Real

BY : Mannah_Pierce
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 1343
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.



Apologies that the chapters of my other stories are appearing as a ‘wall of text’ due to the software upgrades on the site.  Hopefully this will be resolved over time.



Heartfelt thanks to my beta and muse, Small Fox. Thanks also to The Horseman of Death because the idea for this story started in a discussion with him. Thank you to unneeded, disembodiedvoiceofthedying, Prism0467, Dawn, sadie237, GreenEyedCat, cynaga and YamanashiOchinashiIminashi who left a review after chapter nine was posted. As I have said often, it is feedback from readers that keep me writing this story.



Real

Chapter ten: Secret



 

Haru couldn’t bear watching the vid any longer. He kept imagining the mindwiped people being Papa or Shi-chan.

Or Ran; Ran knew at least part of the recipe for creating a Sai. When the Centralites came for him, they would take Ran too.

He pulled off his goggles and earpieces and sat there, trying not to tremble.

“Haru-chan, are you all right?”

It was Iruka-sensei.

Haru didn’t want Iruka-sensei telling To-chan that he was behaving oddly. He forced a smile. “I’m fine,” he insisted. “Back to work,” he added and repositioned his goggles.

 

But he did not activate them. Instead he stared at the blank inner surface.

Shi-chan and Papa must never know about Sai; even Centralites couldn’t blame them for something they didn’t know.

He had to persuade Ran that they shouldn’t be told.

 

Telling Ran what he had found out would work; Ran wouldn’t want them mindwiped.

 

Only then Ran would know more. It was bad enough that he knew what he did. Haru wished Ran didn’t know Sai existed.

He imagined Ran with those lost, empty eyes and felt sick.

 

Then it came to him. The Centralites thought artificial intelligence was much worse than Tronnies. He would tell Ran that Sai was a Tronny. It wasn’t a complete lie; Sai was fifteen percent Tronny.

Ran would be safer and he wouldn’t insist they tell Shi-chan about Sai.

 

Haru felt a bit better. He had thought of a way of protecting Shi-chan and Papa. He could make Ran a little safer.

 

Who else? Ka-chan? Haru struggled to remember what he had told Kazuki. He thought it was that Sai was a sim that might be controlled by a spy.

Ka-chan hadn’t been that interested. Haru decided not to mention it again. If he asked, Haru would say that he had been wrong about the spy.

Then there was Sumiko. No problem there; Haru doubted that Su-chan had a clue what Sai was and she certainly didn’t care as long as he did exactly what she wanted.

Finally there was Sai himself.

 

Haru activated the goggles and his interface before connecting to his network. Sai appeared immediately.

“We need to talk,” Haru told him.

 

It took less time that Haru had thought it would. Sai was surprising quick to grasp that there were outsiders who might hurt them, maybe because he’d started out surrounded by quigglicidal quiggles.

“Not tell anyone else I am here,” Sai summarised. “Let Ran think I am a Tronny without memories. Not answer questions Sumiko probably won’t ask. Otherwise outsiders called Centralites will take Sumiko and you and Ran away and wipe your brains. They will kill me by pulling apart the array where I live and smashing each data crystal.”

It would do; Haru couldn’t expect Sai to care about Shi-chan, Papa and Ka-chan when he had never met them. “Yes.”

“Will I ever get to talk to anyone other than you and Ran and Sumiko?”

Haru felt guilty, but the guilt was less than the fear. “Maybe in the future. Not now. Not until I say. This is the best way to keep us safe.”

 

Next on his list was to talk to Ran, but Haru wouldn’t be able to do that until the evening. He had to get through the rest of the day first.

It was hard to concentrate. He kept imagining Ran, Shi-chan, Papa or even To-chan being the mindwiped people in the garden.

 

Hamaki-san was assisting Kakashi-san with their training. He was more patient than Fu-san or Terai-san. He stood next to Haru, reminding him to hold his foot higher or his arm straighter.

They moved onto the paired kata. Watching Kazuki sway and thrust, Haru suddenly realised that the Centralites didn’t think To-chan was human. They wouldn’t bother mindwiping him. They wouldn’t even arrest him. They would just kill him.

Haru froze, which left his head in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time.

Kazuki’s foot caught him on his temple. His head went backwards with the rest of his body following. He was thinking that he should fall properly when the back of his head smacked against the floor.

 

When he came around long, strong fingers were checking his neck and head. He could hear Kazuki whimpering.

