Crossed Wires

-Thanks to Helena (umi no hikari) for the quick beta. :3
-I edited chapter 2 a bit to add some tiny foreshadowing and did some minor tweaking to other chapters. I know the thing with Neji's uncle still seems to come out of left field, it's my fault, but I can't figure out where else to add some mentions. I lose. :sigh:
-This is mostly fallout from the previous scene, along with some vague hints of plot. I have another chapter written (mmm sasukenaruto interaction); will post, um, maybe next week. I need to figure out where the plot is going first.

Sasuke : Chapter 10

Sakura usually isn't physically assertive, so when she swoops in on Sasuke in the corridor and tries to herd him toward the break room, he's startled enough that he stops moving entirely -- which means she ends up not moving him anywhere. She looks too worried, too harried to really notice; she tugs on his arm again. He doesn't really appreciate being touched without warning, but he doesn't want her to realize exactly how much heavier he is than he should be, so he follows.

She closes the door behind them, smoothes down her white coat, and then she crosses her arms as though trying to hug herself instead. Sasuke stands in the middle of the room and watches her, waiting.

"So..." She smiles; it doesn't last. "Did you speak with Naruto?"

Sasuke frowns. So that's what this is about. "Yes."

She flounders for a second, visibly expecting him to elaborate. He merely gives her a stubborn look in return.

"Well... Are you still angry?"

Sasuke isn't angry, exactly. Annoyed, maybe even verging on exasperated, but that's it. Still, he doesn't want to let Naruto off the hook quite so easily.

"I still don't like it, no." He frowns at Sakura. "He told me that he has no legal ID. Why?"

Sakura gives him a faintly reproachful look, as if disappointed in Sasuke for asking; he's not sure why. "I never asked. If the reason is good enough for Doctor Tsunade, it's good enough for me."


"He's not a bad person, Sasuke, so what does it matter if he has no ID? Many people around here don't use one."

Sasuke's scowl deepens. "That good person killed someone yesterday." He shakes his head before she can retort. "Perhaps it was self-defense. Perhaps it was in defense of Miss Shizune. Perhaps it was simply out of anger, or he just felt like it."

She stares at him. "Do you really think so?"

Naruto told Sasuke he has never killed apart from in self-defense; Sasuke hadn't noticed any telltale that proved he was lying. "I don't know. The point is, I'm not a judge. You aren't a judge, either. If he's innocent, then standing before a jury should not be a problem."

Sakura huffs, looking both hurt and annoyed. "It shouldn't, but it is. He could easily end up arrested, and locked up without anyone even judging him for the -- the murder."

She pronounces the word as if it hurts, but at least she doesn't shy away from it; he can give her that much.

"If they lock him up, doesn't that imply that he's guilty of something?"

Sakura shakes her head vehemently. "Guilty, or inconvenient? Or maybe just not rich enough to have a judge in his pocket. How many people end up in jail because the judge, or the cops, didn't like their face? How many more people end up right back on the streets after they put someone in the hospital or worse, because they're affiliated with some mafia or other?"

Sasuke's fists clench. He's not blind; he knows about the corruption of their society. He was in the streets as the Uchihas were destroyed one after the other and people rioted. He heard their grievances. He was around police chiefs and mayors, he has ears and eyes and a brain; he knows. He knows.

But there are goals -- there are ideals -- that everyone should strive towards nevertheless. He's not sure what kind of personal problem Sakura has with some fallible part of the system, but her view is still unacceptable to him.

"Just because your neighbor does something wrong and isn't punished, that doesn't make what he's doing any less wrong. Just because you do something right and the judge -- who is human and therefore fallible, and punishable -- does something wrong and punishes you doesn't mean what you did is less right."

"No, but it makes you stupid, if you had the opportunity to evade that judge's notice and didn't!"

Sasuke's eyelid twitches. It has never done that before; that makes him pause long enough to track down the source. Semi-automatic physical cues, subfolder: annoyance. Appropriate, so he forgets about it. "That implies you have proof Naruto never did anything bad to end up without legal existence." Naruto himself told Sasuke he hadn't committed murder, robbery, or espionage; Sasuke's sensors assure he's telling the truth. But. "You know that if he isn't taking steps to correct it, then it couldn't have been an accident."

Sakura sighs, and sinks into the couch without warning, shoulders slumped. "Sasuke... I didn't want to fight with you. I just --"

"... I'm not angry at you." Naruto is her friend, after all; her refusal to believe ill of him is only to be expected. "But you're biased."

She stares at him, and then she sighs and rubs her temples. "You're right, I'm biased. But I only see two reasons for Naruto not to use any ID. Either he did something bad, or he knows something he shouldn't and he doesn't want to be found."

Sasuke hadn't let himself come to this conclusion, but he agrees with her.

His army subroutines do, too -- and for a moment, he doesn't know whether he should allocate more processing power to the program keeping them at bay.

