The Sacrificed

BY : Sasunarufan13
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Naruto/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 4518
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto nor make profit of it. Kishimoto owns it.

Author's note: This is the first part of the story related to 'The Sacrifice'. You can read that one first if you want if you want to get a feeling of the setting already, but it's not really necessary as this story can be read on its own. I decided to cut the story into two because frankly it was becoming quite long and I want to keep the parts at a decent length. So have this part while I work on the second part LOL

Warnings: Naruto's pov; Alternate Universe; medievalish setting; fairy tale elements; werewolves; angst (like a shitton of it); injuries; violence

I hope you'll like this first part!

Part 1

"He told me that next time he's leaving the town, he's going to take me with him," he said, swishing his legs back and forth; the heels of his feet occasionally bumping into the cabinet. "There's some guy specialised in animals who lives in the village on the other end of the woods and Kakashi says I can learn more from that guy then."

The doctor turned around with a smile, finishing up writing whatever she always wrote down at the end of her day in the large book. She put her pencil down and rested her chin on her folded hands. "So, you're going to keep working with animals then?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, Kakashi said I'm good with them and it's fun learning how to work with all sorts of animals." His smile died when he thought about another reason why learning more about animals would be great. "Besides, if I train more with animals, then everyone will stop looking at me like I'm useless."

"You're not useless, Naruto," Tsunade immediately rebuked, frowning heavily. "Who's been saying that to you?" Her brown eyes flashed with an angry fire, like they always did whenever she heard of the less than favourable treatment he received from most townspeople.

He shrugged again, his legs resting immobile against the cabinet now as he stared down at the floor. "Nobody needs to say it, their faces are telling enough."

He saw it in the derisive sneers whenever he crossed them on the street, in the glares and turned up noses, in the way they snorted and ignored him whenever he offered to help someone out. The people in their town considered him useless, a dumb kid who somehow survived when a terrible illness had taken both his parents away from him.

Nobody took him seriously, nobody wanted to look at him – except for two people. An older man named Kakashi who had taught him how to read and write and who had started to teach him how to take care of animals, bringing him books and paper to draw on whenever he returned from one of his journeys outside the gates.

The other was Tsunade, a blonde-haired woman who demanded everyone's respect for being a great doctor and who looked after him like someone would look after a son perhaps. He wasn't sure about that, because he'd never known what having a mother felt like. But Tsunade hugged him, made sure he was fed and clothed, offered a listening ear whenever Kakashi wasn't available. That was enough for him.

They were the only two who didn't treat him like he was useless, who didn't look at him like he was even lower than the dirt underneath their shoes. With them, he felt like he mattered, like he wasn't alone.

He could deal with the townspeople's indifference towards him as long as he had them.

Perhaps, though, if he showed he had the skills to work with animals, other people would finally stop treating him like he was a burden and start treating him like he was actually part of them.

He startled when warm hands covered his own, halting the picking at his fingers that he'd unconsciously started doing. He bit his lip when he looked up and met her gaze.

"You listen to me carefully, all right, brat?" she said firmly and squeezed his hands. "You're not useless. You matter. You matter to me and you matter to Kakashi and let the rest of them all go to hell. You do not need to prove yourself to anyone but yourself. If they refuse to see you for who you are, they're the blind ones and they will come to regret that."

Gently she flicked his nose before pressing a soft kiss on his forehead. "You are an amazing young man, Naruto. It's their loss that they cannot see that."

"Thanks," he smiled waveringly, rubbing his nose with his right sleeve.

Her face softened and she cupped his left cheek for a moment before she stepped back. "It's time for you to go catch some rest. You don't want to be out too late now."

He looked outside, saw the setting sun and grimaced. "Yeah, you're right," he said despondently and slipped off the counter, straightening out his trousers half-heartedly. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

She nodded, smiled. "Stop by in the afternoon then we can eat together."

Perking up at that thought, he grinned and kissed her cheek. "I'll see you tomorrow then, baa-chan!"

"I'm not that old yet, you brat!" she yelled in response, throwing a pencil at him.

