I've decided since extremely long chapters are apparently taking such a long time, and I'm steadily forgetting the plot because of this, I will now write shorter chapters.

This means that updates happen faster, and more likely then not I can rekindle my love of writing.

This is mostly thanks to a particular suggestion I received in a review, which proves I actually read suggestions and if I deem satisfactory, take them into consideration.

At any rate, Cutting Strings is coming in full swing now, so hang on tight, it's going to be a helluva ride.

Oh and incase you didn't know already (Which I doubt), I am on deviantart.

Gently propping himself up, the slightly groggy Naruto yawned in his warped tone, scratching his head. The soft warmth of the outside sun shone just to the side, not directly in his eyes yet providing the room with a warm glow.

Though practically a half-sized closet, Naruto didn't mind even slightly sleeping in the room if it meant waking up like this every morning. The cot was far more comfortable then a sleeping bag he noted, turning over.

He was stopped however when a warm breath on his face caught his attention. Cracking open a slited eye, he sighed as Aiko's serene human face snoozed softly.

Taking a short moment to review the situation, Naruto sighed again, simply snuggling into the bed. He was happy to note that THIS particular time, Aiko had remained outside of his blanket.

Cracking his head over his shoulder, he looked at the sun through the window, noting that he would be late for morning exercises if he remained in bed a minute longer.

Soft arms tensed slightly around him, as if reading his mind.

'It's my first day back. It couldn't hurt too much to sleep in.' Aiko's arms relaxed, snuggling into the blanket.

'What's the worst that could happen?'

Shifting his shoulder uncomfortably, Deidara of Akatsuki (Perhaps you've heard of him?) trekked through the sands, a body slung over the same shoulder.

"Damn Sasori, friggin' makes me take your ass out AND carry you. Tasteless bastard probably think himself too cool for that yeah?" He asked the body absently, receiving no response.

"Oi, don't give me the silent treatment like that, it's not artsy, yeah." Deidara joked at the body that remained silent. "This is about me almost leveling your village and knocking you unconscious isn't it?" Again he was met with the silent treatment.

"Okay, that's it, this is because we, as in me and my…'friends'… are gonna rip that demon outta you and inadvertently kill you, isn't it?" The body twitched slightly, but remained unconscious.

"Che, knew it. I'm just smart like that yeah? You gotta be smart like I am to be so damn good at art like I am. It takes symmetry and skill to make bombs like I do! Then you gotta factor in the 'boom' too, otherwise my art wouldn't be a blast!" Smirking Deidara continued walking with a large grin on his face.

He stopped however when a familiar intent to kill caught his attention. "Oh, Sasori, what brings you here other then this guy?" From an inconspicuous dune rose the low hunched figure, with the most fearsome face of dark tan and dreads ending in spikes you'd ever seen.

"Other then listening to you literally relay our ENTIRE plan to thin air, I've been cleaning up YOUR mess. Just proves my art is superior." Deidara twitched.

"Mess? You want to see MESS?" His hand twitched towards a pouch at his side, the thin lips on his palms licking themselves hungrily.

"I WANT to see my partner pull his own damn weight."

"Who the hell beat this asshole!" He tossed the body to the side with a huff.

"Who the hell VOLUNTEERED too do it like some idiot?" A mechanical stinger suddenly swept from under the hem of the cloak, twitching in anticipation.

Both stood stock still for a moment, flaring the urge for murder.

Then promptly burst out laughing. "Gaaahahahahaha! That's true, I guess I did volunteer! But dammit if I'm not doing everything else!" Deidara huffed while wiping a tear from his eye.

"Grawhahaha. Ah-I'm just saying that next time, make sure your big explosion's do there job, I was delayed by this kid's brother on the way here."

"Yeah, yeah, can do." Deidara gave an impassive wave of his hand, his only hand, picking up the body like a sack of potatoes. The air of laughter suddenly shifted back to one of murder.

"But don't forget. My art is still superior yeah." His eye gleamed menacingly. "Your art is just lights and noise, neither of which stands the test of time." Sasori growled back, his tail twitching before disappearing under the cloak.

As though the arguments had never occurred, the two continued onwards, Deidara a steady stride with Sasori hobbling along after him.

"Say, Sasori? Can I ask you a question?"


"This place still reminds you of home? I'm curious."

