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Tragedy Repeated.

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Kakashi blearily opened his eyes and stared distantly at the ceiling. His could vaguely hear a voice calling out to him but....he was too numb to care. He sat up and ground his teeth in irritation. Why was he awake? 

A sharp pain jolted from his mouth and he realized he must have bit his lip. He soothed the wound with his tongue and cringed at the taste of blood. He felt a pressure on his shoulder and growled in warning.

He gave a seething glare at the attacker and saw a shocked expression painted on his face. They withdrew their hand slowly, watching for a reaction. Kakashi just continued to glare at them. The boy gave Kakashi a concerned frown and turned away to talk to Tsunade who stood off to the side.

They exchanged a look and Tsunade sighed heavily, motioning for him to follow her.

"Granny, what's up with that? It's like he doesn't know who I am." He folded his arms across his chest and looked back at Kakashi, who had started looking around cautiously. 

Tsunade pinched the bridge of her nose in despair. "Whatever this genjutsu was, it has completely messed up his mind. I was afraid of this. He's going to need at least a month or two to rehabilitate...Naruto?" 

Said boy was watching in concern as Kakashi was trying to get out of his bed.

Naruto was at his side in an instant and reached out to stabilize him. Kakashi took that distraction and with lightning fast reflexes gripped Naruto's throat tightly with both hands. The forced knocked them both to the ground

"K-kakashi-sensei...!?" Naruto choked out, desperately grasping at his hands. He could feel the air leaving his lungs and his throat contracted painfully with the force. 

There must have been a sliver of recognition passing through Kakashi's mind because he gave a horrified look and let go as if Naruto burned him.

He had the decency to look guilty as he stared down at his trembling hands. 

"Kakashi-sensei..." Naruto sighed, rubbing his throat. Tsunade pulled him outside the room roughly by his arm. She motioned for three Anbu members to guard the door and left for the Hokage tower.

___

"This is a classified S-rank mission. Mostly because Kakashi is an elite jounin and I am worried about him using his strength against you. Also because if word got out that one of our best shinobi was mentally unwell it would damage our village's reputation. Not to mention his as well. 

You three are to report to me within a month. I want weekly updates as well on Kakashi's status. Nobody is to know of this, understand Naruto?" Tsunade said, staring directly at said ninja.

Naruto scoffed, uncrossing his arms and pointing a finger at Tsunade accusingly. "Why am I the only one getting a lecture?! What about Sakura and Sasuke? It's so unfair!" He growled and gave Sasuke a glare over his shoulder.

"Knock it off Naruto! It's because you don't know how to be subtle, you obnoxious brat." She sighed and rubbed at her forehead in an attempt to stave off an oncoming headache. 

"Um...Lady Tsunade, what exactly are we going to be doing on this mission? Isn't Kakashi-sensei in the hospital?" Sakura asked eyeing the two boys in the room with concern.

"Well Sakura, thank you for asking. Sakura, I'm going to train you in basic medical jutsu so you can heal your team if anything were to happen, just as a precaution. Sasuke, I want you to thoroughly research whatever this jutsu of Itachi's is, since you are the only one to have access to your clan's archives. And Naruto..." Tsunade smiled tightly at the blonde boy.

"You are going to guard and escort Kakashi. You will be assigned an Anbu guard as well, just in case anything 'unpleasant' were to happen again. We don't need a repeat of whatever that was." 

Naruto shivered, the memory of his cold hands wrapping viciously around his throat. He rubbed absentmindedly at the bandages around his neck. Underneath were dark bruises that would take at least a day or two to wear off.

He frowned and stared at the floor below him. He was worried about his sensei.

"Alright then, that's all the debriefing you need. You're dismissed." She waved them away but noticed Naruto didn't budge.

"Granny...what happens if we can't fix it?" Naruto murmured, an angry frown on his face. Sasuke hesitated at the door, fingers clenched in a fist at his side. Sakura cast a worried glance around the room, biting at her nails.

"Then we just lost one of our best shinobi." She said matter-of-factly. She turned her chair to stare out the windows behind her. Naruto shut his eyes tight, as if in pain and stormed out the door after his teammates.

'He's not just a shinobi, Granny Tsunade. He is one of my precious people.' Naruto thought as he set off in determination.

He bid his teammates farewell and walked into the hospital, noticing Gai-sensei pacing near the waiting area, a worried grimace in place of his usual grin. He spotted Naruto out of the corner of his eye and rushed over to him.

"Have you seen Lee? I haven't seen him in almost 2 hours...it's like he disappeared..." Gai sighed dramatically, grabbing Naruto by the shoulders. Naruto cringed at the tight grip. 

Naruto scratched his cheek and look away in thought. "Uh...well...maybe he needed some fresh air?" Gai perked up at that and smiled wide. 

"Right of course! Why didn't I think of that? As expected of my young pupil's rival." Gai sped off, leaving a bewildered Naruto behind.

He blinked a few times at the retreating figure and continued towards the reception desk. He checked in and walked to his sensei's room. He nodded at the Anbu guards and opened the door.

Kakashi was sitting up on his bed staring down at his hitai-ate. Entering the room normally would have alerted him immediately, however he either wasn't aware of Naruto's presence or chose to ignore him.

The first thing Naruto noticed as he got closer was the shaking. The second was that Kakashi was holding the headband so tightly the metal was cutting into his hand. And the third was the look of absolute hatred in his eye as he finally looked at him.

Nobody said this was going to be easy, but Naruto could still feel the fresh pain in his heart when he realized what emotion was swimming in that eye.
An emotion he was very accustomed to, just not from this man.

He swallowed the hurt and chose to ignore the warnings in his head. He cleared his throat and spoke as evenly as possible.

"Kakashi-sensei...how? Um...what I mean is...? Are you..." Naruto trailed off not knowing how to talk to him and he struggled to keep eye contact. Kakashi gradually turned his attention back to his hitai-ate and sighed heavily.

"What are you doing here Naruto?" He spoke curtly, annoyance clinging to his words, with just a hint of something else. He stopped shaking and slumped back into his pillows in defeat.

"Well...Granny said I'm not supposed to leave your side until you're better..." Naruto scratched his cheek and simultaneously rubbed the back of his neck.

"...I see." Kakashi slowly opened his hand letting the headband fall onto his bed. He curled his fingers into a fist a couple times and sighed once more.

"Ahhhh! Sensei you're bleeding!" Naruto screamed and grabbed Kakashi's hand without thinking. Kakashi ripped his hand out of his grasp and held it against his chest protectively.

"I'm fine. Don't make such a fuss, this is nothing." He defended and gave Naruto a side-eyed glare. "But...you're bleeding." He insisted, a worried waver in his voice. 

"I said it's fine didn't I!?" Kakashi growled, halting Naruto in his step closer. Naruto sucked in a breath and stepped back. He nodded in dismay and sat down in a chair at the foot of the bed. They sat there in silence and eventually an hour or so passed and silent breathing filled the room as Kakashi stared blankly out the window.

Naruto could feel the dregs of sleep as he watched the form on the bed. A click of the door alerted him as Shizune walked through the threshold. She smiled warmly at him and handed him a tray of food and left. Miso soup and a modest bowl of rice. As well as a mysterious bottle. 

Naruto quirked his eyebrow at the bottle, but stood up and walked it over to Kakashi. He wheeled over the table and set down the tray and even though he definitely knew better, he cleared his throat and spoke.

"K-kakashi-sensei?" Naruto gulped when Kakashi leveled him with an emotionless stare. He spared a glance down at the food and looked away.

"...I'm not hungry." The trembling returned and Kakashi grit his teeth when his stomach betrayed him with a loud grumble.

Naruto barely held in a chuckle but the look Kakashi gave him made him shut up immediately. "Fine...just...leave it there and go." Naruto sighed. 

"I'm not supposed to do that Sensei." He turned back to his chair and slumped over. He watched as the silver haired jounin took his chopsticks in hand, quivering. He grabbed some rice and brought it towards his face but stopped.

"I can't eat if you're staring at me like that." Kakashi said in a bitter tone. 

"O-oh right! Of course." Naruto turned away at that and stared at the door. He heard fabric rustling and swallowed. If he just sneaked a peak he'd see what was under the mask but...

A soft clatter jolted Naruto out of his thoughts and he just barely remembered to shut his eyes. 

"Kakashi-sensei? Everything ok?" Kakashi scoffed and picked up the chopsticks he dropped and tried to calm his nerves, however they still fell out of his fluttering grip.

"Damn it!" He muttered under his breath. He went to reach for the chopsticks again but tan fingers blindly felt for them before he could. 

He stabbed at the rice a few times before he could get a decent amount and brought them forward towards Kakashi. The silver haired man sucked in a breath and looked between the offered food and the closed eyes of his young pupil.

Kakashi felt a surge of anger and smacked the hand away, knocking the chopsticks to the ground. He pulled up his mask quickly and pushed the tray away from himself.

"Forget it! I'll eat later." He turned away and continued staring out the window. He could feel the tension in the air. He peeked over his shoulder and withered a bit at what he saw.

'Stop looking at me like that.' Kakashi thought. Naruto had a depressed look on his face and looked like somebody just killed his....No! Don't finish that thought.

Kakashi swallowed the lump in his throat and tried his best to ignore the young genin in the room. Naruto bent down and picked up the utensils. He wiped them on the edge of his jacket sleeve and placed them on his tray. And curiously ran his finger down the orange cover of the few books sitting on his bedside table. 

His finger came away covered in a thin layer of dust. Which was surprising since Kakashi read them almost religiously. But then he remembered that he was in a coma for a week or so. He frowned and picked up the book. He wiped off the remaining dust with the sleeve of his jacket and opened the dog eared pages.

Without so much as a twitch from his sensei, Naruto sat back on the chair and started reading Icha Icha Paradise. He was so involved in the book, despite his lack of understanding, he completely missed Tsunade and Sakura entering the room. As did Kakashi.

"I leave you out of my supervision for 3 hours and I find you reading that drivel in broad daylight!" Naruto looked up in fear but it was already too late. Tsunade brought her fist down none too gently on the top of his head.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhh! What did you do that for!?" He yelled while nursing the lump forming on the top of his head. Kakashi gave a bewildered look between Naruto, the book, and Tsunade. He held his hands up in defense.

That stopped Tsunade in her tracks. "Kakashi...why in the world are you bleeding?" Sakura gave a surprised gasp and Naruto looked away sheepishly.

Kakashi cursed inwardly and hid his hand behind his back in a fist. "What are you talking about? I'm perfectly fine."

Tsunade fought back the urge to smack him. "I'm not a damn idiot. Give me your damn hand unless you want me to put you back into a coma!"

Kakashi hesitated, but gave her his hand in defeat. The trembling hadn't subsided yet and Tsunade frowned. "I'll ask again Hatake. Why are you bleeding? This looks fresh, so tell me."

The room filled with silence and it was clear his sensei didn't want to tell them what happened. Naruto spoke without meaning to. "It was me. And he refused to let me help him, so..."

"This kid! Is that how you treat hospital patients? By attacking them?" Tsunade screamed, turning towards Naruto pointing at him aggressively.

Kakashi stared at him with confusion. Why did he lie like that? 

"Anyways, Sakura I want you to do this." Sakura gently grabbed his hand and with the supplies handed to her, cleaned and dressed his wound. "Good! Now focus your chakra into your palms and try to heal his hand with it."

A green glow enveloped Sakura's hands and she concentrated for a good 5 minutes. The cut hadn't fully healed but it was significantly smaller. She gasped out loud when she exhausted her chakra. Her breaths came short.

She was about to go again but Tsunade put a firm hand on her shoulder. "It'll heal fine on its own now. You did a good job." Tsunade smiled at her and Sakura smiled back in awe. 

"Woah! Sakura! That was so cool! Can you teach me how to do that?" Naruto exclaimed excitedly, pointing to himself. Sakura frowned in his direction.

"This isn't a game idiot. You could've really hurt Sensei!" She yelled and punched him on the top of his head again. Kakashi frowned again. Why did he lie? Naruto grimaced in pain and clutched his throbbing head. 

"Kakashi. I'm releasing you from the hospital tomorrow morning." Kakashi let out a relieved sigh at the news.

"However. Your mental stability and psyche are severely damaged. Im ordering you a month's leave or until you are fully recuperated. I will not put my ninja at risk, do you understand?" Tsunade said, with her hands on her hips and nervously tapping her foot.

Kakashi was about to protest but Tsunade cut him off with a glare.

"Yeah...I understand." He slumped back into the pillows on the bed.

"Great! Oh...and before I forget. Naruto, you are going to live with him until he is fully rehabilitated. That's an order." Her and Sakura left abruptly after that, though Sakura gave him a sad smile before she left.

"...WHAT!?" Naruto screeched. He grabbed his hair in denial. "You've got to be kidding me!"

"Maa, don't look too excited." Naruto looked at him in surprise when he saw the infamous eye smile. His eyes crinkled at the corners a bit too harshly and the wrinkle in between his eyebrows gave it away. He was furious.

Naruto gulped and looked away. He brought the orange book back out and continued where he left off, it was about to lead to its first bedroom scene when it was yanked out of his hands.

"That's enough of that. I don't want to corrupt your mind any further. And we don't want that now do we?" Kakashi stood, hospital gown left haphazardly on the ground and his full jounin uniform in its place. Minus the hitai-ate. He gave it a once over and placed it in his tool pouch along with his books.

"Alright then, bye!" Kakashi leapt out the window and started running on the roofs.

"Ah....damn it!" Naruto cursed and ran after him. It took him a good couple minutes to catch up to him but when he did he was left in a poof of smoke. A shadow clone.

"Arghhh! Granny's gonna kill me." Naruto summoned 20 shadow clones and searched the entire village. It was near nightfall and still he couldn't find him. He was about to give up when he sensed his chakra near the training fields.

A loud boom of thunder jolted him and he looked at the sky in panic. Dark ominous clouds covered a majority of the sky and a few drops of rain fell on his face.

He ran as fast as he could to make it to his sensei. He stopped a few feet from his where he stood motionless in front of the memorial stone at team 7's training ground. He gasped and tried to breath in as much air as he could, black spots dotting his vision. 

He had made it too late. Kakashi's hair was slicked down, weighed heavily by the torrent of rain. His uniform was much the same, drenched from head to toe, and shivering at the cold.

Naruto watched from afar as Kakashi mumbled to the stone for a good hour or so. He couldn't hear what exactly was being said, but he caught a few names. Obito. Rin. Minato-sensei...Father. What was a surprise was his name. Which had appeared more than half the time.

Kakashi's monologue was cut short when Naruto sneezed dramatically. A kunai was thrown with deadly accuracy and cut his cheek as he dodged to the side. "It's not polite to eavesdrop Naruto."

Naruto calmly stood up with his arms at his side. "I didn't hear anything." Kakashi sighed heavily and walked towards him. He placed his hand on his shoulder painfully as he was about to pass him.

"Then let's keep it that way, shall we." He gave him another death glare, disguised as a friendly smile and walked away. 

Naruto trembled with fear, but continued following him at a distance. He still had a mission and he wouldn't run away. That was his nindo.

Chapter Text

Kakashi walked painfully slow towards his apartment. The building looming in the distance. He sighed at his stalker when they clumsily hid behind poles and alleyways. 

Not that those would have done him any good either way. The kid didn't know how to mask his massive chakra at all. Kakashi waited at the gate and Naruto almost collided with the man.

"I understand that this is the Hokage-sama's orders. But I don't really want you in my place. Got it, Naruto?" He didn't bother removing his hands from his pockets and gave him an irritated smirk.

He didn't wait for the blonde to answer and shunshinned inside his apartment. He slumped against the desk and allowed himself to shiver uncontrollably. Whether it was from the freezing wet clothes or the mental fatigue he was put through he couldn't decide.

He reached into his pouch and grabbed his hitai-ate and stared at it for a few moments, letting his anger build. He was a complete failure of a shinobi.
He let not only one of his precious people die, but five of them. And he could do nothing to stop it.

He didn't deserve to be part of this sacred village. He cursed himself. Over and over again. He was unaware of his surroundings. He let his emptiness swirl deep into his heart, etching its wretched existence.

He thought he was overcoming this pain. But Itachi opened his eyes. 'His' eye. The pain in his hand was nothing compared to the agony he felt over those long miserable days.

His anger boiled over and he couldn't bear to look at his reflection, watching him from gleaming metal. His tears had long since dried. Its was too soon for them to start again. He tried to force the emotions away and dropped his headband. 

The metallic chime rang throughout the barren room, echoing against the walls. He fell against the desk roughly, ignoring the hot trails dripping down his cheeks, soaking his mask. 

Naruto growled in frustration when Kakashi just vanished on him. He tried to summon some clones and sent them to hunt him down. He only managed one because he had drained almost all of his energy looking for Kakashi earlier. 

He nodded at his doppelganger and began his search for his sensei's chakra. Easier said than done when the entire compound was filled to the brim with large conserves of individual chakra.

"Arghhhhh!? Why does this keep happening!?" Naruto screamed as he tried to pinpoint Kakashi. A door slammed open right in his clone's face, dispelling it. A disgruntled Asuma peered over the balcony and huffed when he saw Naruto scrambling around aimlessly.

"Hey kid! What the hell are you doing down there? You do realize it's past curfew, right?" He shouted, an unlit cigarette hanging from his lips. Naruto stopped in his tracks and looked up at team 10's captain. He ran up the side of the building and skidded to a halt in front of Asuma on the balcony.

"Um...hah...about that....you wouldn't happen to know where Kakashi-sensei lives, would ya? I need to see him, it's super important" Naruto braced himself against his knees, breathing heavily.

Asuma glanced over him and frowned. "You mean to tell me...you don't even know where your own sensei lives...Well I mean it is Kakashi we're talking about." He rubbed his beard in thought. "I mean he used to live in the Hatake Compound but that was ages ago..."

"Huh...I should know this. I was part of the squad that brought him back to his apartment. Ah that's right, now I remember. It's on the second floor, first door on the left."

Naruto gave him an appreciative grin. "Thanks a whole bunch Asuma-sensei!" He exclaimed before being yanked back by the collar of his orange jumpsuit. "Not so fast kiddo. Why is it that you are searching for your sensei soaking wet at...9 o'clock at night?" 

Naruto gulped. He nervously looked up at the dark sky, huh not a single cloud or star. Not even the moon shone. "Um...well...I uh..." He squirmed under the scrutinizing stare.

"Well. I'm not gonna force it out of ya. Just make it quick okay kid. I don't want you running around after dark causing all kinds of trouble." He abruptly let go of his jacket and turned back into his own apartment. 

Naruto let out a huge sigh of relief and quickly made his way to Kakashi's door. He knocked a couple times and even though he knew he was in there, not a single sound besides heavy breathing could be heard.

He sat down and leaned against the door. The least he could do was guard. He sat there determined, but the days events quickly caught up with him. He could feel a bitter chill envelop himself. And his face felt hot. His clothes hung heavy and damp in the cool air.

It became harder to breathe after awhile, and his throat became itchy and irritated. An eviscerating throb pounded against his temples and yet he kept his eyes and ears as trained on his surroundings as he could. A low grumbling could be heard from the yound boy.

'This is nothing! I can go days without eating! Believe it!?' Naruto reminded himself earnestly.

Kakashi ignored the tapping on his door. And he really tried to ignore the presence stalking right outside his room. But he couldn't handle the neverending wails of the damned that escaped from his student's stomach.

He stood with a exasperated groan. His eyes felt puffy and raw but, that's to be expected when you cry for the first time in 10 or so years. He looked down at the stupid metal headband decorating his floor in disdain.

He gently picked it up and tied it around his Sharingan like normal. This whole charade needs to stop. Just act as if nothing ever happened. He can slowly rebuild his walls over time. Just shut off the emotions Kakashi. It'll be same old, same old.

He winced at the headache and drenched clothes. He grabbed a change of dry clothes and towel and decided to take a nice hot shower. He made his way to the bathroom and pitied what he saw in the mirror.

Simply put, a broken man putting bandages on the dying. It's just enough to get by. But the irreversible damage that is being caused...leaves much to be desired.

He scoffed at his reflection. Who was he kidding? If he can't even fool himself, then what? He untied the hitai-ate roughly, the jerking motion causing it to clatter into the sink.

Indeed he was a broken man...with far too many broken promises. He clenched his jaw against the wave of self pity. He briskly undressed and stepped into the shower without waiting for the water to heat up. Any discomfort in this life he would take in stride.

The blood still stained his hands, dripping and staining the rest of his body. He scrubbed viciously trying to wash it away, but it was no use. Even after 14 years it was as permanent as a tattoo. He had watched it fade away over time. But after that incident with Itachi, he was drenched head to toe in it again.

It was in his eyes, burning and blinding him, it was in his nose, the sweet smell of death and decay. In his mouth the taste of iron and guilt. The sound of the screams of agony, and the heavy presence around him like the world on his shoulders.

He wouldn't acknowledge the whimpering sobs threating to rip open his chest, nor the gripping pain hammering away at his heart. For his tears have long since dried long ago. 

The heat of the water scalded his body, leaving his skin raw and red. The sting in his hand a brutal reminder that he was alive...and they weren't. He stared at the cut in his hand and smiled. Though it wasn't a smile of happiness, but one warped with the feeling of pain.

The only way to atone for his failure, was pain. Enough pain to last a lifetime, and painful enough to remind him why. He stepped out of the running water momentarily to search his room for his supply pouch and procured one of his kunai.

These kunai were recently sharpened and would do an excellent job in what he was about to do. He returned to the hot spray of water and sat on the floor of the shower. He watched the water turn red as he slashed the sharp metal across his wrist repeatedly, the feeling as electrifying as his Lightning Blade. 

He let the crimson cascade down his wrist, the irony not lost on him. He would slowly replace the blood of his loved ones with his own. That would be his punishment. 

The water eventually turned cold and his wrist stopped bleeding. Kakashi shivered and shut the water off shaking. Despite all that he just did the trembling didn't disappear. He wrapped his waist with the towel and carefully bandaged his wrist. It wouldn't do to have people poking their noses where they didn't belong.

He shrugged his shirt on over his soaking wet hair and winced at the pull on his wrist. He tugged on his underwear and pants and frowned at the mess he made earlier. It looked like normal, when he got back from a mission, yet he knew the circumstances behind it were completely different.

He put away the medical supplies and rinsed the blood off his kunai, putting it to the side to resharpen. He stared at his headband and also put it to the side. He could sharpen at least one of the edges, nobody would notice.

He pulled out his kunai whetstone and got to work. The vigorous hand motions barely allowing him to work at an optimal speed. The movements causing his wounds to reopen.  He grit his teeth against the pain and continued.

A couple hours later he sat and examined his newly polished kunai and hitai-ate. After finding them meeting his expectations, he put them away and stretched his arms out, the motion reminding him of his wounds. He redressed his wrist and climbed into bed. 

The exhaustion piled high on him, it didn't take long for him to feel the pull of sleep. At first there was a deep nothingness and then it began. Repeating nightmares, over and over again. He was left feeling paralyzed, nobody could hear him screaming, begging for it to stop. No one could help. The torture was far from over.

One the other side of that door sat a worried Naruto. He could feel the tension in the air but couldn't place it. He had been sitting there for a good five hours and nothing had happened yet. It was clear to him now that he didn't need to protect his sensei from just anybody.

Something happened to him when he was under that genjutsu. Something horrifying. Something that made Kakashi lose all of his sense of reason. And it terrified him. Because his sensei was always calm. Always was the voice of reason. And never made him doubt.

Until today that is.

He was scared for himself. If this is what Itachi does to his precious people, what would he do to him. They were unlucky, getting in his way. He didn't want them to suffer instead of him.

It left him uncomfortable, angry. Just like when Mizuki launched that fuma shuriken and it pierced Iruka-sensei instead of him. It made his blood boil just thinking about it. He hoped he never had to see him again.

Or when Sasuke protected him from Haku's senbon attack and he thought he died in his arms. He had done so much...

Or painstakingly putting all of his effort together with Gamabunta and protecting Sakura even with the last of his breath.

This Itachi was a coward.

His last thoughts were along the lines of protecting those of his most important people. His eyes finally closed despite his efforts and he succumbed to the promise of sleep.

Chapter Text

Kakashi woke with a start. Sweat clung to his temples, drenching his hair. He could barely remember the wisps of the nightmares, hidden behind his eyes.

Yet...

The crushing weight of the boulder, suffocating him to the brink of death.

The stabbing pain, painted with hellfire.

The guilt and the loneliness that slowly ate away at him.

It almost brought tears to his eyes. But his tears have long since dried.

He absentmindedly rubbed at the moisture in his left eye, almost wishing that scar were still fresh, still bleeding. But that wish was never granted. Not in the last 14 years.

He sighed heavily and shoved the blankets off of him. He needed fresh air, and there was only one place that would ease his mind.

He grit his teeth in pain, when his wrist throbbed. Reminding him of his sins from the night before. He opened the door, not expecting a body to crumple in a ball at his feet.

"Seriously?!" Kakashi kicked him gently to move him and was rewarded with a grunt of pain. Kakashi pressed a hand against the sliver of skin just under his hitai-ate, already knowing what was happening.

"Naruto, you idiot!" He picked him up carefully, one arm cradling his head, the other his knees, in a princess carry. He grimaced at the pain shooting up his arm but continued on.

He placed him on the bed and noticed his clothes were still damp from the storm yesterday. He unzipped the orange jacket and yanked his shirt roughly over his head. He pondered the bandages around his neck with guilt.

Naruto groaned in discomfort and wrapped his arms around himself. He shivered and crushed his legs together tightly to conserve his body heat.

Kakashi hesitated, but still he yanked the boys knees apart, swiftly unbuttoning his pants and removing them. His dark green boxers were damp as well, but he would be damned if he thought about removing those. Finally he yanked off his open toed sandals and placed them near the door.

He grabbed one of his custom ordered long sleeved shirts and dressed Naruto in it, it's length barely coming to his knees, and the sleeves were way too long. The attached mask was loose around his neck and chin, mimicking the appearance of a high-collared sweater. He threw the shuriken printed comforter over him, effectively blocking the indecent vision.

He turned around, gathering the damp clothes and his laundry. After throwing them into the washer, he decided it was time to leave. He went to to open the door again but before he could turn the handle a loud gurgling sounded from Naruto. Kakashi could feel the persistant twitch in his eyebrow.

He slumped in defeat and decided to make a quick breakfast. He himself forgot that he never ate anything yesterday, the emptiness that was gnawing away at him utterly forgotten in his flight.

While it may not be ramen from Ichiraku's, he was sure Naruto wouldn't mind something a little different. But he wasn't making it for Naruto, that's just absurd.

He started with rice, quickly filling the rice cooker with rice and water. Then he made some Tamagoyaki, one of his favorites, also one of the only things he knew how to make. He didn't have time to make anything else so that'll have to do.

He wrote a note and left it on the desk for Naruto. He ate his share of breakfast quickly and held his breath as he hesitated at the door. He opened it as quietly as he could and clicked it shut. He let out his breath and turned away to find Iruka leaning against the hallway in front of the stairs.