He evaded it with ease, cackling, and left her house before she could find something bigger to try to hit him with. His laughter dried up when he started walking away, the oppressive silence in the street sucking away all his joy.

There were other people still out, but they were hurrying along, not wanting to be still outside when darkness fell. People had been disappearing left and right since last month, ending up mutilated beyond recognition. The murders had enforced an evening clock in the otherwise lively town and anyone found outside after darkness had fallen had to answer to the guards.

They hadn't been sure who was behind all these murders until someone of the scouting party had returned, ranting and raving about some kind of beast. Naruto had been there when the man had stumbled through the gates in the late afternoon, covered in dried blood and his eyes so insane looking, he appeared like a mad man. He'd been ranting about some kind of ginormous beast, hiding out deep into the forest, who had demands for the town to be met.

He didn't know what exactly those demands were. The poor man had been taken away by three other guards and he hadn't heard or seen that man again after that. He knew Kakashi had been sent to meet up with the Beast early this morning to hear his demands. He hadn't liked that thought at all, scared that he would lose one of the only two people he cared about in this town. To be honest, he'd been a nervous wreck the entire morning until he'd seen Kakashi returning, looking incredibly grim. He had heard him say something about the Beast resembling a huge wolf, two heads taller than the man himself, but curiously capable of using human speech. That was all Naruto had been able to hear before Kakashi had been whisked away by the town council.

He hoped Kakashi would visit him tomorrow. Perhaps he would even be willing to tell him more about the Beast, like how he thought it was possible that the wolf like creature was capable of speaking. Animals couldn't do that, right? But apparently this one could. Or maybe it was because he wasn't really an animal, but a Beast and different rules adhered to Beasts then?

He still had so much to learn about animals and Beasts, but he clung to Kakashi's promise that he would soon take him to meet the man who was an expert in all sorts of animals. Maybe this man would even let him borrow some books! That would be really amazing.

"Hey you, hurry up, it's nearly dark!" one of the guards barked at him, scowling at him as he passed him together with another guard.

Naruto clumsily bowed and ran the rest of the way home, not eager to have another meeting with one of the guards.

His home was just an old shack, small with just two rooms – one bathroom and then one open space that combined a very small kitchen, his bed and a poor excuse for a living room. It was still his home, though. It held his drawings, the few books he'd received from Tsunade and Kakashi and his three blankets – the only stuff he still had left from his parents.

It wasn't much but it was his and it was home and that was enough for him.

He washed up quickly using the small tub and then changed into one of the two pyjamas he owned. They were threadbare at best and were definitely becoming too small; the trouser part didn't even cover his ankles anymore. Winter was finally slowly coming to an end, spring making a hesitant appearance now that it was March, so he would just have to tough it out for a couple of months more. Then the nights would be warmer and it wouldn't matter so much anymore that his trousers were becoming too short or that his shirt crept upwards every time he turned around in his lumpy bed.

After dousing the candle, he crawled into his bed and settled in for the night. The last sound he heard before he succumbed to sleep was some sort of vague howling, far off into the distance.

The door was kicked open and his blankets ripped off of him before he could process what was happening. He shot up, ready to complain to Kakashi for being such a bastard, but snapped his mouth shut when he found himself looking straight into Danzo's face instead.

Danzo, the second most powerful person in their own, who was flanked by three guards, all who looked at him with disturbing blank faces.

"Wh-what are you doing here?" Naruto asked, injecting as much bravado as he could in his voice as he hastily got up.

He'd never liked Danzo. The man always looked at him with calculating eyes, as if he was trying to figure out what to do with him exactly.

The man offered him a thin smile; his gaze colder than the wind outside. "Uzumaki Naruto, you have been chosen to act as the sacrifice to the Beast. You will be taken to the Beast now as the town's offering."

Naruto gaped at him, not completely believing what exactly was happening. It was only when one of the guards reached out to grab him that he understood what was going to happen.

They were going to sacrifice him.

Bring him to the Beast like a lamb to the slaughter bank.

"What?! No, you can't do this to me!" he yelled and punched the guard's arm away.

He evaded the second one, pushed the third one out of the way but right when he was about to make a run for it – he just had to get to Tsunade, she would protect him, she would make sure they wouldn't get to him, she was going to take care of him – a fist slammed straight into his jaw, knocking him flat on his arse.

