spoke of the jutsu. It didn't take Shizune or Tsunade long to guess that Sasuke had suffered under the effects of this jutsu himself. Both shuddered at the thought.
Trying to lighten the mood a little, Jiraiya spoke. "All right, now that that's settled, let's all get some sleep so we can head back to the Leaf Village early tomorrow. I've got a lot of research to catch up on," he said. The last part was said with a slight snicker, which earned him a glare from everyone present.
Shizune was the first to respond to Jiraiya. "I can't believe you! My third cousin is laying in a hospital bed, suffering, and you're talking about peeping on women in bathhouses! He may only be my third cousin, but you know what, he's the closest family I have left and I'll be damned if you leave him to suffer like that while you perform your perverted "research"! And I don't care if you are one of the Sannin, I will truss you up like a pig and drag you back to the village with us if I have to!" she ranted.
For the first time since the four humans had encountered one another, the small creature following Shizune made herself known. "OINK!" she screeched indignantly. Apparently Tonton, Shizune's pet pig, didn't much care for her choice of metaphor.
That loud oink broke the tension at long last, and everyone burst into nervous giggles. The giggles eventually evolved into full-on laughter and all four found themselves bent over at the waist, laughing until tears fell from their eyes. It was a very tense laugh, but all four of them had needed it desperately nonetheless. Even Sasuke, who couldn't remember the last time he had laughed at all, much less like that, felt better afterward.
None of the four of them slept well that night. Sasuke in particular was up at three the following morning and went out to train for an hour or so. When he returned, he was surprised to find the other three waiting for him. Grabbing his bag, the small group departed the town and hit the road back toward the Leaf Village.
Awaking slowly, Hinata was surprised to find herself sitting with her head on Naruto's chest, one of his hands clasped in her own, and a major cramp in her back. Sitting up, she slowly got her bearings, then, remembering where she was, saw that Guy-sensei was smiling at her. "Oh, Guy-sensei, I am so sorry!" she began, then stopped when the green-clad man held up a hand for silence.
"It's all right, young Hinata," he said. "I awoke shortly after you fell asleep, and no harm has come to our young charge, so no harm done. Did you sleep well? No nightmares this time?"
Hinata blushed slightly at the caring, if slightly tactless, question. "No, no nightmares, thank you, Guy-sensei. I slept very well," she said. Then, smiling at Naruto, she resumed her quiet vigil over her crush. Guy smiled at her, glad the next generation of ninja in his village was turning out so well. Hinata and Guy maintained a silent vigil that whole day, neither moving except when necessary to eat or attend their bodily functions and neither speaking a single word.
"We need to make camp," Jiraiya said. The sun was setting on the small group. They had traveled far and fast that day. Now it was late and they needed rest.
"All right," Sasuke said grudgingly. He hated to admit it, but he was exhausted.
As the four set up their camp, aided at moments by Tonton, who Sasuke was surprised to find was remarkably intelligent, none of them spoke. Just as Sasuke was putting the final touches on the final tent, a sound reached him.
"Kukukuku," a creepy voice laughed. Sasuke turned quickly, recognizing the voice. Sure enough, Orochimaru stood there, a creepy grin on his face as he contemplated Sasuke. "So, Sasuke, you have sought me out, as I always said you would. It would seem your timing is perfect. I am in dire need, and you are the perfect solution to my problem!"