No matter what he tried, he couldn't open his eyes. "Why?" he thought. "Why can't I wake up?" He turned to Kyuubi. "You said I was gonna make it!" he said in anguish. Then he stopped, and stared at the giant Kitsune. "Is he...becoming transparent?" "Hey, stupid fox? You okay?"
Kyuubi was indeed less opaque than he'd been a moment ago and he knew it. "Damn you...brat," he said through gritted teeth.
"What did I do?" Naruto said to counter the insult that had been tossed his way.
Kyuubi's breath became ragged. "You let yourself become a science experiment...that's what."
Naruto was angry now. "I didn't let myself become anything! They drugged me! And why the hell does it matter to you anyway!"
Kyuubi growled. It sounded...strained. "Because I'm almost dead!" he snapped.
Naruto's eyes went wide. "What?" he said in disbelief.
"There was too much damage. I didn't realize it. My soul is too weak to stay now...damn you," Kyuubi said with a small cough, which was a strange sound coming from such a large animal.
Naruto became oddly quiet. "Why do I feel like part of me is dying?" he thought. "Maybe cause, he's always been with me." "Thanks," was the only thing he could think of to say.
"Hmmm. Maybe part of me can stay..." He rolled one large eye toward Naruto. "Hey, brat."
"What?" Naruto said in irritation.
"I'm gonna give you a going away present."
"Present?" Naruto said suspiciously as he stood up and walked over to the Nine Tails.
Naruto instantly stopped. "How stupid do you think I am! I'm not gonna let you take me with you!"
"HA! Why would I want to listen to your nonsense for all eternity?" Kyuubi answered in mild amusement. "Now come here! I don't have much time left."
Naruto took a deep breath and moved closer to the seal cage. The instant he got next to the bars Kyuubi whipped out one of his claws and stuck it right through him. "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Naruto screamed, the pain so intense he nearly blacked out.Sakura was the first to notice it. "He...he's breathing!" she said excitedly.
Sasuke actually smiled a little more than his usual smirk. "Nice work, dobe."
Hinata lowered her head. "Thank God...Thank God." she said as she shed tears of relief.A moment later the pain subsided. Naruto collapsed to the floor. "I'd rather get cut a hundred more times than go through that again," he thought. He looked at the cell. "WHAT THE HELL DID...you do?" His words reached nothing but dead air. Kyuubi...had vanished."Why isn't he waking up?" Hinata asked with concern clouding her delicate features.
"He went through a lot," Sakura replied. "It might be a few days," she said as she wiped some of the blood and sweat off of Naruto's forehead with a small towel from her side pouch.
Sasuke was about to suggest they get out of there when a clear ripple of energy blasted outwards from Naruto's body, knocking them all away from the table with great force. Sasuke skidded to a stop roughly six feet away from where he had started. He looked back at the table. Everything seemed quiet again.
Sakura came walking back to the table. She was holding her head. "What do you think that was Sasuke-kun?" she asked. "Dammit! What the hell was that!" Inner Sakura raged.
Sasuke squinted in confusion. "I don't know," he said quietly. "Let's get him out of here." He pushed Naruto up to a sitting position. "Sakura, you get the other side," he said as he put one of Naruto's arms around his shoulders.
"Yeah," Sakura replied as she moved into position.As they came out of the front entrance a very loud signal flare shot into the sky. It looked like it was only two-hundred meters away. "Shit. That's the warning signal," Sasuke remarked. "Hinata, you move ahead. We need your eyes."
"Nm," Hinata replied as she shot forward in the direction of Konoha.
Sasuke and Sakura hurried as quickly as they could considering the circumstances. "I hope Kakashi sensei is alright," Sakura said.
"Ahn," was Sasuke's only reply."Hokage-sama!" said a Leaf Jounin.
Tsunade picked up her head from where she'd had it lying on the desk. "What?" she asked sleepily.
The jounin's eye twitched. "I can't believe she was sleeping," he thought. "They're coming back!"
Tsunade was instantly more alert. "Bring me to them!" she said, leaping over the desk and scattering papers everywhere.Tsunade's heart was thundering in her chest as she leapt from rooftop to rooftop, following her subordinate. "Please be alive. Please be alive," she thought, tension tight in her stomach.
