Summary : AU : Naruto was banished from Konoha after the retrieval of Sasuke as the council and Daimyo make a unanimous decision and banish him. Temari finds him in a small merchant village in the Land of Wind in a condition worse for wear and on the edge of committing seppuku and takes him back to her village as Naruto becomes a Suna shinobi and Konoha regrets ever letting him go. What will the adventures unroll….

Konohagakure no Sato

Uzumaki Naruto, the hyperactive knucklehead ninja, was walking towards the lofty village walls of the Hidden Leaf village, an unconscious Sasuke slung atop his shoulders. He was the last one of the retrieval squad sent to retrieve said Uchiha to return, and even though he was bleeding profusely while barely hanging on to his consciousness, he was grinning like an idiot.

He had accomplished his mission thereby fulfilling his promise, after all, Uzumaki Naruto never went back on his word - this time being no exception.

As the gates to the village became visible to his glittering azure orbs, his injuries were finally cloaking their veils over him to the limits of his bodily endurance, prompting him to ultimately fall down on the ground with a thump, completely unconscious.

Meanwhile, Temari was walking on the path leading to the Leaf village, her ever present battle fan was slung on her back like usual, and the white battle kimono she donned was draped to her curvaceous figure, held on to it firmly with a red belt tied to her waist in a knot. Her were hair trussed into her usual four ponytails, most found it unbecoming of a young female such as herself, mainly since it downplayed heavily on her looks. But to a kunoichi as serious as she was, it was a necessity. Looks didn't help you in battle, and they sure as hell never came in handy during shinobi affairs, she was taught that the hard way many times in the past.

Her teal eyes caught two silhouettes lying there on the ground, unconscious, and she immediately rushed to them.

Shikamaru had been taken by the medics ahead of her. In fact, the lazy genius had been adamant to get back to the village ahead of her, as soon as he possibly could, and she could relate to his worries on that subject. Seeing her baby brother, who she hadn't ever even suffer so much as a scratch through almost all his younger life, lying half dead on the ground after his battle with Naruto, she had never felt so troubled as she had right then.

So, in short, she could relate to the pineapple haired genin wanting to get close to his fallen squad mates as soon as humanly possible. Crouching down, she flipped over the Uchiha to make him face up. Her trained eyes instantly traveling and focusing over the spiral shaped wound scarring his chest, even though the high degree burns were clearly evident on his chest, she could discern with a mere glance that his wounds were in no way life threatening.

So, putting that thought to the side, she gently placed him aside and turned all her attention to the second victim lying by his side. She didn't even need to turn him to realize that he was on the verge of death, the blood pooling underneath him in a puddle was proof enough, staining the ground crimson. Instantly rushing to his side, she flipped him over and tore off her kimono near her thighs right before pressing the bundled cloth over the gaping wound on his chest. She almost missed the shuffling footsteps coming nearer and nearer in her dazed state, but looking up to see the medic team now on site, relief washed over her entire being.

Seeing them put Sasuke on a stretcher, she bristled. "Hey! Get over here, he needs immediate attention. His wounds are fatal…!" she shouted, quite frantically.

Their eyes looked at her in mild surprise before traveling down to the boy on her lap. Instantly, much to her added anger and confusion, those eyes turned cold. "Uchiha-sama is injured, can't you see? Plus, he is much more valuable to the Leaf than he will ever be." she glowered over him, but the men didn't budge so much as an inch in their stances. "We have our orders and we must follow them to point." they answered her curtly. Before she could so much as raise a word of protest, they were off to the village with an unconscious Sasuke now in tow.

"Those idiots!" she hissed. Looking down, her anger was replaced with worry, the blonde boy's condition seemed to be worsening each passing second. Her white clothes were drenching themselves in his blood, but she could care less about such trivial things right now. Cradling him up and placing him delicately over her back, she started jumping back to the Leaf, intent on getting him there herself now.

But feeling her back now dripping in his elixir of life, her heart skipped a beat. "Hold on now you idiot, I'll get you help. Don't you die on me…!" she whispered worriedly, feeling his breaths turning fainter by the minute. Her feet started picking up their pace as branches started blurring beneath them in a daze, it seemed like hours before the foliage finally ended and she was rushing through the surprisingly unmanned gates of the village, straight to the hospital with a face of sheer urgency.

Rushing in through the hospital doors, she slid to an abrupt stop. "I need help here!" she spoke out loud, earning surprised looks from the staff going about their businesses there. Seeing the patient slung on her back, nurses started rushing close to her in a jiffy. "Please hurry up, he is in critical condition. This is an emergency." she pressed desperately, earning understanding nods from the nurse.

"I understand that miss." the nurse said reassuringly, now finally getting a good look at the bruised and beaten face of said patient. But catching a glimpse of those sun kissed hair and whisker marks on his cheeks, even her eyes turned frosty. "I'll go and see if any doctor is free, please wait right here." she said. Her voice was all too calm now, a bit too calm for Temari's tastes in fact.

Temari growled, helplessly watching her walk away without a care in the world. "What the hell's the matter with these people?!" she growled, boring holes in the retreating nurses back.

Was she the only one who was seeing how serious Naruto truly was?

