BY : Mannah_Pierce
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 1191
Disclaimer: This story has some of Masashi Kishimoto's characters from Naruto in a universe of my own devising. I do not own Naruto. I do not make any money from these writings.

Iteration’ is part of the space saga that began with ‘In the cold of space you find the heat of suns’ and continues in ‘Tales in Tarrasade’. There is also a one-shot ‘Silver Leaf Tales: Tying the knot’.

Thanks to Small Fox for being my beta. For this story he has also been my muse, suggesting a number of the ideas that have evolved to create this arc.

Thank you to those readers who have written a review and particular thanks to sadie237, disembodiedvoiceofthedying, Dorkchic, Prism0467, telynaayuri, richon, unneeded, TanuKyle, Aflyingmonkey123, YamanashiOchinashiIminashi, angelj232000 and cynaga who reviewed after chapter 106 was posted.

Apologies if the characters have grown differently in their new environment.

This is posted in the Naruto/Sasuke section because it is part of a Naru/Sasu/Naru space saga. However, it does feature many other pairings (and a few threesomes). Apologies to those hoping for Sasuke/Naruto or Naruto/Sasuke action in every chapter.

Chapter one hundred and seven: Developments

Deidara woke and focused on the battle board above the pilot’s chair.

Having checked the display he could relax slightly; no other ship was close and there was no sign of missiles or drones. He could spend a few moments doing something other than running.

He accessed the communications console. There was still no message from Orochimaru or Kabuto; he was sure that Orochimaru was throwing him to the Uchiha wolves.

Angry wolves; Deidara smiled.

He had done it. He had designed, planted and detonated a bomb on the Uchiha compound in Tarrasade. He had achieved the impossible and he had done it with elegant finesse.

Was there a way out? Maybe he could find a planet and hole up. Perhaps he could steal a third-class berth on a long-haul passenger transporter; even Uchiha might lose interest after a decade or so.

Then he imagined Uchiha’s typed-seven tracking him down and Uchiha incinerating the pod with him inside. He shivered. No, if he was to die it would be with all guns blazing or in an explosion that took his pursuers with him.

Even if Orochimaru had abandoned him, there were others it might be worth contacting. It was a risk, Uchiha might trace his messages, but the alternative was to admit defeat and Deidara would never do that until every other option was exhausted.

Shikamaru woke to another day of this new, strange, uncomfortable life. By dying his mother had achieved what she had never managed when alive; Shikamaru slept nights, woke early and had a routine.

It had to be this early or he woke to Sumiko fighting Neji, which ruined the day before it started.

He forced himself through the bathroom and into some clothes. Neji was stirring as he crossed the bedroom heading for Sumiko’s room. “Shika?” he murmured.

Shikamaru detoured to give him a kiss; Neji was at his sweetest when sleepy. “Go back to sleep,” he suggested, knowing that Neji would be up and ensconced in the bathroom within minutes.

He continued his journey into Sumiko’s room. He brushed the lighting control, so that the light would gradually intensify, and started to do stuff about the room while he waited for Sumiko to wake.

‘Do stuff’ sat better in his mind than ‘tidying’.

The trick was to catch her at exactly the right time; that warm, half-asleep moment when Sumiko’s mind had not started working. He would lift her from her cot, sit in the rocking chair and give her a cuddle.

Days that started this way were much better than days that didn’t; he hadn’t needed a typed-genius brain to see the pattern.

It had been very hard to follow Haku’s advice but they had done so and it had worked; they now had boundaries and Sumiko knew that there were consequences when she crossed them. She still did, but if the punishment corner was not enough then there was always Haku.

The biggest change was that there was now space for moments like these, when he could show her affection and she would accept it.

Once she was fully awake cuddles were over for the day; it was a visit to the bathroom followed by dressing.

The other huge improvement had been initiated by something Biwako had said; she had told him that offering children choice often helped.

Shikamaru opened the cupboard door and waited. Inside were all Sumiko’s clothes arranged perfectly by Neji. Sumiko pointed to a frilly dress. Shikamaru did not hesitate for a moment; suitability did not come into it.

Today it was the pink frilly dress, white tights, black buckle shoes and silver ribbons in her hair. Shikamaru knew that Kiba would roll his eyes and that, by the midday meal, she would be wearing leggings, a top and lace up pumps like all the others. It did not matter. What mattered was that they made a good start to the day.

Neji was ready and waiting. She turned once to display her outfit.

“Very fetching,” Neji declared. “The silver ribbons are a nice touch.”

