Even as his killing intent faded, Uzumaki Naruto shuddered with rage and sorrow, his fist trembling just inches from his foe's face.

"It's you, from the woods..." he whispered as he looked into the eyes of the feminine boy standing before him. He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it. The kind stranger from the forest that had listened to his dream, who'd smiled and wished him good fortune, and the bastard ice demon who'd killed his teammate were one and the same. He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it, yet here it was, still true none the less.

He wanted to scream. To sputter and rage at the uncaring world, but all he could do was stand there and shake as he fought his conflicting feelings. He was enraged by Sasuke's death. He'd never liked the bastard. He'd always been so arrogant, so cocky, and so smugly self-superior it made Naruto want to smack him silly. And when Sakura threw herself at him Naruto just wanted to scream at the sheer the indignity of it all, but he couldn't let Sasuke go unavenged. The bastard had been part of his team and as depressing as it sounds, one of the few people he might have been able to call friend.

At the same time though, while he knew that Haku was the enemy, Naruto honestly didn't want to kill him. Haku had shown him kindness, and while it had only been brief and a bit embarrassing considering his confusion over the extremely girly looking boy's gender. He'd still been one of the few people that Naruto had met that listened to his dream and expressed kindness and friendship, rather than scorn or contempt.

"Why did you stop?" Haku asked looking at Naruto, struggling to stand as the other boy shook with outrage and sadness. "I killed your precious friend, yet you can't kill me?"

Naruto glanced over to Sasuke's body, where it lay riddled with needles, and was filled with a new burst of killing intent as he quivered with rage. Sasuke might have been a vengeance obsessed egomaniac with bad hair, but he was his friend. Part of his team, and those who don't look out for their comrades are lower than trash!

"Damn it!" Naruto roared as he completed his blow, sending the older ninja flying to the ground in a spray of blood.

"What happened to your intensity?" Haku asked as he pulled himself to his feet, dazed by the blow but still able to stand, "You can't finish me off acting like this."

Naruto winced. As badly as he wanted to avenge Sasuke, that's exactly where he didn't want to go. While he was willing to kill, he had no desire to do so, especially not against a helpless foe. He couldn't help but remember the words the other boy had hold him in the forest. 'Do you have an important person? I want to protect my important person, to help his dreams come true. That is my dream.'

He didn't want to do this.

Seeing his hesitation, Haku slowly wiped the blood off of his chin. "There are people who make this mistake, of not killing their enemies because of pity. Just letting them leave with their lives. Can't you understand?" Haku asked looking Naruto in the eyes, "Not having a dream? Not being needed by anyone? The pain of living without a purpose?"

Why give up your life so easily? What was Haku going on about. "No purpose? What are you talking about?"

"Zabuza-sama has no need for a weak ninja. You have taken my reason for existing," he replied honestly.

Naruto winced as his mind once again turned back to their conversation in the woods. When a person has something precious to protect, that is when they can truly become strong.

Naruto quaked with rage and screamed at the indignity of it. "Why?" He asked, "Why for a guy like that? He's a bad guy who takes money from criminals! Is that eyebrow-less freak the only person important to you?!"

Haku took a deep breath and looked Naruto in the eyes. "I had people very dear to me long ago. My..." He paused. "My parents. I was born in a small, snowy village in Mizu no Kuni. I was happy. My parents were very kind people." He sighed sadly. "But when I grew up and began to learn the ways of the world something terrible happened." Haku trailed off leaving the statement floating.

"Something terrible?" Naruto asked, softly, "What happened?"

Haku looked down in sadness. To see that kind of look on such a pretty face was a depressing thing. Even if it was a guy's.

Haku looked back up to him. "My father killed my mother and then he tried to kill me."

"W-what?" Naruto exclaimed. "Why would he do such a thing?!"

"My blood," Haku all but whispered in response.

"Your blood?" Naruto asked in utter confusion.

"My cursed blood," Haku whispered, shame faced.

"Cursed blood?" Naruto repeated, still confused about where Haku was going.

Haku looked him in the eyes. "Mizu had been going through an endless civil war, and those with advanced bloodlines came to be hated."

"Advanced bloodlines?" Naruto asked again. Seriously, the fuck was he talking about?

"Kekkei Genkai. People born with special abilities like mine," he clarified, with a small sigh, making Naruto flush slightly. It wasn't his fault he didn't learn this stuff in school.

Okay, it probably was, but he didn't like to admit that.

"Because of these abilities," Haku continued, "Clans with Kekkei Genkai such as mine were used as weapons in countless battles. As a result, these clans were held responsible for bringing war and misfortune to the country."

Naruto froze as he remembered Sasuke's words. To resurrect my clan and kill a certain man. Oh yeah, he remembered something about Sasuke having a limit too, though honestly he'd never paid much attention when people brought the bastard up.

"My mother carried one of those bloodlines," Haku continued. "My father found out and he killed her, and when he came for me, I was frightened... and I reacted." He paused. " I destroyed him with my power. "

Naruto grimaced. Okay, now this was just all kinds of fucked up.

