It’s Just That Any One of Us Is Half Without Another One Is You – Chapter Five

In which Naruto learns healing, Sasuke has Jiraiya inflicted upon him, and Sakura gets more dangerous. Humor, Drama, Fluff, I-3

“So,” Kakashi said, perching on Tsunade’s file cabinet despite Shizune’s blistering glare as she tried to put away the promotion files. After a year of dealing with him, Tsunade was positive that he did annoying things like that just to be annoying. Which was, well, annoying. She already had Jiraiya to stir things up, and he sure as hell didn’t need an understudy. What she hadn’t figured out, yet, was how to stop him. She was sure something appropriate would come to her in time, though.

“So, what?” she asked, just a bit suspicious.

“So, what are we going to do with my team now?” he asked, in an obnoxiously reasonable tone. “They’ve all three been promoted; Konoha had a good showing at the exam this year. Normally, I’d suggest you keep them together as a high-level team, given how well they already work together. But I’m sure you saw what happened during the exam.”

Tsunade leaned back in her chair, frowning. She certainly had. “He drew hard on the fox’s power when he thought Sakura might have been hit with something fatal. It’s definitely triggered by protectiveness, right now.” Her mouth curled. “Temari, the Kazekage’s sister, was up in the box with us and she had a seal out and ready like that.” She snapped her fingers. “She’d have used it, too, if Sasuke hadn’t sat on Naruto to calm him down. I think Gaara expected something like this might happen.”

“I spoke with him, after the exam,” Kakashi offered, crossing a foot over his knee. “He offered us copies of Sand’s scrolls on the tailed beasts and their hosts, but he didn’t have much more training than Naruto.”

“Which is undoubtedly why he’s had such difficulty controlling that damn tanuki of his.” Tsunade sighed. “At this rate we may have to negotiate with one of the villages of the other great nations.” And she didn’t even want to contemplate what kind of concessions they’d demand in return for training someone else’s host, but something had to be done and done soon.

“You know,” Kakashi said, slowly, “I’ve looked through the scrolls myself. The one thing that’s repeated over and over is that a host has to know himself, know his own chakra, and be able to manipulate both his and the beast’s chakra very finely.”

Tsunade considered that, and then considered Naruto, and groaned. “We’re doomed.”

“Maybe not.” Kakashi laced his hands over his knee as he shifted it out of Shizune’s way just in time to dodge her irritated swat. “I’ve been thinking. The ninja who learn to know and control chakra the most finely are generally the medics, aren’t they?”

Tsunade blinked. “I… suppose that’s true, yes.” And then she frowned and held up a hand. “Wait just a minute. Are you suggesting that we train Naruto as a medic?”

“It seems like the best way to achieve what he needs without having to go to Hidden Cloud or Hidden Rock. Or worse, Hidden Mist.”

Tsunade settled back in her chair, reaching for the kunai weighing down some files to turn it absently through her fingers as she thought. “I suppose it might work,” she murmured doubtfully, “but who could possibly handle him during that kind of…” She trailed off and directed an extremely suspicious look at Kakashi. He spread his hands, eye crinkling up all smiley and innocent. “You bastard,” she growled. “You’ve been planning on this! You scheming, evil-eyed shit! You—”

It took her a solid minute and a half to run out of names to call him. The stark understanding that no one else could teach Naruto a healer’s arts, and deal with the kind of screw-ups his power might produce, drove her to dredge up words she hadn’t used since the last time she’d been up north of Earth Country in the winter.

“You already like him, though,” Kakashi positively wheedled when she finally ran down. “And it would definitely reassure the village to see the Nine-tails’ host learning healing.”

She threw the kunai at him, dead center, and snarled when he evaded it. Shizune caught it on the rebound and put it silently back on top of its stack of paperwork. “Okay,” Tsunade growled, after a long, furious glare during which she tried and failed to think of any other possible teacher. “Okay, fine. I’ll do it. That kid is the only thing that can drag me into this kind of insanity, and it will serve him right when he gets to be Hokage and has to deal with it all himself!” She sat back, glowering at him. “All right, if Naruto is staying here to be trained, what about his team?”