"…all it reminds me of is a sandy wasteland, made up of weaklings. This place was never my home. Why anyone would WANT to rule this place escapes me, especially someone as young as this kid." He indicated towards the prone body.

"I couldn't say, probably because it's LITERALLY his element yeah?" Conversation ceased from that point on, as they disappeared into the forest that bordered sand.

The last trace of them was the tuft of red hair that disappeared into the dark foliage as their footprints vanished with a gust of wind.

When Aiko had finally relieved her grip of him, Naruto absently wondered what sort of adventure the day would hold, considering the loving wake-up (Parts of which he refrained from informing his kitsune for fear of pain).

Aiko, now in foxy form, trotted out of the room. "Naruto-kun, I'm huuuu~ungry!" She cooed, head held high.

"Ah, that's not surprising considering the time of day. Do we eat out for breakfast?" the walking workshop asked as he followed after her.

She shook her head. "The best breakfast is Naruto-kun's; and I don't compromise when it comes to breakfast." Naruto chuckled, his years of cooking for the small demon apparently affecting her pallet.

"Well, we'll see if we can find a kitchen somewhere here huh?" He trekked off.

Several minutes of searching yielded nothing but an awkward run in with an ANBU black-op's who threatened to do a FULL search of both of them if they weren't supposed to be there.

Thankfully they were saved by a rather flustered Shizune, who ran off afterwards.

"NARUTO-KUUUU~UN! I'm hungwy!" Aiko yelped out, this time degrading into baby talk to get her way.

"I'm working on it, I'm working on it!" He said, throwing open a door on the second level. To his surprise he found a lounging area with a small kitchen in its back, complete with island counter.

"Oh, hey, I've heard of this place! It's where Jounin ninja hang out between missions." Naruto said absently, doing a complete 360 around the room. He noted the simple décor, comfy looking couch and coffee table, and absolute homeliness of the room. "Kakashi-sensei mentioned it once in passing."

"Reminds me of our old house!" Aiko happily sat down on one of the cushy sofa cushions, snuggling in. "Well, I found the kitchen, now you cook Naruto-kun!"

Naruto frowned. "But… I found the kitchen."

"Did you; or did my keen animal instincts?"

Naruto sighed, rolling his eyes at the lost cause of an argument. Stepping around the island, he absently grabbed the cupboard, opening it.

To his surprise, he found the knives in said cupboard. Flying at his face at a rather high velocity.

Narrowly ducking, Naruto whirled around as the knives imbedded themselves in the seat Aiko was sitting in-

-Only to be deflected by her tails, which were raised in defense. "Jeez Naruto-kun! Watch it, if I'd been normal I'd be dead right now!" Aiko gave an annoyed flick of her tail.

"Sorry, sorry!" He scratched his head, breathing a sigh of relief.

"Its okay, just be more careful. This place is a jounin ninja hideout, there's bound to be more traps!" Naruto nodded.

The rest of breakfast went without much incident, up until a certain point that Naruto was finishing the eggs, which had been a special request of Aiko's. Absently flipping an egg, Naruto briefly stopped paying attention to his surroundings.

That moment almost cost him.

"Ne-ne, Naruto-kun? Whatcha makin'?" His eyes widened considerably at the seductive hush in his ear, and the considerable pressure being placed on his back, in the shape of two none-too subtle mounds.

He recognized that voice. "A-Anko-san?" He asked absently as she remained behind him, peering absently over his shoulder at the frying eggs.

"Hey! That's Anko-chan! Don't forget the 'chan'!" She gave a casual wink.

"Ah…huh…" Naruto managed to drone out, turning back to his pancakes and ignoring the very difficult to ignore pressure against him.

"Mmmmm-you wouldn't mind splitting some of those with me, would you?"

Aiko sat up. "Hey! Get your own breakfast slave!"

Anko sent a frown her way. "Oh believe me, I intend to…"

'Breakfast slave?' Naruto asked himself, but decided not to question it yet.

"Well, get your own breakfast!" Aiko curled into a circle, but her eyes never left the pair at the stove.

The long silence that permiated the room lasted until Naruto finished, Anko remaining a few minutes to snag some bacon and eggs, before taking off for a mission.

"I promise we'll meet again, then we can 'catch up', okay?" Naruto wasn't entirely sure what that meant, but was fairly sure it involved something awkward and uncomfortable. Watching the fox snark down a meal for three, the blonde puppet master laid back and relaxed.

