Disclaimer : I don't own anything from the series Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto owns it all.

Chapter 4

As first rays of the sun danced across the sky, they illuminated the darkness that enshrouded the comatose like residence of Konoha. The bright rays spilled through windows, curtains, and blinds to awaken the sleep-induced population of the village. In Konoha Hospital, the auroral beams shot through the shades, stirring a spiky-haired blonde patient from his peaceful slumber.

The Kyuubi vessel rolled over to try to escape the luminous star's light. Unfortunately, his senses were already startled into semi-awareness, preventing him from grasping and holding onto what was left of that state of unconsciousness. Mentally cursing the defective blinds, he cracked open his eyes slowly to come face to face with an onyx pupil and the Konoha leaf insignia. On pure instinct, Naruto attempted to sit up. That action resulted in a loud crack, which came from his head connecting with the forehead protector. He lied back down, cradling his fresh wound with both hands while glaring at the not-so-foreign Jounin, who was also nursing a new head wound.

" Don't do anything like that ever again, damnit! You scared the living crap outta me!"

" Jeez, Naruto! Did they implant a metal plate in your skull?"

The Genin removed his hand from his head, checking to see if the force of the blow was enough to break the skin. When he was satisfied the wound wasn't worth much attention, he looked back to his sensei with a scowl.

" Why the hell were you staring at me in my sleep anyway! Did you turn into a pedophile while I was gone or something?"

As Kakashi leaned against the wall near the door with his arms folded, he gave Naruto a dirty look that clearly stated he was not amused by the comment.

" If you would remember, last time I trusted you not to sneak out of the hospital for 'ANY' occasion, you took off just to grab a bite to eat. I'm making sure you don't go anywhere."

" Okay, I can understand that part, but why did you put your face right over mine while I was freakin' sleeping?"

Kakashi took the question into consideration for a second before shrugging.

" I dunno. Thought it would be fun to see your reaction when you woke up."

Naruto's expression became stoic.

" You really are the dumbest Jounin I've ever had the displeasure of getting to know."

" Yes, we all know how much you love your sensei, Naruto. By the way, that girl awoke sometime while you were gone with Jiraiya."

" Really? Did they… Uh, interrogate her?"

Kakashi shook his head.

" No. She refused to talk or even acknowledge anybody that entered her recovery room. Thanks to you, the Godaime doesn't want to use Ibiki's 'proper' interrogation tactics. We have a locked container full of valuable knowledge with no key and Hokage-sama refuses to let them 'crack' it, so to speak."

" What the hell is she thinking? She won't give anything up on that bastard when he already attempted to kill her? Is she that dense?"

Naruto swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, satisfied to hear the sound of his bones shifting and joints popping. He let out a sigh as he finished and started for the door but was stopped in his tracks by Kakashi.

" And where do you think you're going?"

" I'm going to see my…" He trailed off, his brow furrowing in confusion.

" Well, I don't know if you can consider someone who you don't even know the name of yet a friend. I'm going to visit her."

" Not by yourself you're not. I'm not taking the risk of you running off on your own again."

" Oh, comon sensei! They were gonna discharge me today anyway, so what would it matter?"

Kakashi frowned at his student and detached himself from the wall, opening the door.

" Quit arguing and just do what you were going to do, Naruto. The quicker you stop talking, the quicker we'll get there. You won't be able to change my mind, so let's go."

Naruto crossed his arms and pouted, but conceded with his sensei's requisition and followed him out. Kakashi caught sight of Naruto's posture and chuckled lightly to himself.

' You can be so childish sometimes, Naruto.'

They walked… Well, Kakashi walked with his book out as Naruto sprinted down a hallway on the 2nd level of the building, browsing through each room number. He screeched to a halt when he noticed a door down the hall with two ANBU standing outside.

" I'm guessing that would be the room…"

Kakashi glanced up and then went back to his book.

" More than likely."

They strode up to the posted guards, stopping in front of the door. The two glanced at each other before the bird-masked ANBU spoke.

" Hatake-san? Hokage-sama didn't inform us of you coming to talk to the prisoner today."

" It was kind of unexpected for myself also, but here we are. Permission to enter?"

The Tori ANBU on the right gave him a slight bow.

