NARUTO © Kishimoto Masashi • Shueisha • Studio Pierrot • TV Tokyo. All rights reserved. Non-profit fun ahead! Fanfic named by Iruka.

Warnings: Eventual fluffy friendship between the boys. Do not read if thou art not a fan of fluff!

Crossroads of Life

Naruto himself was not sure what happened after he cried out loud that day. It distinctly felt like there was something hot and warm from his belly that gushed out and enveloped the entire area. Even Iruka was unable to provide him full details as to what had happened, because the aura had apparently knocked him back to the other side of the clearing, and it had taken the Chuunin quite a while before he woke up and managed to make his way back to the area where Naruto and Sasuke were, by which time both boys were already unconscious, but surprisingly breathing.

He had carted the boys into the house over his shoulders, where Kakashi and Itachi were waiting restlessly at the doorway. They followed Iruka around as he tried to gather enough cloth and soft material to put together some makeshift beds, then as evening drew near and that was settled, the Academy teacher began to work on patching the roof.

When he was quite done with the section he had put the makeshift beds and the boys under, he checked on his patients and smiled warmly at the sight. Naruto was holding a rolled-over Kakashi like he was a gigantic teddy-dog and Itachi had curled up to sleep on Sasuke. Well, at least no one would be freezing their butts off tonight.

Iruka's optimism grew when Naruto woke up the next day, complaining like he usually did and examining the damage in his house with a critical eye. Together, they salvaged whatever was still edible and tried to put up something decent for everyone. They then fed the leftovers to the village chief, who was still stuck in Sasuke's prison. The undead creature had melted into a pile of goo when Naruto did his mighty aura blast, according to Iruka - not that Naruto cared if it had melted into goo or not. If it had not Naruto would just kill it again himself. And he told Iruka that, with a fierce, angry determination in his eyes.

His eyes regained their innocence when Iruka reminded him that the fact that the prison was still there meant that Sasuke was still alive. The boy had danced all around his pets that night.

The next day, a special guest came into the house.

"Hokage-sama!" Iruka almost dropped the dishes he was trying to clean when Sarutobi stepped through the doorway that didn't have a door, smoking on his pipe. Naruto, who was trying to drag Kakashi for a shower at that time, turned around to peek in curiosity, giving the dog the chance to struggle out of his grasp and run away to hide behind the Hokage instead.

"Kakashi! Get back here! Don't be rude to the guest!" Iruka shouted at the wolf-dog, who continued standing behind the Hokage, sticking his tongue out.

"Shower time for the animals?" Sarutobi raised an old eyebrow with a certain aged kind of mischief.

"Hokage-sama..." Iruka, on the other hand, was at a loss of words to say in reply. Catching his unease, Sarutobi simply strode into the room and glanced around at the mess. His face sobered in consideration.

"Oh!" Naruto had temporarily forgotten about Kakashi and now pointed gleefully at the old man. "You're that GahGahGeh guy who's supposed to be the strongest ninja! Heheh! You must have come here today to challenge me after hearing about all the great things that I've done, right? Right?"

The Third merely raised an eyebrow at the boy. He turned to regard Iruka with curiosity. "Great things?" He asked.

The next few hours was spent with explanations, questions and answers. Before they broached the subject of Sasuke, they had shown the sandy prison to the Hokage and he had been pleased to conduct an interrogation and trial there and then.

The council had had nothing to do with the persecution of Naruto. Rather, the men who had been sent there were men who secretly hated the Kyuubi for all its deeds and had schemed to bring Naruto to ruin by any means possible. The only thing stopping them were the decree by the Third Hokage, and the fact that he could spy with his little eye even when not in the village. They had tricked the council into believing that they would not fatally wound the boy, reasoning that no boy grew up normal if he wasn't beaten up once in a while. The council had agreed.

Sarutobi was mostly impressed by the fact that Sasuke had performed healing, Sharingan and defended them from an undead summon which had been a result of years of chakra storing. Iruka led the aged ninja to the prone form of the Uchiha, and immediately, Sarutobi frowned.

