Tsunade wasn't entirely surprised when Shizune told her that Shikamaru had requested a meeting with her mere minutes after
he'd returned to the village. Which meant, true to his promise, Danzo had arrested Itachi as soon as he stepped foot inside
Gold eyes lifted and met grey when the prodigy strategist walked into her office. She frowned and sat back, crossing her
arms beneath her breasts. "Shikamaru."
He bowed, eyes narrowed and expression bordering on annoyed. "Hokage-sama."
"You're here about Itachi?" she asked, even though she already knew.
Shikamaru nodded as Naruto walked in behind him. Unsurprisingly, as soon as the blond caught sight of her, he opened his
mouth. "Tsunade-baabaa!" he said loudly. "How could you let them do that? Itachi was pardoned, right? That's no fair!"
"Naruto!" she snapped, scowling. "Shut up! Life isn't fair, brat, get used to it! There's nothing I can do; it's
out of my hands."
"There's nothing?" Shikamaru asked, frowning.
Tsunade sighed and shook her head. "No. Nothing." She rubbed the side of her jaw and looked away irritably. "In cases where
the council unanimously believes a decision of mine endangers the village as a whole, they can over-rule my order and take
appropriate action to correct matters. In this instance, that means that they have arrested the threat - Uchiha Itachi - and
set him for execution immediately. The only thing holding them back is paperwork and the appropriate religious hours for Itachi
to pray for his soul, should he so desire."
Naruto's fingers curled into fists so tight that his knuckles were leeched of color, and his face flushed red. "So you'll
do nothing? Itachi is the best chance we have at getting Sasuke back, and you're going to let those people kill
"I can't solve the problem now," Tsunade retorted. "It's too late for Itachi, Naruto! I'm already doing all that
I can. If I let this happen, I will have justified cause for disbanding the council, and we can prevent this from happening
to someone else. But to do that, I have to give this battle up."
"At the cost of a man's life?" the boy demanded, starting to shake. "How could you be so cold, Baasan!"
She stiffened, lips pressing together in a thin, furious line. "Being a shinobi," she said after several quiet moments,
"sometimes means making sacrifices that you would otherwise rather not make. Being Hokage means that to protect your people,
your soldiers, sometimes you must let others die for the greater cause. You want to be Hokage, Naruto. You should learn
He spat on the floor, shaking with rage. "I don't want to be that kind of Hokage. I don't want to be like you,"
he snarled venomously, eyes red and canines glinting. "I'll change the rules, baasan. I won't make your mistakes." He turned
on his heel and stormed out, the Kyuubi's chakra slowly fading with his departure.
Tsunade watched him go grimly, then met the gaze that hadn't once left her face. "We need to discuss arrangements," Tsunade
Shikamaru stared at her for a beat, then sighed and sat down. "Troublesome," he muttered.
Naruto stared out at the village, silently stewing, from his vantage point atop the Yondaime's carved stone head. The more
he thought about it, the more pissed off he got. How could Tsunade just sit by and watch Itachi die? What was she thinking?
He'd believed in her, believed that she was the kind of Hokage that he wanted to be.
Groaning and hunching over, he grabbed the sides of his head and squeezed his eyes shut. How could he be so stupid?
Then he straightened, arms dropping to his sides, and let loose a roar for the sky. Something fell on his forehead and he
opened his eyes.
Another. A raindrop, and angry clouds darkened the sky. It started to rain.
He stared up at the sky for a beat, eyes blinking rapidly as raindrops washed through them. He did not cry, but thought
instead. Maybe things weren't what they seemed? Maybe... maybe Tsunade was counting on him to get angry. Maybe she was counting
on him to...
He let his head drop back into place. "She's counting on me to save him," he realized, voice soft. His fists tightened,
then relaxed, and blood dripped from several crescent moon-shaped cuts, already healing to create scars and then vanish again.
He had to save Itachi.
Kakashi sat in a tree, overlooking the gates of Konoha. He was one of nearly twenty ANBU officers stationed around the
hidden village, and for good reason. They would likely be on high alert like this for a while.
His gaze trailed toward the village in question, and he sighed. He'd heard through the grapevine that Naruto had not
been happy, not that Kakashi had expected him to be. Even if the jinchurriki hadn't yet begun to trust Itachi, he saw a purpose
in Itachi's existence here in their village. Mainly, Sasuke's return.