"It was then that I thought about myself and had no choice but to realize the most painful thing possible."

"Most painful thing possible?" Naruto wondered. What could be worse than having to kill your father after he killed your mom?

"That in the whole of the world, not one single person cared about me. I was a completely unwanted person."

Naruto grimaced and had to look away. While the rest of it he had difficulty understanding, that was something he knew all too well, and even being reminded of it made his stomach twist. They were the same.

"You said you wanted to become the best ninja in your village and have everyone acknowledge your worth. Now, if someone who acknowledged you from the bottom of their heart appeared, wouldn't that someone become the most important person in the world to you?"

Naruto lowered his head as his thoughts turned to Iruka-sensei. On that night, when he'd learned the truth, it had been his teacher who'd pulled him from that abyss of sorrow and acknowledged his existence. Haku was right. He loved Iruka-sensei more than anyone in the world.

"Zabuza-san took me in knowing I had a bloodline limit. This blood that everyone else hated, he desired it." Haku smiled as a tear ran down his cheek. "I was wanted. I was so happy."

Haku took a deep breath looking lost in thought before looking back to Naruto. "Naruto-kun, please kill me."

There weren't words to express how much Naruto didn't want to do that. While he wanted to avenge Sasuke, he didn't want to kill Haku. He couldn't let Sasuke's death go unavenged, but he didn't want to kill anyone, especially someone who could understand all he'd gone through.

"Why are you hesitating?" Haku asked him. "Please, hurry up and kill me."

Naruto growled as his own frustrations over this damnable decision came to the surface. "I don't understand!" he roared. "Is being strong the only reason you have to live?" He took a deep breath. "Something other than fighting. You could have been acknowledged for something else."

"That day I met you in the forest, I knew you were like me. You should be able to understand." Haku sighed. "I'm sorry that you will have to stain your hands."

Naruto sighed. He couldn't understand why Haku was so hell-bent on death. "Is this-" he sighed, "Is this the only way?

Haku nodded." Yes."

Naruto took a deep breath and steeled his nerves. He didn't want to do this but he could understand. If he'd lost his opportunity to become a ninja, to become Hokage, he'd probably be saying the same thing. He didn't want to live without his dream, but while he thought it was a waste, he wasn't going to force Haku to live without his. If the boy would rather die than be a failure to Zabuza, well, so be it.

Haku smiled as Naruto dew one of his kunai. "Please fulfill your own dreams."

Naruto frowned and looked back to Sasuke. "He... He also had a dream." Naruto took a deep breath. "If we'd met under different circumstances, we might've become friends."

For a moment Naruto considered charging the other boy, but he decided against it. It was bad enough that he was going to kill. He didn't want to feel the sickening feeling of his blade cutting through flesh. This was already going to haunt his dreams. He didn't want to make it any worse.

"Thank you," Haku said as Naruto drew his hand back to throw the blade.

Taking a deep breath, Naruto released the blade. While he normally wasn't the best shot in the academy, you'd have to be a real screw up to miss a stationary target at this range. As the blade approached Haku's eyes opened wide and he deflected the kunai saying "I'm sorry Naruto-kun, but I can't die yet!"

Naruto was filled with a flash of anger as the other boy began to form seals to pull off some kind of jutsu. It didn't work like that! You can't just say kill me then go time out! Where was Sasuke's fucking time out!? A blur of red and rage, Naruto closed the distance between the two in the blink of an eye. Literally roaring with rage, Naruto punched Haku in the stomach with a vicious uppercut. The force of the blow sent Haku flying into the air like a rag doll.

Naruto growled and pulled back as the other boy hit the ground. Pitifully, Haku rolled over and began to vomit up blood and bile. With his killing intent clearly visible on his face, Naruto walked over and kicked Haku in the side hard enough to send him sprawling. "There are no time outs!" Naruto roared. "You're either dead or you're not! You can't just demand that I kill you and then say hold on a second!"

"No-" Haku whispered. "It can't be-"

Naruto sneered. "What, now you want to live?"

"No," Haku whimpered as he unsteadily rose to his feet. The look on his face was desperate and frantic."Please no-"

Naruto backed off. Okay, what the hell? First Haku was going on and on about how life without your dream was meaningless and now he wanted to live so badly? Fine. He'd let Kakashi-sensei handle this. He didn't want to fucking do it anyways.

Naruto blinked in confusion as Haku stumbled to his feet, and pushed past him, holding his stomach as he lumbered like a drunk into the vanishing mists. Taking a deep breath to center himself, he followed him wondering what the hell was going on. It was then that he saw it. Sasuke's death had been tragic but it had been clean and probably painless. This on the other hand was, well, neither.

Across the bridge Kakashi-sensei was standing across from Zabuza, his arm buried up to his elbow in the nukenin's chest. Naruto fought back bile at the revolting sight while Haku released a deafening, girlish scream.

Glancing over, Kakashi simply withdrew his arm from his foes body with a wet pop. Once again, Naruto fought the urge to vomit as he heard the sickening suction sound and saw all that blood come rushing out of the large hole in his torso. Yeah. Zabuza sure as hell wasn't getting back up this time.