Tsunade, in a coincidental turn of events, walked out from the operation theater housing an injured Chouji - and just as her eyes landed on the blonde, the unconscious one, she dropped her clipboard with a gasp before and rushing closer to him. "What happened to him?! Kami…"

Pulling her hands back with sheer will from trying to embrace the boy she adored so much, she had to crush her motherly instincts and started rushing back to an empty room in hurry. "Never mind that, bring him in the room over here."

Temari didn't need to be told twice, she followed Tsunade just as swiftly. "Shizune! Get over here, right now…!" shouted Tsunade. Shizune came stumbling in, and seeing her brother in all but blood on the bed as if he was something the cat dragged in, her eyes widened in horror. "Naruto…!" she gasped.

Tsunade slapped her cheek gently, snapping her apprentice out from the shock. "Assist me, don't fool around like this. We need to stabilize him, NOW!"

"Hai…!" Shizune agreed, pulling up her latex gloves, intent on stabilizing him as soon as she possibly could. Temari stood there oddly, having no idea what to do now. She saw Shizune and Tsunade shouting orders in the air moments before the room was frolicking with nurses, one of whom dragged her out and seated her in the waiting lounge, quite forcefully for her tastes. She sat there, waiting, covered head to toe in blood with no idea what she was supposed do or even where she currently was. Too engrossed was she in worrying for the boy who had essentially saved her little brother in more ways than one, but now, here he was, almost on the verge of death.

And all for what, that prideful Uchiha?

Her teeth clicked together in annoyance, ever since she had laid eyes on him, that prideful bastard had left a bitter taste in her mouth. But to outright abandon your village, the highest form of treason one could commit - just to get some petty revenge; he had to have been ludicrous, or suicidal even, she just couldn't place her finger on which one it truly was.

"TEMARI!" she had to wince and resist the urge to cover her ears, talk about being loud. "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? AND WHY AREN'T YOU BEING TREATED FOR THAT MATTER?!" this time she did cover her ears, the screech of the fabled banshee had finally succeeded in making her do so.

"Please Sakura, for Kami's sake this is a hospital. Could you be any louder?" she asked in barbed annoyance. Sakura nodded sheepishly, clearly embarrassed at being told off on her antics so bluntly. "…and this isn't my blood for you information, it's Naruto's. He was critically injured when I brought him in, and as far as I know, he's still being treated by Tsunade-sama herself."

Sakura snorted, urging Temari to look up at her with an elevated eyebrow. "Serves him right." Temari narrowed her eyes at that, her tongue curling in distaste. "After I told him to bring back Sasuke-kun to me, he injured and almost killed him. You should have left him there for all I care - "

"How dare you even say that, you filth?!" Temari hissed. "He had a gaping hole where his heart was supposed to be, and even after all that he was still trying to bring back that bastard of an Uchiha back to the village. You are his teammate for fuck's sake, have some respect!" she snarled lowly, like a lioness biting back her roar in mind of her surroundings.

"You don't know anything." Sakura snorted, huffing in disgust. "My mom was right, after what he did to Sasuke-kun, I know he is the demon the rumors claim him to be. He could just go somewhere and die for all I care…!"

She was cut off before she could spout off any more venom. "Leave." Temari whispered, her voice frigid as an iceberg. "…before I make you, and in the process put you in the same ward as your precious Uchiha-kun while I'm at it - allied villages be damned…!" she whispered, her tone ever the tempestuous one.

Sakura shivered from the tone, knowing full well she was more than capable of carrying out said threat if need be. Plus, her own abilities were anything but confidence inspiring. "Fine. Stay here for the demon to wake up then, I couldn't care less." she huffed again and walked away, leaving an irate Suna heiress behind.

Taking deep breaths to calm herself down before she threw a tantrum, Temari sighed, "Temari, what's wrong?" turning around with a start, Temari was met with a familiar pair of teal eyes, her eyes softened seeing them, "What has you so riled up, sister?" a monotonous voice asked.

"Everything's fine Gaara, nothing for you to worry about." she assured him halfheartedly. Gaara nodded, knowing full well she was lying, but also knew that she must have had to have her own reasons for doing so and left it at that.

Temari was glad he didn't probe any further, even if the thought of ridding the face of the earth from the plague of one bubble gum haired banshee was much too tempting, she decided that in the end, it just wasn't worth it. "Then why are you covered in blood?" he asked, as monotonous and stoic as ever.

She looked down to herself, only now realizing how she was appearing to others around her. "It's not my blood." her answer made Gaara curious, did his sister kill someone too? Improbable, not impossible he thought. The idea was tempting though, "It's Naruto's." he went stiff, stiff as a board hearing that.

His eyes widened in disbelief. "Is he alright?" he asked. Even as cold as he was, even Temari could see the urgency in his eyes, small wonder for her brother to act that way after what Naruto had done for him, she mused.

She nodded an affirmative, "Tsunade-sama is treating him at present, I heard from her his healing is inhumanely fast and add to that her skills, she'll have him out of harm's way in no time." she assured him soothingly, and it worked.

He nodded, trusting her enough on this, "We must head back to the village then." he said. Her heart skipped a beat for some odd reason, she didn't want to leave, not yet. "The village council has called back all shinobi we have at our disposal at once, they must take a decision on what the next course of action for our village will be." she wanted to argue, not knowing why, but in the end said nothing.

She knew full well as to why they, or more specifically he, was being called back. The village was weak and distraught at the moment, so they must have their ultimate weapon at their disposal to show their strength in front of any and all who may think of taking advantage of Suna's weakened state right now.

