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

Kakashi takes Sai under his wing and Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura help Sai start to find his emotional feet. Just in time for Madara to make his move on Konoha. Drama, Angst, I-4

“Where is the man?!” Tsunade pounded a fist on her desk, which creaked in protest even through Shizune had gotten it reinforced with metal and stone supports. Kakashi couldn’t really blame her.

“He’s letting us wear ourselves out,” he said from his perch atop her filing cabinet, out of the way of any shrapnel. “We’ve found a few Akatsuki bases in nearly every country, but I doubt we’ve found them all. He’ll stay hidden in one until we’re exhausted and he’s ready.”

“And this is Uchiha Madara,” Jiraiya added, stretching out his long legs and slumping further down into Tsunade’s guest chair. “The Hyuuga can’t be everywhere, there aren’t enough of them strong enough to see through that grade of illusion." His mouth quirked in wry acknowledgement of Tsunade’s anger. "At least this delay is giving Naruto time to re-learn his techniques.”

Tsunade sat back in her chair looking sour. “Yes, and that’s another thing.”

Kakashi grinned a bit behind his mask. “He’s still nagging you to let him manifest?” He’d been witness to one of Naruto’s pitches to be allowed to try, three weeks ago, and Naruto had already been waving his arms and ranting at that one.

“He’s a medic himself!” Tsunade sounded aggrieved. “He should know perfectly well that a patient’s chakra must be allowed to reach equilibrium after major surgery.”

“Besides, which,” Jiraiya murmured, “it would cause chaos and panic throughout the village if he did it here.”

Tsunade sighed. “That too. The two old goats made much of that.”

“Yes. I don’t think I’m their favorite any more, either, after not stopping you or telling them what you planned.” Jiraiya cocked a brow at Tsunade. “You must have been keeping your temper with them a lot better than I’d thought, if they could think for one instant than I or anyone else could stop you once you’ve made a decision.”

“I’ve been attempting to compromise reasonably between the governing factions of the village.” Tsunade frowned, hands tracing over the cracked surface of her desk. “I don’t want to become what too many clan heads and Elders are, thinking that having power means they must be right.”

“You aren’t them,” Kakashi said quietly. “You’re Tsunade of the Leaf. We follow you because you’ve always cared for what’s right.” And sometimes the pride and terror of thinking that he might, just might, be able to live up to that legacy himself stopped his breath.

Tsunade met his eyes with a crooked smile. "I’d apologize for the weight of that, that I’ll leave to you," she said gently, "because I know damn well how heavy it is. But I’d be lying; I’ll do my best to make it even heavier, because that’s my duty."

Kakashi bent his head. "I know." She’d spent years running away from that weight, just like he had, and it hadn’t done either of them a bit of good in the end. Hopefully, they’d do better against Madara than against their own demons.

Whenever he finally got around to showing up.

In a wide, rounded, stone room underneath Fire country’s eastern lakes, a black and white body stepped out of the wall.

“Well?” asked the dim figure sitting quietly away from the single lamp.

The back and white head shook. “The boy’s been working his way up to complex techniques again, but he hasn’t manifested so much as a tail, much less the whole fox.”

Red eyes narrowed in the shadows. “How unusually cautious. I would like to be sure the demon is in top shape before I extract it. I suppose we might go fetch the Eight-tails first, but I don’t want to miss a good chance at the real prize. Perhaps it’s time to provide some… extra motivation." Teeth flashed for a moment. "I can spare you enough chakra to create, perhaps, six full clones."

Both the black and white sides of the face split into a smile.

The duties of a jounin were always irregular. A mission here, a season of teaching there, administrative jobs tucked in whenever a body was recovering from some injury, and sometimes political duties when someone retired from the field. Kakashi had known all of that, and though he’d done his best for years to stave off the political duties he’d never expected to avoid everything.

What he hadn’t expected was to be doing all of them at once.

