gigantomachy: (tsunade)
gigantomachy ([personal profile] gigantomachy) wrote on April 18th, 2007 at 09:04 pm
[ Naruto ] Wraiths and Strays, Act I
Notes: It's been a while since I've done much of anything around here, but this is why. This is the fic that is Consuming My Soul. Seriously. Originally, I was noticing a sudden surge of fanmixes/etc going on in some of the communities I stalk, and I thought about doing something like that, along the ItaNaru lines because it's probably my favorite Naruto pairing of the moment. But it's hard to take a kind of cracky, baseless OTP and throw some songs at it and assume it will make sense, so I thought I'd drabble a bit for each one. But then it grew, and instead of drabbles, I settled on short chapters set to a soundtrack.

This part has been finished (mostly) for a while, but I had some stylistic issues I wanted to address. I'm not completely happy with it, but I'm a lot closer than I was last week. This is an experiment, and I'd love to have some serious c/c before I release it to the World at Large.

With that said, I'm dedicating this mess to [livejournal.com profile] somekindofen , because she is a fabulous genius and I want to kidnap her and keep her all to myself and covet her and her fiction for all eternity, and [livejournal.com profile] horses_and_men , because it's all her fault anyway. :D

Act One, set to Coil - Rosa Decidua/In Memory of Truth.


Wraiths and Strays, Act I
(I've put away the poisoned chalice, for now)

The first thing Naruto notices is the return of sound. It blossoms slowly around him, hesitant at first but growing louder. Wind whispers through a grove of bamboo, pulling eerie moans from the throats of weathered, severed stalks. To his left, a pair of oururi sing softly to each other over the rasping song of cicadas -- he can gauge his uncertainty by the shudder of his breath as he takes a small step forward.

Beneath his feet he hears the crunch of coarse stones, freshly raked.

The next sense to return is smell. He smells wet earth like morning after a rain, but above it the fragrances of plum and sweet osmanthus are overwhelming, swirling through his mind, cradling his scattered thoughts in a pleasant, hazy cloud. He sways unsteadily on his feet, slightly dizzy as he takes another step. The wind whips past, adding a frantic ensemble of windchimes to the chorus of his surroundings.

Naruto tells himself he's not afraid, but he's beginning to smell the blood and human decay rising from the earth, and he is terrified.

Touch, then sight. He feels the cold wind across his face moments before opening his eyes to a landscape drenched in lifeless moonlight, old and faded like a washed-out watercolor. The trees shiver and shake, scattering petals across an obsessively-kept garden, pale pink and yellow spinning wildly before falling to the white sand below.

To his right, a familiar fan crest adorns the inner walls, proud even as it shows obvious signs of age and disrepair.

House Uchiha.

Naruto has never dared to walk this path, only looked on from the outside. He does not belong here.

Behind him, beyond the old compound gates, there is nothing but an inky void.

Slowly, he begins to follow the stones across the courtyard. He is sure he is dreaming -- no time, in reality, does the earth feel like the life has been sucked from it in this way. It's like stepping into a painting half finished, a whole body rendered half-alive by ancient, unshakeable power.

Footsteps echo empty through the courtyard; Naruto turns to see the ghost of a small boy run blindly across the grounds, ignorant of the careful arrangement as he scatters sand and uneven footsteps in his wake. Naruto is intimately familiar with the boy's features, the expression he remembers as so somber now screwed up into a mask of barely restrained terror.

He's ready to wake up now, but he can't, and so he passes the stately bamboo grove to reach the veranda surrounding the old house, following the disappearing trail of the child. The door is already open, and shredded rice paper flutters weakly from the panes.

There is a moment of hesitation before he slips inside. The smell of blood is thicker here, and his hand shakes as he reaches for the wall to steady himself. Fear trickles like cold water, sliding heavily down his spine.

Inside, the anemic light of a single candle gutters on a low wooden table, casting flickering shadows across worn tatami mats. The weak light doesn't quite reach the alcove, and so it takes him a moment to distinguish the form of a corpse bent against the wall, a spray of blood drying slowly across the face of an ancient-looking scroll that hangs there.