Even if she loathed it with all her heart, it was what it was. Nodding vehemently, she got up and walked out to head to the changing room. She needed to change her clothes with the spares she kept for such times after all, and even if a tiny part of her heart made her glance back again and again back to the operating room behind her, she trudged her way out without another word.

Duties came first after all.

Six months later

A small civilian village in the Land of Wind…

Walking down the barren streets in the scorching afternoon of this desert village, was one Temari Sabaku. In her hands were a bundle of papers, some supply orders she was assigned to get signed by one of their merchant traders.

Letting her eyes trail up to the sky while covering them with her hand for a failed attempt at shading them, she sighed. "I'm hungry." she whined. It was nearly lunchtime, and apart from some water in the morning, she was apparently running on fumes by now, "I need something to eat, and I need it now!"

Those damned merchants did negotiate hellishly if she were to be honest, but she wasn't so inept as to give in to their demands without slicking her way through it. Stopping outside a shop with a start, she saw a familiar crown of golden tresses clad in an orange jumpsuit hauling crates here and there. She smiled, almost going in to go and slap his back in a happy greeting…almost.

There was certainly something odd about him, to say the least. Now that she looked a bit closely, his clothes were stitched in several places and on top of that, they were tattered even more. They were barely even passable for a wage working civilian laborer, much less a full fledged shinobi.

Dread coiled in her heart like a snake, there was a feeling of melancholy around him. But the thing eating away most at her heart was the one object she couldn't quite see on his person;

His headband.

Walking behind a corner to an alley, she kept an eye on him from afar, her hunger lay all but forgotten now. She saw her going up to the merchant, retrieving some coins, which she surmised as payment for his services. As little as it was, it was all she could make of it at present.

He walked out into the roads, she followed him, still from afar. He stopped at a ramen stand, and for the life of her she couldn't help the fond smile that lit up her face. That boy could inhale ramen, that much she knew from the time she had spent scouting out the details of all the participating genin's seven months ago.

But for some reason or another, he was just staring at it with a far away look, as if he were troubled. But much to her shock, he walked away from it without so much as a back glance. Even if she wasn't sure of her scouting memories during her time from the chunin exams, she was pretty damn sure about hearing of his legendary thirst for ramen broth was something else, it had been the talk of the village at that time, apparently. He never, and she did mean ever, walk away from a ramen stand even if he was dying - that was absolute.

But she digressed, for now at least, and watched him walk up to a fruit stand to buy two pomegranates. Then he walked into a store and came out with a sealed bottle of water in hand. She followed him from the rooftops, taking extreme care to not be seen by anyone around her, especially him.

Following him into an empty alley, she sighed in relief at how surprisingly shady and cold it was, much to her relief, and watched intently as he leaned against a wall to his back and slid down tiredly. She watched him bite hungrily into his fruit and gulping down half his water bottle afterwards. Sitting still for a few minutes, she eventually saw him lie down and usher into sleep.

Deciding she had seen enough already, she walked up to him and shook him awake. Waiting for him to gather his senses, she took this time to run a closer inspection on him while she was at it. Now that she was within arm's length to him, she could see no traces of baby fat that once sat proudly on his cheeks the last time she had laid eyes on him.

But seeing his half lidded baby blue eyes eyeing her in honest confusion, she frowned. "Who are you?" he muttered sleepily.

She frowned even deeper and said nothing, letting him see her even closely. But even after a minute, much to her growing ire, he was eyeing her the same way. "I'm sorry miss, can I help you?" he asked again.

Her frown deepened into a full blown scowl, more so from his lack of energy than his memory gap - the latter only hurt her a bit for some odd reason. She crossed her arms over her knees, "Naruto, it's me Temari. Don't you remember me, even a little?" she asked.

He looked at her oddly, as if she were funny. Tilting his head to the side, quite cutely in her honest opinion, he went to shake his head before realization dawned over him. "Ah." he gasped. "You're Gaara's, right?!" he asked. She nodded, smiling. "It's been a long time…"

"That it has." she agreed.

She was about to question him a bit more, when much to her embarrassment, her stomach grumbled loudly. In a snap, a pomegranate was in front of her face with it's bearer extending his hand to her innocently. "Take it, you seem hungry." he said, in an unusually small voice, she noted.

She blushed, taking it from him gratefully. "Thank you."she whispered, biting into it without another thought. She went past the fruit in what seemed like seconds to her, Naruto handed her his half filled bottle which she accepted with a grateful nod.

"So Naruto…" she asked, he perked up. "What are you doing here all alone? Out on a mission or something?" she asked.

He looked down, suddenly finding his lap much too interesting and shook his head. "I'm not a shinobi anymore Temari, I was banished from the village six months ago." he whispered, his voice downtrodden.

It felt as if someone had dropped a house on her heart, she couldn't believe her ears. "W-What?!" she asked incredulously, almost believing he was joking…right?

He hadn't noticed her question it seemed, and went on, undeterred. "They banished me from the village six months ago after the retrieval mission we did to bring back Sasuke, I guess you didn't hear about it, huh?" he asked, she shook her head in denial. "I'm barred from entering the Land of Fire or any of it's allied countries including Wave and Spring, or will face immediate execution for breaking said laws." he whispered, as if he were day dreaming.

