Kisame – Can I do the int…
Lee – Can I do the intro, Itachi-san?!
Itachi – Of course, Lee.
Lee – Yosh!
Kisame – No fair! I was going to ask first and he got to do it in the last chapter!
Itachi – Leave it be, Kisame. This is Lee's final chapter with us, let him have it.
Kisame – Really?! You better not be kidding me, I am very sensitive.
Lee – Please enjoy PHD's chapter 31…
Where You Must Return To
Never before in his life Naruto had considered that a person's eyelids could be as heavy as his felt right now. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he was currently lying on what had to be the world's softest bed, or that for once the room he was in smelled clean unlike his unkempt apartment, or maybe because he had used all of his chakra fighting a S Rank criminal while trying to save his friend. Either or.
Remembering everything that had happened, the blond felt all weariness leave him and his eyes snapped open. Blinded by the sudden intrusion of light, the spiky haired boy tried to sit up, but his whole body immediately protested against it.
"Take it easy… You're in no shape to stand up yet." A vaguely familiar voice was heard from somewhere in the white void that surrounded the young man.
As his eyes became used to the light, Naruto was able to see the person sitting at the side of his bed. "You… You're Gaara's sister…" He said, forcing his eyes to focus on the girl's face. "Temari." He added once he was able to zero in on the kunoichi's face. "What are you doing here…?"
A scoff escaped the young woman. "Don't flatter yourself, I was drafted into staying." She responded. "Gaara had to leave and he didn't want you to be left along, with your friends going back and forth between your room and the others'… Well lets you say that Kankuro was faster in excusing himself." She added with just the faintest hint on condescension.
Ignoring the small jab at his expenses, Naruto tried to sit up again. "Sasuke and the others…! Are the alright?!" The spiky haired boy hurriedly asked.
"I told you not get up!" Temari said as she was forced to push the other blond back down onto his bed. "Your friends are alright, calm down." She said, trying to get the younger ninja to calm down. "The Hyuuga is still under observation, but they already said the worse has already passed." She added.
Naruto finally relaxed and let his head rest back down. "How long have I been out?"
Seeing that the boy was not trying to do something stupid anymore, Temari was able to lean back on her chair. "It's being three days since the whole debacle." She informed the other blond. "The Inuzuka has already regained consciousness, while the Uchiha and the Nara have been in and out since yesterday." The kunoichi added. Gaara had made it perfectly clear that he wanted her to stay up to date on the status of the other Leaf nin for when Naruto finally awoke.
The Jinchuuriki let out a sigh of relief. There have been several times during the mission when the Uzumaki feared that not all of them would make it back. The young man had to watch his friends fall one by one and he himself had to stare death in the face, but now, after all their efforts, it was finally over. The young man let out yet another sigh. "Thanks…" The Sharingan user finally said. "Now, tell me about how you're using this whole situation as an excuse because you can't stop thinking about that kiss." Naruto said, retaliating at the shot that the Sand kunoichi had taken at him earlier.
A blush immediately spread on Temari's face as she struggled to find words to counter the spiky haired boy's claim.
"Naruto!" A shout was heard before the Suna ninja could compose herself.
Looking at the door, the pair of blondes saw as Sakura and Hinata hurried into the room.
"Naruto, you're awake!" The pink haired repeated as she rushed at her teammate's bedside and threw herself over his body, wrapping her arms around his neck. "You idiot! I know, you promise to bring Sasuke-kun back, but that didn't mean you had to go and get yourself almost killed like that!" The kunoichi shouted with her face buried on the blonde's shoulder.
The spiky haired boy could feel the Haruno's tears starting to come out. "It's alright… We're all made it back and we're fine." He pointed out, awkwardly patting his teammate in the head in an attempt to calm her down.
"You idiot…! You idiot…!" Sakura simply repeated the same thing over and over again.
Standing by the side, Hinata looked at the two Team Seven members. It took all of the girl's self-control not join Sakura and throw herself over the Uzumaki as well.
Looking at Hinata, the spiky haired boy gave the girl a small, apologetic smile. "Hinata, I'm sorry for all the trouble we must have caused you." Naruto apologized. "Because of us, both Kiba and Neji got seriously hurt."
The Hyuuga's lavender eyes started to moisten as she shook her head. "You do not have anything to apologize for. I am just glad that everyone is fine now." She said, smiling warmly at the spiky haired boy.
Naruto's own smile widened while Sakura finally started to calm down and Temari relaxed back on her chair.