He watched over Naruto’s re-training whenever Jiraiya-san wasn’t available. Shikaku-san had started insisting that Kakashi sit in on mission application hearings. He appeared to be one of Tsunade-san’s new de facto first councilors since she was nearly at knife-points with Mitokado and Utatane over Naruto. And here he was with an escort mission, of sorts, albeit a self-assigned one.

But he’d be damned before he let Sai go talk with Danzou alone.

He slouched along beside the boy, hands stuffed in his pockets, and caught the eye of the outer perimeter guard hidden in the garden a few houses down from Danzou’s apartment building. She nodded and let them pass.

“ANBU was tasked to guard Danzou-san, even though you might not have found all of Root’s members yet?” Sai asked, and Kakashi reminded himself wryly that this was the ANBU genius of the younger generation he was walking beside. Of course Sai had noticed.

“Would you tell us if you recognized a Root member we haven’t found?” he asked in return.

Sai gave him a look whose very blankness clearly suggested that even respected senpai could be complete morons, and touched his lips. Kakashi chuckled. “Exactly." Until they found the key for that seal, they couldn’t release mission information about Danzou to Sai, including information about who guarded him.

Sai cocked his head. “Ah. You think the seal may have another element?” A compulsion, of course, or else why worry what information he had. The blank, dark eyes turned considering. “I do not know.”

Because he had never disobeyed Danzou.

Kakashi liked talking with Sai. It kept him sharp and in practice with field speech, where the most important things were left unsaid. It also kept his rage with Danzou fresh, which was its own kind of advantage when going to speak to the old snake.

The inner perimeter, currently the doorman, let them through and Kakashi led the way up to Danzou’s apartment. He rapped his knuckles on the plain wood door and, after a long moment of waiting, was bidden to enter.

Danzou was sitting in a straight chair by the windows without, Kakashi was pleased to see, his over-robe and its stock of nasty surprises and pre-drawn seals. He didn’t think Danzou would bother to attack him, but he still didn’t know what Sai planned to do here today; if anything turned explosive, he’d rather not have Danzou’s full array of weapons to deal with. Danzou’s plain, white kimono showed his withered right arm more clearly than usual; Kakashi wondered if the man was brazen enough to try to play on the sympathies of his guards with that old injury, despite what all of ANBU knew was still deadly skill.

“Sai,” Danzou greeted the boy, without any apparent surprise. “What is the status of Root?”

“All members are accounted for,” Sai answered promptly, automatically, “and are under evaluation by—” here he stumbled, eyes suddenly shifting between Danzou and Kakashi. “By the Hokage’s command,” he finished slowly.

“Under which,” Kakashi noted dryly, leaning against the wall with crossed arms, “you have no right to command any of them. Including Sai.”

Danzou’s fingers flicked as if to brush that aside. “And how, without me to require the report, could you be sure everyone was accounted for?”

“Nor is that information you should have, now.” Kakashi gave Danzou an affable, eye-crinkling smile. If Danzou really wanted to convince him that little security breach had been some kind of helpful gesture, he shouldn’t be fishing for whether or not the rest of ANBU had found a way to identify Root.

Danzou shrugged his whole shoulder, looking careless. “As you wish. What is the purpose for this visit, then?”

Kakashi opened his hand at Sai, who took a few more steps away from the door, into the clear center of the room. “I wanted to ask,” the boy started, expressionless and hesitant both, somehow, “why you ordered me to kill Naruto.”

Danzou’s brow rose. “I gave orders to keep him out of enemy hands, or to stop the demon if the seal began to fail.” He made it sound so reasonable that Kakashi had to stop his fist from clenching.

“No,” Sai said quietly. “You are the greatest master of seal techniques in ANBU, possibly in the whole village. You could not be ignorant of the nature of Naruto’s seal. You ordered me to kill him if there was any change; but the seal was bound to change if Naruto ever gained full command of the demon fox, is that not correct?”

Kakashi straightened just a fraction, stifling a grin as Danzou’s shoulders turned stiffer. The problem with training an operative like Sai, of course, was that he never stopped noticing things.

“Why did you consider that such a dangerous possibility?” Sai went on, hands folded behind him as if he were reporting and not interrogating. “You always said that Root serves to defend the village. What was the danger, there?”