To say Temari was shocked was an understatement. "Then what are you doing out here, Naruto?" she asked. "Why not join some other village or something?"

He chuckled a hollow laugh, devoid of all humor. It made hair rise on her neck for some odd reason, "Iwa, and all their allied villages are still resentful of Konoha, they would rather see me dead than take me in." he replied, and she could see sense in that assessment. "Kumo, if they somehow found out about me being a jinchuriki, would rather extract the Kyuubi into one of their own loyal shinobi, killing me in the process to increase their owns strengths. Kiri is still in a civil war, so they too want some jinchuriki of their own for their own reasons. And the smaller villages won't even look at me straight, it causes unrest among major villages if some minor village hosts the most powerful of the nine."

A small streak of water lined her eyelashes, "Then how have you been getting by Naruto, what are you doing here?" she asked.

He smiled and looked down at his lap , unknowingly causing his hair to foreshadow his eyes. "By going to ask help from minor villages, I caused word to spread around that a jinchuriki is roaming free and up for the taking. The Akatsuki was already after me, so I came here one day and went into hiding. I don't use any chakra or techniques here to risk getting sniffed out, the merchants here give me some work every now and then. They are not permanent, just some odd jobs here and there. No one wants a boy with a shady background like me around them for any longer than what is absolutely necessary, I guess. I make fifty or even a hundred ryo two or three times a week, it isn't much but I make do by cutting some meals here and there. Us ninja's are trained to survive anyways and I've been surviving since I was born, so it's fine." he smiled, small drops now streaking down his nose onto his lap.

Her own eyes watered, she was barely holding back a choke of her own. "Then why did you give me your fruit and water?" she whispered, still not understanding anything at all even if she could make complete sense out of it. He smiled at her, flicking his head sideways to cause glistering drops flick aside from his eyes, "I know what being hungry feels like, plus, you're a friend. No one deserves to starve for any reason, no matter who it is -"

That was all he could say before her slender arms were encircled tightly around his neck, she hugged him. To think he had offered her his food without a second thought when he never had enough for himself, just…how?

Naruto stiffened for a moment, he hadn't been hugged like this for years now. Ever since the Third Hokage had stopped seeing him as a child, only Tsunade had ever gone and hugged him. But his own will wavered, he hugged her back shakily. "Let it out…" her small whisper was all it took to make him shrink in on himself and hide himself in her arms.

Finally the great dam holding back his heart broke. He hadn't cried when his friends and own teachers had reprimanded him for raising a lethal hand against Sasuke, the same person he was supposed to retrieve back safely. He hadn't cried when Sakura, the girl his heart always skipped a beat for, had told him to his face that it was good that the village was finally ridding itself of the demon that had plagued them for more than a decade now, and he just might even do the world a favor and die.

But today, today it was different. The affection behind the hug had made his will waver, it wasn't grandfatherly like Hiruzen used to give him, it wasn't motherly like Tsunade used to glomp him…it was different.

And he loved it.

It had shattered his iron strong barriers like glass, he trembled, at his own weaknesses now being up for the world to see, or his hopelessness now emitting out of him in spades, he did not know.

He hated to do it, but he wanted to let it out.

It had been so long…so so long.

Temari held his trembling form for what seemed like hours, hours before he finally fell unconscious. From trembling, crying, hunger or tiredness…she did not know. All she knew was that he had needed to let it out, and she was glad it was her shoulder he had trusted to do it on. Lifting him up the same as she had done months ago, she instantly noticed the lack of weight baring down on her from last time. He was feather light, even lighter than her!

She checked into a local inn, placed him on a bed and ordered some ramen from the attendant on his way out. Zipping down the fastener holding his jacket close, she took it off of him gently, being extra careful not to wake him up by accident when he finally looked so peacefully happy.

His body showed heavy signs of malnutrition, bone lines were evident everywhere on his torso, but the muscles on his arms were still ripped - much to her surprise. Was it from regular odd jobs without chakra enhancements or plain old buff from demonic chakra coursing in his veins to help him survive his ordeals, she did not know, neither did she want to.

She shook him awake after an hour later, when the lunch finally came, and sat by his side. Naruto groggily opened his eyes, feeling a soothing hand brushing his hair lovingly and teal green eyes looking down at him in what seemed to be in pure adoration, "Temari…" he asked. Sitting up, he looked around and regained his bearings, only to grow even more confused seeing his unusual surroundings.

Why was he in a room? Was she here to capture him too?

Suddenly, a steaming bowl of ramen was pushed onto his lap, courtesy of a fondly smiling Temari. "Eat up." she said, he perked up in surprise. "I took your lunch, so it's only fair if I pay you back, right?" she asked coyly.

He looked at her, his eyes flashing innocent confusion. She folded a pair of chopsticks into his hands and gave them a squeeze of assurance. "Eat." she whispered softly.

He was hesitant, after all it was just not right to take a full meal in exchange for a single fruit, was it? But he had no idea when he might chance upon such an offer next time. So, "Thank you." he whispered, and dug in - being extra careful not spill or waste any noodley goodness whatsoever.

Temari sat there, her cheek plump in her palm as she watched him eat with gentle eyes. Quite honestly, she was saddened at the look in his eyes, it almost seemed as if that bowl was the most precious thing to him in the world right now - but what burned her the most was that, she was right, and she knew it.