" You needn't ask us for permission, Hatake-san. You're well above our authority in my book from your previous years as captain."

Naruto looked up at the Jounin skeptically.

" How is a lazy, no classed closet pervert like you getting THAT kind of recognition?"

He looked up from the novel with a disgruntled gaze.

" Shut up and get in the room, Naruto."

When the blonde and his silver-haired sensei walked into the room, they found it as plain as all the others. Tayuya was standing over at the window beside her bed with her hands on the sill. Next to her bed was a small table with a half-drunk glass of water and an untouched tray of assorted foods from the hospital's cafeteria on it. She didn't acknowledge their presence, so Kakashi figured either a) she hasn't taken notice of them or b) she just doesn't care and was extensively ignoring them. He came to the conclusion she was ignoring them when he cleared his throat and didn't get a response. Shrugging, he looked down at Naruto.

The boy was shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably, waiting for her to address them first. When he figured Naruto wasn't going to do anything else, he sighed, walked over to the foot of the bed and picked up the clipboard.

' So her name's Tayuya… I'm impressed already. She actually gave them her name. Let's see… suffered severe spinal injuries along with several large gashes…'

Kakashi cocked an eyebrow.

' Has limited leg usage from damaged vertebrae? Will heal over time from previous undergone treatments and is required to rest a few days without any activities involving movement…'

He looked up from the chart and gave her a once over. He noticed her legs were shaking slightly under the pressure from standing. He shook his head; Tayuya was propping herself up so she wouldn't collapse, not taking in the scenery.

' Great to know she obeys authoritative figures.' he thought sardonically.

Putting the chart back down, he walked over to the wall and leaned against it.

" How much longer do you plan on overlooking our company, Miss Tayuya?"

She gave a grunt in response. More silence followed until she finally gave in with an exasperated sigh.

" It's bad enough you brought me here without my damn approval and have some blonde slut of a Kage question me, but now you pricks have to grace me with your unwanted presence. So, out with it; what the fuck do you want?"

The blonde Genin and his silver-haired sensei both were completely and utterly dumbfounded. Naruto couldn't believe that after everything he did for her, she would treat all of it as an inconvenience. As for Kakashi, not only the mouth on this redheaded harpy perplexed him, but also how ungrateful the exiled girl was towards him and his student.

Before he could speak his mind, Konoha's number one loudest ninja beat him to it when he broke out of his stupor.

" What the hell's wrong with you! Are you paranoid or something!"

She turned around, leaning her back against the window with her hands on the sill holding her up, and sent the blonde a glare.

" Listen jackass, I didn't want to be saved by you and come here in the first place. So if you-"

She was interrupted by Naruto, who looked ready to have a stroke from the amount of anger and incredulity overloading his senses at the moment. He threw his hands up in provoked submission and exploded.


Both stared wide-eyed at the disoriented boy as he paced around the room in circles, babbling incoherent curses and profanities; some of which Kakashi himself couldn't believe he heard coming from the always so blithe Genin.

' Wow, this girl really knows how to push his buttons. In under a few days time, she's managed to make him have a nervous breakdown that even Sasuke, the villagers' perspective, and the Kyuubi itself hasn't made him do in his entire life.'

Something in the Jounin's head clicked and the gears started to turn. A guileful smile appeared under the thin mask that neither of the two teenagers caught, mainly because Tayuya was still gaping at – and starting to mentally take notes of – every word coming out of the unstable Genin's mouth. Kakashi had planned on paying Naruto back for not heeding his word on leaving the hospital, but hadn't thought much into it until now. The idea that sprung up in his head was about as subtle as a well-thrown brick; if he couldn't handle it, then that's his problem. It would also land a painful blow not only to his pride, but to his humanity also. If he managed to keep his sanity by the end of it all, he deserved it. Revenge was sweet.

About the time the Sharingan user came out of his treacherous thoughts, he noticed Naruto's little tirade had escalated to a vilification between the two. Unfortunately for him, he caught the end of Naruto's latest outburst and practically choked on the air he was breathing.

" -Ungrateful succubus! Were you a cold-hearted bitch at birth or did you have to practice making good people's lives a living hell?"

His silver-haired sensei sweatdropped.

' I better end this now before it turns to bloodshed.'

Tayuya balked, her tan, rounded face gaping with open shock and resentment.