"Please tell me you're drunk…" Tsunade said as she rubbed her temple, trying to subdue her growing headache.
"Well, I am not completely sober…" Jiraiya responded as he smiled sheepishly. "But that doesn't mean I am not serious about this. I've been thinking over the situation for the last couple of days and this is the solution that I came up with." The toad summoner explained.
A vein started to throb in the Hokage's forehead. "Solution?! You call this a solution?!" She questioned incredulously.
The white haired man raised his hands in defense just in case his former teammate turned violent. "Calm down, calm down…" He said, all the while pushing his chair back just in case. "Just think about it… With all that just happen this is best course of action."
The Godaime took a couple of deep breaths in her attempts to relax. "Is because I'm considering the situation that I do not believe that what you want to do is a wise idea." She said slowly. "With the threat of the Akatsuki group and Kakashi's report of this Iwa missing nin, we have to be very cautious in our decisions regarding those two."
Leaning a bit forward, Jiraiya's eyes became serious. "Give me a little more credit, Tsunade-chan. Don't you think I had already taken those facts under consideration." The legendary ninja said. "Akatsuki has seemingly gone off radar… And I'm not saying that they're trying to be secretive, that's their modus operandi, but no, this is different. They disappeared as if they had never existed. Not quite sure what they're reasons are, but they're clearly playing the waiting game right now." The Sannin's eyes narrowed. "I'm not going to lie; I'm planning to use this chance to dig up more information about them."
Tsunade's eyes matched her former teammate's. "And what of the other factor?" She asked.
"Well, we don't have too much to go on with that…" Jiraiya admitted. "All we have is that they're most likely a group, with Masamune Shirogane of Iwagakure and a girl that could manipulate her voice somehow, and that they're interested in both boys." The white haired man listed what he had read from Kakashi's report. "I will check with my Hidden Rock sources since that's the best lead we have, but in all honesty, I'm not too worry about them right now."
One of the Hokage's eyebrows rose as a respond to the man's words.
A sigh escaped the toad summoner. "If they wanted to take him, they couldn't have asked for a better opportunity than what just happened." He started to explain. "So after passing that up, I don't see them doing it while he has one of the Three Sannin protecting him." The mature ninja said with a hint of pride in his voice.
It took a considerable amount of effort for Tsunade not to immediately shot him down.
"So, now that your worries have been put to rest." Jiraiya said, earning a scoff from the Hokage. "I assume that I can leave you to start the paperwork needed while I go talk to the kid." He stated with a large, goofy grin.
Sighing in defeat, the Fifth leaned forward and regarded her former teammates with serious eyes. "Tell me the truth, Jiraiya, what is this all about?"
It was the white haired man's turn to sigh. "Come on… Don't make me spell it out…" He protested, but when the kunoichi's glare intensified he had no other option but to continue. "You can't tell me that you haven't seen the signs… What is happening with these kids is the same thing that happened with us and Orochimaru." He explained.
Tsunade's eyes wavered slightly.
"Back then, you and I, and even Sarutobi-sensei, were so sure that nothing wrong was going to happen, that our bond was strong enough that nothing could break it." Jiraiya said and suddenly, he felt very tried. "Well, now I know better than that, and I will be damned if I let Naruto go through the same pain that I went through." The toad summoner declared.
"And this is how you are going to prevent that?" Tsunade questioned, clearly still not sold on her teammate's idea.
Jiraiya's demeanor relaxed a bit. "Trust me, what those two need right now is to put some distance between each other." He commented. "Time and room to grow without their ever-present competition with one another is the best way to get them to cool off."
Another weary sigh escaped the Senju. "Very well, I'll start the paperwork for this crazy plan of yours…" She finally conceded. "When will you be leaving?" She asked as she started pulling out the necessary forms.
Grinning, Jiraiya stood up. "Don't be in such a hurry to get rid of me, Tsunade-chan." The legendary ninja said. "First, I have to go ask the kid if he's in." He said, giving his former teammate a wink before turning around and exiting the Hokage's office, closing the door just as a stack of papers were hurled at him.
Tsunade could feel the headache was going on full force by now. "Yeah… That's going to go over well…" She commented, wishing she had not finished her sake supply three days ago.
The first thought that crossed his head once he regained consciousness was to wonder what that strange, wet sensation he had just felt was.
Slowly opening his eyes as he struggled with the intruding light, Sasuke was met face to face with an excited Akamaru.