He finished the bowl in no more than a minute, she could see he was still hungry as she had expected him to be, and pushed a new steaming bowl onto his lap. "Go on." she said.

He nodded, almost going in for another bite before he stopped and looked at the bowl warily. "Is it poisoned?" he asked.

She frowned, not at the small voice he talked in, or even the suspicion he had just forced over her - but from the point that he didn't even seem the least bit concerned over what she was about to answer him. "No." she whispered honestly, giving his hand a gentle squeeze, "It isn't poisoned Naruto, trust me."

He nodded, not meeting her eyes in the least. Her soft voice made his heart twist strangely, and he didn't like it, not one bit. She handed him a glass of water, one that he drank slowly before she wiped off his face with a tissue as if he were the child and she the mother.

Involuntarily, a soft yawn snaked past his lips, his eyes drooping from being lounged on such a comfortable bed after sleeping his days away on the rock hard ground for months on end. Always having to keep your eyes and ears peeled for thugs on the streets, or worse, the people after him…wasn't a thought that was currently present in his mind either.

He was just tired.

A hand gently pushed down his chest, forcing him to lay down his head on the pillow when a soft sensation ran over his forehead. "Sleep now, you need the rest. You're tired, right?" a cooing whisper told him. His lidded eyes looked unsure, but the weakness of months and the quiet comfort of bed finally overtook his vigilante senses. The safety of a place away from the harsh weathers of deserts with a roof on top to cover his head made him doze off almost instantly.

But what finally did him in was the soft velvet like hand that was rubbing his sensitive whiskers so tenderly. In a turn of surprise she hadn't expected, like an infant kitten, Naruto curled up into her arms and snuggled himself to sleep. "Idiot." she giggled. Leaning down on her elbow, her eyes just fondly watched him sleep in her chest like a baby, his soft purrs lulling her own eyes to sleep mere moments later.

Naruto woke up, feeling quite possibly the best he could remember as far as his memory served him, only to see Temari cuddled up by his side. Her head was on his chest, both her arms hugging him like a bear while his own arm was wrapped protectively across her waist. He shook her gently. "Temari, wake up."

Her teal eyes opened, realizing her compromising position, she blinked. "Naruto…?" she asked, he nodded.

Had it been anyone else, absolutely anyone else, she would have beaten them senseless while yelling obscenities. But seeing his eyes looking so honestly confused, even more so than her own, it made even her sleepy and extremely volatile senses melt. She sat up and rubbed her eyes off their sleep. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to, it was unconscious, you know…" Naruto mumbled.

She nodded, already figuring as much. "I know."

He nodded back while she yawned sleepily. "Plus, I have a habit of cuddling up to the soft toys I have in my room, so I guess I am to blame..." she whispered.

Realization struck her, horror overtook her entire being and she jerked awake in disbelief, almost not believing what she had just unraveled to another person who wasn't her sibling.

She looked at Naruto and blushed, half expecting him to outright laugh or making fun of her. Instead, Naruto just got up in an uncaring fashion and went to retrieve his jacket from the hanger. "I'm sorry I bothered you so much. I must take my leave now, thank you for the hospitality Temari." he thanked her.

She caught his wrist and pulled him back by her side, he eyed her in confusion. "Don't go." she told him. "Stay with me tonight. There's enough room for the both of us, see?" she asked, motioning her arms around the room extravagantly.

Naruto fiddled uncomfortably, he wanted to, Kami knew he wanted to!

But was it safe for him, "Can I trust her…?" he thought.

But seeing her eyes looking at him in nothing but warmth and concern, his doubts vanished. "I have nothing to lose anyways, even if it's a trap." he thought. He was much too tired already, of life itself, committing seppuku in few days had been his plan all along - so what was there to fear now anyways?

Even if it was a trap, why not just stay here with her in his last moments. Although it might have been fake, some care and concern in his last moments would be nice, right ?, "Alright." he agreed, and she beamed with a happy nod. "Are you hungry, then?" she asked, and got yet another shy nod.

She got up to go out and order for room service before turning around for a moment. "Naruto…" she garnered his attention. "Go and take a shower while I come back, there's some robes from the inn inside, so you can use them for the time being." he nodded, and she went out.

Walking in to the bathroom, he undressed, and started working on washing his clothes. It was a force of habit he had from his childhood, looks like it might die with him, right? The idea itself was laughable, at least to him. Plus, water in the Land of Wind had always been quite scarce to begin with, so it was only natural that he had retained this habit, he supposed. But walking into the cold shower, it felt heavenly he had to admit. The soap started lathering away as grime and sand started accumulating down his feet.

His hair, still normal length since he sliced them regularly with a kunai, more so to resist the scorching heat in the desert than keep them kempt, his skin shone once more like it had for years in the past. Walking out, he was greeted with a fondly smiling Temari. "He looks so much better now…" she mused inwardly.

Gesturing her hand to the table, both sat on the dining table filled to the brim with food. Filling up a plate with ample amounts of rice before drizzling it with an extra load of curry, Temari gladly handed it to the gratefully nodding boy. Both ate in silence, Temari to gather up her mind while Naruto was much too interested in the food offered to notice her expressions. The attendant came and take the utensils away, leaving behind a couple of blondes shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

Temari had no idea how engage a conversation with him, while Naruto himself had no idea what to say. Had had scarcely had anyone to talk to for quite some time, and even if he had, she was a kunoichi while he was no longer a ninja anymore. He had no idea what to say, so he kept silent.

