Fire and Ice

Changes, Chances, and Clandestine

A knock sounded from the door, startling Terra into a sitting position. The pyromancer blinked, then silently swung his legs over the edge and made his way to the door. Haku was out on a grocery run, and was due back any moment, however, he usually would come in the balcony door, which left the person at the door being a stranger. Terra himself had been told not to leave the apartment after he’d used so much energy that he’d collapsed on the training field last night. Haku refused to train with the fire-user until he was sure that Terra was back up to par. The knock came again, just as Terra put his eye to the peephole. One of the Chunin that had helped watch the first part of the Chunin exams was standing there. Confused, Terra unlocked and opened the door.

“Yes? Can I help you?” the Chunin extended his hand, a folded sheet of paper held in it. The fire-user could pick out his name and Haku’s, but not much else.

“This is from the Lady Hokage. I was told to deliver it to you and your teammate.” Terra smirked slightly.

“Right, I’ll pass it on to Haku.” The Chunin nodded and disappeared. As Terra closed the door, he heard the balcony one open.

“I’m back.” Haku said, just loudly enough to carry to Terra. The pyromancer grinned.

“Right on time.” He commented as Haku dropped the bags of groceries on the kitchen table, “Someone just delivered a message from the Hokage to the both of us.” Haku paused in putting a bundle of carrots in the fridge.

“The Hokage? Do you think it could be about our past as rouge ninja? The third Hokage didn’t really touch on that.” Terra shrugged, handing the letter to Haku and moving past him to finish with the groceries. Haku opened the letter, read it, then stared, and stared, and stared some more.

“Terra…grab your boots.” The fire-user looked up from the fridge, “We’ve got to go to the Hokage’s tower.” Terra blinked.


“Just do it!” Haku raced out of the room, heading back towards his bedroom to grab his and Terra’s masks. Terra shrugged, meandering over to the door to pick up his shoes.

Terra kept glancing at Haku on the way up the tower to the meeting room apparently specified in the letter. This was basically Terra’s equivalent of pestering the younger teen for an answer. However, with just under nine years of knowing him, Haku had gotten very used to and adept at ignoring these nonverbal questions. Both had moved their masks to clips they wore on their belts to keep them close, as there were only ninja in the tower as of yet, and they knew about Terra, and were least likely to attack on sight. Terra rolled his eyes and sighed, crossing his arms as they moved into the room. The Sharingan user paused ever so slightly upon seeing Shikamaru standing there before the desk, but moved with Haku to stand beside the shadow user, being careful to put Haku between them. Six years was a long recuperation period, but some wounds took much longer to heal. Terra’s aversion to touch was one of them, and the only person who was allowed to initiate touch with him was Haku, and ever so slowly, Tenten was joining that tiny group. As they stood at minor attention, Tsunade, the new Hokage, began to speak.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know what to do. With the final exam being suspended, it was the opinion of many that none of the students should pass this time around, and that includes the three of you.” Terra shot a glance at Haku, who nodded.

‘So, this is about the Chunin exams.’ Terra thought, returning his attention to the Hokage.

“However, I hear that the third Hokage had nothing but the highest praise for you three. The two of you who were entered as a two man team, you especially had impressed him, and Kakashi as well. It seems the third meant to recommend all of you for Chunin. In fact, all those that observed your fights, and your proctors felt the same. So in this case, my opinion doesn’t really matter.” Terra’s wide eyes met with Haku’s own, slightly less surprised ones, “From this day forth, I hope all of you will strive to achieve a level of excellence worthy of the headbands you wear. Congratulations, as of this moment, you stand as Chunin.” Anko, the woman who had proctored the second exam, came forward and handed them each one of the green flack vests that were worn by Chunin and above. Shikamaru put his on fairly quickly, Haku following at a slower rate, but Terra just held his and stared.

“Terra?” Haku asked, realizing that his friend hadn’t moved. Terra glanced at Haku from under his bangs, and Haku could see that the pyromancer’s eyes were watering.

“I…I never thought…” Terra trailed off, scrubbing furiously at his eyes, which were releasing steam as the tears evaporated from his much higher than average body heat. Haku glanced at the other ninja in the room, but apart from Shikamaru’s bored expression, they all wore looks of understanding. Some ninja never got past Genin status, and for someone like Terra, who’d really clawed his way up from the very bottom, this was a big step upwards. Haku gripped the fire-user’s shoulder and smiled when black eyes met his brown ones.

“I know, neither of us did. Now, put on your vest. You’ve definitely earned it.” Terra grinned, eyes still watering slightly, and did so, the extra heat afforded by the thick jacket not bothering him in the least.