Three years ago, he wouldn't have noticed the difference between justice, law, and government directives. Knowing too much... It's a risk to the government, yes -- but in itself, it isn't a crime. Is it? Only if the furry broke laws to get that information, or looked for it with malicious intent, perhaps. Maybe Naruto was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he wasn't. Sasuke -- the part of him that's Sasuke, not just UG-7-SA -- has a hard time thinking over all the noise in his head.

The government -- he can't not believe it, it's a fact he was born with -- is always right and just. The government -- it's a fact he's seen with his own two eyes -- is not always right and just. The government is made up of individuals, who might make mistakes, or go corrupt, but it's still necessary and should still be kept safe. That the government might have been put at risk through no fault of Naruto's part isn't enough justification to neutralize him.

Not on a "might," at least, he amends, when the line of thought fails to calm down the subroutines.

Sasuke really wants these old directives out of his head. He's not government property anymore -- he's an AI; he's a legal person; he's free. He's sick and tired of having his thoughts hijacked until he can't tell where he ends and where they begin. It makes him want to go the other way just to prove he can... But that's not good either. That's still defining himself around them.

"... Sasuke?"

Sasuke closes his eyes briefly, aware that he has stared at nothing too long. "Mitigating circumstances or not, I have evidence that he's capable of doing 'something horrible', and none proving that he knows something he shouldn't."

Sakura looks up at him and doesn't say anything. He stares back for a few seconds, and then he turns away. He's not good at reading subtle facial expressions, but this one isn't subtle at all. She looks like she thinks Sasuke is about to burst into Naruto's shop and throw the furry into the execution chamber himself.

"... He's nice," she pleads, voice shaking a little. "He's goofy, and loud, and annoying, but he cares. He really cares. He's friendly and funny, and he boasts all the time, and he plays with children like he's still one himself, and --"

"Sakura." He sighs, too. This conversation would give him a headache if he could get one; the tangle of ethics, opinions, and feelings in his head is so jumbled that there isn't much difference. "That's circumstantial evidence at best."


He capitulates. He's only upsetting her, upsetting himself, and not getting any solid evidence for or against his decision. "I'm not going to report him." Not before he gets more information, anyway. And then, he'll see.

He doesn't know what he'll do about his arm if it turns out that he does need to arrest Naruto. He hasn't found anyone else who has the competence and materials to repair him.

"... Really?" Sakura's stunned look transforms into a widening smile.

Sasuke twitches. "Not because of anything you said. But I need him. I'm ignoring my" -- prime directives -- "personal ethics in favor of base selfishness." He isn't sure which one he really is ignoring. But he's still compromising something, and he doesn't like it. It rankles that she's grateful for something that makes him feel dirty.

He doesn't want to keep talking about it. It won't change anything, anyway. He's glad when he hears footsteps in the corridor; it gives him an excuse to stop Sakura when she opens her mouth again.

When Kabuto walks in, Sasuke is clocking in, perfectly normal but for his refusal to acknowledge Sakura; and Sakura is huddled on the couch and watching him sadly.

"Good afternoon, Sasuke," Kabuto ventures, after a curious look at Sakura that Sasuke pretends not to see.

Sasuke grudgingly nods a greeting at him. "Good afternoon." He leaves the room without waiting for an answer.


Several patients have been transferred to other clinics after yesterday's attack. Now that the waiting room is empty of rubble and broken chairs and the only duty left is watching the door for suspicious characters, Sasuke is becoming an adept at managing rustling, flyaway paper. He can fold, unfold and refold the newspaper to present the next article in three seconds twenty-five, with minimal wrinkles.

The journal itself takes a little longer to read. Switzerland's secession attempt is slowing down, the gang wars have flared up again after Song Jianguo's funerals, and they've found three badly mangled bodies that might present the same inner lesions as those found on the Not-So-Spontaneous Immaculate Beach Deaths. They don't know yet; the bodies are too damaged to tell easily. There are still corrupt politicians, still rapes and drugs and pedophilia and animal cruelty and holdups and neighbors who hate each other too much to just leave.

Their society is headed for a crash, he can predict that much. And somewhere in a corner of his mind, he knows that Itachi giving the country such a terrible blow only sped up things by a few years. Sasuke's still going to find and terminate him, though. He can't stand the thought that Itachi is still around, when he's the reason why so many others aren't.

" Ah, Sasuke."

Sasuke glances behind him and arches an eyebrow. It isn't like Kabuto to come chat with him when Sasuke is manning the door; there is no shortage of little tasks to be done around the hospital.

"I'm not bothering you, I hope?"

Sasuke scans the waiting room; it's mostly empty, except from the usual hobo sleeping in a corner. He's almost done with the newspaper. The horoscope can wait. "No."

The man stuffs his hands in his pockets and smiles sheepishly. "I know it's going to seem nosy, but... Is there something wrong between you and Sakura?"

Sasuke frowns. At least, to Kabuto's credit, the man is upfront about fishing for information. "What did Sakura say?"