"Zabuza-san!" Haku cried out as he stumbled towards the body. For the first time Naruto heard true anguish in his voice. "I failed you! I was weak! It should have been me! It should have been me!"

The dying nukenin smiled under his mask and weakly brought his hand up to touch Haku's cheek as the boy collapsed to his knees next to him. "No, Haku. You were a powerful instrument, but sometimes that's just not enough."

"But I failed-"

"Heh. Don't blame yourself, Haku. We're ninja. Eventually we all have our bad day, and I guess that today, it was mine." He choked. "Haku, I have one last command..."

"Anything!" he exclaimed as he grabbed the other ninja's hand.

"Don't throw your life away trying to avenge me." He coughed again, his mask slowly turning red from his own blood. "Find your own dream, or find someone worthy and serve them as you served me."

"I will," Haku whispered.

He smiled under his mask. "Good. Never had any kids, so I guess that makes you my legacy..." Zabuza started to shake, racked with coughing as blood sputtered from his mouth.

Just moments from death, he reaches up and grabbed Haku's arm tightly, a savage smile showing blood stained teeth, "Never said this, but... should have... You were like a..." coughed savagely, his words lost as his body struggled to hold onto that last moment of life, "... to me. I love ya kid... Goodbye... Haku..."

He said nothing else. His hand relaxed and slowly slipped and fell from Haku's arm as the life faded from his eyes.

Haku screamed in torment before hugging the body closely, tears streaming down his face.

Naruto watched sadly until Kakashi placed his hand, the one that wasn't covered in gore, thank the Kami, on his shoulder. "Give him some space. It's not easy losing someone close."

Naruto looked up to his teacher sadly. "Sasuke, he-" Naruto looked down. "He's dead."

"What?" Kakashi whispered. The jonin's hand tightened and he glared at the crying boy for a moment radiating pure killer intent before he sighed and looked at Naruto with sadness in his one visible eye. "Then I guess this was a bad day for everyone."

"Speak for yourself, ninja."

All eyes turned to see Gato standing at the end of the bridge clapping his hands in glee. Behind him stood a small army of thugs, their weapons at the ready and obviously looking to do some damage. "I must say things went off far better than I could have possibly imagined. Zabuza has worn you all down wonderfully and had the decency to die by your hands and save me the trouble. I must say this day couldn't be any better!"

"What?" Haku exclaimed as he pulled himself to his feet, his physical injuries monumentally overcome by the same sort of shock and rage that Naruto himself had been feeling only moments before.

"I never intended to pay you, stupid boy." Gato laughed. "He was nothing more than a tool. He was useful for a time, but when that time is up you simply dispose of the tool and get a new one. That is why you nukenin are so much more useful than village ninja. No one minds when you throw them out."

Haku seethed in rage. "Zabuza-san was not a tool! He had a dream! He-"

Gato scoffed contemptuously, cutting him off. "I don't care about the worthless dreams of a worthless man, I-"

With a growl of fury, Haku flicked his wrist and silenced Gato, permanently. The short crime lord fell backwards with his mouth open in mid sentence, a senbon piercing the weak flesh of his throat and embedding itself in the fat man's brain stem, killing him instantly.

"You will not make light of Zabuza-san's memory!" he roared, shaking with anger.

"Hey!" exclaimed one of the thugs. "You killed our meal ticket!"

"Yeah," added another, "You guys are dead!"

"We're gonna pillage this town and take everything of value!"

"Just remember, lads, rape, pillage, then burn! Make sure not to mix it up!"

Haku looked at the opposing force with steel in his eyes and drew his senbon. The temperature began to drop and snow began to fall from the sky. A severe wind blew across the bridge, chilling everyone to the bone. Haku fell into a fighting stance and glared at the enemy, but just a moment later the temperature returned to normal, the snow stopped, and Haku fell backwards, only just being caught by Naruto as his needles jingled across the ground.

"This is... awkward," he admitted. "Naruto-kun, I am sorry, but it appears that I no longer have the strength to continue," He smiled at Naruto. "There is no need for you to grieve. Your friend is alive. The technique I used only gives the appearance of death." He began to fade but then shook his head and looked Naruto dead in the eyes. "You have the strength I didn't have, Naruto-kun. Fight, and protect your precious people and make them acknowledge you." Haku said as he allowed himself to slip into unconsciousness in Naruto's arms.

Glancing over his shoulder he saw Sakura holding Sasuke. The bastard was out of the fight but according to Haku he wasn't really dead. Naruto smiled and slowly he lowered the other boy to the ground. Sasuke was alive, he hadn't had to kill Haku, and Haku was right. All that stood between him and his acknowledgment was this army of second rate killers and low-rent cut-throats. Naruto smirked as he felt his second wind come on. He almost pitied the poor bastards.


"Alright you chumps, listen up!" he roared, jumping to the mouth of the bridge, "I'm Uzumaki Naruto and I'm gonna kick your asses!"

Smiling like a maniac he formed the trademark crossed seal of his favorite technique.