Pain exploded in his face and he shouted when two sets of hands grabbed his arms tightly to the point of bruising. A vicious kick to the backside of his legs had him stop struggling for a moment as he had to catch his breath.

"Do not make this any more difficult than it has to be," Danzo told him icily, leaning on his cane casually. "You will be the sacrifice to the Beast; no amount of struggling will help you."

"But why me? Send somebody else! Send some of the livestock!" Naruto screamed, struggling anew.

Terror like he had never experienced before was rapidly trying to take a hold of him and he felt like he was drowning in it, like his lungs would never get enough air again.

They couldn't be giving him to the Beast, they couldn't hate him that much that they would see him killed to appease the Beast!

"Why would we send someone else?" Danzo asked; his voice dripping with scorn and disdain. "Everyone in this town has loved ones who would mourn them – everyone but you. Why should we put a family through mourning when we can send you – an orphan nobody cares for? Do not think for even one second that your life is more meaningful than that of everyone else in this town."

He nodded at the guards. "Take him away. Bring him straight to the cave."

"No, you can't do this to me! Let me go, you can't give me to him, don't do this!"

Naruto screamed and begged and pleaded, but the guards just ruthlessly pulled him along, past the row of houses straight to the gates. People were leaving their houses, staring at him as they dragged him screaming and pleading away from his home, but nobody lifted a finger to help him. They just stared at him without a hint of compassion.

"You can't give me to him, you can't, don't do this, please! Please, I don't want this, I want to live, let me go!" Snot and tears were mixing together on his face, the cold morning stinging his cheeks, his ankles, his hands.

They couldn't be doing this to him, they couldn't seriously give him to the Beast! But the gates came into view and he grew beyond desperate now, realising that they were really going to throw him to the wolf, leave him behind to die, let him be slaughtered like all those other people.

He lashed out with his foot, whirled his head around to bite and gnaw at one of the guard's hands, intent on ripping himself loose. One of the guards snarled and the last thing he saw before pain exploded in the back of his head and darkness consumed him, was the other guard spitting at him.

His head was pounding like mad when he woke up and every muscle in his body screamed when he moved. A whimper of pain escaped him when he slowly opened his eyes, registering the way several places in his body throbbed and ached.

His breathing caught when his brain registered where he was. He shot up, clenching his teeth together when that only made the pain worse, and barely dared to breathe as he took stock of his surroundings. He was in some sort of cave, lying on a thin layer of what appeared to be animal furs. There was a small fire burning a bit further away from him – the only source of light in the otherwise pitch black cave.

And right across from him, on the other end of the cave, there was a pair of glowing red eyes staring straight back at him.

He froze completely, knowing even without ever having seen him before that he was looking at the Beast himself. Unwillingly tears welled up in his eyes and slid down his cheeks, splattering apart on his thighs.

They had really done it. They had really abandoned him, offered him to the Beast as a sacrifice.

Left him behind to be killed.

Even after years of being mistreated, of being ignored and taunted, of being told over and over again that he was useless, that he would never amount to anything – even after all that time, he hadn't wanted to believe that they would really abandon him just like that.

Like he didn't matter to them. Like his life meant nothing to them.

Like he was completely, utterly worthless; unworthy to be protected.

They had cast him aside as easily as they threw away garbage.

He hiccupped, a painful sob tearing out of him before he ruthlessly supressed the rest, clasping a hand across his mouth. Even knowing that only two people had ever cared for him – it hurt to know that the town had so easily cast him aside.

He froze when the giant mass near the other wall moved, could only watch terrified as the Beast padded over to him. His claws made small clicking noises on the cave floor and when he passed by the fire, Naruto could see just how black his fur was.

The Beast halted a few feet in front of him, sitting down in an almost nonchalant manner.

"You're finally awake." The words were uttered in a low grumble, gnashed out through large teeth, heavy on the 'r'.

Naruto couldn't answer even if he had wanted to; his vocal chords numbed by the presence of the large Beast right in front of him.

