Naruto came at them with his signature Rasengan, fury making his eyes bleed red. Hidan hooted and turned, but then there
was someone between them. Someone familiar.
The newcomer grabbed Naruto's wrist, stopping his attack, and buried his fist in the boy's stomach. For a moment, Naruto's
mouth fell open and his eyes widened, and then he was falling back, Rasengan successfully diverted and dissipated.
The newcomer let the boy drop and turned, eyes on Hidan. The Jashinist took in his former comrade with wide eyes. Gone
was the Akatsuki cape, replaced with a slightly worn and dirty brown jacket, and standard ninja garb. He looked like he'd
lost a little weight recently, and gotten more lithe, his muscles more honed for survival than anything else.
"Ehh?" Hidan said, blinking. He wasn't sure how to take the man's interference. He was a deserter, right? He'd left Akatsuki,
destroyed his damn ring. "What the hell're you doing here?"
"Fulfilling my purpose, dumbass," Hoshigaki Kisame retorted.
Kakuzu hissed. "He's rescuing Uchiha," he interpreted. "Hold them off, I'll go on ahead."
"Fuck you," was the response, even as Hidan pulled his staff off of his back with a manic grin. "This'll be fucking fun!"
And he and Kisame went at each other. Kakuzu didn't stick around to watch, ignored the gaping jinchurriki and darted away.
He didn't get far. The female stood in his path about two minutes away from where Kisame and Hidan were now fighting explosively.
Dammit. "Out of my way, bitch," he growled, shifting the dead weight on his shoulder to free one hand. He slipped it into
the pouch beside him and tossed a smoke bomb.
Only to get the smoke in his face with a burst of wind.
Tsunade sat in her chair in the counsel chambers, a sour look on her face. Before her, Danzo had figuratively taken the
stage and basically decided for the counsel. "...is not right," he was saying, captivating his audience as only a grand performer
could. She wanted to strangle him. "We should not let people - things - like Uchiha Itachi into our village!
"What will other nukenin think when they hear we let a criminal into our village? They will think we are weak, and attack
us, is what!" He gave Tsunade a grim look. "All on the counsel in favor of arresting and executing Uchiha Itachi upon his
There was a brief, reluctant scattered reply, and at a look from Danzo, they all agreed. He met Tsunade's stare evenly.
"Hokage-sama?" Though at this point, it would only be a formality for her to agree. She had no choice anymore.
So, with that thought, she gritted her teeth and got to her feet. "As I obviously can't change your mind, do as you wish.
You will anyway," she growled angrily.
Only Shizune's presence beside her kept her from letting loose her temper, and it was probably better that way.
Danzo lifted his chin, then nodded. "As you say, Hokage-sama."
She spat and stomped from the room, vibrating with fury. "Shizune," she growled. "Find Hatake and Shiranui, and clear out
one of the bigger training grounds."
Shizune's eyes widened as she hurried to keep up. "T-training grounds?" she stammered, clasping a book of some sort to
her chest. "Tsunade-sama?"
"I need stress relief."
Naruto sat on his butt, staring in shock at the fight going on before him. Kisame had Samehada in hand and was swinging
it to block Hidan's own strikes with his staff. He'd do this, then dart in under Hidan's guard and slam his bare fist into
the zealot's ribcage.
For a moment, Naruto wondered why he didn't do something like kill the guy. Then he remembered that he couldn't, and the
style made sense. … but the battle was going to be really dragged out. Where was Shikamaru when you needed him?
More importantly... Why the bloody hell was the bad guy beating on Naruto's opponent? What was wrong
with the universe!
Kisame knocked Hidan back - and through a tree - and glanced at Naruto. "Oi, what are you sitting around for? Get that
damn Uchiha, wouldja?"
Naruto blinked a few more times, then shrugged and got to his feet, leaving Kisame to his battle.
The shark man shook his head. Kids these days... Then he focused on Hidan, who was climbing out of the tree and glaring
at him. "What the fuck?"
"'What the fuck'," Kisame mimicked, making his voice high and whiney. "Geez, Hidan, you're such a little bitch."