Then they went to the kitchen. Usually they were there well before the other children. Moegi, Tayuya, Konohamaru and Kamatari rotated breakfast duty between them, with Akemi or Misora assisting. Sumiko liked Tayuya best. Shikamaru tried not to think about what Tayuya had been like when she had joined the crew; adult Tayuya was a very suitable role model.

He offered her a choice of what to eat for breakfast, whether she would walk or be carried and which playroom she wanted to be in. Only when he had done all that was he free to be Shikamaru rather than Nii-san.

Neji had a cup of coffee waiting for him on his desk. Shikamaru smiled his thanks and drank it while checking his messages. There were a couple of bits from Klenn, a Go move and a joke, but no letter or vid. He tried not to be disappointed; it was his fault that they had fallen out of their familiar pattern of correspondence after the bombing.

Then it was into the data streams before he fed information into his crystal array, ran a new series of queries and updated the models he used to demonstrate progress to his crewmates.

Next was his meeting with Itachi. He tucked one of his favourite interfaces under his arm and made his way to Itachi’s office. Once there he linked the interface with Itachi’s desk and activated the projector.

They discussed the fine detail of the search for Deidara, which was showing promise, and then that for Orochimaru, which was not.

“Every allied crew is aware of how dangerous Deidara is?” Shikamaru queried. He said it every time but could not stop himself. They had lost the Electron; Deidara had managed to attach a bomb to the ship. Shikamaru shuddered every time he thought about how close the crew had been to dying. Luckily they had reacted quickly and another allied crew had diverted to pick up the survival pods.

“Yes, Shikamaru-san,” Itachi replied patiently.

Shikamaru felt himself flush.

A quick visit to check on Sumiko in the playroom and then it was into the strategy meeting with Sasuke, Neji and Kakashi. Sasuke asked for a quick update on the searches but then went onto other matters and Kakashi did not object. Shikamaru was pleased; the bombing had already done them enough damage without allowing it to dominate their future.

Another visit to the playroom, their midday meal and Shikamaru was on his way to see the Zetsus. He tried to see them at least every third day.

This time they were full of Haru and Naruto’s visit two days before. They showed him the pictures that Haru had done for them.

Shikamaru was pleased. Na-chan was amazing; he was always looking forward and focusing on what was important.

“I thought Rin-san was a top-rate medico,” Inryoku commented. “Surely she can mend his spinal cord?”

Shikamaru explained about Naruto’s low tolerance of cell-to-cell variation. “It’s why he is so perfect,” Shikamaru concluded, “but it means that he rejects both his own regenerated tissue and the transplants we have grown for him.” He sighed. “I’ve even looked into changing his genetic makeup to make his systems more tolerant, but there is too much risk involved. As he is now he can be there for the children. He won’t risk ending up worse.”

“You have it the wrong way around, Shika-san,” Enerugi told him. “You don’t change Naruto-san, you change the organs you wish to transplant. You can take big risks with them.”

Shikamaru was about to point out that they had thought of that when Inryoku spoke.

“You should look into the techniques used by body part pirates. They want to make the organs they steal suitable for as many recipients as possible so there is greater competition for each organ and they can charge more.”

Organ harvesters; Shikamaru’s mind exploded with possibilities. When he came back to the present, Inryoku and Enerugi were smiling at him.

“I must go,” he managed. “I’ll come back tomorrow.” He started towards the door and then turned back. “Thank you,” he added.

“It is an honour to help,” Inryoku assured him.

“Come back soon,” Enerugi added.

He hurried back to the laboratory. Once there he only paused long enough to scrawl a notice saying, “Do NOT bring me out,” before activating his data crystal array and entering the data streams.

Most lines of enquiry yielded nothing. A few dangled a titbit of potentially interesting information. Then a couple intuitive leaps led him to tackle it from a new direction.

The current organ harvesters weren't particularly effective, yet they had had similar reputations to slavers and pirates. That suggested that there had been spectacularly successful, multisystem gangs in the past. It was an interesting thought. How long ago had the successful gangs operated? Had they left any records and, if so, did anyone still have copies? As a first step, he would have to find out who had put them out of business.

It turned out that that there had only ever been one such gang. It had operated between two hundred and two hundred and fifty standards ago. Centre had stopped them; specifically the Central Civil Service. It had done so because the gang had supplied organs to clinics in the Inner Borders. Centralites had begun travelling to the clinics for treatment.

Centre had rules. One of them was that Fringers were welcome to do what they liked provided it did not impact on Centralites. Centralites accessing a cheap supply of unethically acquired organs qualified as impact. The organ harvesters had been put out of business.