" W-What did you just say!"

Kakashi chose now as the best time to intervene in their ranting.

" Okay, that's enough from both of you. Especially you, missy."

" The fuck you scolding me for! He started it!" Tayuya snapped back.

" Actually you started it the minute we walked into the room, but it doesn't matter anymore because I'm ending it. We came here for a reason, and as surprising as it is, it wasn't to spit all over each other's creation."

She growled at his retort but kept silent mostly, handing them the stage to start a civilized conversation.

Kakashi shook his head before he took his attention off her and leaned against the wall in his usual apathetic manner.

" Now, Naruto. Say what you came here to say."

Naruto's frown deepened at the suggestion.

" I don't want to say another word to that-"

" Naruto…"

" Alright, Alright. It's not like she deserves what we're doing for her anyway. I mean, look at how she thanked us for saving her back in the forest!"

" I said I didn't even want to be saved, you self-righteous bastard!" Tayuya interjected.

Kakashi groaned. Why did kids have to be so damned difficult these days?

" Will both of you shut up already! Naruto, start talking. NOW."

The austere tone of his sensei stopped him from making another witty remark to, whom he has dubbed, the 'Redheaded Termagant from Hell'. Naruto let out an exhausted sigh.

" Fine."

He turned to the girl who seemed to have a permanent scowl on her face.

" I came here to ask why you didn't tell Tsunade-Obaa-chan anything about the Sound or Orochimaru. He used and attempted to kill you and you don't want to do anything about it?"

At first, she was shocked to even hear he was worried about her, but then she offered up a bitter smile at the reminder.

" Yes. I was used. Manipulated. I was a puppet he carelessly abandoned. A servant that was thrown away, someone who has no meaning in life but to sacrifice everything for the intentions of one sick fuck. You ask why I didn't spill my guts on the son of a bitch that attempted to get rid of me?"

They were a bit unnerved when her expression changed to one of obduration, her eyes adopting a soulless appearance. She turned her empty stare to the wall across the room, as if reliving all that had happened in her life.

" Because I wanted a purpose to my existence, no matter what it was. And…."

" That's not good enough!"

Both Kakashi and Tayuya looked towards the blonde at the sudden outburst. He was clinching his fists tight, causing his hands to shake and knuckles to go white from the amount of pressure being applied.

" If you wanted a purpose to your existence, you should have went out and made one for yourself! Being brainwashed and stripped of your free will doesn't gain you a purpose in life, it's just becoming that bastard's servant!"

Tayuya gazed at Naruto as if she were about to break into tears, but never did. Instead she turned back to the wall. When she spoke, her words were but a whisper.

" And… I wanted to rid myself of that loneliness I feel now."

Naruto stared at her. His mouth had dried and a lump formed in his throat; he wasn't expecting an answer like that. For the first time in a while, the loud Genin was so appalled he was speechless. Kakashi, on the other hand, had his eye downcast in recollection.

' Tayuya must have been an orphan or outcast when Orochimaru happened upon her and succumbed to that longing ache to escape the loneliness. His false promises of power and ambitions merely sealed the deal. Pitiful how she viewed such a snake as a precious person… And now, when the only one her trust was placed in stabbed her in the back, she's given up all hope. I refuse to sit by and watch another ninja be broken by a tyrant's deceitfulness.'

Kakashi rose from his position on the wall and glanced over at Tayuya, traces of understanding and sympathy evident in his gaze. He strode over to the door and turned with his hand on the door handle, locking eyes with the girl.

" You know… there's a saying that goes, 'Just when you think you've lost everything, you still have your future'. I won't try to stop you if you wish to die for the sake of your former master, but reflect on that phrase. There is wisdom in those words. Someone as young as yourself shouldn't discard what you have now only because you were naïve enough to follow pseudo power."

" And what 'do' I have now?" She asked bitterly.

" More than you know..." The Jounin replied sincerely.

Her lips parted slightly before she took what the Jounin said into consideration and went into deep thought.

" I'm sure Hokage-sama already told you the agreement, so I'll take my leave. Get some rest and listen to the doctors, you shouldn't be on your feet just yet."

With that, the ex-ANBU captain left, leaving the two teens in a few seconds of silence. Naruto turned to Tayuya.