Suddenly the Jounin pointed to their left. "There, Hokage Sama!"
Tsunade squinted. She could barely see them. They were just outside the gates, moving fast. Sasuke and Sakura were in front with Hinata bringing up the rear, making sure they hadn't been followed. She set her face in determination as she picked up speed, leaving her subordinate in the proverbial dust.
Sakura smiled. "There're the gates, Sasuke-kun!" she said...just before someone landed right in front of them, causing them to literally have to dig their heals into the ground in order to stop in time. "Tsunade-Sama?" she exclaimed in surprise.
Tsunade was breathing hard. "Is he? Alright?" she said with worry
Sasuke spoke up. "We think so," he replied as Hinata came to a gentle stop behind Sakura.
Tsunade nodded. "Give him to me. I'll take him to the hospital. You three, follow. I'll want your reports."
Sasuke and Sakura nodded and handed over the unconscious Naruto. Tsunade took off in the direction of the hospital.
As they went on, Sakura began to get a knot in her stomach. "How are we going to explain what we saw. I don't even want to think about it...much less say it out loud."
When they reached the hospital a doctor was already waiting outside the entrance. "Follow me, Godaime-Sama," he said as he made a small bow out of respect. Tsunade nodded and together they disappeared through the glass doors.As the doctor who had lead them inside emerged from the double doors of the intensive care unit Sasuke, Hinata and Sakura all stood. "H...how is he?" Hinata said softly.
"He's resting comfortably. Tsunade-sama is working on reducing the amount of scarring he'll have. It may take a while for him to wake up, but I think he'll be just fine," the doctor replied, smiling warmly.
"Can we see him?" Sakura asked.
"Of course. Follow me, please," the doctor said as he began to walk.Sakura had seriously started to hate hospitals. Every time she was there it was because someone she cared about was hurt and she was tired of it. "Why does it always seem cold in here?" she thought.
The doctor stopped in front of a door. "He's in here," he said.
The door opened and Tsunade appeared. "Thank you, Akito," Tsunade replied with a smile.
"You're welcome, Tsunade-Sama." And with that he turned around and walked away.
Sakura looked up at the fifth Hokage quizzically. "You know him Hokage-sama?"
"Yes. He's a cousin of someone who was very dear to me," she said as she walked through the door.
The kids wisely took that as a sign that they shouldn't ask about it anymore and simply followed the Fifth.
As they sat down in the chairs that were at Naruto's bedside Tsunade spoke. "Now, please tell me what happened."
The three genin looked at each other. Both Hinata and Sakura looked down. Sasuke sighed. "I guess I have to do it."
"We went inside the building and split up. While I was searching, I heard Sakura scream. I found her. Then I saw Naruto lying on a...table," he began.
Tsunade visibly stiffened, her breath caught fast in her throat. "Continue."
"He was...cut open. All the skin on the front of his torso had been peeled back," Sasuke said quietly.
Instantly, a fire entered Tsunade's eyes as she balled her hands into fists. "That bastard!" she yelled as she shattered a nearby chair with one punch. "I'LL GUT HIM!"
This stunned even Sasuke into silence. "I didn't know she cared so much about Naruto."
Just then a nurse poked her nervous face through the doorway. "I'm very sorry, Tsunade-Sama. But I must ask you not to be so loud."
Tsunade sighed with frustration. "Of course," she said stiffly.
The nurse flashed a quick, nervous smile before pulling her head out of the room and closing the door.
Tsunade turned her attention to Sasuke once again. "Continue," she said firmly.
Sasuke cleared his throat. "I...we thought he was...dead. But I noticed Kyuubi's chakra trying to heal him. I pushed the skin back into place," He winced, "and the wound closed. Then..." he trailed off. Looking as though he were trying to decide how best to phrase what came next.
"What?" the Godaime asked even though she wasn't sure she wanted to know.
Sasuke looked at Sakura and Hinata. Sakura found her voice. "Some kind of energy came from his body and we were all thrown back from the force of it."
Tsunade frowned in thought. "Chakra?"