"Where did the golem get his weapon from?" He asked sternly, picking the unconscious boy's wrist up and listening to his pulse.

"Ugh," Naruto scratched his head. "The thing pulled it out from itself, as far as I can remember. It was so disgusting!"

Concerned, Iruka quickly asked, "Hokage-sama, is there something about the weapon... ?"

The old man remained quiet for just a moment more as he concentrated on reading Sasuke's pulse. Then he closed his eyes and replied, "Yes. That's right, Iruka. That blade - it had poison on it."

"Impossible!" Iruka gasped. "I checked him thoroughly for signs of poison! Everything about him was normal!"

"It is not a poison that affects the skin or even the organs," Sandaime continued, as his hands moved swiftly to form a serise of complicated seals. "This kind of poison undead summon uses disrupts the chakra circulatory system and destroys motor signals from reaching the brain. It is difficult to detect. If left to spread, even if the victim should recover," he paused, then placed his palm over the spot where the blade had run through Sasuke, "At best, he may never be able to use his chakra again. At worst, he may never be able to use his limbs again." A soft light began to glow around the Hokage's hands. "It is kind of fate every shinobi fears to face."

Silence consumed the trio. While the Third continued to attempt to purge as much poison as he could from Sasuke's body, Iruka's face had gone sheet white in a matter of moments after the revelation. He was bitterly disappointed that he had not been able to detect a poison so lethal on his ex-student. A ninja being forced out of commission would live a life worse than death, and he only hoped that they were not too late to help Sasuke.

Naruto, by himself, had grown very very quiet. As the silence dragged on he exited the room and stalked into the open, running as quickly as he could back to the spot where the terrible battle had ensued. He glared with vehemence at the tree the monster had been pinned to, and bit his lower lip in frustration.

He would have known what to do, and how to react, if Sasuke had pushed him to the fore and left him in the lurch. He would have known what to do if Sasuke had left him for dead. All his life he only knew pain and grief, and now he had a repertoire of replies and reactions he knew how to use against those who didn't care.

It was against those who did care that he did not know what to do.

He had not wanted to stay in the room to listen to the conversation any longer. He did not need to know that Sasuke was never waking up again, or that even if he did he would essentially be good for nothing.

Gritting his teeth against the tree that stood raised high up to the skies as a mockery, he gave a sharp cry and launched himself at it.

If Sasuke was dying, then why should it be so alive and healthy?

If Sasuke was lying limp, what right did it have to be standing so tall and proud?

Overtaken by anger, blinded with tears, Naruto attacked the tree with cries and shouts of helplessness and frustration.

He did not stop until the majestic tree toppled over in a pile of splinters and barren branches, his hands bloodied and his energy spent.

But his anger was far from being quenched.

It was evening, so he headed back to the house, where Iruka had remained, although the older ninja was gone. The Chuunin hovered with worry over the raven-haired teen, eyebrows knitted together in deep thought.

"Iruka-sensei," Naruto called, breaking the man from his concentration. He swivelled around on his feet and smiled when he saw that it was just Naruto. "Iruka-sensei, what are you doing?"

Wordlessly, the Chuunin gestured the boy over. He pointed at a dark, brown mark over Sasuke's right wrist, and said, "Naruto, I can't stay in this house to take care of Sasuke for now. I need to accompany Hokage-sama back to the main village tonight. I'll be back, of course, but in the meantime, that mark you see on Sasuke's wrist," he gestured, "is an indication of the seriousness of the poison in him. Hokage-sama has gotten most of the poison out already, but the little bit that is left inside may still wreck some havoc. If, therefore, the mark turns red, inform us immediately with the messenger pigeon." Iruka nodded towards a bird resting quietly by the windowsill.

"Okay," Naruto agreed blandly, not in the mood to argue any otherwise.

"If the mark begins to bleed, then you'll have to kill him."

"Yeah yeah...- WHAT!!?"