Which, ironically, was the reason for the high alert through out the village. If there was one thing that absolutely terrified
Danzo, it was the thought that Sasuke would come a-calling, team up with his brother and wreak havoc.
Kakashi smiled mirthlessly. It was a very reasonable worry.
At any rate, now Kakashi was stuck here instead of looking after his former student. Searching for his other former student.
It was going to be a long night.
Naruto checked his kunai holster for what felt the third time as true darkness set in. To be honest, he'd tried to act
as normal as possible all day, but he was nervous all the same. No, not nervous exactly. Keyed up, more like. He could feel
the adrenaline pumping through his veins, preparing him for battle.
He swallowed, patted his sides, and then stood from the bed. For a moment, he hesitated. These people... who knew. They
could be his friends. But... He shook his head. That didn't matter right now. They were standing between him and saving the
life of Itachi. He wouldn't kill them, just knock them out. That should work.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto stepped over to his front door and pulled it open. He nearly jumped out of his skin. "I-IRUKA-SENSEI!"
Iruka scowled at him. "Just where are you going, Naruto?" he demanded, crossing his arms. "You're not planning something
stupid, are you?"
Naruto stiffened. "W-why would I be planning anything?" he asked.
"Come now, Naruto," Iruka said, and sighed. "I know you. I've known you since you barely reached my knee. Don't treat me
like I was born yesterday."
The blond's hands curled into fists, relaxed and curled again. He took a deep breath and let it out, dropping all pretense
of innocence. "I have to save him, Iruka-sensei," he said. "I can't let them kill him. Tsunade-baasan's counting on me to
"Tsunad- Naruto, what the hell are you talking about?" Iruka snapped in exasperation. "Who do you think sent me
here to make sure you didn't overreact?"
Naruto felt something inside him freeze. "What?" he breathed. He shook his head. "No! She's counting on me to save him!"
Iruka's gaze softened. "No she isn't, Naruto," he said gently, reaching out to touch the blond's arm. Naruto jerked away
and so Iruka let his hand drop. "She already explained it to you, didn't she? This... it's sad, Naruto, but... there's nothing
that can be done for Uchiha-san now." He bit his lip, searching Naruto's face for something, but Naruto didn't know
or care what.
"NO!" he roared. "I WILL NOT LET HIM DIE!" He shoved Iruka out of his way, only to spot Jiraiya standing in the
street, just waiting for him. Their eyes met, and the blond backed away.
He spun around to go back through the apartment, fury burning the ice inside him. And standing in his way was Yamato, fingers
crossed in a semi-familiar seal. And before he knew what was happening, he was encased in a tomb. It felt like a tomb, and
he couldn't breathe, couldn't think.
He shrieked his fury and thrashed, trying to escape, trying to claw his way from his wooden prison to no avail. Unyielding
beams trapped his arms in place, wrapped around his legs, encased his body. Only his chest, and his face were visible. He
gazed at Yamato, Iruka and Jiraiya with ruby-tinged hatred, baring teeth that could rend their flesh to pieces if only they'd
come close enough.
"Sorry, Naruto," Jiraiya said, frowning at him. His open palm slapped against the blond's chest, knocking the breath from
his lungs. The fury slipped away, leaving him with just the ice, just the cage, just the darkness.
He knew no more.
Kisame sat down at the bar of a seedy little inn smack dab in the middle of a seedy little village that may or may not
have once been a military barracks. But now it was just a place where people gambled away their futures, traded money for
pleasure and in general caused minor spots of chaos in the lives of anyone passing through.
Naturally, Kisame wasn't effected.
The bartender eyed him from ten feet away, then ventured closer. Not too close, though. The man wasn't stupid. "What can
I get you?"
Kisame propped his head on his fist and eyed the man. "Something with meat on it's bones, preferably. And a whiskey."
The bartender snorted. "Red, yellow, black or brown? And how do you like your whiskey?"
"Purple, and you know very well how I like my whiskey, Kenichiiro," Kisame muttered, annoyed.
Kenichiiro, known by most just as 'Ken', sighed. "Had to make sure. I'll call her over and get your whiskey, Kisame-sama,"
Kisame didn't bother watching as the man walked away and whispered in the ear of someone on the other side of the bar.