He nonchalantly walked past him with his hands in his pockets. 'Just act natural, hopefully he won't try to talk to me.'

Iruka spoke before his foot landed on the top step. "Did Naruto make it home last night?" Kakashi sucked in a breath. 'Ahh why did he think he wasn't going to speak to me. He probably saw him passed out against my door.'

"He's sleeping inside. Imagine my surprise to find him here. I was probably already asleep when he showed up." He gave Iruka a fake smile, shrugging his shoulders sheepishly.

Iruka gave him a hard look and sighed. "He said he needed to find you. That it was extremely important. He looked really shaken up. And that was around midday yesterday."

'Ah...he's testing me now.'

"I'll make sure to ask him when he wakes up." Kakashi took a couple steps down.

"He was thoroughly soaked by the rain, he'll probably be sick, considering he was passed out outside your door all night."

Guilt stabbed at him. He diverted his eye down the stairwell, wondering how long he was going to have to listen to this.

"He wouldn't move when I told him to come inside. Even when I said I'd buy him ramen. So it must be really important what he had to say to you." Iruka crossed his arms, a worried frown gracing his face.

"Just where in the world were you that had him searching for you for hours." Iruka grumbled, always a mother hen.

"Maa, well I was...busy..." He left his answer vague and continued walking down the stairs. "Ah, Kakashi...I'm not done...talking...to...you." Iruka sighed angrily. Kakashi had shunshinned before he finished his sentence.

"Just who does he think he is, casually acting like there is nothing wrong with this situation. Naruto should be at home, resting. Maybe even be in the hospital. He might even have pneumonia." Iruka grumbled and walked down the stairs. Despite wanting to check on Naruto, he had a class to teach, he was lucky enough to slip away during lunch break.

Kakashi stared at the memorial stone deep in thought. He hadn't uttered a single word since he approached it an hour ago, yet he was sure he had spoken millions.

He broke his train of thought when a very familiar chakra approached him at a very alarming speed.

'Ugh, not now!" Kakashi masked his chakra and jumped high into the trees and made his way back to the center of village. He was walking down the street and had a train of thought.

He popped into the pharmacy and looked at their selection of cold medicine. He tried not to jump when a pink blob of hair and familiar face peeked into his vision.

"Kakashi-sensei? Naruto's not with you?" She asked looking around the store for the infamous blonde spikes. She frowned but it was gone in an instant.

"Ah, Sakura. He's..." How was he going to tell his genin that her teammate had gone and gotten himself sick. He never got sick. Just injured.
"At my place. I'm just doing some errands."

Sakura blinked in surprise. She didn't know if Kakashi was supposed to leave Naruto's sight. She'd make sure to ask him about it later. "Oh...What are you buying that for? You don't look sick Sensei."

He quickly tried to come up with an excuse. He didn't even know why. "Well...I'm restocking my medical supplies." He scooped up some things on the shelf and walked away. He ended up picking up medical tape and gauze. And alot of packages of cold medicine.

He didn't pay attention to what kind of cold medicine either. It all worked in one way or another.
He marched over to the register and didn't react when the cashier gave him a strange look.

He paid for his items and headed out the door. He looked at Sakura when she followed him out of the store, she didn't buy a single thing. He raised his eyebrow at her but continued walking.

Her vision was locked on the new bandages on his wrist. The white gauze was peeking out from his sleeve. She furrowed her eyebrows in contemplation. And the lack of bandage on his hand further confused her.

"Sensei...um, how is your hand doing?" She asked hesitantly. She remembered how he acted yesterday and it concerned her. Kakashi halted abruptly and smiled over his shoulder.

"It healed up nicely, see." He held out his palm to show her and indeed it healed fast. Now instead of a deep cut in need of stitches, it was a small scratch that scabbed over. She smiled inwardly, proud of herself.

She didn't dare to ask further, wounds of 'that' nature were all too familiar with her. "Okay! I should be leaving now. Lady Hokage will scold me if I'm late. Bye Sensei!"

He watched as Sakura waved at him running back towards the center of the village.

"Well...that was certainly odd." He made his way back to the apartment, trying to think up some way to get Naruto to leave as soon as possible.

Naruto cringed as his body felt like he was dumped in an ice bath, cowering and holding himself tight. But soon Naruto sighed in relief when he felt warmth and the smell of campfire and earth all around him. It was a strange kind of comforting smell, but it reminded him of training and missions.

He snuggled into the comfort and a horrible cough wracked his body. He cringed at the hoarseness in his throat and painfully swallowed. That throbbing in his head didn't go away in fact it had gotten worse. And while he was no longer freezing, the heat of his body was very uncomfortable.

He let the smell of burning wood and smoke lull him back to sleep.

Kakashi carefully stepped into his home, half expecting Naruto to bombard him as soon as he stepped through the door. He sighed in relief when he saw that wasn't the case but frowned when he realized Naruto never woke up.

He breakfast left untouched on the desk. He noticed that Naruto was wimpering in pain and his cheeks were heavily flushed. Sweat dripped down the side of his face and he was shivering.

Kakashi swallowed the guilt bitterly. He should've answered the door, should've at least sent him home. Still didn't change that fact that he now had a twelve year old boy, sick in his bed. What an idiot!

He brought out the medicine and he stared down in shock. He checked the others as well and cursed under his breath. He tried to tell himself that he didn't just buy five packages of this.

And then glanced over at the boy who was in clear need of medical attention. He could have Sakura come back. No, she was busy. Or Iruka....no he was sure the man would rip him a new one. He had no choice but to use the medicine he bought, because Kakashi Hatake doesn't make simple mistakes like this.

He read the directions on the box carefully. And opened it removing one of the large capsules in his hand. He stared at it in disdain. He was a responsible adult, he can do this without making it weird.

He sighed and approached the sleeping figure on the bed slowly removing the comforter from his body. Thankfully Naruto was sleeping on his stomach so he didn't have to roll him over for this. He could've gone his whole life without doing this.

He pulled his boxers down gently, and swallowed. He gave one last look at the suppository and slowly pushed it in. Naruto groaned at the contact, causing Kakashi to have a mini heart attack. As soon as it was all the way inside, Kakashi immediately removed himself and replaced the comforter. He could barely look at the boy and left the room.

He washed his hands a couple times, as if that could wash away the guilt of what he just did. Sure he was only administering a medication meant exactly for this kind of thing, but he couldn't breathe.

He just touched a boy in his bed. His twelve year old student. Who moaned when he... He shook his head and washed his hands one more time for good measure.

He walked to the laundry room and occupied himself with hanging the clothes to dry. He made sure to shake each piece of clothing at least fifteen times to make sure there were no wrinkles. And made sure they were spaced apart as evenly as possible.

Even though he made sure to take his time to hang the clothes he still had opportunity to dwell on what exactly just happened. He needed to get over this crisis because there was a good chance Naruto could be unconcious for another day or two.

Which meant he would have to give him at the very least one more suppository. His throat went dry at the thought and he found he was having a hard time breathing. If he had known better he would know he was having a panic attack.

He stared at the orange jacket in his hands for a very long time. Lost in thought he was suddenly reminded of a certain jutsu he used on the boy during the bell test. 'A Thousand Years of Death'.

Should be renamed to 'A Thousand Years of Heart Attacks.' He chuckled darkly. He shrugged it off the best he could and hung up the rest of the clothes. He soon found himself bored. He couldn't think straight and he nervously glanced over to the lump on his bed.

He didn't really want to do anything but the tension in his body was very uncomfortable. He felt antsy and high-strung. He stared down at his wrist and slowly came to an understanding. He would add this sin to the others.

He stood abruptly and with a kunai in hand, made his way to the bathroom. He shut the door and locked it, the idea more of an ease on his conscience than anything. He slowly unwrapped the dressing, cringing at the tug against the shallow wounds.

He aimed his kunai just below the previous cuts and marked deep, the sharp pain blinding him momentarily. The sting of the metal was different this time, more...painful. The rivulets of scarlet oozed down his wrist splattering against the sink. He watched in fascination as the bleeding slowed, coagulated and stopped. He sighed in morbid relief.

He cleaned up his wound relishing in the fresh wave of pain the alcohol caused. He wrapped himself up awkwardly with one hand and cursed when he saw just how much of a mess he made.

He took his time cleaning and made sure to get rid of any spot of blood he came across. The blood had dripped on his floor running across towards the door just barely touching it. Just how much blood did he lose?

He felt fine and his head was more clear than usual. The only thing is when he moved too fast it reminded him of when he overused his Sharingan.

He finished cleaning and unlocked the door bracing himself when he opened it. Naruto was awake. With clear enough eyes that locked straight onto his bared, bandaged wrist. 'Fuck'.

Chapter Text

It was dark. Just around midnight, the absence of the moon deepening the shadows that lurked in the corners of the desolate Naka Shrine. Sasuke counted the tatami mats from the right until he came to the seventh one.

Sasuke lifted the tatami mat carefully, fully expecting some sort of trap to explode in his face. He held his breath for a couple seconds and when he found nothing lying in wait for him, he sighed in relief.

The dusty, damp smell hit him as he descended the stone stairs, warm light catching in his peripheral vision. Torches that seemed to have been lit for a long time. Just what is this place? He remembered vaguely long ago, his brother told him he would find the Sharingan's true purpose in this place.

He decided not to dwell on it too much, that night...he couldn't think about it. Not with the fresh nightmares that twisted their way into his heart, anchoring his hatred deep within. He would find some way to avenge his clan. His path was clear to him now.

Still, this genjutsu, the way his sensei, he heard how he reacted to it, bothered him. He remembered him lying there unmoving when he found the three jounin captains looming over him. And that guy...

He grit his teeth and scowled. No use thinking about it now. He had things to do. He grabbed one of the torches and continued forward. The walls were bare and long, ominously so.

Whatever they were hiding must be a well kept secret. Finally he came to a large room with an enscribed tablet. He held up the torch to the side and activated his sharingan. He scanned the document quickly and stared at it in disbelief. Itachi had deceived him.

Just some morbid directions on how to awaken the Mangekyo Sharingan and that he could control something about tailed beasts. However nothing gave any indication to the jutsu that his brother inflicted on him or his sensei. Nothing.

He growled in frustration and threw the torch at the altar, disgusted. What was he going to do now? Why was there such little information? He left the chamber in a huff. 

Once he emerged, he sat on the steps of Naka Shrine and sat, contemplating what he learned. Something was being hidden right before his eyes. He needed more power, more...something to uncover the truth behind that tablet. But what?

Naruto felt the strangle around him ease a bit and he blinked his eyes open, unsure of where he was. He struggled to sit up and immediately became aware of two things. The alarming smell of blood and the absence of Kakashi. He pinpointed the smell coming from somewhere very close to him. But couldn't sense his sensei.

He became aware of his surroundings slowly, taking in the very few personal items on display. A familiar picture caught his eye and one he had never seen before sat next to it. He recognized the Yondaime, Minato Namikaze, but not the three students. Although the personalities that bled from the photo was quite startling, like looking at a strange copy of the current team seven photo.

He smiled gently at the plant beside the photos, his handwriting on the pot reminding him of when he gave this to his sensei as a present. The thought warmed his heart.

A click of a door diverted his attention and he was met with a jarring sight. Kakashi leaned against the doorframe heavily, his arm wrapped crudely with gauze, red spots dotting the inside of his wrist. That explains the smell of iron. He looked up in horror to find a splatter of blood scattered across his cheek. Some dyed the tips of his bangs that hung near his ear.

Neither spoke for awhile. The tension was thick, palpable even. It reminded him of the Sandaime's funeral. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn't find the words. Kakashi broke the stare but ignored the obvious topic, instead he stumbled over to the desk and picked up the bowls sitting there.

He held them out, purposely staring over the blonde's shoulder out the window. Naruto gingerly accepted them and awkwardly shifted in the bed. He then noticed two things. One was that he definitely did not recognize the shirt he was wearing. And that he was definitely not wearing pants. He flushed in embarrassment and distracted himself with the food he was offered. 

Kakashi sat at the desk with his back to the young boy. Obvious trembles shook his shoulders and Naruto wished he could just reach out and ask him what was wrong. Something happened while he was passed out. Something seriously wrong. Nobody sane would...he swallowed harshly and stared down at the rice in his bowl. 

Nobody would 'hurt' themselves like that without a good reason. He himself had a few scars that nobody knew about. Life living with the name 'monster' hanging over his head had left the boy broken, angry, desperate. Until the Sandaime and Iruka-sensei that is. Oh and Teuchi-san and Ayame-chan.

He didn't want that pain on anybody. Especially those he cared about. He didn't know what caused his sensei this much pain but, he could understand. He could try to heal the hidden wounds, but it would take time. A lot of time.

He gulped and slowly slid from the bed, his body unstable. He tentatively stepped closer to Kakashi and stood behind him unsure of how to go about this.

Naruto reached out hesitantly to grab hold of the fabric of his shirt. Kakashi tensed, his frame frozen, the proximity of another person was too close. Too soon. He pulled away just before Naruto could grab him.

"Don't." He said sternly. Maybe he was pushing him away, but he couldn't handle anybody's pity right now. Especially from children who don't understand. And Naruto definitely doesn't.

Maybe it was the fever or something else but Naruto accepted the words as a challenge. He stepped closer until he could physically feel the heat radiating off of the man. And wrapped his arms loosely around his shoulders in a hug.

Kakashi immediately grabbed the boys arms to remove them but found he didn't have the motivation to. Naruto took that as a cue to tighten his embrace. He lost track of time while they sat there like that. His eyes became blurry and suddenly his body felt like it was floating and his shoulder hit the floor.

Kakashi jumped when Naruto fell to the side. He cursed when he noticed how red the boys face was. It was too soon for him to be moving around in his condition.

"K-kashi-sensei...I don't feel so good" Naruto mumbled as he failed to sit back up. He could barely see the outline of the older man. Kakashi picked him up bridal style, completely ignoring the excruciating pain shooting up his arm. He gently placed the boy back on the bed.

"Sensei...why did you hurt yourself?" Kakashi froze at the question. Yet Naruto continued. "I don't want you to hurt anymore." Naruto could feel tears welling up in his eyes, but maybe it was the fever's fault that he felt so emotional.

"I think I get it Sensei." He mumbled again, softly running his fingers down his wrist. Delirium was kicking in and before he opened his mouth, he could tell the boy had fallen asleep again.

He sighed. The boy is more trouble than he's worth. He should just dump him off on Iruka. Out of sight, out of mind. He sighed again for good measure. He stood up and glanced down at his mangled wrist. Maybe his method was too noticeable.

He needed something else. Something like...he immediately reminded himself of his younger days. When he would take on any suicide mission, because no matter how many times people asked his answer was always the same. Nobody was waiting for him at home. 

He'd ask to join Anbu again. There are plenty of capable jounins that could captain team seven. And yet. The thought of leaving those three felt more painful than his wounds. He shouldn't be able to feel like this anymore. Everyone he had ever loved was dead. And so was he...on the inside.

But...that boy had stirred something when his tiny arms tried to comfort him. Maybe it was guilt. Or the nostalgic feeling behind those eyes. He thought of the Yondaime. His sensei, who would shuffle his hair gently and give him a gentle smile, a warm feeling spread in his chest.

A strange warmth that lingered and wove its way around his heart. He could feel a tug against his lips and almost felt his resolve crack. But that warm feeling was replaced by an ugly dark thing that enveloped him like a cloak.

Guilt reminded him that he wasn't allowed to smile, if they couldn't. He wasn't allowed to feel warmth, and he definitely wasn't allowed to feel happiness. If he needed something to do, atoning for his sins was the only answer.

He turned away from the boy sleeping on his bed and returned to the bathroom. He would shower, redress his wound properly and make something to eat. He didn't dare think about his punishment yet. He didn't want Naruto to know.

____

He was sitting at his desk slowly eating. A groan interrupted his quiet contemplation and he froze. Was it already that time? He couldn't do it again, absolutely not. He would die of a heart attack. He glanced at the foreboding pile of boxes sitting to the side minus five capsules. 

He turned in his chair and watched Naruto struggle to sit up as he blinked away the last whispers of sleep. It was early afternoon now, the sunlight filtering through the closed curtains. Naruto yawned and stared blankly at nothing in particular.

Naruto stretched his body out taut and winced at the soreness in his muscles. And finally acknowledged the other man in the room. He gave him a cheeky grin and hopped out of bed. He glomped him in a tight hug and almost got away with it.

Kakashi choked on the bit of food stuck in his throat and yanked the boys arms off of him. He flipped him over his shoulder and pinned him to the ground by his arm. "Don't do that." He said, a tight strain on his voice. The awkward position twisted Naruto's arm at a strange angle and he yelped in pain.

"Okay, okay! I'm sorry, let go!" Naruto squealed, tapping the floor repeatedly. Kakashi frowned, but removed his hand anyways, wincing when Naruto grabbed his wrist. He inspected the bandages closely and Kakashi yanked his arm out of his reach. He gave a sad smile and spoke. "I think I get it."

"Oh? And what would that be Naruto?" Kakashi feigned innocence, he really didn't want to have this conversation. Naruto was known for his heartfelt speeches. And he really didn't need it.

"You're in a lot of pain. And you don't know how to escape it. You want to keep it hidden, a secret." He gave Kakashi a fierce look, and a part of him wanted to accept that answer. But it just wasn't that simple.

"Do I look like I'm in pain to you?" Kakashi countered, crossing his arms tightly and glowering at the blonde sitting on the floor. The black shirt swallowed him so his legs were a stark contrast against it. Kakashi's voice caught at the end of his question.

Naruto hid his face and was silent for awhile. But then jumped to his feet. A blinding smile on his face. "Let's train today Sensei. I learned this totally cool new jutsu and I want to show you!" Leave it to Naruto to randomly change the subject.

Kakashi eyed him warily, but the boy seemed to be fine now. He uncrossed his arms and stood from the desk. He then steered Naruto to take his place and spoke. "Fine, but you are eating first. And you're not going to complain that there is no ramen. Got it?" 

Kakashi gave Naruto an infamous eye smile and placed a plate of ohitashi and a bowl of kenchinjiru in front of him. Naruto gave a dissatisfied pout, but picked up his chopsticks anyways.

"Why is there only vegetables Kakashi-sensei?!" Naruto make a face when he chewed on the boiled greens and Kakashi sighed heavily. "Because you need to eat something other than ramen Naruto." He left the room and returned with Naruto's dry jumpsuit.

"Finish eating that, then go wash up." Kakashi made his bed and picked up one of the picture frames to study it. He needed to visit the memorial today. He had his hands full with a certain knucklehead, but he would make time.

"Um...Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto held up one of the boxes of suppositories and gave him a confused look. "What are these for? I don't remember taking any medicine?" Kakashi couldn't be more mortified. He snatched it out of his hand and grabbed the other boxes and threw them in the trash.

"Nothing. Don't worry about it." He tried to hide his panic by grabbing the empty plate in front on Naruto and went to wash it. Naruto's confused look stayed in place and he scratched to side of his head.

"Huh?" Naruto gulped down the kenchinjiru and went to find Kakashi in the kitchen. He handed him the bowl and chopsticks, and glanced down at Kakashi's wrist. The bandages were clean. Which meant no new wounds. He smiled sadly and turned back to the room to take a quick shower.

He grabbed his orange jumpsuit and closed the door. He was suspicious after last night, when he detected a copious amout of blood in the air. He searched the immaculate, sparkly bathroom and spotted a lone kunai sitting on the edge of the vanity.

'So that's what he used.' Naruto thought. He picked it up and turned it around in his hands, inspecting it. It was spotless. He opened the cabinets below the sink and found the medical kit. He opened it and took note of the amount of supplies. It looked fully stocked.

'Was it a dream?' He turned around and looked closely at the walls, trying to find any indication that last night actually happened. There was nothing unusual about the set up that suggested there was anything hidden. However.

'Aha!' He spotted a splatter of blood on the bottom edge of the cabinets. There was also the strong distinct smell of antiseptic in the air. Nodding to himself, he accepted the evidence portrayed in front of him and peeled off the loose shirt from his torso. 

He froze, remembering he had no change of underwear. He would have to go commando. He bit his lip and tugged his underwear off, suprised at the alarming amount of sweaty dampness he had somehow ignored.

Well he was sort of sick, so it kind of made sense. He tossed both articles of clothing into the hamper and washed his body throughly.

____

Kakashi stared at the clock, an unfamiliar urge to hurry up settling in his bones. Naruto had spent over half an hour in the bathroom. And had yet to emerge. He had dressed in his jounin uniform earlier, restlessly tying his hitai-ate, finding it uncomfortable, and then retying it repeatedly.

He twitched at every tick of the clock and jerked at every sound from outside his window. He succumbed to boredom pretty quickly, yet hesitated to bring out his beloved books. 

He let his mind wander and he immediately regretted it. Why did he think of 'that'. He administered four more suppositories after the initial first and he hated every second of it. So why did he think of that as soon as he dropped his guard.

His inner turmoil was cut short when Naruto opened the bathroom door. He rubbed a hand through his damp hair and searched around for his shoes. After putting them on he gave the silver haired man a thumbs up and stood by the door, waiting for him.

They left the building and walked towards team seven's training ground. Looking at Kakashi you wouldn't notice a single strand of hair out of place. Yet Naruto noticed all of the hidden cues the man had to offer. 

A slight curve in his spine suggested he was holding his shoulders tensely, his elbows locked against his sides. He held his left arm a little higher and a little tighter than the right. His normal lazy disposition was nowhere to be seen, instead he looked like he was ready to be ambushed. 

His Sensei always had his nose in one of the books that Pervy Sage wrote, while one hand was in a pocket. He would walk in a casual slouch and yet...The book was still nestled deep in his supply pouch and his hands were clenched in fists at his sides. 

As soon as the training field came into view Naruto ran on ahead and Kakashi let out the breath he was holding. He relaxed his hands and felt tingles in all ten fingers as his blood circulation flowed again.

He walked past Naruto and stood in front of the memorial. He lifted a hand and brushed his fingers down the polished stone stopping at those he had lost in the last war. He sighed and turned around when Naruto shouted his name. 

His eyes shot wide and he stumbled back at the swirling ball of blue chakra his student had in his hand. He couldn't believe it. Where on earth did he learn that jutsu. He was only asleep for a week.

...Jiraiya. That bastard. Did he not actually think about the consequences of teaching this to Naruto of all people. He was flabbergasted and strode over to Naruto. He was fucking pissed. "Naruto..." He started, rage clear in his eyes.

"Where the hell did you learn the Rasengan!" He growled. Naruto stared at him in shock, the moment distracted him and dispelling both his clone and the rasengan.

Chapter Text

Naruto stepped back in fear, his frame shook when Kakashi clenched his fist and angrily pointed his finger at him. "I won't ask again, Naruto. Where did you learn it?" He spat, his eye sharpened with unbridled rage.

"P-pervy sage taught it to me when we left to find Granny Tsunade..." He whimpered, finding himself backed into a tree. He had no clue why his teacher was so pissed. He flinched when Kakashi grabbed him by the front of his jumpsuit and pulled him off his feet.

"Did he say anything about its creator? Anything at all?" He spoke through he teeth, his jaw clenched tightly. This was a breach of S-class information. Jiraiya had to have broken a law somewhere. Naruto shifted his eyes to the side and murmured under his breath.

"What?!" Kakashi couldn't understand his mumblings at all. Naruto met his gaze briefly, confusion clouding his eyes. Naruto spoke a little louder this time grabbing Kakashi's fist around his jacket.

"He said it was the Yondaime's jutsu! And that he was his student, and that it took him three years to perfect it. That's all he said, I swear!" Naruto shouted, half-heartedly trying to rip himself out of the Copy-nin's grasp. Unshed tears pooled in his blue eyes, frustration as clear as day.

Kakashi deflated, he had momentarily forgotten just exactly who was on the other side of his anger. He didn't know anything significant enough to count as dangerous. Yet he knew somewhere along those lines, if he was too lenient, something could pass under his nose.

"That's all he said? You're certain?" Kakashi loosened his grip and allowed Naruto's feet to support him on the ground again, but still held onto his orange jacket. "Um...I think so." Naruto grumbled, closing his eyes to try and remember what exactly he could remember about his training.

All he could think of was the lecherous face of his mentor, and the treacherous hours of training he had endured. 

The silver-haired jonin stared at his face searching it for any sign of hesitation. "Well either way. This is an A-class jutsu. A dangerous jutsu that not just anybody can use Naruto. Not only due to the destructive power behind it but that it drains on your chakra reserves immensely." 

'Not that that is an actual problem for you Naruto.'

"That's why I don't want you using it unless it's for a last resort." Kakashi sighed heavily, the tension leaving his body in waves until he felt exhausted standing on his feet. His fingers uncurled themselves from around the boy's white collar.

Naruto face darkened and he didn't dare move, fearing Kakashi might lash out. The man turned and with one glance at the memorial stone, walked away towards the village. With the awkward atmosphere surrounding them now,  they both felt uncomfortable in each other's company.

Dark eyes followed the older man, from several feet away. The Copy-nin weaved around the citizens of Konoha, aiming to find some solace from the darkness brooding in his mind. He was interrupted from his thoughts when a loud boisterous laugh echoed around him.

Standing there was his self-imposed rival. He was talking to his team, Lee still missing of course. He clicked his tongue and turned around to run away. Naruto was nowhere to be seen. He was so sure the genin would be behind him, determined to not leave his side. 

He sighed for the millionth time and started backtracking. He sensed his chakra signature weakly, and that of another person. He pursed his lips in thought. He wanted to be alone at the moment. To give himself a moment's reprieve, to think.

His bit his thumb and slammed on the ground in front of him, summoning one of his trained ninken. Pakkun stared at him with lazy eyes and waited for his Master's command. "Go find Naruto and tell him to go home." Kakashi turned and walked away, in the direction of his apartment.

Pakkun watched as his Master walked away and shook his head. To use his summoning contract for a simple errand such as this....

He sniffed the air finding the blonde's scent pretty quickly. Upon entering the wooded area the fur on his body stood on end. The air seemed denser than usual, like that before a lightning bolt would strike the earth. He was getting a bad feeling. A chirping sound became clearer as he ran towards them.

The scene he took in was shocking. Sasuke poised behind Naruto, his arm shoved through his shoulder. He needed to alert Kakashi about this immediately. He howled as loud as he could hoping his master would get the hint.

Blood dripped down Sasuke's arm and he grit his teeth in pain when a couple broken ribs sliced open his arm as he ripped it out.

Naruto spluttered, and grab at his chest as the gaping hole slowly healed itself, but the excruciating pain remained. He coughed up an enormous amount of blood and fell to his knees in front of Sasuke, losing the energy to stand.

"Huh? Sasuke! Why did you...?" The dark haired genin remained silent and turned around to avoid the emotions that threatened to spill out.

"I am going to kill you." Sasuke spoke quietly, trying not to let his voice tremble. 'I don't understand what he wants with this loser.' Sasuke growled.

Naruto was deathly quiet for a moment and then red chakra started bubbling around him, scorching tendrils burning the air. He opened his eyes and glared at the back of his so-called comrade with blood red slitted pupils.