Finally, Temari sighed. "Naruto…" she kept a hand on his lap to calm the surprised boy down. "Can I ask you something?" she asked softly.

He nodded, not seeing any problems with it. "Anything Temari, I don't have anything to hide you know." he replied earnestly.

She smiled, patting his thigh reassuringly. "What exactly happened after I left you at the hospital that day? Tell me everything."

And so his tale began…


The esteemed chambers in the Hokage Tower housing the council governing the village, Tsunade tapped her index finger impatiently on the table. Unknown to herself, splinters rose and fell as her nail ground out the wood itself from the inhumane taps she was making on the timber.

Even as masked as her veteran gaze was, she had a feeling of foreboding about this. An urgent meeting with these old coots was never a good thing, especially if the smirks that threatened to cover their faces were anything to go by. Koharu, being the most influential one here, decided to start the proceedings, "Hokage-sama, we called this meeting to inspect the reports handed in by all squad mates sent to retrieve Uchiha Sasuke. Especially the reports concerning Uzumaki Naruto." she started.

Bile rose in her throat, this wasn't looking good, "I'm sorry, but with my medical duties I haven't had a chance to go over those reports. Even still, what did you wish to discuss?" she suppressed her fears and masked her poker face on.

"Genin Uzumaki used two tails worth of demonic chakra, chakra of the Nine Tailed Fox, and lost control over it to the point of almost killing Uchiha-sama - the victim he was sent to retrieve, his teammate and by proxy a Leaf shinobi - all because he wanted to show him who the best among them was." Koharu finished.

Tsunade's eyes were downright murderous, "I've seen both their injuries, and let me tell you Naruto's injuries were far more grave than what that Uchiha had. How can you claim he lost control just like that, where is the proof?" she retorted.

In a surprising turn of events, "That could be attributed to the inherent skills and genius of the Uchiha, no?" asked Danzo. "He aced the academy, possesses the revered Sharingan and fully matured it in battle with Uzumaki. Had it been anybody else…"

He left the threat hanging, murmurs rang reverberated around the quiet chambers like buzzing bees, "Tsunade…" Homura fixed his glasses wisely, "…the council has deemed the boy an advent threat that must be suppressed, now." he explained.

Seeing almost no rebuttal, instead a handful of smiles, Tsunade bristled, "He is no threat…"

"We do not have the Mokuton anymore, neither do we possess the knowledge and sealing abilities of our past three Hokage's either. Do you truly believe you could suppress the full might of the Nine Tails all on your own if need be, Tsunade?" asked Danzo.

Tsunade glared, but said nothing. As much as she loathed to admit it, that damned cripple was right, "Even still…" she protested.

"Genin Uzumaki will be banished, that is the decision of the council Tsunade." Koharu cut her off.

Tsunade, having had finally enough, slammed her hand down on the table with a bang, "You make no decisions fools!" she roared. "I AM THE HOKAGE!"

Her declaration had absolutely no effect on them, instead they seemed amused, "That may be so, but this…" Homura threw a scroll on the table, unfurling it in front of her. The official seal of the Daimyo made Tsunade's eyes go wide, "…makes your say on the matter useless." he finished victoriously.

Tsunade, barely restraining herself from lashing out and snapping some necks, glared at them. Especially Danzo, "You too Danzo?" she asked, her voice incredulous and disbelieving. "No one knows more than you how much we need him." she pleaded.

The man shifted uncomfortably, she thought she had struck a cord, "Be that as it may, a weapon ticking to blow up in our faces is worse than having no weapon at all. We haven't used that resource anytime in the past, history serves us well hime." he finished stoically.

"The council and the Daimyo himself has deemed Uzumaki a threat to the village. The decision is unanimous, there is nothing you can do. Do not let personal feelings take over Tsunade, this was precisely why the Nidaime laid down such laws."

As much as loved the deceased man, she cursed her granduncle inwardly. "The seal is weakening, we will extinguish the threat before it ever comes to be. You have till dawn to let him know, or we will do it for you. That is all we can give you Tsunade, the council may be dismissed."

All elders, shinobi council members and civilian leaders got up to leave. Tsunade's eyes watered, she gripped the parchment in her hands in an iron grip. She felt so helpless that she hated herself for it, "Remember this day well…" she whispered.

Each one of them stopped for a moment before walking away, leaving a sobbing Tsunade behind them.

Konoha Hospital

Like shining fingers, sun rays peered through the open windows and lit awake the dank white walls with their luster. The gentle click of the door and slight shuffling of footsteps breathed a new life in the silent space.

Groggily blinking his eyes open, Naruto yawned. Though laying first glance at his visitor, he grinned, "Hey Saku-!"


Craning his neck around, eyes wide in disbelief, "What was that for?" he asked. Tilting his head aside, he couldn't quite comprehend the furious expression over his crush's face or why it was there in the first place. "I brought Sasuke back like I promised, didn't I?" he asked again. "Why did you slap me?"

"Brought him back you say?" she hissed. He flinched back on instinct, almost raising his arm up in self defense he sat on guard. "I asked you to bring him back to me, not kill him in the process you idiot!" she snarled.

He sat there, stunned. Naruto himself knew Sasuke couldn't be dead, he had made sure not to land any fatal blows no matter what it caused him in the end, but, did she not see the condition he was in when he came back?

