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.



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 YamanashiOchinashiIminashi, richon, Kyle, sadie237, GreenEyedCat, Morly, SidonieStarr, telynaayuri, unneeded, disembodiedvoiceofthedying and v who left a review after chapter three was posted. As I have said before, it is feedback from readers that keep me writing this story.



Real

Chapter four: Intruder



Haru stayed in the simulator, trying to get used to the idea that Su-chan was clever enough to hack in and alter the simulation so radically. He decided that looking at the code might help him understand. Perhaps she had grafted in chunks of story scenarios; it would explain the fairies and the winged horse.

He dug his goggles, earpieces and a connecting cable from his pocket as he dressed. Within seconds he had called up the programme, unlocked it using his permission and was examining the code.

What he found shocked him. The altered parts were weird. He had never seen anything like them and they certainly weren’t bits from standard stories. He decided to concentrate on one small part, which reduced the scale of the task but did not get him much further. He had to go to his duty with Gai-san before making much progress.

 

Gai-san had him maintaining laser pistols, which was like folding clothes but less boring because it was guns. He got into the routine of the task before going back to thinking about Sumiko and the strange code.

He was pretty sure that no one had shown Sumiko how to programme, just as no one had shown him. Shi-chan had introduced him to various games, like the quiggles, but then it had been up to him if he left the programme as it was or altered it.

Haru had decided to alter the programmes. He had looked for patterns and done something similar; he now knew that was a typed-five strategy.

Sumiko had produced something completely new. Was that a typed-seven strategy? Could Sumiko be a typed-seven like Shi-chan?

 

Once duties and the evemeal were over, Haru went to hang out with Ran in his room. As usual, they started with Ran on the bed and him on the floor.

When he started to talk about Sumiko, Ran slipped off the bed and sat beside him. Haru knew that meant; Ran had decided that he was upset.

“She’s Shika-san’s sister,” Ran reminded him. “Is it a surprise that she might think like him?”

To Haru it both was and it wasn’t. Yes, she was Shi-chan’s sister but she was Sumiko. “She’s never seemed that way,” he pointed out. “She’s into dolls and make-believe, not puzzles.”

But even as he said it, Haru remembered what Iruka-san had said; that Shi-chan hid what he was so other people liked him more. Perhaps Su-chan was the same. Maybe dolls and ribbons were her ways of appearing normal.

And the business of pretending not to understand what he was telling her to do. Perhaps it was not just about annoying him. Maybe it was part of the same camouflage tactics.

There was a touch on his arm. “Ha-chan?”

Haru realised he had gone off into his mind to think. “I’m here,” he replied. He would speak to Su-chan; find out what was going on. Decision made, he changed the subject to what Ran had been doing during the day. “How did it go with Dan-san in the infirmary?” he asked.

 

Next day, Haru waited until Sumiko asked Kiba-san if she could have some of her time on a simulator. He checked the timer and was waiting for her when she came out.

“Nice changes to the forest,” he acknowledged as she was finishing dressing.

She ignored him.

He tried again. “I’m impressed that you managed to change the programme without permission. Did you use mine?”

“Sai did it,” she replied.

Haru was annoyed. He had asked nicely. “Come on, Su-chan. How did you do it? Could you show me?”

She scowled at him. “Sai did it,” she repeated, detoured around him and left the room.

 

He was about to go after her when Kiba-san intercepted him.

“I am very impressed, Haru-chan.”

Haru was suspicious; he had ended up being cleared for childminding duties last time Kiba-san had been pleased with him.

“I have been checking on Su-chan when she uses the simulation you made for her. You have constantly updated it for her.” He smiled at Haru. “It is very generous of you to spend so much time on it.”

He was about to say it was Sumiko, not him, when he remembered that Su-chan didn’t have permission to alter the programme; she had hacked in. Haru remembered how cross his Papa had been when he hacked the medical files. Maybe they would make allowances for Su-chan because she was only five; or maybe not. Whichever, he wasn’t going to tell.

“It’s nothing, Kiba-san,” he murmured. “Su-chan thought of most of it,” he added, which made him feel better because it was true.

Kiba-san frowned at that but did not comment. “Maybe you shouldn’t be giving her quite so much,” he continued. “Su-chan can be demanding and perhaps giving her what she wants so quickly isn’t a good idea.”

The problem was that Haru had no control over the rate of change. Kiba-san was waiting for an answer. Haru cast about for something appropriate but non-committal. “I understand, Kiba-san,” he replied.

Luckily it was enough for Kiba-san, who nodded and moved away. Haru gave a sigh of relief and went after Sumiko, only to find her having a lesson with Iruka-sensei.

 

He tried a few more times later in the day but got nowhere. Sumiko would not admit to changing the programme. Her response was always the same; either she ignored him or she said “Sai did it.” By the end of the afternoon he was more than annoyed with her; he was cross.

“She refuses to talk to me about it,” he complained to Ran.

“She doesn’t have to,” Ran reminded him. “Tell someone she’s been hacking. Then she would have to talk.”

Haru scowled at him. “I’m not going to tell on her.”

