Disclaimer: Nothing lasts forever.

Ran Outta Steam

(Last part of MAW. What if chapters: 20, 23, and 26)

Michiko did her best to ignore the council while she repeated the report she'd already given to her instructor. Best not to think about the fact that the older nin could have her assigned to sewage burning detail for a month with a gesture or end her career with a word.

"A question," Suzume spoke up when the girl finished.

"Yes, Suzume?" The girl froze. "Uh, sama?"

"Why don't we stick with just Suzume like we always have," the old woman suggested. "How did you know they were quote normal civilians unquote?" the former jonin asked dryly.

"They said they were," one of the other new genin replied.

"One of them had it written on his name tag," the third genin volunteered.

"I asked one of them if they were really normal civilians," Michiko stated. "She asked if I was the Uzukage."

"What did you tell her?"

"No, so she told me he was definitely a normal civilian," the genin giggled.

"Good work," Suzume complimented the girl. "I want you and your team to get some rest. Tell your instructor that you'll be headed back to the village to pick up that SOP after I've had a chance to check them out."

"You?" Yuki asked dryly.

"The two of us are the senior nin on station," Suzume said calmly. "Which of us is more expendable?"

"You were always the better trainer," Yuki replied.

"And you're the one that's better dealing with pettiness. The village needs someone to hold it together till the Uzukage comes home. I am not suited for the role so I'm going," Suzume said firmly. The woman rose to her feet and left, ending the conversation.


Hanzo scowled when he saw the number of wagons filling the street in front of his house. There was no way everything he owned would fill more than one of them. His scowl deepened when he saw his two minions approach.

"What's going on?!" he barked.

"Master, we did as you asked," the first minion simpered.

"More than you asked, master," the other agreed quickly. Handing his boss a bag of coins. "We didn't even need to spend any of your savings."

"Why are there so many wagons?" he growled, pocketing the coins. "Well?!"

"Master, we went around to all the big houses and temples and asked them what they would pay to be rid of you for good," his first minion simpered.

"They paid for all this?" Hanzo asked, a smile blooming on his face. A man measured his worth by the enemies he made, the thought that his were willing to give up so much wealth to see the back of him was flattering.

"That and more, master," the second minion said quickly. "The snake alone gave up enough gold to live on for five years."

Hanzo's gaze swept over the wagons. The drivers seemed to have a lot of women and children with them. His scowl returned. "What are you not telling me?"

"Around two thirds of the big houses paid for you to leave, master," the first minion stated. "One third begged to join you and so did almost the entire population of the slums and about half the little houses."

"What?!" That too was flattering in a way, Hanzo thought to himself.

"They said they weren't willing to live here if there wasn't a man like you to protect them, master," the first minion said quickly. "It's not safe here without you."

"How are we going to feed them?" Hanzo demanded, doing his best to hide how much pleasure he felt at that statement. Seemed he had been able to do a bit of good after all, even with the corrupt bastards doing all they could to hinder him.

"We have enough food for two years and enough supplies to build a village ourselves if the rumor was false, master," the second minion volunteered.

"Fine," Hanzo agreed. He should have decided to leave years ago. "Let's go."


Takenaga had been a teamster for almost forty years, starting out as a ten year old kid hired to look after the draft animals and rising to own almost one hundred freight wagons, running supplies between each of the major countries and into many of the minor ones. His caravans were the product of a lifetime's work, the product of gallons of sweat, blood, and incalculable amounts of determination.

At the moment, he was sure he was watching the end of his dream. They'd been hit by a suspiciously well trained group of bandits on the edge of Cloud's territory, somewhere that should have been safe due to the large number of ninja patrolling the area.

Another guard screamed and fell as he took a needle through the thigh. Forty years of work and a third of his business is lost in an afternoon, he thought in despair. At least his wife and children were safe, he thought happily. His sons were on the new run between the newly emergent Wave and its largest trading partner the hidden village of Leaves. His Daughter was with her mother in Fire's capitol. The man drew his sword, if nothing else he could make sure they didn't get his cargo and wagons as cheaply as they'd thought they would.