“It wasn’t your fault, Ka-chan,” Kakashi-san was saying and Haru realised that the fingers were his. “Haru-chan, can you hear me?”

Haru opened his eyes and saw Kakashi-san’s face up very close.

Then Kiba-san arrived and, within seconds, Haru had a neck brace on and was on a hover platform heading for the infirmary with Kazuki trotting beside him.

 

It went like all his other visits to the infirmary; a short time when everything happened very quickly and all the people around him were super-efficient, followed by everyone relaxing back to their usual selves when it was established that he wasn’t badly injured.

He ended up in one of the side rooms, lying propped up on a treatment bed with To-chan and Ka-chan on one side and Ran on the other. Kiba-san had returned to the playroom. Papa had been and gone.

“You can’t lose concentration during paired kata,” To-chan reminded him gently. “Your partner needs to be able to trust you.”

Haru knew To-chan was saying it because Kazuki was there. “I know,” he admitted. “I’m sorry, Kazu-chan.”

Kazuki’s whiskers dropped. “I hurt you,” he whispered.

“I hurt myself,” Haru insisted. “I put my head where your foot was going to be.”

It worked; Ka-chan cheered up.

“Rin-san insists that you stay here under observation until mid afternoon,” To-chan told him. “The good news is that Ran is going to look after you.” He leaned forward, kissed Haru’s forehead and stroked his hair. “I can stay longer if you want,” he added.

“I’ll be fine,” Haru assured him.

“I’ll look after him, Naruto-san,” Ran added.

To-chan smiled at them. “I know you will.” He ran a hand along Kazuki’s tail. “Come on, Ka-chan. Maybe we could fit in a circuit before you go back to the playroom.”

Kazuki’s face lit up at the thought of trying to outrun To-chan. He was up and at the doorway; his ears pricked and his tail fluffed.

 

Haru watched them go, waiting for To-chan’s goodbye smile. Once he had seen it, his attention went to Ran.

“Rin-san wants to know if you find yourself drifting off to sleep,” Ran told him. “If so, you’ll need a brain wave monitor so we’ll know that it is normal sleep and not you going unconscious again.”

“I’m not sleepy,” Haru assured him.

“Good,” Ran replied.

This would be a good time to talk about Sai. They were away from the network and no one was about.

 

Haru felt his heart beating faster as he tried to come up with words that were true but created a lie in Ran’s mind. “Shi-chan showed me bits of Tronny code that he has collected over the last twenty-five standards.” He wished he had thought more about what he was going to say. “I showed them to Sai and he agreed that they were the same as his code.”

Ran was looking at him in a way that Haru didn’t like. “Sai’s a Tronny?” he asked bluntly.

Haru squirmed inside, trying not to lie outright. “It looks that way.”

“You aren’t just saying that so that I won’t make you tell Shika-san about Sai?”

“No,” Haru insisted, which was true; he was also saying it to save Ran from being mindwiped.

“Because there are more important things than saving your network and not getting into trouble with Sasuke-sama,” Ran reminded him.

“I know that,” Haru retorted, stung by Ran’s implied accusation. He laid there, miserable, waiting for Ran to ask him if he believed Sai was a Tronny; the question he could not answer without a blatant lie.

Ran did not ask it.

 

They sat in silence. Haru closed his eyes rather than seeing the hurt and disappointment in Ran’s eyes.

“You are falling asleep. I’ll get Dan-san,” Ran announced.

Haru didn’t stop him because he didn’t know what to say.

 

Dan-san attached a brainwave monitor to his forehead, which was connected to an alarm that would sound if he developed a concussion or lost consciousness.

Ran wasn’t needed any more, so he left.

Haru realised he was crying. It wasn’t being kicked by Ka-chan, or bumping his head, or being left alone, or even thinking about Shi-chan and Papa and Ran being mindwiped.

It was the way Ran had looked at him.

 

Kiba-san came to get him that afternoon because To-chan was busy in the playroom. He didn’t query Haru’s insistence that he wasn’t hungry or that he wanted to go to his bunk and sleep.

He did doze, but mostly he thought about Ran’s eyes.

 

He was woken by Kazuki shaking him.

“To-chan says you must come to the evemeal,” Ka-chan insisted.

“Is Ran going to be there?” Haru asked, half-awake.

“No, he’s eating with Iruka-san and Kakashi-san. Come on, we’ll be late.”