Danzou’s face settled into hard lines and his left hand closed tight on his knee. “What danger? You’re too young to have seen it, but I was there when the demon fox freed itself from the grip of a woman better trained and more experienced than that boy. Hiruzen kept him ignorant and trusted to his heart.” Danzou’s short laugh of disbelief was harsh. “The demon is too dangerous. It will escape him eventually, and there will be more of this,” he twitched his scarred right arm, showing how stiff and strengthless it was even after the best efforts of the Leaf’s healers, “and the village cannot afford that!”

“The village?” Kakashi murmured, “or Shimura Danzou?”

“The shinobi are the village’s strength,” the old man said firmly, and Kakashi’s eye narrowed.

“Then why are you so willing to sacrifice individuals?” he asked, soft and dangerous. “Individuals who aren’t you, at least.”

“Everyone has their role to play, Kakashi-kun.” Danzou settled back in his chair.

Kakashi wasn’t sure whether he was more impressed with Danzou’s relentless ability to shift the ground of any argument to his favor, or more appalled by the man’s self-centeredness and the growing suspicion that Danzou had lost track of reality and honestly believed all his own shifting, contradictory statements from moment to moment.

“Danzou-sama,” Sai said into the silent tension between the two men, and they both turned to look at him. “If you still commanded me, what mission would you give me next?”

The faintest smile hovered at the corners of Danzou’s mouth, and it was Kakashi’s turn to stiffen; just what contingencies, he wondered coldly, had Danzou thought to condition or compel his people to?

“I would say that you should finish the mission you were already given.” Danzou watched both of them with a hooded eye. “The threat to the village has not been removed yet.”

Not yet, no, Kakashi thought, careful of his breathing to conceal his rage; but it would be soon even if he had to kill Danzou without sanction. And then he raised a brow as Sai turned to him.

“Kakashi-san. If all goes as the Hokage wishes, you will command ANBU soon. Under these circumstances, what order would you give me?”

Kakashi actually blinked, and a slow smile tugged at his mouth. Sai was testing them. Raised to follow his orders without question, no matter what they were, still the boy was feeling his way toward judging his superiors. He wanted very badly to smirk at Danzou, but Sai deserved an answer first.

“Hmm. I’d also say to go on as you have been, if for somewhat different reasons.” Danzou’s ever so faint snarl warmed his heart, and he beamed at Sai behind his mask. “As far as mission orders,” he continued, more seriously, “I would hesitate to send you out again before I was sure you were fit to judge your orders and choose how to carry them out.”

“A shinobi has no need of such judgment,” Danzou snapped. “Not until they are experienced enough to step back from the field and give orders themselves.”

Kakashi didn’t look away from Sai. “Shinobi are the weapons of their villages. Their nations. Their employers. True enough. But a shinobi without the will to evaluate orders, and even modify them if field conditions demand it, is a blade without a sheath. And members of ANBU are ground to a sharper edge than any others. That’s what you’ve been waving around your own village, Danzou.”

“Your sentimentality is your great failing, Kakashi-kun,” Danzou growled.

Sai hadn’t looked away from him, and Kakashi smiled at the shadows of thought shifting behind those dark eyes. “From your perspective, I have no doubt that’s true. But that’s also why I was chosen by the Fifth.” The unspoken and why you were not rang in the quiet air of the apartment. Danzou’s good arm tensed, and Kakashi got a foot under himself, ready to move if he had to.

Slowly, Sai nodded. “I believe I know what I need to.” He turned again and bowed to Danzou. “Danzou-sama.”

Danzou sat back, good hand spread against his leg again. “Take that one with you when you go, then.” He jerked his chin at Kakashi.

Sai went promptly to the door and held it open, looking over his shoulder. “Kakashi-san?”

Kakashi let himself be ushered out and watched Sai from the corner of his eye as they made their way back down three flights of well-lit stairs and out to the street. It was two blocks before Sai spoke.

“I do not believe there is a compulsion element to the seal,” he said, quite casual, “but you should come with me to see Naruto, to be sure.”