“They’ll all set up a howl if two go out without their third,” Kakashi noted dryly. “So they all need to be reassigned for a little bit. It isn’t entirely uncommon for the year after promotion to be a time for advanced training. I thought Sakura might enjoy a stint with Intelligence; it’s suited to her skills.”

Tsunade looked at him narrowly. “True enough. That only leaves the other problem child. We’ve kept those three together for Sasuke’s sake this long; what can we do now to keep him from backsliding?”

“Well,” Kakashi murmured, examining his nails. “I thought we might make use of Sasuke’s competitive streak. If we give him a teacher equal to Naruto’s, and one who has a character similar to Naruto’s, I think that should keep him progressing nicely.”

Tsunade stared at him, eyes widening as those specifications sank in. “Equal to…? Similar to…?” Finally she couldn’t help herself any more, and burst out laughing until she had to hold her stomach and Shizune finally demanded to know what the joke was.


“Myouboku Mountain’s Monk of the Toad Spirits… also known as the Toad Sage…. is here!” A long white tail of hair flounced and wood geta managed to hit the dust with a firm clack.

“You’re what,” Sasuke said, very flatly. It wasn’t even a question. There was no possible question in the world to which that was the answer.

Sakura’s eyes were the size of saucers and the Hokage had a hand over her face. Naruto, on the other hand, was hanging over someone’s front gate laughing like a hyena. Sasuke gave serious thought to setting his butt on fire with a Fire Blossom.

“I know he doesn’t look it,” Tsunade sighed, “but this idiot really is my old teammate. Jiraiya, meet Uchiha Sasuke. Sasuke, meet the Toad Idiot.”

“You’re so cruel, Tsunade,” the old man actually pouted. And they expected Sasuke to walk around being seen in public with this guy?

Naruto finally caught his breath a little. “No, no, he’s actually really good. He’s the one who taught me the Rasengan! I bet you have lots of fun traveling with him.”

“I’m not sure I want to be anywhere near someone who teaches things you think are interesting,” Sasuke pointed out dryly.

“Hey, it was totally my own idea to do a panty raid on Temari-san,” Naruto huffed, crossing his arms. Sasuke contemplated this.

“I think that was my point.”

“If it helps, he also taught the Fourth, so he’s not actually as useless as he likes to look,” Tsunade put in. “And there’s the other side of this too.” She folded her arms, brows drawing down. “Even after a full year, we’re still getting probes from Hidden Sound, and most of them happen when you’re in the village. Orochimaru obviously hasn’t given up. And if you’re not going to have a pathologically overprotective beast host right at hand, who can be counted on to follow right after any kidnapping, setting forests on fire with his chakra as he goes, Jiraiya is the next best thing.”

Naruto looked smug until she flicked him over the ear. “That wasn’t actually a compliment, brat.”

Naruto glowered at her, rubbing his ear, only to perk up a second later. Sasuke would never understand Naruto’s mood swings. “Hey, I bet he can teach you summoning!”

Still flustered by Tsunade’s remark about overprotectiveness, and the little curl of warmth it had caused, Sasuke crossed his arms. “Uchiha don’t use summons.”

“You’re the last Uchiha, I don’t see why you can’t do whatever you please and call that what the Uchiha do,” Jiraiya said mildly.

Sasuke was struck very still, unprepared for that kind of insight after all the clowning.

Jiraiya rested a hand on his shoulder, dark eyes holding Sasuke’s. “Don’t limit yourself inside your own mind.”

Slowly, Sasuke nodded. Maybe this would work after all.