"You're rather scrawny," the Beast continued, narrowing his eyes. He then snorted; the sound harsh in the open space. "Should not have expected anything else from them."

Naruto's heart nearly beat straight through his ribcage when the giant wolf leant forwards and sniffed at him. When he exhaled, his breath was a hot rush of air.

"You smell interesting," the Beast said contemplatively before he rose up on his paws and started walking away to Naruto's astonishment.

Having expected to have been eaten by now or at least bitten, he blurted out shocked, "Wait, where are you going? Aren't you going to kill me and eat me?"

He cringed just as soon as the words left his mouth, not believing how stupid he'd just been. For whatever reason the Beast was leaving him alone for now and the first thing he did was remind the creature that the town had dumped him here to be killed? What was wrong with him?

The Beast paused and turned his head around to stare at him. "Why would I want to eat you?"

His tone was filled with so much incredulity and astonishment and Naruto knew he should be relieved at hearing that, knowing that the Beast wasn't planning on killing him, but all he could think of was: I'm not even good enough to be killed.

Was he that unwanted, that undesirable that not even a Beast wanted him? How pathetic was he that even a monster didn't want to deal with him?

Maybe Danzo had been right after all: nobody would miss him, nobody would ever want him. Not even a creature of the night wanted to have him, how sad was that?

He swallowed, but the irritating lump in his throat didn't want to disappear. "Does that mean I can go home then?" he asked in a small voice, his fingers tightening in the fur underneath him.

Surely if the beast didn't want to eat him, he could leave? Apparently he wasn't good enough as a sacrifice, so there was no point in staying here. And while the thought that he wasn't even good enough for a Beast hurt, he clung to the hope that this meant he would see Tsunade again and Kakashi too. He would have to sneak into the town to avoid being seen by Danzo or any of the guards, but …

"You can't leave," the Beast shattered his hope mercilessly.

"What? Why not? You said you didn't - "

"Because you're mine," the wolf grumbled and scowled at him before stalking away from him, the darkness swallowing him up perfectly.

Leaving Naruto behind without a second thought.

And while he knew he should be happy that he wouldn't be killed, he only felt miserable; hot tears stinging his cheeks as he curled up in a tiny ball on the fur.

He wasn't even good enough to be a sacrifice. How pathetic was that?

He and the Beast fell into a strange routine. Every morning the Beast left the cave in order to hunt food. Some mornings he brought a bunch of dead rabbits, other days a large deer and even a couple of times a pig and some chickens, which he must have stolen from some farmer. Pigs and chickens didn't just roam around in the woods.

Naruto never saw him skin the animals but whenever the Beast brought him the meat, it was already skinned and divided into parts, ready to be roasted or cooked above the fire.

The first time the Beast brought him a skinned rabbit, the next morning after waking up in the cave, Naruto could only stare as the dead animal was dropped in front of him. The Beast shoved it towards him with his snout and an impatient huff, before turning around.

"What am I supposed to do with this?" Naruto asked helplessly, looking away from the soulless dead eyes of the rabbit.

The Beast curled his upper lip, showing an impressive row of teeth. "Eat."

"I – I only eat meat for dinner," Naruto said meekly, his stomach revolting at eating meat so early in the day. At least, he assumed it was morning; he hadn't left the cave yet.

The Beast narrowed his eyes dangerously and Naruto shrank back, fearing what the wolf would do. They stared at each other for a while in silence, tension thick in the air, before the wolf released a sound which sounded similar to a sigh and disappeared.

When he returned half an hour later, he held half a loaf between his jaws. Naruto didn't ask where he had got the bread and the Beast didn't offer any answers. Every morning however there would be bread waiting for him and after three days a glass vial with jam appeared next to it. The Beast didn't bring any knife – whether he had simply forgotten that a human would need such a utensil to eat or he just didn't trust Naruto with a knife, the blond didn't know – so Naruto had to make do with using his fingers to spread the jam on the bread.

He never complained; this was more food than he usually had got back when he still lived in the village.

He could only leave the cave to drink water from a nearby stream, to bathe himself – only twice a week, more than that made the wolf antsy for some reason – and to do his business hidden between the bushes. While the Beast oddly was willing to give him some privacy to bathe or use the toilet, the moment Naruto was finished, he'd be herded back into the cave.