It was a surprise to the two teens when Shikamaru invited them to lunch with his team, who were going to meet up with him and celebrate. Terra shrugged at Haku’s questioning glance, leaving the decision up to the ice-user. Haku decided to go, so Terra tagged along. After some good natured jibes at Shikamaru from his teammates, the others began eating. It was about ten minutes into the meal that Ino noticed Terra’s lack of eating. He hadn’t even touched his water.

“Terra, right?” she asked, calling attention to the dark haired teen. He looked up, having been tracing random patterns on the table with a fingertip.

“Yeah.” He replied wearily.

“Why aren’t you eating?” such a simple question, but the answers were difficult and painful. Haku simply watched his friend, hesitant to step up and speak.

“I can’t.” Terra finally said quietly. This only caused more confusion between the members of Team Ten.

“What do you mean?” Shikamaru cut in, staring at the older Chunin. Terra sighed and seemed to wilt slightly.

“It…it’s not really a secret, but the only people who know are the members of Team Seven, Haku, our old sensei, Tenten, and now you. It’s just something we really don’t like sharing.” He murmured. Surreptitiously, Asuma, the Jonin sensei for Team Ten, put up a privacy jutsu. Terra nodded at the older man in thanks.

“We had to explain this when questions arose about Terra’s healing rate after the fight on the bridge in the Land of Waves.” Haku said quietly.

“You met Kakashi’s team after that fight.” Asuma commented. Haku looked at him, then shifted his gaze uncomfortably.


“When did you meet them then?” Ino asked. Haku cast his mind about, trying to find a way to say it diplomatically.

“Who do you think we were fighting?” Terra said in his usual blunt manner. Haku dropped his head to the table, suppressing a groan.

“WHAT?” Ino shouted, leaping to her feet.

“We were hired!” Terra shot back, continuing when Ino paused in surprise, “That’s what we were, ninja for hire. You made the comment about our masks having the sign for the Village Hidden in the Mist, we only wore that sign because our sensei was a missing ninja from there. Neither Haku or myself has ever been a member of any of the hidden villages until we came to Konoha.” Ino dropped into her seat, staring at Terra and Haku, but now that Terra had started, he wasn’t going to stop, “Haku was seven when his father sold him into slavery, after killing his mother right in front of him. I grew up in the catacombs that made up the slavery ring. I never knew my parents, my family, the only friend I had before Haku was sent to the lower levels when I got too friendly with him. The only reason I know I wasn’t abandoned or born in the catacombs was because the guards liked to brag a lot, saying how they slipped past the ‘high and mighty ninja’ they stole me from. We escaped two years after Haku was added to the cell I was in, and Zabuza found us, trained us. We were with him for six years. He trained us to the level you saw us display in the Chunin exams.” Haku put a hand on Terra’s shoulder, making the slightly panting teen calm down and sit, his skin was lit from within like someone had raked glowing coals under a cheesecloth, “We got a contract from a man named Gatō to kill the bridge builder that Team Seven was guarding. When the demon brothers, two other missing ninja who worked under Zabuza, failed, Zabuza himself went out. Of course, we went with him, in the off chance that he was defeated. As it turned out, Haku had to fake Zabuza’s death. I used a Genjutsu to give the impression that we were performing like normal tracker ninja, but apparently Kakashi saw right through it.”

“Zabuza…died on the bridge.” Haku finally interjected, and Terra slumped slightly, spent, “Terra nearly died as well.”

“Tell ‘em the truth Haku, don’t beat around the bush. You and I both know I was closer than ‘nearly’.” Terra said lowly.

“Are you trying to say you died?” Shikamaru asked sharply. Terra let out a huff of wry amusement.

“Well, my heart stopped.” He said, not meeting anyone’s eyes.

“Terra was used as an experiment for roughly three months before we escaped.” Haku finally got to the point of the matter, “Many things still haut the both of us about our time. There isn’t anything to do about it but wait for the memories to fade. One of the things that was affected was Terra’s eating habits, but don’t worry about him. We’ve been dealing with this for going on seven years now, its under control.”

Terra and Haku found themselves back in the Hokage’s meeting room early the next morning. Terra was asleep on his feet, but Haku, the early riser, was awake and alert. Both were in full gear and were of course wearing their new flack jackets.

“Do you understand?” Tsunade asked. Haku nodded solemnly, elbowing Terra in the side. The fire-user jumped, eyes snapping open as he surveyed the room quickly, before nodding, having replayed what his ears had heard in his head, even though he’d been asleep.

“Then go, you know what to do.” Tsunade finished.

“Yes ma’am!” the two teens said sharply, then disappeared. Haku melting into a puddle on the ground that quickly evaporated, Terra seeming to burn to ash in a blast of fire.

