General Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi.
Chapter 1 – Falling in Line
When the nurse came into the room, Uchiha Sasuke was already awake. The boy lied in bed; eyes open, but gaze blank, as he stared up at the white ceiling. Mina was the boy’s designated nurse. At first it was considered an honor of sorts that the upper echelon entrusted her with the daily care of the Last Uchiha, but as she watched over the boy during his comatose state, Mina came to realize exactly what that title meant for the too young boy.
She shook her head and tried for a smile to make her voice chipper as she entered the private room and closed the door behind her. “Oh good, you’re awake! How are you feeling?” She approached to check his vitals.
Sasuke blinked his eyes slowly and tilted his head just slightly to be able to look at her. He seemed to look through her, his mind not all there. He turned to the ceiling, looked back at her, and then away again. Mina didn’t let it get to her. Disorientation was to be expected from this patient, especially after what the boy’s brother had done to him. She finished checking his vitals. Everything looked okay.
“Head… hurts…” The boy croaked out. “Con… cussion?”
“No, Uchiha-kun. You don’t have a concussion. It’s likely a lingering effect from the genjutsu,” she explained gently.
The boy’s eyebrows scrunched up in confusion. Then his eyes widened and his pupils dilated as realization struck him. He shot up in bed. “Where is he? That bastard! Was he caught? What am I… what am I doing here? I thought I… I thought he-” the boy touched one hand to his neck delicately in a protective gesture, the other arm wrapped around the front of his body like a shield, “I thought I died…”
Mina raised her hands in a placating gesture. “You’re fine Sasuke-kun,” she said, switching to his given name instead of his surname. Maybe the reminder of his family name was causing him distress. “You’re not dead. You have no physical damage. But I regret to inform you that Itachi was not caught.”
“What? What are you talking about? He… he choked me to death! I… I… I should be dead! Why am I- what am I doing here?”
She pressed the button to call for help incase the boy became violent. “That was just an illusion in the genjutsu,” she tried to reason with him. The boy did not have any signs of strangulation marks on his neck or any other physical marks when they found him. “Please, Sasuke-kun, calm down! Don’t agitate yourself too much.”
The boy looked at her with confusion, as if unable to comprehend the words coming from her mouth, but he seemed to be thinking at least and no longer in hysterics. Good, Mina thought. At that moment the door swung open. A veteran medic-nin and his apprentice entered the room. “What’s the situation?” The medic-nin demanded as he approached Sasuke’s bedside. His apprentice trotted behind with a clipboard in his hand.
Mina tried to explain that the patient was in hysterics, but is better now when all of a sudden Sasuke started screaming and shuffling backwards in the bed. “Get away! Get away from me!” He threw the pillow at the medic-nin and the apprentice and started reaching for other things to throw.
They were all startled at first, but soon the three move in unison to subdue the patient. When the medic-nin and his apprentice got close, Sasuke’s hysteria rose. They soon got the young boy subdued, however, and into an enforced sleep.
“It seems the patient’s mental state is much worse than we first anticipated,” the medic-nin noted. “Keep monitoring him for changes.”
“What a horrible thing to do to your own little brother,” the apprentice remarked. Mina could not help agreeing and pitying the poor boy. And to think the one time she met Itachi, he was such a polite young man.
The second time the boy woke up he was much calmer. When Mina entered the room it was to find Sasuke sitting up, propped by his pillow and staring out into the village. When she approached him, he requested a mirror. Perplexed by the strange request, she nonetheless brought him the requested item.
Sasuke took the mirror with trembling hands, as if frightened to look at his own reflection. Mina wondered why that might be. The boy looked at his reflection. His eyes widened at the sight, but then became half-lidded and dull as if in resignation. He stared at his reflection until she finally took the mirror away and proceeded to check his blood pressure and other vitals. All clear.
“How are you today, Sasuke-kun?” She asked gently. The boy gave her a half-dead look that startled her, but she tried to keep her smile firm and her eyes gentle. Eventually he opened his mouth, but then the medic-nin came in to check on the patient.
“How is he today?” He asked.
Sasuke gave a visible start and backed away from the approaching doctor with frightened eyes, his legs coming up like a shield. The medic-nin noticed this and paused in his step. Man and boy stared at each other until the medic-nin took a step back and the patient slowly loosened up from his defensive curl.
“Sorry,” the boy murmured. “I- I don’t know why- I couldn’t help- I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He sobbed.
“Shh. It’s okay, Sasuke-kun,” Mina said. She glanced at the medic-nin and he took the message to step out for now. He closed the door behind him with a soft clack. She approached the patient who was crying now. Giant tears rolled down his chubby cheeks and too small face. She held him as he cried- broken and breathless sobs- and her heart went out to him. “You’re safe now, Sasuke-kun. He’s gone. He won’t hurt you anymore. You’re safe.”
They kept him in the hospital longer than necessary to monitor his mental state. It seemed that Sasuke became agitated at the presence of grown men when he wasn’t prepared for it, but he was fine in the presence of female personnel. Upon noticing this, the staff switched around their shifts so that only women would be tending to Sasuke at the beginning, but eventually they had to expose him to some male personnel to evaluate his reaction to them, to see if he was fit to be reintroduced to the village. To their relief, there was marked improvement in Sasuke’s reaction to men.