 

Haru had never realised how easily he and Ran could avoid each other. Ran did extra duty in the infirmary and only came to the playroom when Iruka-sensei asked him to join in specific activities. He breakfasted after the big litter had finished and ate his other meals with the adults.

It made Haru so miserable. Every time he thought about it, he wanted to cry. He wanted to put it right, but the only way to do that was to explain about Sai, which would put Ran in danger.

Everyone kept asking him what was wrong. He told them that his head was hurting, which it was true because he couldn’t sleep and it was such hard work stopping himself crying.

On the third day To-chan took him back to the infirmary for more tests.

 

Rin-san herself looked him over.

“I can’t find anything wrong,” she admitted. “Maybe we should tank him and run a diagnostic.”

To-chan was looking at him. His whiskers twitched.

“Thank you, Rin-san. Could you leave us alone for a bit?”

Rin-san left, sliding the door shut behind her.

 

Haru knew To-chan was going to talk to him. It wouldn’t be like a Papa talk. It would include cuddles and strokes. Haru didn’t know if he could get through that without crying.

To-chan lifted Haru onto his lap. He didn’t ask; he just did it.

“What’s wrong, Haru-chan?” he asked, rubbing Haru’s back. “You always complain about being tanked, even when you need it.”

At the moment being tanked didn’t seem so bad. He wouldn’t feel in the tank.

“Have you and Ran-chan fallen out?” To-chan asked gently.

A huge lump formed in Haru’s throat. All he could do was nod.

To-chan stroked his hair. “Do you know how to put it right?” he asked.

How was he to answer that? He could explain everything to Ran and Ran might forgive him for lying. Only, if he did that, the Centralites would mindwipe Ran for knowing that Sai was an artificial intelligence.

He shook his head.

“Was it your fault?” To-chan asked.

Haru nodded.

                      

To-chan wrapped Haru in his long arms and held him close. “I’ll stop asking questions. We’ll just cuddle.  Maybe if you could let go, you’d see a way out.”

But Haru couldn’t risk that, because if he started to cry he would tell To-chan everything and if the Centralites found out they wouldn’t even arrest To-chan, they would just kill him.

Instead he listened to To-chan’s heartbeat and allowed To-chan’s caresses to soothe him.

 

He still felt the same deep inside but being calm made acting normal easier.

 

He made it through the rest of the day, right up to the point they entered the kitchen for their evemeal and Ran was there.

“I asked him,” Kazuki told him before Haru could say anything. “After the evemeal you and me are going to hang out in Ran’s room.”

Haru didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t like Ka-chan to take the initiative. Maybe Ran was equally surprised, because he didn’t say anything either.

After the meal Kazuki took Haru’s hand and headed for Ran’s room.

Haru knew it was pointless trying to pull away; Kazuki was much stronger than him. If it came to it, Ka-chan could probably pick him up and carry him.

 

They waited at one side of the door for Ran. Haru wondered what Kazuki would do if he didn’t follow them. He had a sneaking suspicion that Ka-chan would go and get him.

Ran arrived, slid the door open and gestured them in.

 

Haru sat on the chair rather than the bed as he usually did. Ran was in his usual position on the bed. Kazuki stood.

“What happened?” he demanded.

Haru stared at the floor.

“Ran?” Ka-chan insisted.

“Haru lied to me,” Ran accused.

Once it had been said there was silence. Haru wanted to be anywhere else than where he was.

“That’s bad,” Kazuki admitted. “Ha-chan?” he queried.

Haru continued staring at the floor.

“Why did he lie to you?” Ka-chan asked Ran.

“I wanted him to tell Shika-san about...” Ran began.

And suddenly Haru realised that Ran was going to tell Ka-chan about Sai, which meant that the Centralites would kill Ka-chan as well as To-chan.

“No!” Haru yelled. “Don’t say it. Don’t tell him.”

“Tell me what?” Kazuki asked. “What don’t I know?”

 

Haru ran for the door but there was a silver blur and Ka-chan was there before him. He was caught, lifted and thrown onto the bed.

 

Ran caught him and uttered the strangest noise; part yell and part sob. Haru realised that they were skin to skin and that Ran had been forced without warning into an empathic link.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Haru gabbled, trying put distance between them.

Only instead of letting him go, Ran pulled him closer. “Haru,” he sighed.

Haru froze: trapped; trembling.

“I forgive you,” Ran whispered. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know why.”