He opened his mouth to scream a defiant battle cry and froze. The bandits weren't attacking, they were running, trying to escape from a wave of orange crashing out of the hills onto the now panicking attackers. Maybe he was going to live to see the sunset again after all.


Suzume tried to ignore the looks of relief on everyone's face when she returned. They were ninja, accepting death was part of the job, something the younger generation didn't seem to understand. Then again, they also hadn't been forced to watch as almost everyone they'd ever known and cared about was massacred. Perhaps it would be best to raise up a new type of ninja when they rebuilt the village? Something to suggest to the Uzukage when he returned.

"Leaf Anbu," she announced as she returned to the meeting area.

"What?" Yuki asked dumbly.

"They act like Leaf Anbu," Suzume repeated. "It looks as if Uzumaki-sama's cousin the Hokage sent aid under a cover so transparent it may as well not even be there."

"You able to determine how long she's going to let us keep them?"

"That's for the Uzukage to decide," Suzume said happily, cracking a rare smile. "They were quite clear about the fact that they're not on Leaf's rolls. Groups of untraceable Anbu don't spring out of nowhere."

"True," Yuki agreed. "What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking Kushina-sama set something up before she died," Suzume replied.


The Sand nin nervously entered the Kazekage's office and waited till the present holder signaled for him to speak. Gone were the days when the Kazekage would crush into paste all those who displeased him, but memories of that terrible time lingered. The people of Sand were proud of their Kage's strength, relieved he'd calmed down, and terrified of his anger.

"Speak," Gaara commanded.

"Intelligence has picked up a rumor about your friend from Leaf, Kazekage-sama," the nin reported.

"What rumor?"

"It seems he is gathering support to rebuild the village hidden in the Whirlpool," the nin replied. "Scouts have noted several groups of known or suspected Uzu descendants heading in the direction their village once stood."

"Where is Naruto now?"

"We're unsure, Kazekage-sama," the nin stated. "We have several unconfirmed sightings, but nothing we can use to pin down an exact location."

"Is that all?"

"Yes, Kazekage-sama," the nin agreed.

"Leave," Gaara said calmly.

"Yes, Kazekage-sama."

Gaara pulled out a scroll and wrote something on it before sealing it with wax. "Temari."

"Do you want me to find Naruto or do you want me to investigate the village, little brother?" she asked, appearing by his side.

"The village first," he stated. "Give this to the onsite leader if they are connected with Naruto." He handed her the scroll. "I'll send you to find Naruto after you return."

"On it," she agreed.


The orange horde condensed into one individual once the danger had passed who, Takenaga was pleased to note, bore the symbol of the Leaf on his forehead protector. If one was forced to deal with ninja, it was always better to deal with ninja from villages not noted for casual brutality towards civilians. No sense putting if off, he supposed. The leader of the trade caravan approached the orange clad nin, making sure that his hands were well clear of anything that could be considered a weapon.

"Thank you for your assistance, Ninja-sama," he said, always a good idea to be polite to trained killers.

Naruto just nodded in reply, noting the many wounded and wishing he could have arrived even a couple minutes earlier. "Do you need anymore help?"

"I believe that we should be able to take care of everything ourselves from this point," Takenaga replied. "Thank you for the offer, Ninja-sama."

"Alright," Naruto agreed. The boy turned and began walking away.

"Aren't you going to take their heads?" the head guard blurted, eying the slashed forehead protectors on a couple of the bodies. "Might be worth a bit of money."

"I need supplies more than I need heads or money right now," Naruto said with a shrug.

"What sort of supplies?" Takenaga asked calmly, willing to give the boy almost anything to repay him for saving his life and the lives of his men.

"Food mostly," Naruto said, he really should have replenished his stock in the last village.

"I think we can help you with that," Takenaga agreed, gesturing for one of his drivers to make up a bundle. "Anything else?"

"No-wait, do you have sake?"