He slowly rose into consciousness, trying to remember where he was and what he was doing. Did he have a mission to go on? His brother had asked for training again, but he wasn’t sure he could make time for it, even if he wasn’t trying to shelter the boy from the hard truths of the world. His dark eyes shot open, and immediately took note of the darkened room. He wasn’t still in Konoha, and his younger brother was no longer a sheltered child. Itachi Uchiha glanced around, picking out several tables with multiple dangerous and painful looking instruments. While looking around, he realized that he wasn’t in the same area as he’d been when he had lost awareness. Trying to sneak out proved fruitless, as one movement of his leg brought to his attention the fact that he was chained to the wall he was resting against, chakra cuffs sapping his energy. Itachi sighed, shifting slightly so that his weight was no longer resting entirely on his wrists. He was chained upright against the wall, and he’d fallen forward sometime since then and only the manacles around his wrists kept him from hitting the floor. Now however, Itachi’s arms ached from the extended time being pulled back, and were tingling with the pins-and-needles feeling of awakening limbs.

It took a lot of focus not to jump out of his skin when the door burst open, but the man that entered didn't seem to pay him any mind, muttering to himself and flipping through a messy notebook in a hurried manner. The man wore a dirty lab coat, had close cropped dark hair, and wire-rimmed glasses. Itachi had opened his mouth to speak when some of the mutterings made it to his side of the room.

“-subject not nearly as…the first…already eyes…deteriorating. With…luck, I can fix…got…start soon…silly disease…short time…only…tell…original sample…doesn’t…advanced…healing slowly…” Itachi stilled. The sentences were disjointed and incomplete, but he got the impression the man was talking about himself and one other. Almost on reflex, his mind brought up the image of the masked boy he’d met in Konoha, who’d claimed that everyone was mistaking him for Itachi. Terra. Itachi had taken a few minutes before leaving Konoha to form a shadow clone and send it to the Uchiha archives, which were surprisingly undisturbed for the majority of the files. The clone had searched for three days before finding the file on the teen, though the file had been in the deceased section. Apparently, the two-year-old Terra had gone missing one day, and after two months, the search parties had given up. If the boy had been here though, that would explain not being found in that time period, though where here was, was a whole other can of worms. The more interesting tidbit was that he was fairly closely related to, and was the same age as, Itachi. Terra was actually only two months younger.

“I guess I’ll work with what I have.” The sigh from the man jerked Itachi’s attention back to the current time and place, realizing that the glasses-wearing man was approaching, a syringe filled with noxious looking fluid, “Oh, you’re awake.” The dark haired teen looked up at the man, staring with an expressionless gaze, “This would have been so much easier if you’d stayed unconscious.” The syringe was injected, and Itachi gritted his teeth as pain exploded from the point of entry, his very blood feeling like it was on fire.

Sasuke tuned out Naruto’s whining, focusing instead on the road ahead of them. Kakashi was walking on autopilot, responding to Naruto’s pestering with noncommittal grunts as he read. Sakura was, of course, switching between yelling at Naruto and making goo-goo eyes at the back of Sasuke’s head. They were making their way back from the Village Hidden in the Mist, having been sent on a mission to deliver a scroll, reporting to the Mizukage something that one of the scouting teams of Konoha had reported after a mission at the man’s request. It didn’t seem like it was anything big, at least it hadn’t until the ambassador that had greeted them and taken the scroll had gotten a surprised and worried look on his face.

A stream of senbon suddenly passed sparse inches in front of Sasuke, and he leapt back, pulling out a pair of kunai and looking around warily. The others of Team Seven were tensed for battle as well, Kakashi had even put up his book.

“Who’s there?” the silver haired Jonin called.

“Well, that’s certainly not what we were expecting, is it boys?” a voice said loudly from the bushes, “We went fishing for minnows and caught a wale in our net. It’s the Copycat ninja of Konoha!” Abruptly, green smoke began to pour from all around them, and Sasuke felt like was loosing control of his body. Sakura had already collapsed, though her eyes were wide open, and she was shaking faintly from fright. Sasuke followed soon after, unable to get his body to respond. Naruto was sending shadow clones out into the forest, but was fighting more and more to get his hands up into the correct hand seals and wasn’t able to summon as many as he normally did. Kakashi was also clearly affected, sparring with a tall man who wore a gas mask that covered his whole face, but was moving much more sluggishly than normal. Sasuke watched, frustrated beyond belief that he was fully conscious but unable to do anything. Eventually, the two remaining members of the squad fell to the effects of the smoke as well.

Kakashi grunted as he hit the wall, moments later followed by Sakura and Naruto. He looked around, seeing Sasuke being thrown against the wall further down and, of all people, Haku and Terra. Terra was upright, chained in a standing position against the wall while Haku was sitting, also chained to the wall. Both were wearing chakra cuffs similar to the ones they’d put on Sasuke, Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi. The two teens were also wearing flack vests, signifying that they'd been promoted to Chunin. Kakashi smiled briefly internally at that, knowing they were more than qualifying of the station. However, like the members of Team Seven, the two teens had been relieved of all their weapons and weapons’ holsters. As the three Genin and one Jonin were chained up, still fighting the effects of whatever gas they'd been exposed to, Naruto began to backtalk to their captors. One backhanded him across the face.