" Well, that's one of the rare occasions when he says something that makes sense." He said dryly.

She didn't hear his words though, as she was confused more in her life now than she had ever been.

' Why… Why do these people care about my well-being so much? I don't deserve their kindness; hell, they should've held a public execution the day I was brought in after they did an interrogation.'

But that thought merely summoned more unanswered questions to the already disconcerted girl's head.

' Speaking of which, why haven't they interrogated me yet? Why are they even giving me the opportunity to leave freely? No one should treat their enemy this fucking well. They are either too damn trusting or…'

Her eyes narrowed as her mind started to wrap around the only conclusion she could find. Anger took over as she misinterpreted the situation. She turned her head towards the grinning blonde, who was ignorant of the turn of events within the girl's mind, with a look of pure hatred. Her voice was heavily laced with malice.

" Get. Out."

His goofy little grin faded into a look of confusion and slight amusement as he crossed his arms, still blissfully unaware of the sudden tension in the air.

" What will it take to show some respect to the person who practically gave you a new life?"

Before the blonde could react, Tayuya had fisted both hands into the collar of his shirt so hard, her knuckles starting turning white and he was struggling to breathe. The redhead yanked him up right in front of her face, invading his personal space by a large margin. He could feel Tayuya's breath on his face when she forced each word out while trying to keep as much control as possible.

" Get. Out. Now." She spat, stressing each word through gritted teeth. Her eyes were beginning to shimmer with unshed tears.

He blinked twice before putting his hands up in a defensive stance, thinking he had offended her considerably with the playful taunt.

" Okay, Okay. I'm sorry, I was only kidding around. No need to get so upset."

She uncurled her fingers from his shirt, giving his throat the freedom to breathe. He backed off and gasped for breath a couple of times.

' Damn, she has a strong hold. Almost as strong as Sakura-chan's.'

Her glare seemed to intensify with each passing second, causing him to be even more frustrated with trying to understand her sudden mood swing from simple disliking to plain loathing. He turned around and stalked off towards the door.

" Alright already, I'm leaving. You don't need to bite my head off. Yeesh."

He gave her one last glance before closing the door behind him, noticing how violently her legs shook. He didn't want to leave her on terms like that, but he didn't have much of a choice with how angry she was for reasons unknown to him. When the door was fully shut, Tayuya's knees buckled and she slumped to the tile floor, putting her face in her hands.

" Bastards. They never gave a damn about me. They just hoped I would hand over the information without them putting forth any effort. All people from Konoha must be treacherous pricks."

' Maybe they really are willing to help someone misfortunate such as yourself and you're just not easy to hand over your trust anymore.' The little voice in the back of her mind known as her conscience offered. Tayuya just ignored it. Why should she start listening to it now when she never did before?

She made an attempt to stand but her legs gave out and she crumpled back down in a heap. Tayuya couldn't stop herself from it; she began to cry. Everything that's happened within the past few weeks started taking effect, this display of weakness only adding to the aftershock of emotions. Failing the mission. Her deceased comrades. Orochimaru's betrayal. Feeling so weak and powerless. She rubbed the sleeve of her patient gown vigorously at her eyes.

' Damnit! This is so degrading! Stop it already!' She scolded herself.

After much force, Tayuya finally willed herself to quit. Now physically and mentally drained, she crawled her way over to the bed. Reaching up, the redhead managed to haul herself onto the bed with what was left of her strength. There, she curled into the sheets and attempted to go back into a peaceful slumber. As sleep began to consume her, she was hit with a powerful wave of nostalgia that almost brought her to tears again. Tayuya prayed that all of this would end up being a dream and she would awake back in the Sound Village to Jiroubou's fat ass, Kidoumaru's egotistical self, Kimimaru unconscious, and Sakon and Ukon's sibling bickering. Back when they were still irritating bastards, still annoying pricks, still troublesome assholes, still… alive.

Later that evening…

Naruto was pissed. Downright, royally pissed. They had closed Ichiraku's earlier that day because the old man had a cold and Ayame, the old man's daughter, was taking care of him. He was now walking around town, looking for somewhere else to eat with an aura of killing intent radiating off every fiber of his being. The villagers' usual sneers, glares, and hushed comments were replaced with looks of pure fear, terror. If Naruto were paying attention to his surroundings, he would have worn a look of pure glee at their reactions. Instead, he took to glowering a hole into the very earth he walked on. He didn't even come out of his rancor until he bumped into someone and fell flat on his butt.