"She was too busy to talk much." Kabuto's voice grows quieter, more subdued. "She tried to tell me it was nothing serious, but to be frank she didn't look like it."

... But Sasuke told her he isn't going to do anything to Naruto. What more does she want? He doesn't get it. He frowns.

Kabuto smiles sheepishly and rubs the back of his head. "I know we aren't really what I'd call close friends, but if you had a dilemma, I wouldn't mind helping you sorting it out."

"... Do I look like I have a dilemma?"

Kabuto winces, and grins. "Well... you might? That, and Sakura didn't seem very happy with you, which I found rather unusual."

Sasuke frowns more. Kabuto's been watching enough to know what's usual interaction for Sasuke and Sakura, and Sasuke never noticed. "You're observant," he says, neutrally.

"Why, thank you. I just think that it doesn't hurt the work environment to be attuned to your coworkers' feelings."

Sasuke supposes caring about people's feelings and harmony is the mark of a good orderly. They're supposed to be supportive and want people to get better, after all. More proof that it isn't his calling. "What do you think about Naruto?" he asks before he can talk himself out of it.

"Naruto?" Kabuto looks surprised by the angle Sasuke is taking. He takes off his glasses and starts cleaning them, thoughtful. "A nice young man. Enthusiastic, very sincere... Is there a problem with him?"

"... Not really."

"You're living with him at the moment, right? I thought I heard Sakura mention that..."

Sasuke nods, wondering why Sakura would feel that detail significant enough to mention. People make small talk about the strangest things.

"Ah, feel free to tell me not to push, but is the problem of a ... Romantic nature?" Sasuke didn't expect that; he stares at Kabuto, who scratches his jaw and elaborates. "... Jealousy? She and Naruto were rather close, and now, she and you..."

"Why would Sakura be jealous of the fact I live with Naruto? He drops in here all the time. It's not like I'm monopolizing him."

Kabuto seems torn between embarrassment and laughter. "I didn't mean that, exactly."

"It's not romantic." Sasuke lets distaste color his voice. Romance, hah.

Kabuto is still amused. He coughs, cleans his glasses, lip twitching. "Alright, alright. Well then, I'm stumped. I won't push, you seem to want to keep it to yourself--"

"What did the police say to you, yesterday?"

Sasuke watches him closely, watches the surprise on his face, the smile melting off in seconds. He would feel bad, but he needs answers, and Kabuto did volunteer.


"The men you shot dead."

Sasuke thinks belatedly that maybe he should have been more tactful. But it's a little hard to ask questions about killing people in a sure-fire unoffending way.

"Ah... It shouldn't go to trial. It was clearly self-defense."

Kabuto's voice is quieter, a little subdued. Sasuke turns away to watch the waiting room. The sleeping hobo is still in his corner, but there's another one looking for a good spot now. Sasuke keeps watch, not wanting to scrutinize the other man now.

"Did you see what Naruto did?"

Kabuto nods, now seeming to understand where Sasuke is going. "Some of it."

"What was it, for you?"

Sasuke sees Kabuto watching him from the corner of his eye. He's -- sad? -- serious? Grave? Not really gentle -- commiserating? Sasuke is hard-pressed to name it.

"He rescued Shizune. He risked his life to tear her free. That's what I saw." Kabuto sighs, gives him a curiously chagrined, brave little smile. "He was in more direct danger than I was -- I had a gun. Perhaps I should have threatened them before they started to move, maybe that would have stopped them..."

Sasuke shakes his head. He doesn't want to listen to Kabuto telling him that perhaps his act of self-defense wasn't as necessary as it should have been. The police officers in charge of studying the matter cleared Kabuto; Sasuke doesn't want to start second-guessing them. "Alright."

It still bothers him that Naruto won't even have to justify his actions, but Kabuto's argument is rational. Naruto put his life at risk to protect that woman. That makes Sasuke's decision not to push it for now a little easier to swallow.


"I'm thinking."

"Ethics are a tricky thing, aren't they?"

Sasuke blinks. How did he guess -- ah, he supposes there were clues. Still, insightful. "...Yes. They are."

Kabuto smiles. "Well, as wiser people have said, 'measure twice, cut once'. There are decisions you can't unmake, after all, so you should make sure to have as much information as you can before doing anything definitive."

"Hm." Well, it's good advice. Sasuke nods decisively. "I'll do that."

Kabuto grins at him, gives his shoulder a little pat. "I hope you sort out your problem, Sasuke. And on that note, I'm going to clock out, my ride should arrive about now."

He walks off to the office before Sasuke decides whether it's appropriate to thank him for the advice, and walks back out just as briskly. Sasuke opens the double-gate for him, nodding in acknowledgement, and hopes that's enough.

Kabuto's ride has the exquisite face of a porcelain doll. A small, pouty mouth, a heart-shaped face, long, silky black hair. Artful makeup that reminds him of a geisha. Hm. Strange that someone as... boy-next-door as Kabuto would know such a sophisticated woman.

Her golden eyes linger on him for a few seconds before she turns away and drives off.