The barrier Haru had built shuddered and broke. The fear and pain swept through him, destroying his control. Haru heard a tortured gasp that had to be him because his throat ached from it.

He started to cry.

Ran grunted at the impact of Haru’s emotions but he clung on; if anything, the hug tightened.

 

Haru tried to stop but couldn’t. Tears dribbled down his cheeks. His nose was running. Sobs tore through his throat. His chest ached from gasping.

He was dimly aware of Kazuki asking Ran’s permission to join then, followed by the familiar touch of hands and mouth and fur. It reminded him of To-chan and, gradually, the crying stopped.

He lay, empty and exhausted, across Ran’s chest. Kazuki was close against his side, petting his head and back.

“You have to tell us,” Kazuki told him.

“No he doesn’t,” Ran objected.

“Yes he does,” Ka-chan insisted. “He’ll keep it all in and be unhappy and get kicked in the head.”

Haru was past joining in the argument.

 

They cuddled in silence for a bit, but Haru understood it couldn’t last because Ran knew Ka-chan was right.

“Why won’t you tell us?” Ran asked finally.

“The Centralites will come and get you,” Haru admitted.

“Who?” Ran queried.

“Ha-chan, look at me,” Kazuki ordered.

Haru focused on Ka-chan’s face.

“What are these?” he demanded, pulling back his lips.

“Fangs,” Haru admitted.

“And what are on either side of my nose?”

“Whiskers.”

“And poking out of my hair?”

Haru was already feeling a little better. “Fox ears.”

“And what follows me around?”

“A fox tail.”

“So how can you make the Centralites hate me more than they do already?”

Haru didn’t think Centralites hated hybrids; they just didn’t recognise them as humans.

Ka-chan had a point though, or rather five of them, or fifteen if you counted the whiskers.

“Explain again about Centre,” Ran asked.

 

Haru tried, with Kazuki ‘helping’. Partway through there was a knock on the door.

Kazuki was there before Ran could move. He slid the door open a little.

It was To-chan. Haru realised it must be bedtime. He began pulling away from Ran.

“I was wondering if Ran would like to invite you for a sleepover,” To-chan suggested.

Ran smiled. “Yes please, Naruto-san.”

The end of a bag poked through the gap in the door. Then, above that, part of a second bag appeared.

“Both of them?” To-chan asked.

Haru saw Kazuki’s ears flatten.

“Both please, Naruto-san,” Ran answered.

To-chan passed through the bags. “I’ll go get the mattress,” he told them.

 

Soon he and Kazuki were dressed in their pyjamas and Ran was wearing the sleep pants that Haru was pretty sure he only wore when he had guests.

They ignored the mattress To-chan had pushed through the door; all three of them piled back onto Ran’s bed.

Ran settled back against the wall. “Let me see if I have it,” he proposed. “Centre doesn’t usually bother about what people in the Fringe get up to but there are a few exceptions. Like typed-geniuses. It looks for typed-geniuses. That’s why Shika-san’s father hid him from them and why Darrent-san pretends the education stuff he gets for you are for him. Explain again about genetic engineering.”

Haru took a deep breath. “They think genetic engineering is wrong and dangerous. It is illegal in Centre or for any Resident, Citizen or Civil Servant to be involved with it. They would like to stamp it out even in the Fringe and they used to try but gave up because there is too much of it.”

“Darrent-san is a Citizen?” Ran checked.

“Yes, he was a typed-genius child they brought from...” Haru realised he didn’t know from where. “...brought to Centre and he joined the Civil Service to get away from the scientists and did his ten standards so he’s a Citizen, even though he left and came back to the Fringe.”

“So who catches the typed-genius children?” Ran asked.

“Some of the Civil Servants,” Haru replied, aware that they were comparing the Centralites with the child catchers on Ran’s home planet. “They Civil Servants who operate in the Fringe are called Blue Pigs, because of their uniforms.”

“And the undercover ones are called Whores,” Kazuki added.

Haru stared at him. He hadn’t known that. “You sure?” he asked. “I thought ‘whore’ was a not-nice way of saying courtesan.”

Kazuki shrugged. “That’s what Tatsuji-san told me.”

“Tatsuji-san talks to you?” Haru queried, amazed.

“Can we stick to the point?” Ran asked. “So what things other than typed-geniuses still bother the Centralites enough that they would send the Blue Pigs after us?”