Kakashi took a deep breath as he entered Tazuna's house. Thank the kami he hadn't missed dinner. While he enjoyed the benefits of rank, he really, really hated getting stuck with all the damned paperwork. Just to make matters worse, he had to spend several hours putting up with the local constabulary while they dealt with what was left of Gato's mooks. After that was all done and over with, he'd picked up his little care package and called it a night.

Despite all the after action bullshit, today had been very interesting to say the least. He'd killed a damned near legendary nukenin, it seemed as if a member of a powerful lost bloodline was probably returning with them to Konoha, and Naruto defeated an entire army of bandits with only a minimal amount of assistance.

Around the table all three of his genin were sitting with Tazuna's family. He'd have to ask where that ice kid, Haku, had run off to. From the look of things, Naruto was very close to abusing their hospitality, what, considering the massive pile of rice bowls sitting beside him. That said, Kakashi couldn't care less. The fact remained that Tazuna had knowingly listed a Class A bodyguard mission as a Class C escort mission. Taking that into account, well, the kid could abuse their hospitality all he damned well pleased. Besides, after saving the daughter and grandkid from a kidnapping attempt, defeating an enemy nin with a powerful bloodline, then following it up by running off a horde of bandits with a veritable clone army, he could probably use the meal.

Kakashi chuckled. Ha! That idiot old drunk was lucky that he didn't work his charms on his pretty little daughter and find a little bit of Icha-Icha Paradise of his own!

Looking back to the table, he couldn't help but shake his head. Naruto. He hadn't been too impressed by the boy at first, but damn, he really was his parents' son. He knew that the kid knew the Kage Bunshin, but he hadn't expected him to be able to summon several hundred of the damned things. He'd barely had to lift a finger, the kid just swarmed forward and stomped the crap out of the bandits through shear weight of numbers. When the townspeople had shown up ready to defend their homes from the hired marauders they hadn't needed to do much more than mop up. He sighed and looked at the bag in his hand. That was why he'd gone out.

He was also proud of Sasuke. While he hadn't performed as well as Naruto in the battle, he had shown that he was willing to give everything he had, even his life, to protect his teammates. He'd also managed to unlock his Sharingan, which in itself was no small accomplishment. Having the ability himself, Kakashi knew that the boy's skill would increase exponentially from here on out.

Sakura had mastered tree climbing first, without a doubt had the best chakra control, and had defended the old man as ordered, but when compared to the accomplishments of his other students, her performance was depressingly underwhelming. Next time he'd have to make sure to get her a chance to show her stuff.

He also had to admit that while he was still angry at the boy, Haku was highly capable. He'd managed to dominate both the last Uchiha and the Yondaime's Legacy, with it only being Naruto's use of the Kyuubi no Kitsune's chakra that allowed him to wear the older boy down and defeat him through sheer brute force. Kid was also a decent med-nin. Once he'd regained consciousness, he'd immediately volunteered to take care of everyone's wounds. He hadn't used any jutsu, but considering his state of borderline chakra exhaustion, that wasn't very surprising.

"Naruto-kun," Kakashi said, "We need to talk for a moment."

The boy nodded and stood up, a wide smile on his face. "Yeah, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Where's Haku?" Kakashi asked. He hoped the boy hadn't run off. If they could convince the boy to come to Konoha, he'd bring both the Hidden Mist techniques he'd learned from Zabuza and his powerful bloodline limit with him.

"Oh, he's taking a bath," Naruto replied.

Kakashi nodded. That was understandable. From the look of things, Naruto had really put the kid through the ringer. A hot bath always helped sooth bruising. Looking back to the boy, he said, "Naruto, walk with me."

"Yes, sensei."

Kakashi walked the two of them out of earshot of the others and turned to him. "I just got back from the constabulary."

Naruto blinked in confusion. "Um, okay."

Kakashi placed his hand on the boy's shoulder. Here comes the hard part, the part that more than any separates the ninja from the nobodies. "Naruto, I believe that you should know, twelve of the men you fought today didn't survive the battle." Kakashi decided not to mention the other thirty not expected to survive the night. Kid had enough to think about, besides, they were going to hang the lot of them in the morning so it wasn't like it actually mattered.

The boy sucked in a deep breath and lowered his head, his normally cheerful demeanor vanishing in an instant. Your first kill is always the hardest, and to make matters worse, it was the rare ninja who's first kill was actually his first dozen. "So, you didn't realize?" he asked.

Naruto shook his head. "I was trying not to kill anyone but-"

"But when you're dealing with a large, dense group of enemies you don't have time to watch your blows and it's easy to get lost in the fog of battle."

Naruto simply nodded.

"How do you feel, Naruto?"

The boy paused and looked back up to him. His eyes were sad, but they were determined. "I'm... I'm sorry that they're dead, but they wanted to kill my friends and destroy the city." He paused. "That's why I became a ninja, to protect people."

Kakashi smiled under his mask and gave the boy's shoulder a squeeze. "You pass, Naruto-kun."

Naruto blinked. "What?"