Or right now, for that matter…!

"My mother and the rest of the village were right…" blinking in confusion, the stumped boy couldn't even make sense out of this conversation right now. "…you really are a demon!"

His wounds didn't hurt him as much as her screech, her words in particular, had hurt him. It was one thing to hear it from strangers he didn't know, but to hear it from the girl he adored, "Don't worry anymore, my mother is on the council. You be damned sure that she'd make sure to have you levied the highest punishment possible, banishment at the very least! How dare you hurt my Sasuke-kun you damned demon filth…?!"

His eyes were clouded by the time her screeches halted, he couldn't even see her leave the room other than the audible click his door made. He hadn't expected that, and after hearing that venom from her mouth, he honestly felt betrayed.

The same thing happened all over again with Ino, she too came to threaten him all the same by naming her father's influential position he was well aware of himself. Shikamaru too, had come to reprimand him on almost causing their rescued heir to die, thereby making all their life endangering attempts almost negated. Kakashi had came in to wisely teach him , how he should have tried to talk it out with his friends, but more so how ashamed he was that he had openly made the first direct contact on his teammate with a technique as dangerous as the Rasengan.

But the cherry on top had been Jiraiya, going so far as to absolving his Toad contract and by effect his apprenticeship for shaming him by raising a killing attack on his comrade, with a technique taught to him by the sage himself. Sasuke had certainly gone through great lengths at concocting this makeshift story, he had concluded, but the delusions his so called friends had accepted without a grain of salt were the ones that truly baffled him to no ends.

Next Morning

Hokage Office

A warm cup of sake lay filled on her table, but for the life of her, Senju Tsunade had not the courage to muster up and gulp it down her throat. She had called for her ANBU to retrieve Naruto, and guilt and regret were already gnawing away at her heart like lead stakes.

A puff of smoke later, standing there with all the conjured up confusion of the word was one orange jumpsuit clad, blonde haired genin, "Obaa-chan?!" he whispered, utterly confused. "Why did you call me out so early? I'm still tired from my injuries you know, can't this wait till tomorrow?"

Seeing the innocence still lingering in those azure orbs, she all but muted out his adorable voice her heart couldn't get enough of. Steeling herself, "Genin Uzumaki Naruto, Registration ID - 17782." she said.

Naruto straightened up, knowing what protocol had just been initiated with those words. This particular introduction was only used by the village leader in case a matter of utmost importance rose up, one that went as far as to delve out these guarded details known to no one but the Kage and their shinobi themselves, "Hai." he said, his voice serious and lacking of all it's usual chirp.

"Genin Uzumaki Naruto…" with a sharp intake of breath, she started, "…you are hereby stripped of your shinobi status and hereby banished from the Village Hidden in the Leaves for an undisclosed time…"

"B-But why?" he whispered.

"On the grounds of losing control over a power you had no control over, and effectively using said power to almost kill and or cripple a ninja you were sent to retrieve unharmed. You have been deemed a threat to the Leaf, and by the order of the Fire Lord himself banished, effective immediately."

His eyes welled up in unshed tears, the air itself felt thick and melancholic, "You may not enter the Land of Fire or any of it's allied nations - the Spring and Wave included - least you be executed without pending trial. By the powers bestowed upon me by the village laws - please hand over your headband."

She pushed her hand forth, not meeting his broken gaze in the slightest. His hands shakily rose up and pulled out the object from his pocket, brushing it with his thumb for a lasting moment while memories of how he had achieved it flashed through his eyes, he placed it on the desk along with another object that made Tsunade's heart shatter in a million pieces, "I won't be needing this anymore either, Tsunade-sama."

Pulling back his mask to hide his emotions, the necklace he had won fair and square was returned to it's owner with a sad smile. Hearing him call her so formally had been the last straw, Tsunade broke down into a heap of sobbing mess, "When do I leave, Tsunade-sama…?" he asked, voice hollow as an empty shell of paper.

"Two hours…you have-two…" she told him, her voice cracking in choked sobs. Her trembling hands cradled the two objects as if they were her own heart, which wasn't further away from the truth as one might expect.

"I'll be taking my leave then." he stated. Her eyes went wide, "Wait, Naruto…!" she blurted out, he eyed her vehemently.

Pulling out an old wooden parchment out from her drawer, she handed him the antiquity looking scroll shakily, "Sarutobi-sensei was supposed to hand this over either when you turned 16 or became a jonin, after his demise, I was entrusted to the task." she told him, watching in slight envy how his eyes glazed over in fondness hearing that name. "…it is supposed to contain your parent's legacy. No one can open it besides you, it is linked to your blood and chakra specifically."

She couldn't say no more for it was all Naruto could hear before he had snatched it off her palms like a starved predator, "You knew them?" he asked her. She shook her head, almost shivering how icy his voice had been.

"No one but Sarutobi-sensei knew of them, he took that information to the grave. That scroll is the last piece we have of their legacy…" she admitted. He nodded, clutching the scroll as if it might slip out any which moment now. Clouded hazelnut orbs watched him walk out in pure anguish, all lost to herself and the portraits hanging - staring down on her - from the wall.

His feet took him home, eyes as lifeless as the reaper Naruto stared at the walls of his apartment with nothing but emptiness.

"Die Demon!"

