‘Would you mind repeating that again?’ The Hokage asked in exasperated disbelief.
‘Sasuke.’ Naruko growled.
‘I thought I had found the ultimate Jutsu.’
‘Yes. We already talked about that.’ The Hokage nodded along.
‘It was supposed to send our consciousness back in time to merge with our younger versions.’
There was a long pause before Naruko’s deceptively calm voice came through.
‘I can’t believe you. Why would you send me back, too?’
Sasuke fell silent again.
‘And where did you find this Jutsu?’ Sarutobi asked.
‘In Orochimaru’s headquarters.’ Sasuke said disinterested. He hadn’t really looked at anyone since he came back, well except for Naruko, who had tried her utmost to ignore him completely only breaking the habit to snap at him.
‘How did you get access to it?’ The Hokage asked again, this time more than slightly perturbed.
‘Yes, Sa-su-ke. Care to explain to the Hokage how you got information like that from Orochimaru?’ Naruko asked with sadistic glee.
That was the most she had said to him, since the whole thing happened. Well, if you ignored the angry yelling, when they’d landed, which he did.
He sighed and stared at the ceiling, before he finally focused on the Hokage again.
Naruko stared at him again. She was cute when she got angry, he thought.
‘Naruko, would you care to explain, what happened?’ The Hokage tried again.
‘I’d rather not.’ She said stubbornly.
She still had a bone to pick with Sarutobi. The Hokage may have thought he’d been acting in everyone’s best interest, but this was the man that had single handedly ruined her childhood and kept every information on who she really was away from her.
The Hokage stared at the both of them. ‘It wasn’t a question.’
‘It’s awfully sexist to expect the woman to explain away the man’s actions, don’t you think? How am I supposed to even try and understand the clusterfuck that is this situation? I didn’t even know he was planning to do this. Never mind, taking me down with him.’
‘It wasn’t supposed to work this way.’
‘Explain to us, how this should have worked out.’ The Hokage suggested patiently.
‘We were supposed to start over. Both of us. You deserved a start fresh, too. After everything this village has done to you.’ Sasuke grunted, looking at Naruko.
She almost screamed in exasperation, but she knew that that wouldn’t do. So, she swallowed down her anger and whispered in calm condescendence ‘What about what you did to me? What about what you are doing right now?’
Sarutobi stared at the two of them.
Sasuke decided that between the questions asked, Sarutobi’s was the easiest to answer.
‘I was marked with Orochimaru’s cursed seal during the Chunin exams. After a while and a lot of pushing from Kabuto, a traitor, I decided to leave the village.
‘Orochimaru made sure I was powerful, so when my time with him was up, I successfully killed him and Itachi. After that Madara tried to win me over for his cause, by telling me what Itachi’s orders were.’
Sarutobi flinched back at that, while Sasuke stared at him and Naruko shook her head in disappointment.
‘I left Madara, understanding that everything Itachi had ever done was for the Leave and for my future here. Naruko and I killed Danzo, who at that point, had betrayed the leaf more times than every traitor of Konoha combined, together ever managed.’
He paused for a moment, to let that sink in. Let it simmer under the surface of this whole conversation. The fact that the Hokage was supporting a traitor.
‘I decided I wanted to start new. Itachi didn’t deserve death. Naruko didn’t deserve to be treated the way she had been treated. Our bond was never supposed to break.’ He finished.
Sarutobi looked shocked at the two of them.
‘I failed you.’ He finally admitted. Sighing deeply.
‘And not just us.’ Sasuke said.
‘You doomed our entire generation, by not going after Orochimaru, by protecting Danzo, by not putting the council in their place, by letting the villagers discriminate against Naruko.’ Sasuke leaked killing intent. For the first time since they got here.
Naruko wasn’t really part of this conversation anymore. After hearing of Sasuke’s stellar plan for her new start at life, she had started to mutter, tiredly.
‘I was the next in line for Hokage. I would have married Neiji.’
Sasuke twitched at that.
‘We would have had a bunch of beautiful kids.’
Sasuke hands, tightened dangerously around his armrests.
‘I finally had the villager’s respect and everything.’
‘Way to ruin my life, Jerkface.’
Sasuke stared at her. ‘Well, Naru. I’m so sorry I thought I could do you one better.’
Naruko ignored him.
Sarutobi cleared his throat. ‘You won’t kill Danzo or Orochimaru.’ He finally said.
Naruko had obviously returned to the conversation, because she now stared at him in disbelief.
‘I will take care of it myself.’
Sasuke looked at the man in front of him.