"The blooding. The last test," he replied, "I'm sure you've heard a thousand times in the Academy that we ninja deal in death, but most people don't understand it until they've actually been forced to take a life. Some can't handle the responsibility, but you can," he tapped him on the forehead protector, "Now you're a real Konoha shinobi."

The boy smiled sadly. "Thank you, Kakashi-sensei."

Kakashi slowly lifted the bag in his hand and gave it to Naruto. "Now, I'm sorry that this isn't the best quality, but it's the best I could find around here."

Naruto blinked as he pulled the bottle of mid-grade sake from the bag. "Sake?"

Kakashi nodded. "Yeah. I've found that sometimes the only thing you can do is accept that you can't change the past and forget your worries with a good, stiff drink." What he didn't mention was that if the alcohol didn't make you forget, the hangover in the morning would.

Naruto looked down at the bottle and nodded. "I think I'll go take a bath. Maybe Haku could use a drink too."

Kakashi laughed. "That's the spirit, kid. You'd be surprised how many lifelong friendships start drunk and miserable."

Naruto rolled his eyes and walked off holding the bottle.

Kakashi smiled and crossed his arms proudly. Kid was going to do just fine. Minato-senesi, Kushina-neesan, you'd both be very proud.

1 1

Naruto sighed as he threw his clothes into the basket beside Haku's. He was tired and felt a bit depressed. He hadn't meant to kill those guys but it wasn't like he had too much of a choice. They were going to kill his precious people, then do unspeakable things to the innocent people in the town. Wasn't that why he wanted to become Hokage? Not just so people would acknowledge him, but so he could protect everyone and prove himself?

He never expected to become Hokage without having to hurt, having to kill, anyone, but he hadn't expected it to come so soon. He sighed and pulled off the top of the bottle Kakashi-sensei gave him. At least it hadn't been Haku. While he could accept killing an enemy who wanted to hurt his friends or innocent people in battle, just the idea killing someone who wasn't even fighting back made him want to hurl. It felt way too much like murder.

With a sigh, Naruto took a deep drag of the bottle and winced as it burned like fire going down. He had a feeling that most first time drinkers would have probably been unable to deal with the sensation without spitting out the first mouth full, but for someone who was used to drinking his milk extra chunky, it wasn't much of a problem. If you could keep that down, cheap sake was hardly a problem.

Naruto opened the door, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath to savor the steam. Nothing clears the nasal passages like steam, though after that first swig, he had to admit that strong alcohol came in a close second. He opened his eyes in curiosity as he heard a splash, which drew him out of his moment of revelry. Haku was sitting on the far end of the bath, neck deep in water. There was a slight flush on his face which made Naruto wonder if the other boy had been in the water a bit too long.

"Hey!" Naruto said a bit more chipper than he'd intended. He laughed inside. Maybe it was already starting to work. Absently, Naruto grabbed a bucket of cold water and sighed. He always hated his part. Fighting back a curse he dumped it over his head and began to scrub as quickly as possible. He always hated cold water, this was double true since that time when he was ten that the hot water heater keeled over in the middle of winter. Now that had really sucked. It even sucked harder when the pipes froze right after. He'd been forced to bathe and wash his clothes in the river for a week before the ANBU reported it to Sandaime-jiji. Old man had been pretty ticked off.

Still, as a result, he had no love of cold water.

"Naruto-kun," Haku said carefully, "I didn't expect you to take a bath so soon."

Naruto shrugged, fighting back a shiver as he scrubbed himself clean as quickly as possible. "After today I felt like one would be a good idea. Know what I mean? Besides, we're both guys so its not like we'll see anything we haven't seen before."

"Right," Haku said slowly, "We're both guys here."

After a moment Naruto judged himself clean enough and dumped another bucket over his head to rinse off. Yeah. That would do. He stood up and took another swig of sake. You know, this stuff wasn't so bad once you got use to it.

With a deep sigh of contentment, he settled into the water across from Haku. After all the fighting he'd done today the bath was heavenly. Even with his quick recovery time he still felt like an overworked pin-cushion, but a nice hot bath would make everything right with the world.

"Naruto where did you get that bottle?" " Haku asked, warily looking at the aforementioned hooch.

"Found out some bad news," Naruto replied. "I killed some of those guys on the bridge. Kakashi-sensei gave it to me, said it might help." He paused and glanced over at the other boy before holding it out to him. "Here."

Haku frowned. "Zabuza-san told me that getting drunk makes you vulnerable and that ninja cannot afford such weakness." The boy paused and lowered his head, sadly sinking even deeper into the water at the mention of his late precious person.

Naruto smiled to the other boy and held the bottle out again. "Kakashi-sensei said that sometimes the only thing you can do is accept that you can't change the past and sometimes a good, stiff drink will help you forget about your worries for a while."

The other boy paused for a moment before snatching the bottle out of Naruto's hand and drinking with a gusto that made Naruto wonder if he was going to get it back. Absently he also noted how dainty and delicate the other boy's arms were. While they'd look pretty on a girl, on a guy they were just downright creepy.

"Hey! I'll share it, but you can't have the whole thing!" Naruto exclaimed as he snatched the bottle back. Haku simply glared in response.