"Fuck you," Hidan replied, flipping him off. He picked his staff up - he'd dropped it - and swung it out, then ran at Kisame
Kisame held up Samehada again, and was surprised when Hidan dropped his staff, took out his over-sized kunai and
slipped under Kisame's sword. He barely had time to get his wrist guard up before Hidan could get him. The Jashinist cursed
and jumped away, and barely avoided being crushed by Samehada.
"Who's the bitch, bitch?" Hidan said, sneering. "Why the fuck're you helping them, huh?"
"Why the fuck do you care?" Kisame replied, swinging Samehada up to rest on his shoulder. "Shut the hell up and fight me,
you whiney little boy."
Hidan scowled. "Man, don't make fucking sense," he snarled under his breath, going at Kisame again.
Kisame once again barely avoided getting nicked by Hidan. There was no room for mistakes with this bastard; if he got even
a drop of blood, Kisame was done for. A down swing of Samehada cleared Kisame's path, and he mentally grumbled at his inability
to kill the albino. But still, he didn't need to kill him, just stall him long enough for the Konoha brats to get back
If they were strong enough.
Sakura darted to the side to avoid a handful of mini bombs the nukenin sent at her, aggravated. They'd been doing this
since the fight began, and she couldn't even return fire since he refused to set Itachi down. It was smart, she had to admit.
Very smart. He'd be pulverized right now if he had.
Essentially, they were at an impasse. She wouldn't let him by to escape, and he wouldn't set Itachi down so she could fight
him without worrying about the Uchiha. And the deadlock was starting to royally piss her off. "FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN!"
she shouted, tossing a kunai at him.
He caught it half an inch from his face and sent it back, knowing she wouldn't send a rigged kunai because of Itachi. "But
this is so much simpler," he drawled. "You won't use the big attacks because Konoha nin have a habit of being stupid and sentimental.
It's only a matter of time before I find a way to kill you and leave."
The kunoichi growled, grabbing a handful of shurriken from her hip pouch. "Yeah? Sasori said the same thing."
His eyes narrowed. "Ah, then you are the kunoichi Deidara spoke of," he commented thoughtfully. "That changes things
a bit." He tossed Itachi to the side, uncaring, and pulled a kunai from his belt.
The unconscious Uchiha slammed into a tree and Sakura grimaced. She would have gone to him, but frankly, the current threat
warranted more immediate attention. "Oh? Getting serious now, are you?" she asked, rolling her shoulders. "Good. That means
I can kill you without feeling any guilt."
He sneered and darted forward without reply. She jumped back to avoid the kunai and landed heavily, feet enhanced with
chakra. The ground cracked and split, and the nukenin was forced to avoid the rapidly widening crevice. Sakura smiled and
used the half-assed distraction to dart after him, pulling her own kunai out.
She sent chakra along the length of the blade and swung downward upon reaching her opponent. Predictably, he parried the
blow with his larger kunai, creating sparks as the blades met. They jumped apart.
"Sakura-chan!" a voice cried.
She landed lightly on a treebranch. "Stay back, Naruto!" she retorted, feeling ironic. "Check on Itachi-san!"
Kakuzu darted along his own treebranch, horizontally, and lunged the ten feet of air separating them. She let gravity take
hold, and he missed, landing on the branch she'd been clinging upside down to. She tucked her body into a roll and then landed
on her feet on the forest floor. Then, tossing a grin his way, she braced herself and started pulling the tree he stood in
out of the ground.
Kakuzu cursed and dove out of it, landing only to have to dive flat on the ground as she swung it through the space he'd
just been standing. A few random branches scraped against his back ineffectually before the tree had passed and was tossed
aside. He got back onto his feet, giving her a wary look.
The bitch was strong. Not that it mattered.
"No way, Sakura-chan! Let me fight him! You're the medic!" the blond shouted, clearly pissed off at having to watch
the kunoichi fight.
"STOP WHINING," the pink-haired medic shouted back at the blond.
Kakuzu smirked. That sounded familiar. Then he frowned, deciding he should finally acknowledge the blond. "Where is Hidan?"
Not dead, of course. That was impossible; Kakuzu knew from experience.
The blond blinked at him. "Who?"