"Naruto," a flash of deep sadness invaded Iruka's eyes, before he regained his composure and gave the blond a hard look. "Listen. And don't interrupt me. Sasuke has been hit by a lethal poison during his fight with the undead summon. Although Hokage-sama has gotten most of it out, a small amount still remains in his heart. Sasuke will have to purge this poison out by his own will. Failing which he will no longer be able to use chakra, and may even lose control of some of his limbs. Not only that, anyone who can summon undead creatures will also be able to control him - if any trace of poison remains in his system at all. Sasuke is a strong ninja, and not someone we would want for an enemy. It wasn't an easy decision! Naruto! Listen to me!" The Chuunin shook the boy, who had plugged his fingers into his ears sometime in between Iruka's monologue.

"NO!!" The blond yelled back. "NO! Iruka-sensei! I can't believe that you're telling me all these! I can't believe you're asking me to kill someone. To kill /Sasuke/!! You're not Iruka-sensei! Who are you?! WHO ARE YOU??!"

"NARUTO!" Iruka hollered and grabbed one of the boy's wrists. That appendage successfully out of the way, he proceeded to give Naruto a tight, painful slap across the cheek.

The sound of palm against flesh echoed throughout the room for seemingly an eternity.

Then Iruka slowly replaced his arm by his side and continued where he left off, head lowered. "I teach at the Ninja Academy," he began, tone even. "I teach because I love imparting knowledge, and I love it when the little children learn something that will be of use to them when their lives are in danger..."

There was great pain in Iruka's expressions when he lifted his head up, as evident in his agony-filled frown.

"Seeing one of my students die... commanding that he be killed is one of the last things I'd willingly want to do."

Naruto had turned from staring into space in shock to staring at Iruka in disbelief. The initial shock of being hit across the cheek by the most respected person in his life soon dissipated, and was replaced with wonder. So /that/ was why Sasuke kept calling Iruka 'sensei'.

"Then... then why?" Naruto mumbled, the pain in his cheek still stinging at him. "Because... because that old guy asked you to? Just because he asked you to?"

"The shinobi law says..." Iruka continued, as if Naruto had not said anything at all. "That under any circumstances at all, a ninja should never show any emotions lest the enemy takes advantage of it... mission is always above self - village above friend. Never to question orders. If the power of the Uchiha clan really falls into someone else's hands..." The Chuunin trailed off. "The consequence is not something you or I can bear, Naruto."

"I don't care!" Naruto yelled again, eyes flashing. "You're all not ninjas like this! You're all just heartless animals! Sasuke... Sasuke is the REAL shinobi around here! And I'm not going to do whatever you say!!"

Iruka was surprisingly quiet after Naruto's outburst. The blond nursed his cheek wound angrily, and said nothing more, refusing to look in his companion's eyes until at long last, the older man spoke.

"Would you," Iruka quietly asked, "rather Sasuke become like that flesh golem you fought?"

Naruto gaped. "What do you mean?"

"If you don't kill him, and the poison takes over his body completely," the teacher continued, eyes downcast. "Then you are condemning him to a fate like that of the undead creature... he wouldn't have control over himself anymore. He wouldn't be able to fight at his full strength anymore. Do you really want that to happen?"

There was a muted silence in which Naruto stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed at his guardian. Many thoughts raced through his mind and he felt compelled to respond, but could not.

Finally, a familiar voice called out from the distance.

"Iruka," it was the Hokage, his pipe in one hand and the other held loosely behind him. "The ANBU have extracted the rebel chief from the cage, and the rest of the rebels are being rounded up. We should set off soon too."

"Yes, Hokage-sama," Iruka blinked and responded with a monotone. He slowly walked towards the doorway, and gave Naruto one last, meaningful look when brushing by his shoulders, before stepping out of the house in the trail of the Hokage.

Their footsteps soon faded away into nothingness, and once again, Naruto was alone, with nothing but the cries of cicadas and chirp of birds to accompany him.