Naruto wilted under the dirty look and lowered his head. "You probably hate us, don't you?"

"No," Haku replied. "You did your duty as ninja. There could never have been any other way. While your sensei struck the killing blow, and you prevented me from giving my life in place of his, it was Gato's dishonorable intentions that caused his death, and he's already paid for his disrespect."

Naruto nodded and took another swig. "Yeah. I guess so. So what are you going to do now?"

Haku paused for a moment then snatched the bottle back, a sad look on his face. "I have no idea." He took another long swig. "Once again I am an unwanted person."

"Hey!" Naruto exclaimed snatching the bottle back. "You aren't an unwanted person."

Haku growled and leaned forward locking eyes with Naruto. "My precious person is dead! He's the only person who gave a damn about me in the world and now he's gone! No one else cares if I live or die!"

Naruto took another dose of liquid courage and glared at the other boy. "That's not true! I care! I don't care if you were my enemy and I'm glad you're not dead, because now we can become friends!"

Haku blinked. "Friends?"

"Yeah," Naruto exclaimed. "Friends! I have lots of friends. Sakura-chan, Konohamaru-kun, Iruka-sensei, Hokage-jiji, the Ichirakus, hell, even Sasuke, though don't tell him I said that, because he's a dick!"

Haku smiled thinly and took the bottle back taking a thin sip. "Then you are most fortunate, Naruto-kun, to have so many people who acknowledge you."

Naruto snatched the bottle back, and looked Haku in the eyes. "Yeah, I know, and if you gave 'em half a chance I bet they'd become your friends you too."

Haku's features softened. "Are you serious?"

Naruto nodded with a grin on his face. "Serious as a bowl of ramen."

Haku blinked. "How is a bowl of ramen serious?"

"You seriously better not get in between me and it because you might get hurt!"

Haku laughed and took the bottle back. "So you really want to be my friend? Really? Honestly?"

"Yeah, I say what I mean and I mean what I say!"

Haku took a sip and nodded. "Thank you, Naruto." He paused. "You said your dream was to become Hokage, right? To protect everyone in your village and make them acknowledge your strength?"

Naruto nodded. "Yep! Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage and protector of the Village that's suppose to be Hidden in the Leaves, but is really just sitting in the middle of a big damn forest with lots of roads running in all directions!"

Haku smiled. "You are a very special person, Naruto-kun. Zabuza told me to find a worthy person and help them find their dream. I'd like to help you find yours. Well not find, cause you already found it, but to achieve it!"

Naruto beamed. "Thanks Haku! Let's go train." He tried to stand but his footing was questionable and his balance was unsure, causing him to fall back into the bathtub.

Haku giggled in a girlish manner and offered the bottle back to him. "I think you're drunk."

Naruto nodded. "Yeah." He took another swig. "I drink so too."

Haku laughed. "Don't you mean 'I think so'?"

Naruto shrugged. "That's what I said."

"No you didn't!"

"Yes I did!"

Haku laughed again. "You've a very strange boy, you know that Naruto-kun?"

"Hey, who are you calling strange?" Naruto mock glared. "You're one to talk, girly boy."

"I'm not a girly boy!" Haku frowned, still neck deep in water as he tried to reach out for the bottle.

"Gimme that!"

"Kakashi-sensei gave it to me," Naruto snorted. "And you are too a girly boy!"

"I am not a girly boy!" Haku exclaimed again.

"You are too. You're girly so you're a girly boy!"

"I'm girly because I'm a girl!" Haku growled. "Now gimme that bottle!"

"Don't expect me to fall for that one again, Haku!"

"But I really am a girl!"

"Are not!" Naurto exclaimed.

"Am too!" Haku countered.

"Are not!"

"Am too!"

Naruto grinned. "Am too!"

"Are not!" Haku paused in surprise as Naruto laughed.

"See, even you agree with me."

"I am! I really am a girl!" Haku protested.

Naturo laughed. "Yeah, yeah! Prove it and I'll even give you the bottle back!"

"You asked for it!" Haku sneered before standing up.

Naruto's eyes almost burst from his head as he took in Haku's definitely, one hundred percent female, water glistening, naked form. As the creator of the Oiroke no Jutsu Naruto liked to see himself as a bit of an expert in female anatomy, and the anatomy before him was very, very female. Suddenly he realized that he'd spent the past, who knows how long, sitting in a bath with a hot older girl getting sloshed and after much careful internal debate, he eloquently managed to put his thoughts into words.

"How the hell did you hide those?!" Naruto exclaimed as he stared at a pair of rosy capped breasts that were well more than a handful and seemed to redefine the word 'perky'.

"Loose, heavy shirts and a minor genjutsu seal woven into my breast bindings."

"Sealing is truly a powerful art," he breathed in awe.

Haku glowered. "So I've noticed, now gimme that bottle!"

Haku lunged for the bottle, but like Naruto, her normally exceptional sense of balance had been disrupted by the sake and she ended up slipping forward and fell on top of the younger male.