Sakura,

You have the library handy, maybe you can tell me. Is it possible to request a rescue mission from one’s own tutor? I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket. We’ve spent the last week in the red light district of this town. The only ninjutsu practice I’m getting is figuring out how to haul his carcass home from the bars! Yesterday I used Transformation and turned him into a cat long enough to get him home; a neutered cat. The day before that I used a new wind jutsu to roll him along the street. Neither made him stop. I think he’s trying to drive me crazy.

Sasuke

Sakura folded the letter away, giggling helplessly. She wondered how long it would take Sasuke to catch on that he was already in training. Another week at least, she wagered with herself; he could have a very one-track mind once he got an idea in his head.

She wondered a little whether even being taught by someone who seemed a lot like Naruto at sixty would be able to shake that.


Sakura was out in the courtyard of the Intelligence complex, working on advanced concealment techniques with a handful of other newcomers, when an explosion rocked the morning. Everyone looked up with a jerk as smoke billowed out of the top of the administrative center, but Sakura relaxed as an orange blur emerged. She could practically hear the cackling.

“Get back here, you brat!” Tsunade-sama’s voice echoed down the block. “That was my favorite coat, you little shit! I’m going to turn everything you own baby pink for a week!”

“Oh, Naruto,” Sakura sighed, even as her mouth quirked up helplessly. At least he was getting along with his teacher. In fact, she worried just a little sometimes that Tsunade would be a bad influence on him.

“Demon fox, huh?” One of the other newcomers, Shimasu, eyed the way Naruto had gone and shook his head. “Kind of explains a few things, doesn’t it? Are we sure that thing can’t get out?”

A chill tingle of anger rushed over Sakura and she had to take a moment to unset her jaw and smile at him with complete insincerity. “Oh, there’s no need to worry at all. Naruto only draws enough of the Nine-tails’ chakra for aspects to emerge when something he truly cares for is threatened.” She clasped her hands demurely. “The village did a good job, there, I must say. After the way he’s been treated, there’s almost nothing here he cares for that way.” The last sentence came out edged with ice and Shimasu’s head jerked up.

“Who do you think you are?” he demanded, straightening up to loom over her. “I have five years seniority as a chuunin, missy, and…”

Enemy, the back of Sakura’s mind whispered to her, threat to the team. Familiar calculation flickered through her thoughts as she eyed Shimasu coolly. She had watched him joking and shoving with some friends. His attacks were strong, but his defense was weak. If it came down to a confrontation, a binding seal would immobilize him for her to get behind him and then she could take her time getting the sensory-blocking technique Fuunotora-san had taught her right, and that should take care of him. And… he was backing away. She’d need to work fast…

“Sakura.” Miuhara’s hand fell on her shoulder and she blinked up at their trainer. He looked amused and relaxed, but there was a gleam of something else in his pale, sharp eyes. “That’s some impressive killing intent, I admit. Work on hiding it.”

Right, she wasn’t with her team, they weren’t in the field anymore, and, um, she probably wasn’t supposed to treat another Leaf-nin like an enemy. Even if he kind of was. Only not that way, she told herself firmly, and took a breath, cheeks a little hot. “Yes, Miuhara-san. I’ll work on that.”

And she would, of course. No sense letting a threat to her team know she was coming.

Naruto wasn’t the only one who felt that way.


Hey! Did Gamakichi step on you? I told him to step on you when he delivered this. How’s it going with you and the ero-sennin? See, you should have let me teach you Sexy no Jutsu before you left, it’s the best way to get his attention.

Tsunade-baachan is a slave driver, I think it must be an old-person thing. She makes me sit and MEDITATE for, like, hours, and the fox chakra itches. But I can already do chakra transfer, as long as it isn’t for something really fiddly. So? What about you, what can you do? Come on, tell me, or I’ll tell Gamakichi to lick you next letter I send!

Naruto

Sasuke folded the paper up again, neatly, and wondered how Naruto managed to actually hold a conversation in a single letter. He’d complain about Naruto putting words in his mouth, except… he usually got them right.