"I need more power. And to gain it, you need to die! You wouldn't understand why because you're stupid. God you are so weak it's pathetic." Sasuke clenched his hand into a fist and turned back around, aiming a punch at Naruto's face.

He recoiled in shock when Naruto caught his fist, crushing his fingers painfully tight. He fearfully recollected the last time he saw those eyes, back in the Chunin Exams. '"You're not hurt are you, scaredy cat?"'

"Damn it, let go!?" Sasuke face paled when Naruto crushed his fingers, effectively breaking his entire hand. "I don't understand what's going on...but the Sasuke I know would never attack his teammates out of the blue like this!" He yanked Sasuke's arm roughly and punched him in the stomach. The Uchiha spit some blood out of his mouth and felt darkness grip the edges of his vision.

'Where did this strength come from!?' Sasuke thought as he flew backwards, crashing through a few trees. He landed a few feet from the Memorial Stone. He struggled to pick himself up. He barely got his torso off the ground before he was hurled into the air by Naruto's brutal kick. He braced himself from the barrage of kicks to his body and waited for a brief opening.

He activated his Sharingan and found that Naruto was just too fast for him. He was propelled into the ground by Naruto when he grabbed him by the ankles and threw him towards the earth below.

Naruto landed on all fours a couple yards, viciously growling. The red aura was now fox-shaped, long ears and a tail suddenly appearing. Sasuke stood and smirked at the blonde. While he may not have monstrous abilities, he had a repertoire of clan jutsu's at his disposal.

He breathed in and aimed his infamous Fireball jutsu at Naruto, hoping to distract him enough so that he can use his Chidori a second time. A red claw cleaved through the fireball revealing Naruto sprinting toward him with a blue sphere of dense chakra, spinning chaotically in his hand.

Suddenly both genin's wrists were grabbed and thrown in opposite directions. Kakashi stood, an eerily calm facade hiding a simmering rage underneath. Both boys collided against a tree and dispelled their jutsus, yet Naruto remained in his kyuubi form. He stood abruptly and flew at Kakashi ignoring the unconcious raven. 

Kakashi barely had time to lift his hitai-ate and block the attacks from the blonde. He cursed as the red chakra licked his skin, burning him. He kicked him swiftly across the field and urgently pulled his summoning scroll from his flak jacket. He summoned all of his ninken and finally pinned Naruto where he stood.

The jinchuriki growled at the silver-haired man as he hit the side of his neck with all of his force roughly, knocking him unconscious.

Kakashi hesitated but ultimately sent Pakkun to carry an urgent message to the Hokage about the incident, asking her to meet him at the hospital. This is exactly the reason why he didn't want Naruto to learn the jutsu at such a young age.

He was hot-headed and unpredictable when he was provoked. This is also making him regret teaching Sasuke the Chidori. He had no clue that the young Uchiha would use it against his friends. Just what naive hope did he expect from this outcome?

When he heard the howling from Pakkun he didn't know what to think. He had thought that maybe Naruto had collapsed with a fever. Or something. But he was horrified when he saw what was unfolding before his eyes. A scene that starkingly resembled something on the battefield between enemies, not a friendly sparring match between two shinobi.

A gruesome scene flicked through his mind as he carried both students over his shoulders. He sprinted as fast as he could through the forest and shouted an unintelligible apology to the two Shinobi guarding the gates to the village.

He crashed through the doors of the hospital and Tsunade stood impatiently waiting for him. She gasped at their condition and rushed him into an empty room.

She started on Sasuke first, healing his burns, ruptured internal organs, several broken ribs, and broken hand. She wrapped his torso and hand in bandages and glanced over at the blonde brat, grimacing at the description that Pakkun gave her about their injuries. Especially Naruto's.

She unzipped his jacket preparing for the worst. Kakashi immediately paled. He didn't know why there was a very distinct scar to left of his heart, but he knew there was only two people who knew that jab. And he was one of them.

Sasuke was going to be in a world of punishment when he awoke. To injure a comrade on this scale is considered treasonous. Tsunade searched around to find any other wounds on Naruto and found nothing but a few bruises on the side of his neck. She shot Kakashi a questioning look but let it go. If she remembered correctly, Naruto was in Kyuubi mode. Almost nothing could stop him if he was out of control like that.

She sighed and used her chakra to sense if there was any internal damage. Finding nothing out of the ordinary she zipped his jacket up and left the room. Kakashi frowned and blinked away tears that threatened to escape. Why was he such a terrible teacher?

If he hadn't taught that stupid jutsu to Sasuke, Naruto wouldn't have....Ugh. Because he had the selfish desire to train a fellow prodigy with a lightning affinity. What a joke. Sasuke was nothing like him. He had promise, and Kakashi was a failure of a role model.

Tsunade entered the room again with a clipboard and filled out same paperwork. The Copy-nin sat brooding in a chair between the two beds and contemplated how he was going to punish himself for this almost fatal mistake.

Tsunade paused in her writing and stepped in front of the silver-haired man, clicking her tongue in disbelief. "You're burned. Why didn't you say anything?" She pointed at his charred wounds. He stared at his hands, distantly remembering the blistering heat of the nine-tail's chakra.

"It's fine, it doesn't hurt." He lied, in fact his body felt like he drowned in lava, but he wouldn't let the blonde Sannin know that. She leveled him with a blazing stare until he submitted his hand to her in defeat. 'This feels like deja vu....' 

She covered the third degree burns with green chakra and wrapped his wounds with gauze. He resembled something more like a mummy than a scarecrow after she was done. 

"I'm submitting you to a hospital bed." She glared at him when he opened his mouth to refuse. "Don't argue with me. Your wounds are extensive and I am not in the mood to deal with your stubborn ass." Kakashi grumbled and silently cursed the medical-nin. "Shut your mouth, you damn brat."

A knock on the door was the only announcement they got before Sakura stampeded through the room. "Sasuke?!" She whimpered and threw herself on top of his slumbering body, sobbing. "What happened to them? Why is Sasuke covered in bandages! Who hurt him!?"

Tsunade felt a migraine suddenly forming, wishing there was some kind of alcohol present. "There was an...incident." Kakashi winced at his lame answer. "Sakura wiped some of her tears and sat up confused.

"A-an incident? What do you mean Kakashi-sensei?" Kakashi wracked his brain to think of something to tell her that wouldn't cause her to over worry. "Ah, they got a little carried away in their...training." Sakura tilted her head to the side and put a finger to her lip, thinking.

"Was there supposed to be training today, Sensei? I didn't know..." And then she paused as she took in her teacher's state. Her eyes widened in disbelief and she stared at him in shock, mouth gaping like a fish. An awkward silence filled the room, making it hard to breathe.

"Did Sasuke put too much chakra in his jutsu?" The pink-haired girl asked, trying to understand the situation. Little did she know. She either put too much trust in Naruto, or she was severely underestimating him.

"Umm...that's not the case." Tsunade couldn't stand to be in the room with this idiocy of a team. She put a gentle hand on Sakura's arm and forced a smile on her face. "Why don't you go back to your training, hmm? We will let you know if there are any updates." 

Sakura shrunk into herself. "But..." Tsunade's smile cracked a bit. These damned brats were really getting on her nerves. "What do you think you can accomplish here? Sitting here sobbing won't solve anything. I've already healed them to the best of my abilities, and what they need now is rest. Now Sakura...Don't make me repeat myself. Go!"

Sakura sullenly accepted and left the room shakily. Kakashi felt pity for her but ultimately, what Tsunade said was right. And maybe this would push her in the right direction. He shuffled in his seat and groaned. A searing pain jolted down his thigh.
 
The pain was worth it. It was a small price to pay, to stop them from killing eachother. However he would definitely feel this pain for a couple weeks at least. Tsunade tapped her foot impatiently, waiting for Kakashi. He slowly stood and followed her into another room, slumping against the bed as she rummaged around for something.

She shoved a familiar bottle into his hands and pointed a finger at him. "Last time you were here, you forgot to take the medicine I painstakingly made for you." She sighed, bracing her hands against her hips. He shot a glance in her direction, a silent request filling the air.

She threw her hands in the air and left the room, mumbling something about needing sake. He pulled his mask down and chugged down the saccharine liquid, disgust filling his features. Why did it have to be so damn sweet?

He felt a warm sensation spread throughout his body. He felt light and distant. And sleep pulled at him, gnawing at his subconcious. The last image that flit across his mind was that of a sleeping boy curled around a pillow under a shuriken printed comforter.

Chapter Text

Sasuke stared down at the unblemished face of his rival. Such a calm, serene sleep that he must be having, while the dark haired boy sat contemplating his actions. He had been reckless, something he never did. The blonde idiot must be rubbing off on him. He didn't want to go this route but the stone...An underlying choice had been made but he didn't know that yet.

He shook his head angrily, regret numbing the back of his mind. He shouldn't have listened to the words of that...man. He shouldn't have tried to...'kill' him. He needed power to obtain his Mangekyo to find answers to his questions, and to avenge his clan. But this path he had taken was twisted. 

The words inscribed on that tablet only spoke in stupid riddles. 'To awaken the Mangekyo, one must lose that which they cherish most.' Such a cryptic message. Sasuke cherished nothing. Save for the pseudo family that had adopted him. Kakashi was nothing like a father figure, more like that one weird uncle. Sakura was complicated, the more time he spent with her the more confused he became. She was...something. And Naruto...

Naruto was the brother he could never have. The best friend that he could almost tell everything to, but he never came close to revealing anything. His walls were too high and too much. Too hidden. His rival though...that he could understand. He had a certain something that he couldn't place. But when they connected through fists, it was as if words didn't need to be spoken.

All the more reason for those bonds to be severed. He did not belong along those that walked towards the light. His entire being was sheltered in the darkness, no matter how much he tried to deny it. He had failed in his attempt at awakening his Mangekyo the way his brother Itachi had ordered him to. No....he would not take anymore orders from that traitor. He would find another way.

A sudden chill came over him as he turned to stare out the hospital window. Something had made its presence known and he had assumed it would have been the familar ANBU soldier. Not at all it seemed. Red eyes with swirling black tomoes reflected back at him. But he didn't recognise those eyes. It can't be....

He shuddered at the killing intent that penetrated the air. That face was covered in black, but the eyes....it was no mistake. Itachi. But...how? Sasuke gulped in fear, the curse mark burning in pain.

Shadows danced across the walls in the moonlight. Flickering inky things that traveled across the walls and ceiling. And then he noticed the heat from those shadows. These weren't shadows at all, but instead flames that licked against anything it touched. 

He panicked and a silent scream tore from his throat as the man walked through the black flames. He paid Sasuke no attention. Spared him him no lingering glances.

Not it was Naruto he wanted. Sasuke needed to move, to protect him, but he was paralyzed where he lay. He was beaten and bruised. Broken and bleeding. Naruto had made sure of that. But still, he needed to get up and fight. He didn't stand a chance in hell, but he would die trying. 

'Don't!' He thought. 'Don't take away any more of my family.' And it was that thought that pushed him to the edge. He grit his teeth and against all of the excruciating agony that wracked his body he threw himself in front of the older Uchiha.

Itachi watched in amusement, as his precious little brother attempted to guard the jinchuriki. 'Yes. This is good. This bond is growing stronger. It's a shame that it's too late though.' Itachi picked the young boy up by the back of his shirt and flung him across the room like nothing.

He turned back to the slumbering blonde and picked him up gently. He cradled his small body against his chest and without a sound shunshinned outside the hospital, back to his partner. Naruto's name was breathed before darkness swallowed Sasuke's conciousness.

Chapter Text

Chaos comes in all forms. And in that moment Kakashi Hatake was trying not to destroy anything that stood in his way. He was going to go on a rampage and it took all of his strength not to kill the wrong people. 

He was rudely awoken from his peaceful dreamscape by Tsunade shaking him awake. He felt like his world had shattered. He struggled to comprehend exactly why he wasn't allowed to leave the village at this current moment. When it was crucial that they rescue Naruto as soon as possible.

Tsunade had expected Kakashi to go berserk when she explained to him what happened. But he didn't. Then she proceeded to tell him that he wasn't cleared to leave the village on ANY mission let alone a dangerous mission to rescue the jinchuriki from the Akatsuki and possibly eliminate any threats along the way. Which she thought she'd have to keep reminding the man that he was not going to be a part of. But he never said a word.

She didn't understand the lack of reaction that he was having. But this was Kakashi Hatake. The ex ANBU had basically acted like he was emotionless since the day he was born. Kakashi had been too quiet and too calm. An ANBU member exchanged glances with Tsunade and the tension in the room became unbearable. 

"Maa, you can release me at anytime, I can heal just as fast while I'm at home." Kakashi said, a cool mask in place as he scratched his hair. He slowly stepped out of bed and motioned to the window. Which led them to their current predicament. It all happened so fast, neither could catch him as he made his stealthy escape using a shunshin. 

After stopping by his apartment quickly and grabbing the essentials for his mission, he left for the edge of the village. Upon his destination, he became cautious when nobody seemed to have been sent to stop him as he came to the village gates. That is until he actually passed through them. 

"And just where do you think your going Senpai?" Kakashi whipped his kunai out, ready to attack, and stopped short at the familiar mask. "Tenzou." Kakashi stated, strengthening his stance.

"You know what happens when you leave the village like this. Especially under these circumstances. I can't just let you leave. Sorry...it's nothing personal. Hokage's orders." Tenzou pushed off from the wall where he was leaning and held his hand out in front of him, ready to use his wood style.

"Can't I just go for a stroll?" Kakashi argued back. The ANBU member laughed softly.

"Do you really need that many supplies to go for a leisurely walk?" Tenzou raised his eyebrows in an accusing manner. Kakashi smirked and walked past him, tensing his arms. He kept his body facing towards him, walking backwards away from his comrade and the village.

Tenzou sighed, as he realized he wasn't going to be able to change Kakashi's mind. His lips twitched when he thought of the hysteria Tsunade would cause when she'd find out. That woman was going to have a conniption fit. She might even kill them both when they returned.

Here was Tenzou, wearing an ANBU issued cat motif mask. With two red crescent moons around his eyes and two curving black stripes on each side of them. And then there was him, wearing a burned Jounin uniform and covered in bandages, looking worse for wear.

Kakashi had actually laughed then, a high pitched murderous sound that bubbled up. Why were they standing there just staring at each other? They were losing time by the seconds. He bit his thumb as he pulled a summoning scroll from his flak jacket.

When his team of ninken appeared and he commanded them to scatter, they immediately caught a whiff of the blonde's scent. Without so much as a second glance at Tenzou, he sped off, determined to rescue his precious student.

The masked ninja followed closely behind and Kakashi tried not to think of his old ANBU days. When he said he wanted to return, 'this' wasn't what he had in mind. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Naruto was supposed to be safe. Jiraiya had promised him that before he left. 

First Jiraiya shows up out of the blue and doesn't get involved when Orochimaru storms the village in a full-frontal attack. Then he teaches Naruto an A-class jutsu that he uses against his comrade and nearly kills him. And now...Naruto's missing because an Akatsuki member he was supposed to be keeping track of kidnapped him. 

He shakes his head in seething anger. It was no use letting his emotions prey on his mind. He needed to think and strategize a plan. He needed to take into account the amount of time and distance it took for Itachi to get away. It was around early afternoon, they could be anywhere in the world for all he knew.

After a couple of hours, off in the distance he saw his ninken surrounding a familiar piece of clothing. Naruto's jacket. He stooped to pick it up and clutched the fabric in his fists, his chest burning with guilt when he remembered what happened the last time he held this jacket.

He wish he never acted like that. Why was he such an asshole? Naruto didn't deserve to be treated like that. Nobody did. His hid his face in the orange cloth to muffle the scream that threatened to rip out of his throat. He stood like that for a moment before someone cleared their throat in awkward silence.

He breathed in Naruto's scent to calm himself before folding it carefully and tucking it inside his pack. He nodded to Tenzou and they continued on their way.

Night had fallen long ago and even though Kakashi was adamant to continue on, Tenzou was sluggish and falling behind. He wistled to the pack and they started setting up camp. The decided to forgo a fire. They knew that light would be dangerous, it might attract unwanted attention. Kakashi took first watch and allowed his comrade some vestige of sleep. He sat on a high limb, deep in the trees and scanned the dark horizon. 

The sun hadn't rose yet, but it was close. Kakashi couldn't say if he was well rested or not but he would walk until he collapsed from exhaustion.

There was a slight breeze and while it wasn't that strange there had been no wind at all that day. Kakashi tensed at the strange scent it carried and suddenly he was staring in paralyzed shock at the dozen of crows that circled him.

One by one they landed at his feet and he felt a heavy presence as they merged together. He stilled his breath, as he didn't want to give any indication that he was actually caught off guard. The clone revealed itself to be that of one Itachi Uchiha. Kakashi found himself frozen in fear and immediately closed his eyes. He brought his hand down to grab a kunai but froze when the man started speaking.

"There was a reason, that I took it upon myself to take the kyuubi. Listen to me before you decide to attack." The silver haired jounin scowled but kept silent. Itachi took that as acceptance. "Danzo has spoken to the council. He seems to think that Naruto is a liability and therefore has ordered Root to execute him quietly before he 'loses control'." The dark haired rogue paused, letting the information sink in.

"This boy is precious to Sasuke, so it would seem to me he is very important. I will do good by my brother, but Naruto is simply not safe in Konohagakure anymore. You wouldn't put your student's life in jeopardy, would you?" Kakashi was floored. This was unbelievable. Danzo had called for Naruto's head? Root was still around? 

Just where in the world did Itachi get this information? "I can protect my own students, Itachi.  Why should I believe you? What do you get out of this?" Kakashi opened his eye but didn't dare look up in fear of being trapped in that god forsaken genjutsu. He itched to grab a kunai, anything to put distance between himself and the missing nin.

"Like I said, he is an important person to Sasuke. There will be a time when his life will be very useful to him. I am just ensuring he will live for that moment. As for the details, I wasn't in ANBU for nothing. You of all people should know that, Wolf." Kakashi gave him a skeptical look and sighed.

"Believe me or don't, but you and I both know that Danzo is not to be trusted. If you can guarantee that Naruto's safety is your first priority then I will tell you where he is." Kakashi shot his eye up to meet Itachi's. He found nothing but concern swimming in those eyes.

"I thought we were enemies. Why would you give me his location?" Kakashi looked over his shoulder. The sun had started to rise, splashing reds and oranges across the sky. Kakashi glanced down to the tent that Tenzou was sleeping in. Could he trust him? Maybe...or maybe not. He needed to go alone to make sure this wasn't a trap.

"Because you love him, don't you." It wasn't a question but a statement. And Kakashi stared at him in slight awareness, a light bubbly feeling filling his chest, leaving him breathless. 

"Or at the very least he is very precious to you. I've never seen you act this way before." Itachi closed his eyes and shrugged. "Like a brother, right?" He watched him, and suddenly it all made sense. 

"Like a brother." Kakashi echoed, a slight smile on his lips. Itachi must have liked what he had seen because he pulled out a scroll and handed it to him. "This conversation stays between us, I don't trust anybody else but you. 'Only' you." He emphasized. And with that his form exploded into a hundred crows and Kakashi felt all the dread and tension leave his body.

He cautiously stared at the intricate seal that kept the scroll closed and remembered just how much Itachi was fond of fuuinjutsu. Just like his sensei. He pulled his hitai-ate up and opened his left eye. The seal had broken just like old times, an odd reminder of Team Ro. 

He stared in dismay when he saw the single name that was written there. Jiraiya. Of course it would be Jiraiya. He was Naruto's godfather. God damn it. Kakashi couldn't tell if he was jealous or angry or...something. Disappointed that it wasn't him.

That Naruto might prefer his presence over Kakashi's. Maybe. He had a personal mission to accomplish however. He needed to confirm that Naruto was okay. That he was right where he was supposed to be. That he was safe.

He suppressed his chakra to a miniscule amount, and shunshinned below to gather his things. He needed to leave without the ANBU. He may not belong to Root anymore...but he would still have to report to the Hokage about everything. And he couldn't risk Danzo suspecting anything.

He took one last look at his former teammate and sped off. It would take half a day to reach Jiraiya. And he needed to see for himself, before he went insane. He waited until he was at least a town away before he pulled Naruto's coat out of his pack and summoned Pakkun. 

He whispered about the situation and that they needed stealth on their side. Pakkun was worried about the wild look in his Master's eye but conceded and they followed the trail from the shadows. Kakashi couldn't remember the last time he felt this satisfied about a mission and smiled as he thought of Naruto and his sunny disposition.

It had been a long time since he felt any semblance of emotion. While he may have normally punish himself for this, losing Naruto was punishment enough. The long list of those he lost suffocated him, he wasn't about to add his student to that list. He steeled himself with determination and reminded himself of his personal vow. He spoke the words under his breath so he wouldn't forget.

"Those who break the rules are scum, but those who abandon their friends are worse than scum."

Chapter Text

Jiraiya threw back his shot of sake and rested his arms on the slender shoulders of two beautiful women. He was enjoying the lovely view of scantily clad breasts when a familiar silver crop of hair dropped in front of his feet. 

"I finally...found you..." Jiraiya stared in confusion at the apparently sleeping man, before apologizing to his benevolent hosts. He picked up the man by his arms and carried him back to his hotel room. 

What was he going to do with two unconcious people? Normally he wouldn't mind, it would give him more time for 'research'. But the question still remains. Why were they in 'his' custody? He was still shocked when he randomly awoke one day to a slumbering Naruto laying beside him. And then became worried when it became apparent that he was in a coma.

He unceremoniously dropped Kakashi face down next to Naruto and took in his condition. The man was covered head to toe in bandages and from the looks of things had quite the journey.

He took the pack off Kakashi's back and left the room. He decided to head back into town to get more information on the Akatsuki. This was going to be troublesome. He left the brat in the village for a reason. Dragging these two around will be a pain in the ass.
_____

Sasuke jolted up, tensed and ready to attack. Yet he sat in an empty room. The slight darkness in the room seemed to suggest that a lot of time had passed and day was turning into dusk. He surveyed the room, ignoring the overwhelming disappointment that Sakura was not by his side. And neither was Naruto.

Guilt crashed into him and he grit his jaw against the onslaught of other emotions. Anger. Despair. Fear. Loneliness. Itachi just kept taking and taking. When would he stop? Until there was nothing left but an empty husk? 

He tried not to let himself get swept away but when you live with nobody but yourself and the brewing hatred of everything around you. It gets difficult. Extremely difficult. 

He was useless. He couldn't even protect Naruto. 

He stood from the bed and dragged his useless body over to the door. He wasn't escaping so to speak. Just...needed some fresh air. He climbed the stairs to the roof and stared at the sunset spilling across the sky.

A voice startled him and he poised, ready to pounce.

"Haha! Sasuke, do not be afraid I only wish to ask you a favor." A boy clad in a green bodysuit, was limping towards him, a crutch cushioned under his arm. Sasuke eyed him warily but dropped his tense posture.

"What could you possibly need from me?" Sasuke crossed his arms and turned back to admiring the kaleidoscope of colors. The boy was soon at his side and went silent for a moment his face unreadable.

"Please tell Sakura that I appreciate her kind gesture. And also that I will continue to do my best to train harder than ever to get back to my full strength. Her support is all I need!" Lee spoke with fire in his eyes, and glanced at Sasuke gauging his reaction.

Sasuke flushed and scoffed under his breath. 'What the hell?! Is this guy dumber than Naruto? Last I checked the Hokage said he'd never be a ninja again. How could he keep up that kind of enthusiasm?' 

"Whatever." He slid past Lee and went to walk back down the stairs, but Lee grabbed his arm. "Is it true?" He asked vaguely. Sasuke thought he knew exactly what he was asking. "Yeah, what of it?" But apparently that was the wrong answer because Lee dropped his crutch and grabbed Sasuke roughly by the shoulders.

"It can not be true. No I don't believe you. Naruto wouldn't do such a thing! We are both shinobi of the Leaf Village. The Naruto we know would never kill anyone in cold blood." At this, Sasuke felt all the air in his lungs get sucked out of his body. And he couldn't breathe. What did he mean by 'kill in cold blood'?

Who did Naruto kill? What happened while he was recovering? He was about to ask but a tug on his shirt made him turn his head. 

Sakura tried not to shed her tears. She kept her eyes downcast as she pulled on Sasuke's shirt gently to get his attention. She didn't trust herself to speak yet. She didn't, couldn't speak the words she really wanted to. She curled her hand against her teeth, gnawing on her already raw, bleeding nails.

The unspoken words were painful. And Sasuke found he didn't want to hear anymore. Who did he kill? Why did he do it? All the unanswered questions he had and nobody to tell him.

He doesn't even know him that well. He thought he did but...he didn't know anymore. He angrily shook off the hands of Lee and Sakura and stormed back to his room. He didn't even remember getting to the hospital. He remembered glimpses of Kakashi-sensei and then...that's right. Itachi. That sadistic bastard.

He was gonna kill him. Did Naruto kill Itachi? That would mean that the reason for his revenge was gone and he would no longer have a purpose in life. But if he didn't...where was he? Where was Naruto? Where was Kakashi-sensei? 

An ANBU squad walked in the room along with an older man covered in bandages. Who? And why was he strangely familiar. His eerie piercing stare gave him chills and he flinched when the man held out a bandaged hand to him. He felt the hair on his neck stand on end and a heavy dark atmosphere weighed him down.

"My name is Danzo Shimura. I am in understanding that you are in need of power. I have a little proposition for you." Sasuke immediately perked up at that. He would hear what this man had to say. Anything for power. 'Anything.'
_____

Tsunade was sitting at her desk nursing a headache when Sakura burst through the doors crying. She was spouting incoherently through sobs and Shizune had to hold her to calm her down.

She whispered under her breath and Shizune stiffened immediately. She shot Tsunade a wide eyed look and Tsunade swore under her breath. What now?! 

"Sakura...what is it this time? Surely after the last couple days you've exhausted every reason to cry? If you're going to do this every time you visit Sasuke, maybe I should forbid from going."

"Is...Is it true Lady Tsunade? Did Naruto really k-ki...ll...." She couldn't bring herself to finish her question. She felt sick to her stomach. 

"What? Is this some kind of joke? You know Naruto would never take a life. Who told you this?" Tsunade stood at the accusation. What the hell is happening in her village? Naruto wasn't even in the village to begin with. He had been kidnapped in the dead of night just two days ago.

"Hokage-sama." An ANBU soldier with a familiar cat motif mask shunshinned in front of her and she could feel her vein popping out of her head. "Shizune, see to it that Sakura gets some rest. You are both dismissed." Sakura's head shot up in defiance and she was about to protest but Tsunade slammed her fist on the desk. "Now!"

"Report!" Was the first word out of her mouth as the door slipped closed and she put up the privacy seals. Tenzou kept kneeling, fearing the words about to leave his mouth.

"Kakashi Hatake of the Hidden Leaf Village has fled. I lost track of him when he escaped under nightfall. We had stopped to make camp and..." Tsunade quirked her eyebrow in irritation. "We?"