Naruto didn't know what the Beast wanted from him. The wolf made it clear that he wasn't planning on eating him, but why insist that he eat so much food then? Why get angry and growl when Naruto couldn't finish an entire rabbit? He barely talked to the blond boy, just sat or laid there, his red eyes tracking Naruto's movements, when he wasn't outside doing the gods knew what.

The nest – because that was what it was, a nest – acquired a couple of more furs in the weeks Naruto was there, which admittedly made it more comfortable to sleep. What was less comfortable was the way the Beast would come over at night to sniff at him before he would stalk away and sleep somewhere else. Naruto had no idea why the wolf kept doing that; all he knew was that it was incredibly unsettling to have such sharp teeth so close to his neck and back every time. Not as if he could do much against it, though. He was no match for the massive creature.

And so the days blended into weeks: with the wolf slinking in and out of the cave, bringing him food and new fur, but barely saying a word, his gaze stalking Naruto wherever he went.

Not touching him, not killing him. Just watching him.

Naruto knew he should be glad. In spite of being a sacrifice, he was allowed to live when others hadn't received that same mercy. He got more food and water than he ever had got in the town, save for those times Tsunade and Kakashi had him over for dinner. He had a rather comfortable 'bed' to sleep in, softer than his lumpy mattress ever had been. He should be glad.

But he wasn't. He missed Kakashi and Tsunade, missed spending late afternoons with them, knowing that they – unlike the rest of the town – did like him. He missed the old shack he'd called his home, missed his books and his blankets. Missed drawing pictures of animals he'd seen and the two people he'd adopted as his family.

Missed being able to talk without fearing one wrong word would have his throat ripped out.

And so one morning he made the decision to run.

He had lost count of how many weeks he'd been in the cave. It had to be April at the very least, maybe even May, but he couldn't know for sure.

He waited until the Beast had left for his routine hunting, knowing he had at most an hour before the wolf would return. He had spent two weeks counting the minutes it took for the Beast to come back from hunting whichever poor creature crossed his path that day. The Beast always took at least an hour before he would meander back into the cave; his kill dangling from his jaw.

That gave Naruto one hour to get away from the cave as far as possible. He had no idea whether that time would be enough to get out of the woods, when he had no clue how deep in the forest the cave was actually, but he had to try. He just had to run and keep running until he was out of the woods. And then … He didn't know yet what he would do once he was out of the woods, but that was a concern for later.

After the Beast left the cave, he waited five minutes, staring into the dark corridor without seeing anything. He knew he would need all the time he could get, but he also didn't want to risk the wolf returning because he heard him coming through the corridor.

Once he was certain the Beast wouldn't be able to hear him, he started running through the pitch black corridor, his hand against the wall the only thing keeping him from accidentally running into the stone.

The bright daylight had him squint when he stumbled out of the cave as it always did now when he'd spent hours in the darkness. He took a couple of seconds to look around and then chose a random direction, running south from the cave where the trees were more spread out, creating a vague path.

He had no shoes on – he'd woken up barefoot the first time in the cave and he'd never found his shoes back, so he assumed one of the guards had stolen them – which made running through the forest definitely not an easy task. Broken off twigs and all kinds of other sharp things pricked and sliced his feet as he ran through the woods; bushes and low hanging branches snagging at his hair and his clothes, making him stumble sometimes.

His breathing was too loud, ragged in the early morning air; his heart was beating like crazy in chest; his muscles screaming with the effort they were forced to endure after weeks of just walking around. His skin pricked unnaturally warm in the cool spring breeze, sweat coating the back of his neck and his chest, but he pushed on, forcing his tired legs to keep moving, to keep running, as fast and as far as possible!

He didn't see the steep decline on time.

One second his feet were hitting firm ground, the next there was nothing there anymore and he fell down, hitting the ground hard as he rolled down the hill; his scream cut off mid-air when he landed painfully onto his back.