"Quite a bit," the man agreed.

"Enough for a giant toad?" Naruto asked hopefully.

"Axel on wagon number five's broken, boss," one of the drivers volunteered. "It's got two barrels. We unload them and we might be able to bodge up a temporary fix good enough to last to Cloud."

"Do it," Takenaga ordered. "Anything else?"

"Food and sake should do it," Naruto said cheerfully. "Unless . . . you don't have any ninja equipment, do you?"

"Not on this run," Takenaga said regretfully.

"Okay," Naruto agreed. "Just food and the sake."


Yuki was pleased by the amount of progress he saw when they arrived at the site of the old village the next afternoon. Much of the old residential area looked identical to how he'd remembered it, aside from the fact that it was all new construction.

"We have several maps and pictures of the village we are using to aid our efforts," a female voice explained from behind.

Yuki turned to find that one of the 'innocent civilians' had managed to sneak into the middle of the group. "I see, and you are?" he asked dryly.

"I have not been assigned a cover identity," she replied. The Root nin looked over the grey haired man addressing her. His scars spoke well of his skill, the lines on his face spoke well of his ability to endure, the way he held himself spoke well of his ability as a leader... It felt like someone had lit a fire in her lower belly, as once suppressed emotions began to surge through the unprepared woman.

"Sometimes a ninja must come up with their own," Yuki said. "What should we call you?"

A vague memory from her childhood bubbled to the top. "Hikari," she said through suddenly dry lips.

"Well, Hikari-chan, thank you for all the work you and your friends have done to restore the village," Yuki said, beaming down at the girl.

The 'innocent civilian' blushed at the attention, there was something about the man before her that she found very appealing. "Standard Operating Procedures from Uzu and Konoha agree that blanket permission is given for nin from the two villages to marry."

"I thought you were a civilian," Yuki said with a raised eyebrow.

"Paragraph five of Uzu SOP states that blanket permission is given to all nin to marry civilians from their own or allied villages. Konoha has no laws restricting the movement or marriage of its civilian population," she stated. The woman stepped closer. "Though I may be inexperienced, this one hopes you will take care of her." She went to her knees and bowed low.

"What?" Yuki blurted. "You're young enough to be my daughter," he protested. "Maybe even granddaughter."

"That you have survived so long in such a dangerous profession speaks well of your ability, husband," the newly renamed Hikari agreed happily, taking his hand and touching it to her forehead. "Our children will be strong," she proclaimed proudly.

Yuki shot a look of helpless confusion at the other members of the council, not sure what had just happened.

"Let me be the first to congratulate you two," Suzume said seriously. "I hope your union is both long and fruitful." Though her face was impassive, no one that knew her doubted that the woman was laughing on the inside.


The Raikage glanced up when his aide walked into the room. With luck, the man would have information regarding the Uzumaki and with a lot of luck, that information would indicate that the man was headed into someone else's territory.

"Junko's back," the aide announced.

"And?" the Raikage prompted, trying to hold his temper.

"She thinks it went well," the aide stated.

"She thinks?"

"She says the Uzumaki is better at diplomatic double speak than she is and that she was barely able to follow some of the conversation. Apparently, he controlled the entire talk from beginning to end."

"Give me some good news."

"She recorded every word after it finished, analysts have a preliminary report on what they think his demands are and what they think we agreed to." The aide cleared his throat. "Regarding the matter of the Hyuuga, the minimum the Uzumaki is willing to consider is a full apology, the return of the Hyuuga body in our possession, and some way of evening the scales."

"I see. What else?"

"The Uzumaki seemed amused by Junko, the analysts are split on what that means for her, specifically two phrases. Half think he demanded the negotiations be continued in the bedroom, the other half think he gave us the identity of a high level contact he has in Konoha."

"The gist of the phrases?"

"He complimented Junko's looks and expressed a desire to eat ramen with her again at his favored stand in Konoha, a place called Ramen Ichiraku."