Kakashi whistled. Sai might have been trained never to question or think about his orders, but he had a quick mind, that was clear. No one without one could have come up so speedily with a plan to test the seal for compulsion. No one who didn’t want to be able to question would have tested it by asking for orders he intended to disobey, or attempt to.

No one who wasn’t ANBU to the bone would have used himself as the test material in so dangerous a trial so unflinchingly.

Kakashi nodded to himself; he thought he knew where Sai stood, now. “I’ll come, yes,” he agreed. “Hopefully I’ll even get to you before Sakura, if there turns out to be a compulsion after all.”

“That would be helpful,” Sai agreed, with no trace of understanding the joke, dark as it was. Kakashi sighed to himself. They would have to work on Sai’s sense of humor.

Naruto flopped over in the scrubby grass of the eighth training ground with his arms thrown out. “That’s six Rasengan in a row,” he panted, “while channeling chakra to Sakura and avoiding those fucking Chidori Senbon. Can I manifest now?”

You have the patience of a bird, the fox rumbled, sounding amused. A small one. In spring.

The fox was getting a lot more mellow, now he was healed, but Naruto wasn’t completely sure this was an improvement, at least as far as the smart remarks went.

“I think you and the Nine-tails are both stable,” Jiraiya said from where he was lounging against a tree with a jug of sake, overseeing Sakura’s work on some of his sage techniques, “but Tsunade will have to check you over to be sure. You know she’ll skin us both if I tell you you can try before she’s had a look.” He wagged a finger at Sasuke. “And you! Stop resting on past accomplishments! It’s about time you started working on some new applications; you perfected Chidori Senbon over a year ago.”

Sasuke gave his teacher a bored look from where he was sitting cross-legged in the grass. “What, like this?” His hands, which Naruto suddenly realized had been stealthily forming the Boar and the Monkey in his lap, flicked out and a net of fire burned toward Jiraiya. The old pervert yelped, dropping his jug as his hands clapped into the Snake and a wall of earth surged up to block the net. Sasuke leaned back on his hands, smirking.

“That’s a decent start, I suppose, yes,” Jiraiya said thoughtfully from behind his wall.

Sakura came to haul Naruto out of the grass, laughing breathlessly. “You should have known you wouldn’t catch Sasuke out like that, Jiraiya-sama.”

The old man was smiling as he dismissed the wall. “I suppose I should.”

Sasuke looked aside, just a little flushed at the compliment, and Naruto grinned. “You two are so cute,” he cooed, eyes dancing wickedly.

“Cute?!” Both Sasuke and Jiraiya protested, but it was Sasuke’s hands that were flashing up into the Tiger, and Naruto prepared to dodge, laughing.

“Guys,” Sakura’s voice cut through the horseplay, suddenly level. “Heads up.”

Naruto and Sasuke spun to flank her, alert, and Naruto blinked when he saw the two coming towards them. “Sakura, that’s just Kakashi-sensei and… oh.” Okay, no wonder Sakura was tense. The other one was definitely Sai.

“Mm.” Sasuke touched Sakura’s shoulder and stepped back to cover them both.

“Guuuys,” Naruto groaned. He didn’t usually have any problem at all with how protective his team was, but this was silly. Kakashi-sensei wouldn’t bring Sai around if he was dangerous!

“It’s our job, Naruto, quit complaining,” Sakura ordered coolly, and he gave up. That was her mission voice, and there was no arguing with it.

Kakashi-sensei ambled up, hands in his pockets, so elaborately casual that even Naruto gave him a suspicious look. A Kakashi that casual was a Kakashi who was up to something, most likely some kind of object lesson. The only question was, who for? The old pervert seemed to have the same question, because he went to meet them and exchanged a few quiet words with Kakashi-sensei. He didn’t look entirely happy as he glanced back at Naruto and his team, but he sighed and waved three fingers at them before turning and strolling back toward the village with his sake jug dangling from one fist.

“All clear sign,” Sasuke murmured from behind them.