Disoriented, he pushed himself up on his elbows and looked up. He was lying at the foot of a hill; the forest floor above him cutting off almost abruptly as it went over into the decline of the hill. On his other side the forest floor continued above him, as if a giant had scooped up a part of the forest. The other side of the hill aligned perfectly with the path Naruto had been following, which explained why he hadn't noticed the decline on time.

Groaning miserably, his whole body throbbing like he was one giant bruise, he sat up slowly, carefully rotating his feet to make sure he hadn't twisted them somehow. There was only a slight twinge of pain, most likely from abruptly having lost his footing, so he cautiously got up, biting his lip.

His entire body trembled with the shock of the pain and the unexpected fall, but he forced himself to ignore it. He just had to keep going, keep running, and then he would be safe somehow.

When he turned around, he came face to face with a giant, dark brown bear.

The bear stood several feet away from him, looking annoyed as if Naruto had disturbed him. As the boy stood there frozen, terrified beyond belief, the bear growled threateningly and rose up on his hind legs.

The bear was enormous! It towered high above him, being at least four heads taller and five times as big, and it led out a huge roar when it fell back on all four paws; the force of his weight making the ground tremble.

"Good bear, nice bear," Naruto whispered scared, slowly shuffling back. His eyes darted across the forest floor, but to his growing panic he saw nothing he could use as a weapon, not even a broken off stick! What was he supposed to do now?!

The bear growled loudly again – and ran straight at him.

Screaming, Naruto hastily threw himself to the right and rushed away from the back of the hill. He heard the bear make an impact with the grass hill before it snarled and –

Thundering footsteps quickly started gaining on him.

He was going to die.

Right here, right now, he was going to be killed. A hysterical chuckle burst out of him as he desperately started running in a zigzag pattern, hoping to throw off the bear. How ironic was it that he had run away from the Beast – only to end up as a meal for another animal?

The bear was growling and snarling behind him and even though he knew it wouldn't do him any good, knew there was nobody who could help him now, he screamed, "PLEASE, HELP ME!"

Something firm grazed his back and the touch was heavy enough to throw him off balance. He lost his footing and fell down, scraping his knees and his palms as he hastily rolled himself around, just in time to avoid a large heavy paw slamming down next to him. That was only a short reprieve.

He was right in front of the bear and he closed his eyes and started to cry, knowing this was it, there was no escape. In just a couple of seconds the bear would tear right through him and –

An extremely loud, vicious howl tore through the air and then what felt like a burst of wind swept past Naruto, quickly followed by more vicious snarling and growling.

Eyes flying open, Naruto could only scramble out of the way and gape in shock at the fight happening in front of him. The Beast was attacking the bear.

The wolf snarled, his teeth gleaming in the sunlight as he snapped and bit and gnawed; blood spurting through the air. The Beast yowled in pain when the bear slammed one of his paws hard against his right side, but the creature didn't let that assault stop him. Again and again, he attacked the bear, ranking large claws against the bear's sides and back, biting at his paws, snarling and growling furiously all the while.

The bear gave as good as he got, swiping and smacking at the wolf, but then the Beast jumped up, closed his massive jaw around the bear's neck and twisted his head away, tearing off fur and flesh and muscles, ripping straight through the arteries.

Blood instantly started gushing out of the gaping wound and the bear uttered one last pitiful whimper before it fell down heavily, colouring the ground red with its blood.

The Beast jumped off the bear, heavily panting, and stood staring at it for a moment as if he wanted to make certain that the bear was really dead and not just faking it. Then he turned his head and gazed at Naruto; his jaw dripping with blood.

Like a dam which burst, Naruto started sobbing; shivers raking through his body violently. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean – I didn't mean - " But the rest of his words got swallowed up in even more tears and snot, as pain and shock finally fully settled in; the realisation that he could have died hitting him mercilessly.

If the Beast hadn't been there, if he hadn't killed the bear, then Naruto would have, he would have …

"Are you hurt?" the Beast asked, approaching him slowly; his bushy tail agitatedly swishing back and forth.

Naruto looked down, but he was shivering too hard, his vision too blurry with tears to actually take stock of any visible injuries. He was definitely aching, but he honestly couldn't tell whether that was because of actually getting hurt or whether he was just trembling so hard, his muscles were protesting and locking up.