At its feet, a wilted arrangement of summer flowers lies scattered, abandoned.

In another area of the house, he can hear the boy screaming, a sound of primal agony.

He's ready to wake up now, but he can't. Naruto does not want to intrude on the private agonies this boy holds close to his heart in the places he cannot reach -- he is unwelcome in this memory, and he knows it.

Something is drawing him further in. Helplessly, sorrowfully, he follows, a faltering path steeped in the blood of another's madness and misery.

He knows how this story ends.


*


The passageways are littered with corpses and pooling, drying blood, and Naruto thinks he'll choke on the scent with every step he takes. Kunai and broken blades are buried in beams and furniture and bodies, and some of these corpses bear the telltale wounds of vicious sword strikes.

There is carnage everywhere, and not a single living person in sight. Despite his utter revulsion, Naruto feels a twinge of something -- wonder, perhaps, over the sheer brutality on display. Some (the unarmed, he thinks, and supresses the urge to gag) show signs of precise, instant kills, throats split wide open like second, gaping mouths. This is merciless in every aspect; were his thoughts any less lucid, he would pass it off as nothing but the darkest of nightmares, if only for the sake of his sanity. Men have gone mad for less, he knows it and reaches out to gague his own breaking point.

The screams at the far end of the hallway have dampened to sobs, punctuated by the occasional keening cry. Naruto tilts his head toward the sound; his legs are frozen and he is momentarily overcome by the intense desire to flee in horror. He should not be here. He should not be here this is not his to carry runrunrundon'tlookbacknever-

Shakily, he crosses the final stretch, and trembling fingers grasp at the door.

(In retrospect, Naruto will think, between the two of them perhaps he is the lucky one. It is a fact that his lack of a true family bears the blame for a fair share of his developmental psychology. Fulfilling that emptiness is something he can hope and labor to achieve, yet in the end, what he will have can only be an imitation.

It begs the time-worn question: is it better for one to be born blind and never know what is missing, or to be born with sight and spend the rest of one's life in mourning for what has been lost? Generally, Naruto will choose the second option, and laugh, and say "well, at least I once knew."

Generally.)

Naruto will never really understand how to act like a brother, because he has never had the experience. Despite this, he knows without a shred of doubt that this is not what a brother does, forcing the mother and father who surely love him to their knees, perfect sacrifices to some pointless evil and there is a clean slice and blood slick and heavy and pooling into the thirsty grooves of the floor again and again and again. This is undoubtedly not what a brother does. This is not what a son does.

The child shaking so fiercely, pale round face hovering inches from the corpses, babbling softly to the cold face of his father (the body is still fresh, the blood sliding from the corner of his mouth has not yet begun to congeal). This is his line, Naruto thinks sadly; this is his boundary and he has been gone for years and years. Naruto kneels beside this child, reaching out to lay a comforting hand on the trembling shoulder of the memory of his closest friend.

In the shadows, there is movement, the flash of dull tainted silver as the bloody blade catches a shaft of moonlight. Naruto lifts his face to the other (Itachi, his mind says in Sasuke's voice), calling his power to his hands, rage stirring his chakra in a fierce, angry surge of raw energy. Perhaps this is simply a dream, perhaps it is something else entirely, but he cannot stand idly by and let this go unpunished.

"No." The word is spoken sharply with a voice full of imperious authority -- despite himself, Naruto falls back on his haunches in a cringe. There is power in Itachi's words and it sucks him dry, violently tearing away the red-heat of his chakra away to nothing at all.

Enraged, Naruto leaps toward this shadowed assassin, forcing all of his energy into this sudden attack. And he is fast, but this man is faster, easily absorbing the weight thrown against him as he turns and pins his would-be attacker against the wall.

"Why?" He forces the words out from behind gritted teeth, angry and struggling for air against the strong arm pressing against his throat.

There is a moment of utter stillness, and then he is swallowed in the deep swirl of spinning crimson eyes.

*

Thoughts?
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