“Keep at it kid, we’ll send you to see the doctor.” The man growled, though it curiously sounded as though he was talking about someone who’d be unpleasant to see, rather than dishing out cures for physical ailments. Haku was shaking his head at Terra, who had a brooding look on his face. Abruptly, the older teen looked up, a hard light in his eyes.

“Just keep at it, Naruto! These guys are all talk!” Haku tried to kick his friend, but to no avail.

“Terra!” Terra ignored Haku’s hissing, tossing his head arrogantly. Sometimes, it seemed as if Terra wasn’t an Uchiha, not that anyone had actually pointed that fact out to him. This was not one of those times. He was acting every bit as arrogantly as Sasuke himself usually did. Thankfully, with the older boy around, Sasuke was lightening up slightly. Terra usually acted like an eight year old stuck in an eighteen year old body around the members of Team Seven, so it was hard not to get involved in his, sometimes, childish pursuits.

“They’ve been threatening me since we got here and still nothing. They’re all bark and no bite.” The tallest of the three grunts stomped over, taking out a kunai and ramming it into Terra’s right thigh. Terra didn’t even blink. The man growled, twisting the kunai.

“If that’s the best you’ve got…” Terra grinned wickedly, “this is gonna be a piece of cake.” The man yanked out the kunai, motioning to the other two men.

“We’ll see how long he lasts with that mouth against the doc.” He growled. The two lesser guards unhooked Terra from the wall. They let the teen fall to the floor, and then dragged him without letting him get up. As the door closed, Haku gently smacked his head against the wall.

“Terra!” he groaned.

“What’s the matter?” Naruto asked.

“He always does this. Gets himself in deep and then ends up without help because of it.” Haku’s voice was somewhere between sulky child, whining, and angry.

“He’s got a reason behind it.” Kakashi said quietly.

“He’s been antagonizing the guards since he’s been here. He’s been keeping the attention on himself and off me.” Haku replied petulantly

“What are you doing here anyways?” Kakashi asked.

“Being chained to a wall, how about you?” Haku deadpanned. The younger members of Team Seven snickered, except Sasuke, who smirked.

“You walked into that one sensei.” Sakura managed around quiet, nervous laughter. Kakashi rolled his eye.

“I meant, what are you doing in this area!” he shot at the ice-user. It was Haku’s turn to roll his eyes.

“Mission. We were on our way back when they caught us.” he finally grumbled, embarrassed that he had to admit something like that.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get out of here soon.” Sakura murmured, looking longingly at the door.

Terra glared slightly at the men that were dragging him, moving too quickly for him to get his feet back under him. Finally, they came to a door, which was roughly opened by the burlier of the three guards. The dimly lit room beyond smelled of blood, sweat, and other bodily fluids, making Terra grimace, remembering his time in the catacombs.

“Got another one for ya’ Doc!” the slimmer of the guards crowed as he and his partner dragged Terra up and began attaching the chains around his wrists to some hanging from the ceiling.

“Hm, it would seem so.” the oily voice made Terra freeze, eyes wide.

‘I know that voice!’

Sure enough, the man that came over to inspect Terra was none other than the sick maniac that had experimented on him before. The man looked over his glasses, eyebrow raised in shock.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t my old experiment come home.” Terra lashed out with his foot, managing to connect with the sicko’s chest.

“I’m not a fucking experiment, asshole! I’m a ninja of the Village Hidden of the Leaves!” he shouted. One of the guards reached forward and after a minute of trying to catch him, snapped Terra’s foreleg, making the teen groan slightly, but not much. When the guard let go, the leg straightened and the bones snapped back together with a loud crunch.

“I see that your healing factor hasn’t diminished any.” The scientist murmured, massaging where Terra had kicked him, “And of course you’re from the Village Hidden in the Leaves, where do you think the Uchiha’s are from?” Terra froze, staring at the man, not noticing the guards moving until his jacket was being pulled off, then began fighting and squirming as much as possible, but to little avail as he was tethered in a near net of chains that hung in the middle of the room, keeping his arms spread wide and legs locked together. It effectively hampered the eighteen year old’s movements.

“I specifically ordered for an Uchiha to be stolen all those years ago, I didn’t expect the bumbling buffoons to find one of the Phoenix-blessed ones though. Your development has been the foci of many of my experiments.” He picked up a scalpel; moving closer and making Terra flinch backwards, or try to. It only made him swing slightly. The scientist drew a black marker from inside his lab coat, muttering to himself as he began making marks on the teen’s skin, presumably where he planned to cut. Terra tensed further, eyes blanking out as his mind locked itself down, too caught in memories to realize that it needed to be at the front and foremost. The teen began to minorly hyperventilate, to which the scientist nodded at one of the guards who cracked Terra in the head with his nightstick, knocking him out.