The fact that the CCS had done it was both exhilarating and frustrating. They would have excellent records but Shikamaru had no way of accessing them. The CCS had typed geniuses. They had superb security.

Shikamaru resisted trying. He had thrown himself at that brick wall too often in the past. All that happened was that he excited their interest and the last thing he wanted was the CCS being focused on him.

Maybe Klenn would be able to think of something. He had been a civil servant. He had a much better appreciation of how the CCS operated.

He composed, coded, recorded and sent a message. Then he emerged from the data streams.

It was the middle of station’s night. He half-expected to see Neji asleep at his desk but instead there was a neat addition to his notice, “Looking after Sumiko, with love, Neji.”

He quickly made his way to their rooms and found Neji asleep in the rocking chair with Sumiko in his lap. Shikamaru imagined the battle that had ended with neither of them sleeping in their beds and carefully lifted Sumiko, hoping to transfer her into her cot without her waking.

“Pa?” she queried sleepily.

Shikamaru flinched. “Not Pa,” he admitted.

“Nii-san,” she decided and, to his relief, seemed content with her deduction.

She hovered about the edge of sleep for a while but eventually drifted away clutching her plushie. He then turned his attention to Neji, waking him with a touch.

“Sumiko?” he asked immediately.

“Asleep in her cot,” he answered. “Was it bad?”

Neji attempted a smile. “Put it like this, I hope it was important.”

“Possible lead for Na-chan,” Shikamaru explained. “In-san gave it to me. Took some chasing down.”

“And?” Neji pushed.

“Hit a wall,” he admitted. “Left some queries running.”

Neji rubbed his arm to console him. “Maybe it will look different tomorrow,” he suggested.

Shikamaru doubted that but it was nice of Neji to say it. “Bed?” he asked.

“Bed,” Neji agreed.

It was even harder to pull himself out of bed the next morning. Neji did not even stir and Shikamaru consoled himself with the fantasy that he could crawl back in beside him once Sumiko was in the playroom.

Sumiko frowned at him once she was dressed. “Where Ne-chan?” she asked.

Shikamaru’s heart fell. He had forgotten that Neji needed to approve her outfit; today it was purple leggings and a flowery top. “He’s asleep, Su-chan. He’s tired.”

Sumiko considered. She studied him. “Do your hair,” she suggested.

His hair was loose; he had been too tired to tie it up. Normally touching his hair was out of bounds because Shikamaru did not want her asking to brush Neji’s. “This once,” he conceded. “No ribbons,” he warned.

“Only colours,” she told him. “Not girl-colours or boy-colours, just colours.”

Shikamaru recognised the quotation. Naruto was constantly fighting Hikaru’s tendency to dismiss ‘girly’ behaviour. “No ribbons,” he repeated, refusing to be distracted by her argument. “I don’t like ribbons in my hair.”

They settled for some brushing and a few hairclips.

Despite his sacrifice, Neji was up and gone by the time Shikamaru managed to settle Sumiko into the playroom. He sighed, removed the hairclips, brushed his hair properly and put it up using the familiar silver ring.

His arms ached. He gave the bed another long look but decided to go to the laboratory. If every step had worked perfectly, including his message being opened as soon as it arrived, it was possible that there would be a reply from Klenn.

There wasn’t but Neji had made coffee.

Halfway through the morning it arrived. It was still a remarkably quick response.

Shikamaru told himself that, at best, it would only be an acknowledgement of his query. It would probably be confirmation that that the information he wanted was impossible to access.

It was neither. It was the entire report, every iota of data the civil servants had filed two hundred and eight standards ago when the investigation was closed.

In spite of his eagerness to explore what was within, Shikamaru was momentarily distracted. Klenn had a copy of the CCS archives. It was the only explanation. There had not been time for even the simplest communication between Elessen and Centre.

He wondered if he had made the copy during his service or if he had a backdoor into the CCS system. The thought of either gave Shikamaru the mental equivalent of an orgasm.

He pulled himself together and decompressed the data. There was masses of relevant information but he concentrated on the most obvious; the analysis of the techniques used by the harvesters to modify the organs.

He was on his way to the infirmary before he had finished skimming the first document.

“How did you get this?” Rin asked, her eyes riveted to the projection.

“Inryoku-san suggested the line of enquiry,” Shikamaru acknowledged.

She spared him a glance; telling him that she knew that the files had been stolen and from whom. He did not respond and she did not press. “We can use some of this,” she agreed. “It will mean redeveloping the technology but we can do it.” She looked at him properly. “It may not work, Shika-san. So much of what works for purebreds fails in hybrids.”