The Beast grunted and pushed his snout against Naruto's shoulder, nearly knocking the boy over with the unexpected force. When Naruto just stared at him baffled, the wolf grunted again and lowered his large form to the ground.

"Get on my back. I'm taking you back," the Beast grumbled and when Naruto took too long to move, he growled lowly and pulled back his lips, showing off his teeth.

Squeaking, Naruto scrambled onto the Beast's back, not fancying finding out whether the Beast's odd tolerance for him had its limits. He had barely wound his hands carefully around some tufts of hair when the Beast broke out in a run. Yelping in fright Naruto bent down and wrapped his arms firmly around the wolf's neck, hanging on for dear life as the Beast almost seem to fly instead of run through the forest.

They rushed past the trees, past another stream of water, basically flew over bushes, startling the animals within. When the Beast started slowing down, Naruto cautiously opened his eyes again, only realising it now that he had closed them, and lifted his head. He swallowed when he recognised the entrance to the cave, reluctantly impressed with how fast the Beast had brought him here again.

It made him realise with an uncomfortable flip of his stomach that he had never stood a chance against the giant wolf. No matter how fast he had run, no matter how much distance he would have put between the two of them, it would never have been enough. The Beast would have found him regardless.

Not even stopping to let the boy off his back, the Beast trotted inside the cavern, plunging them both into pure darkness when he followed the corridor the centre of the cave. He made a beeline for the nest, bending down so that Naruto slipped off his back and into the middle of it.

Almost immediately the wolf pressed his snout against Naruto's scraped up hands and the blond boy yelped in surprise; the cold, wet nose a shock to his system. The Beast ignored him and sniffed at his bruised knees and chafed feet next before growling lowly and retreating a bit.

"You're hurt," he bit out, sounding royally pissed about that.

"I – I fell down," Naruto admitted in a small voice.

The uncertainty of the entire situation, the not knowing what was going to happen to him now, was nerve-wracking. The Beast had rescued him, yes, but he only had to do that because Naruto had tried to run away. What would the Beast do now, now that his sacrifice had tried to escape?

Naruto thought he was going to throw up any second now, so nauseous did he feel and none of the nausea was because of the tumble he'd experienced, nor the adrenaline of the encounter with the bear.

Red eyes narrowed dangerously. "You're not bleeding too badly," the wolf said gruffly and then suddenly his large, red tongue lapped at Naruto's left feet from his heel to his toes.

"What are you doing?" Naruto squealed, squirming away from the odd, ticklish sensation. The wolf's tongue felt oddly smooth and warm against his scraped feet.

A low snarl had him freezing, staring wide-eyed at the creature.

"Don't. Move."

"I won't move, promise," Naruto squeaked, too scared of annoying the Beast to try to move away again, even when the lapping and licking at his skin drove him nearly mad with the ticklish sensation.

Once the wolf deemed him sufficiently licked clean, he allowed Naruto to retreat into the furthest corner of the nest. He didn't leave, though. Instead, he sat down on his haunches and stared at the boy with piercing eyes.

"Why did you leave?"

The oddly plaintive tone of the wolf had Naruto breaking down abruptly. "I – I just want to feel normal again, okay?! The t-town leaders dumped me here as your sacrifice because no-nobody would miss me and I'm really g-glad that you don't eat me, but I just want to talk to someone again and I can't do that, because I don't want to anger you! But – but I'm all alone here and I don't know what you want from me! I just – I just want to be somewhere where people want me."

The waterfall of words ended just as abruptly as it had started and he buried his face in his hands, trying to smother his sobs as much as he could. They still broke through, though, and his chest started hurting from the force of them, but he couldn't stop. After weeks of seeing nothing but a large cave and an even more gigantic wolf, he was so tired. He wanted to be somewhere else, a place where people actually wanted him, where he wouldn't be abandoned to be a sacrifice to a Beast and where he wouldn't be kept around like some odd toy.

He didn't even know whether he was a toy for the wolf. The creature fed him and lurked nearby, but he barely spoke and he definitely didn't give off the impression that he actually wanted Naruto to be here. Why was he even here? He was the sacrifice, yes, but what did that mean?