He tucked the letter safely away in his pack and lay down, firmly ignoring Jiraiya’s knowing grin on the other side of the fire. Reacting would just encourage the man. If Sasuke was relieved enough at the distraction to smile at a letter from his teammates, well that wasn’t to Jiraiya’s credit, was it?

He pulled his pack over to use as a pillow, listening to the soft crackle of paper that all the letters from home made.


Naruto let the last history scroll roll closed on the words that described too calmly how a band of extremists from Hidden Mist, opposed to both bloodline talents and hosts, had broken through the guards while his mother was giving birth and damaged her seal, releasing the Nine-tails. “So. That’s why people don’t like me,” he said, low, looking down at the scarred surface of the table in the little, wood-paneled room beside the Hokage’s office, where he studied.

“For a long time, now, hosts have been the sacrifices of their villages, one way or another.” For once, Tsunade-baachan wasn’t yelling. “Konoha has tried to honor ours, but when the Nine-tails escaped and your mother was lost…” she sighed. “I think Sarutobi-sensei made the wrong choice. But some people are idiots, and his journals say that there was a lot of loose talk right after the attack. People saying Kushina-san had failed, or that she should never have tried to have a child since it put the seal in danger. He didn’t want them taking that out on you.”

Naruto’s hands closed into fists. “My mother didn’t fail.”

Hands closed over his, stronger than any hands had a right to be, strong like the vast voice locked inside him, strong like maybe his mother’s would have been, and Tsunade-baachan shook him a little. “Of course she didn’t fail! Kushina-san was a hero, a greater hero than her husband! She gave her life to hold and guard Konoha’s most dangerous weapon, and I honor her memory.”

Naruto sniffed and swallowed. He wasn’t crying, he wasn’t. “How come the hosts don’t have a monument, then, huh?”

“Maybe we’ll make one.” She scruffled up his hair. “Then you’ll be on two monuments. One with your mom and one with your dad.”

Naruto finally looked up, and if his grin wavered a little Tsunade didn’t show she noticed. “So, hey,” he said, sturdier, latching on to a much easier question for distraction, “we used to have a lot more beasts, didn’t we? Why’d the First give so many away? I mean,” he prodded his stomach, frowning at it, “the fox is really, really strong. Wouldn’t we have been the strongest village if we’d had more?”

“We might have.” Tsunade-baachan sat back in her chair on the other side of the table. “Or we might have scared the villages of the other great nations so much they’d have allied to get rid of us. That’s what my grandfather thought, at least. We did get a lot of treaties out of those gifts.” Her mouth twisted. “Even if half of them fell apart a generation later.”

Naruto jammed his chin into his hands, frowning harder. “When I’m Hokage, I’m going to find a way to make everyone quit fighting like that. Why can’t we just have a match, like at the chuunin exams, instead?”

Tsunade sighed. “Because the side whose team lost would want to do it again, with a stronger one, and sooner or later we’d be using whole armies again. That’s kind of what a war is, kid. And as soon as people get killed, you have revenge getting into it, and it never ends.” She leaned across the table and poked him in the stomach. “You know that already. Look at the way you reach for all of this, the moment you think one of your team is being hurt, or in danger of dying. Like when Sakura went down, during the exams.”

Naruto growled, and then jumped, startled. This time, he could really, actually feel the surge of the fox’s hot, raw chakra. "…oh."

“Most people don’t have a demon beast to draw on,” Tsunade-baachan said, raising one brow at him, “but everyone reaches deeper like that when the people they love are hurt. Everyone. Think about that.”

Naruto thought about it, and chewed on his lip, and scowled, and finally burst out, “I’ll find a way anyway! I don’t know how, but there’s got to be something to get people to stop!”

He expected the old bat to scoff, but she just smiled. “Maybe you will. Now.” She rapped the table and rose. “Time for your meditation exercises.”