For all of three seconds.

"Uzumaki Naruto!" Snapping up, Naruto came face to face with one Yuhi Kurenai.

"Ah, Kurenai-san; It's been a long time!" He stood up, before bowing, though she just waved him off.

"There's no need for that, I actually came to get you. The Hokage requests your presence immediately."

"Alright, I just finished breakfast anyways." He turned to his fox, who now basked in the warmth of the sunlight behind her, looking particularly satisfied. "Aiko-chan, I'm going to see what lady Tsunade wants. Stay here and don't get into trouble, 'Kay?" To Yuuhi's bewilderment the fox looked up, yawned ever so softly, and nodded.


Naruto turned to her, frowning. "Kurenai-sensei, dog's in this village can understand AND speak our language. Why not foxes?" She sweat dropped.

"Y-yes, of course. I was just taken aback is all. I've just never seen a domesticated fox before."

It was Naruto's turn to look sheepish. "Domesticated…right…" Shaking his head he stepped outside, silently following Kurenai's lead.

This did not mean a conversation was not struck up. "I have to be honest with you Naruto-san. Your appearance has taken a very different direction." His eyebrow raised at the question as they continued down the hall.

"Well, I thought a change was in order. I actually was pretty depressing two years ago." Kurenai nodded, adding 'Not without good reasons.' In the back of her head. "I see you're looking just as stunning as before though." He added non-shalantly, though Kurenai took immediate notice.

"A-ah, thank you." She blinked, a little taken aback at his forwardness.

"It's just something I thought I should say." He smirked, the smile reaching his eyes, causing them to curve.

'He's kinda cute.' Kurenai admonished, but firmly squashed these thoughts, knowing the significant limitations of such a relationships, not including the age gap. "W-well, here we are, this is the room here." She indicated too the door that led to Tsunade's office.

"Thank you, Kurenai-sensei." She waved her hand when he bowed.

"It was nothing. Call me Kurenai-san, Kurenai-sensei makes me feel old." She smiled before turning and walking off.

"Right; time to see Tsunade-baachan." Grasping the handle, he opened the door tentatively. "Oyaho Tsunade…" He trailed off however, as he realized Tsunade was not alone in the room.

"H-holy CRAP!" Whirling, Chiyo of Suna met the boys gaze.

"N-Naruto!" She said.

"Chiyo-sama!" Naruto blew past the door, intending to hug the older woman.

"AGH! MY HEART!" Suddenly grasping her chest, she keeled backwards, gasping for air, before collapsing.

"C-Chiyo-sama!" Naruto and Tsunade gasped in horror, the Hokage leaping over her desk to the woman's aid…

Only to be stopped when a soft chuckle suddenly rose from the floor, where the old woman lay. "Honestly, you were always a little too easy to trick Naruto-kun." Chiyo sat up quickly, still chuckling.

"Just die already!" Tsunade shouted in exasperation, the older woman just waving her hand.

"Oh come on now, it was funny and you know it." Tsunade just walked around her desk, sitting in a huff.

"When you're done with pleasantries and psychotic pranks, I have actual things to discuss with you." Tsunade blew a piece of hair out of her face to emphasize her exasperation.

"Chiyo-sama, it's good to see you!" Naruto said, clasping her hands.

"Ah, Naruto! It's good to see you too! My, you've been maintaining your joints well, I can't hear a creak or a single grind!"

Naruto nodded. "You hammered the point of maintenance home alright."

"Good, good, that oaf Kankuro could take a lesson from you on puppetry. But enough of that, I have other things to discuss with you. Grave things are happening, and Suna needs people like you or stronger to help."

"Grave happenings? What do you mean?" Naruto could feel a cold ball of dread begin to rise, as his demon stirred in the back of his mind, anticipating some anguish to well up inside him.

"Yes Naruto. Something terrible has happened. Naruto…

"…Akatsuki has Gaara."

Okay, that's chapter deuce of the shippuden half of Naruto.

When I said that chapters would be shorter, I meant that cliff-hangers would also be in greater abundance. I'm still getting the hang of packing story into small packages, but cliff-hangers I think I can still handle.

Still, I'm trying to update all of my stories more. As I mentioned on deviantart, I'm working on a docile update, because who doesn't like foxy Naruto plus yuri galore?