“Hm.” Sakura didn’t sound entirely convinced, and Naruto sighed.

“Ah, good,” Kakashi-sensei said as he came into ear shot. “You’re all here.”

As if that were a cue, Sai stepped forward, smiling his weird smile. “Naruto-kun. I wanted to apologize.”

The fox growled as soon as Sai spoke, and Naruto couldn’t help wincing himself. There was something wrong about Sai’s voice, his smile; Naruto could actually feel it, like a pebble in his sandal or something.

Corruption, the fox said in his head, crackling like fire. Rot. Twisting. This is what I live to destroy.

Well you can’t kill him, Naruto answered sharply. It’s not his fault!

Sai was watching him, head cocked. “Naruto-kun?”

Naruto winced again, helplessly. “You… you don’t have to do that, you know. The smiling. I mean… you don’t have to.”

No one moved at all for one moment and then the alarming smile slid off Sai’s face like it had been wiped away with a sponge. What was left was a little unnerving; even shinobi weren’t often that still, just watching like that, but at least it didn’t make him twitch inside. The feeling of the Nine-tails calmed a little, too, the pressure of his growl easing. Even Sakura eased back off her toes a bit. Naruto breathed a sigh of relief.

“That makes you uncomfortable?” Sai asked, sounding a little curious even if he didn’t look it much.

“Well it was a little weird already, but since Nine-tails got better we’re… not closer, I mean he’s still kind of a jerk, but I sense some of the things he does. And when you smile like that it’s just wrong. You don’t want to. You don’t mean it. It’s…” Naruto rubbed a hand through his hair, looking for a different word and finally sighed. “Yeah, okay, he’s right. It’s twisted.”

“And yet neither of you seem to feel that way when Sai isn’t bothering with emotion at all,” Kakashi-sensei murmured, eye sharp on them both. “Interesting.”

Naruto thought about it. Now he was kind of curious himself. “It’s… he feels a little… cold,” he said at last, slowly. “But it’s not bad. Just cold.” It actually felt a little the way Sakura did, beside him right now, focused like a burning glass on Sai.

“Very interesting.” Kakashi-sensei glanced over at Sai. “Well?”

Sai reached up to touch his tantou, and Sakura’s tension cranked back up a notch. “I feel no compulsion to attack. I believe we may conclude the seal is a restraint only.”

Sakura pulled in a breath like the hiss of a snake, and whirled on Kakashi-sensei. “You tested this using Naruto and Sai without telling us…?!” Her hands hovered, ready to form seals, and Naruto had a queasy feeling she would go straight for her activation.

“Um, Sakura-chan…”

“Sakura,” Kakashi-sensei cut in firmly. “Stand down. That’s an order.”

Her eyes narrowed, but slowly she lowered her hands. “Tell me why,” she said, low and hard.

“Sai chose to test this on himself, knowing that if there was a compulsion, and if I couldn’t subdue him first, you and Sasuke would kill him. Think about that.”

If anything her glare intensified. “Kakashi-sensei…” she grated through her teeth.

Sai had been standing quite calmly and without reaching for a weapon all through this, and Naruto shivered. “How can you do that?” he asked softly. “How can you be so calm about something like that?”

Sai shrugged one shoulder a fraction. “ANBU is the sword of Konoha,” he said, perfectly tranquil. “Whatever is required, we will do. It was necessary to test this.” He slanted a glance at Sakura. “Anger is not necessary.”

Sakura rounded on him. “You think I want to kill one of my own village?” she yelled at him, eyes blazing. “Anger is damn well necessary, over something like this! We should have been warned! There should have been more controls, to keep both of you safe during the test!”

Sai blinked and cocked his head at her. “You are angry… because I was in danger? I was the threat.”

“You’re a shinobi of the Leaf, you absolute moron!” Sakura’s hands were flexing like she was about to wrap them around his neck and shake him. “You’re loyal to this village! You deserve to be protected too! And I’m really damn angry that you weren’t!”

Sai looked even more puzzled and Naruto was torn between laughing and yelling a little himself. “Look, you’ve already been hurt, and that really sucks,” he put in. “None of us would be happy with the idea of hurting you more, especially if it’s not your fault.”