Tenzou paled under his mask and gulped. "Um well you see I thought if I went with him, he might change his mind and..." Tsunade punched her desk again, interrupting him.

"Your orders were to keep him in the village. You allowed an SS-class Leaf shinobi to leave in a moment of crisis. You understand what that means correct? Kakashi Hatake is now a missing-nin, you idiot." She rubbed her eyebrow harshly and sighed.

"There is also another matter which should be dealt...with." Tsunade leveled him with a glare. "Speak." Tenzou shuddered at the killing intent the Sannin sent out. "A leaf shinobi was killed by the border. And...how do I say this? The one's that found them are claiming it was Naruto."

Tsunade stopped breathing. Trembling even. She knew that necklace was cursed. "Is this confirmed?" She said under her breath, fearing the answer. The ANBU paused for a moment. "It's hard to say considering the circumstances. The body has been burned beyond recogniton. They think it was the kyuubi." Tsunade felt sick. 

"Call for a council meeting immediately." She sat in silence, contemplating her life choices.

"Hokage-sama?" She stood from her desk and strode through the room, ignoring him. She found a hidden bottle of sake and poured two shots. She slammed one back and poured herself another. She nodded at the man to take the other. She lifted her's to her lips.

"I don't think Naruto killed anybody." Were the words that came out of his mouth before he knocked back the alcohol. Tsunade choked on the sweetness burning her throat. "What?!"

Chapter Text

Kakashi felt arms curled tightly around his stomach and it enveloped him in an intense heat that made him shiver. He weakly opened his eyes and looked down, gasping as if in pain. Not only was Naruto clingling to him, his face was pressed into his chest, snuggling him deeply. 

It reminded him that 'nobody' had ever held him like this. Feeling hot and suffocating he tried to move, he was no one's teddy bear, but Naruto strengthened his grip possessively. The motion only succeeded in rubbing his clothes roughly against healing burns.

He cringed at the sandpapery feel of his uniform and at the pain lacing his wounds. His limbs were somehow pinned to his sides underneath Naruto's grip. He sighed in defeat and decided to observe the boy cuddling him to death. His gaze drifted from unruly blonde hair to the arch of his brows, the curve of his nose, and the slight pout of his lips. The jut of his chin to the whisker mark like scars, to the fan of his long blonde eyelashes.

He twisted his arm free, and just barely let his fingers brush against his hair, hesitant to touch. He didn't want to stain him. He couldn't live with himself. His trembling had returned, albeit for a completely different reason than before. He tentatively tested his caution, petting the soft spikes gently. He barely noticed when hot tears blinded him and a choked sob erupted from his chest. He couldn't help himself and cradled Naruto's head to his chest in a tight embrace.

'He's safe.' Kakashi sighed to himself and freed his his other arm to return the tight embrace. A choking sound jolted him into striking awareness and he found himself staring into the eyes of a bewildered Jiraiya. He flushed deeply and immediately flailed around trying to escape Naruto's prison.

Jiraiya just bellowed with hearty laughter, wiping a few tears that threatened to escape. "Relax there Kakashi. Nobody's going to attack you from expressing your emotions. To be honest I didn't even know you had them." He then gave Kakashi a stern look as he sat down on the other side of Naruto. "But don't try anything funny, or I'll castrate you."

Kakashi was mortified, to be given a shovel talk when he wasn't even doing anything remotely sexual. He needed to get out of this boy's clutches. NOW! He found himself suddenly aware of legs, rather one leg that seemed insistant on cutting off the circulation in his lower extremities. 

Kakashi frowned when his student whimpered as he removed Naruto's arms from around his torso. A lone tear slid down his cheek and his eyebrows pinched together. "Nnno....." He quietly slurred as he struggled to wrap his arms back around the silver haired man.

Jiraiy tensed and turned around in blatant surprise. It was the first time the boy had spoken in four days. He watched curiously as Naruto was awkwardly comforted by the emotionally stunted jounin. It made him want to giggle. What an amazingly rare sight.

_____

Naruto felt the rough jostling and thought it strange that he could feel wind whipping at his face. He blinked his eyes open and he could see only darkness. Was he dead? That would make sense. Sasuke plunged his arm through his chest using Chidori.

He remembered flashes of anger and a sudden feral feeling of wanting to rip someone's throat out with his teeth. He shuddered at the memory. Either in horror or satisfaction he couldn't decipher. A shift in the hold on his body had him turning his head up. He felt his blood freeze. Itachi. What was going on?!

He started struggling to get as far away from the man as possible. He only succeeded in making him stop in his tracks. A voice next to him alerted Naruto that they weren't alone. "Oi, Itachi! Why'd we stop?" Naruto gulped at the cold familiar stare aimed directly at him.

"He's finally awake. Move on ahead Kisame. It will take some time to put him back to sleep." Itachi waited until they were fully alone before settling Naruto on the ground. Itachi summoned five clones before speaking. He surrounded Naruto in a tight circle.

"I don't expect you to trust me. But listen to me, your life is in danger, I have a personal mission to bring you somewhere safe. You can't return to the village even if you want to. Don't make this more difficult than it has to be." He spoke in a worried tone, confusing Naruto. Wasn't he an enemy?

"You're just trying to trick me! You're right! I don't trust you. Not a single bit. Not after what you did to Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto clenched his fists in front of his body, ready to attack. He brought his hands together to make the hand sign for his shadow clone technique and summoned 50 clones. Itachi didn't move a muscle.

"Kakashi? What is that supposed to mean? Ahh, you mean the Tsukuyomi? Did you want to see it for yourself?" Itachi smirked. Naruto screamed and the clones ran forward to attack with a volley of kicks and punches and Itachi dodged every single one.

'He's too slow.' Itachi thought as he cleaved through the multiple doppelgangers using his hand. After a solid minute the lone, real Naruto was huffing, having exhausted a lot of chakra. Perfect timing. Itachi summoned a crow, bearing a mangekyo sharingan. And it flew straight into Naruto's open mouth. 

Naruto panicked and clutched at his throat, air blocked from his lungs briefly. He felt like he was suffocating and choked on the feathers lodging themselves down his esophagus. 

Finally. He could finally breathe after that torture. He opened one of his eyes at the sound of footsteps approaching. He weakly stared as black painted toenails drifted in and out of his blurry vision.

"Naruto, look into my eyes." Despite his entire being fighting against it, he dragged his eyes up into the red and black of Itachi's Mangekyo Sharingan. Immediately he was aware he was in a strange place. A crimson moon hung in the sky and the atmosphere was all wrong. An echoing voice eerily called to him from the darkness. "You will stay here, in this nothingness, with nobody but yourself. Isolated and alone." Itachi's voice bounced around him distorted and coming from different locations all at once. He ran in the darkness and saw a silhouette of a person in front of him.

He felt relief and ran towards them only to crash into something. Glass? No...a mirror! He turned around and suddenly he was in an infinite reflection nightmare. Only he couldn't see himself, only an angry red eyes, with blood dripping fangs that wore his face. Everywhere he turned there was only the monster in the mirror multiplied to an eternity.

He screamed and begged for it to stop but Itachi's voice was the only thing to answer him. "One second has passed, only seventy-one hours, fifty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds to go."

Itachi pressed a hand to his right eye in pain as blood dripped down his cheek. He used too much chakra again. Naruto went still. He was hoping he didn't have to use his Tsukuyomi but now he had few options.

He needed Kakashi for his Plan B to work. Itachi removed the staple jacket off of the jinchuriki and tossed it on the ground. Knowing Kakashi, he'd rely on his tracking abilities and most likely his summons. Perfect bait.

Itachi picked Naruto up and threw him over his shoulder. He hurried back to his partner's side and they made their way back to Amegakure. But that's what Kisame thinks.

Another Itachi was carrying Naruto in his arms carefully, heading towards a large village about a day's travel away. He relied on his speed and hoped he made it there on time. 

It was around early morning and Itachi slipped into the legendary Sannin's room. He gently placed Naruto on the ground and tucked a small sealed scroll into one of his pants pockets. He gave him one last look and disappeared with the darkness.

Time for a reunion.

Chapter Text

Jiraiya stared at the scroll that somehow rolled out of Naruto's pocket. It was sealed with an intricate tag and none of his memory and expertise on fuuinjutsu helped him. For all he knew, it would trigger an explosion or something. Also just where the hell did Naruto get this? He definitely didn't know that kind of sealing technique. He scratched his head, and tapped Kakashi on the shoulder. Maybe he'd know something about it.

Kakashi had tried to move away from Naruto since that morning. He showered, dressed in fresh casual clothing, and was currently sitting at a low table writing on a blank scroll to send to the Hokage. In his lap was a still slumbering Naruto wrapped around him like an octopus. He had put up quite the fight when Kakashi tried to get up. He had to literally pry him off of his body. He felt extremely guilty when Naruto whimpered and curled in on himself. He almost said screw it and laid back down, just to ease the burning sensation in his chest. However he had urgent things he really needed to tend to.

He tried to write very scant details, just that he tracked Naruto and...How the hell was he going to explain the convoluted way that Jiraiya ended up with the knucklehead! He can't very well say that "Out of the goodness in his heart, Itachi rescued Naruto and returned him to the safety of Jiraiya's custody." Nor can he tell them the outrageous claim that Danzo called for Naruto's death. 

So he would write that he tracked and found Naruto in a village in the outskirts of the Land of Tea. A brazen abducter from an unknown origin had kidnapped him in the dead of night and has been dealt with. It had a lot of misconstrued information but...the truth was even more unbelievable. The fact that he was in league with a rogue ninja, especially Itachi Uchiha the Clan Killer, was an actual problem. Even if it was against that traitor Danzo.

Kakashi felt a tap on his shoulder and looked up to see a familiar scroll held out from Jiraiya's hand. His eyes widened in recognition and Jiraiya pulled the scroll away from his reach at the last moment.

"This...seal is unfamiliar to me, I'd ask if you had any clue, but it seems you've already answered my question. So spill. What is it?" Jiraiya cautiously watched him, a pensive frown displayed. Kakashi sighed, but guessed he had to tell him something.

"Maa that will take a hell of a lot of explaining...where do I start?" Kakashi said rubbing his chin in thought as he motioned for the toad sage to join him at the table.

"I don't know that much but I'll tell you as much as I can." So Kakashi spent the next hour or so retelling the events that led him to sprawling facedown at Jiraiya's feet in total chakra exhaustion. Minus the interaction between him and Itachi. "That's great and all but you never actually answered my question. What exactly is this sealed scroll and how do you know about it?" Jiraiya was barely believing anything coming out of the brat's mouth, but it was hard to deny that everything made perfect sense.

"Ahh that's quite easy. The Uchiha clan used these kinds of seals when in ANBU. It can only be opened with a certain kekkei genkai." Jiraiya gave Kakashi an icy stare. "You don't mean...?" Kakashi nodded tensely. "Yeah. They can only be opened with the Sharingan...and this one specifically can only be unsealed with a Mangekyo Sharingan."

Jiraiya tossed the scroll onto the table in mild irritation. "Then open it." Kakashi looked at Jiraiya with lazy eyes. "Didn't you hear me? I said it can only be released with a Mangekyo Sharingan." Jiraiya stood up from the table, staring down at the silver haired man with disdain. "Yeah yeah. I heard ya. I'm going out for a drink or two. Don't wait up on my account."

Kakashi watched as Jiraiya stormed out the door. Was the contents of the scroll that important to him? But Itachi clearly said he only trusted Kakashi.  He waited a solid ten minutes and opened his mask a bit to scent if anyone was around. He found only his and a heavy strong musk coming from Naruto.

He looked down at the blonde and frowned. He gently pet Naruto's head, his fingers combing through oily strands. How had he not noticed earlier? Right. The last time he had a shower was at his apartment six days ago. This boy deserves a proper bath.

He needed to open the scroll first though. He lifted his hitai-ate and aimed his Sharingan at the seal. The stiff parchment unfurled, revealing a written obscure mission report, some coordinates, and another MS seal. He unsealed that as well and allowed his teeth to clench as a wave of rage hit him.

Danzo had planned this out perfectly. First he would make it look like the Kyuubi had went on a murderous rampage killing innocents. Then he would try to gain the council's approval by calling for immediate action. Which would be the public execution of one Naruto Uzumaki. Thereby making Danzo out to be a great hero once again. 

"Like hell this'll go over well with that crazy woman as the Hokage. She'd personally banish Danzo out of the village for pulling shit like this." Kakashi spoke out loud for the toad sage to hear. Who was currently masking his presence right outside the window. As if Kakashi wouldn't notice somebody trying to sneak up on him. He quickly tucked the scroll into his pack.

He nodded to himself and took the mission report he was writing and set it on fire. This conspiracy needed to be brought to Tsunade immediately. And that meant not falsifying the mission report. Regardless of the whole trusting Itachi business, he was first and foremost a Leaf Shinobi, whose loyalties were tied to the village. 

He scooped Naruto up gently in his arms and grabbed a spare shirt from his pack. He made his way to the private bathroom and sat down with him in his lap straddling him so Naruto could wrap his arms around Kakashi comfortably. He refused to remove his own clothes, as if that would make this situation any easier. He peeled Naruto's shirt and pants off, blushing profusely at the lack of underwear.

He didn't linger on it, just continued on with the experience. He grabbed a bucket of hot soapy water and a cloth and began to wipe the grime and dirt from the boy's nude body. He gently wiped his face almost reverently, adoring the cherubic face. His breath hitched when Naruto moaned near his ear as he swiped the moist cloth roughly over the curve of his throat. 'Don't think too hard about it. He can't control it!'

He continued on, focusing on broad and lighter strokes, to not cause Naruto to make anymore noises, no matter how much he might want to hear them. He rubbed his shoulders and chest and watched indiscriminately as pink nubs hardened under his careful ministrations.

He absentmindedly traced the ragged scar that ran a few couple inches below his collarbone. He wanted it to disappear, like every wound Naruto has ever gotten before. But it remained exactly where it was and no amout of scrubbing would erase it.

He leaned Naruto forwards in his lap bracing him in one hand sweeping the lather across his back in firm strokes. After rinsing all the suds from his upper body he carefully scrubbed his legs and feet.

Despite his rejection of touching his lower body before, he put on a brave face and just didn't think about anything. He didn't look down as he soaped up his length. He didn't dwell on the fact that he was washing an innocent twelve year old boy. And he definitely didn't have horror flashbacks of shoving suppositories up there either.

Trying to get his mind back on track Kakashi rinsed the rest of the soap off and finally massaged shampoo into the dull, lifeless hair. He scratched gently against his scalp and leaned backwards, letting Naruto rest against his body. A tight squeeze around his shoulders made him grin. However he jolted when a low moan rolled off of Naruto's lips when he pulled at the hair at the base of his neck. Kakashi shook his head, smiling to himself, keeping note of Naruto's sensitive spots. He slowly poured water through his now clean locks, making sure not to get any soap in his eyes.

He took the time to finally take a good look at himself and sighed at his drenched clothes. He'd have to change into dry clothes as well.

He dryed Naruto off thoroughly and dressed him in a slightly too large custom sleeveless shirt that swallowed his body. Mentally cursing himself at the underwear, he'd have to go into town and buy some clothes for the boy. He picked him up, noticing the lack of pain in his wrist, and brought him back to the room.

He was slightly startled to see Jiraiya staring a hole through the table. Kakashi gently placed Naruto on one of the beds and covered him with a blanket. He tucked him in and frowned at the fingers clenched around the ankle of his damp pants.

Jiraiya cleared his throat and went to speak, only muttering a small "thanks", and gesturing to Naruto. And then pointed a thumb backwards towards the table. "We need to talk."

"Maa can it wait until I change into something a little more dry?" Kakashi asked cheekily as he grabbed said clothes. Jiraiya shrugged and sat down at the table, which had been covered for the most part with manuscripts strewn everywhere.

Kakashi sat down at the table awkwardly awaiting their discussion. It didn't turn out quite how he expected. There was less talking and more reading. Jiraiya pulled a scroll from inside his red haori vest and placed it in his hands. Kakashi slowly unrolled it and noticed the official seal of the Hokage on the bottom.

"This...I didn't actually think they'd go through with it. It was only my intention to get Naruto as quickly as possible. I guess it can't be helped considering the situation?" The news settled heavily on him, leaving him feeling like lead.  It left a bad taste in him mouth, considering being a Leaf Shinobi was quite literally was all he knew in life. How was he supposed to exist now, as a rogue ninja? "That's not all." Jiraiya produced another scroll from his haori and this one was much larger...to be expected. It must be about Naruto.

'This matches the scroll from Itachi, to a T.' Just without the undermining conspiracy.

Kakashi struggled internally if he should show Jiraiya the scroll. 'To hell with it. I trust him. Itachi can use my judgement.' Kakashi pulled the scroll from his pack and turned back to Jiraiya.  "I may have omitted some huge pieces of information."

Jiraiya just frowned. "Like the fact that you apparently have the Mangekyo Sharingan?" Kakashi gave him a sheepish shrug. "Like a missing-nin by the name of Itachi." Kakashi deadpanned as he handed Jiraiya the scroll. Jiraiya opened it, scanned the contents and cursed under breath. "Where exactly did Naruto get this? Is this why he was taken? How the hell did he end up on my doorstep?" 

Kakashi sucked in a breath and began fully explaining the Itachi interaction, and then delved into his pack to find his scroll that he received from the older Uchiha. "He claims he was only doing it to keep Naruto out of harm's way but I don't know his exact intentions. Itachi can't be trusted, but I can never trust Danzo again...not after everything that happened." Kakashi's voice broke a bit at the end of his sentence.

"He gave me this scroll after he cornered me in the woods. Here." Kakashi handed Jiraiya the rolled parchment and eyed him warily. He wasn't surprised by his shock. "You mean to tell me, that Itachi Uchiha a member of the rogue ninja group Akatsuki, brought Naruto to me, in the middle of the night. And led you straight to me? Well. I guess we solved another case too. Itachi used a certain jutsu on Sasuke that caused him to go comatose. On you too I think."

"Don't you think it's a little odd that Naruto hasn't woken at all these past few days. It bothered me to no end. But what doesn't make sense is the fact that he's clinging to you like his life depends on it. Neither you nor the Uchiha brat moved a damn muscle, or spoke. What makes this situation any different?" Jiraiya spoke getting angrier by the minute. Kakashi had spiralled. Of course Itachi would do this. It was bad enough that he did it to him, his mind had completely shattered. But Naruto...he wouldn't handle it well. 

"Love." A voice stated behind them. Both ninja whipped around ready to attack. Speak of the devil and he shall appear. "Itachi Uchiha!" 

Chapter Text

The world was dark and cold. Nothingness that ricocheted around him as he mindlessly moved through the void. His screams were silent and when he closed his eyes he could still see the wickedness that danced in the mirrors.

Snarling, evil faces the mimicked the blonde's features, twisting them until they were vile and disgusting. Horrifying and terrifying.

Eventually a warmth spread thoughout Naruto and he anchored himself to it. Finally comforted after the emptiness that he had dealt with. He refused to let it go. The familiar scent of campfire and fresh dirt filled his senses and he felt safe.

He slowly became hyperaware of his surroundings, yet his subconcious refused to let go of his catatonic state. There was a soothing touch all over him, a sparkling heat that coursed through his body. And then the warmth and comfort were gone and he was left alone in that in between space.

Loud distant noises reverberated in his head. And he struggled to break through the fog. There was something happening on the other side of his consciousness and he wanted to wake up. Needed to. 

He blinked a few times, his eyelids heavy, and the effort that it took was strenuous. He sluggishly rolled over and stared with glazed eyes at the shapes huddled together.

Distorted voices drifted in and out of his ears as he tried to sit up. 'Where am I?' Naruto thought as he threw the comforter off of himself. He shakily stood up and stumbled over to the blobs of darkness. He tripped and heard a startled gasp when he reached out to grab something to stop himself from falling. He felt flesh and cloth and thought to himself 'Who is that?'

A cool hand lifted him easily and tucked him into their side and immediately Naruto was flooded with the sharp scent of soap and a lingering fragrance of smoke and wood. He wrapped his arms around that frame to keep it close.
_____

"Itachi Uchiha!" Both men shouted as they tensed for an attack. Itachi stood still, a sardonic smile painted on his face. "As you can plainly see, I'm not here for a fight. If you would..." He waved his arm at the table motioning for them the sit. Neither of them so much as twitched.

Itachi sighed. "I told you I'm not going to --" he was cut off by Jiraiya. "Why did you do it? Just what were you thinking? He's a child for kami's sake." The dark haired man narrowed his eyes in comtemplation. He looked over at the 'child'. The genin may have the body of a child, but he definitely wasn't one to underestimate.

"He gave me no choice, he wasn't going without a fight. I needed to bring him here as quickly and as discreetly as possible. He wouldn't go willingly. Nor would he trust me. Again...he gave me no choice." Kakashi gave him a vacant stare.

"You could've just knocked him out. You know...stimulate the vagus nerve, or hit the carotid artery." He scowled and turned away, sitting down at the table scanning the scrolls in front of him.

Itachi blinked and then made a face, displeasure evident on his features. "I dislike those methods, I'm not a fan of physical violence." Kakashi grinded his teeth together. "Maa of course you don't, because you'd rather use psychological warfare instead." 

Itachi winced. He could admit, he deserved that. "I needed to incapacitate you quickly. Surely you can understand that?" Kakashi was silent for a moment. "Sure I can understand, I can even appreciate it, doesn't mean I have to enjoy being tortured." He said nonchalantly, though inside he wanted to strangle him. He was broken already, even without Itachi's influence.

Jiraiya stayed quiet throughout their interaction. These two bickered, but they acted like old friends. "How exactly do you two know eachother?" He asked cautiously, taking a seat at the crowded tabled. Itachi had the balls to act surprised at the question. "ANBU." Was Kakashi's lukewarm response.

"Ah, I see. Well then, care to explain what you're doing here, if you aren't here to kill us?" The toad sage asked crossing his arms and giving him a threatening glare. Itachi sat between the two and pulled out a scroll. "Uggghhhh! Another scroll? I'm sick of all the reading, I already read too damn much these days." Jiraiya grumbled, rubbing at his face in annoyance.

Footprints startled them as Naruto blindly staggered towards the group. He tripped and grabbed Kakashi's shirt on the way down. He maneuvered the boy into his side and the blonde responded by tightly lacing his arms around him and snuggling into his chest. The soft smile on Kakashi's face did not go by unnoticed.

Itachi gave him a quizzical look before opening the scroll. "Danzo is already making his move. He plans to adjudicate the situation in Konohagakure by utilizing new Root members. And among them he has recruited my brother into his little scheme. Orochimaru has also made a move by joining Danzo and sending him reinforcements, they are planning a coup-de-tat. In return for helping Danzo, Orochimaru plans on..." Itachi paled and held his breath. "Disgusting..."

"He never learns." Jiraiya said shaking his head. "So...When are we leaving?" He said standing up and rubbing his chin in thought. "I still need to gather intel but, be ready to leave in two days...The Tsukuyomi should wear off soon, Kakashi. I suspect it is your doing." Surprisingly, Itachi offered him a small tilt of his lips, an effort at a smile.

When his name was mentioned Kakashi looked up in question. "What is?" He asked, unsure of what Itachi was saying. But Itachi stayed silent and instead stood up from his seat and dispersed into a dozen crows that flew out the open window.

_____

It was around mid afternoon, so Kakashi decided to go buy some necessary items for their upcoming travels. He didn't want to leave Naruto alone though so he bit his thumb and summoned Pakkun. Said dog gave one look at the two and groaned.

Anytime he had to babysit Naruto something bad happened. Still he was glad the boy was safe. Same with Kakashi. His burns had healed nicely, some would leave a few scars, but they were no longer covered with bandages so that was good.

"I want you to keep him company until I get back. I don't know where we are at the moment and I don't feel comfortable leaving him alone. I shouldn't be any longer than a couple hours." Kakashi guiltily removed Naruto's crushing limbs from around his torso. The blonde whimpered as if in pain and curled into himself. He lifted him and placed him back in the bed.

"Never thought I'd ever see you so attached to one of your students..." Pakkun stated, moving to take Kakashi's place next to Naruto. "Maa, well things change." He replied, pocketing his wallet. He took one last look at the boy and left the room.
_____

Kakashi was torn. He had decided to buy Naruto some clothing, but he didn't know what to get him. What style did he prefer? And it wasn't like he was well versed in fashion expertise. Probably as long as it was orange, he'd wear it. 

He purused the selections and found a couple things. A couple pairs of black boxers, a simple orange yukata, a couple black tee shirts, and a new jumpsuit. It had a wide collar, and tight sleeves and pants. And it was covered in a swirl dye design. A kind of homage to a certain clan. It was a blend of orange, red, and black and it reminded him a bit of the nine-tailed fox. He asked the tailor if they could embroider an Uzumaki crest on the back and left in search of food while he waited.

He found a couple vendors towards the end of the street and bought a couple different things to bring back. Yakitori for the walk. After awhile he explored a bit and found Jiraiya sitting alone at a bar. He decided to join him for a bit, but then regretted it the moment he perched on the stool.

"Yo." He greeted casually. Jiraiya eyed him in surprise and sipped at his sake. "Where's the brat?" Kakashi just gave him an infamous eye smile. 'That brat has a name.' He bitterly thought to himself as he helped himself to Jiraiya's sake, irritated.

"Oi!" Jiraiya exclaimed as he pouted, grabbing the sake bottle out of the Copy-nin's hand. Kakashi gulped down the sweet liquid and had to stifle a harsh cough as it burned his throat.

It's not that he doesn't like alcohol, or that he's a lightweight or a prude. It has just been a really long time since he wanted or rather 'needed' a good drink. Or two. Not since...the Sandaime's funeral. 

He stood from his seat abruptly, already walking away. "See ya." He stated not looking back at the vacant expression in Jiraiya's face. He picked up the finished jumpsuit and headed back to his student.

Upon entering the room he had to do a double take. Instead of sitting off to the side, Pakkun had fallen asleep with him and somehow managed to succumb to Naruto's charms and was getting the cuddle of a lifetime. Jealousy that had no place being there, urged Kakashi into action. He poked Pakkun repeatedly until he woke and the ferocity in Kakashi's eye made it perfectly clear that he was mad.

For someone who rarely expressed emotion, it was strange to see such a passionate one on his face. Pakkun grumbled and slid from his hold and dispelled himself. He'd better get a steak for this behavior. 

Kakashi deflated when they were finally left alone. He took a look at the peaceful expression on Naruto's face, and frowned. "How long are you going to be like this? How long was I like this?" He shook his head and decided not to dwell on that. 

He placed all of his purchases to the side except for the food and made himself comfortable, fully expecting the arms that wrapped tightly around him now. He pulled his mask down and ate his food quietly, when a thought struck him. When was the last time Naruto ate something? If memory served him right he only ate the ohitashi and kenchinjiru like...almost a week ago.

He was surprised when he realized he hadn't been hearing any angry rumbling from his stomach. But maybe he wasn't listening hard enough. He gently rested his hand against his stomach and...nothing. Hmm. He sighed. 