He sat down cross-legged with a loud sound on the floor beside Sasuke, clasping his ankles tightly and rocking about, trying to think. Kakashi strode up to him and nudged him, but he did not respond to the silver husky. Throughout the long period of silence, even Itachi stumbled back in from wherever he usually stayed in and stared with interest at the duo of boy and dog. He padded slowly up to Naruto and rubbed at his back once. Getting no reaction, he then strode over to Sasuke, observing the unconscious boy with great fascination.

After a very long period of time, Naruto screeched and tore at his hair. "Dammit! That's it! I'm not going to think anymore! Sleep! Yes! Sleep! Sleep is good and I'm gonna sleep now so don't disturb me, you two!" He warned his pets sternly. Grabbing a blanket, he tossed it over Sasuke carelessly, making sure to cover the blotch by his wrist. He looked like he was going to make a jibe at the sleeping boy, but eventually he turned out to be merely opening his mouth without saying anything. The blond scratched the back of his head with a pout, then turned around and settled down on his own makeshift bed beside the Uchiha.

"You better be up by tomorrow morning, Sasuke bastard! And good night!" He yelled, turning over and falling dead asleep in no less than ten seconds.

--... Completely missing the slight twitch in Sasuke's hands when he had called his name.

Taking this to be their cue, Kakashi and Itachi started to curl up between the boys to sleep as well.

After all, without Naruto to bug them and vice versa, where was the fun in staying awake nowadays?

The moon rose, the sun set, and the night passed peacefully.

Then came the next day.

When Naruto awoke, it was already late afternoon.

Swatting Kakashi's tail away from his face, the blond sat up and stretched, glumly staring at the subdued sunlight diving into the house that was in patches. He wondered if time had just gone backwards, because as far as he could remember, he had gone to sleep when the moon was only exchanging places with the evening sun. It seemed impossible that he would wake up to another setting sun.

Rubbing his eyes again, he glanced around sleepily.

Kakashi had scooted away after succeeding in his task to wake the sleeping blond up, positioning himself at the doorway and staring expectantly at the boy. Not knowing what Kakashi could possibly want, Naruto ignored the dog and proceeded to the kitchen. He walked around the destruction and blood for a while, then checked the disaster zone that was the living room. There wasn't a single thing in the house, excluding some parts of the wall and ceiling, that wasn't in some state of destruction or another. That's right. All was in order.

By the doorway, the silver dog was growing impatient. He howled at his owner, running up and circling the blond, howling again when it was obvious that Naruto was not going to pay attention to him. He ran in between Naruto's feet and the two empty makeshift beds on the floor, howling again and again until the teen screeched in agony and demanded, "WHAT?!"

The dog, for the lack of an intelligent tongue, sat on the empty bed where Sasuke should have been sleeping in.

"What's wrong with the bed?" Naruto sighed, walking over, fully awake now. "Yeah, it's made of sticks and feathers and scraps of cloth, but it's still a nice thing to sleep in, okay? Just like the stupid bastard to wake up and toss his blanket aside and not help make the bed, feh! ..." The boy paused dramatically after his exclamation and blinked.

He slowly turned to look at his bed, where the blanket he had tossed over Sasuke last night now laid. He then turned to look at Sasuke's bed, where, instead of a certain raven-haired Uchiha, sat a silver-maned dog who stared lazily at him with a wagging tail. Seeing that Naruto appeared to have finally realised the discrepancy, Kakashi stood up and barked at the boy, shaking him from his reverie.

"Where'd Sasuke go?" Naruto mouthed to himself while staring at the bed. A small pang of fear ran through his heart, as Iruka's words from yesterday began repeating in his mind. If not completely neutralised, the poison would enable Sasuke to be controlled, right? So he could have walked out of the house even if he wasn't completely well because someone was controlling him, and making him do bad things, right?