“This was my first experiment from the Village Hidden in the Leaves, I’m relieved it came back.” The scientist made a deep slice in Terra’s side, and blood welled from the wound for a few moments, then it resealed itself, “Now that it’s back, I don’t have to start completely from scratch on my newest sample.” The last occupant of the room narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. Instead, he stared at Terra, recognizing him and setting his mind into overdrive.

‘I have to get him out of here. Before Madara finds out about him.’ Itachi Uchiha thought, wincing as another wave of pain crested.

Haku stilled, making everyone look at him, as he glanced at the door, then quickly down at his legs. The door burst open and four guards entered. The first pair was dragging a dark haired young man who was deposited against the opposite wall, about two feet from the corner, and quickly chained up. The second set hauled an unconscious Terra back to his place at the wall, and yanking him upright.

“Serves you right, little bastard. You’re lucky your little friend didn’t come back with you.” One guard said, and Haku stiffened but didn't look up, “He’d be in the same boat. We don’t take kindly to runners.” He roughly grabbed Terra’s limp neck, straightening it so he could glare at the teen’s unconscious, blood-stained face, “Wanna tell me how you escaped last time? I might take it easy on you.” The guard sneered, tightening his grip when Terra made no move to say anything, “You’ll get what’s coming to you…one way or another.” The guard spit on Terra’s bare shoulder, then left with his fellows, and the door slammed shut, bolts and locks easily heard being shot.

You!” Sasuke’s hissed accusation brought attention to the other new arrival, being none other than Itachi Uchiha. Weakly, the older Uchiha raised his head slightly, his face drawn and slightly bloody.

“Me.” He replied softly, “What are you doing here…” Itachi winced, “little brother?” Sasuke was taken aback. Instead of the arrogant tone he was accustomed to from the last two encounters he’d had with his older brother, Itachi only sounded tired and in pain. He’d even shown that pain, which meant it had to be very, very bad. Itachi’s control was perfect, Sasuke couldn’t remember ever seeing an emotion his brother hadn’t wanted him to. Terra shifted, then whimpered quietly, unconsciously drawing attention to himself. The teen became the center of attention as he began to hyperventilate, eyes open and fists clenched. His lean arms strained against the chains holding him and he hardly seemed to see what was really in front of him.

“Hey…calm down!” Haku murmured, reaching as far as possible and just barely being able to brush his friend’s bare ankle. Terra jerked, shudders beginning to wrack his body.

“I think…that might actually be…a result of what they…did to him.” Eyes were drawn to Itachi, who was regarding Terra with a strange expression, and obviously still struggling with his own pain.

“What did they do to him?” Haku demanded, eyes and voice hard as the ice he controlled.

“He said something about…blood substitutes.” Itachi’s eyes drifted to Haku, “Poison was…mentioned often” Haku paled.

“No…” he shook his head, “that…that’s impossible. It’s the last thing that the madman was trying to do before we escaped.”

“So, you were here before. That explains…the reactions.” Itachi murmured, letting his head loll slightly to the side.

“B-before?” Haku stammered, “Reaction? And what the guard said…” he froze, “No! No, no, no, no, NO!” the cryomancer yanked desperately at the chains keeping him secured against the wall, “I can’t do this again! No! We’ve gotta…gotta get out of here! Terra! Wake-up! Please.” Haku fell to the side against one arm, leaning in the direction of his comatose friend. Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke stared at the usually levelheaded teen. It shook them up to see their usually collected friend acting so different and scared.

“How did these slavers manage to get the drop on the infamous Itachi Uchiha?” Kakashi asked out of the blue, apparently trying to get attention off Terra and Haku, currently the weakest links of their group. Itachi looked at him flatly.

“They caught me…by surprise. I’d been…on the run from the…Akatsuki for some time…and I was exhausted. They…they discovered that…I’d been passing information…to Konoha…” He grimaced as a wave of pain crested, “The gas they use is…a kind of nerve gas,…and temporarily keeps you from…controlling your…own body.”

“That’s what they used on us too. And I don’t think you’ll have to worry about your former organization.” Haku murmured absently, apparently adding to the conversation subconsciously as he looked back up at Terra, who’s shaking was subsiding, “Terra?”

“Cold…why…why is it so…cold?” came a muttered reply. Haku’s eyes widened and he surged to the side, yanking against his chains and managing to catch hold of Terra’s ankle.

“Terra! Wake up!” he barked sharply. The older teen groaned, head lolling.