Ran gave a small shrug.

Haru sighed. Ran was right. Sumiko didn’t have to talk to him.

 

He tried to forget about it, but he couldn’t. He was in a quandary. The adults thought he had created the fantasy world. Every time one of them praised him he felt bad about claiming the credit; it was like lying. To make it worse, he had given Kiba-san the impression that he would stop the programme from changing to fulfil Sumiko’s every whim, which he couldn’t do.

Part of him wanted to tell them that it was Sumiko but he couldn’t. She might get into trouble for hacking. Even if she didn’t, the adults wouldn’t let her get away with saying ‘Sai did it’. She would be exposed as a genius, which she obviously didn’t want or she wouldn’t have created Sai.

As usual, he ended up talking it through with Ran, who listened carefully.

“Is there anything wrong with Su-chan changing the simulation herself?” he asked.

It was like a light going on in Haru’s head. “No. I could set the permission so she’s allowed. Then it isn’t hacking. That’s brilliant, Ran. Thank you.” He considered. “How can I explain to her about permission when she won’t talk to me?”

“Maybe she would listen if I spoke to her,” Ran suggested.

 

Haru thought that was an excellent idea. Ran invited her to come into their bay when Kazuki was in the gym working off energy on the climbing net. She came in carrying the projector; Haru was reminded of how he used to be about his tablet. Ran pulled out a chair for her and she sat down. He sat next to her. Haru sat on the opposite side of the table.

“Su-chan, only Haru-chan and Shika-san are allowed to change your simulation of the forest,” Ran began.

Sumiko scowled. Haru sighed. It wasn’t going to work.

“We don’t want you getting into trouble for changing the simulation without permission,” Ran continued and the scowl faded. “Haru wants to make it so you are allowed to change it too.”

“I didn’t change it,” Sumiko complained. “Sai did.”

Ran paused for a moment and then pushed on. “Well Sai didn’t have permission either. Haru will fix it so you have permission. Then you can share that permission with Sai.”

Sumiko thought about it and then smiled. “Good.”

 

Haru called up the programme and changed the settings. He then tried showing her how to log on but she was not paying attention.

“You have to log on when you make changes, Su-chan,” he told her. “Otherwise it is hacking and hacking is wrong. You’ll end up in trouble.”

She looked at him. “Log on before making changes,” she repeated. “I’ll tell Sai.” Then she got up, picked up the projector and left.

Haru stopped himself calling her back.

Ran put a comforting hand on his arm. “You’ve done it. You’ve given her permission. She doesn’t need to log in to change the programme; she’s been doing that already.”

Haru knew that Ran was right. He had achieved what he had set out to do. He thought about what Sumiko had said. “She’s so funny, saying ‘Sai did’ and ‘I’ll tell Sai.’”

“Children act as if their imaginary friends are real,” Ran told him. “I looked it up.”

Haru remembered the conversation between Shi-chan, Shino-san and Neji-san. “Neji-san says she’ll grow out of it,” he replied but he wondered. If Su-chan was saying that Sai was doing all the clever stuff so she could continue being ordinary, girly Sumiko, what would happen when she stopped thinking of him as a separate person?

Then Kazuki stuck his head into the bay and announced that To-chan was going to take them to the park. Haru and Ran grabbed everything they might need and hurried to join the others.

 

Haru did not think much about Sumiko, her imaginary friend or her fairyland over the next div. Every time one of the adults complimented him on creating such a lovely simulation for her, Haru would tell them that Sumiko had permission to edit the simulation and had done most of it herself.

He was pretty sure none of the adults believed him; they thought that he was being modest. Even so, Haru was happier because he wasn’t claiming credit he did not deserve. He told himself that the situation suited Sumiko as well; all the adults, even Shi-chan, still thought of her as normal, which was obviously what she wanted.

Even Kiba-san was pleased with him because the simulation had stopped evolving; Sumiko must have decided that it was exactly as she wanted it.

 

Then Sai started doing more than just showing up in other simulations.

 

It wouldn’t have mattered if the others could see him, but they couldn’t. Haru tried to ignore him but it was hard, particularly as Sumiko was programming him to be more and more intrusive.

The tipping point came when Sai managed to distract Haru during a mission simulation. Haru stumbled and fell into a gully. By the time the others had pulled him out the mission had to be aborted.

Their score for the mission was horribly low. Hikaru scowled at him and muttered to Ryuu. The kits were miserable; Kazuki looked like someone had kicked him. Even Hoshi gave him a reproachful look that ramped up his guilt.

Then, during the debrief, Itachi-san showed what Haru had been doing before he fell. It looked as if was staring at nothing; lost in thought rather than concentrating on the path.

He had been looking at Sai.

Haru almost told them that he was looking at something, but stopped himself. It would sound like an excuse. Instead he apologised and promised to try harder next time.

 

He was hoping to escape directly after the group debrief. He wanted to find Ran and tell him about Sai ruining the mission. Instead Iruka-sensei was waiting for him.

Haru reluctantly followed Iruka-sensei into the small room he used for one-to-one sessions and sat opposite him.