Once again, it was Kakashi's howlings that drew him away from his wild imagination. The wolf-dog had returned to the doorway and yapped urgently at the blond, running a few steps out and then back again to yap when he saw that Naruto wasn't following. Frowning, the blond finally began a slow walk towards the door, all thoughts of Sasuke's possible location now thrown to the back of his mind. What could Kakashi possibly want to show him?

The dog led the boy along a wild trek, sniffing for something on the ground as he did. Periodically he would turn back to make sure Naruto was still following, before bounding further down the path in the wilderness. They passed by many places - the empty sandy cage outside the house, the semi deforestated area where they had fought the beast, past a good area of the forest on its bare fringes, by the village chief's house, which was now just a lonely, white-washed building devoid of all life and passion; until finally, they stopped at an outcrop protruding over the village centre in seeming observation.

There was someone there already, seated right at the very edge of the cliff and looking down at something. Naruto stayed hidden behind a tree, wondering if he should step out of the safety of the forest. Kakashi, however, didn't bother to wonder, for he ran straight towards the dark figure in the distance with yelps and howls.

The figure jumped slightly, then turned around, causing Naruto's breath to get stuck in his throat.

It was Sasuke.

He knew he should have stayed slightly longer in camouflague to at least observe the Uchiha's actions and decide what to do after that. But the ecstasy at seeing the once limp and half-dead boy alive and moving was too much for Naruto to bear, and he broke into a run after Kakashi. "Sasuke!!" He shouted, elated when the young Chuunin blinked once in acknowledgement at his approaching form. "Sasuke!!"

The blond slowed down when he got closer to the cliff and held his breath at the scene.

The entire village was in view from this perspective. He had no idea he had been climbing so high up into the hills when following Kakashi, and many a times he had thought of turning back. Now, however, he was glad he did not.

Beneath the sandals upon his feet, he could see the village from perimeter to perimeter. There were slight movements that he knew were the people moving about in their daily affairs. Houses were distanced and small, and shrouded by the low hanging mist that came from a natural evaporation during cold season in a hot village like this. The blurred outlines of all that was going on in the cosy village nestled in all directions by lush greenary captured Naruto's attention in more ways than one.

He had been too busy with his own affairs to have noticed - but now he knew and would never forget.

Despite and above everything else - a moment of time spent in laid back relaxation and thought would have been all the medicine he might have needed for his trials.

Because despite and above everything else - his village was beautiful.

"Hey, idiot," Sasuke's calm voice drew him back to the present, and he glared at the Uchiha for daring to proclaim his mind useless again. "Stop standing there and staring at nothing," Sasuke continued, unfazed. He gestured to the spot of empty land beside him in a silent invitation.

"I'm not staring at nothing, jerk," Naruto snorted, but sat down anyway, dangling his feet over the cliff and feeling great that he had the whole village beneath his feet. He kicked slightly and grinned, enjoying the undertowing breeze. "What're you doing here anyway? You're supposed to be lying down, coughing and gacking away and I was supposed to be making fun of how pathetic you are while feeding you ramen - the healthiest food in the whole world!" While Naruto raised a triumphant fist, Sasuke cringed in disgust. "Hey, don't gimme that! Ramen's the best food you can ever get anywhere! It wakes you up to a healthy day!"

"Says the boy who got up later than an injured ninja," Sasuke snorted again, stuffing the piece of paper he had been reading back into his pocket. Before Naruto could react, he sighed and continued, "I'm all right, you idiot. There's no need to baby over me. And anyway, why aren't you back at the house? Don't you need to look after it?"

The blond opened his mouth to reply, then stopped abruptly, frowning and looking away. A short silence later, he said, "Their target was never the house to begin with. It was always me. If I'm not there, the house should be safe. Don't worry about it." He waved nonchalantly.

They continued in silence.

Behind them, there were a few soft barks, carried over only by the waning winds. Both boys turned to glance at the scene of Itachi slapping Kakashi again with a kitty paw, and the dog yelped but did not retaliate. While Naruto laughed, Sasuke was horrified. Only the animals /Naruto/ kept could resort to such childish manners, he decided. So engrossed he was in wondering why a small cat had such dominance over such a large dog, he almost didn't hear Naruto's softly spoken question.