As days passed and he became more orientated, Sasuke’s mental health improved. His crying sessions with his designated nurse, Mina, seemed to contribute greatly to his improvement. In the first few days after he first awoke, Sasuke would often times stare off into space lost in thought, and then all of a sudden the waterworks would come on. At those moments, Mina would hold him as he cried and murmur gentle reassurances into his ear. “It’s okay now.” “You’re safe.” “He’s gone.” “It’s not your fault.” “It’s all his fault. He was in the wrong.” “He won’t hurt you anymore.” “You’ll get through this.” “You’re a strong boy.”
Eventually Uchiha Sasuke was discharged from the hospital, and he was escorted back to the Uchiha Compound by ANBU.
Upon arriving at the main house, Sasuke stood at the entrance as if lost and uncertain.
“Do I…” Sasuke licked his dry lips, “Do I have to live here?” He asked his ANBU escort.
ANBU Wolf knelt to the boy’s level and informed him as gently as an on-duty ANBU could be, “The Hokage is willing to get you settled in an apartment outside of the Compound if you wish.”
Sasuke bit his lip in hesitation. “No. No, I think I want to stay here… in the Uchiha Compound. Is there- is there an uninhabited house I may stay in?”
ANBU Wolf nodded and showed Sasuke the properties that were uninhabited before the massacre. Sasuke chose a moderate two-story house with a training field and an empty pond in the back. The ANBU helped Sasuke moved things in as directed, stocked the pantry and refrigerator, and generally did their best to help the boy get settled in.
“Is there anything else you require Sasuke-san?”
Sasuke shook his head. “Thank you,” he murmured. If the boy’s voice sounded a little shaky and uncertain, ANBU Wolf did not comment on it, instead he nodded and Body Flickered to a nearby tree to begin sitting watch over the Last Uchiha.
The ANBU kept a twenty-four hour watch over Sasuke in shifts. The ANBU watch was necessary to ensure that the Uchiha traitor did not come back to finish off the Last Loyal Uchiha, and to monitor the boy’s mental state. Mostly they kept out of sight and relied on the telltale sign of a sudden spike in chakra to tell if the boy was distressed or relapsing. This served to provide the boy with some measure of privacy, but even when not directly observing, the ANBU was well aware of Uchiha Sasuke’s activities.
For the first day, Sasuke did nothing but putter around his new home in a mindless sort of trance. He sorted through the objects in the house, skimmed through a few books and scrolls without focus, and made simple meals. Mostly, he just stared off into space in silent contemplation.
The second day was much of the same, except Sasuke went behind the house to putter in the training field instead of inside the house. When that got boring, he sat by the side of the empty pond and skipped stones half-heartedly. Eventually, he fell asleep while cloud gazing. After the sun had set, ANBU Wolf carried him back inside.
The third day marked the beginning of change. Sasuke went far out to the edge of the training field. There, he dug a shallow hole and pulled out a stack of paper dolls from his pocket. There were scribbles written on each doll, but the scribbles were indecipherable without further analysis. Sasuke murmured under his breath as he burned the dolls one by one and sprinkled the ashes into the hole. He buried the ashes and piled stones on top of the freshly turned earth. Then he poured water from the pond over the stones, like he was cleaning them. Finally he gathered a bouquet of wildflowers and laid them before the stones.
Then… he cried.
On the fourth day, Sasuke began his day with a complicated set of stretches that required a great deal of flexibility. They weren’t the standard Academy stretches or katas, so it was hard to imagine that his parents or maybe his brother might have taught it to him. Sasuke repeated the set of stretches three times and became a little more fluid each time. Then he cooked a decent sized breakfast.
He spent the rest of the morning scribbling in code in a diary. After lunch, he went out into the field. He tumbled around in the grass by himself, performing back flips and cartwheels. He climbed trees and leaped from them nimbly like a cat. He skipped around the field, did flips and spins in the air, and in general, looked like he was playing by himself. At the end of the serious of exercises, he was sweating and only just slightly short on breath, which was to be expected of a serious clan child like Uchiha Sasuke, who trained constantly. After dinner, he perused the books in his new study room, and fell asleep with a scroll in his hands.
Two days later, as Sasuke begins to show progressive signs of recovery, ANBU Wolf approached him at the behest of the Council.
“Sasuke-san, the Elders would like to know if you feel ready to return to the Academy at this time,” the ANBU intoned.
The light that was beginning to return to the boy’s face over the past few days dimmed and his eyes glazed over. Sasuke sniffed. “Will they force me to go if I say no?”
ANBU Wolf did not reply right away. When he did, it was in an unhesitant and monotonous voice, “I will rely whatever answer you wish to give to Hokage-sama himself. The final decision will be up to the Elders.”
In a voice that was just slightly less emotionless than before, ANBU Wolf said, “Give your most honest answer, Sasuke-san. I’m sure Hokage-sama will be understanding of your circumstances.”