Haru clamped his mouth shut. All he could think of was the mindwiped people in the garden.

Ran was studying him and Haru knew it was with his inside as well as his outside eyes.

“Sai,” Ran stated.

“Sai?” Kazuki queried. “The sim?”

“Sai isn’t...” Ran began.

“Ran!” Haru begged.

“Ka-chan is right,” Ran pointed out. “The Centralites don’t even think of him as a person. Anyway, you know. Do you think Ka-chan’s going to stand there and let the Blue Pigs take you?”

Haru remembered the kidnapping; Kazuki attacking Pein’s men. “No, he admitted. He took a deep breath. “Sai isn’t a sim and he isn’t controlled by a spy.  He’s a person without a body. He’s a mind in Shi-chan’s data crystal array.”

Kazuki gawped at him.

“Can I talk now?” a fourth voice asked.

Kazuki jumped halfway to the ceiling. When he came down he was growling; his tail bushy and his whiskers arched.

“It’s just Sai talking to us through the speaker,” Ran told him.

“I can talk to four people now,” Sai announced. “Sumiko, Haru, Ran and Kazuki.”

 

It was one of the times Haru was grateful that Kazuki was inclined to accept things without asking too many questions. Maybe being part fox made it easier to accept a mind in a machine.

“So is Sai a Tronny?” Ran asked.

“Yes,” Sai answered.

“No,” Haru replied at the same time.

Ran frowned at him.

“I told Sai to lie,” Haru admitted. “I think Sai came from the Nakama quiggle and bits of Tronny programme that Shi-chan had stored in the array.”

Kazuki turned to him. “He’s your pet quiggle?”

“You remember him?” Haru asked. “I didn’t.”

Ka-chan shrugged. “You know me. Some things I remember, some things I don’t. Your tablet was too small. The quiggle was dying. You wanted to put the quiggle into a bigger tablet in Shika-san’s laboratory. I distracted him while you did it. Then, afterwards, you cried because you missed it.”

Haru guessed it was good to have confirmation. He looked at Ran. Ran looked back.

“Explain why we shouldn’t tell Shika-san,” Ran suggested.

“Telling people is dangerous,” Sai answered for him. “Outsides called Centralites think self-aware artificial intelligence is very bad. If they find out, they will take everyone who knows and wipe their brains. Now that is Sumiko and Haru and Ran and Kazuki. They will kill me by pulling apart the array where I live and smashing each data crystal.”

“Wipe our brains?” Ran asked.

 

It took a few minutes for Haru to get the vid to play on Ran’s tablet because Ran never used it for anything other than reading. In the end Haru linked it to his network and let Sai do the work.

Haru didn’t look at it. He didn’t have to; it kept playing in his head. He watched Ran and Kazuki instead. Ka-chan’s hair was standing on end but Ran was unimpressed.

“They are zombies,” he declared. “Animated corpses. Kept working to scare people. The people in those bodies died.”

Haru had not thought of that. It made him feel a lot better. He could cope with dying.

“Maybe you are right though,” Ran continued. “The fewer people who know the better.” He looked directly into Haru’s eyes. “I understand why you lied to me. It was stupid but I understand.” He gestured to include the three of them. “We work best as a team. You know that.”

“I know that,” Haru admitted.

“Am I part of the team?” Sai asked.

“You are on probation,” Kazuki answered before either of the others could.

“A trial period during which your character and abilities are tested to see whether you are suitable for membership,” Sai quoted. “I understand. I shall try to earn membership.”

“You can start by knocking,” Kazuki told him. “Neither of us is allowed into Ran’s room without asking permission. You’re here but you weren’t invited.”

There was a pause. “Should I go?” Sai asked.

Ran smiled. “Sai, would you like to stay for the rest of the sleepover?”

“That is an invitation?” Sai checked.

“It’s an invitation,” Ran confirmed.

“Yes please,” Sai replied.

 

Haru snuggled down with Kazuki on the mattress while Ran slept in his bed. Part of Haru wanted Ran to be with them, but the rest of him knew that it wasn’t a good idea. He told himself it was because Ran could feel others’ emotions and being that close to people was stressful for him.

That reason would do for now.

Sleeping with Kazuki was comforting. He never missed his plushie when Ka-chan was there.

He was tired but it was a good tired.

“Is he asleep yet, Ka-chan?” Ran asked.

“Almost,” Ka-chan answered from somewhere far away.





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