"No. At least...I don't think so. Chakra has color...this didn't," Sakura finished.
"Hmm," was Tsunade's only reply. Suddenly her attention was drawn to the Uchiha mark on Naruto's arm. Her eyes widened in recognition.
Sasuke saw where Tsunade was looking and suddenly wished he could be somewhere else.
"I haven't seen an Uchiha bonding seal in over thirty years," Tsunade said as she continued to stare at the mark in wonder.
Sakura looked at the mark in confusion. "What is it Tsunade-Sama?"
Tsunade smiled. "I think that's something Sasuke should tell you," she said warmly.
Sakura turned to Sasuke. "Sasuke?"
Sasuke sighed. "It marks him as my...brother," he replied with an unreadable expression on his face.
Sakura's eyes went wide as she stared at Sasuke, dumbfounded.
A slight smile crossed Sasuke's eyes. "Hmpf." He looked at Naruto. Sunlight, coming through the window, fell on the blonde's face and wind ruffled his hair. "My true brother."It was the third day since they had come home. Hinata sat on a small, soft armchair next to Naruto's bed. She stared at the boy's sleeping face. "Please, Naruto-kun. Wake up."
Tsunade, who had been about to come into the room, instead smiled at the concerned look on the young Hyuuga's face and quietly shut the door again.
Hinata heard a small groan and looked up to see Naruto's face contorting as though he were starting to regain consciousness. She stood up quickly, banging her knee on the bedside table. "Ow," she said weakly as she bent over to rub her injury.
Hinata looked up. Naruto's eyes were open and he was staring at her, his face showing concern. "N...Naruto-kun!" she said in surprise. She then bolted out of the room leaving behind a very confused blond ninja.
"What the...?" he began as a doctor came into the room, followed by Hinata.
"I'm so glad to see you awake Naruto-kun," he said with a smile.
Naruto allowed himself a slight smile. "That makes two of us."
The doctor walked over to Naruto's bed and sat down in the chair Hinata had occupied earlier, while Hinata herself stood near the wall. "I'm Doctor Tokiha. You may call me Akito since you are so close to Tsunade-Sama," he said with a smile. He looked at his chart and cocked an eyebrow. "You sure do heal fast.."
Naruto was instantly more alert. He sat up so quickly his head felt like it was spinning. "What?" "But..but Kyuubi's gone. Why...?"
"Don't worry," Akito said with a warm smile. "The Kyuubi doesn't bother me."
Naruto's eyes went wide and he looked at Hinata in panic. Akito saw this and waved his hand dismissively. "It's alright, Naruto-kun. She knows," he said with a reassuring tone.
If possible, Naruto's eyes went even wider. "H..how?"
"She had to be told why Orochimaru wanted you," Akito said matter of factly.
Naruto looked at Hinata with a small amount of fear. Suddenly he lurched. "That means Sakura-chan knows too!" Akito nodded. Naruto felt the bottom drop out of his stomach. He really hadn't wanted her to know.
"They had to know that they might have been facing Kyuubi if Orochimaru's seal transfer technique had backfired."
"Seal...transfer?" Naruto repeated in confusion.
"Yes. According to our intelligence network, he wanted to transfer Kyuubi to himself."
"Now please, hold still so I can examine you," Akito said as he put a blood pressure cuff around Naruto's arm. After a few more small tests Akito stood up. "I think you can leave tomorrow morning. Just make sure you rest today and you're all set."
"Thanks," Naruto replied.
Akito left the room and Hinata retook her previous seat.
"Hinata-chan?" Naruto said as he looked over at her.
"Thank you. For not being afraid," he said in a slightly choked voice.
Hinata's expression softened. "Naruto-kun. I could n...never be afraid of you."
Naruto looked up at Hinata. Tears had formed at the corners of his eyes, but he was smiling. He wiped his eyes. He eh hemed. "So...um...Have you been watching me at the hospital all this time?"
"N...no. Sakura-san and Sasuke-kun have t...taken turns also. And K..Kakashi-sensei came to visit too," she said all this very fast with a slight blush on her cheeks.
"Kakashi-sensei! He's alright?" Naruto questioned, smiling.