Naruto groaned pathetically, but she showed no mercy and just pointed at the cushion on one side of the room. Naruto dragged himself over to it with a deep sigh and arranged his hands in the reverse Bird, and listened to the distant growl of the fox inside. One thing he would say, though never to Tsunade-baachan: it was getting easier to tell when the growl was the fox’s and when it was his.

Maybe more people just needed to do this.


Naruto,

If you don’t stop telling that toad of yours to jump on my head with the letters, I’m going to fry him.

And no, of course it’s not your fault that a surgery you were assisting at failed. Unless, of course, you were actually the one bonding in the new bone and you somehow forgot to mention that part. Quit being an idiot. You’re not actually incompetent, at least when you pay attention. And you do that more these days.

Stop worrying.

Sasuke

The owner of Ichiraku Ramen set down Naruto’s bowl and smiled across the counter. “There, now, that’s more like it. You’ve looked down for days. Cheer up! I made the ramen extra spicy for you!”

Naruto tucked the letter into his jacket and split his chopsticks. “Yeah, sometimes you gotta remember the good stuff in life!” He scooped up his first slurp of noodles with a tiny smile.


Sasuke had to admit, if only to himself, that Kakashi-sensei had been right. His team could keep him sane. He really missed them, having to deal with Jiraiya day in and day out. Naruto was comfortingly straightforward, by comparison, and he was positive that Sakura would have slapped Jiraiya very satisfyingly at least once a day.

And he wanted to be where Sakura was, getting the run of Intelligence, so badly he could taste it. He wanted access to secured records so he could find out where Itachi had gone, and what he was doing, and how Sasuke could finally kill the man and avenge his family.

Before the man could do it again and kill his… his team. His team, that was all. (Family dies. Family betrays. Not family.)

He shook his head sharply to settle his thoughts, and one of his lines of ink went astray.

“Redo that,” Jiraiya told him, glancing over. “Summons aren’t like ninjutsu; they don’t go away until you dismiss them or the summoning seal is disrupted, and even that’s chancy. You should have the dismissal right on hand the first time, and formally written as a seal, in case anything goes wrong. Decided what you want to try for, yet?”

“Hawks,” Sasuke answered shortly, reaching for a fresh sheet of paper. The thought had come to him about a week ago, watching one circling over the hill they were on. It seemed appropriate to make a contract with another creature of legendary eyesight, after all. Besides, then he’d have his own summons to send letters by.

“Hmm. Sharp-eyed, so single minded they fly into cliffs on the hunt, no sense of humor… I can’t imagine why this didn’t occur to the Uchiha years ago.”

Sasuke considered trying out his new Chidori Senbon on his teacher, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t stable enough yet, and he’d just be more annoyed if Jiraiya dodged it. Maybe, he thought as he turned back to his brushwork, a hawk would be willing to pick up one of the damn toads and drop it on Jiraiya’s head.

That was a Naruto sort of approach to the problem, but right now he was irritated enough not to mind that.


Sasuke,

It sounds like you’re making a lot of progress, even if Jiraiya-sama is aggravating. We’ve had a bit of a stir, here, and I don’t know if Naruto will tell you about it. Someone brought their little girl to the hospital with a broken arm, while he was assisting, and the medic asked him to do the anesthetic for her. I guess the father was really wound up, because he started yelling that no fox demon was going to touch his child. Well, there was the mother of a little boy in to have his tonsils out just in the hall and she started yelling at the father that he was disloyal to Konoha to say something like that about the Fourth’s own son. So there the two adults were, howling and screeching at each other, and Naruto in the middle just doing the pain-suppression. I was so proud of him! Well, in the end, the little boy came wandering in and sat down with the little girl, and by the time the parents got done yelling Naruto was spinning tops for both of them on the floor and they’d both stopped crying. I’m told that the father looked very shamefaced when he took his daughter home, as well he should. I honestly think the mother alarmed Naruto more, though; he still doesn’t know how to deal with that.