‘Trust me, you’ll need us. Danzo’s arm is filled with Sharingan. Orochimaru’s design and the last time you tried to take on Orochimaru, he killed you.’
The Hokage paled slightly.
‘Then you will accompany me.’ He allowed.
Naruko groaned. ‘Wait before you go and kill people. Are you sure you can’t just… send us back?’
The Hokage heaved a deep sigh. ‘I’m sorry, Naruko. This was one of Orochimaru’s experimental seals. It’s not finished and the way it works may very well differ upon each use. We can’t formulate a concrete release for something like that. If we were to guess what the reversal would be and act upon it, we could eradicate your existence completely.’
Naruko stared at Sasuke, who in typical Uchiha fashion hid his emotions completely.
‘So, what do we do about this?’
‘Well, after everything you’ve told me. I’d say you are Jounin?’
‘Yes.’ Naruko and Sasuke immediately said. No reason, for them to do the fucking Chunin exams all over again.
The Hokage nodded. ‘You carry the Kyuubi?’
‘I will have to check Naruto’s seal, but I’m guessing you’ll have assimilated the ‘other’ Kyuubi, upon arrival.’
‘He’s currently a little out of it, because of the time travel. When he’s better I’ll let you know.’ Naruko mumbled.
The Hokage stared at her. Of course, she was on friendly terms with the embodiment of chaos and destruction.
‘You are eighteen?’ He asked.
‘Seventeen.’ Sasuke corrected.
‘Sure, sure.’ Sarutobi grumbled.
‘Sasuke you’re going to pose as Shisui’s younger brother, Isamu Uchiha, who had been sent away after Shisui’s dead. Naruko you’re Kushina’s long lost niece, currently searching for the last members of the Uzumaki clan. You two met on your way to Konoha and traveled here together. You had formal training at some point in your life. For now, you’ll live in the Uchiha district, away from prying eyes.
‘Naruko, you may keep your name. l’ll sent Naruto to you, soon. You may share whatever you deem appropriate with him and Isamu may do the same as well, I’ll see to it that he knows that he can move there, too, if you’re up for that.’
Naruko nodded, while the Uchiha twitched in his seat.
‘I’ll let you know when we go after Danzo. I have to inform the clan heads first, we’ll also have to vote on the council.’ The old man explained.
He didn’t finish.
The two very determined looks told him, it wouldn’t matter what the council had to say. Danzo and the elders would die. Either officially approved or not.
‘You may take your leave now.’ He said tiredly.
Naruko was out of the window in a heartbeat, with Sasuke hot on her heels.
Earlier that same day.
Three Genin hid behind their teacher, who stared angrily at the two adults that were obviously caught in a weird stand-off. The man tried to evade the woman, who went in for the kill, while repeatedly asking ‘What the fuck did you do?’
‘Who are you?’ Kakashi called out to them. They were blocking the road back to the village and his Genin weren’t experienced enough to evade the kind of destruction the two could potentially unleash.
The woman, who looked so much like Kushina, stared back at him for a second before she slapped the other man across the face.
The man, who stared at the four in horror, didn’t evade and thus crashed into the tree line.
Before they could even begin to assess the damage, the guy barreled into the girl and pinned her against a tree.
‘What the fuck, Naruko?’ He said, eyes still wide in shock, which obviously made the red head lose it.
‘You’re what the fucking me? I’m what the fucking you, Jerkface.’ She groaned exasperated.
Shoving him away. She immediately got back into fighting stance. The young man activated his Sharingan, which made Sasuke gasp in surprise.
‘Who are you?’ Kakashi called out to them, letting a bit of his killing intent leak out, which went utterly unnoticed by the two in front of him.
To be fair, it was underwhelming in comparison to what the young woman had unleashed.
‘You ruined it.’ The young man finally said.
‘I ruined it.’ The woman, Naruko, asked dryly.
‘It’s okay. We can still work around it.’ The Uchiha finally said, almost calming.
The woman stared at him as if the man had just said the single most stupid thing she’d ever heard in her life, before she took a deep breath.
The man had no idea what was about to happen, when the Kushina look alike tackled him to the ground, sat on top off his chest and pulled her fist back.
Kakashi stared at the display, his Sharingan uncovered.
‘Get in the trees!’
He shouted and thankfully his Genin immediately complied.
‘Tch.’ was the last thing they heard, before the ground exploded and crumbled away. The woman had destroyed a huge part of the road with a single punch.