" Hey! Watch where you're going you-!"

He looked up to see two ANBU standing in front of him with their arms crossed, as if daring him to finish the sentence.

The blonde stood up with a sheepish grin and scratched the back of his head.

" Heheh, sorry about that. Gotta learn to pay attention to where I'm going when waxing hatred at my feet."

Even though Naruto couldn't see their faces, he got the distinct impression they both raised a questioning eyebrow at the bizarre apology. He finally took notice of the Godaime behind them. He brushed past the two, ignoring the hairs that stood on the back of his neck as proof that they were glaring intensely at him for doing so.

" Eh, Obaa-chan? Where are you going in town that involves them?" He asked, jerking his thumb back at the two men behind him.

" I give up. He'll never stop calling me that…" Tsunade muttered to herself while rubbing her temples. She looked back up at the energetic Genin.

" I'm on my way to the hospital to see if our 'guest' is willing to open up yet. I'm sorry Naruto, but if she doesn't give us something soon, I'll have to hand her over to Ibiki."

He gave a disappointed sigh.

" I figured you would eventually say that."

Immediately, the blissful demeanor returned.

" You wouldn't mind if I join you then, huh?"

" Even if I say no, you'll still follow us there." She deadpanned.

He gave Tsunade a sly grin that displayed to her one too many teeth, particularly his oversized canines.

" You catch on pretty quick, Obaa-chan."

"But," Tsunade interjected. " You're only coming if you promise not to enter the room until I come out, whether it be from irritation or satisfaction."

With a solemn nod from Naruto, the Godaime gestured for the ANBU to continue forward.

The trip to the hospital could have been a bit more tranquil for Tsunade's liking. The blonde was constantly rambling on about how much he enjoyed the S-ranked mission and went into great detail explaining his side, despite the fact he had already given a full report. His chatter eventually dwindled down to silence as they made it up to the second floor. When they reached their destination, Naruto obediently leaned against the wall and slid down to a squat outside the door of the girl's room. He took out a kunai and started to twiddle it around between his fingers. She stared for a second before blinking and shrugging it off. Instantly converting to her professional demeanor, Tsunade entered the room with her guards.

Inside, Tsunade found Tayuya sitting up in bed with her back against the headboard, looking out the window. One ANBU closed the door and remained posted there while the other brought a chair over from the wall to the side of the bed. The Hokage sat down and crossed her legs, getting into a more pleasant position; she could feel it was going to be a while before anything happened.

Much to Tsunade's astonishment, the redhead turned around to meet the elder woman's gaze the second she got comfortable. The Godaime was discomfited by her stare; instead of smug defiance, hatred, and irritability such as before, now she just looked so… despondent. An empty stare.

' What has been going through this girl's mind?'

" Why?"

The girl's question brought the older woman out of her stupor. She blinked before furrowing her slender brows, confusion apparent in hazel eyes.

" What?"

" Why haven't you killed me yet? You… You could have just tortured me for the information and then disposed of me. Why are you allowing me to live?"

Tsunade leaned back in her chair, contemplating on the most rational way to explain the situation.

" Well… Logically, you're right. We should have sent you to Interrogations for the intelligence. From there, we also should have locked you up in prison or executed you on the spot."

Tayuya visibly flinched. Did she actually see slight anxiety in the younger one's actions? The Hokage sighed.

" But," she began. " You have proven to be a special case. Since Orochimaru made an attempt on your life, I assume what brainwashing the cursed seal had done has been suppressed for the time being and you no longer hold any loyalties to him?"

It came out as more of a statement, but Tayuya nodded her head in a sorrowful manner anyway.

" And since you are thus considered exiled, I am willing to give you a choice. As I said before, if you tell us what you know about the Sound, you will not be persecuted and are free to go. But, I also have another proposition that I was refraining from telling you about."

She quirked an elongated brow, not fully understanding where Tsunade was going with it.