I looked in the files, after you mentioned it, but none of them that I could get my hands on had any information about where Itachi is now, or where Akatsuki might be based. There’s speculation that it’s in Water Country somewhere, but it’s all just rumor, nothing substantiated.

I did find something else, though. Keep an eye out, okay? When Tsunade-sama said that the Sound-nin keep showing up looking for you, she wasn’t joking.

Sakura

Sasuke frowned over Sakura’s letter. He hadn’t thought Tsunade was joking, exactly, but he hadn’t seen the slightest sign of Sound-nin anywhere in the last five months. He was much more interested in those rumors about the Akatsuki base. Maybe Jiraiya would agree to a trip into the Water Country if Sasuke said he’d heard the bars all had gorgeous servers or something.

And Naruto was an idiot. He should have just used the first anesthetic seal on the loud-mouth father, so he could do his work in peace and quiet. There was no excuse for that kind of thing.

Sasuke pulled over a sheet of paper and a pen to explain to Naruto in detail what he should to about that kind of interference next time, eyes glinting.


“Naruto! Did Tsunade-sama let you go for the day?” Sakura slid onto the bench of the dango shop across from him, pinning a case of papers firmly under her heel. Probably top secret or something, she was getting really into that stuff these days. Naruto pried himself upright from his sprawl across the table with a groan.

“She’s a killer. We don’t need assassins any more, all we need to do is have her train people. They’ll drop dead in a month. She had me transferring chakra all day, in different proportions, if you can believe it, of my chakra and the damn fox’s.”

Sakura’s brows rose. “Naruto, that’s a really advanced technique.”

He blinked. “It is?” The old bat hadn’t told him that. “Huh.”

“Well, here, you’ll like this, then.” Sakura fished an envelope out of her pouch. “Sasuke’s latest letter came, and he said to share this one with you.”

Naruto straightened up more, reaching for the letter eagerly. It really helped, these days, to hear from Sasuke. Who’d have ever thought, two and a half years ago, when they’d all first met? He blinked at the opening lines and read aloud, bemused.

“May all the spirits of my ancestors look on me with favor and preserve me from this utter asshole. Striking him dead would be favorite; it can’t be hard the way he lives. No sooner were the words ‘Water Country’ out of my mouth than he hauled us off to Wind instead. We’re doing laps around the central desert, practicing a different set of elemental techniques with every one. Do you know what they drink out here? Whatever it is, it makes him sing.”

Naruto had to stop then to put his head down and laugh.

“Have you ever heard Jiraiya-sama sing?” Sakura asked, curious.

“Yes!” Naruto gasped, “that’s why I’m laughing!”

Sakura leaned her chin in her hand, grinning. “So, is Sasuke right when he says the donkeys can carry a tune better?”

Naruto wrapped his arms around his stomach, sniggering too hard to answer as he imagined Sasuke’s response to Jiraiya’s sentimental caterwauling. Sakura just shook her head, smiling, and stole his glass of water for a few sips.

“Well,” Sakura said when he finally caught his breath, “at least he should be more satisfied with his actual training, now. And being around Jiraiya-sama seems to be good for him, in a way.”

Naruto wiped his eyes and stole back his water. “Yeah, he sounds a lot more human, these days. Less like he has one of those Uchiha fans stuck up his ass.”

Sakura mock-glowered at him. “Tsunade-sama has had a very bad influence on your language, Naruto.”

Naruto cocked his head, grinning, and waved the letter. “Seems to be a Legendary Three thing, since Sasuke’s is getting just as bad.” Sakura snorted and Naruto paused. “Um.” He fidgeted a minute, looking down at his napkin. “Sakura-chan? Does that… bother you?” He snuck quick looks up at her as he twisted his napkin into a knot.

“That you and Sasuke are being taught by two of the Three and I’m not?”

Naruto winced at the way she knew exactly what he was talking about. That couldn’t be a good sign, could it?