Naruto gagged as he dropped the sake bottle to the side, letting what little liquid remained within run out onto the tiles, but all was forgotten as he felt the warm and inviting feeling of Haku's body pressed against his. With his inhibitions in a state of glorious absence, he did the only thing natural. He kissed her. Also being inebriated state, Haku showed her appreciation for the idea by returning it with a desperate fervor, both of them swept away in sensations they'd never felt before.

1 1 1

Sasuke groaned as he threw his shirt into the clothes basket. He felt like hell. He didn't think there was a single part of his body that hadn't been filled with needles and his nerves were still throbbing thanks to the death faking paralysis technique. If being dead felt anything like what Haku had done to him, he was half tempted to forget about his brother and go looking for immortality because that had really sucked. Though maybe he could do both. After all, Itachi would be screwed in a fight against someone who couldn't die.

He chucked to himself in amusement. That would be cool, but it was also highly unrealistic. He had to keep his head straight about this one. He already knew what he had to do. He had to unlock the full power of his Sharingan. Only then would he be strong enough to defeat That Man and avenge his clan.

Of course you couldn't avenge anyone if you were dead, so he had to wonder why he'd taken that hit for the dobe. It just made no sense. He'd just seen it coming and reacted on instinct. Did this mean that Naruto was his 'best friend'? Did that mean he had to kill Naruto in order to become strong enough to kill his brother? He shook his head. That wouldn't be easy. While Naruto wasn't quite as pathetic as he looked, for some reason Sasuke had doubts to his own ability to kill the other boy. Was it because of the hidden power within him, or was it something else, like his own deep rooted unwillingness to kill the idiot?

Moving his mind to another subject he was glad that Haku kid was still alive. While he was still pissed about almost being killed, he was smart enough not to take it too personally. Besides, while he wasn't able to duplicate the other boy's bloodline based abilities, much of his combat prowess seemed to be due to his unique form of taijutsu. He hoped he'd stay around for a while because he had no doubt that once he'd watched the other boy for long enough, he'd be able to copy it. Now, while he doubted it would make him powerful enough to defeat Itachi, he knew that it could at least give him a few tricks that That Man wouldn't be expecting.

Yeah. He'd definitely have to talk to the other boy about sparing so he could learn some of his techniques.

With a smile, Sasuke opened the door. That expression was instantly replaced by wide eyed, open mouthed shock.

Naruto and Haku were in the bath, and they were making out. There were two guys making out in the bath! That girly boy he could expect, after all, for a man to be that girly he had to be a little limp-wristed by nature, but Naruto? That didn't make any sense.

He gasped. Or did it?

Suddenly it all made sense, the kind of sense that made Sasuke's blood freeze in his veins. Naruto was gay. Naruto liked him. That accidental kiss, it wasn't so accidental. The reason he stalked Sakura. It wasn't because he liked the pink haired girl, it was because she liked Sasuke and he tolerated her, Sakura was Naruto's Beard, and he was using her to get close to him. Their entire rivalry, it was because the dead last loser just wanted to be close to him. Hell, he bet the twisted little freak got off every time he hit him in a sparring match! A chill went up his spine as he remembered that they'd bathed together several times over the duration of this mission. He felt dirty, he felt defiled, he felt a deep concern for his anal virginity.

Almost hyperventilating, Sasuke stumbled back and gripped the door to steady himself. He almost cursed as the door rattled, doubtlessly bringing the attention of both the queers in the bathtub upon him.

Sasuke gulped as he filled with fear. He'd been hoping to simply slip away, but now that they were busted, what would they do? Would they hold him down and do unspeakable, unspeakably gay things to him in order to force his silence with shame or would they just accept that the cat is out of the bag and come clean?

Honestly, he didn't intend to be around to find out.

Sasuke turned around and slid the door shut as fast as it would go and grabbed a yukata off a hook. Taking only enough time to cover himself he ran for help like his ass depended on it, because it just might.


- 1 - 1 - 1 - 1 -

Kakashi sighed as he placed his chopsticks back onto the table and turned to his uncharacteristically frantic, and apparently naked, genin. On one hand he was annoyed, after all, he'd just managed to sit down to enjoy a very well deserved meal. On the other he was wondering what in the world could make the otherwise implacable Uchiha Sasuke freak out this badly. He was also amused, his other genin was blushing brightly, virtually paralyzed with shock, while a small trickle of blood made its way down her left nostril. Oh yeah. He had no idea what was going on, but they were never going to live this down. He'd make sure of it.

"What is it, Sasuke, and why are you running around without pants?" Kakashi asked bluntly.

"Haku and Naruto are in the bath together!" he exclaimed, jumping around in place.

Behind Kakashi, Sakura fell over backwards, in a near catatonic state, a silly grin pasted across her features, and the blood from her nose now flowing freely. All of Sasuke's jumping around must have given her a look at his junk. He looked over and shook his head. Girl had it bad.

Well, that or she was into yaoi. Personally, Kakashi prayed that it was the former.

Looking back to Sasuke he suddenly wondered what was wrong with the kid. Communal bathing was in no way something to freak out about. It was a proud part of their culture, after all. Was he really that sheltered? Hell, hadn't he shared a bath with Naruto already? Okay, what was he leaving out?