" Let me break this down into simple terms so you'll understand. You no longer have a place to live when you're released from here, so you'll be roaming around different villages and towns until you find a place to settle down, if you decide to settle down. And no doubt Orochimaru has categorized you as a missing-nin, so you will have to deal with hunters as well as Sound shinobi and whatever mercenaries he has under his command."

The familiar fire was once again in the teenager's eyes, and she snapped at the woman.

" Get to the fucking point already! If that's all I have to look forward to, you might as well kill me now!"

Although the Hokage was relieved to see the girl's lively and defiant side once again, her eyebrow still twitched with annoyance of being talked to in such a manner by a kid.

" As I was saying," Her voice clearly showing her chagrin, " I'm not belittling you're abilities but-"

" Damn right, you better not be!"

Tsunade growled at the redhead. Yes, growled.

' This girl's worse than the brat is! Atleast he knows when to shut up!'

" But," She began tartly, earning the young one's attention by her sheer audacity. " You couldn't handle such constant attacks, even at full strength. So, As long as you help in the inevitable war against the Sound, I'm willing to offer you a position in Konoha."

Tayuya had her mouth open to protest that she could handle any measly hunter or Sound ninja alike and that the Fifth could take whatever proposal she was about to offer and shove it, but the words caught in her throat. Her jaw hung slack for a moment before she regained her composure and scoffed.

" Yeah, right. What's the catch?"

The Hokage gave the girl a warm smile.

" There is no catch, sweetie."

" Don't give me 'there is no catch, sweetie'! No one offers a deal like that to an enemy without there being any drawback!"

Tsunade was taking deep breaths.

' Calm down… Calm down… If you can handle Naruto on a sugar high, you can take whatever this little witch can throw at you.'

" Listen, Tayuya. There is no catch, no drawback, and no trickery. All I ask for is you're assistance in future circumstances." Tsunade paused. " Or is that too much of a commitment for you?" She asked, her voice filled to the brim with sarcasm.

Tayuya couldn't help the small smirk that tucked at the corners of her mouth.

' She's nothing like Orochimaru, I'll give her that. If she decides to get rid of me in the future, I'll just make the best of it until then. Hell, let the bastard get what he deserves, I don't give a flying fuck anymore.'

" Fine, you've got yourself a new Leaf ninja. What do you want to know? My knowledge is limited, seeing as how I was posted at the North gate."

" Anything you can give us. First, where is the 'real' Sound village located? Uzumaki Naruto, the blonde boy who brought you here, along with a few other accomplices, destroyed the fake castle in Tea Country."

The former Sound ninja's eyes widened slightly at the new revelation.

" If you plan on picking them off one by one, you'll get nowhere. There is a total of 13 imitations throughout the Countries, all concealed from civilization. If you tally off the one you all rubbed off, that makes 12. The actual one is located within the borders of Lightning Country."

Tsunade's eyes widened as her mind started operating a mile a minute, trying to sort out this newfound and highly illogical data.

" W-WHAT? Why Lightning? Does the Raikage know about this!"

Tayuya sighed.

" Yes, and no."

Tsunade gave the girl an incredulous glance.

" And what is that supposed to mean?"

Tayuya stared off at the wall with a look of uncertainty.

" I'll explain it the best I can, because I only know what I overheard from his conversations with Kabuto and others above my rank. You know about the Yondaime Kazekage being an imposter during the Chuunin exams a couple months ago, right?"

Tsunade uncrossed her legs and nodded hesitantly, not fully understanding the similarities between that past event and this one of a much larger scale.

" Well, let's just say it's about the same situation, except it isn't Orochimaru impersonating the Raikage and this hoax has been going for two years now."

" Two years!" Tsunade screeched. " Two years and nobody's been able to tell the difference between an imposter and the actual Raikage! This is an outrage! How can such deception go on for two whole years without anyone taking notice! Surely the elders of Lightning have caught on to some of the drastic changes in their leader?"

Tsunade caught the redhead avoiding eye contact with her and shift uncomfortably on the bed.

" Oh no, don't tell me…"

Tayuya gave a short, earnest nod.

" Yeah, the bastard has 'em bribed. I don't remember what he offered the corrupt pricks, but it was enough to risk having Lightning deceive another of the strongest Countries."

Tsunade was speculating the whole ordeal with distress etched over her features.