“Terra! Wake up now! You have to stay awake! I’m not losing you here! We’re going to get out! But you’ve got to stay awake! Try and circulate your chakra away from the cuffs and warm your core.” Terra groaned again, and Haku continued, voice portraying how desperate he was getting, “If you don’t warm up you’ll die!”

“Phoenixes rise…from the ashes…” Terra muttered, but seemed to be complying with Haku’s demands as his chest was beginning to glow. Slowly, the light began to resemble the glow of barely lit embers.

“The Phoenix Guard.” Itachi murmured, sounding awed.

“The what now?” Naruto asked, as usual, totally oblivious to the tension between Kakashi, Sasuke, and the rouge ninja.

“The Phoenix Guard. Those of the…Uchiha family that were said to have been…blessed by a Phoenix and charged with the protection of…the Ruling family of the Uchiha,…so to speak.” Itachi said quietly, pausing every few words to keep his voice even and deprived of the pain that still flitted across his face, making Sasuke stare in surprise. He wasn’t used to seeing his brother so talkative, much less the shock he was getting from not being talked down to.

“The Ruling family, wouldn’t that have been Fugaku’s line?” Kakashi asked. Itachi nodded.

“His mother…I think, was what…linked him to the Phoenix Guard. He’s…our second cousin.” Sasuke gaped, looking back and forth between Terra and Itachi.

“That explains why he looks so much like you.” Sakura murmured, “Sasuke and Kakashi-sensei thought he was you when we first met.”

“That makes more sense now. Also explains the ANBU Black-Ops jumping him when we came into the tower during the Chunin Exams.” Haku murmured, not taking his eyes off Terra, “So, was it you Terra saw in the village that day?” For the members of Team Seven, this was something new, but Itachi nodded slowly.

“Yes, and…I stand by…what I said. His…healing rate is very…unusual for one that’s…not a jinchūriki.” He said with a wry smile.

It was several hours later, or it could have been a whole day, before the guards came back. Terra had just woken up before the sounds of approaching steps had caught his attention. His head jerked hard to one side, and Haku tensed as well.

“Nobody make eye contact with them.” The ice-user hissed. The others had barely enough time to nod in understanding before the door was thrown open. Six guards came in this time, each as burly and muscled as the next.

“Get a move on.” The seventh and final guard standing in the hallway barked.

“Aw, don’t tell me you guys are scared enough of us to have to recruit more guards.” Terra taunted weakly. It earned him a vicious haymaker to the stomach.

“Don’t be stupid.” The attacking guard said as he straightened, “We have to have the extra hands for the third guy.” This earned nonplussed looks until Kakashi was yanked to his feet with Terra and Itachi.

“Kakashi-sensei!” Naruto exclaimed, only for Kakashi to smile, in his way, over his shoulder.

“Relax Naruto, I’ll be fine.” The silver haired Jonin said. The closest guard shoved Kakashi’s shoulder, making him stumble slightly, nearly getting tangled in the chains that were still keeping him restrained.

“We’ll see if you can keep that carefree façade after your ‘appointment’.” The guard sneered, then forced the Jonin into line behind Itachi and the drunkenly staggering Terra. The door slammed shut and they set off down the hall, the pace set by the guards too fast for Terra to keep up with until Kakashi and Itachi lent him each a shoulder. Terra took the opportunity to hiss hurried instructions in the two’s ears.

“Whatever you do, don’t try and talk him out of something. The man doesn’t think of us as people, only lab rats, and it’ll piss him off. Keep the noise responses down to as much of a minimum as you can, it only makes him break jaws, though in one case he threatened to cut my vocal chords. And whatever you do, don’t try and interfere with anything he tries to do to me, he’ll probably do it to you instead, though he’s more likely to do it to us both.” The door came into view, and the guards yanked the three away from each other, ending Terra’s hasty whispering. Terra was surprised as he was actually dragged to the wall near Itachi, and Kakashi was the one chained up in the middle of the room. The teen missed the hastily stifled expression of relief that ghosted over Itachi's face, but Kakashi didn’t, ignoring the guards that had literally shredded his flack jacket to get it off of him.

‘Interesting…I guess the infamous Itachi Uchiha isn’t as cold-hearted as most believe.’ Kakashi thought as the man he presumed to be the ‘doctor’ that was apparently in charge shuffled forwards. The man didn’t speak, but immediately reached up and yanked Kakashi’s forehead protector off. Kakashi frowned internally at the rudeness, but kept Terra’s fearful instructions in mind and kept his face blank. From the way Itachi had nodded slightly when the scarred teen had been speaking, the instructions were valid. Which brought to light exactly how different Itachi was behaving in contrast to how he had been upon his visit to Konoha last month.