"For the Yondaime/Uchiha!"

In the end though, he smiled, "I guess it was for the better…" his words lacked any conviction, or even life in general. Before even stepping in, he knew what to expect when the door to his 'home' was unlocked.

It was already broken in.

Anything of value was stolen, not that there was much of it in the first place, while the rest was demolished in some way or the other. He worked his way around the trashed room, swiping off the trash from the floor to lift up a tatami mat, one he had burrowed in thoroughly for these kinds of emergencies in particular, and retrieved out a couple pairs of clothes and supplies.

Leaving the house, not before glancing longingly at the Hokage Monument clear in view from his balcony, he made his to the gates only to stop dead seeing the last person on earth he wanted to see right now.

Uchiha Sasuke.

"Dobe." he greeted in distaste. Naruto didn't say anything, he breezed past him wordlessly as if he were a mere obstacle in his path.

Something Sasuke did not take lightly, "Now do you see what you get for trying to deny an Uchiha loser?" he snarled. Naruto stopped for a moment too long, inching to retort but in the end, he walked away without a word.

There really was no weight to his words now, was there?

"You are lucky to be left alive after what you did to your best friend, demon! Maybe the gods above may have seen your diabolical actions and may even enact their judgment on you!" a voice he had once adored, screeched from behind him. Even as rigid as Naruto willed his heart to be, that one stung.

With each step he took away from the village, a piece of his dreams and life died in blissful harmony.

End of Flashback

"And that was when I started my lone journey out in the world before eventually settling here at last, the way you see me earlier is probably what I've lived like since the time I first came here." he told her. She had no words, her eyes looked at him with such love and affection that it made him feel a bit queasy. It was so confusing, "If you have any plans to use or even kill me, then you may as well tell me. I promise I won't resist."

This snapped her out of her daze, "What?!" she asked incredulously.

He smiled softly, closing his eyes in a vain attempt to hide their mistiness, "Just let me have a few days of rest, if you can, then I'll come peacefully wherever you want me to. As I said, I won't resist. I was already planning on killing myself in a few days regardless, so if I can be of some use to you maybe it will have some meaning-"

Naruto could say no more, his voice cracked and choked. Temari sat frozen in her spot, unable to conjure up a single coherent thought. Disgusted was she with herself that she even had anything to do with that spit hell had spat down on earth, one those bastards called a hidden village, but it was solidified even more so for her that she was even considering on the offer one of those worms had made to ask her out on a date. That damned lazy ass was one of them too no matter who or how he may be, and that twisted her mind in ways she absolutely did not desire.

But nothing vengeful could make her tear her eyes away from those endless pools of anguish she was presently staring into, those azure orbs looked so broken and lost. They lacked any of their usual shine or luster, and it all demented her to think that he really did have nothing to live for.

She opened her arms a little, motioning for him to come to her. He hesitated, but saw nothing other than warmth and understanding in those teal eyes of hers. On instincts he fell forward, willing himself in her arms for anything she may want. It frightened Temari to her core since she knew this boy never lied, a fact that was laughable for a shinobi even though it made him all the more special in her eyes, so he was only telling the truth about ending his own life.

Tears streamed down her cheeks, she sniffled and buried his head in her chest tightly. Her chin resting on his head, she held his shivering form with a sad smile. She really was glad he was letting down all his barriers for her, "I won't ever dream of hurting you Naruto." she softly consoled him, it only served his wails to get louder and louder. She tried to kiss his head okay, "Trust me when I say this, I'll make it all better. Do you trust me, Naruto?"

He only nodded, too engrossed was he in absorbing all this affection she was showering him in. It was the only thing he craved for, not money, not luxury, not even food or attention - all that his his body craved now was love. He snuggled in her arms, eliciting a giggle from the girl who was more than happy to let him be comfortable and calm himself down. She did not know how long she held him before his cries eventually died down into sleepy little purrs. His body needed all the rest it could get after all those months of strain, she knew that, it had to have endured so much just for the primal need of survival. A week could take it's toll on a ninja, a month or two was what veterans were hired for, he had endured this hell for almost a year. She pulled him down with her under the sheets, and just for that moment, in her tight embrace, she hid him from the entire world.

"Trust me Naruto, I'll make it alright."

Author's notes : This is the reworked first chapter I decided to do after going through it again. My first attempt had ostensibly left so many holes in the plot line such as why it was that Naruto was banished, or how Danzo go through with it and such that I felt the need to go through this again before I released any further chapters.

For any who feel like my first attempt was better, I'd release it under a new story title if you wish since I do keep my old drafts intact for references but I don't think after this there will be any need for it to be read. I covered everything while being mindful not to change the plot in the slightest, and it does help me to get re-tuned with the story since I have been away from it for so long.

Sorry for the wait, but as I said, with the time I have I am trying to post as many words as I could. I didn't even realize when I crossed over double the words in this rewrite as compared to the first draft, so maybe this will make new readers fall for my story a bit more, after all a prologue is paramount, right?

Well, as always, keep reading and reviewing (I love all you guys for so many reviews and follows you've given this story) and I'll see you next time.

Ja Ne ;)

PS : I am going to go through a reading session to read all my story again so I can perfectly continue my half written draft for chapter 19 (unless you people want me to rewrite some other chapter, do leave it in the reviews for any faults you may or may not encounter. I am always all ears for negative criticism.)