" Do they realize that they've committed an act of war? I read from Sandaime's reports that we haven't been on good terms with them lately, but to take it as far as helping an S-Class missing-nin? Wait, what are Orochimaru's intentions that involve Lightning Country?"

Tayuya's mouth twitched slightly.

" After he 'commandeers' Uchiha Sasuke's body, he plans on taking up the role of Raikage in his attendant's place and… throwing a full-scale war against Konoha."

Tsunade's jaw hung agape as her eyes widened considerably; even the ANBU became discomposed at the discovery.

Tayuya figured they had heard enough bad news already and decided to show a little optimism, for whatever purpose that would serve.

" Well, you got one thing to look forward to at least!" She chirped, the sarcasm in her voice easily recognizable.

Tsunade leaned back in her chair with an exhausted sigh before looking up at her drearily.

" And that would be…?" She questioned, dreading the answer the youth was going to give her.

" You got yourself a new kunoichi!" She replied, feigning gleefulness horribly.

The Hokage rolled her eyes and stood up, her gaze bouncing between the two ANBU who awaited orders.

" Neither of you are to utter a word of what you overheard today; This information is ANBU commander and Elder restricted until we decide on what to do about the matter. Do you understand?"

Both gave a nod before walking out of the room. Tsunade turned to Tayuya, who had redirected her gaze back to the window.

" Before I forget, there is someone here to see you. Would you like for me to send him in?"

Tayuya waved a hand disregardfully, still staring out the window.

" Yeah, yeah. Whatever."

Tsunade wondered if the girl even heard what she had said, but just shrugged it off. Walking out into the hall, she noticed both ANBU standing above the slouched form of Naruto. Upon closer inspection, it proved that he was fast asleep, drool dripping onto the tile from the corner of his mouth. The closer of the two ANBU gave her a questioning look to which she gave him an amused nod; you could practically feel the unadulterated joy radiating off of him.

In one swift kick to the stomach, Naruto was wide-awake, shouting profanities that resounded in the entire building. When he noticed his surroundings, he gave a sheepish smile while wiping his mouth on the sleeve of the orange jacket; he had draped it over himself as a makeshift blanket. Putting the jacket back on and zipping it up, he stood and turned to the Godaime.

" Done already? I was hoping for another hour down there!"

" Yeah. We're done, Naruto." He saw the look of dismay play across her face before she could cover it. He gave her a worried glance.

" What's wrong, Obaa-chan?"

She immediately put up one of Naruto's cheerful facades and ruffled his hair.

" Nothing's wrong, brat. Tayuya gave us the information we needed, so you don't have to worry about her anymore."

He gave her a distasteful look and swatted her hand away, earning a chuckle from the woman.

" You can go ahead on in. I informed her of your visit."

His smile instant snapped to attention in an instant, making her visibly wince. She found it very disturbing how fast this boy's cheerful side can kick in.

" Okay, I'll go on in then. See you later, Obaa-chan!" He shouted as he entered the room. Unbeknownst to him, as soon as he left the hall, Hatake Kakashi appeared and started talking to the Godaime with a mischievous smile under his thin facemask.

When he closed the door, he turned to see Tayuya facing him with a slight… apologetic look? He blinked twice before walking over and taking a seat. She mumbled something incoherent while looking down, so he leaned in closer.

" What?"

She did it again. A slight amused look crossed his face and he decided to push a little further.

" I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. Would you mind saying it a little louder?"

She raised her head and shot him an annoyed glare.

" I'm trying to say I'm sorry for being such a bitch earlier, you prick!"

Although he still held an expression of amusement, his response was sincere.

" Apology accepted, Tayuya."

She huffed and looked off to the side, thinking of a way to switch subjects since she wasn't one to ask forgiveness.

" Why do you call that woman Obaa-chan? She doesn't look a day over 25 to me." She blurted out.

He frowned when she abruptly changed the subject before his mind started to concentrate on what she'd asked. When Naruto's smile broadened and he started giggling, she shuffled further away from him on the bed. As his little fit ended, his smile turned into a sly grin.

" Obaa-chan wastes chakra in keeping up a henge that changes her appearance for the whole 'youthful' look. She's actually around 50."