"When you wake up I promise to treat you to all the ramen you can eat." He said in between chewing on his okonomiyaki. "Do you really mean that?" A hoarse voice vibrated into his chest, causing him to choke in shock. He sat up in alarm, completely forgetting about his mask in favor of the bright blue eyes that shone up at him with delight.

"Naruto!?"

Chapter Text

Naruto felt around blindly for the warmth and comfort and whimpered at the loss he felt. He couldn't go back to that place again. He struggled to open his eyes and found they were too heavy to open. He whimpered and rolled over, groping blindly for anything to cling to and his fingers landed on warm soft fur. He pet the silky texture and a wet nose pushed against his hand and a small body curled against his shoulder.

He let out a sigh of relief and continued to pet the small animal, and after awhile they somehow ended up in his arms. The cold touch of metal pressed against his chin and he had to think really hard to remember why it felt familiar. A brief image of a certain silver haired sensei and a pack of ninken filtered through his foggy mind. Naruto wrapped his arms happily around them then, cuddling against the dog.

He had fallen asleep and woke when the dog moved out of his tight grip. He blearily opened his eyes briefly and saw what he assumed to be Pakkun if his memory served him right, before they exploded in a puff of smoke. He closed his heavy eyelids again and the fragrance of the forest hit him as a person sat down next to him. The smell he now acknowledged as comfort and safety. The smell of his sensei. A small smile spread across Naruto's face as he wrapped his arms around his sensei's torso and snuggled into his chest.

A comfortable silence fell over them as the blonde listened quietly to the soft chewing above him. Kakashi stilled for a second and pressed a hot hand against Naruto's stomach, his hand mostly covering it completely. Naruto felt a strange heat fill him at the touch. A moment passed and Kakashi spoke. The words were still strange to hear, as if he were underwater but the words were pretty clear.

"When you wake up I promise to treat you to all the ramen you can eat." Kakashi spoke gently, and Naruto felt his heartbeat speed up, because he had never heard his sensei speak like that before. He didn't know if he was actually supposed to hear that. But he wanted to hear more of that voice. 

"Do you really mean that?" He asked, alarmed at the roughness of his voice. But he didn't dwell on it, but instead looked up at Kakashi's face with glazed, blurry eyes. He mentally cursed because he could see that Kakashi was definitely not wearing his infamous mask if the lack of darkness across the lower part of his face was anything to go by. But he couldn't see clearly. He pressed his mouth against that chest to smother the pout bursting from his lips.

Kakashi shot up in shock. Ah. He knew it, he wasn't supposed to hear that was he. Kakashi's relaxed frame had tensed and stiffened. His voice was loud when he spoke, shock and fear mixing in his words. "Naruto!?"

Kakashi placed his container of okonomiyaki to the side and squeaked in embarrassment when he remembered his hand, which was still pressing against the blonde's stomach. He pulled his hand away quickly, and moved to remove the arms from around his back. 

Naruto tightened his grip and frowned as Kakashi's face turned beet red. He couldn't tell if he was angry or embarrassed but he wasn't letting go without a good reason. Kakashi struggled internally if he should use force to get Naruto off him but ultimately decided he would let him be for now. 

Naruto was staring at Kakashi intensely and Kakashi felt his eyebrow twitch uncontrollably at the attention. His arms loosened their grip and he turned to pick his okonomiyaki back up when he froze. 

Naruto had lifted himself so that he straddled Kakashi and placed a hand against his cheek and pulled his face close so that their eyes met once again. Kakashi could feel his warm breath against his lips and Naruto's blue eyes sparkled brilliantly and a look of utter captivation and awe adorned his face. 

This entire situation was dangerous. Kakashi felt his heart stutter, and heat danced in his veins at the proximity between them. He licked his lips nervously and suddenly he was entirely aware of exactly how close Naruto was. That and the lack of clothing the young boy wore. With that he jerked backwards and scooted as far away from Naruto as possible.

He tugged his mask up quickly and looked away from the hurt expression on his student's face. He stood and picked up the box of clothes he bought and placed it in the spot he had just occupied. "I um...got you clothes. You should go change Naruto." He picked up his container and sat with his back towards Naruto.

Naruto tried not to let it get to him. Kakashi was a very private person. It was no wonder he freaked out just now. But that didn't mean it didn't crush him that he just clammed up like that. He lifted the lid of the box curiously and was greeted by the kaleidoscope of all his favorite colors. He blinked and glanced up at Kakashi and then back to the clothes.

He stood and went to take off his shirt when he felt air hit his lower half. He stared down at himself in alarm and was greeted with the sight of bare legs. His face flushed in embarrassment when he remembered the position they were in before. No wonder Kakashi freaked out. He basically crawled all over him while he was practically naked.

He turned to find the private bathroom and closed the door behind him. He let out the breath he didn't know he was holding and lifted the shirt over his head. And he was greeted with the sight of...no underwear. His face felt hot and his stomach was doing somersaults. Nevermind practically naked, he 'was' naked.

After putting on the snug fit underwear and shirt he gingerly lifted the tri-tone jumpsuit out of the box and stared at the beautiful design on it. He couldn't possibly wear this. It'll get ruined within minutes. He decided to wait on it and removed the simple yukata from the box instead. Now...this was something he could wear and not worry about ruining it. Although he would try not to since it was a gift from his precious sensei. After removing the shirt, he slipped his arms through the sleeves and tied the bow awkwardly behind him. It was just enought to keep everything in place.

He carefully folded the jumpsuit and shirt and replaced them back in the box and opened the door. Kakashi had finished his food and was flipping through loose pages on the table. Naruto placed the box near his bed and stalked up behind the silver haired man. He wrapped his arms around Kakashi and pressed his face against his back. 

"Thank you." He said, the reply was muffled against his shirt and the jonin tensed considerably. He sighed and placed his hand against the death grip around his chest. 

"Sure..." He blinked back at the blond with a confused stare and looked him over. It was replaced by a look of boredom. "I thought you'd want to wear the jumpsuit first?" He questioned before directing his attention back to the papers on the table.

Naruto sighed and let his arms slip down a smidge, now resting loosely around Kakashi's stomach. "It's really nice...it just...I've never owned anything that nice before, so I don't want to ruin it, ya know?" He sighed again, his breath hot against Kakashi's shoulderblade. Kakashi was silent before he twisted himself around to face him. "I bought it for you to replace the previous one. You can do whatever you want with it." 

Kakashi looked at the disheveled appearance of the yukata and clicked his teeth. "Maa come here." He stood and pulled Naruto with him turning him around and untying his sloppy mess of a knot. He straightened out the placement of the cloth in the front and neatly tied the obi in a bow. His fingers brushed against his hips and he could feel the tension in the air hanging around him like a cloud. 

He turned away from Naruto again and sat back down. Naruto turned around and sat down next to him and allowed a comfortable silence to settle around them. They both shuffled through the pages on the table and Naruto realized he had a couple pages filled with a particularly saucy scene written in Jiraiya's handwriting. He read through it cautiously looking over at his sensei, waiting for him to catch him in the act. 

Naruto was reminded of the fuzzy but suprisingly handsome face of his sensei and felt a strange tingling in his lower abdomen. He fidgeted and squeezed his legs together as he continued reading. Despite the sexual nature of the story he was left bored, not really understanding much of what was happeneing. They sat like that for hours before Jiraiya stumbled back in and promptly passed out on his futon, not noticing the awake and alive blonde.
_____

Sasuke scowled in pain, his fresh tattoo twinging as he dressed in his ANBU armor. While he normally would've been grateful and in awe that he had been granted a position as high as ANBU, he couldn't help but be reminded of his brother. Or more specifically, the armor he wore the night he...He couldn't think of that night. It would cause him to lose his focus.

He stared at the ceramic mask in his hands. A cat motif mask with a singular red triangle that covered the forehead. He cleared his mind of all his thoughts and placed the mask over his indifferent expression.

He shunshinned out of his home and stayed to the path of shadows as he traveled towards the ANBU barracks to await his orientation. He was the third new recruit in the black ops squad and he questioned why he thought he recognised both of them. The one with long black hair that was tied off, and the one with wild silver tufts, he tried to think nothing of it. 

What shocked him was the fact that they had the same rare colored mask. A black fox motif mask with a large gold tear drop on the forehead and gold cloud like stripes on the cheeks. Any new members always had a standard white and red animal mask. So just who exactly were they?

It was brief, entirely sequestered to the blink of an eye, but it was unmistakable. The scarlet flicker in their eyes were like looking in a mirror. The phantom of his brother and clan forever haunting him from the shadows.

He felt the muscles in his face twitch as he tried to control himself from feeling irritated or the more likely...fear. He wasn't used to hiding his more negative emotions, but when you work in ANBU those kinds of things only get in your way. He had a lot of training to do.

"Listen up, some of you here are fresh out of the academy. I would like to assign those three to a new team. Everyone who is on solitary duty will report to me so I can assign them as I see fit. And I do mean 'everyone'." A man said with a stoic expression, Sasuke recognized him as Ibiki Morino from the written exam portion of the Chunin Exams.

"Now. As you all know the jinchuriki has threatened the balance of the village. You will be assigned guard detail around the village, you will report any and all findings pertaining to him, and you are not to, under any circumstances, make contact with him should you come across him. I will repeat this only once so pay attention. Do not approach or attack Naruto Uzumaki. He is a threat to the village and to our citizens and fellow shinobi. And we do not want any collateral damage." His voice echoed in the open room and he was met by silence.

He surveyed the room and nodded in approval. "You may leave after our new introductions." He said, releasing his arms from their crossed position on his chest to motion for the new three ANBU to step forward. Sasuke went first, adament at finally being acknowledged for his talent. The other two followed casually, as if they did this before.

"I will now assign you three pseudonyms, your real identity here shall remain unknown, for you will be known only by your skills in the shadows and not for your reputation in the world." He said lifting his hand in the air to hover over Sasuke's head. "Your new name is Weasel. After the legacy of the mask you wear." Sasuke gulped, he now knew why he was chosen to bear the mask. Of course it was his brother's. A coal of red hot anger burned low in his gut.

Ibiki moved to stand behind the silver haired soldier, repeating his stance. "Your new name is Wolf." A hint of a snicker from the head of T&I was heard, but it was barely audible, and the only indication the man had heard was the slight twich in his shoulders. "And your new name shall be Crow." He said finishing as he turned away from them. He shot his arm out sweeping the air. "Dismissed." Was the short command and every single ninja excused themselves. 

Sasuke went to shunshin, but Ibiki grabbed his shoulder painfully before he made his escape. "Not you." A shadow passed over his face and Sasuke winced at the crushing pain that encompassed his new tattoo, feeling intimidated.

"Now. You said if I followed your plan you would explain everything. It better give me a hell of a good reason why I shouldn't cart you off to the Hokage this instant." A hint of amusement mixed with worry and caution laced his words as he turned towards the other two and waited for one of them to speak.

They exchanged a look and Wolf decided to speak. "It would be better if we 'showed' you." Ibiki was silent then turned and walked away. Sasuke was left confused but followed after Wolf and Crow as they tailed after Ibiki.

Chapter Text

The sun started to rise and only two of the three ninja were sleeping. Naruto sat stock still shivering in the cool air that swirled in the room from the open window. His arms were wrapped tightly around his knees and his head was pressed harshly against his arms as he tried to calm his breathing. As he had been doing for the past hour.

Since the moment he was left 'alone' his mind drifted towards the dark thoughts and vivid images of the monster that dwelled inside him. He was petrified. He couldn't breathe and he felt paralyzed from the fear and agonized over his self worth.

Maybe...he was a monster. Maybe the villagers were right and maybe he deserved all of those cruel things that were done or said in his past. He let the darkness eat the light behind his eyes and didn't notice the uncontrollable sobs that wrecked his body. Nor did he notice the gentle soothing touches of Kakashi's, when he pulled him down to his side.

Kakashi pressed Naruto's head against his chest and lightly pet his hair allowing Naruto to free all of his tears until his crying subsided and the boy fell silent. The soft rise and fall of the boy's shoulders told him he had fallen back asleep. He pressed his lips to his forehead. "It's going to be okay now. I'm here..." He whispered against the moist skin and Naruto snuggled deeper into his embrace wrapping his arms tightly around Kakashi's torso.

Neither noticed the scrutinizing stare that Jiraiya had aimed at them. While he wasn't exactly sure what the relationship between the two were, it was clearly obvious that Kakashi cared deeply for Naruto. Too deeply. Whether it was due to their current predicament or if it was always there he couldn't say.

Still...this was a dangerous game the man was playing. The age difference and status aside, Kakashi could and probably would have been his brother. Ah...was that what this was, brotherly love? Jiraiya had no siblings to call his own, so he was out of his depth there. He could accept that, though if this were something else entirely, he would definitely put a stop to it. That kind of thing...would not be acceptable. Not over his dead body.
_____

Morning came and the toad sage had awoken early and couldn't stop his thoughts from overreacting.
He had carefully observed the other two as they slumbered, and became increasingly worried as the hours flew by. As fascinating as it was to see the stoic and aloof Kakashi show genuine positive emotions, he didn't particularly care for Naruto being the one on the other side of that affection. Some of the interactions felt...misplaced. 

One; he didn't want Naruto to be hurt, first and foremost. And while he trusted Kakashi to have a clear conscience and good judgement, something wasn't quite right in his head after his incident with Itachi. 

Two; they were too close. Extremely close. That was an immediate reason for alarm. He didn't like how physically close they were. It was unnerving. He was sure brothers weren't like that. Maybe he was speculating too much but something about the whole situation didn't seem right.

Three; eventually they would have to seperate. They were ninja afterall and if there was such a point in the future he didn't want any unnecessary attachments. A dependent ninja was useless. And he would be damned if he let his student's son and student become useless. He nodded as he came to a resolution. He needed to cut this bond before something serious happened. 

He would wait until him and Kakashi were alone and he would speak his mind. He didn't need to drag Naruto into this. He stared at the entangled limbs of the two boys and while he tried to smile at the sweet embrace, he felt a heavy weight of concern tug at his lips.

He couldn't look at them anymore. He stood and walked over to the heap on the floor and nudged Kakashi's leg roughly until he opened his eye. And man...if looks could kill. 

Kakashi was unamused. He glared at the person who interrupted his finally calm and peaceful sleep. He disentangled himself from Naruto and the guilt seeped into him even before the whimpering started. He shot Jiraiya another glare before he stood.

"Maa this must be important if you are waking me from my sleep." Kakashi grumbled, stifling a yawn and tilting his head to the side to force his neck to crack. He stetched his arms and legs out as well the joints popping. He was about to walk over to the table but Jiraiya stopped him. He held a finger to his lips sternly and urged him towards the door.

Kakashi blinked and turned his head to look back at the boy curled into a ball. He didn't want to leave him alone. He held up a finger silently asking Jiraiya to wait and bit his thumb. He went to make the hand seals to summon Pakkun when Jiraiya gripped his wrist. "He'll be fine. Let's go." Kakashi sent a worried glance at Naruto's huddled form as he was pulled through the doorframe.

They walked out of the inn and soon sat down in a small restaurant that was serving lunch. Kakashi wasn't even hungry. He wasn't all that awake if he was being honest with himself either. Jiraiya ordered some matcha and karaage for the both of them.

The food hadn't even arrived yet and Jiraiya already started grilling him. "What is your intention with Naruto?" He asked, his arms folded over his chest with a frown plastered over his mouth. Kakashi felt confused at the question. "He's my student?" He scratched the side of his head and leaned his chin in one of his hands.

"No..." Jiraiya sighed irritated that he couldn't exactly beat around the bush. "What I mean is; What is with all the touchy feely bullshit?" Kakashi blinked at him with a vacant stare. "What do you mean?" The waiter delivered their order delaying Jiraiya's response until he walked away.

"He's only twelve years old!" Jiraiya hissed at his counterpart as Kakashi took a sip of his tea. His eyes shot up and narrowed in a calculating stare. "What exactly are you implying here?" He folded his arms in front of him, mirroring Jiraiya. "You know damn well what I'm implying. I have been watching you two closely since you came. And I don't like what I've seen." 

Kakashi could feel the unbridled fury bubbling up inside him. "And what the hell is that supposed to mean? He's my student. Am I not allowed to care about him?" He said as calmly as he could, but he felt his hands tremble as his fingers crushed against eachother in fists. He did not like the direction the conversation was headed in.

"You can care about him all you want. That is not where my problem lies. This...thing going on between you two needs to stop. I looked the other way before because you seemed to bring him some kind of comfort while he was in the coma. But now you don't have to...He 'is' awake isn't he? You don't want any 'misunderstandings' now, do you?" He gave a Kakashi a look that said 'fight me on this, I dare you'.

Kakashi was left feeling winded. What the hell was Jiraiya's deal? Misundertandings? Who does he think he's talking to? "I don't know what you are trying to insinuate here, but I can assure you, whatever you are thinking, it's not like 'that'." And with that he stood and walked away. He shoved his hands in his pockets and angrily walked back to the inn.

"Stay away...I swear you'll regret it." Naruto's voice could be heard through the wall, a hysterical pitch wavering in it. Kakashi braced himself as he opened the door to find Itachi standing in front of the window. He was watching Naruto with amusement in his crimson eyes. Naruto turned from his stance preparing for a fight. When his eyes landed on Kakashi relief was visible on his face. Kakashi hardened his gaze and stepped in front of Naruto to protect him.

"Maa Itachi? What do you think you're doing?" He said putting as much distance between them as he could. Which wasn't nearly as much as he'd like. "I came to tell you that things are progressing far too quickly in the village for my liking and we need to proceed with my plan. Tonight. Where is the sannin?" He questioned and was immediately answered.

"I'm right here. Kakashi, why don't you summon your mutt and send Naruto out for a bit. We have a lot to discuss." The jonin bristled at the insult to his dog and looked at him incredulously. "Don't you think we ought to tell him what has happened? This concerns him too." Jiraiya just sighed and sat at the table, his back facing everyone. He started flipping through his manuscripts, waiting for someone to make a decision.

"Fine. Naruto...I'll explain later what has been going on. Why don't you go take a look around the shops, hmm?" Naruto looked at him, with disbelief and worry in his eyes. He frowned and nodded, not wanting to make his sensei upset. Kakashi did actually summon then, but not just Pakkun, he summoned his entire ninken pack. To make a point, but not because of Jiraiya. He gave Naruto a soft smile and ruffled his hair. "Why don't you try on that new jumpsuit I got you?" He placed the jumpsuit in his student's hands and shoved him and the pack out the door.

Jiraiya scoffed under his breath and Kakashi gave him a sharp look. "So...my plan?" Itachi interrupted leaning against the wall. Kakashi stood by the door listening for the footsteps that were steadily retreating away from them. When everything went silent he turned and leaned heavily against the door and shoved his hands in his pockets. 

"Right, so...Here is what we need to do. Kakashi and I will infiltrate ANBU and pose as Root soldiers. Should be fairly easy all considering. Kakashi will gain the trust of certain knowledgeable people in ANBU and track Root members. I will gather intel on Danzo's plan and Root's actions from the inside." 

"Jiraiya will also need to explain Danzo's plan to the Hokage. Since Naruto will be traveling with him we need someone to change the order from 'kill on sight' to 'do not approach'. Kakashi, do you know anybody who can do that?"

Kakashi shrugged casually. "Maybe." He gave Itachi a nod to continue. "We need to leave tonight so when the orders come, I can send word to you so you can make your way back to the village." Jiraiya sighed and nodded his acceptance.

"There is a huge flaw in your plan. You are a missing-nin and now so am I. How are we going to get past the gate?" Kakashi asked. Itachi smirked, fully expecting this question. He pulled two ANBU uniforms from his Akatsuki cloak. And then pulled out two identical black fox masks. Itachi hummed as he handed the silver-haired man his set.

"Get dressed, we leave in fifteen minutes. Meet me at the edge of town...Jiraiya." Itachi nodded to Jiraiya as he dispersed into his crows and Kakashi took that time to grab his pack and quickly change. 

He felt a strange excitement running through him as he donned his ANBU uniform. Old memories resurfaced, many not so nice to think about. While he did not have his scarf, swords or wolf summons. He still felt that cloak of persona he was wash over him. Wolf. He could feel the adrenaline lacing in his veins. But that was a fool's pleasure.

Being ANBU meaning executing and stealth. Blood and death stained his hands and he remembered all of his past sins. This was exactly where he belonged. He didn't exist in that blinding light world that Naruto lived in. He felt a hole bury itself in his chest, leaving him feeling hollow and empty.

No longer did he feel that fluffy and warm blanket that had cocooned him for the past couple days. Instead he felt the cold, freezing and raw dripping from his arms. He was now an emotionless tool. Or should he say 'again'. He felt a drip down his cheek and blinked away the unshed tears as he shunshinned out of the inn. He did not want to talk to Jiraiya. Not after their last conversation.

He found Naruto fairly quickly. His ninken surrounding him. He stood watching him for a moment. He knew he was going to be late. He lost track of time watching Naruto amd frowned when he realized he didn't know how long they would be seperated.

He approached him and wrapped an arm around his shoulders in a friendly gesture. He didn't know how to do this. "Naruto. Listen to me and stay calm. Something happened in the village and there is a plan in place. Jiraiya probably won't try to tell you but I will. Somebody was burned to death and people are accusing you. No....Naruto please don't cry...hey." Kakashi wrapped his other arm around Naruto and held him as he gently calmed the boy.

"Shh...I'm right here, you're okay. Listen to me okay? I'm going to the village and I'm going to try to fix this. I won't let them do anything to you. I won't allow my comrades to die. I'll protect you with my life. Trust me." He pressed his clothed lips to Naruto's forehead in a gentle kiss. 

"Sensei? You won't forget your promise right?" Naruto looked so small in his arms. A child. A twelve year old boy clinging to him for dear life. "I won't." He gave him another softer kiss on the top of his head and released him. "I have to go now okay? Please go back to the inn when I leave." He dispelled all his ninken except Pakkun and turned away. He didn't need Naruto to see him cry.

Chapter Text

Naruto stood outside the door in bewilderment. That was literally him; a child, being kicked out of the room so the adults could talk. He grew angry at that. He wasn't a child. Not anymore.

He found a public restroom in the inn and had the ninken stay outside to guard him while he changed. He had a difficult time untying the obi but eventually he got it off. He stared at the intricate swirling pattern on the jacket he held and sighed. It really was too pretty. He felt ashamed because he knew that it wouldn't last long in his care. He was clumsy and dangerous, there would be tears and holes galore within a few days.

He slipped the yukata from his body and replaced it with the soft material of the jumpsuit. It felt nice against his skin. He could smell a faint hint of earth and smiled. If he could capture that scent and carry it with him forever he would.

The collar reminded him of Sasuke's blue shirt, but the half sleeves and torso fit him like a glove. Not too tight that it restricted any movement, but just right. It felt comforting, like he was being embraced. The pants, rather capri's were loosefitting but were tight just above the knees. This outfit was made for comfort. Naruto chuckled because that was so like Kakashi. 

He looked in the mirror and immediately flinched. It wasn't real. Nothing was real. He didn't see the stagnating stare nor the snarling sharp canines that protruded from blood dripping lips. He didn't feel the air leave him breathless as he struggled to unlock the door. He shook with fright as he stumbled out of the bathroom collapsing into the huddle of dogs awaiting him.

The pack was alarmed. Nobody had seen Naruto scared before. What just happened? Bull licked at his pale face until Naruto spluttered and giggled. He doubled over laughing hysterically until they eventually turned to sobs. He wrapped his arms around his knees and hiccuped into his new clothes. They patiently sat there, Guruko and Uuhei curling their bodies protectively around the boy.

"Yo Naruto...why don't we go get something to eat? I'm starving! I'll let you rub my belly if you get me some meat." Pakkun said gently nibbling on his tightly curled fingers. The other dogs barked and agreed. Meat sounded wonderful. Naruto sniffled and picked his head up to glance at the dogs.

"O-okay...yeah. I'm pretty hungry myself. Have you seen my..." He was about to ask for his yukata when he saw that Bisuke was holding it in his mouth. He accepted it and folded it over his arm. He patted it down for Gama-chan and stuck the wallet in his pocket.

He left the inn in search of sustenance and came upon a small restaurant. He asked the chef if they could prepare eight plates of Saikoro steak and when the waiter brought out the tray full of food, he gave Naruto a very irritated smile. "I assumed when you said you wanted eight plates that there would be a group of people sitting in the restaurant. Not a pack of mutts..." 

"Got something against dogs?" Pakkun grumbled, licking his lips anticipating the decadent flavor of the juicy beef. "Yeah, got a problem?" Bisuke asked as well, and Naruto felt a whisper of sweat drop down the side of his face.

The man gulped as he eyed the concentrated stares of all the ninken. "Nope. N-not at all. Enjoy your meal." He stuttered, as he finally registered that they spoke to him. He placed the plates in front of the dogs and noticed that the kid didn't get anything for himself. He excused himself before he could say anything, he didn't want to keep his other guests waiting. 
 
Despite the nature of the beast that they were, they did not behave or eat like animals. Well...maybe not Bull, but the other seven ate calmly, and did not tear viciously into the steaks like Naruto had originally thought they would. Kakashi-sensei really trained these guys perfectly didn't he.

Akino was the first to clear his dish, and he stared directly at the boy who was sitting across from him. Naruto was situated between Bull on his right, Pakkun in his lap, and Uuhei and Shiba on his left.
On the opposing side was Bisuke across from Bull, then himself, Guruko and Urushi on his right.

Something seemed off about the kid but he couldn't place it. "Kid...?" He spoke without meaning to. Naruto startled slightly and it showed in his eyes. "Yeah, what is it?" He answered quietly, attempting to smile, but Akino could see right through the facade.

Before he could elaborate, Bisuke beat him to it. "Thought you were hungry? You want some of mine?" He went to nudge a half eaten chunk of his steak towards Naruto but he just nervously declined. "Nah, I'm good. You guys don't have to share with me. Haha..." He chuckled, he eyes tightly closed as he rubbed the back of his head.

The hounds just exchanged a serious look between eachother and then observed the boy. His facial expression was clearly uncomfortable. He was definitely hiding something. "Ahh I'm stuffed! Couldn't eat another bite..." Pakkun stated rolling onto his back and spreading out his limbs. He stared at the other dogs until they got the hint as well.

"Me too. So full..." Shiba said purposefully pushing his plate towards Naruto, and like clockwork the rest of the table announced they were full. Naruto glanced around in surprise and saw that each of them left a cube of their steak except for Akino. Even Bull left a piece.

He just laughed. "You guys..." He looked around at the expectant faces and swallowed against his nerves. While he wasn't quite a germaphobe, eating leftover food from a dog was kind of...strange. After awhile he noticed they were waiting patiently for him and he sighed. He steeled himself and picked up a piece from Pakkun's plate, he eyed it carefully and tossed it into his mouth.

He was not expecting the deliciousness from the meat at all. He was expecting gross slobber and fur. His eyes widened with shock and he would deny this ever happened if anybody ever asked him. But he actually ate every piece. He was more than hungry. He had been ravenous.