When the air cleared. You could suddenly see that the Sharingan-user, had slung his arms around the girl and pressed her against him, while pushing his hand on top of her mouth, to keep her from shouting.
He stared at the group in front of him, his Sharingan still activated and the struggling woman still in his arms, he said.
‘I’m sorry we interrupted –‘
He flushed slightly, stared at the woman and screamed indignantly. ‘Stop licking me!’
The moment his countenance broke, she threw her head back and it connected with a sickening crunch with his nose. It was disgusting, but it did the deed, the man let go.
‘I was trying to bite you!’ The woman screamed back, kicked his legs out from under him, used the lilac rope, he had slung around his hips, to tie his arms to his body, grabbed him by the back of his shirt and shushined away with the words,
‘You can explain this shit to the Hokage, Asshole.’
‘What the hell was that?’ Naruto asked. ‘He had eyes like you, didn’t he?’ He said to Sasuke.
‘Kind of looked like you too…’ He added.
‘Hn.’ Sasuke muttered.
Feeling deeply irritated. Who was this guy and how was that Kunoichi so strong? She had a killing intent like none he’s ever felt before and he had felt Itachi’s. Had it been directed at him… He wouldn’t have been able to move. The Uchiha had to have been strong, too, he mused.
Sakura stared at the place where she’d seen him. The guy that would be her back up husband, for Sasuke. He was so handsome and had such nice muscles. She felt the blood trickle down her nose.
He had been so polite, too and he was older, much more mature. Obviously interested in pretty woman, when the red-haired beauty was anything to go by.
She sighed. A girl could dream.
Kakashi rushed them back to Konoha. He needed to see her again. The woman that had looked so much like Kushina. Her hair had been the same color, dark red and long, braided to the side. She’d worn a tight green, high neck top and a Kunoichi skirt, that ended mid-thigh, with some biker shorts underneath. Practical, yet feminine.
Her fingernails had been painted the same red as her hair and her eyes had been as blue as Minato’s.
He couldn’t even look at a beautiful girl without seeing his dead teacher in her. He was truly lost on the road of life.
A young Sasuke stared at the man who had introduced himself as Isamu. ‘Shisui’s brother?’
He asked again, staring at the man, that looked so much like himself.
Well that was, if he’d grow up an exhibitionist with a horrible fashion sense, if that weird purple ass-bow and the low-cut white shirt was anything to go by.
‘Yes.’ He nodded absentmindedly, staring after Naruko, who was fixing herself something in the kitchen.
‘Never pegged you for a housewife.’ Isamu sassed.
Naruko stared at him for a second before she took the plate with the food that had obviously been for him and threw it in the garbage, tableware included, all the while she was holding aggressive eye contact with the older man.
‘Oops.’ She smiled falsely and went out to the garden.
Sasuke stared after her.
He knew that look.
She was an avenger, a petty one, but an effective one, nonetheless.
What she was avenging, he didn’t know, but the man in front of him had taken it from her.
He watched him again, trying to get anything from him that would tell him something.
‘What did you do to her?’ He finally asked.
‘I tried saving her.’ The older Uchiha said and for the first time he displayed a real emotion, other than indifference.
‘From herself.’ He finally said.
Sasuke paused after that, thinking back to the battle he’d seen the older man lose, he said.
‘She doesn’t seem like she needs someone to save her.’
Isamu stared at his younger self and smiled. ‘Naruko has never really had a lot of freedom in choosing what she wanted to do. I tried giving her that, but in the end, I took even more of her choices away from her.’ He sighed and stood up tiredly.
Sasuke’s eyes narrowed as he tried to understand what the older man wasn’t telling him. Did Naruko have an arranged marriage? Did he sabotage her? He only knew one thing, taking away someone’s choice was a horrible thing to do.
‘Sometimes, we’re destroyed by our own goals.’ Isamu said thinking back on Itachi.
Sasuke stared at him. He had walked into the random house, because it had been the only one, where there were lights on and since he was the only one that was supposed to live in the district, he’d explored. He certainly hadn’t expected meeting another Uchiha and his beautiful, but deadly, companion.
That the two would live here wasn’t something he wanted. He’d rather no one knew that he couldn’t sleep and trained late at night, but if the Hokage ordered it, there was nothing he could do about it.
Besides, the guy was an Uchiha and a strong one at that.
Later that night Naruko sat on the roof, feeling Isamu’s presence she stared even harder at the moon.
‘What was all that about?’ She finally asked, feeling the restlessness she’d felt since she’d overheard Isamu’s talk with his younger version.
Isamu smirked. ‘What?’