“Interesting,” Kakashi jerked slightly in surprise when the oily man spoke aloud, “the transplant wasn’t under the best of circumstances, but the eye has completely melded with the original system. I wonder…” the man sent a glance at Terra, who tensed and let out a inaudible whimper of fear. Kakashi only knew he did so because it was right on the edge of his hearing, keen as it was.

“Bah,” the doctor waved the idea away like a swarm of mosquitoes, “why would I even consider. If anything, the less intact eyes would be better to use, less likely to impede my other experiments.” Now it was Itachi’s turn to tense, and Kakashi took the chance to glare at the back of the presumed doctor’s head.

‘‘Less intact’? Is Itachi going blind?’ the thought skittered across Kakashi’s mind before the bespectacled man turned around with a scalpel, ‘Well, there go the examinations.’ This thought had barely even formed before the scalpel drove into shoulder, and Kakashi was biting his tongue to keep from yelling in pain.

Haku, and the three Konoha Genin looked up as the door opened. Kakashi was dragged in, supported by a guard on either side. They chained him up in his spot and left, slamming the door behind them. Kakashi didn’t move, simply slumping where he’d been dropped on the ground. His mask was slightly torn, though mostly in place, but his flack jacket and forehead protector were both missing. Kakashi’s silver hair was falling heavily to one side, loosing its fight with gravity.

“K-Kakashi-sensei?” Naruto managed to get out. Slowly, Kakashi raised his head, his viewable face bloody.

“I’m alright.” He said, wincing slightly, “Nothing too serious. He just wanted to examine my Sharingan…I think.”

“Let me guess,” Haku commented, voice trying to sound light, but shaking a bit too much for it to be believed, “you lost track after about the seventh or eighth time he stabbed you?” Kakashi blinked, but nodded.

“S-stabbed?” Sakura squeaked.

“The so-called ‘doctor’ is a bit blade happy.” Haku replied absently, “He also seems a bit obsessed with the Sharingan.” Sakura and Naruto glanced at Sasuke, who’s eyes had narrowed and flicked to the door, before going back to his stoic mask. To his teammates, that was the equivalent of a nervous twitch and shuddering in fear.

Itachi and Terra were returned several hours later, both drained and bloody. Itachi and Terra were both barely lucid, hallucinating under the effects of very strong, very heavy drugs. Terra’s right-hand fingers were broken, twisted, and blackened. For several minutes, the cell was filled with the sound of bones grinding and popping as they righted themselves and the cartilage around them. However, the black was slower to fade. Itachi crested from the drug induced stupor first, and explained that the blackened part of Terra’s fingers were due to them being held between two thick blocks of dry ice for the majority of their time there. Kakashi had already been half unconscious when the ice treatment had started, so he hadn’t been aware of it. The only thing Terra said for the rest of the day was a repeated was a single phrase at random intervals. Haku’s expression had been puzzled the first time he’d heard it, but then, his eyes had widened in shock before beginning to water slightly. Sakura had immediately noticed and asked. After much pestering, Haku finally spoke the four words that Terra was murmuring.

“Where is my family?”

It took a short explanation for the meaning to reach the others. Terra’s first cellmate had been an older man from the Land of Wind, so of course he had probably recognized the Uchiha. He’d set aside any prejudice and had instead cared for and taught the toddler Terra, mainly how to talk, walk, and a bit about the world outside the catacombs. Terra’s first real conversation had been about family, and had ended with the question Terra was now repeating, as the man had never answered and had been moved out of Terra’s cell shortly afterwards. Once Haku had explained, the room was quiet until they had all drifted off to sleep, except for Terra’s quiet murmurings, which got increasingly more desperate and slightly tearful, but never louder.

Haku was again the warning sign, stiffening in the middle of a hushed conversation on possible means of escape. The others quickly hushed, making sure to keep hostility out of their expressions. Naruto had gotten a heavy kick to the side the day before when he’d been seen glaring at one of the guards as they had been leaving the room. The door opened and again six guards entered. Kakashi glanced at the Genin, preparing to be dragged to his feet again as Itachi was and Terra was dropped from the wall. The fire-user was still out cold, though the drop seemed to have roused him slightly. Instead of Kakashi being hoisted up however, it was Sakura. She threw panicked looks at Kakashi and Haku. Kakashi opened his mouth, but Haku beat him to it.

“What’s the big idea?” he called, throwing his voice slightly higher and into a slight but believable falsetto, “Taking the newbie konoichi and not me?” The guards paused, blinking stupidly as they looked at Haku. Admittedly, the change in clothes and hairstyle deterred greatly from Haku’s former, quite female, appearance. The guards leered at Haku, who glanced meaningfully at Itachi. The Uchiha nodded ever so slightly and Haku breathed a silent sigh of relief. Itachi would take care of Sakura.