After paying their bill and lamenting over an empty Gama-chan, he led the ninken out into the afternoon breeze. It was cooler than usual and he sighed. It must be around early autumn. That reminded him that he didn't really know what day it was. The last thing he remembered was...

Oh...

Sasuke.

He felt his heart clench painfully and had to grab at his chest in an attempt to ease the pain. It didn't help at all. He could feel the sting of tears and it felt like he couldn't breathe. He squeezed his eyes shut against the burning sensation in his eyes and choked against the sobs threatening to escape. 

He felt a strong arm wrap around his shoulder and a calm familiar voice ebbed away the pain slightly. He looked up at his sensei with watery eyes and swallowed against the lump that formed in his throat.

"Naruto. Listen to me and stay calm. Something happened in the village and there is a plan in place. Jiraiya probably won't try to tell you but I will. Somebody was burned to death and people are accusing you." Kakashi spoke softly, trying to keep his voice steady. 

Naruto sniffled and tried to fight the onslaught of emotions that were running through his mind.
"No....Naruto please don't cry...hey." Kakashi soothed him by wrapping his arms around him tightly. Comforting him as he continued speaking.

"Shh...I'm right here, you're okay. Listen to me okay? I'm going to the village and I'm going to try to fix this. I won't let them do anything to you. I won't allow my comrades to die. I'll protect you with my life. Trust me." Naruto felt hot breath hit his forehead and his eyes widened when Kakashi pressed his mask covered lips firmly against his skin.

Naruto tried to hide his pain. He didn't want him to leave. But if he was doing it for his sake, he wouldn't argue, even though it hurt. "Sensei? You won't forget your promise right?" He didn't really care about it all that much. That would give him incentive enough not to die right? And it would give them an excuse to see eachother again? Please say he wasn't the only one who felt like this.

"I won't." He responded, and a silent answer to his unasked questions came in the form of another press of his lips, this time on the crown of his head, barely any pressure, but the meaning was there.

Kakashi removed his hold on his body and allowed them to seperate. "I have to go now okay? Please go back to the inn when I leave." Kakashi gave Naruto an infamous eye smile, most likely to give him some sort of reassurance. But the despair that lingered when he opened his eye made Naruto want to hug him until it disappeared. He had expected him to ruffle his hair but it never came.

Kakashi held his fingers together to dispel his summons except Pakkun, the silent command hovering in the air. He gave one last look at Naruto and turned away. He shunshinned out of sight before Naruto could say goodbye.

Naruto stood silently, his head held down and his fists clenched tightly. His frame shook terribly and it took all of his strength not to collapse to his knees. He couldn't breathe. It was like when Kakashi left, he took it with him.

Pakkun watched worriedly and after awhile it became clear that night was coming and they needed to go back to the inn sooner rather than later. He chomped on Naruto's leg to get his attention. And boy did he.

Naruto wailed and jumped up and down in pain. "Ahhhh! Why did you do that?!" He shook his fist at the dog but it was lacking the usual heat behind it. He let his leg go and trotted off towards the inn. Naruto begrudgingly followed behind sluggishly. He tucked his hands in his pockets and kicked at the few pebbles that strayed into his path.

Soon they were in the room, but it was dark and empty. Pakkun dispelled himself and then Naruto was alone. He walked over to the window and stared out it for awhile, just trying to calm his nerves. Naruto slammed it closed and choked suddenly at his reflection, hiding his face in his hands collapsing to the ground. He was alone and had nobody to comfort him now. No soothing touches or calm embraces. No safety net to guard him from the dark and evil thoughts that haunted him.

Naruto tried not to think about anything, but his mind became twisted and soon he couldn't stop hearing the worst of his anxieties. 

'He left because he can't stand to look at you. Because you're a monster.'

'He doesn't care about you. You're a monster.'

'You're a monster.'

'....a monster.'

Monster. Monster. Monster. It was a suffocating statement. Yet he couldn't find it in himself to argue. Yeah...he was a monster.

'Brat.' A deep voice echoed in his head making him look up and survey his surroundings. That was in his head...right?

'Of course I'm in your head brat. I'm sealed inside of you.' It said again and suddenly Naruto was knee deep in dank rancid water. It was dark, but he could clearly see the forboding gate that loomed above his head. And when he stopped staring at the gate and slid his gaze down he locked eyes with a beast with blood red eyes and sharp incisors.

Chapter Text

If you had asked her if she was okay, Sakura would have said she was fine. But her eyes bore the signs of fatigue and exhaustion. Dark circles being one of the symptoms of her insomnia, and the sore puffiness that surrounded them, symptoms of crying herself to sleep. But her tears have long since dried. Or so she told herself.

She would count the minutes before she had to be awake, feigning sleep when her parents came to check on her. She had lost her usual attitude, assuming one similar to Sasuke's or Shino's. Only replying when spoken to, and usually very brief. She tried to hide it well. But she knew that her fellow rookies and Tsunade took notice.

What was a girl to do when her team had abandoned her? The only people she had left now were the Godaime, Shizune, and...her parents. But they didn't understand. They would never understand.

Sasuke...he was the only one who knew her. The only one who she let in. The only one to understand her and...he just. Disappeared. She needed him and he just...left. It broke her. But she was fine. Or so she told herself.

Naruto...dumb, idiot knuckleheaded Naruto. She didn't know what to believe anymore. While they have 
literally been through the worst together...she didn't know him. Didn't think to get to know him. Didn't want to. But now...what was this feeling that cemented itself deep in her bones? She felt sick.

Sensei...where the hell was he? He disappeared along with Naruto. As mysterious as ever. But she longed for the days when it was just the team training. Or a mission, or just eating together at Ichiraku's or that barbeque place.

She could feel the stinging in her eyes but made no motion to wipe them away. She felt lethargic, lazy, and didn't feel like moving at all from her bed. She was late. So she didn't care about the bright rays of light that cascaded across her bed. She didn't feel anything...she was numb.
____

Kakashi landed on the outskirts of the town. He found a nice tall tree that overlooked the mountains and landscape well, and took rest there. Despite his ability at being late for absolutely everything he was...on time? 

Itachi had also took refuge in the same tree. When he witnessed Kakashi's approach, he took the form of a crow to fly higher to land on the same branch as his comrade. Wasn't that an ironic notion. The word felt foreign on his tongue.

As soon as he took his original form he silently stared at the shocking view. Kakashi had startled and was wiping furiously at his face. Itachi wasn't an Uchiha for nothing, and though he knew exactly what had happened, he stayed silent. Interesting.

"You need to stop sneaking up on me, I would've killed you." Kakashi said sternly, half hearted irritation laced his words, but the venom was clear. Itachi just smirked. "But you didn't. You knew it was me before I even revealed myself."

Kakashi glared at him. "Let me make this perfectly clear. We are not friends so stop with the friendly banter. Just give me the details of the mission and we can go our seperate ways." He did not want to be in the presence of Itachi. He was stifling, and he wanted to be alone with his thoughts.

"No, if we seperate now it could jeopardize the mission. If we want to succeed, we have to work together...It'll be just like the good old days." He closed his eyes and smiled, and while it may have reassured some people it just pissed Kakashi off.

"And what was so good about them? All it was was bloodshed and terror. Don't make me remind you that when we are out there on these missions, naivete will only get you killed." Kakashi's eye bore holes in Itachi's skull, the threatening nature not mistaken.

"Ahh...there will be no need. That won't happen again. May I?" Itachi ignored the deep stare coming from Kakashi and motion to sit next to the Copy-nin. Kakashi just narrowed his eye suspiciously as he slouched in the spot next to him.

"This will be brief, we will need to move quickly now since we will need to be at the village by late afternoon by latest. I'll explain more on the way but for now...we are going to need that person to change the order from killing the kyuubi on sight. Keep that in mind when we approach the village. It is our top priority at the moment. Everything else will fall into place after that." As soon as he finished speaking he searched Kakashi's eye, and nodded. 

"Let's go, before we waste anymore time." Itachi burst into crows and flew down to the base of the tree. Kakashi shunshinned down and narrowed his eye at the hunched form in front of him. He went to step forward to observe him closer but Itachi held his hand up to stop him, while hiding his face from view.

"Give me a moment." He pressed his palm against his blurry eyes and clenched his jaw. 'It's too soon. I need to save my chakra.' He thought, cringing. They wouldn't make it in time. What a dilemma...

"Let's go." And with that Itachi sped towards the mountains and Kakashi was quick to follow. Kakashi thought his behavior was a bit odd, but who was he to judge in that regard. They continued until nightfall and even though Kakashi knew he could keep going, something wasn't quite right with Itachi.

"Why did we stop?" Kakashi questioned, barely a whisper. They were in the trees and Itachi had taken first watch. Kakashi was supposed to be sleeping. He hadn't meant to speak but the more he tried not to think of it the more it worried him.

He hadn't expected an answer at all. It was none of his business but Itachi suprised him all the same. "I have a...disease. It causes me to lose my stamina more so than most people." He didn't want to go into it right now. While Kakashi might accept the dangers of overusing the Sharingan. He might not like the dangers of overusing the Mangekyo Sharingan.

Kakashi was silent and Itachi almost thought he finally fell asleep. "How long?" He was persistent wasn't he. Itachi tried to remember if he had showed signs when he was younger..."I don't remember." It was too late for this. He needed to sleep. 

Kakashi was quiet for a long time and finally he thought...he's asleep. Itachi opened his cloak in search of something when he fingers found their mark. He pulled out something and stared at it, the moonlight casting a dull glow in the night. He smiled and placed the item back in his cloak. It would be his turn to sleep soon and he needed to be on high alert.

Soon he was grateful for the slumber and let his guard down. He could trust Kakashi.

Little did he know, Kakashi had left a shadow clone in his stead. Kakashi didn't trust him at all. He wanted to scout ahead to make sure there wasn't a trap lying in wait for them. This could be a lure to seperate him and Naruto. To kidnap him and use him as a weapon. He had to make sure.

He spent all night searching for anything and when he came up empty-handed he swore. This wasn't right. There had to be something. He tried to summon Pakkun and was surprised to find Bisuke looking up at him. "What's up Kakashi? Not happy to see me?" He asked licking his paw. 

"No...that's not it. Where is Pakkun?" He asked. "Beats me." Kakashi felt alarm bells ringing in the back of his head. Naruto. "Do me a favor. Can you sense any traps in the vicinity?" Kakashi asked lowering his mask, desperate to find 'anything'. 

Bisuke shook his head, denying their existence. "Okay. Now can you do me another favor. Go find Naruto and then report back to me. I'm getting a bad feeling..." He replaced his mask and seperated from his ninja hound, making his way back to Itachi. Hopefully he would be none the wiser.

Thankfully Itachi slept like the dead apparently. He didn't stir at all when he dispelled his clone. They still had a few more hours before sunrise and he took that time to think. He hadn't really allowed himself anytime to his thoughts while he took care of Naruto. He couldn't.

Or rather...he didn't realize he didn't need to. Too preoccupied with the domestic chores, and the tension. From both his own wandering mind and the dread of infiltrating his beloved village that had forsaken him. What he did for the people he cares about.

He thought about his student. Naruto, with his bright moxie. How did he manage to do it? It was strange. He knew he had hidden pain, could feel it slowly filtering back in, now that he no longer had a buffer. How did he not notice, that Naruto had made him forget?

He felt his heart clench and unknowingly he felt the need to hold Naruto again. To make sure he was safe. He did not shed tears, he wouldn't allow himself. For his tears have long since dried. Or so he told himself. They would only get in the way.

He steeled himself, and forced his emotions away. Another time perhaps. He had a job to do. Hours passed and he grew nervous. Bisuke was taking an awful long time. He didn't need to worry right now. He couldn't afford it. But all he could feel was dread.
 
The sun had started to rise and Itachi did not so much as twitch. He really was a heavy sleeper. They needed to start moving or they would not make it in time. He stood, stretching his body out and nudging Itachi.

Itachi sluggishly awoke, as if he was comfortable in Kakashi's presence. That was an alarming thought. This kid was either relaxed because he was confident that he could protect himself at a moment's notice. Or the very unlikely alternative, trusted Kakashi enough to protect him, almost like a...comrade. No way. Kakashi didn't trust that.

"Let's move." Kakashi grunted, already speeding off into the forest. He would not wait for him. He needed to get to the village. It would take about eight to twelveish or so hours for them to get to the village gates. The thought made him clench his jaw tightly against the impact against the branches as he put more chakra into the soles of his feet. If he could just seperate from Itachi, he would make it there in six.

However Itachi matched his pace evenly. The only hint at his disadvantage was the paleness of his face and the heavy gasping as his feet bounced of the branches. Kakashi knew he'd lose his stamina too quickly like that but made no effort to accommodate him. 

They traveled for about four hours and just as the sun burned brightly in the sky, Itachi wavered on his feet and barely caught the staggering foothold on the branch he almost fell off of. He heaved in heavy gulps of air and watched the fading figure disappear from view. Why was he so motivated? What was it about Naruto that made him like this?

He felt his lungs burn against the cool air. He pushed himself too hard. He wouldn't make it if he continued like this but he needed to. He felt his legs wobble but he ignored it in favor of catching up to his old teammate. How annoying, that his body decided to punish him now of all times. His vision swayed slightly as he pushed his chakra to its limits as he went full force to meet Kakashi.

He almost barreled into him, blurry as his eyesight was. It was strange that he had stopped in his tracks. Why? Wasn't he intent on rushing ahead just a second ago? Then he noticed it.

Kakashi had sensed an incoming familiar chakra below and hid his own chakra to a miniscule amount, blending into the tree as he waited. He nodded to Itachi and as quietly and stealthily as possible made a seat for himself and pulled a couple ration bars out of his pack. He tossed one to Itachi and began eating his own. He then realized how starving he actually was. 

He finished quickly, unnoticeable to even Itachi, merely in the blink of an eye. He peered over to look below and cringed to himself when he saw a group of genin and what he could only hope was not Neji leading the group. Byakugan would be able to detect them from this distance.

He shuddered involuntarily and the action made the leaves flutter and shake. Someone from below looked up in suspicion. Damn. It was the Hyuga brat. But as luck would have it, Neji shrugged his shoulders and the team continued on their way. After a good while passed the silver-haired jounin sighed in relief and stood.

Itachi was grateful for the impromptu break and felt more than appreciative towards the three genin below. Even if they had put a damper on their plans for a bit. Kakashi nodded and took off once again. They were close. Maybe three hours away from the village. They both pushed themselves hard, and Kakashi could almost feel a strange comraderie overcome him.

They paused in their tracks when they were an hour away, to don their black kitsune masks. They put a henge on their packs, to make them appear invisible to the naked eye and continued. It was almost time, they could see the gate clearly when Kakashi sensed Bisuke behind them. He turned in his tracks and had to do a double take.

Why in kami's sake was Naruto with him? 

Chapter Text

Pakkun was extremely concerned. Naruto didn't look right when he left him in that room. He didn't look right during the whole day either. Something happened, and he would bet it had something to do with that missing-nin.

He felt the urge that pulled him to his summoner and ignored it. He didn't feel like being summoned right now. Someone else can do it. The kid must have rubbed off on him and he solemnly laid down and pouted. 
_____

"You!" Naruto pointed, the last time he was in this damn mindspace he told the stupid fox to give him his chakra as a form of rent. So that he could summon Gamabunta the boss toad.

"Listen here you damn brat! You think you are a monster. Ha! Don't make me laugh." His voice was menacing and evil and Naruto had the urge to claw at his ears. "A little brat like you...are the furthest thing from a monster."

Naruto was sure this was the worst pep talk he had ever been a part of. Not that he's had many, mind you. "Yeah, what do you know you damn fox! I've been called a monster all my life. You don't know a damn thing!" He screamed feeling the anger swell and crash around him, the water sloshing at his knees violently.

"I've been trapped inside this cage for as long as you've been alive little boy. I know everything." His voice echoed around him, harsh and gravely in his ears. And to that Naruto contemplated. He remembered that. It always seemed to slip his mind. Always an afterthought that he shared the same body as the nine-tailed fox.

"What will you do? Now that you're a monster? Will you destroy your village? Burn it to the ground and wreak havoc on those whom you once deemed your allies? They have turned their back on you, don't you think they deserve as much pain as they have caused you?" He laughed maniacally, and Naruto stared at the fox's reflection in the murky water. 

He couldn't answer. He...knew the right choice. But it felt like the decision was out of his hands. He secretly felt the hatred, the heavyness that dragged him down deep into the inky pool of destruction. Chaos. Everything that made him angry, dissapointed. Hated. Wrath incarnate.

It gripped at him like a vice, drowning him. He could feel it overwhelming him, boiling him from the inside. "Sure. I'll exterminate them all. I'll become the monster that they expect me to be." Naruto spoke sarcastically, but there was an edge of truth to it. His voice sounded dull and defeated, it felt wrong.

This was exactly what he wanted, so why did it make him feel guilty. No. This wasn't right at all. He was Kyuubi no Kitsune. The Nine Tailed Fox. The strongest of all Hagoromo's children. He needed his vessel too, to be strong of heart, mind, and body.

He should make those villagers suffer, not Naruto. He should enact revenge. Not Naruto. That wasn't him. He was obnoxiously bright. Not whatever this was.

Suddenly Naruto vanished from the mindscape and Kurama was left to contemplate exactly what just happened.
_____

Jiraiya stumbled in, his vision hazy, and his feet uncoordinated. The telltale sign of red blooming on his cheeks, he was drunk. He cursed to himself when the floor squeaked, protesting under his weight. He fell forwards, tripping on the edge of the low table.

"Hmph. Since those two fucking brats are gone, the lights were never turned on. God damn it." He pushed the blame onto Naruto and Kakashi. He didn't see the huddled figure in the corner of the room curled around himself pitifully.

"Ahhhh." He sat down at the table roughly and lit a lantern, he didn't feel like stumbling back over to turn the overhead light on. A few moments passed and he started speaking low under his breath.

"That bastard, who the hell does he think he is?" He muttered. "'Oooh look at me I'm Kakashi Hatake of the Sharingan, I kill people without blinking an eye, and apparently now I like touching little boys." He spoke mockingly, loud enough for Naruto to hear him.

"'I'm know everything blah blah blah...bastard. Naruto is better off not getting involved with that guy. I don't care if he is his jounin instructor. The kid's got a screw loose. Naruto doesn't need to pick up disgusting habits. That shit is unnatural." He spat, the revulsion clear as day in his voice.

"Naruto is another one too. Needy fucking kid. I'm not a god damn babysitter. I'm Jiraiya, I should be out enjoying my night with beautiful women, not coddling a fucking snot-nosed brat. If I wanted, I'd have my pick of the litter, and I sure as hell would never choose a pathetic whiney loser such as that kid. The only reason why I'm doing this is because of you Minato. He's fucking lucky. If it weren't for the fact that he was a monster, I'd have left him here and moved on to a different country." He slammed his fist on the table angrily.

"Fucking brat won't leave me the fuck alone either. 'Train me, train me.' I don't have time to waste on pathetic whims. The rasengan training was also probably a fluke. He must have cheated or something. Because he couldn't grasp the technique at all. Hmm...but Tsunade seemed smitten with him. If I keep him around maybe she'll finally let me get her in bed. Oh yeah that sounds like a great idea. Hehe..." His entire character did a 180°, and he finished his speech with a lecherous smile, drooling over the well endowed Hokage.

"What..." He heard a soft growl come from the room. In the corner of his eye he noticed an eerie crimson glow and squinted his eyes. What was that? Suddenly he knew what this was. Or more realistically, who.

"Shit! Where..." He seached himself clumsily for the chakra suppressing seals and came up empty. He felt the blood drain from his face when Naruto stretched out his limbs. There were three chakra tails. 

"What. Did. You. Say?!" Naruto growled, loud and hostile. It was then that Jiraiya noticed the tears that dripped from his face. The light cast a strange shadow over his face and the gleaming sanguine orbs that shone from the darkness, would haunt him for a lifetime.

"Why would you say that?! Why does everyone hate me?! What did I do to deserve this?!" Naruto tried again, hysteria evident in his erratic voice. He didn't dare move yet, he was feeling homicidal, and he needed answers. Demanded them. "And don't you DARE tell me it's because of that damned fox." He spoke coolly, the intent of death was imminent.

Jiraiya gulped, he was severely under prepared for such a situation. What should he say to get out of this position. "Listen brat..." He started but Naruto screamed in savage bloodlust and charged straight at him. Jiraiya tried to scramble to his feet but Naruto had him pinned to the floor with brutal strength.

"I. Am. Not. A. Brat." Naruto pronounced each syllable, his salient claws digging painfully into his wrists, drawing blood. Jiraiya panicked and struggled against his restraints. Naruto loomed over him and spoke again, baring his fangs.

"That's right...you said some nasty stuff about my sensei too didn't you, Pervy Sage." He sneered, snubbing his name purposely.

"You don't have the right to speak like that about him. You prey on innocent women like a beast and you make me sick. Kakashi-sensei is a million times better than the likes of you." His voice was chilling and for a moment Jiraiya saw his life flash before his eyes. And he suddenly remembered the hidden chakra suppressant seal, that was tucked away in his haori.

Naruto stared at him with seething disgust and abruptly let him go. Jiraiya took advantage of it and tackled Naruto to the ground. He tried to slap the seal on his forehead. Naruto looked up in surprise with blue eyes when a noise of alarm filtered into the room. What Naruto saw was one of Kakashi's hound summons.

Bisuke took one look at the spectacle before him. He wasn't sure what he was looking at, but it was clear that Jiraiya was attacking Naruto. He viciously bit into the toad sage's leg, sinking his teeth in as far as he could, drawing blood.

Naruto took that leverage and kicked Jiraiya off of him with all of his strength. He picked up Bisuke in one arm and the clothes from Kakashi in the other, and rushed out the door, speeding off without looking back. He ran until his legs gave out and dropped to his knees. He curled around the soft body in his arms and sobbed.

It was around midnight and Bisuke had a decision to make. Clearly the kid needed a stable environment. With the wet sopping mess he was making of his fur. And the heart wrenching sounds he was making, or the heaving of his shoulders.

Kakashi wouldn't like it but he had no other choice. Naruto was coming with him. He squirmed out of his hold and sat patiently while Naruto got his bearings together. They were near the edge of town, ironically facing Kakashi's location.

"Hey kid, c'mon, Kakashi is waiting for me to return. Let's go." Naruto wiped at his face desperately and nodded. Kakashi would make it better. He longed for that comforting presence, and sighed. He could hardly wait.

They had traveled through the night because Naruto was sick of sleeping, he also didn't want the umwelcome nightmares that were definitely waiting behind his eyes. 

It was around noon and Naruto saw Neji, Lee, and Tenten up ahead. He was about to jump down and greet them when Bisuke cut him off. "Kid, did you forget about your situation just now? You can't just walk up to people from the village. They think you burned somebody alive, remember?"

Naruto did forget. He was happy to see his...friends that he just...wanted. But now he can't. Maybe coming all this way was a mistake. He should've just stayed with...him. He shuddered at the thought. What would happen the next time they met?

That question was painful. He thought that perhaps if he pushed enough, Pervy Sage would accept him, but...He could feel tears building up and his chest tightened. He was unwanted. He was always a burden, to be pushed onto someone else. Nobody...loved him. Cherished him. Desired him. He was, and always will be outcasted and rejected.

Naruto drove through the forest at high speed, he needed to see him, before he lost it completely. They traveled for an hour or so and finally, Naruto felt his spirits lift when Kakashi turned to look at them. A smile erupted on his face, and for a bit, he forgot about all of his troubles.

Well, there was one person who liked him enough.

Chapter Text

Naruto knew he was running too fast, but he didn't care, he needed the comfort that Kakashi offered. He heard a loud gasp as he collided with the man, his limbs encircled tightly around his sensei's body.

Kakashi had lifted his mask when he saw his incoming student and staggered on the forest floor, when Naruto launched himself into his arms. He couldn't understand what had happened but he knew something did. He felt guilt and relief at the same time. Naruto was silent for ahwile just burying his face into Kakashi's neck. Kakashi could feel hot tears staining his armor.

Kakashi slowly enveloped him in his arms, cradling him against his body. He pet his hair gently with his free hand and soon the moment was broken by Naruto's soft words. "I missed you." He spoke, breathing in Kakashi's earthy musk. 

It was heady against his tongue and for a second Naruto wondered why that was. Wasn't it supposed to be gross, since he was sure Kakashi hadn't showered in a couple days. But he didn't mind at all, after all it reminded him of home.

"Naruto..." Kakashi didn't know what to say. Of course it killed him to leave him behind, but it was for the sake of the mission. He tightened his grip on the boy, crushing him to his build. It was a silent answer, 'I missed you too' his actions said.

Suddenly someone cleared their throat and they both looked over at Itachi sheepishly. "As touching as this reunion is...I don't understand. Why aren't you with the toad sage? It's too dangerous for you to be in Konoha right now. You're presence here could jeopardize the entire mission." He scowled behind his mask. They couldn't see his face, but his reprimanding tone was clear.

Kakashi contemplated for a moment before he had a brilliant idea. He reluctantly dislodged Naruto from his body and spoke. "It may not do much but...can you both look that way for a moment." After receiving confused looks from both of them before they turned, he sighed. 

He removed his infamous mask from his shirt by ripping it with a sharp kunai and returned the black kitsune mask in its place. "Alright. Here Naruto, this will cover your birthmarks and...you'll need to do a henge for your hair. Your shade of blonde is a bit...unique in the village. It'll definitely be noticed right away." Naruto slipped the mask over his head and tucked it into his jacket. It was a bit loose around the nose but Kakashi took care of that.

"Naruto turn here for a moment." He took his kunai and ripped the back of the mask a bit, tying it securely in a knot. It was now snug and comfortable against his face. It was damp with sweat and moist where his mouth was. But now he could breathe in that sharp petrichor tang with reckless abandon.

He sighed in giddiness and brought his hands together to perform a henge. He didn't know why but...he felt almost excited to change his appearance. In a puff of clouds he revealed himself. His normal unruly spikes were now fluffy and soft waves. Instead of his obnoxious yellow blonde, he went for a coppery orange, as a tribute to the kyuubi sealed inside of him. His eyes too, he changed to a simple black, much like his sensei's.

"How's this?" He asked, looking up to them for acceptance. Kakashi brought his hand out to ruffle through his vermillion locks and even though he couldn't see the expression, he knew he was smiling. He gave him a thumbs up before grabbing him by the shoulders gently and kneeling so he was face level. He made sure to make eye contact before he spoke.

"Naruto. Why aren't you with Jiraiya? Did something happen?" He asked, his voice muffled by the mask. Naruto looked to the side and refused to meet Kakashi's gaze. He didn't want to remember that traumatic evening.

Kakashi knew something was wrong. Very wrong. It left his stomach in knots and he was hurt that Naruto wouldn't meet his eyes. He sighed and braced himself before lifting the mask. It would be the first time...well second time that Naruto would see his bare face. But he needed that connection to get a straight answer from the boy.

Naruto stared pointedly at the ground still evading his silent pleas to talk. He shook his head and ignored the frustration that laced Kakashi's words. "Naruto seriously, please look at me." Kakashi felt defeated and sullenly dragged the mask back to its original position.