Kakuzu twitched. "My partner. The idiot masochist."
"Masochist?" Naruto shrugged. "Uh... He's fighting Kisame? Though I don't know what a masochist is."
Sakura gaped at him. "What? And you just left them to it!"
"He wanted to fight him, Sakura-chan!" Naruto protested, pouting. "I figured you could probably use my help-"
"Naruto, remind me when we're done to bury you alive," she growled.
Kakuzu sighed, badly wanting an aspirin. He darted at the kunoichi, ignoring the jinchurriki's scream for her to look out,
and was predictably dodged. The woman wasn't that bad. Not that it'd save her.
He pulled off his cloak and hunched over, the masks on his back struggling to get free. Sakura stiffened in surprise as
she watched, and Naruto took a step forward only to stop, uncertain. Sakura took a breath and chanced a glance toward her
teammate and Itachi. She scowled. "Did you check on him?"
"Do it! That's an order from your medic!" she yelled. A sudden swell of chakra brought her attention back to Kakuzu, and
she gaped at the four shadow-like creatures surrounding him.
His eyes were trained on her face. "It's your turn to die, bitch," he said. To his left, one of the creatures - wearing
a white mask with a yellow nose - started to accumulate electricity. "Raiton: Gian!" he cried.
Sakura cringed. There was a blast, but nothing happened to her. When she opened her eyes, she found Naruto crouched in
front of her, literally smoking. "Sakura-chan, you should make sure Itachi's okay," he grunted, stumbling to his feet.
"Impressive," Kakuzu murmured. "You took that blast full on and still live. I will not make the same mistake twice."
Sakura hesitated, then nodded, knowing he was right. "Okay!" she said and went to Itachi's side as Naruto swayed on his
feet. She glanced over her shoulder at the blond, frowning, but he was already regaining his equilibrium. The only thing she
was worried about was how totally pissed off he was.
Still, she had a job to do, and now that she'd had a chance to get out of the direct fight, she was going to do it. The
kunoichi knelt beside Itachi's prone body, crumpled at the base of a tree. She checked his pulse, ignoring another blast in
the background. After a brief count, she was relieved that his pulse was normal, albeit slow.
Five minutes later, she'd determined that he had three or four cracked ribs on the left, a broken collarbone, left wrist,
right fibula, right tibia and shattered left humerus. And, judging by the blood trickling down from the corner of his mouth,
something inside had been punctured. She glanced back at the fight, noted that Naruto was pummelling one of those shadow body
things and seemed to be holding his own, then went back to work.
She checked his system for toxins and wasn't surprised to find a non-fatal poison running through his body. She focused
on his organs and found that one of the four ribs that had been broken had actually pulled away from the rest and punctured
his left lung. Oh boy.
She started the healing on that first, as it was fatal. The mending seemed to take hours but actually took closer
to five minutes. The bone was whole again and in it's proper place and the lung was healed. Itachi was breathing easier, his
face less tight.
She ran the back of her wrist over her forehead, then flicked the transferred sweat away and checked on Naruto's fight
again. The blond had destroyed one of the four creatures and was successfully keeping them away from Sakura. Should she help
him? Itachi would live, now that the lung was taken care of...
There was also the matter of the Kyuubi. Naruto was pretty pissed off, and had already been consumed by the Kyuubi's acidic
chakra. He was starting to develop the second tail... She swallowed. "Naruto! He'll live, but we've got to go!" she called
He flicked a red-eyed glare at her before ignoring her completely and lunging at another of Kakuzu's creatures. Damn. How
long had they been fighting? More importantly, how much longer would it be until the others returned?
Well, the trip would take about five hours, three and a half if they rushed... Her brow furrowed. It felt like it had been
close to one, maybe two hours, but... the others wouldn't be back until long after the fight was over. Her decision made,
Sakura climbed to her feet.
Kakuzu and Naruto looked over as a tree suddenly smashed one of the shadow creatures. Kakuzu swore. Hidan was getting tired,
fighting Kisame. These people seemed to have too much energy... He growled and darted backward, calling his hearts back to
The blond took a step, grinning. "Running away?" he growled, red eyes burning. "Coward!"