"And how exactly is this an excuse for you running around hanging free and making a fool of yourself?" Kakashi asked, bluntly.

"They were making out!" Sasuke exclaimed.

Kakashi jumped to his feet. Okay. What the fuck? While he didn't disbelieve Sasuke, he knew something had to be up. He'd given Naruto that booze, and the kid said he'd be sharing it with Haku, so maybe they were both drunk, maybe experimenting. A lot of guys did that, though most never spoke of it. Hell, maybe Haku actually was a girl who tried to pass as a guy. A lot of girls did it, and he didn't think a guy could be that pretty. Hell, maybe the Uchiha had just seen something that just looked kinda questionable, made the wrong assumption, and let his mind fill in all the blanks, coming to a worse case scenario. Not that there was anything wrong with being gay, but with the way Naruto all but stalked Sakura, and that wondrous Oiroke no Jutsus of his, it didn't seem very likely. Besides, the son of Namikaze Minato, the man who gave him his first stash of porn mags, gay? On that day he'd eat his own mask! Mind you, he strongly suspected that his first stash was in fact Minato-sensei's private collection. And was actually given to him in order to protect sensei's own ass from the wrath of his then girlfriend, Konoha's very own Red-Hot Habanero (or Blood Stained Hurricane if you were from Mist), Kushina Uzumaki. Why Minato sensei just didn't hide it all in a sealing scroll he doubted he would ever know.

"Come on," Kakashi said in annoyance. "Let's see what's going on."

"It's obvious what's going on, Sensei," Sasuke replied, "Naruto's gay and he's using his membership in this team to try and get a piece of my ass. Well, I'm not going to stand for it! I like girls, damn it!"

Kakashi simply glanced at the boy and smirked. Do I mess with his head, or don't I? Kakashi smiled under his mask. Do. "With the way you ignore Sakura, I have my doubts, kiddo."

Sasuke flushed brightly and glared at his sensei. "I have a man to kill, I cannot afford any distractions!"

"Your clan isn't going to rebuild itself, you know," Kakashi replied, honestly enjoying yanking on the kid's chain.

Sasuke frowned. "I can do that after I've avenged my clan!"

Kakashi shrugged. "And here I thought you'd want to rebuild your clan first, if only to make sure that if something happened to you, your lineage isn't lost."

Sasuke turned about glaring him in the eye. "You.. you-" He paused. "You have a point."

"And that's why I'm the jonin instructor and you're the cute little genin."

Sasuke blushed and lowered his head. Well, for once he got the little genius to back down. Big shocker, that.

With a smile under his mask Kakashi slid open the door to the furo and walked in. Walking past the baskets of clothing, his highly trained senses spotted a flash of color among Haku's clothing. Ah ha! He knew it! Suddenly things fell into place and he couldn't help but smile. Oh, this was going to be so much fun! With a flourish, he opened the inner door and stepped inside.

Naruto was well on his way to third base with Haku, who if those luscious breasts that Naruto was groping were any indication, was most definitely of the female persuasion. He had to admit that the girl was pretty hot, and he was half tempted to let the boy have his fun, but it was his duty as Naruto's instructor to humiliate him at every opportunity. Besides, he wanted to take a bath too, and he wasn't going to clean the damned thing out after two people got done fucking it in.

"Sasuke, that's a girl," he said loudly, in his best kindergarten teacher voice, attracting the attention of the two drunken kids in the tub. Naruto just sat dumbfounded in place while Haku eeked and ducked under the water to preserve what little feminine modesty she had already thrown to the wind.

"See?" Kakashi continued, in his lecture voice. "Those are boobies. Only girls have boobies. Boobies, can you say boobies? I know that you can!" He looked at Sasuke expectantly.

Sasuke glared.

Kakashi smiled and cleared his throat. "Ha-hem."

Sasuke flushed and averting his eyes, growled out, "Boobies."

"Good boy!" Kakashi exclaimed as if her were praising a small child. "Now, apologize for telling everyone Naruto was making out with a guy."

Sasuke stood in place with a furious blush on his face and then after a long moment, muttered out a very sad "Sorry".

Kakashi frowned. "That'll do. Now what lesson have you learned today my student?"

Sasuke sighed. "Never base a conclusion off of assumed truths. Always confirm your information."

Kakashi nodded proudly. "Very good. You may go."

To his great amusement, Sasuke bolted out the door like someone had lit his ass on fire.

Turning back to Naruto, he crossed his arms. "Other people need to use this bath, and I'm not going to clean it after you've had your fun. Out of the tub, both of you!"

Naruto slowly and unsure, climbed out, with a look on his face like someone had just strangled his puppy. Which considering where Haku's hands had been, she just might have been doing. Haku on the other hand stayed crouched and glared at him.

"Once you leave, pervert," she snapped.

She didn't want to flash him. Fair enough.

As Naruto walked to the door, Kakashi patted him on the back with one hand, winked and gave him a thumbs up with the other. "Making out with the hot older girl in the tub, eh? I have to give you at least 100 man points for this one, kid."