"Hey, like, I mean... you all right... or something?" The blond looked away quickly after asking, afraid that his companion would stab him with sarcastic words again. "Iruka-sensei was so worried... and even the old Hokage guy thought you were done for. I mean- that was one hell of a nasty gash! /I/ wouldn't have healed so quickly, and I'm supposed to heal at the speed of light! I mean- argh! This is bloody hard!" He took a deep breath, ignoring Sasuke's questioning look. "I'm just... I'm just glad... that you're all right. Bastard. That'll teach you not to jump in front of sharp, pointy things next time. And you call /me/ an idiot."

Turning around, Naruto found himself the receipant of a dark, wondering stare. "You really /are/ an idiot." Sasuke finally said, after examining Naruto's face and concluding that the blond had meant every single word he had said. That effectively made the boy bristle.

"That's it! I've had enough of you calling me an idiot! I'm not an idiot and I'll prove it! I... I'll..." He glanced around, trying to come up with something to prove.

"You'll?" Sasuke prompted, an evil smirk crawling into his expressions.

"I'll... prove it... when I find... the right tools... yeah..." Was all Naruto could mumble in reply. From beside him, Sasuke sighed loudly.

"You don't have to prove anything, Naruto," he said, standing up with slight difficulty. He held a hand over the area of his lower chest where the large lance had skewered him and grunted. "You've been a great help. I was wondering if I should say goodbye to Iruka-sensei, but since you're here he's obviously nowhere near this part of the village." With an eye on the scenario beneath him, Sasuke explained, while standing and limping away into the forest slowly. "The village is in chaos. It seems like the undead creature also destroyed part of the area within the centre yesterday when it was going around looking for victims. Now is a great chance to slip away unnoticed. I'm eyeing the east gates, actually... ..." He stopped walking away from the cliff, when he noticed that Naruto had not uttered a single word in response since. "Naruto?"

The unusually quiet blond had yet to budge from his seated position by the cliff, and that made Sasuke stare. He glanced about himself and fidgeted uncomfortably. Did he say something wrong? What was it? He had put much careful thought to what he had just said, too!

"Say, Sasuke," it was Naruto, who was still seated by the cliffside, staring at the village beneath him. "You... have a lot of friends, right?"

The Uchiha looked to a side, and wondered if he should answer that frankly.

"What does it feel like... to have friends?"

To that, Sasuke frowned. "Moron. I don't get what you're trying to say."

"ARGH!" Naruto jumped to his feet in reaction to being called moron, and whipped around, giving Sasuke a hard stare. "You know what I mean, bastard! Get off your pedestal and listen to me properly once in a while, why don't you? Although it's hard to believe that a cold-hearted, nonchalant anti-social snobbish jerk like you can have friends at all-"

In the background, Sasuke rolled his eyes and turned around to walk away, knowing that once Naruto got started on ranting, nothing short of the end of the world was going to stop him.

" - and that must be one of the greatest mysteries ever to grace the face of this world speaking of which since I don't understand how someone like /you/ can have a life and have friends I really don't understand how come /I/ want to be your friend too!!" A deep, deep breath.


"Are you listening to me, you bastard?!" Naruto screeched, slightly angered that Sasuke had his back against him all the while he had been making his proclamation. "Did you hear me or not? You're not the nicest person in the world or anything but you at least look me in the eye for what I am!" At this, the blond's head lowered. "... People never treat me the way I should be treated... they call me a monster before they even know who I am. Besides Iruka-sensei, it's like no one else in this village cares what my name is. That's why... that's why..." He started to shudder, gritting his teeth. "I really... I really want to be... your friend..."

This time, Sasuke did turn around, and he looked crossed. "What the hell are you talking about, pea-brain? What in the world, 'be my friend'?!"