"It's a tactical retreat, idiot," Kakuzu snapped. "Besides, Uchiha isn't important enough to waste anymore energy on."
Honestly, he wasn't even getting paid that much for this shit.
Naruto growled and rushed him, cutting through him like butter. And when the clone dissolved into dirt, he roared.
"Whoops! Guess that's my cue, you bitch!" Hidan said. "And this shit was just gettin' fun! Man, that bitch is gonna pay
for this!" He grinned, though, and escaped.
Kisame scowled and darted in the direction Naruto had gone. He came upon the clearing to find the boy kneeling in a crater
and the girl checking over Itachi's injuries. Kisame circled the boy and was surprised to find a sutra on his face. He was
literally asleep where he knelt. "What happened?"
The kunoichi looked up from Itachi. "I had to put on the sutra. He was losing control. He's sleeping. Why are you here?"
He met her gaze, even more surprised to find her face blank and her eyes unreadable. It was almost professional, something
he'd never expected from a Konoha nin, Itachi notwithstanding. "I had to return a favor," he replied vaguely. "Will he live?"
Her brow lifted in a way that was reminiscent of Itachi, and Kisame wondered just how much time they spent together. "Yes,"
she said. "Of course."
He believed the matter-of-fact-as-if-anything-else-could-be-so tone she used. She was, after all, Tsunade-hime's apprentice.
"Good. I guess I'll be going then."
"Wait!" She hesitated, then sighed. "At least stay until our backup comes? Naruto is unconscious, Itachi's half-dead and
my chakra is severely depleted. You're the only chance we've got till then, if they decide to return."
"They won't," Kisame said, but sat on a half-shattered, fallen tree trunk anyway. He opened the pack he'd been carrying
and pulled out a couple of granola bars, tossing one to her. "You'll need it."
She sighed. "Yeah. I need all of my stuff. If Naruto was awake, I'd send him back to get it," she grumbled. "That
stupid immortal guy came at me while I was taking a bath, so I literally have none of my shit." She made a face.
Kisame chuckled. "You'll get your things back later. For now, just eat and concentrate on healing him." He paused a beat.
"Left arm, right leg, collarbone and a few ribs," she recited, voice becoming mechanical. "He had a punctured lung, but
I took care of that right off." She nibbled on the granola bar distractedly, eying Itachi like she were trying to make him
wake up. "That Kakuzu guy threw him, and a tree stopped his momentum. He must have hit it on the left side, then fallen and
landed on his right leg."
Kisame winced. "That'll sting."
She actually laughed at that. "Yeah. A little," she said, clearly exaggerating. She popped the last bite of the bar into
her mouth and then shifted over to Itachi. She frowned. "Can you help me lay him out?"
"Not strong enough?" he teased as he got up.
Pinkey gave him an annoyed look. "I have to be careful. I don't want to break anything else on him."
"Alright, alright, what do you need me to do?"
Shikamaru and Sai landed in the clearing several hours later to find Naruto nursing a bump on his head, Sakura sulking
and Itachi propped up against a tree as he slept. Shikamaru was relieved to know that they were okay. "How is he?" he asked.
"First," Sakura said, getting to her feet and stomping over to Sai. "You! Go get my stuff!"
He blinked a few times. "Okay..."
"Go! I have no patience mister, so get going! It's back at the old campsite, mostly by the river. And hurry! It's
almost dark," she said.
Sai sighed but didn't argue. Instead, he turned and left. Sakura turned toward Shikamaru. "He's fine. He'll live. I've
healed all the ribs and the collarbone, and removed the poison, but I don't have enough chakra to deal with his leg or his
arm. He'll have to wait for that."
Shikamaru nodded. "Fair enough. Has he been conscious at any point?"
"No," she said. "It's just as well. It's going to hurt like a bitch when he wakes up."
The prodigy smiled slightly and took a seat next to Naruto by the fire. "What about you two?"
"We fought them off. Apparently, Kakuzu didn't feel the need to waste a lot of energy fighting us, so they just left,"
"Ah." He eyed the two. "Naruto, are you up to first watch?" he asked.
The unusually quiet blond nodded. "Yeah, sure."