“Distress over another’s pain,” Sai murmured. “This is what is called empathy?”

The fox flinched and whined, and Naruto didn’t blame him at all. The cold was getting more noticeable.

The grass rustled as Sasuke came back up beside them, sliding a handful of shuriken back into his pouch, eyes level on Sai. “You know what it is,” he said, quiet and confident. “When your brother was in pain, you were distressed.”

Sai jerked a little, as if he’d started to step back and stopped himself. “Shin,” he whispered, eyes suddenly distant. “I don’t…”

“You were,” Sasuke insisted. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t have tried so hard to make it stop.”

“Oh,” Naruto said, eyes widening. Now he got it. “That… was that why?” Heat gathered in his chest, burning and growing, and the fox’s growl resonated through it. This time he welcomed it, because his own fury was in there too. “That was why Danzou made them fight?” To hurt Sai so badly he’d freeze himself to stop the pain?

Sai wasn’t tranquil any more. His face was drawn and his arms were pulled in tight. “Shin.” The cold deepened.

Naruto couldn’t stand it any longer. He stepped forward and grabbed Sai’s forearms. “You don’t have to do that!” he burst out. “It won’t happen again. I won’t let it!”

Sai stared at him for a long moment. “You’re very like him,” he finally said quietly. “I remember… he said things like that, too.”

“If you remember,” Kakashi-sensei finally spoke up again, “then he is still with you. That’s why we remember, and care, even when it hurts.”

Sai turned his head to look up at Kakashi-sensei, though his arms still hung without resistance in Naruto’s hold. “Is it worth it?” The thoughtless innocence of the question made Naruto’s anger with Danzou burn hotter, even though the fox was slowly settling again.

Kakashi-sensei looked down at Sai gravely. “Yes, it is.”

Sai bowed his head. “I see.” He looked back at Naruto for a breath, considering, and finally smiled. It was small and faint, but real.

Naruto grinned back with vast relief as the sense of coldness eased. “There we go,” he said softly. “See? It’s okay.”

“Perhaps,” Sai murmured.

Sasuke stepped forward and rested a hand on Sai’s shoulder for a moment, nodding. Sakura clasped the other shoulder hard and shook Sai just a little. “Not every moment is a mission,” she told him, a bit husky. “When it isn’t, that’s when you relax so you don’t go crazy, okay?”

Sai looked at her for a long, thoughtful moment, and finally nodded. "I suppose I can try."

Naruto thought maybe Kakashi-sensei’s lesson today had been for all of them.

Danzou sat at his window, watching the people passing in the street below as dusk softened the shapes of the village’s roofs, and turned plans over in his head. There had been no commotion in the village today, so he had to assume that Sai had been unable to complete his mission. Again. There was an outside possibility that the boy really had broken his conditioning sufficiently to refuse the mission, but he considered that very unlikely. Root’s training had taken very completely with Sai, doubly so once the turning point of killing his “brother” had passed. Most likely, then, Kakashi had stopped Sai.

For all Kakashi had been silent in Council, as befit a mere potential Hokage candidate, Danzou knew perfectly well whose hand had truly driven his downfall. Contrary to his lazy airs, Kakashi was hot blooded; it was little wonder he’d left ANBU, in the end. Perhaps Danzou should have tried harder to acquire Kakashi for Root when he’d been orphaned, though ten years old was late to start that training. For a while, Danzou had thought it didn’t matter—that Kakashi would live for nothing but the village and abide purely by the Code, whether he was formally of Root or no. Namikaze Minato had much to answer for, not only for failing to destroy the Nine-tails but for turning one of Konoha’s most powerful shinobi away from his right path. One bare year as Kakashi’s jounin-sensei and his hooks had been set, pulling the boy further and further from his duty. It was uncanny.

And Namikaze’s brat clearly had some of the same nature, in addition to his mother’s temper. Why could no one but him see the danger that posed?

“Brooding again, Shimura-kun?”