Shikamaru nodded but inside he rejected what she was saying. It had to work.

Orochimaru viewed the display. It incorporated all the intelligence they had about Uchiha. It was... ...interesting.

A small lamp on his desk brightened and faded, indicating that Kabuto was standing by should Orochimaru decide he had need of him.

He activated the microphone. “Coffee would be most welcome, Kabuto-san. Bring a cup for yourself.”

He studied Kabuto’s delectable arse as the man leaned over to place the silver tray on the table. The last Orochimaru print might have been incapable of a balanced, unemotional decision but he had done one thing well. He had found and conditioned an exceptional acolyte.

Orochimaru had inherited the adoration, devotion and loyalty without the baggage; it was close to perfect.

Fragrant coffee flowed from the silver coffee pot into thin, delicate, translucent cups.

“Developments?” he asked once his cup was half emptied.

Kabuto placed his cup and saucer on the table beside his chair. “Deidara’s messages are becoming progressively more desperate. He is begging you to give him sanctuary. He has every Uchiha-allied crew on his tail.”

“Deidara’s only use is as a decoy,” Orochimaru reminded him. “If we hide him he loses his purpose. Send him to one of the bases we have abandoned. If he makes it there we will make some excuse about having had to leave. What about the clones?” he queried.

They had mindprinted six clones and damaged their memories by disrupting parts of the mind net. Kabuto had spoken to each in turn, filling in some of the gaps but not others, before sending them out to distract Uchiha.

“Each one is displaying remarkable initiative and resourcefulness,” Kabuto assured him, “as would be expected of you, Orochimaru-sama.”

Orochimaru could tell there was more. “Kabuto-san?” he queried, modulating his voice to send shivers of desire down Kabuto’s spine.

“Pein thinks that Uchiha will have ways of distinguishing a mindprinted clone from an original,” he admitted. “Methods that do not require a high resolution scanner or a brain biopsy.”

Orochimaru shut his eyes for a few moments. That meant that the chasing crews would keep pursuing rather than dropping away once they had what they thought was their prize.

Uchiha’s typed-genius made them irritatingly creative. It was difficult to control his temper when he thought of what had slipped through the Akatsuki’s grasp; the typed-seven genius, Kotohime, the viable clones of the Bara hybrid and, perhaps the most significant loss, a full-blood Uchiha.

Most of that had been the Orochimaru print’s fault but losing the typed-genius was down to Pein. Perhaps he had recovered enough for another round of punishment.

Orochimaru was beginning to suspect that Pein would die rather than break. The very qualities that had brought him to Orochimaru’s notice were proving inconvenient.

He would think of other things. He placed his coffee cup and saucer on the small table to his left. “Any news from Tarrasade?”

“Very little,” Kabuto admitted. “Karin tries but their security is admirable. Occasionally a fitter or an artisan gets into the household. The most recent was an artisan specialising in wooden artefacts. However, they are always very carefully supervised and they bring little information out with them.

“We have done a little better tracking their purchases. There have been buying medical equipment. We know from the interview Sasuke Uchiha gave after the bombing that the Bara hybrid was injured. Some of the equipment is consistent with him suffering from lower body paralysis. Our connections in Haven suggest that Kotohime is working on rejection of transplanted tissue in hybrids.”

Orochimaru winced. It was a pity such an exquisite creature had been damaged but a bomb was always going to be indiscriminate. Not that the Bara hybrid was of any use to him; he was bonded to Sasuke Uchiha.

He leaned forward to reach the small, round platform that sat on the table next to his coffee cup. He pressed the upper surface and a hologram of Sasuke Uchiha, the Bara hybrid and the children they were raising appeared.

He picked up the base and turned it in his hands. There were six clones of the Bara hybrid. One was deformed by fox ears and a tail but the other five looked delicious.

He particularly liked the look of the one without whiskers.

“They are beautiful, Kabuto-san,” he acknowledged. “Truly exceptional work.”

“Thank you, Orochimaru-sama,” Kabuto replied, flushing slightly.

Orochimaru licked his lips. Experiencing life first-hand had its merits. He had not decided how long he would give it; perhaps a decade, maybe two. He had an exceptional acolyte who worshiped him. It was a thrill being both hunter and hunted. Pein may have wasted credit but he had built up an interesting battery of resources.

And, waiting for him, was the prize of one or more of the little hybrids; perfect and innocent but with the promise of ultimate pleasure.

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