Shikamaru decided to ask later. His arm was aching, and they could all use some rest. "Wake Sai at about ten," he instructed,
laying down right where he was sitting. He didn't bother with the bedroll in his pack. He didn't think any of them would.
"Okay," Naruto said.
Sakura sighed and curled up near Itachi, should he wake up, even as Sai returned to the camp.
The team settled down after a long day.
It took the group a day and a half to return to Konoha, and only that long because Sakura made them stop for more than
the three times it took a day to eat, due to Itachi's injuries. None of them were very surprised at the welcoming party awaiting
their arrival at the front gates.
Most were ANBU Root, though there were a couple of council members and their supporters. Itachi, supported by Sakura and
Shikamaru on either side, remained expressionless when Danzo stepped forward.
"Uchiha Itachi, you are under the arrest for the murder of your clan," the man said.
The Uchiha was tempted to point out that it was this very man that had ordered his hand. But he didn't. Danzo had told
him then what would happen should he live. He already knew his fate.
"What!" Naruto shouted at the Uchiha's right, startling him. "What the hell're you talking about, you old coot!"
Sai frowned and touched his shoulder. "Naruto..."
"Shut up!" Naruto snapped, shrugging off the other nin's hand. "This man's looney! Where the hell is Tsunade-baasan!"
Itachi searched the crowd and found that she wasn't there. Which probably meant that she'd been overruled and was silently
protesting by refusing to be present.
Naruto took a step, growling. "Well? I asked you a question, you old fart! You'd better answer it!"
"Naruto-san, enough," Itachi inserted quietly.
The blond stopped and turned to face him, frowning. "But Itachi! You know what they'll do!" he protested.
Itachi nodded slowly and shifted his arm off of Shikamaru's shoulders. "I am aware. They are aiming for my immediate execution,
Danzo didn't appear to be surprised by Itachi's accurate deduction. "You will come with us willingly, or we will bring
you by force," he said sternly.
Naruto whirled, mouth opening. "Naruto," Itachi hissed. "This is an order as your captain. Stand. Down."
The blond's mouth snapped shut. Itachi was grateful to Sakura, whom was bearing most of his weight right then. She squeezed
his shoulder gently and helped him stand straight. "Thank you," he whispered.
She nodded, and eyed Danzo with an expressionless calm. "You are arresting him. Do you plan on execution?"
"Yes," Danzo said, meeting her gaze evenly. "Uchiha Itachi will be executed at dawn for the crimes of his past."
"As his medic and second-in-rank medic of the village, I am pulling rank. I will have all of his injuries healed before
you kill him," Sakura said.
"Only the Hokage can do that," Danzo said, frowning.
"Stop me," she replied, a dare. Itachi really hoped the man took her up on it.
Unfortunately, Danzo was smarter than that, and nodded. "Very well. You may work on him until morning. He must be healed
by then, or I am afraid your conditions cannot be met, Haruno Sakura-san."
Her lips pressed thinly together kept her from answering, so Itachi did so for her. "Very well."
As most of the ANBU dispersed, save five to escort them, the other bystanders left, and Shikamaru turned to grab Itachi's
shoulder. "You're just going to let them." It wasn't a question.
"I killed my family," Itachi replied, meeting his roommate's gaze. "What choice do I have?"
"I thought you were pardoned!" Naruto protested, looking helpless.
Itachi took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I thought so as well. I suppose the council decided it was
within the village's best interests to rescind the order."
Sakura frowned as they began to slowly walk into the village. "Shikamaru?"
"I'll speak with the Hokage," he replied, and patted Itachi's shoulder. "Be safe until I get back. Naruto? You'll come
Naruto hesitated, but nodded and followed Shikamaru away. Sai stepped up beside Itachi and took Shikamaru's place helping
him limp down the road. "This is... unusual," he murmured.
Itachi smiled faintly, understanding that it bothered the Root boy. They were nearing the ninja barracks and, by proxy,
the detention cells. "Aa. We shall see the outcome," he replied vaguely.
Sakura sighed. "I hope..." But she stopped and didn't continue. Maybe she couldn't.
Itachi's gaze slid to take in her face, and he smiled slightly. "Me too," he said.