"Go on the assumption that it was an agreement to meet again at some unspecified later date," the Raikage said after a moment of thought. "Tell Junko she's going to be in Leaf for an indefinite amount of time and in Whirlpool after that."

"Yes, Raikage-sama," the aide agreed. "If they are to have a meeting, it is believed that the Uzumaki has agreed to permit Junko to have one permanent guard on hand. We-" The aide licked his suddenly dry lips. "We believe the Uzumaki has requested that the guard be Yugito."

"Inform Yugito that she's going on a long term mission and that she is to be on her best behavior," the Raikage ordered. "Add that I don't expect her to return to the village for any length of time if her mission is successful."

"Yes, Raikage-sama."

"What else do the analysts have for me?"

"Good news," the aide said quickly. "Based on what we know of his actions, the Uzumaki doctrine seems to be as followed; live and let live, respond with overwhelming force when someone attacks. Every instance I can find in which the Uzumaki has used violence has either been self defense or the defense of another."

"Stone stopped losing Anbu teams after they stopped attacking him," the Raikage said thoughtfully. "How does that square with his demands regarding the Hyuuga incident?"

"For one, he's balancing the scales, for another it's on behalf of his betrothed." The aide smirked. "The Uzumaki is a ninja of terrifying power so it's easy to forget that he is also a teenaged boy. Might I remind you, Raikage-sama, what lengths they're willing to go to in order to impress a girl."

"Betrothed?" That was a new element in the mix, the Raikage reflected to himself. "We've confirmed the relationship?"

"Every agent we have in Leaf agrees that the girl is besotted with him. On your orders, we had them to do a bit of digging."

"Out with it," the Raikage ordered.

"We found several detailed drafts planning the wedding of the Hyuuga Heiress to the Uzumaki in the Hyuuga clan's garbage in the girl's own handwriting," the aid reported. "There was also a large number of bridal magazines and pictures of wedding dresses."

"Confirmed then," the Raikage agreed. "Regarding the Hyuuga situation."

"Orders, Raikage-sama?"

"Tell Akane that I've got one last job for her. One, I hope, will make the village safer," the Raikage stated. "Presuming she's willing to volunteer for it."

"She will be, Raikage-sama, she always has been."

"Tell her she has two days to decide," the Raikage continued. "That no matter what happens, this will be her last mission for Cloud, one way or another."


"The Uzumaki wants the scales evened. I'm going to give the Hyuuga clan the niece of the man that kidnapped their heiress." The Raikage didn't look happy. "Tell intel that I want them to do their best to figure out a way I can do that without condemning her to a painful death." Sending nin to certain death was an unpleasant part of his job, trying to avoid it was another.


The newly rechristened Hikari was immediately beset by her fellow Root nin the second she returned to the group.

"Standard Operating Procedure states that we are to avoid making emotional attachments," one of her fellow Root nin said with what passed for disapproval in their group.

"Regulation five fifty four dash two one states that ninja are encouraged to seek spouses from the allied village of Uzu as a means of deepening ties," Hikari countered, defending her actions.

As one, the group of now thoughtful Root Anbu turned to regard the now nervous, but much more sympathetic to Yuki, band of Uzu refugees.


Takenaga was supervising the repair effort when he was disturbed by one of his employees.

"Boss!" the head guard, an ex-Hot Springs nin hissed insistently.

"What is it?"

In response, the guard thrust a bingo book into the man's hands with several entries circled.

"I see."

"That's leaving aside the bounty Cloud has on bandits, boss," the guard continued. "Why would he leave us with something so valuable?"

"He might not have known," Takenaga replied.

"Nin of his level never make mistakes like that, boss," the head guard insisted.

"Let's hope that whatever it is doesn't come round to bite us," Takenaga sighed. "Tell the men to be on alert."

"Will do, boss."


Suzume and Kimiko walked up to the huddled group of civilians, making no move to be undetected and waited at what they thought was a polite distance until one of them, a brown haired man in his early thirties acknowledged them.

"We need to ask you a few questions," Kimiko said with a friendly look on her face. "For starters, who's in charge?"