The man returned a moment later with Kisame's whiskey, then left him alone.
Kisame downed the drink as more of a formality than any actual desire to drink anything at the moment. Mostly, he was just
looking for any information on Itachi, since he didn't know if the Uchiha had gotten home alright.
But Kenichiiro's rules were law in this place, and if you didn't order - and consume - at least one thing, you couldn't
be in the building.
Someone sat on the bench beside him. "Kisame-sama," a soft voice whispered, and she leaned into his personal space to kiss
his cheek. "It's been so long." Soft, full lips pouted dejectedly, then pulled up into a smile. "I'd thought you went
and forgot me."
"Never you, Asuka," he replied, smirking at her. "How could anyone forget you?"
Asuka - tall, pale, ample bosomed, green eyed and with purple hair that cascaded down her shoulders - giggled. "You're
too kind, Kisame-sama."
"Maybe," he drawled. He reached out and tucked some chin-length bangs behind her ear in a parody of tenderness. "Do you
have any news for me?"
She leaned into his touch, eyes fluttering closed. "Depends on what kind of news you're looking for."
"Aa." She opened her eyes, peering at him with a sultry smile. "He's in Konoha these days, I hear."
He cupped the side of her neck, thumb gently running over her pulse. "Yeah. Anything recent, sweety? I know he's in Konoha."
She swallowed, and despite the bedroom glazed eyes and sensual smile, it was a cue. The news she had wasn't good. His eyes
narrowed, but she drew a breath through slightly parted lips. "Word on the street is that Uchiha Itachi is being executed
in the morning. For treason."
It took a lot of effort not to accidentally break her neck. Instead, he forced himself into a calm state and continued
to gently rub her pulse. "Really? How sure is your source?"
"There's no doubt," was the only assurance she gave, but she'd never let him down before. Itachi was going to die, and
he was too far away to make any difference.
He pulled his hand back and threw a few bills onto the counter. "Have a drink on me, sweety," he said, getting up. He picked
up Samehada from where he'd leaned it against the bar and fastened it to his back, then gave a wave and walked out of the
bar. Hopefully, there were trees nearby that he could decimate.
The sun was just peeking above the horizon - visible through the barred window of Itachi's cell - when they heard the first
sounds in hours. Sakura shot to her feet and Sai stiffened. Itachi didn't move, and was honestly worried that he wouldn't
be able to stand either.
There had been no word, except once, when Shikamaru came and told them that the execution could not be stopped. The prodigy
hadn't stuck around long, likely because of the awkward atmosphere, and had disappeared with the excuse of 'ironing out details
Now, they could only watch helplessly as a stream of guards filed into the passage outside Itachi's cell. Silence descended
and Danzo stared down at the Uchiha with an air of smug victory.
He squared his jaw. "Uchiha Itachi, it is time."
Sai shifted, brow furrowing slightly. "... Danzo-sama... is this... necessary?" he asked softly.
"Do not question your orders," Danzo replied, turning a one-eyed glare on the Root nin.
Sai looked down and fell silent, and Sakura knew better than to try. If Shisho hadn't come up with anything by now, then
there was truly nothing that could be done. She drew a shaky breath, feeling hopelessness well up inside her. Her heart constricted
as she turned to look Itachi in the eye.
The Uchiha had somehow managed to get silently to his feet and now returned her stare. Then he looked away, meeting Danzo's
gaze. "One last thing," he said after a beat.
"Within reason," Danzo allowed grudgingly.
"I do not wish for Sakura-san to witness this. She is not to be allowed to accompany us," Itachi said, refusing to meet
her eyes. Danzo's only response was a reluctant nod, likely due to his annoyance with granting any wish of Itachi's.
Tears fell from her eyes, dripping down her cheeks. "What?" she whispered, voice watery. She reached out to grab his sleeve
through the cage, even as a soldier flipped through a ring of keys. "But Itachi! You don't... you don't have to... go through
this... alone," she said, words broken by soft sobs. "Please!"
He met her gaze expressionlessly and sighed. The door swung open and he stepped out, lifting one shackled hand to wipe
away her tears. "I must pay the price for what I have done. That does not mean that you have to pay it with me, Sakura-san."
He pulled his hand back and lifted the necklace from around his neck, slipping it over her head and letting it fall into place
She hiccuped, shaking with the effort to suppress her tears. "Please, Itachi, no..."