"Damn it, Kiba! You and Akamaru are going to get us in trouble!" Sakura's voiced complained.
An annoyed whine was heard in responds. "Calm down, nothing is going to happen." Kiba said. "I've had him hidden in my room for the last two days and they haven't realized he's here yet… I'm more worry about the doctors asking us to leave because of your excessive screaming."
While the raven haired boy had yet to fully regain his sight, he could hear the sound of something getting hit.
"Hey! Watch it! That's no way to treat the guy who got a concussion saving your boyfriend's ass!" Kiba's complains were followed by the sound of another punch.
Finally being able to make out more than silhouettes, the Uchiha could see at the end of his hospital bed Kiba rubbing his shoulder on one side, while in the other Hinata tried to calm Sakura down.
"And that's two in less than five minutes, you owe me 100 ryo." Shikamaru's muffled voice came from the Uchiha's bedside. Glancing at his side, the boy could see a severely bandaged Shikamaru on a wheelchair and Naruto standing next to him.
The spiky haired boy let out an exasperated sigh. "Damn you, Kiba…" He muttered.
Suddenly, Akamaru started barking, redirecting everyone attention towards him. "Sasuke-kun! You're awake!" Sakura immediately called out, rushing over to hug the raven haired boy.
"Sa… Sakura… I can't… Can't breathe…" Sasuke struggled to say through the strong hold his teammate had his neck in.
"Sakura, just so you know, I've already fought an S-rank criminal to keep him safe. If you kill him now, you're on your own." Naruto joked as he and the others gathered closer around the raven haired boy's bed.
The pink haired girl pulled back, wiping away tears that had managed to escape. "Well, I should kill him for all that he put us through." She commented, with just enough weight to ensue a nervous chuckle from the bedridden Uchiha.
"Sure, but then you'll have to answer to Ino after she gets free from the family's shop." Shikamaru commented through the bandages that covered most of his mouth.
"Ooh! Now that's a catfight I wouldn't mind witnessing."Kiba added excitedly, receiving a powerful death-glare from the pink haired girl.
Sasuke took this chance to pull his body up from the bed and sit up, his body protested all over with each move he made. "How… How long have I been unconscious?" He asked.
Immediately, Sakura dropped her glare from the Inuzuka and gave all her attention back to her teammate. "You've been in and out of conscious, but it has been three days since… Since it happened…" The girl's voice suddenly became quiet and weak at remembering the events that led to their current situation.
Sasuke's action had no occurred in a vacuum. He had fled the village and abandoned his duties, and no matter how many times Naruto would assure her that the new Hokage would take care of everything, the Haruno knew that there will be some serious repercussions.
"That's right! Three days and I was the first one to wake up!" Kiba proclaimed loudly. "I beat all of you!" He added as Akamaru barked happily in agreement.
"That's only because your head is already used to concussions, probably for being drop so much as a baby." Shikamaru's muffled voice chimed in, earning a laugh from the entire room, including, to the Inuzuka's dismay, both Hinata and Akamaru.
The brunette boy pouted as he looked away indignantly.
Seeing his partner distraught, Akamaru jumped off the bed and onto the boy's lap, resting his tiny body on it.
Kiba scuffed as he looked down at the small dog. "Oh, now you're coming back to me? Tired of making fun of me already?" He questioned.
"Do not take it out on Akamaru, Kiba-kun." Hinata said, offering the boy a kind smile that brought a bit of color to his cheeks.
"Yeah, especially for someone that everyone does." Naruto added, causing another series of chuckle to sound off in the room.
A growl escaped the Inuzuka. "Blah… I can wait for Neji to wake up so that we can all just forget the last couple of days." He sourly commented.
Sakura let out a deep breath and she took a seat next to be bed. "Yes, and then everything can go back to the way it was before." She said.
"Not everything…" Sasuke suddenly said.
Immediately, everyone's eyes were on the Uchiha.
"Wha… What do you mean, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked; her voice already relaying obvious signs of fear.
"Sasuke…" Naruto voiced carried a bit of warning as he took a step closer towards the bed.
The Uchiha looked at the other Sharingan user. "You remember what I said before the fight… I wasn't kidding." He stated.
Scratching the back of his head, Kiba looked at his two former classmates in confusion. "There were a bunch of fights back there…. Could you be more specific?"
The blond glared at the raven haired boy. "Why don't we chalk that up to a moment of stupidity?" Naruto said in a serious voice. "Trust me; everyone here already knows how big of a moron you can be." He added narrowing his eyes.