“Well, well, sorry we didn’t notice you then.” The lead guard replied. He stumped forward and yanked Haku to his feet, attaching the set of chains that they used for transporting them before unlocking the standard chains. In that moment that chakra cuffs were disengaged before the second set would engage, Haku cast a smokeless transformation. It didn’t do much, but it did soften his appearance, and change him from male to female. He couldn't do anything drastic, but he added a few curves, very slight, but it would appear to anyone who dared to unclothe him that he was female. Their mistake. As they were half dragged down the hallway, Terra actually was being dragged, Haku managed to edge closer to Sakura, who was visibly shaking in fear.

“Keep calm.” Haku murmured, voice even and calm, “He’s not going to treat you like Terra and Itachi. If anything, from the way the guards reacted, you’ll be shoved in a room with Itachi in an attempt to see how the Uchiha react to female influence. Itachi already promised that he’ll take care of you, and he won’t abuse the position you’ll be put in unless drugged.” Sakura calmed slightly, but was still visibly nervous, “You’re a konoichi of Konoha, Sakura. Act like it.” That did the trick. Sakura’s nervousness vanished like mist on a summer’s day.As it turned out, Haku was right. Itachi and Sakura were shoved in a room together, as were Haku and Terra, and left for all of four hours before the psychotic man in charge decided it was fruitless and that nothing more would happen. Sakura was sent back to the cell with the others with Haku, and the experiments on Terra and Itachi continued.

Itachi grimaced as he was dropped unceremoniously on the floor, too weak to try and struggle as the guards leisurely attached the cuffs to his wrists and ankles. Terra was being given the same treatment, though they still tethered him up in the crucifixion stance in an attempt to injure him further. As the door closed, Itachi allowed his head to loll. After the first four days, all appearances of strength had crumbled away. Haku, and Terra when he was lucid, stressed that they get over such issues with each other, as it would only hinder any chances of escape. If one came, it would likely be an all or nothing chance, and they couldn’t have one group trying to sabotage the other. Most of the hostilities had died by now, extinguished by the cold breath of realizing that they were all equal in the eyes of their captors. Itachi glanced up upon feeling a glare directed at him, seeing Sasuke leveling him with a glower. The eighteen year old mentally rolled his eyes.

‘Some day, little brother, I will tell you why our family had to die.’ He thought, only for his mind to come to a shuddering halt, ‘Wait, I no longer have ties keeping me in the Akatsuki. My use as a spy has ended. I can…tell him now.’ A small smile tugged at the corners of Itachi’s mouth, and he raised his head slightly to regard Sasuke. He contemplated for several minutes on the best way to breach the subject, only for one of the others to do it for him.

“If you were a Konoha spy for the Akatsuki, why did you kill off the rest of the Uchiha Clan?” Kakashi asked. Itachi blinked, surprised at the convenient bringing up of the subject on his mind.

“Because they were planning a coup d’état.” He decided the blunt route was easiest. It would do no good to sugar coat it.

“Ha!” the quiet exclamation drew attention to Haku who was smiling slightly, “I was right! There was more to the issue than what was common knowledge.” The ice-user’s face reddened slightly when everyone gave him strange looks, “I went to go ask Kakashi about side effects of over-using the Sharingan, but it was just after your fight with Itachi and Kisame, so the only conscious ones in the room other than me were Kurenai and Asuma. They explained a bit about the massacre, and I knew there had to be more to it because things didn’t add up.” Itachi raised an eyebrow, so Haku continued, “Not only did what you say to Sasuke sound false, like you were trying to shove him towards a response, but there weren’t any tracker ninja sent after you to hunt you down. Everything points to someone in high places with the power to supersede the Hokage and with a grudge against the Uchiha clan.” There was silence for several moments, then Kakashi shook his head, laughing quietly.

“Sometimes, Haku, you are scarily perceptive.”
Itachi spent the next four hours answering questions from everyone, explaining the events leading up to the Uchiha massacre. As the truth was coaxed from him, Itachi felt lighter than he had in years. He knew it would be quite a while before Sasuke was ready to fully forgive him, but…now…it wasn’t an impossible idea. Sasuke took a whole day after that to sort out his thoughts, which was made easier by the fact that Itachi wasn’t in the room, though circumstances made that the worse situation. Terra and Itachi were both dragged out of the room for most of the day for the next four days. Terra came back in increasingly worse condition, though Itachi wasn’t looking much better either. He confessed that the Doctor’s curiosity with Uchiha hadn’t dimmed and he was expanding on some of the experiments that had already been done to Terra, though he wouldn’t elaborate past that. It was unspoken that none of them would point out that Sasuke was also an Uchiha, it helped that he hadn’t used his Sharingan in the fight that had spawned their capture. Kakashi, after that first time, was seemingly exempt because, though he did have a Sharingan, he wasn’t an Uchiha.
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