She steepled her hands together, looking at her fingertips. “I’m a little envious, sometimes,” she admitted, softly. “But then I think… all three of us had to give things up for the training we’re getting now. Sasuke has to be on the road while you and I get to stay together here. You had to start training in healing, and I know that was never a goal of yours. I don’t have a legendary tutor all my own, but, you know, I also don’t have a legendary enemy after me personally and I also don’t have a demon fox sealed inside me I have to figure out how to deal with.” She looked up at him with her mouth tilted. “I’m kind of okay with those things. And I do like working with Intelligence; I think it carries a lot of weight with them, that Kakashi-sensei recommended me.”

“Well, that’s because you’re awesome, Sakura-chan,” Naruto mumbled, looking at his napkin again. “I always thought so.”

She actually smiled at that, instead of passing it off or smacking him in the shoulder, and that made him have to drop the napkin before he actually ripped it.

“So, go on and read what else Sasuke says,” she said lightly. “I thought the part about the camels was pretty good, and he’s got a new form of Chidori.”

Naruto spread out the letter again with a little relief. Sakura was awesome, but Sasuke was easier to understand any day.


Sasuke leaned back on the rail of the boat, looking up at the sky above them. It seemed endless, from this angle, the blue only broken by a few hazy veils of cloud. He wished his life were more like that sky.

Annoyingly familiar weight settled beside him with what had to be deliberate thumps and creaks. “Looks like we’ll have a good, clear passage,” Jiraiya remarked, all bluff and cheerful.

Sasuke give his teacher a Look, and Jiraiya just smiled, perfectly sunny and impervious.

“Ah, there’s the true Uchiha glare. What are you so pissy about this time? We’re heading for Water Country just like you wanted, aren’t we?”

“For your purposes,” Sasuke pointed out with precision. “Not mine.”

Jiraiya waved a finger at him and took a drink from his jug. “Nonsense, my purposes are yours! We’re going to investigate!”

“No,” Sasuke said. “They’re not the same. You’re always trying to get me to change the way I look at things, or think about something. Like the way you keep reminding me of my clan, but always in a way that would push me away from our traditions.” He snorted as Jiraiya raised his brows. “Sakura may be the best at this, but that doesn’t mean I don’t use my brain too.”

After a long moment, Jiraiya leaned back against the rail beside him and looked up at the sky. “You have the potential to be a fine shinobi. And a very powerful one. But you’ll never realize it if you pay more attention to the past than the present.”

“I’m not going to forget my clan!” Sasuke snapped.

“And here you said you used your brain,” Jiraiya mused and took another drink while Sasuke glared at him. “Of course you won’t forget them. But you should blunt the memory a little so it doesn’t cut you.” He quirked his eyebrow at Sasuke. “The Uchiha had many things to be proud of, and one madman doesn’t erase that. You don’t have to prove every bit of their honor all by yourself.”

Sasuke flinched. It wasn’t fair how Jiraiya could spend all his time acting like a drunk buffoon and then turn around and do things like this. See and say things that felt like a knife going in past his guard. Only without hurting. Exactly.

Jiraiya clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, come on, then! We’re at sea; time to work on water techniques, maybe see what you can make of them combined with that Chidori of yours.”

Sasuke sighed and did as he was told. The part of his brain that wasn’t thinking about conductivity and possible applications of steam, though, wrapped those words about the honor of Uchiha around his heart and took comfort in them.


Naruto, Sakura,

We’re coming back to the village for a little while. Found absolutely nothing about Akatsuki in Water Country, though Mist seems to have had yet another civil war. It sounds like it’s about time, too, the last Mizukage and his cohort must have been really twisted. I’m almost surprised Akatsuki wasn’t here, [blot that might have started with an I] they’d have been right at home.

See you soon.

Sasuke

 

A/N: Given how much time Madara spends, in canon, getting other people to do his dirty work, it never sat right with me that he was the only one involved in the attack on Kushina. So here he stirred up the Mist fanatics to attack instead.