"Who names a bridge after a fishcake? What a stupid name."
Sasuke's ears pricked at the white-haired shinobi's words, and he allowed himself to briefly look up to the sign. They were in Wave, the place of his very first C-ranked mission, and in front of a huge, imposing bridge made of stone, steel, and petrified wood. A smile flickered over his face as he saw the orange lettering. The Great Naruto Bridge. Hn.
"Hey, what's wrong with you Sasuke?" Suigetsu demanded, a mouthful of sharp teeth bared in a smile. "Stop standing there! We have to go and get the sword!"
"You idiot!" another member of his team, a young woman with a shock of blood red hair hung messily down to her shoulders, shouted. She hit the kenjutsu wielder over the head. "Show Sasuke-sama some respect!"
"I was only asking him a question, Karin!" Suigetsu shouted back, attention instantly shifting to the loud girl, "Do you have to sound like a shrew every time you open your mouth?!"
Karin cracked her knuckles ominously. "What did you just call me shark-boy?"
"A shrew! Don't tell me your shrill voice blew out your own hearing too!"
"Damn it, Seigetsu, this is the last straw! Get ready for a world of pain!"
"Bring it on, four-eyes! I could tie two hands behind my back, and still- hey!"
"Would you like me to stop them, Sasuke-sama?" the last member of their party, a broad-shouldered teen with bright orange hair, asked quietly.
Their raven-haired leader shook his head. Sasuke took a moment to be silently grateful for Jugo's calm, serious nature- he couldn't have bared a third shrieker on the team; Naruto and Sakura had only conditioned his tolerance for two- before he replied.
"Wait for them to finish arguing, and take them to Zabuza's grave," Sasuke answered, "Then find the inn closest to the bridge and book four rooms there."
Jugo nodded, already aware of Sasuke's silent command to pick a room as far away from Karin as possible for him. The red-haired girl was Sakura's more confident, more terrifying counterpart.
Sasuke made a Shunshin, and left the bridge before Karin could break off her argument long enough to irritate him. He walked around the village for a while, keen eyes scanning the area for any interesting tidbits of information. The Uchiha mentally debated with himself for a second, before he walked into a bar. This would be the best place to get gossip that might assist him in catching Itachi.
He had just settled in, with a cup of the weakest sake he could accept without coming off as a wimp, when the two men came in. There wasn't anything particularly interesting about them- minor merchants, he was sure- but for the words they just said.
"-sure it was Uzumaki!" the first one exclaimed. Sasuke mentally dubbed him Beetle, for the tiny black eyes that glittered as he spoke.
The other one seemed a pleasant, cheery fellow with a body that would be kindly called plump. Merchant-Chouji was nodding along eagerly, eyes fastened to his friend. Sasuke's ears perked up.
"It's nice to know that the Hero of Wave is happy and healthy," Merchant-Chouji mused.
"Oi! Kato, what are you and Nari blabbing about over there?" another bar member asked, clasping Beetle good-naturedly on the back.
"Well, I just got back from a trip to the Land of Honey," Beetle grinned slyly, "And when I was there, one of my regular customers, Minami, came around to pick up some fish. He knows that he won't find any fresher than good, old Wave cod!"
"Damn straight!" one of the listeners yelled, to answering laughter.
"Anyway, when Minami was there, we struck up a conversation," Beetle smirked, "Said he met an interesting ninja at his ramen stand. Really stood out in his mind, see, as a rather unique fella…"
Sasuke's breath hitched. He pressed the cup of sake to his lips to hide the reaction, and steadied his breathing.
"Really friendly, he was, and wore the oddest jumpsuit," Beetle continued.
"Stop actin' like a teasin' barmaid and just spit it out already Nari!"
"It was Naruto Uzumaki!" Merchant-Chouji blurt out, clearly unable to hold it in anymore.
Sasuke took another long gulp of his sake, as a wave of realization swept over the bar. Many of the fishermen, merchants, and assorted Wave citizens knew about Wave's ninja hero. Those who hadn't met the sunny blonde personally, had heard the story relayed over and over again, of the time Naruto and his team liberated Wave from the tyrant Gato.
"Are you sure?" one of the burly men, a construction worker asked, interestedly. "Tazuna would like to know if he's doing well."
"Blonde hair, blue eyes, orange jumpsuit," Beetle listed, seemingly not at all displeased about his friend just stealing his thunder. Instead, he just stood there and smirked.
Sasuke's eyes narrowed. What else did he know?
"Sounds like Uzumaki, alright," the construction worker said, grinning. "Tell me you bought him a drink."