The 'normal civilians' shared looks of confusion and turned back to the two Uzu-nin.

"Alright," Suzume sighed. "Who's the oldest here?"

"I am the eldest of the civilians," one of the disguised Root nin, a young looking blond volunteered.

"How old are you?" Suzume asked, noting how young everyone in the group looked.

"Thirty three," he replied. "Most others are killed during miss . . . accidents before they come close to reaching my age." That or been disposed of after being rendered combat ineffective by an injury or deemed unreliable.

The meeting didn't take long, the bits of information dropped by their guests painted a sickening picture for the two Uzu-nin.

"I no longer think this is something Kushina-sama set up," Suzume said, looking sick. "Or if it was, it was co-opted by someone nasty after her death."

"One of my sources revealed that Tsunade, the current Hokage, terminated a man named Shimura Danzo in an extremely gruesome manner. Something about unauthorized missions," Kimiko stated.

"Since when have you had sources?" Yuki asked.

"Since I started working closely with Wave. They've got a surprisingly good handle on what's going on in Konoha," Kimiko replied. "Leaf is their biggest trading partner and can do no wrong thanks to the actions of the Uzukage while wearing a Leaf symbol."

"Do they know anything else about this?" Suzume demanded.

"They've got some thoughts, but not a lot of hard facts," Kimiko replied. "After hearing them, I believe I have a good idea of what may have happened."

"Let's hear it," Yuki prompted.

"Kushina-sama set up a group of nin that did not exist or possibly just the ground work for them as a way to help rebuild the village after she was ready to move. Her death allowed this Danzo character-"

"Contemporary of the Third Hokage, known for having a more aggressive view of the world," Suzume spoke up. "Bit of a bastard, medically retired, passed over for the big chair. Sorry, continue."

Kimiko nodded to the other woman. "Danzo took over Kushina-sama's project and changed it. Started kidnapping orphans and putting them through a training course that had a loss rate of between fifty and seventy percent, sent them on missions with a similar survival rate. It was a rare ninja that lived longer than twenty," she said in disgust. "That child bride of yours is between twenty three and twenty five, marking her the second oldest in the group. Conversations with our 'civilians' indicate that Danzo saw ninja as disposable tools." Several jaws tightened at that pronouncement. "Tsunade, the Uzukage's cousin comes in and uncovers the situation. I'm not sure if the Third Hokage was complicit or ignorant of what was happening," Kimiko admitted.

"Ignorant," Suzume stated firmly. "The old bastard was sadistic, ruthless, and evil when he needed to be, but never when it came to his village or his ninja. As bad as what Tsunade did, the old monkey would have been worse. Would have made this Danzo's suffering a thing of legends."

"We'll take your word on it," Yuki laughed. "Continue please, Kimiko."

"Tsunade finds out and orders Danzo brought to her office and personally executes him. Not sure of the details, but it seems it involved perforating the man's rectum with his face pre-mortem." Which, Kimiko reflected to herself, was one of the many reasons it was a very bad idea to get on a medic's bad side; they knew exactly how far they could push the human body before it began to shut down. "Tsunade has a group of untraceable nin on her hand and sends them to her cousin to fulfill their original purpose."

Yuki shook his head. "How good are they, Suzume?"

"In terms of technical skill, quite good. In terms of mental condition, quite bad. Useful so long as they don't have to think too much, I'm planning to ask Uzumaki-sama for a few of them if he permits me to retain control of our academy. I believe they'll make excellent demonstrators so long as they're backed up by good instructors." Suzume nodded to Kimiko. "I'd suggest you do the same if Uzumaki-sama chooses to give the academy to you."

"I'll take your considerations under advisement," Kimiko said, fighting to contain the giggles that threatened to burst free. "I'd prefer to keep external intelligence until someone better comes to replace me."

"And I shall keep general administration until the Uzukage decides to find someone else," Yuki agreed. "Speaking for myself, I have no intention of retiring to a quiet life. Tried that in that damned farming village and I'd rather go back to D-ranks than do that again."