"Fine, that's okay, when you want to talk, I'll be there to listen. Only when you're ready okay? I won't try to force it out of you." And with that Kakashi hugged him tightly and turned back to Bisuke and Itachi.

His summon sat impatiently, practically erupting from his spot next to Naruto. It was obvious he had something important to tell him. "Whatever you want to say right now, it can wait. Anything serious that happened, I need Naruto to tell me first. Got it?" Kakashi locked on to Bisuke and watched the distressed look appear on his dog's face. That was worrisome. But as much as he wanted that information, it was crucial to give his student some time and space to collect himself. He needed to trust that Naruto would come to him when he was capable.

"We have wasted too much time already. Naruto will be coming with us I assume? You need to remain inconspicuous and furthermore, do not talk to anyone besides us. Not your friends, not your neighbors. And especially not your teammates. Got it?" His voice was indignant, borderline pissed, but that was to be expected when they kept getting delayed. 

Naruto nodded solemnly and picked up the box of clothes he dropped when he slammed into the silver haired jounin. He ignored the low whine that erupted from Bisuke and waited for the two to decide what to do.

"Bisuke, it's time. We'll talk later." Kakashi dispelled his summon and nodded to the others as they approached the village gates. As predicted Izumo and Kotetsu were standing guard. They all held their breath in anticipation as they walked through the gate. They almost made it too.

"Hold it. I don't recognize you three, state your names." They exchanged glances and Itachi decided to speak for them. "We are returning from an s-classified rescue mission, I apologize but we can't reveal our identities at this time." Itachi fell silent after coming up with that totally believable excuse. 

"Huh? Then what are your aliases in ANBU. Surely you haven't forgotten the protocol for entering the village unannounced? Or do you need us to send for our interrogation expert? You didn't expect to just waltz right in, did you?" Itachi cursed under his breath but Kakashi was absolutely delighted. Of course, why didn't he think of him right off the bat?

"Please do call for Ibiki-san, I'm sure he'd be more than pleased to hear that he will be held waiting for his client's arrival." Kakashi stated, happily knowing that he just instilled fear into the two chunins.

"Ohh, is that so, haha...why didn't you just say that? Go ahead then, and please give Ibiki-san our apologies." Kotetsu and Izumo bowed at them and let them through the gates.

Once they were several miles into the village, in a certain location, Kakashi told hold of both of his comrades and shunshinned into the ANBU headquarters. Specifically the Torture and Interrogation Captain's office. Ibiki did not react at all to the three sudden presences in the quiet room. In fact it was almost like he was expecting them.

"And to what do I owe this pleasure, Kakashi, Itachi?" Feigning innocence was not going to get them anywhere so Itach and Kakashi revealed their respective faces. Kakashi ignored the calculating stare he received from the man when he covered the lower half of his face with his mask.

"There have been many rumors that I'm sure you are aware of. Fed by certain people who wish to see the downfall of the village. I will of course explain in full detail, but first there's something I need you to do. You can do whatever you have to after. You have my word." Kakashi hoped Ibiki was as practical as always. He needed the alliance. 

He held his breath when Ibiki stood from his seat at the large desk and the man came inches from his face. He stared at him for awhile with a petrifying focus and found nothing striking him as malignant. He gave Kakashi a curt nod and crossed his arms over his chest, leaning his tall intimidating build against his desk.

"What do you need?" He asked, a smirk in place of his usual grimace. He watched in curiosity as Itachi whom he was under the impression was a rogue ninja, exchanged a look of mutual amity with his former captain. Surprisingly it was the Uchiha who spoke rather than Kakashi.

"Can you change the order from 'kill on sight' to 'do not approach' on the target Naruto Uzumaki. I am not asking you to stop the order permanently, but it would be very beneficial to our current pursuit. We will be willing to explain everything immediately after you do that. It's not like we have any other choice in the matter as it stands." He gave an accusing glare towards Kakashi. 

Ibiki rubbed his chin, deliberating whether he should agree to these terms. "Naruto Uzumaki huh...? You know I am quite fond of that kid. It was the first time I ever passed someone who didn't write down a single answer on the written exam." He chuckled and clapped his hands together.

"Alright, let's say I accept your offer. What would you gain from it? As I can see, Naruto Uzumaki is a traitor in the village, and a majority vote has called for his execution. Kakashi I understand that he is your student, therefore if anything detrimental to the village occurs from this, you also will be on trial. Do you accept these terms?"

Naruto who had been silent the whole time was having a hard time biting his tongue. He couldn't believe what was happening right now. They were just fighting for his innocence and freedom. Now Kakashi is also...he couldn't breathe. No he wouldn't stand for it. Kakashi deserved to live in peace, not dragged through the undercurrent of society where he was judged for somebody else's misdeeds...it was just plain cruel.

"Maa I guess I have no other option." Kakashi's hand found Naruto's and gave it a light squeeze as if saying 'it's going to be okay' or 'I'm going to be okay'. Either way Naruto was grateful for the small piece of reassurance.

"Great. Now...let's go then shall we." Ibiki and Itachi left the room and Kakashi took that time to quickly talk to Naruto alone. He put his mask back on and grabbed Naruto's other hand. "We don't have a lot of time but hear me out. No matter what happens after this, we do it together from now on, got it?"

"I promise I won't let anything happen to you. So trust me okay. I want you to promise me too, that if you are in trouble or just want somebody to talk to, you can come to me. I know we just got back together but I seriously need you to stay right here until I get back. Okay? I won't leave you." With that he pulled Naruto roughly into a haphazard embrace and disappeared in a zephyr of leaves.

Naruto stared blankly at the foliage on the ground and smacked both hands to his face. He face felt hot, burning him, melting him. Yet despite the heat, he felt a bubbly feeling exploding in his chest leaving him delighted. Just what was this awareness?

Chapter Text

Ibiki went straight past his office, causing Itachi and Kakashi to share an anxious look. Sasuke was right behind them and was growing more aware of the suspiciously familiar broad back in front of him. He was about to grill him when Ibiki paused in his stride.

"Weasel your first assignment, guard that room we just passed, make absolutely sure nobody leaves or enters it. Yourself included. Should be simple enough for a new recruit of your caliber." Ibiki ordered, ignoring the look of apprehension that the former ANBUs gave him.

Sasuke gave him a nod and stationed himself outside the office, standing as still as a statue. Nobody would get past him...still pretty stupid for his first task though.

Ibiki raised his eyebrows at both of them, expecting the challenge to his orders. They kept silent however, because things were starting to get tricky. They couldn't raise suspicion. They would just wait for the right moment to reveal Naruto.

Ibiki started briskly walking again and after they turned the corner and walked down the enclosed stairwell he spoke. "Don't worry too much, that boy will be fine. He's a strong kid." Kakashi was shellshocked. No it couldn't be...did he know?

"I can hear the gears in your head turning. Yes, I knew the moment you stepped foot into my office. That boy could be nobody else but Naruto Uzumaki. Did you think a disguise as weak as that would fool me? Your body language suggested that you two are quite close. And anytime I mentioned Naruto, both of you looked straight at him." It was glaringly obvious to him.

"I'm not an interrogator for just show you know. You can't hide the facts that lay themselves out right in front of you." Ibiki chuckled amusedly, enjoying the look of bewilderment that peeked out from the masks. He stopped in his tracks outside one of their interrogation rooms. He motioned for them to enter.

"Don't mind the change of scenery. I'd prefer if you disclosed your information to me privately. Who knows who might be listening." Ibiki gestured to the seat at the simple metal table that barely filled the center of the room. And just as a precaution he placed silencing seals around the space as well as covering the two-way mirror with his trench coat. 

"If you don't mind, I'd rather talk to you two minus the masks. Also I believe you have something for me? No I can't read your minds, but I can see you itching to reach for the scrolls in your pockets." He sighed. Why did all of his victims think he was a telepath? That was Inoichi's forte. Speaking of, it might be useful to bring the Intelligence Division into the matter.

Itachi pulled his mask off first and Kakashi lowered his slightly like before, hiding the bottom portion of his face. After that they handed over the scrolls to Ibiki. Itachi grimaced in pain when Ibiki intensely crushed his grip on his wrist as he plucked the scroll delicately with his other hand. He bored holes into his face, effectively intimidating the stoic Uchiha. He could tell by the flicker of his eyes. He looked away at the last second and with that he instantly let him go triumphantly.

Kakashi placed his in front of him on the table. He didn't need Ibiki to break his wrist for a damn scrutinizing look. Ibiki lifted his eyebrow, but slightly smirked as he picked it up anyways.

You could hear a pin drop with the deafening silence that held condensed in the room. The scrape of parchment paper unfurling, and the languid unraveling had them biding their breath. The minutes ticked by dragging along each beat of their hearts.

Ibiki glanced at the scrolls and quickly resealed them. He set them down gently on the table and everything was morbidly quiet. He closed his eyes and clicked his tongue in annoyance. He sat for a long time, preparing the words he wanted to speak. 

"While I am truly fascinated how you came to gain this knowledge, I'm more curious as to why you chose to interfere. What could you possibly accomplish by participating in this nonsense?" Ibiki opened his eyes and fixed them with a vigilant stare.

Kakashi tried to keep his mouth shut. He really did. Never in a million years would you catch him howling in anger. But he could growl and make no mistake, he wouldn't sit by and watch while his precious student was tormented with false accusations.

"I vowed to protect my students with my life. You don't really expect me to just ignore this bullshit from the sidelines do you? You should know me by now, I will NOT abandon them, especially not Naruto." He stood over the table and slammed his fist on the table with venomous spite. He felt the cloying tendrils of animosity ebb away when he finished, his mind now filled with uneasiness for the boy who was waiting for him.

"No I wouldn't doubt you for a second. What about you Itachi? Hmm actually no, I already know what it is you're looking for." He casually laced his fingers together and watched the two with careful consideration. Every single twitch and motion scrutinized and memorized for later.

"Now while that explains what you are doing here and the conspiracy behind those 'false' claims as you put it. Why don't you explain to me, how exactly did Naruto vanish around the same time the victim was torched?" He leaned back against the chair, the screech of distress loud and metallic.

"I removed Naruto from Konoha Hospital at the estimated time of eleven o'clock in the evening. There was a witness, Sasuke Uchiha, as well as evidence of my jutsu Amaterasu. I had intended to do it once I found out what was being planned, but Danzo must have sensed my arrival and moved up the timing." Itachi's voice was monotonous, as if he were reading from an academic scroll.

"I see." Ibiki kept up an unimpressed look. "And where were you Kakashi? Care to add anything?" Kakashi in fact knew exactly where he was. That sickeningly sweet concoction that Tsunade had him drink was most likely a Nara clan remedy for night terrors. He was sleeping like a baby. "I was recuperating at the hospital. I sustained injuries from some intense..." He cringed as he tried to omit the truth. Ibiki saw through it in an instant.

"Hatake. I am already well aware of the incident that occured between your two students. Now why don't we try this again. Where were you the night the jinchuriki was taken?" Kakashi sighed feeling guilty. "I was asleep." Ibiki kept his gaze neutral.

"Let's move on to the next day. Itachi, where specifically 'did' you take the boy?" Itachi developed an apathetic attitude. "I brought him to the Land of Rivers, to a hot spring inn near the border of the Land of Fangs. I left him with the Toad Sage, as I saw he was the most qualified to keep him out of Danzo's clutches." Kakashi clenched his jaw tightly. He would NOT take offense to that. Naruto was in his custody now and that was all that mattered. Jiraiya be damned.

"So then why is the boy with you now? After all you went through to get him out of the village. Why did you return? You could have easily escaped this plot. So tell me." .

"...It's his home." Kakashi muttered under his breath. How was that even a question? Naruto's Will of Fire burned brighter than the sun. He would risk his entire being protecting his home. His village. His dream. It wasn't a matter of why, it was a matter of when. 

"It's 'our' home." Kakashi repeated himself, louder this time enunciating the 'our' as if it even needed to be spoken. Despite the current circumstances, he still loved the village and it's people. Well...some of them.

With that Ibiki stood from his seat pocketing the scrolls and walked around the table. He clapped both of them on their backs in approval as they concealed their identities once more. "I was hoping you'd say that. Now this was fun and all but before you both decide to sprint off, I need to make sure that what you just told me is actual proof."

"First, we will visit the Intelligence Division, I'm going to need an accurate assessment of your memories to cross examine them with your alibis. After that, I'm going to need to talk to Naruto." He threw his trench coat back on and led them both out of the room. 
______

Naruto had panicked the moment he was left alone. After trying to deal with those strange feelings that threatened to bubble out of him, he glanced around the office timidly. His eyes widened further and further after he scanned the titles of the books on the encompassing bookshelves around the room. If possible he felt more terrified being here, more so than approaching the kyuubi.

He dared to brush his fingers along the glossy spines, shivering at the purpose that they protrayed. He read them nervously under his breath as he went, as if acknowledging their existence would make them disappear.

Naruto shivered as he noticed the theme that most of the books seemed to have. Well...he was in Ibiki's office and he remembered the disturbing presence the proctor had. He heard loud footsteps outside the door and felt the quicking pace of his heartbeat. He hoped that it was Kakashi that had returned, he wanted out of this dungeon.

Thankfully, a silver lining appeared, when the door opened to announce that his savior was there. Five people walked through the threshold and while he recognized four of them  there was one who seemed...extremely familiar somehow.

"Leave us." The younger ANBU simply nodded and turned on his foot walking away. Naruto felt his body turn to ice when Ibiki gave no warning as he also pushed Itachi and Kakashi out of the room. He swiftly locked the doors and suddenly it was himself versus Ibiki and Inoichi Yamanaka, Ino's father.

At first even though he was petrified and wanted nothing more than to escape he tried to talk. "U-uh..." He stuttered and backed away from the two men. They were off in the corner having a silent conversation and seemed to be ignoring him as his back hit the bookshelves. He was trapped.

"Why don't you drop the henge, Naruto. We just want to have a little chat. That's all." Inoichi walked over to him and offered him a friendly smile, but Naruto felt nauseous, and diverted his eyes. He could tell that his smile was fake, and people only smiled like that when they had bad intentions.

"Can Kakashi-sensei come back in?" He wrung his hands together tightly. He didn't trust them. But if Kakashi was there he would do it. Inoichi was about to say no but Ibiki observed the ginger haired boy. He was fidgeting, a clear case of psychomotor agitation. They would get nowhere with him like this. He flicked the lock, allowing Kakashi to slam the door open violently. He went to stop Itachi but noticed he wasn't there. Interesting.

Kakashi looked around in panic and once he locked eyes with Naruto he strode over and hugged him tightly, wrapping his arms around his neck, crushing his face against his shoulder. He twisted his head away to glare at the other two. He looked down at Naruto and smiled soft, signalling to him that it was safe to drop his illusion now. Naruto brought his hands together and dispelled his red hair and dark eyes. He felt a strange dissapointment run through him at that.

Now he was himself again. A monster in disguise. The village's worst nightmare, and these two were about to see that very soon. At least Kakashi was there, to hold his hand.

Chapter Text

When Naruto opened his eyes after dropping his disguise he felt...different. Feral, and bloodthirsty, charged with primal instinct. He was a predator and that was probably the worst thing to be while he was in another predator's lair.

His personality shifted dramatically, confidence and a coolly compacted insidious nature took place of his frightened timidness of a trapped prey. He let his emotions wash away, now a blank and empty vessel, with which he could make dance to his whims, like a puppet.

He stepped back, breaking away from Kakashi, though he gripped his hand tightly in his, not quite hiding all of his fear. Kakashi allowed him to step forward until he stood directly in front of Ibiki and Inoichi. He swallowed nervously, his heart palpitating rapidly. He squeezed Kakashi's hand and let go. He could be strong. He definitely could...right? He wanted to grab his hand again, but refused himself. He could do this.

Inoichi leaned down, bending at the knees, mimicking his sensei's infamous smile, fake and insincere. He wanted to punch him in his stupid face. But violence is what got him in this mess in the first place, even if he technically had nothing to do with it.

"There you are." Inoichi spoke gleefully, forcing through the smile, in a sickeningly sweet voice, mocking him. He wasn't a BRAT that need to be coddled damn it! He flicked his eyes up in defiance, relishing in his shocked expression. Ibiki watched on with mild curiosity.

Naruto, it seemed, was exhibiting extreme disassociation and showing multiple signs of some kind of personality disorder. Ibiki found this to be interesting, he was already turning out to be quite the enigma.

"Yeah, I've been here from the start, just get on with it." Naruto spit out sarcastically. He felt piqued, irritation circulating in his veins. He felt all eyes on him. Good. "R-right. We're going to ask you a few questions and then I am going to look at your memories. Got it?" Inoichi stood up straight and Ibiki took over.

He walked over to his desk and dragged his chair over to the genin in the room. "Naruto, why don't you have a seat?" He stared at him expectantly assessing his reaction. Naruto quirked his eyebrows defensively and looked at Kakashi for confirmation. Kakashi had a perplexed look in his eye.

"Nope. I'm fine." He was close enough to Kakashi and far enough from the other two men. And now there was a chair barricading them apart. Ibiki noted his denial and nodded. He took initiative and sat down instead, facing Naruto head on. This caused Naruto to step backwards involuntarily.

"Naruto, what's your favorite food?" Ibiki asked suddenly, observing Naruto's eyes specifically. The question caught Naruto off guard, but he answered it nonetheless. "I love ramen...especially Ichiraku's, although instant cup ramen is still pretty good." He shrugged nonchalantly, and while he spoke, his eyes drifted to the right. Good.

"And can you expain to me why it's your favorite?" Naruto narrowed his eyes. What kind of game is this? Still. He would never pass up an opening of the figurative doors to the deliciousness of ramen. He was sure to answer animatedly. Kakashi perked up at this, since he never actually heard why he loved it so much.

"So, it's because it's very nostalgic for me, and reminds me of simpler happier times. I..." He paused, his eyes glazing over as his treaded down dark thoughts. "It has never failed to bring me joy and comfort when times were...too difficult." Nobody but Teuchi and Ayame knew the real reason why he loved ramen. And sometimes despite the love that he had for the village, he wanted to watch it burn to the ground.

Everyone was silent at his answer, not expecting the deep personal connection he had for ramen. Kakashi knew there was more to the story. Yet he also knew it would be more than difficult to broach that subject in the future.

Ibiki noticed that while he spoke his eyes flickered between the right and upwards, signalling that he wasn't solely using the cognitive part of his brain. That would work just fine for now. "Naruto, can you tell me what happened the day before you left the village?" This was where it would get tricky. Now the real questions were coming and they were just going straight into it.

Kakashi loathed the situation right now. He wanted to protect Naruto from this...trip down memory lane. Yet he could do nothing but listen as he retold the events from the previous week.

"I remember waking up..." He didn't know if he should tell them about sleeping at Kakashi's, so he decided to skip that part. "I ate breakfast, and then we went to train...um..and then..." His face darkened and he started trembling. He gripped his pants tightly in fists and his bottom lip started quivering. "I remember being struck through my chest from behind by Sasuke's jutsu...and then feeling white hot pain. I think I might have died. Then I was really angry and I don't really remember anything after that." Naruto could barely speak though the lump in his throat.
 
Kakashi felt guilt, pain, and anger all at once. What was he thinking accepting the council's request to teach Sasuke how to wield the Chidori? If...if he didn't, Naruto wouldn't have a scar to remind him of his teammate's betrayal. Kakashi tried to calm himself by biting his lip but that only proved to him that he needed reminding that he should be punished for his failures.

Ibiki looked passively at him. Naruto was looking to the right the whole time, well minus the beginning when he looked down briefly before continuing. That means he was remembering it. He was telling the truth. He was skeptical however since there wasn't really much to go on. Which was why Inoichi was here. He could search through his repressed memories.

"And what about after that? What's the next thing you remember?" This time Inoichi asked the question, because Ibiki remained silent. He was thinking about the incident report. It said nothing about Naruto being struck with a jutsu. Somebody must have altered the report. But why?

Naruto glanced back at Kakashi, wishing he could see his face, and not just his eyes that peered from the depths of the black mask. He brought his hand up to the dark fabric on his face, pressing it to his nose, breathing in heavily. Feeling a bit more relaxed now he continued.

"I remember waking up in Itachi's arms as he was running through the forest at night. And I tried to fight him, but I...he t-tricked me and used his stupid jutsu on me and...and..." Naruto became deathly quiet after that and his trembling returned tenfold. He was hyperventilating and choking on the air in his lungs. He gripped his hair in fists pulling aggressively.

I am a monster. I am a monster. I am a monster...Iamamonster...monstermonstermonstermonster.

Kakashi closed his eyes, already reliving the nightmares before they shut. All of his precious people perishing right before his eyes a million times over. A lone tear slipped down his cheek and he reached an arm out to grab Naruto. He jerked him into his arms and held him. He didn't know if he did it for himself or his student but...he couldn't take it back now. He rubbed his back frantically, as Naruto's body slowly calmed down.

Ibiki and Inoichi exchanged alarmed looks. Whatever this jutsu did, caused Naruto to have a breakdown. This confident, obnoxious brat that only ever smiled, and never backed down from a challenge. Inoichi cleared his throat. "Naruto. You are clearly too unstable to finish talking however we need your full alibi, before we can continue our investigation. With your permission I will go into the recesses of your mind and search through your memories, even the ones that you don't remember. You don't even have to move, I'll come over to you."

Naruto hesitantly nodded into Kakashi's chest bringing his arms back down to his sides, and Inoichi got to work immediately. He placed his hand on Naruto's head and probed into his mindscape. 

He appeared in what seemed to be a building of some kind, rotting rusted pipes dripping sewage down the walls collecting at his feet. He did not like this place one bit. He trudged along until he found the memory he was looking for. The incident with Sasuke. 

He watched, a spectator in his host's body as the scene played before him. Naruto staring off into the distance of the trees and then...he looked down as lightning danced through his chest. He heard those gutwrenching words and felt the consuming pain, the dark twistedness that blended deep with the wound. A deep ache that burned him straight to the bone. He felt a tumultuous piercing agony that threatened to rip through him as he turned and hunted the creature that deigned to attack him. Sasuke Uchiha.

A barrage of just pure harrowing resentment flowed through him magnetizing him to his quarry. Suddenly he was being thrown away from his prey, his kill, and that was a big mistake. He charged against the intruder and a savage instinct to maim and destroy came over him. He felt a powerful kick to his stomach and immediately he was being crucified by a bunch of filthy canines. He snarled at his captor and then everything went black when Kakashi striked him in the throat.

Inoichi stumbled out of his memory feeling dazed. What an intense experience. Most of the time his jutsu only allowed him glimpses of memories, but this. This was a dark traumatic reflection that had been buried deep. He braced himself for this next visit, for this was when Naruto would breakdown.

He host's eyes opened and he could only glimpse an empty void. He looked up into the face of a traitor, distress and rebellion causing him to shift in his kidnapper's grasp. A struggle later and he was suffocating against the ground, darkness closing in and blurring the edges of his sight. And what happened next caused Inoichi to fear for his own sanity.

His eyes were hypnotizing, the ambience of the forest changing to a labyrinth of horror. What he didn't see in front of him, he could see behind him. He didn't understand how but it was like he had byakugan and could not evade the delusions, the abominations that plagued his mind. It broke him. Severing him from his humanity. Suspended in limbo haunted by these mirages.

Another group of memories to go. Awareness of the reality around him, vague and distorted. Comfort and contrasting nightmares.

Finally he was awake and Inoichi took notice of the location. It matched both of Kakashi's and Itachi's memories. He skimmed through his memories some more, nothing unusual particularly standing out. However.

Two things were crystal clear. He was innocent, and he was projecting the graphic images of his mental prison onto himself.

These visions made him think things, hear things. See these hallucinations as if they were solid...real. Tangible. And he believed the lies that he conjured up. He was a grotesque behemoth with bloody demonic eyes and a repulsive sneer. He was a monster. Inoichi almost lost himself in the memory and pulled out of it at the last second.

"What the hell was that!?" He shouted to nobody in particular. However a rough, sardonic voice drifted down the hallways, echoing in response. "Who dares to trespass in this space?" Inoichi felt his blood freeze, there wasn't supposed to be an actual entity in here. 

"I am Inoichi, a shinobi of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. Who are you?" Inoichi answered back with false bravado. He walked towards the voice and stopped in front of an intricate looking gate. He looked up, and saw nothing. Fearing he had finally lost it he turned and then they spoke again. "I believe you mortals call me the Nine Tailed Fox."

His eyes opened impossibly wide and he forced himself to turned around, his limbs though refused to move. Sure enough, he came face to face with the beast. He had no right being here. He was in here way longer than necessary. At least that's what he told himself. He wasn't scared, and he definitely wasn't running away. He dispelled himself and jerked away from Naruto. 

"Well?" Ibiki leaned back, slouching in his seat. "Innocent, his alibi checks out." Inoichi turned on his foot and left the room without uttering a single word. He needed a stiff drink. And he needed to get as far away from that damaged kid as he possibly could.

"Well I guess that means you are free to leave, but first you have to transform again Naruto. I already told you too Kakashi, but I am serious. You are notorious around here now and I can't guarantee that you have earned your freedom yet so you'll have to disguise yourself in public." 

Naruto was more than happy too comply with his request feeling more comfortable with his temporary ginger hair and onyx eyes. With that Ibiki stood from his casual posture and ushered both of the ninjas out of his office.

Naruto felt exhaustion and eviscerating hunger hit him all at once and Kakashi too felt drained. He felt Naruto sway on his feet and he stooped to lift him onto his back, then since he didn't see any sign of Itachi shunshinned to the streets and made his way to his apartment.

The day was almost over yet, their battle for freedom was just beginning.

Chapter Text

Naruto had allowed his eyes to droop as the warmth radiating from Kakashi soaked into his body. He felt content, and sleepy as he was gently rocked by his sensei's moving legs. The heat of the sun warmed his face and a cool breeze tamed the burn it left behind. He snuggled closer into his neck, falling forward, allowing his arms to hang loosely over Kakashi's shoulders. The box of clothes bounced softly at every footfall. 

He let out a throaty chuckle, the cadence rumbling through Naruto. He smiled and decided that he preferred when his sensei laughed. "Don't fall asleep yet Naruto, we're almost home." Naruto sighed wistfully, 'home', he had said that. Not 'my apartment', but somehow it seemed like he whispered 'our apartment' instead.

"We're here." Kakashi murmured before he transported inside, he shrugged Naruto off gently and had to steady him as he staggered onto the floor. "Sorry 'Kashi-sensei, I'm just really sleepy." The ginger haired boy muttered as he yawned wide and deep. Kakashi ruffled his hair and chuckled again. "Why don't you go relax for a bit, and then we can go into the village for a bite to eat." He said as he took his shoes off and placed them by the door.

"Ramen!?" Naruto basically screamed, his eyes sparkling with excitement. Forget sleeping, he was starving. Kakashi was about to deny him for a second but knew in an instant he had already lost the battle. "Sure." He removed his ANBU armor and placed it on his desk along with his arm guards and then headed for the bathroom. 