"What are you guys talking about?!" Sakura demanded to know, her eyes anxiously shifting between her teammates.
Sasuke's eyes remained on Naruto's, as if to challenge him. "Before Naruto and I fought, I said that if I lost and was brought back to the village, I would quit being a shinobi… And I did lose."
There was a collective gasp of shock in the room.
"You two… Fought?" Shikamaru questioned.
A growl escaped the spiky haired blond. "Yeah, that was a little detail no one else needed to know…" The genin said through his teeth.
Sasuke finally look down, realizing that Naruto had not told the others all that had happened towards the end of the incident and not wanting to see the grief-stricken look in Sakura's face. "It doesn't matter…" The raven haired boy said. "As I told you back then, as soon as I am discharged from the hospital I will go to the Shinobi Affairs office a request a discharge… It is the least I can do after all…"
The Uchiha's words were cut off by the deafening sound of a slap that echoed in the room.
For several seconds, Sasuke had problems understating what had happened as he found his head turned to the side and a stinging feeling spreading from his cheek.
"You infuriating bastard!" Sakura screamed her palm red from its contact with her teammate's cheek. "After everything that you did… Everything you put us through you don't get to simply walk away!" She declared, staring down at a stunned Sasuke while everyone else in the room watched in a similar state. "Do you even realize the real consequence of your little stunt?! Do you understand that Naruto and the others risked their life for your sake?!" The kunoichi continued to berate the now cowering Uchiha.
Outside the room, a couple of nurses and some of the other patients were peeking in, curious as to what all the commotion was.
"No, you never even took the time to consider any of those things!" Sakura answered for her teammate. "Because all you do is wallow on your own self pity and wait for others to feel sorry for you just so you can have your way!" She continued her rant. "But not anymore! This time, I'll tell you what you are going to do! You are going to apologize to everyone right now for being a whiny, self-centered jackass or so help me god I'm going to take that pretty little head of yours and shove it so far into the ground we will all be jounin by the time you finally dig it out, do you understand?!" The girl exclaimed as she pressed hard on the Uchiha's forehead with her finger.
In his bewildered stated, all that Sasuke could do in response was nod numbly. "I… I am… Sorry… Every… Everyone…" He struggled to say, reluctantly looking at the other Leaf ninjas before his eyes returned to the Haruno's, seeking approval.
Silent reign over the room for the new couple of minutes as no one present dared to say a word. Those who had witnessed the pink haired kunoichi's rant simply continued to look back and forth between her and the still shocked Uchiha. "Ok, I'll say what everyone else is thinking…" Shikamaru finally said from behind his bandages. "That was pretty hot." He said in his muffled voice.
Immediately, everyone's eyes moved to the Nara giving the chunin different looks: surprised from Naruto and Kiba, embarrassed from Hinata, fear-filled from Sasuke, and disgusted from Sakura.
"I agree with mummy boy!" An upbeat voice was suddenly heard in the room, causing everyone's attention to shift towards the doors.
Kiba almost fell out of his seat as his eyes widened. "You… You're Jiraiya! One of the Legendary Sanin!" The brunette shouted in disbelief.
Jiraiya's grin widened. "The one and only!" He declared and thrust his open palm forward in one of his many signature poses.
A weary sigh escaped Naruto. "What do you want, Ero-sennin?" He asked.
The white haired man gave his young student a pouting look. "Is this the way you treat someone who just wants to check in on how his hurt little student is doing after such a dangerous mission?" He asked.
"When you say it in such a creepy way… Yes, yes it is." The blond answered as he rolled his eyes.
A gasp escaped the Inuzuka. "How can you talk to a legend like?!" He asked, looking at his former classmate in bewilderment.
"Heh, now this one I like!" Jiraiya commented, causing Kiba to blush slightly, which earned a short giggle from Hinata. "Actually, I do have another reason for coming here. I'm going on a little research trip, and of course by little I mean an extended mission outside of the village." He revealed, getting everyone's undivided attention. "And I was thinking that I might like some company during it."
Naruto let out another sigh knowing what was coming next.
Jiraiya's smiled widened mischievously and his eye glinted the same way they did during one of his pranks back when he was a kid. "So, how about it, Sasuke-kun?"
Everyone in the room had the exact same responds to the Sannin's words. "WHAT?!"
"Is not fair…" There was a bark of agreement. "It's just not fair…"
A low growl escaped Ino. "For Kami's sake, Kiba, would you stop saying that?! It's been over a week already! Get over it!" The Yamanaka exclaimed finally losing her cool.