“We all make mistakes, Haru-chan,” Iruka-sensei reassured him. “The important thing is to learn from them.”

He so wanted to explain why he had been distracted, but he couldn’t. Then he imagined happening again and again. Next time Sai might wink in directly in front of him; he wouldn’t be able to ignore that.

“Haru-chan?” Iruka-sensei prompted.

Haru pulled himself together. “Yes, Iruka-sensei.” He tried to forget Sai and think about the consequences of the mission failing. “It wasn’t fair that the others got such a low score,” he observed.

“You were a team,” Iruka-sensei reminded him. Then he looked thoughtful. “I know you cannot do a mission twice over but this one was aborted.”

Haru perked up. It was true; Hoshi had taken the decision to abort as soon as they had missed the first crucial waypoint.

“You could speak to Itachi-san about it,” Iruka-sensei suggested.

He had rather hoped that Iruka-sensei would do that.

 

Itachi-san was still in the simulator room where the team debrief had been held.

Haru entered the room and stood politely.

Itachi-san fixed him with a piercing gaze. “Yes, Haru-chan?”

Haru gave a small bow. “Would it be possible for the team to have another go at today’s mission, Itachi-san?”

Itachi-san studied him. “It was aborted at a very early stage,” he conceded, “and you all have reacted appropriately to the setback.” He walked over to the interface and called up their team record.

Haru watched as the miserably low score was removed and their team average jumped back up. “Thank you, Itachi-san,” he acknowledged.

“You are welcome, Haru-chan. Just make sure that you do not let them down again.”

 

The others were delighted; even Hoshi patted him on the back. Haru tried to smile and make suitable ‘we’re a team’ noises but all he could think of was everyone’s reaction if he ruined the next mission as he had the last.

He couldn’t have Sai winking into mission simulations. He went to find Sumiko and managed to corner her in one of the playroom bays.

“Stop putting Sai into other simulations,” he ordered. “A group mission failed and I took the blame for it.”

She just looked at him. “Not me,” she insisted. “It was Sai.”

Haru wasn’t in a mood to put up with Sumiko’s nonsense. “It is you. You made Sai. You control what he does. Stop putting him in other simulations. You’re ruining them.”

Her face settled into its most stubborn expression. “Not me. Sai.”

Haru could feel the anger bubbling up inside. He had done a lot for Su-chan lately and in return she’d made trouble for him. He had a sudden urge to shake some sense into her.

A hand on his arm. “Haru.”

It was Ran. Haru made a huge effort to calm himself; he knew Ran hated being close to him when he was cross.

“This isn’t going to get you anywhere,” Ran reminded him. “Su-chan, could we talk to Sai? Please?”

Haru didn’t want to ‘talk to Sai’ but Ran was waiting for him to cooperate. He took a seat at one of the tables. Sumiko scowled at him but placed the projector on the table and switched it on.

The small figure of Sai appeared.

Ran was looking at him expectantly. Haru took a deep breath.

“Are you the same Sai that turns up in the other simulations?” he asked.

“There is only one of me,” the projection confirmed.

“Could you stay away from me when I am in a group simulation?” Haru asked. He thought about explaining why but it seemed pointless. Sumiko knew why. “Please?” he added.

“I could.”

Haru willed himself calm. It was hard. The urge to shake Sumiko was very strong. “Please will you stay away from the group simulations?”

“Yes.”

Haru had to settle for that. He hoped that Su-chan would keep her word, even if it had been given via her imaginary friend.

 

Itachi-san sprang the re-run of the mission on them that afternoon. This time they only got a two minute briefing; just enough to get everyone’s mind working.

It went smoothly. There was no sign of Sai. Haru kept up with others when they were travelling, worked with Yuki on the security systems and hacked the stand-alone computer.

They scored well, which was an enormous relief.

 

That evening he was tired, which wasn’t surprising given what had happened during the day. Instead of going to Ran’s room, Ran came to hang out with him and Kazuki.

Kazuki was in the middle of telling Ran about the mission when Kuuya put his head into their bay and told them that Gai-san had agreed to supervise a game in the gym. Ka-chan did hesitate for a moment. He looked at Haru and Ran with his whiskers twitching.

“Go Ka-chan,” Haru encouraged and in a flash he had vanished.

“The mission went well?” Ran asked, restarting the conversation.

“The second time,” Haru replied. “No Sai. Thanks for helping me talk to Su-chan.”

Ran gave a small nod of encouragement but looked thoughtful.

Haru waited.

“I am worried about Su-chan,” Ran admitted.

Haru still hadn’t forgiven Sumiko for ruining the first mission but it was Ran, so he would listen.

“I think she believes that Sai is real.”

If it had been anyone other than Ran, Haru would have sneered. Of course she thought he was real, Sai was her imaginary friend.

Only it was Ran and Ran was an empath. What did he mean when he said ‘believed’ and ‘real’?  “You mean like a person? Like you or me?”

Ran nodded. “I could be wrong,” he admitted.

Haru hoped so. Imaginary friends were fine; delusions were not.

“Because Sai couldn’t be a real person, could he?” Ran asked.





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