"I wasn't the one who got to see him, Minami was," Beetle replied, walking up to a stool near Sasuke, and taking a seat, "And he didn't figure it out until the boy had already left. Don't blame him though. He had an unusual travelling companion."
Sasuke's eyebrow lifted. The Avenger waited impatiently as the other bar members plied the smug merchant with alcohol and demanded more details.
"Minami said that he had a toddler with him," Beetle said, with relish, "Cute little thing too. And apparently loves ramen just as much as his daddy."
As the bar was filled with exclamations of shock and happiness, Sasuke stilled.
Since Jiraiya had chosen to ditch them the second they had reached the great wooden walls of Nadeshiko, Naruto chose to walk around with Harri and get familiar with the town. It would give them some time to practice Harri's language skills, while also allowing Naruto to pinpoint good areas for buffer in a fight. Besides, it would probably be safer to not be associated with a known pervert in a village full of trained kunoichi.
He was pleasantly surprised to note that he wasn't receiving any dark glares from the residents here. Instead, the women were determinedly pretending that he didn't exist, which was just fine for Naruto, since he was having a perfectly good time with Harri.
"Tree," Naruto enunciated clearly, pausing by the large oak and placing his hand against the bark. Harri mimicked his actions, and smiled.
"Tu-ree," he repeated, recognizing the familiar word. Naruto had used it at least four times when they were in their last village.
A bit of an overachiever, the black-haired toddler pointed upwards. "Leaf," Harri said, proudly.
"Leaf," Naruto agreed, a smile crossing his face. He reached up to pluck one of the shiny, green leaves and rubbed it against his fingers. It had a waxy coating similar to the leaves surrounding Konoha.
These leaves had absorbed the excess chakra wafting through the air, and would thus channel his own more easily. Naruto focused at the center of the leaf, and channeled a bit of his chakra to it. The basic exercise taxed his mental reserves- the chakra needed was so miniscule, that he had to use every bit of focus to maintain it- but held steadfastly to his hand. The blonde offered that hand to Harri.
"Can you pick it up?" the blonde asked, watching as Harri's brow furrowed. The child may not have understood the exact meaning of the words, but he did understand that the leaf was being offered to him for some reason. Wanting to accept the gift, the curious toddler reached out to pick it up.
It wouldn't move.
A frown crossed Harri's face as he pulled at the edges. It still wouldn't budge. The black-haired boy applied more force, to the point where it should tear, but the leaf stubbornly stayed still.
"Leaf not move," Harri said, astonished. He pouted. "Why leaf not go to Harri?"
"Chakra," Naruto answered simply, and released the leaf. A second later, Harri's tugging worked, and with an exclamation of pleasure, the boy had grasped his prize.
"What ch'kra?" Harri asked, pudgy baby fist crushing the delicate green leaf.
"This is chakra," Naruto answered, and channeled some more energy to his hand. He didn't give it any direction, so the blue wisps that rose out easily faded into the air, but not before Harri could see the shining light covering the blonde's hand.
"Pretty lights!" Harri cheered, not at all afraid. His Daddy used to make pretty lights come out with the wooden stick that Harri wasn't supposed to touch, and he could make smoke rings too! Could the blonde boy who was like Harri's Mummy, but not Mummy, make smoke too?
"More please," Harri asked, an eager smile on his face. His unoccupied hand unerringly reached for Naruto's chakra-laden one. The toddler laughed at the ticklish feeling of the 'pretty lights' dancing over his fingers, not noticing Naruto's astonished expression. "More pretty lights!"
Naruto was going to comply, when his ears pricked up. The Uzumaki's Kyuubi-enhanced senses were a bit sharper than average for a ninja, but they didn't give him much of a warning when something large was rushing toward them at such a rapid pace.
"What the hell?!" Naruto shouted, as he leaped towards the roof of the closest building. His legs ran over the walls, chakra fastening him to the wood, before he was partially hidden behind the tiles. In his arms, Harri merely gripped him closer, trying to steady himself from the jerky movement.
A few meters away from where they had just been standing, a huge red metallic something had just crashed. The metal groaned and buckled under the pressure of the force of the tree it had hit, a loud reverberation echoing from the impact. The screech of the metal made Harri cry out in fear.
Suddenly distracted by the rapidly-forming wetness in Harri's bright green eyes, Naruto looked down in worry. "Hush, Harri-chan," he soothed quietly, trying his best to keep the worry from his voice, "It's okay. There's no need to cry. I'm right here. I'll protect you."
Thankfully, the toddler merely buried his face in Naruto's jacket again, where his cries could be quieter. Naruto couldn't afford to catch the attention of whatever had just crashed below them. The person causing the crash had just appeared below, though Naruto's obscured view only let him catch a slender woman with a high spiky ponytail, and a clinging outfit in black.