"But it's not fair!"
"Hey! That hurt!" Kiba whined as he rubbed the back of his head. "I've been serious here! I need someone to explain to me how Sasuke throws a hissy fit and runs away from the village, but instead of being punished he gets rewarded by being trained by one of the Sannin!" The boy exclaimed.
Everybody present let out an exasperated sigh.
"That's it! Tomorrow I'm running away!" The brunet finally declared.
"Go ahead." Shikamaru chimed in. "I bet not even Akamaru goes out to look for you." He commented, causing another bark of agreement from the small white dog.
"Partner?!" Kiba cried out in disbelief as the whole group laughed.
The Rookie Nine and Team Gai stood by the village gate as they waited for Jiraiya to finish the last bit of paperwork required for Sasuke to accompany him. The majority of the bandages had been taken off Shikamaru, though most of his face was still cover, and Neji needed crutches to help him stand.
"You have everything you'll need, right?" Sakura asked her raven hared teammate.
"Yes, but I'm not sure why I'll need to bring a pair of earmuffs." The Uchiha responded.
A scoff escaped Naruto. "Trust me, they'll come in handy." He said with a knowing smirk.
Sasuke shifted in place a bit. "I'm still not sure about this… As much as it pains me to say it, I think Kiba is right… This is unfair." He commented.
"Tell me about it." Neji responded. "I still need help going to the bathroom." He said with enough sarcasm not to make the situation awkward.
Scratching the back of his head, Sasuke gave a sheepish smile. "Once more, I'm sorry about that. I'm sorry about all the trouble I caused." The genin apologized again.
"Damn straight you are." Sakura commented with a smirk, earning another hesitant smile from the Uchiha.
"Why else do you think we're sending you so far away?" Choji teasingly said.
A soft thud, announced Jiraiya's arrival right in the middle of the group. "Well, it's done!" He happily proclaimed. "I had to give Tsunade-chan three of my best sake bottles, but I finally got her to finish the paperwork." The toad summoner explained. "So, take care and don't do anything I wouldn't."
Naruto let out a short laugh. "So, except for trying to take over the village, I'm free to do anything I want?" He mockingly asked.
Smirking at the banter, Jiraiya responded. "Taking over the village or getting engage." The white haired ninja said, given his blond student a wink. "Anyways, Sasuke-kun, say your goodbyes. I'll be waiting for you outside." The Sannin said, walking away as he waved at the rest of the group.
Sasuke nodded to his new teacher before turning to face his friends. "I guess this is it, uh?" The boy said awkwardly.
Reaching into one of his pockets, Naruto pulled out the Mangekyou scroll. "Here… A parting gift…" He said handing the black scroll to his fellow Sharingan user.
The raven haired boy's eyes widened slightly when he noticed the Uchiha clan's symbol in the parchment. "Thanks…" He said and hesitated for a second before continuing. "I… I have something for you too…" He said given the spiky haired boy a folded paper. "I'm not asking you anything, but I do hope you would have signed it by the time I get back."
Naruto took the piece of paper and opened. His sapphire eyes immediately mimicked the surprise that his teammate's black ones had shown. The paper was an almost fully filled-up Shinobi Change of Address Request Form in which the blond would be officially changing his address to the Uchiha compound. "Thank you." The spiky haired boy said with all honesty.
A small sob redirected to two Sharingan users attention towards their other teammate. "You'll be back… Right, Sasuke-kun? You promise that you will be back?" Sakura asked, tears threatening to fall from her eyes.
The raven haired boy offered the warmest smile he could muster. "Do I have a place to return to?" He asked.
Fighting back her tears, the Haruno nodded. "Always..." She assured him.
Sasuke's smile broadened a bit. "Then I promise I will come back." He stated before saying goodbye to the rest of his comrades and walking out. As he stepped past the gates, Sasuke looked over his shoulder at the village he will one day return to and smiled.
Lee – And with this, the Sasuke Rescue arc comes to a close.
Itachi – Thank you for all your help during it, Lee.
Lee – You're welcome Itachi-san! It was my pleasure. I had a lot of fun!
Itachi – Hopefully we'll get to work together again in the future.
Lee – Yosh! I would really like that… Goodbye Kisame-san!
Kisame – Yeah whatever… Feel free to forget to write… Finally this skits can go back to the way they were meant to be.
Shikamaru – Blah… This bandages are annoying…
Kisame – NOOOOO!