‘You know what.’
‘It’s why I included you into my Jutsu.’ He said. ‘You always said you wanted to be Hokage. We both know, you really wanted to be seen, acknowledged and respected.’
He paused carefully.
‘Being Hokage… I just don’t think you truly want that for yourself. We both have never seen Hiruzen out of the office. Since the academy.’ He stopped again.
‘So, this was supposed to be an intervention?’ Naruko asked, irritated, but Isamu continued.
‘You say you want to marry Neiji, but we both know, that you don’t love him. Not in a way that matters. He’s just persistent, isn’t he?’
‘I know what it’s like to run blindly towards the finishing line, thinking you’ve accomplished what you needed to, only to realize that you destroyed a huge part of yourself in the process. I think, if the two of us had proper training and a real friendship from the beginning, we would have stopped along the way to think about what it is we truly wanted in life. You didn’t have that luxury and I didn’t allow myself to have that luxury.’
He stepped down to where she was seated and brushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear.
‘You never stopped running. Running from one catastrophe to another, trying to put out fires, you had no hand in making. Yet, somehow you were always expected to help squelch the flames.’
‘I wanted to give you a fair chance at life and I wanted to be a part of it.’ He finally said. Pressing his fingertips against her forehead, in a gesture reminiscent of his older brother’s.
She stared at him, eyes wide, mouth slightly agape. ‘You truly wanted for us to merge with our younger selves, didn’t you?’
‘Yes.’ He muttered, before he stopped. ‘Did you ever want to be Hokage?’ He finally asked.
She watched him carefully. ‘I wanted to be Hokage in the way you wanted to kill your brother.’ She snorted. ‘We both needed it for the same reason Gaara needed to kill for.’
She paused for a second, before she continued, voice almost breaking.
‘To validate our existence.’
Sasuke stared at her. He had underestimated her once and never repeated that mistake again. She’d always been this way. Of course, she knew what they were doing. What they were chasing and what they were losing in the process.
He smiled down at her, while she looked up at him, gaze unreadable.
‘If you play with my life like this again, Sasuke Uchiha, I will kill you.’ She finally whispered.
He knew she would.
‘Maybe you really did do me a favor with all of this. Maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is what’s going to happen from here on out. I might not know what the fuck I’m doing in this life, but that’s my concern, not yours. I’ll make my mistakes and I’ll learn from them, like everyone else. Don’t presume to know who I am and what I need.’
She slowly stood up and pushed away from him.
Walking back to her room, she thought about everything that had happened.
He had been right in some ways and very wrong in others. She’d known all along what she was doing and why she was doing it and she had kept going either way. There were things in life that were scarier than running from emergency to emergency.
Stagnation. Doing nothing. Stopping.
Thinking about the hypocrisy of it all. Realizing where one stands, reflecting on it.
The dark Naruko from the lake hadn’t been wrong. She’d been as much a part of her as everything else that made her Naruko was.
She’d craved and wanted things and had reacted badly to not receiving them. She’d compared herself to others and had felt bitter about what she’d realized in the process.
Dark Naruko was as much part of her, as light Naruko and accepting that had been the real challenge at that waterfall. It wasn’t a fight for dominance. It was a fight for recognition.
See me. Feel me. Stop repressing me. Stop fearing me. Stop hiding from me. Stop being ashamed of me.
Naruko knew that she wasn’t happy. Yet it never mattered, not to her anyway. She had spent all her life chasing some kind of normalcy. It seemed a waste to just let that go and start all over again. Apparently Sasuke had felt differently.
Sleep didn’t come easy that night. She tossed and turned and remembered and stressed herself out.
She knew that she’d be exhausted by the time she woke up, more so than she’d been the night before.
Sasuke might think she was clueless, but she knew why she was here.
She knew why he had come back and why he’d always come back to her or in this case, drag her down with him.
He loved her.
He had loved her since she’d been twelve years old and beaten him at Taijutsu through sheer endurance and willpower.
He’d loved her, when he’d turned his back to Konoha.
He’d loved her when she had hunted him down through the nations. Chasing after him, knowing he wouldn’t come back until he was ready, but not able to let him go, yet.
He’d loved her when she’d given up on waiting for him, given up on the idea of needing someone who refused to be there.
He’d loved, when she’d accepted Neiji’s offer to take her out on a date.
He’d loved her when she’d fought against Pain.
He’d loved her when he killed Itachi.
He’d loved her when he came back and saw her and Neiji walk through the streets of Konoha holding hands.
She had loved him, too.
A long time ago.