He stepped away. "Good bye, Sakura-san."
Two Root ANBU took his elbows and lead him away, leaving Sai and Sakura behind to watch them go. She reached up, clasping
the still warm metal of the necklace, and cried.
He was brought down to an underground execution chamber in the depths of Root territory. Silence reigned, suffocating him.
His heart hammered in his chest, and although he felt naked without his necklace, he was glad he'd given it to Sakura. It
was the least he could do for her, after she risked her life to save him.
It was probably the biggest regret he had, leaving her like that. She had become... special. A friend. Perhaps she was
even as dear to him as Sasuke was. Perhaps he should have left her more... But no. He had left her enough. He'd seen to that.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the cell and sat where directed, in a chair. Two ANBU Root held him in place while
another strapped him there, as if he'd suddenly decide he wanted to escape.
"Any last words, Uchiha Itachi?" Danzo asked as a Root medic stepped forward with a syringe and needle.
Itachi thought about it for a moment, then shook his head and closed his eyes. "I am ready," he whispered.
The needle pierced his skin, and he felt the poison pool inside his veins, burning him alive from the inside out. His fingers
clasped at the wooden arms of the chair and he jerked. He gritted his teeth, eyes clenched shut, as the pain ripped through
The last sound Uchiha Itachi made in this room full of nin and enemies was a sigh. And then he was still.
Danzo turned toward the shadows, frowning. "Tsunade-hime. I thought you wouldn't come." Tsunade's stare was angry and accusing,
but he didn't care about her feelings. "It is done."
She returned his scowl. "You're done, Danzo." She tossed him a scroll and he caught it one-handed. "As of this moment,
the council of Konoha is disbanded, as signed by myself and my supporters, witnessed, and guarded."
Behind her, Shikamaru and Shizune stepped up to her sides. Around the room, several others stepped into the light. Jiraiya,
Asuma, Kurenai, Ibiki... All around the room, nin of Konoha showed their faces, the witnesses to his ultimate disgrace.
Furiously, he threw the scroll to the ground and stomped on it, teeth grinding together audibly. Tsunade smirked. "That's
just a copy, Danzo. Nice try."
He spat on the ground. "This isn't over," he promised.
As he stalked from the room, Tsunade lifted her chin. "It was over the moment you overstepped your bounds, Danzo. Deal
He hissed and vanished, as did his Root ANBU. As the ripples of Danzo's displacement settled, the Godaime Hokage turned
solemn eyes to the body of Uchiha Itachi. She stepped over to him, pressing her fingers to his pulse point without comment.
Her hand dropped and she sighed, stepping back.
"Ibiki, Asuma... Bury him with honor," she said bleakly. "He was the one that helped us move forward; it's the least we
It had been three days since Uchiha Itachi's funeral. Three long, painful days. Three days of watching Sakura cry at his
graveside, of avoiding anyone else unless it was an absolute order from Tsunade... and the only reason Naruto even
obeyed the orders was because she'd kept her word and disbanded the council.
No one had seen or heard from Danzo, and even Sai said he couldn't seem to find the old man. Sakura confessed once that
she didn't care if he'd fallen and broken his neck. If she saw him - alive - she'd help him break it. If she saw him dead,
she'd spit on his carcass.
Naruto could relate to the feeling.
For the most part, the blond spent those three days either holed up in his apartment or training with Sakura to distract
her. Occasionally Sai would help, and it was those times that Naruto could pretend that he hadn't failed.
But every time he opened his eyes, every time he saw the sun filtered through leaves, dancing through the wind to the ground,
he was reminded painfully that he had been helpless. Jiraiya said it had been for the best. Yamato confessed that he'd
been obeying his orders. Iruka plead with Naruto to understand that he just wanted to keep the blond out of jail. Naruto wasn't
sure if any of it was the truth, and if it was, did it matter?
Naruto had eventually concluded that no, it didn't. So when Tsunade threw a desk at him and yelled at him for being a pain
in the ass, then turned around and said she was sending him to Suna, he jumped at the chance. She said she wanted him out
of her sight and out of her hair, but he knew it was more likely that she was giving him this chance to cool off.
And who better to understand his feelings than one of his best friends in the world? So he packed up his things and set
off for Wind Country. He wouldn't look back.