Tayuya shook her head in disbelief as Naruto burst out laughing again. Then, something managed to reach his ears other than his own heavy chuckle. It was light and pleasant, a very mellow tone to hear. His eyes snapped open and his chortling came to an abrupt end as he realized what it was making the sound. He looked over at Tayuya, astounded that she could produce such harmonic laughter.

When she saw him staring at her, the redhead stopped and looked over at him inquisitively.

" What?"

" You're… laughing."

Her irritated glare returned.

" What of it?" She growled.

The blonde waved his hands defensively.

" Nothing! You don't need to be so defensive. I'm just saying you should do it more often. It's very… nice."

She blinked before turning her head away from him with an 'Oh'. Once again getting uncomfortable with the current conversation, Tayuya ran through ideas to change the topic. She was about to start talking until she heard a loud rumble coming from beside her. She glanced over at the blonde boy with a smirk plastered on her face. He offered a sheepish smile and rubbed the back of his head.

" Heheh. I was going to get something to eat until I got sidetracked by Obaa-chan and came here. You don't mind if I leave, do you?"

She shook her head and he once again left her in peace, throwing a 'See you later' over his shoulder. She leaned back down to rest with a content smile on her face.

' I still think these people are too damn trusting. But… I can live with it. I might even like living here compared to that shithole Orochimaru had us in.'

She felt a pang of sorrow at remembering her deceased comrades… partners… friends. She lied there and wondered if she could ever get over the loss until sleep finally consumed her once more.

The next day…

It was now 9:45AM and Naruto was standing in Tsunade's office with Tayuya, who was situated in a chair, still wearing her patient gown. They had been waiting for the Hokage to show up for the past thirty minutes. Naruto had gotten an early wake up call by some unknown messenger at nine. When you stay up late, having nothing planned for the next day, and are awoken by a Chuunin with a note that early, you tend to be cranky. Unfortunately for said messenger, a certain angry Kyuubi vessel threw him down the flights of stairs at the apartment building. The Genin had cursed the Godaime's existence to the high Heavens as he did his morning routine and ate his breakfast of instant ramen. All of these events lead to where he was now, still waiting for the old bat to arrive.

" Why does she bother making us wake up this early if she isn't going to be here herself until later? Stupid Obaa-chan…" The blonde grumbled to himself, still half asleep.

On cue, Tsunade walked through the door to be greeted by a yawn from the redhead and a curse from the blonde.

She instantly glared at him.

" Next time I send a messenger to your residence, Naruto, I expect him to return the same way I sent him."

He made a pitiful attempt at a glare through half-lidded eyes.

" Isn't my fault your errand boy can't watch his step." He mumbled.

" There was a footprint on the back of his vest, Naruto! How could that possibly not be you're…? Forget it. Let's get down to business. I suggest you take a seat, brat."

" No thanks, I'll stand. Now, what could you possibly want from me- Er, us this early?"

Tsunade noticed the odd look Tayuya was giving her, so she decided to get to the heart of the matter.

" Well, like the nurse told you this morning Tayuya, you're fit enough to leave the hospital though you mustn't do many activities put a lot of stress on your spine."

Her hazel orbs shifted over to the peeved blonde leaning against the wall.

" And as you know, the agreement between us was she be under the supervision of a guardian at all times."

He quirked a brow.

" Yeah, so? What does that have to do with-"

Naruto froze. She was not suggesting what he thought she was suggesting. Tsunade noticed the perplexity on his face and immediately gave it to him straightforward.

" Yes, you'll be her guardian from now on and she will be staying at your apartment. The arrangements have been made so there is no more discussion on the matter."

Every moment Naruto thought it couldn't possibly get any worse, fate always seemed to backhand him across the face with another twisted way of making his life even more miserable. Now, the atrocity it dished out came in the form of a redheaded, foulmouthed young woman. He knew fate could be cruel at times, but this was just plain sadistic. Was there not a shred of mercy in the universe with his name on it? Or was it all one big catastrophic event after another to ruin his already tormented existence? He came to the conclusion it was the latter when he later awoke in Tsunade's office and learned – right before he blacked out again from denial – everything that had happened in the past couple of weeks turned out to be real. Words simply could not suffice how much Naruto thought he was born into this world utterly screwed.

R&R Please. Constructive criticism welcomed with open arms. So are flames, I need a good laugh.