"Y..yes," Hinata replied.
Naruto grinned. "Awesome!" he proclaimed. "Hey, Hinata-chan?"
"Yes?" Hinata replied, her nerves calming a bit. She had found it a lot easier to talk to her long time crush since the Chuunin exam.
"Thanks, for coming to get me."
Hinata looked up in surprise. "How d..did you know?"
"I know it sounds crazy, but I could hear all of you while I was asleep."
"Oh...You're welcome. When...when I heard you had been taken, I just had to go."
Naruto smiled. He was quiet a moment, then spoke. "So...how have you been? I haven't seen you since the Chuunin exam."
"Much better. Thank you. An anbu healed me," Hinata replied.
"I'm glad. I was worried about you," Naruto said warmly.
A slight wave of pink crossed Hinata's cheeks. "Anyway. The doctor is going to tell Tsunade-Sama that you're awake."
Naruto sighed in frustration. "I'm gonna take a walk around the halls," he said as he started to get up, "You wanna come with me?"
"N...no, Naruto-kun!" Hinata sputtered she put her hand on Naruto's. Naruto stopped and looked down. Hinata, as though she suddenly realized their hands were touching, yanked her hand back and tented her fingers. "Please...don't get up. The..the doctor told you to rest," she said, staring at her slightly moving fingers.
Naruto sighed and rolled his eyes slightly. "Okay," he said with a pout as he sat back down.
Hinata let out a short, breath of a giggle.
Naruto stopped pouting and stared at her for a moment. Hinata saw his stare and blushed.
"You should smile more often," he replied with a small smile of his own.
Hinata looked at Naruto in surprise, the thundering of her heart blocking out all other sounds. She gulped. "Th...thank you."
Naruto smiled, then yawned. "You know what? I think I will go back to sleep for a bit." He laid down and rolled onto his side. "Night Hinata-chan."
"Sleep well," Hinata replied. She watched him until his breathing slowed to indicate a deep sleep, then closed her own eyes.Tsunade looked up as the door to her office opened. Kakashi strolled in and took a seat in front of the Fifth's desk.
Tsunade cocked an eyebrow. "So...am I finally going to get my report?" Kakashi had taken nearly a full 3 days to regain consciousness, visiting Naruto before he left the hospital.
Kakashi eh hemed. "Yes, Tsunade-Sama." The jounin straightened himself. "As ordered, myself and the other five jounin created a distraction to get Orochimaru and his underlings away from where we believed Naruto to be. After almost an hour Orochimaru suddenly ran back toward the genin group. I shot up the signal flare as we ran to head him off. The kids barely made it out before we got there. As you know by now, Yuki-kun...didn't make it back," he said with regret.
"Yes, I know," Tsunade said gently. "I'm sorry, Hatake. I know he was your friend."
"Yes." He sighed "At least it wasn't for nothing," Kakashi said.
"How is Naruto?" Tsunade asked, trying not to sound too eager.
"He's still unconscious." Kakashi paused. "Is it true? Was he really cut open?"
Tsunade closed her eyes in a pained look. "Nm."
Kakashi's eyes narrowed dangerously and, although Tsunade couldn't see it, he also gritted his teeth in anger.
Suddenly a chuunin with long, black-green hair burst through the door of the office. "Tsunade-Sama," she said loudly, "He's awake!" she said with a big grin.
Tsunade smiled. "Thank you, Nabiki."
Nabiki smiled. "Of course Tsunade-sama." She was about to leave when she said, "And, Tsunade-Sama?"
"Yes?" Tsunade answered quizzically.
"Girls have been bringing him flowers," she said with a wry smile. She knew telling Tsunade this would make her happy, because she knew Tsunade cared for the boy a great deal.
Tsunade smiled. "Thank you again, Nabiki."
"Yes," Nabiki said with a quick bow, then vanished.
"Well, Hatake," Tsunade said as she rose from her her chair. "Let's go see that student of yours."
...TO BE CONTINUED
This chapter was getting too long, so I'm cutting it here. And I WILL explain about Kyuubi's gift in the next chapter. I promise! (Makes Lee-kun "Nice guy" pose)