She threw a brace of kunai from her hands, which flew through the glass of the machine, causing it to shatter, and hit someone inside. Naruto winced as his keen hearing alerted him to the squelch of metal searing through flesh. He only heard the disturbing noise once, followed by the squirting sound that he associated with gushing blood, so the other kunai must not have reached their mark.
Still to have enough force and accuracy to hit through the opaque glass was impressive.
Naruto was unsure over his next move. The shinobi with the hero complex wanted to rush down there and figure out what was going on, but the more sensible parental figure he was becoming pointedly reminded him of the shivering toddler in his arms. Well, that settled it. He wasn't going to take Harri into the middle of the battlefield.
Naruto's hands formed a familiar cross shape, and a copy of himself popped up next to him from a cloud of smoke. Harri peeked out at the popping sound, and stared at the smoke in confusion.
The blonde quickly handed the toddler over to his clone, while checking his shinobi pouch to see how much ninja wire he had on hand.
'Not enough to tie up a prisoner, damn it,' he thought unhappily. Knocking her unconscious would be the way to go then.
"Tou-chan?" Harri asked, staring at him. Then his eyes turned to the figure holding him, and widened. "Tou-chan?"
Despite the situation, Naruto couldn't help but smile at the confused expression on his adopted son's face. Harri was just too adorable.
"Take him to Jiraiya," the blonde ordered briskly, "Avoid anyone else, and don't engage in battle unless directly attacked. If you are, the priority is to get Harri away without injury. You should have enough chakra to split yourself two more times. Understood?"
"Got it, Boss!" the clone replied, offering him a salute.
"I'll see you in a little while, Harri," Naruto added, reassuringly.
One hand ruffled the boy's messy hair, making it stick up even more, as Naruto discretely placed a chakra signal seal on his shirt. The seals were a gift from Jiraiya, and would send out a flare repeatedly once activated. As soon as the clone Naruto was a safe distance away from this mess, he would activate it, and Jiraiya would come running.
Naruto turned away, trusting his clone to get the job done, and readied himself to jump into the fray. Engaging in a ninja battle an hour into his arrival hadn't been Naruto's plan, but the blonde couldn't deny the excitement coursing through his body. That woman's shurikenjutsu was pretty impressive. Now to see if it could handle a cohort of his clones.
(This omake has been brought to you by narutoDkurosaki. Orochimaru won't be Harri's grandfather, but that won't stop our favorite blonde from jumping to conclusions!)
"Harri-chan, we have to leave now," Naruto called out, looking over the wildly grown meadow for a head of messy black hair, "It's time to go see Baa-chan! You want to- Harri?!"
Having spotted his young son, Naruto hurried forward, only to stop dead in his tracks. For there, crouching in front of a vivid green snake, was Harri, a spitting, hissing sound coming from his mouth. And the snake was responding to that sound, drawing itself up and swaying gently in front of the boy.
"Harri-chan?" Naruto repeated, in a horrified whisper. The soft spoken name reached the toddler's ears, because Harri looked up with an innocent look on his face.
"Tou-chan!" Harri squealed happily, and Naruto struggled not to recoil because where there was once Harri's childish, high-pitched Japanese was now a lower, silken hiss.
Naruto's breath hitched. His son was speaking with a snake. A snake. An animal and talent that could only be associated with one other man in the entirety of the Elemental Nations. The truth was obvious.
His precious Harri was related to Orochimaru!
Naruto wanted to cry. How could he not have known?! They shared such a resemblance! The same black hair- and well, actually that was it, but that just meant Harri inherited the features of his non-Orochimaru relatives! But his sweet little boy wasn't anything like that monster! He couldn't let anyone else learn about this. They would ostracize Harri, and his son didn't deserve that. It wasn't his fault that he was related to the greatest traitor Konoha had ever had.
Without a second thought, Naruto leapt forward, swept Harri into his arms, and hugged the child for all he was worth.
"This doesn't mean anything, Harri!" Naruto sobbed, not noticing his son's struggles to get out of his grip, "I still love you, no matter what! I'll always love you! Just because Orochimaru is probably your grandfather doesn't mean that you're going to become evil!"
"Tou-chan, c-can't br-breathe," Harri choked.
Standing behind the tearful blonde, Jiraiya simply rolled his eyes. Trust his dramatic apprentice to forget that Orochimaru couldn't actually speak to snakes. His summons were capable of conversing, yes, but they did so in English. Harri had probably just unlocked a new bloodline ability.
With a sigh, the Sannin decided to separate the two, before the blue tint currently on Harri's face became permanent.