Danzou jerked up out of his chair in shock. No one should be able to enter this room without his knowledge! Not through the seals he’d placed on every wall, on the ceiling and floor, on the door and each window. But there was another standing there in the center of his floor mats, arms folded, wearing a mocking smile. The seamed and wrinkled face was only vaguely familiar, but there was no mistaking the man’s eyes, red even in shadow, and marked with three black curls. It took long seconds for Danzou to believe the only possible conclusion, to even consider the idea, but there was only one man of the Uchiha who could be this old and still alive.

“You’re dead,” were the words that came out of his mouth, nevertheless, in his shock. “The First killed you.”

Uchiha Madara spread black gloved hands, indicating his solid and living body in its loose, night-blue clothing. “As you can see, he did not. Indeed, I like to think that I won that day. After all,” he smiled bright and terrible in the dimness, “I’m still here and Hashirama is not.”

Danzou took a slow breath and straightened up. “Not for long.” His outer robe, with all its seals and tags, was hanging across the room, but he was not helpless.

Madara waved his fingers. “Not so quickly, Shimura-kun. After all, you’re now in my position too, aren’t you? Thrown away by those you tried to warn. Exiled from the place you should have. Ignored by those you should lead.”

“I am no traitor,” Danzou snapped, trying to think whether he could convert the barrier seal under the floor mats to a binding seal quickly enough to catch a shinobi of Madara’s power.

“Is it treachery to wish to lead your own people?” Madara purred. “You have more experience and wisdom than the Senju chit that leads now, surely.”

Danzou’s stomach was sinking; he remembered Madara’s crushing strength, and none of the seals he had to hand, or the techniques he could perform without preparation would hold or kill him. The most he could do was probably to raise an alarm, and if the man had gotten in here undetected, that might not be enough.

At least not if he attacked here and now.

“What are you suggesting?” he finally asked, harshly. “You’ve tried more than once to destroy this village, and now you expect me to believe you’ll leave anything for me to actually lead?”

“I’m willing to make reasonable bargains,” Madara murmured, pacing toward him and turning to circle him. The skin between Danzou’s shoulder blades crawled, and he held himself fiercely still. “If you aid me in capturing the Nine-tails, I will undertake to leave the village in your hands. Intact. As long,” he stopped in front of Danzou, red eyes boring into his, “as you make no move against me in the future.” He smiled. “Don’t you want the demon fox to go away, Shimura-kun? Hasn’t that been the idea all this time?”

Madara must be used to dealing with madmen, if he thought that kind of logic would work. But if he was used to his blandishments working, perhaps it would give Danzou enough time. “What do you want?” he asked, low.

“Why, nothing you wouldn’t already be doing, if you only had the opportunity!” Madara swung away from him, spreading his arms as if to indicate his generosity. “Kill Tsunade. And the Hatake pup. Use that Root of yours to cut the Sacrifice out of the herd so I can take the Nine-tails. And then you can be seen to drive me off, and the village will be yours.”

True temptation welled up in Danzou’s heart for a moment. For the price of two lives, the very two who were leading the village astray, he could have Konoha and protect it properly.

If only Madara could be counted on to keep his bargain, he might really have done it.

“You’ll need to get me out of here without raising any alarm,” he said slowly.

“Nothing is easier,” Madara said softly, turning to face him again with that gleaming smile. “Come along, then, Shimura-kun.”

The room around them twisted impossibly, spinning and sinking on the still point of Madara’s right eye, and then everything went dark.

A/N: No, Danzou and Madara did not meet during the Third War, in this continuity. No, Madara doesn’t wear a mask. Tobi = Madara was either the clumsiest Author Had A Better Idea ever or else the most ridiculous character detour ever, and in either case I deeply dislike that design choice. So Madara gets a face, here. As for Tobi =/= Madara… that was the most pointless “twist” imaginable, and I hereby ignore it entirely. Tobi doesn’t exist, in this continuity, Madara does. Also, implanted Sharingan has been done, so Danzou’s arm and eye were plain old stricken in the Nine-tails’ attack and his abilities are his own.