Why was the Beast keeping him around, feeding him and keeping him warm, when he didn't seem to want to do anything else? What was the point of him staying here when the wolf just stared at him or was gone for hours on end?

Why was he here when it was becoming more than obvious that nobody wanted him?

The wolf's sigh was like a gust of wind and Naruto flinched, pulling his legs up so he could bury his face into them. If he'd annoyed the Beast to the point he would finally be killed, he didn't want to see it coming.

Then a strangely smooth and husky voice filled the cavern. "Look at me."

Mystified by the unknown voice – had someone managed to sneak up on them in the cave? How was that possible? Naruto hadn't seen a living human being anywhere near since he'd been dumped here – he slowly raised his head, wary of what he would encounter.

His mouth dropped open at the sight which greeted him.

There stood a man in front of the nest, right in the spot where the wolf had been. His skin was a delicate shade of pale, the kind of fair complexion Naruto had heard was what the nobility were striving to have. His hair was as black as a moonless night; long bangs framing his aristocratic looking face. His eyes were an interesting shade of black, smouldering not unlike the fire burning in the pit behind them. His mouth was coloured a faint pink as if it had been kissed by a rose. His body was –

Completely naked, Naruto realised with reddening cheeks and he almost choked in his own saliva. "You're naked!" he squeaked shocked, slapping a hand across his mouth.

Muscles rippled impressively when the man crossed his arms, raising an eyebrow in a judging manner. "That's the first thing you notice?" he asked unimpressed.

"Because you're naked!" Naruto spluttered and he blushed even fiercer when his eyes wandered downwards almost unwillingly. He quickly brought them back up to the stranger's face, who was lightly smirking as if he had noticed where Naruto's gaze had almost landed on. "Why are you naked?!"

"Because shifting with clothes on is impossible," the man answered dryly. "Or do you think I hide my clothes underneath my fur?"

"Your fur …" Naruto repeated dazedly; alarm bells going off in his head. If the stranger was talking about his fur, did that mean that he –

"You're the Beast!" he gasped stumped.

"Took you long enough," the man – Beast – said casually and dropped down on his haunches; his hands resting on his knees.

"But – if you can shift, why didn't you do that before?" the blond boy asked dumbfounded.

The man shrugged; the motion smooth and not at all awkward despite his position. "I didn't want to spring too many new things on you all at once. I wanted you to get used to my wolf side first."

"But why change now then?"

The man cocked his head slightly to the right. "Because you need my human form now and not the wolf one," he answered frankly, as if it was that easy.

As if it was really that simple for him to have changed forms completely all because Naruto had wanted – all because he needed –

Nobody, except for Tsunade and Kakashi, had ever gone out of their way to do something for him. No one in the town, except for those two, had ever done something to comfort him or to soothe him or even to help him out. He'd learnt early on not to expect anything from anyone and here the Beast was, changing forms, turning human for him, all because he'd been stupid and had broken down like a baby.

Even after having wanted to abandon the wolf, the Beast had changed forms all to help him calm down. He wasn't obligated to do anything to help Naruto, especially not after he'd already saved his life from that bear, yet here he was, completely human all because Naruto had said he wanted to feel normal again.

He'd shed his wolf identity for Naruto.

Nobody had ever done something as meaningful as that for him.

This time when tears started dripping down his cheeks anew, strong arms closed around him and pulled him tightly against a bare chest; a nose rubbing across his temple.

And despite the tips of claws he could feel pressing against his back through the thin cloth of his shirt, in spite of the strength he could practically feel thrumming through the Beast's human body, knowing that the man holding him could easily slid his throat before he could stop him …

He'd never felt so safe before.

AN2: So yes, here's the first long part LOL I hope this one meets your expectations somewhat! The next part will probably be equally as long, maybe even longer depending on which scenes still pop up. I don't have a definite date in mind yet when the next part will be posted, but rest assured that I'm working on it :)

Please leave your thoughts behind in a review; should you spot any mistakes, please point them out to me.

I hope to see you all back in the next part! Please stay safe and take care of yourselves!



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