Although having prepared his mind and heart for the rejection he knew was sure to come, Naruto could not help but feel an emptiness and despair at Sasuke's angry words. He was right, after all. Who wanted to be friends with a society outcast? Who dared to go against the tide of oppression? Especially for a nutcase like himself, Naruto thought bitterly. He had nothing to offer those who were brave enough to stand up for him. He was nothing but a little prank-playing idiot who rose in fury at every small thing, after all. Dejection began to creep into the blond's very being, and he remained deathly silent. So did, he noticed, Sasuke. Maybe the Uchiha had already left? That was a possibility - the raven-haired teen had been blurbing about the east gates or something prior to Naruto's declaration, after all.

The blond was slightly surprised, therefore, to hear the shuffling of feet and, raising his eyes, to see that Sasuke still stood where he was, arms folded across his chest in pose of annoyance that was reflected perfectly on his face. "What with all the things we've gone through together already," the Uchiha was saying to an amazed Naruto, "you'd think that we already /are/ friends! How much more idiotic can you get, moron?" He harrumphed loudly, but remained on the spot.

Several moments of high tension passed, whereby Naruto gaped like a goldfish and Sasuke got increasingly annoyed. Not far away from the staring duo were two bemused animals, who had stopped fighting some time ago and now observed the scene before them with great interest.

It was Sasuke who alleviated the tension first, with a long-suffering sigh. He held a hand out and asked pointedly, "Well? Are you coming along or not?"

Dumb-struck at the sudden question, Naruto instantly uttered what immediately came to his mind. "Going along where?"

If at all possible, Sasuke blanched and stared with even more incredulity at his companion. Instead of another jibe at the blond's intellectual abilities, however, he simply replied, "Out of this damnable place, of course! Where else did you think we were going to go to?"

The blond merely blinked. "But you... But I... But we... ???"

"Or do you mean you want to stay in this sad excuse for a village?" Sasuke narrowed his eyes. "You don't have a house anymore, Iruka-sensei can't always be looking out for you, and the people here are the shittiest bunch I've ever laid my eyes on. Why don't you get out, see the world? I mean, I'm not saying you /have/ to come along with me, but I thought it'd be nice to have some company, and since you've helped me so much it would only be polite to ask you to come along; especially after all the problems that have-"

Unbeknownst to Sasuke, who had closed his eyes while rambling away with his excuses, Naruto's smile slowly grew from non-existent, to slight, to small, to big, to large, to maniacally happy. "ALL RIGHT!!" Naruto shouted, cutting the Uchiha off from thinking of anymore excuses. He scampered over happily to where Sasuke stood and grinned at the slightly frightened boy, saying, "We're setting off immediately! We're gonna see the world, gonna make new friends, gonna learn new techniques, and I'm gonna be the Hokage!" Naruto waved a hand at the tongue-tied Sasuke. "You can be my left hand man, Sa-suke!"

The taller boy bristled, and slapped Naruto upside his head. "Who the hell wants to be your left hand man?! Hurry up and let's go before the villagers get their security back together!"

As Sasuke began to walk off, Naruto trailed behind him, rubbing the lump on his head carefully. "You don't want to be my left hand man? How about right hand man then? They always say that the right hand men are the better of the lot, right? And I'm right-handed too, so that would make for a good combination, don't you think? OW!" Naruto found himself being thrown forward by yet another slap upside the head. "What was that for?!"

"Nothing much," Sasuke replied blandly. "I was hoping that idiocy could be cured with slaps to the brain."

"WHY YOU-!!"

"Stop talking and let's just go already!"

Slowly, their voices and footsteps faded into the distance. When they were starting to get out of sight, Kakashi and Itachi turned to stare at each other.

Soundlessly, they ran after the squabbling duo.

If they thought they could leave two cute and helpless animals behind while they went on whatever grand world domination plan they had, then those two cute and helpless animals sure had something to tell them!


When a flustered Iruka barged into the Hokage's office the next day to report about the state of the empty house, devoid of life altogether, Sarutobi had merely laughed and showed the worried teacher a note which the messenger pigeon had brought in the evening before.