Sasuke managed a partial smile. “Thank you, Wolf-san.” The ANBU gave no reaction to the name. Sasuke took in a deep breath to fortify himself, “Please tell the Hokage I do not want to return to the Academy.”
There was a note of finality in the boy’s voice, but ANBU Wolf did not comment on it. There was no way that the Last Uchiha would be allowed to quit the Academy completely. But time, the time to heal, at least, could be afforded to the boy.
“As you wish, Sasuke-san.”
Sasuke sighed like he dodged a kunai, but the relief was short lived. It was evident by the resigned look in his eyes that Sasuke knew he couldn’t avoid the Academy forever.
A month later, Sasuke was as well adjusted as a boy who had witnessed the murder of his entire clan at the hands of his beloved elder brother could be. He woke up screaming and thrashing from nightmares every morning and he didn’t speak much but it was more of a personal choice rather than a side effect of trauma.
Everyday Sasuke would set aside a chunk of time to jog and to perform his little self-play of tumbles and cartwheels in the training field. Asides from that, the rest of the day followed no particular pattern, Sasuke seemed to do whatever struck his fancy at the time. He’d read through the scrolls and books in his study with the fervid interest of a scientist whom had discovered a scintillating new species. He experimented with new recipes in the kitchen. He walked through the Compound, studying every house and alleyway, and salvaging seemingly random objects. When he felt like it- and when he needed groceries- he would stroll through the village and marketplace with no particular destination in mind.
Sasuke went around to all the training fields in Konoha, and was immediately taken by a field crowded with tall ancient trees. The training area, which was in effect a forest, was located close to the village’s boundaries, which wasn’t too far from the Uchiha Compound, and far away from the noise pollution of the main streets. Sasuke started to take his daily routine into that training field. This time he incorporated ninja wire.
He’d wind the ninja wire around the thick branches to form makeshift swings and then he’d flittered around the trees like a monkey. Sometimes he performed complicated aerial maneuvers that would give any mother a heart attack. When he had familiarized himself with the lay of the forest area, he would even go about his routine with his eyes closed. It was all very fascinating and confusing to witness.
Ninja wire came in many forms and had various uses. There were the thin, razor sharp ones that could behead a person, and then there were the thick, sturdy ones that didn’t cut but were used for other purposes, such as setting traps. Sasuke used the latter type in his daily exercise, but ninja wire was still a weapon, an unforgiving tool. At the end of the day Sasuke would go home with calloused and bleeding hands, but he just bandaged them gingerly and continued on nonetheless.
It was during one of these romps in the forested training area that the incident happened.
Sasuke was swinging through the trees with his ninja wire. His hands were calloused enough that it didn’t hurt quite so much anymore and his body was becoming more fluid with moving in a three dimensional space. Flitting through the treetops, Sasuke chanced upon three missing-nin huddled on the forest floor. Judging from their slashed forehead protectors they were once ninja of Kirigakure.
Sasuke was so shocked that he didn’t react quickly enough. In retrospect, this training area was close to the village borders, so missing-nin trying to slip into the village through this area was not an improbability, though difficult and rare. He had the presence of mind to retrace his steps for help or to hide in the canopy and perhaps eavesdrop, but the missing-nin spotted him before he could commit to either action and he was brought down. He tried to resist, but the three grown ninja had him pinned and tied in a flash.
As they towered over him, fear entered Sasuke’s eyes and he began to shake. His pupils dilated and he fought to remain coherent even as his mind threatened to retreat into murky memories.
“Hey, look at the emblem on his back. Isn’t he the one we came for?”
“Uchiha,” another one sneered.
“Say, have you activated your Sharingan yet boy?”
Foreign hands grabbed him by the face and tried to prod at his eyes. He thrashed as his eyes slipped in and out of focus, caught in a time between present and past. His screams for help were muffled behind a gag.
A string of silver glittered in the dappled sunlight. Ninja wire wrapped around a missing-nin’s neck and pulled taut. The flesh constricted, pressure built until the skin caved in and blood spurted out. Warm red liquid splattered over Sasuke’s face and chest.
Everything went still and then battle erupted in the next second. The body of a fourth missing-nin dropped to the forest ground. Dead. Two Leaf ANBU leaped in to engage the missing-nin. Their masks proclaimed them as Wolf and Boar.
The fight that ensued was bloody and quick. Sasuke couldn’t follow the action, and even if he could, he didn’t want to. He paid enough attention to know when to roll out of the way, but for the most part, he tried to block out the violence, the blood, and the death.
There was a fifth missing-nin that managed to get the drop on the ANBU, leading to Wolf getting a nasty slash diagonally across the collarbone, and Boar receiving a kunai to the calf. While the ANBU was distracted, one of the missing-nin threw Sasuke over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Her companion threw down a smoke bomb and the two missing-nin escaped from Konoha with the Last Uchiha.
This story will contain LGBTQ+ themes and scenarios, but family and friendship is still the main focus, so any romance will be a slow burn subplot.