Naruto also took his shoes off and placed them next to Kakashi's. He turned and decided to explore for a bit, having already completely forgotten that he was absolutely exhausted. He had been running on twenty four hours of no rest. But he felt a surge of adrenaline and energy that wasn't there before.

He saw Mr. Ukki on the windowsill and just knew that it had been a very long time since they were watered. So he grabbed the watering can and tenderly cared for the leafy plant. 

His attention drifted down to the two photographs that stood in front of him. He had seen them before of course, but he couldn't help but notice that Kakashi and the handsome kid with silver hair in the other photo looked strikingly similar. Though it was probably just a coincidence.

Footsteps behind him caused him to turn around with glee but he stopped short at Itachi's sullen face. "What are 'you' doing here!?" Naruto asked defensively, utilizing the watering can like a makeshift shield. "I have nowhere else to go so I thought...where is Kakashi?" He asked, clearly feeling awkward standing in the middle of a room where he was not particularly wanted. He had removed his mask, to appear more friendly, but Naruto wasn't buying it.

Kakashi closed the door behind him and scowled. How was he going to disguise himself? He couldn't reveal his identity, and it's not like he could just wear his mask like normal. He was pretty infamous in his looks. He went through a mental checklist. Unique silver hair, the Sharingan would be a dead giveaway, a distinct scar, glaringly obvious mask, familiar voice, definite posture...and an unmistakable book. He needed a complete transformation. 

He removed the black kitsune mask and studied himself in the mirror. He'd think on it while he showered. He cleaned himself quickly, lathering himself with soap and shampoo, barely allowing the water the heat up. He had a pretty good idea already forming in his mind. He'd have to buy some materials afterwards so he wouldn't continue to waste his precious chakra though.

He tied a towel around his face and then one around his hips before entering his room once more. He stopped however when his eyes landed on a familar crop of black hair and red eyes. "Yes? Can I help you?" Kakashi asked as he crossed his arms over his bare, wet chest. Itachi stared blankly before answering, diverting his eyes between the door and the window.

"I have nowhere to go...It's not like I'm welcome in the Uchiha District anymore. And I already asked ANBU, their barracks are at full capacity at the moment." Itachi clenched his mask tightly, fully expecting to be turned away at a moment's notice. Kakashi scratched the back of his head, he looked at the fear that was blatantly obvious on Naruto's face, and his body language that stated he didn't trust him. Not a single bit.

The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Naruto could see the troubled look in the silver-haired man's eyes. Of course he wasn't going to let him stay here. Right? He did an unspeakable thing to him. To them. Made things...hurt. Badly. There was no way he'd accept him after that right? Even if he was trying to make amends...

"Maa I mean...there is the old Hatake compound... It's probably in really bad shape. But nobody goes there anymore...You're welcome to it. Just don't show up 'here' again." Hopefully Itachi will take the hint. He is not welcome here in his home. 'Their' home. Naruto was relieved. Of course he wouldn't let him stay here. He should trust Kakashi no matter what. Itachi nodded and disappeared as fast as he came. 

The young boy took the chance to study his sensei. He had seen him in the nude plenty of times. When they went to the hot springs after missions, but he never bothered to pay attention before. So why was it, that when he saw him now, distinct muscles that dripped with moisture, and a toned stomach that rippled whenever he moved, did Naruto feel embarrassed...and like he was on fire. 

He blushed profusely and had to hide his face in his hands before he looked anywhere else that would make him feel guilty. He had to bite his tongue before he made a whimpering noise at the back of throat, when Kakashi wrapped his arms around him in a warm embrace.

Kakashi had glanced over at Naruto in worry. Did Itachi do something while he was in the other room? Was Naruto crying? What happened? He strode over to him and hugged him comfortingly, like he had before many other times. Yet was confused when Naruto tensed up considerably at his touch.

He pulled away from Kakashi, looking anywhere but  his naked form and was extremely grateful for the mask that he was wearing. However, he felt like he was suffocating with anything and everything Kakashi. He dashed past the jounin and ran into the bathroom feeling flustered.

Kakashi was left concerned as he tried to come up with a reasonable answer. What had made Naruto so upset that he refused to even look at him? Then a quiet hint of sharp musky arousal hit him. And he was left feeling startled as he stared at the door in shock.

Naruto struggled to untie the mask inhibiting his breathing, causing him to panic even further. What kind of knot did Kakashi tie? It was impossible. He felt lightheaded and didn't understand why his body was so tense. That is until he looked down. What was wrong with his body? Did looking at his sensei make him feel like this? But why?

There was very few things Naruto understood about the human anatomy. There had been a class on sexual education and the reproductive system, but he had skipped it in favor of vandalizing the Hokage's stone faces and causing mayhem throughout the village.

He understood the aesthetic of the female body, he had used erotic magazines to perfect his sexy jutsu. But intimacy between two people, and emotions and physical reactions that came with it were not things he understood. Even looking at Sakura didn't make him feel like this. 

Wasn't it strange though to be thinking of these kinds of things when he was a boy and so was Kakashi-sensei. No...Kakashi-sensei was very much a 'man', and he probably understood everything about that kind of stuff. After all he read those kinds of books. 

But Naruto was terrified. He didn't know what was happening to his body and he was absolutely positive that Kakashi would find him disgusting. He didn't want to be hated. At least not by him.

He took a few deep breaths and finally untied the difficult knot that secured the well worn fabric to his face. The comforting scent had changed tones. Instead of relaxing him and making him feel safe, it now made him feel on edge and hot. A pulsing throb erupted from his stomach...no lower, and he squeezed his eyes shut. That was a terrible idea. He caught glimpses of marble skin and distinguished scars and he couldn't get rid of them from his mind.

His distress caused him to lose his concentration on his henge and when he stood from his curled form to stand and disrobe he was staring at strange dark blue eyes, that seemed to swallow up everything. He flinched when he finally recognised himself and turned away from his haunting doppelganger.

Finally free of his restricting clothes, he stepped under cool water and hissed at the pain that it caused on his swollen flesh. He tried to ignore it, along with the inappropriate flashing images that refused to disperse.

He washed himself thoroughly, yet barely touched himself, dreading any sort of contact. Relieved after awhile that it seemed to return to normal and he could now breathe properly. Yet an underlying feeling had him tingling with apprehension.

He left the shower feeling clean, but he was nervous to leave the sanctuary of the bathroom. Surely Kakashi would tell him to leave. He was having those kinds of thoughts. He heard Jiraiya say it was disgusting. He wouldn't be able to look at him anymore without hearing those words echoing in his ears. It was...unnatural. A bad habit.

Naruto frowned. But...where would he go? Who would take him in? He was interrupted from his thoughts when he heard a light tapping on the door. He stumbled over the words lodged in his throat, making him speak incoherently.

"Naruto? When you are finished come into the kitchen. We need to have a serious talk." His voice sounded distant and cold. And Naruto felt all of his recollected air leave his lungs. He tried not to panic. He really did. But he felt nauseous, and lightheaded, and darkness creeped around the edges of his vision.

He dressed in a tee shirt and a pair of underwear. And nervously glanced down at himself. Would Kakadhi know just by looking at him? He was really smart. And sometimes he just seemed to know things off the top of his head. Naruto put the jumpsuit back on with trembling fingers. It may be slightly dirty but it would be better than baring to the world that his male teacher had gotten him hot and bothered. 

He peeked through the crack of the opened door and gulped as he braced himself to be kicked out. Abandoned once again. It was just who he was he guessed. Unlovable Naruto. The thoughts kept swirling deeper and darker.

He shuffled meekly into the kitchen to find Kakashi fully dressed sitting at the table, staring down at a steaming cup of tea with a forlorn expression. He plopped into the opposing seat, heart beating heavily in his chest.

Kakashi didn't know how to do this. It was obvious from the boy's reaction that this was a something new and scary to him. But this topic of conversation was usually left to the parents.  "Naruto...I don't know if anybody actually..." Kakashi started but he was interrupted by his student just as he opened his mouth.

"Kakashi-sensei please don't make me leave. I'm sorry I made you angry. I promise it won't happen again. Please!" Naruto begged, he was on the verge of tears and Kakashi had snapped his head up at the unexpected outburst. What in the world was he talking about? 

"Calm down Naruto. I'm not mad. Why would you think..." Kakashi stopped midsentence. Jiraiya. He narrowed his eyes angrily. That conniving bastard. What the hell did that asshole say, that made Naruto act like this?

Chapter Text

Naruto stared nervously at Kakashi. He had abruptly stopped speaking and was now full heartedly glaring daggers at him.  If he was angry with him the least he he could do was tell him the truth. He could take it.

Kakashi suddenly stood and walked over to Naruto's side of the table and knelt in front of him grabbing his hands gently and was looking at him with such concern that Naruto was scared what he was going to say.

"Naruto...why did you think I was mad at you?" His look was intense but Naruto could feel the immense worry waft off of him. He closed his eyes tightly and unintentionally whispered "Please..." under his breath and tried to pull away.

Kakashi tightened his grip on Naruto's hands and was silent for a moment. "Naruto look at me, I'm not mad, I am just worried. I'm going to ask you some questions and I want you to nod or shake your head for me, okay?" Naruto was quiet, but eventually nodded his head indicating his cooperation.

"Good, you understand that your body goes through some changes when you hit a certain age right?" Naruto hesitated before he shook his head slowly. He was aware that there was some kind of changes like growing taller and getting facial hair and stuff like that, but he was sure that was definitely not the kind of changes that Kakashi was talking about. 

Kakashi let out a deep sigh, dropping his head onto his arms for a moment to think. Okay, he could do this. No problem. None. At. All.

"Have you had any similar experiences like the one from...before." Kakashi asked softly. Naruto thought hard for a moment. He was sure he hadn't but...he did have similar 'feelings' when they were at the inn, so he nodded.

"Okay then....do you understand why it happens?" Kakashi honestly thought he could do this without intentionally asking him outright, but then Naruto instead shook his head indicating that no he definitely did not understand the reason why his body had reacted like that. Just great.

"Naruto, I want you to understand that everything that happened just now is a natural part of youth and nothing about it is wrong. Nothing." Kakashi strengthened his grip on Naruto's hands, his next question would be difficult to ask but it needed to be done.

"I want you to answer just one more question and you don't have to answer if you don't want to. Did Jiraiya say anything about this being disgusting to you?" He hoped he would say no. He really hoped. 

Naruto's face darkened tremendously, and it was like all of his energy had been ripped from him. Even if he had spoken, Kakashi already had his answer. He was going to kill Jiraiya. What the hell was his fucking problem!? 

"Okay, that's fine. You don't have to tell me right now. Why don't I make you some tea, we'll talk for a bit and after that we can go get that ramen. Sound like a plan?" He didn't expect Naruto to jump in excitement, but figured he'd at least be enthusiastic about his favorite meal. However he just mumbled a lukewarm "...yeah." in response. 

Kakashi placed a steaming cup in front of his student and braced himself for probably the most awkward conversation of his lifetime. He scratched the back of his head and cleared his throat.

"So...I guess I should start with erections. It usually happens when you are aroused. If you see someone you particularly like, your body's natural reaction is for you to get hard." He ended his sentence by purposefully looking at Naruto until he either asked a question or nodded in understanding.

"But...that never happened whenever I looked at Sakura. Or anybody else for that matter. Why now, and with...?" Naruto was confused, his body was weird. He was weird. Why Kakashi-sensei?

"It would make sense that you won't feel anything for them. After all, you didn't think of them like that before, right?" Kakashi knew the boy had a superficial crush on his teammate, but recently he wasn't so sure about that.

"But..." The blonde started but Kakashi knew exactly what he was going to try to ask him. He wasn't ready to answer that question yet, so he tried to steer the direction of the conversation. At least for now. "Have you ever touched yourself before? Or woken up with soiled underwear?"

Naruto cringed in disgust and all but yelled in denial. "No! That's gross. And I've never wet the bed! Ever!" Kakashi lifted an eyebrow in amusement, then scowled as he remembered the lack of knowledge that was starting to really bother him.

"No Naruto, I'm not talking about urinating the bed. I'm asking if...I guess the next topic will be masturbation then. After you get hard there are a few ways to make it go away. You can leave it alone, which will take awhile to go down and also leave you very uncomfortable. Or you can touch yourself until you climax. Do you know what that is, Naruto?"

Said boy was sipping his tea, pausing to look into the stagnant liquid. No amount of staring however yielded any answers. So he shook his head.

Just what was the academy teaching the kids nowadays? Because they are being absolutely useless right now. "It's when you're body let's itself know that it's reached its peak in pleasure. You then release what is called semen. Do you know what that is?" Kakashi was started to feel like he was repeating himself an awful lot. Probably because he was.

Again Naruto shook his head. This boy was way too pure and innocent for his age. If Kakashi didn't know any better he'd think he was some sheltered child that was hidden away from the world. But this was Naruto, who had a very different upbringing than most kids. It was strange that he didn't know anything about his own body.

Kakashi groaned in frustration, and pinched the bridge of his nose. "No, that's fine. I didn't expect you to, from what I've gathered so far. Semen is a bodily fluid like urine, but if you release it during sex with a woman it can result in pregnancy." He hoped he didn't have to explain anything else to him because he was having a hard time keeping himself calm and collected.

"Oh...but Kakashi-sensei. I um...you're not a girl though..." Naruto said his face flushing and he shoved his face into his arms to hide. Kakashi froze, here it was. That god forsaken question. How was he going to explain that it was normal for kids to be curious about the same gender? 

When it was crystal clear that Jiraiya somehow influenced his view on the matter. But this was his student, and he deserved honesty, not warped opinions. He was about to speak but Naruto's stomach growled loudly, interrupting him.

"That's quite an impressive observation there Naruto, but I think that this topic will have to be for another time. I can hear your stomach protesting this conversation." Naruto frowned torn between wanting answers and wanting sustenance.

"But..." Naruto looked up at him, unsure of the knowledge that he had suddenly received. He was overwhelmed and had no clue what to do with any of the information. He only knew one thing for certain, that looking at his sensei made him feel 'things'. And it honestly freaked him out. He wasn't sure what exactly made him scared but, he needed answers.

"Later. We'll talk later I promise, and I will answer any questions that you have, okay?" Kakashi stood and collected the empty cups and washed them quickly. He took that time to calm his nerves. As soon as he was done he turned to the bathroom, to transform himself into his disguise.

Dull wispy brown hair replaced his familiar silver spikes. And grey contacts hid his notorious inheritance. Purple paint and patches masked his scar perfectly and he nodded at the faintly unrecognizable face in the mirror. He had used this disguise before, a few times, even fooling Naruto previously. He wondered how his student would take the news.

He changed his jounin uniform to a dark green trenchcoat and a tan scarf. Now that he was completely transformed, he was sure nobody in the village would be able to recognize him. Granted they weren't Gai, or his team.

He opened the door and made sure to cover the bottom part of his face with the oversized scarf and made his way over to his student. Naruto was startled by the stranger before him and pulled out his kunai quickly to attack him.

"Naruto...w-wait, it's me." He said grabbing both of his arms in mid air, the action caused the fabric around his mouth to unravel. Thankfully due to its large size his face continued to be hidden from view.

"Kakashi...sensei?" Kakashi released Naruto, and fixed him with a smug look, looks like he doesn't remember. "Ibiki said earlier that I needed to disguise myself if I were to go out in public." He nervously waited for his student's response. 

Naruto crossed his arms and held his chin in thought. "You look really familiar..." Naruto eyes widened dramatically. "Wait...but I thought...huh?!" He mouth dropped open and he grabbed his head in confusion. Well so much for not remembering.

He pointed his finger at Kakashi accusingly. "You mean you were that Sukea guy the entire time!? Then that means I...Ahhhh!? I don't even remember what your face looked like from before!?" Kakashi smiled in amusement at Naruto's apparent amnesia. Looks like the cat is out of the bag.

"I can't believe this..." Naruto said in his curled form. He had squatted down and wrapped his arms around his knees, hiding his face in sorrow. Even going so far as to sniffle. Kakashi sighed, what was so special about his face anyways?

"Why don't you transform, and we'll go get that ramen, hmm?" He said, his eyes crinkling as he smiled and Naruto jumped in enthusiasm. "Yeah!?" Kakashi wouldn't be able hide his face while he ate, and that was enough to boost his spirits.

"Let's go Ka-" He tugged on the mask over his ginger hair and was about to run out the door when Kakashi grabbed his elbow. "Maa hold on. Two things. When we leave home you have to stop calling me by my name. Also, have you come up with a plan for when you have to take off the mask to eat? Your marks will be visible." Naruto hadn't been thinking about it, he wasn't smart like that. It also wouldn't bode well if they started throwing around their actual names out in public either. People would be bound to get suspicious.

"Um...oh! I know!" Naruto modified his transformation slightly to include two black  patches on his cheeks, and lowered the mask to show Kakashi. 'How original.' Realizing that the marks looked very similar to a certain teammate. He smiled at the memory, though it faltered slightly when he remembered exactly why it was nostalgic. 

"Good, now you just need a name. Let's see...based on your appearance I'd say...Maa how do you feel about Kaede?" Kakashi said, drawing his inspiration from his memory. It reminded him of the forest. And more specifically when him and Naruto were reunited under the autumn sky, with colorful red leaves swirling around them.

"Kaede?" Naruto asked titling his head. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes as he tossed the name around in his head. Kaede. 'Kaede'. He liked it. Mostly because Kakashi chose it. It was like the man was claiming a part of Naruto for himself. That thought made Naruto happy for some reason.

"It's not too bad." Naruto said in a teasing manner, his eyes crinkling as he smiled wide under his mask. It was very reminiscent of Kakashi's infamous look and the man had to hide his own smile. 

"Now that that has been settled, let's go." Kakashi wrapped and arm around Naruto's shoulders and shunshinned to the street below. Unfortunately for them, they happened to land right in front of a startled Iruka who fell to the ground.

'Who are these people and why do I feel like I've seen them somewhere before?' Iruka thought as he looked up in curious surprise. 

Chapter Text

"Ahh! Are you okay, Iruka-sensei?" Kaede exclaimed as he stooped to reach an arm out to Iruka. Sukea eyed the interaction, leaning back on his heels nervously. Every second that passed made him want to slouch and hide his face, but he couldn't, for that would give something away.

Iruka took the offered hand and stared at the boy's face. Something seemed strangely familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He was definitely sure he had never seen these two before. But...the boy had recognized him, even going so far as calling out to him. Perhaps he was from a different instructor's class. The village was large enough, and he wasn't aware of every person who lived there.

"Uhh. I guess I'm alright. You just startled me is all." Iruka said as he brushed himself off. Afterwards he interrupted himself before he spoke again. That voice...but. Nah, there was no way. Naruto wouldn't come out in public, putting himself in jeopardy like that. Would he?

"Kaede. We should go. We have that thing to do remember?" Sukea said putting a hand on the boys shoulder, just a small gesture to gain his attention. Kaede pouted under his mask. He hadn't seen Iruka since...ah. It's been awhile. He hadn't had a chance to dwell on the unfortunate circumstances that led him here.

"Can't he join us, Sukea-sensei? I mean we're only going to get ramen, so what's the big deal?" Kaede said annoyed, crossing his arms. He really wanted to stay and see the man he thought of as his older brother. Or father or whatever. It wasn't fair.

Sukea sighed and eyed the red headed child. No matter how much he changed his appearance, Naruto's personality shone through like the sun. Such a stubborn brat he was, but that's what made him adorable. "Fine. Only if he wants to. After all, I'm sure he's bound to be busy." He glanced over at the teacher and smiled. Maybe Iruka could get Naruto out of that spell of depression.

Iruka was watching the two interact. It was like sitting in a room with a parent and kid and that bothered him. Because the kid called him sensei. That made the age gap glaringly obvious. But the chemistry was definitely there. Maybe he was being too observant. He couldn't assume things based only on five minutes of interaction. And there was also the nagging suspicion in the back of his mind that the boy was extremely familiar.

"I'll go." Iruka declared and Kaede's dark eyes glittered with excitement and glee. Sukea had to stifle a laugh behind his scarf at the obvious attachment the kid had. "Alright, let's go then." He went to step forward but Sukea grabbed him by the back of his jacket before he could get anywhere.

"It's dangerous to run off ahead, neh, *Kaede*?" Sukea gave him a threatening eye smile and Kaede just huffed. "Ugh, but Ka--, Sukea-sensei! I'm so hungry..." Iruka did not miss that slip up and stored that info away for later. He had a feeling. A sliver of something just out of arm's reach. That he couldn't put a finger on.

So the three walked in content silence on their way to Ichiraku's. Iruka stayed behind to contemplate the clues he had. There was just one more thing that would settle this once and for all. He had an inkling that these two people were very familiar. He would bet on it.

When Kaede slipped onto the stool next to the two jounins he felt bubbly and happy. He was surrounded by his most precious people. He was safe. Teuchi and Ayame turned around and greeted the trio and he had to hold in the outburts that wanted to escape. He missed them. He missed everybody, even that damned Sasuke, the annoying bastard that he was. Even after...that.

He felt that cloud of darkness pass over him and barely mustered the energy to acknowledge that Sukea was talking to him. "..nt to eat?" He flinched when a hand disrupted his blank stare. "Huh?" He looked into concerned eyes and forced a smile onto his face. "Sorry, what did you say?" He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head and chuckled.

Sukea grimaced at the facade that Naruto was struggling to uphold. The boy was falling apart right before his eyes. "I said, what would you like to eat?" Kaede's eyes shot open and his mouth watered. That's right! Ramen!

"One of everything! I'm starving." As if on cue his stomach rumbled, alerting the restaurant. Teuchi smiled, the boy reminded him of his favorite customer. Ever since that rainy day many years ago. That poor child, it seemed the world was intent on destroying him. The rumors that were floating around the village were utterly ridiculous. The boy wouldn't hurt a fly.

"Maa, one of everything...are you sure that'll be enough, N--, Kaede?" Another slip up Iruka noticed, and he was ninety-five percent sure that these two were NOT supposed to be here. It wasn't safe. What was Kakashi thinking!

"Umm, I dunno, but I haven't eaten in so long. I could eat like..." Naruto counted on his fingers and randomly came up with a number. "...ten bowls." This kid wasn't being subtle at all. Nobody besides the Akimichi clan ate like that, and Naruto was one of the only other people who did.

"Alright! I've had enough of this. I know it's you two so spill it. What's with those disguises?!" Iruka scowled, a twitch in his eye. Naruto and Kakashi looked at him desperately. Well it was going to happen eventually.

"Iruka would you keep it down, you're going to blow our cover!" Kakashi growled, a pensive look masking his features when he noticed that Teuchi and Ayame were looking at them with surprise as well. "Ahh, sorry. But still..." Iruka scratched his cheek nervously, and looked around. Luckily there was nobody but them in the place.

"We are investigating the incident, and I don't know if you're aware or not but Naruto is nothing but innocent. Don't believe those baseless lies." Kakashi hissed at the brunette. "We've already been cleared by ANBU, so don't worry for your sake. And for the love of god, keep your mouth shut."

Iruka had never actually seen Kakashi pissed. Save for the incident when he tried to stop him from entering team seven into the Chunin Exams. So when Kakashi glared at him with the intent to kill, he was scared. Yet was grateful that someone besides himself was looking out for Naruto. He could let the matter be...for now.

"Anyways, nobody is supposed to know we are here right now. And while I can't tell you the details, just know that somebody is trying to frame Naruto. That's why we are here, to investigate." Kakashi sighed into his hands and perked up at the bowl placed in front of him.

Naruto watched out of the corner of his eye as Kakashi broke apart his chopsticks and started unraveling his scarf. While he was tempted to ignore the rare chance at seeing his sensei's face, he really wanted to see it.

Finally. His face would stop anyone in their tracks with one look. Naruto could feel the remnants of his arousal swirling deeper inside of him. Just a peek of Kakashi's lips cause him to flush a deep red. What the hell was wrong with him?

"Here ya go! One Miso ramen with extra barbeque pork." Teuchi said with a smile. Of course it was Naruto, the kid almost fooled him. Naruto turned his attention to the ramen in front of him and devoured the noodles in record speed. "Whoa! Slow down, you're going to choke!" Iruka scowled at Naruto. The boy couldn't help it. If he didn't hide his face Kakashi would be worried again, and he hated that.

"Ahhhhh! It's been so long! Ichiraku's is the best!" Naruto declared as he continued onto more bowls, stuffing his face, while Kakashi had a modest two. He returned the scarf to its place and watched Naruto eat with abandon. While he was slightly worried for his wallet, the fact that Naruto was eating made him grateful. And it seemed his mood had improved as well.

Despite the exile that loomed over their heads, they felt right at home. Yet the universe seemed to have a different idea when it sent Rock Lee straight into their path. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes, leaning his crutch against the booth, barely noticing the other patrons.

His surgery was successful, but he wasn't allowed to train or anything. What was he supposed to do? At times like this, he was not sure. Sakura was training with Lady Tsunade and he had not seen hide nor tail of Naruto or Sasuke. His team was on a mission without him and he couldn't feel more useless.

So he thought he would walk around and get in some exercise while he was at it. It was better than sitting in his hospital room staring out the window. He didn't feel right not training his muscles. How was he supposed to live up to the vow he made.

'Stronger than yesterday, huh..' He thought to himself, it wasn't like him to be depressed. "Excuse me, I'd like a bowl of whatever Naruto's favorite ramen is!" Lee shouted with fire in his eyes. Naruto choked on the broth of his seventh bowl and stared at Rock Lee in new light. Why did he want to eat his favorite ramen? He couldn't help the questioning looks as the dark haired boy finally turned to look at him.

"Yes? Do I have something on my face?" Rock Lee half way raised a hand in concern until Naruto shook his head vehemently. "N-no, just curious why you are eating somebody else's favorite. Why not eat what you like instead?"

Lee smiled at that and raised a thumb. "Because the best way to get to know someone is by doing what they enjoy doing!...My rival is not what they say he is, in fact I truly believe he has done no harm at all. I don't know where they came up with all that stuff." He blinked his eyes in resignation and sighed once more. "A miso ramen with extra barbeque pork. There ya go." Lee's face lit up and he drooled at the delectable sight sitting in front of him.

"This is amazing! As expected of my rival! It's no wonder this ramen is his favorite. I can't get enough!" Lee spoke with glee and admiration as he ate the bowl with fervor. Naruto flustered at the outburst and felt extremely grateful to his fellow rookie. The fact that he didn't agree with the rumors made him relieved.

"Lee?! Has anybody seen my cute student? Maybe...Aha! Lee, there you are! I've been searching everywhere for you!" Might Gai appeared frantic and upon first glance you might think that everything about him was perfectly normal. However...

Kakashi was on the receiving end of his shenanigans for a long time. And there was definitely signs of stress among other things. His eyes lacked the luster of spirit he always carried. And although his uniform was immaculate at the first look, a closer inspection revealed wrinkles and several tears that needed repair. As was the case almost every shinobi had to go through after a mission. But these looked...

"Huh, do I...know you?" Gai said forcing himself into Kakashi's personal space. He couldv'e sworn he had seen his face somewhere before.