/I'm coming to claim your seat after my round-the-world tour - Just you wait!!

... Please ignore the idiot. Thank you for all your help, Hokage-sama, Iruka-sensei./

It had read.

Neither Kakashi nor Itachi returned within the next few weeks, but the Hokage was not worried.

Their mission was not over yet, after all.



"... so... tell me again why we're bringing a big, silver husky and a black little feline along with us on our way out?"

"Because we're family! F-A-M-I-L-Y!! I'm not going anywhere without them, and you're not going anywhere without me, you hear?"


"And anyway, let's... GO!!"



Part 7 of 7

hm? you're reading? you're /still/ reading? o.Ox thank you so much! [bows] errr, i guiltily admit i haven't been looking at any of your wonderful reviews until this morning. [apologises profusely] so i'll just reply them all at one shot!

Vanyel - don't mention it. :) your fic was highly motivational and deserves more than just a mention! ... if i knew what i could do to give it that x.Xx i'm still waiting for UTU... err wait, have i read the new chapter yet? darns. sorry bout that. i'll try to catch up. :) i have faith in your witing and am definitely sure the plot is fleshing up. can't wait!!

Ayako - mwahahaha! friendship fics are rare eh? o.Ox

LoStkOKo-sAmA28 - i could have broken this into... 20 parts. but i think people wouldn't have liked that. XD

Akki - oroo... it only gets as sasunaru as canon gets, i hope... XD

Yukimei - thank you so much for adding to favs! [bows] ah yes. who doesn't want a cat named itachi and a dog named kakashi? XD

ILLK - i promised! i deliver!! ... at least, i hope this chapter was fluffy enough. O.Ox as i mentioned, only as sasunaru as canon gets... XD

JannZ - aaaa yet another one who wants an itachi cat and a kakashi dog. join the club, buwahahaha!! XD

moonlight2 - of course! they're both same age. :D this fic follows canon up until naruto is five, after all. :3

kit - mwahahaha. yes, finished it. hope ya liked it!

cfox - nothing but the highest form of praise to be told that characters are in character. [bows] thank you.

Jin - join the itachi-kitty and kakashi-doggy club! [leers] i'm soooo glad you think my fic is worthy! hopefully you stuck on till the end. O.Ox

B.U.G.I.M.S - fox out? sure. XD where's naruto if he doesn't display a kyuubi once in a while? hope this chapter made you happy. XD

Mori - YES!! YOU WILL SEND ME PICS WHEN YOU ARE DONE, YOU HEAR!!??! I'LL BE WAITING!! mwahahahaha!! [gags chokes dies]

cevgar - you're the first (and only?) person to figure that i had the entire fic on my site already. [cackles] yes, thank you for being absolutely frank. i thought i dragged the battle out a bit too, but i took into consideration an older, probably stronger sasuke. i hope the discrepancy didn't distract you too much though! sequel? sequel?? XD actually i never thought about it. but now that you mention it i feel like i must at least try to consider it... thank you for putting ideas into my head. XD yes, hamster orochimaru begs to be written. XD behind the seal? glad you liked that. :3 you're right. i can never hope to win the ramen no jutsu. XD

karrafear - houshin... yeah. trying my hardest. XD glad you liked my naruto nonsense too! :3

ssjmiraitrks - here you go, the entire story done! XD

Wolfgirl13 - thank you! now that the story's done, i hope you enjoyed it!

Silver Dragonfly - yaaay! itachi and psychotic feline! mwahahahah!! XD i think i overdid the bias a little, but hey, some people /are/ like that in real life, non? :D

Fuji Fox - ah yes. i love giving fan service. just like kishimoto-sensei. XD fic up entirely, hope you enjoyed it!

izumi - sowwie! T.Tx hopefully this chapter appeased you!

kai013 - your wish is my command! XD

every other reader - i'm sooo happy that you stuck on to me until the end. hopefully i didn't bore you out too much!