The ninja running Cloud's bounty office couldn't believe what he was hearing. It just didn't make sense.

"You're sure that's why he didn't take the heads?"

"He said he needed supplies more than he needed money," the merchant agreed.

"Ah." The ninja relaxed and he began to understand the situation. "I've got some good news for you and I've got some bad news for you," the nin stated calmly. "The good news is that collectively, these heads are worth around twenty million. The bad news, is that you accepted them as payment for a shipment of supplies to Uzu. The boy you met was the Uzumaki, he wasn't just giving you those heads."

"Bad news?" the merchant laughed. "No. A contract to buy and deliver fifteen million ryo in goods is nice. The possibility of building a lasting relationship with a newly restored village is potentially worth much, much more than that, more than just the heads. Thank you, ninja-san."

Something about the merchant's statement gave the nin an idea. "Do not leave the village without authorization," the ninja said after a moment of thought. "You will be compensated for your time if you are kept for more than two days."

AN: Just got bored of this one, had intended to finish it but it stopped being fun to write. Check below for Omake and the basic outline I was going off of.

Beta by dogbertcarroll

Typo by zaion_indulias

Omake by polychromeknight

Well, I'm certain there are some families of genuine Uzu refugees who just never settled down to be enslaved, and others who absorbed a few ninja from Uzu into their wandering clans.

"Halt! Who goes there?"

"Ninja of Uzumaki clan, coming home to resettle."

Dryly. "None of you look anything like an Uzumaki."

"Yeah?" big burly guy with bushy blue hair and beard, amid a caravan of the same, replied, pointing to his own chest. "Well, we're all family, and my boy over there married a girl of the minor branch."

Said boy was a thirty-something-ish man, who stood with his arm around the waist of a middle aged lady with red hair, proudly wearing a deeply dented headband of Uzu, a diaper-clad infant in her arms and scars on her cheek from when she, as a young genin, fought in and finally fled the fall of her village.

"So we're yer in-laws," the big blue spokes ninja concluded.

"What? All fifty of you?"

"Family is family, cousin."

So there would be genuine clans of cousins and in-laws approaching to resettle. But that just makes it easier to grab a couple of redheads and "head back home".

And it's a good gamble. Even if you are certain they'll find you out in a couple of years, if you've done right by them and served them loyally until that time, the village is still going to be weak and still going to need your manpower, so if you can prove yourself a resource to them they can trust, well, adoptions

And in the meantime Naruto can be having misadventures, discovering the official seal of the Uzukage in a junkshop, etc. Looting does happen, and who is going to suspect that valuable painting nabbed from the Uzukage's office was in truth a disguised storage scroll? Then, many years later when junior is practicing his ninja techniques in the house and puts a kunai through it, junior gets a tanned bottom and the painting gets sold to a junk shop for a fraction of its original worth...

...only for a young genin browsing around to cut himself on an antique knife and accidentally spill some blood on it.

These things happen.

And if I was leader of a ninja village, and a seal master, I'd be strongly temped to have a safe in my office that was rigged to explode no matter how it got opened, while the real secret vault was the painting of my family I'd hung on the wall to disguise the safe.

Omake by nielingage

Naruto screamed in frustration when he felt the clone he had making his explosive notes disappear. What in the hell could have happened? A low rumble in the distance and a rapidly rising plume of smoke answered his question. He'd been so sure that a an old warehouse filled with flour would be the best place to experiment too.

Hikaru and his team were frozen in shock. They'd taken a high point view to observe the death of what they were sure was the Flash's son, only to see him annihilate every ANBU sent against him the instant they broke in.

That hadn't frozen them though. What had was what drewtheir eyes a moment later: the angry cry of the blond Konoha-nin the moment the building went up in fire. The same ninja that was now heading away from the village... deeper into Iwa territory.

"Hiraishin," Hikaru said in utter horror. "He knows Hiraishin too..."

Omake by me: Hanzo comes Home

"More mouths to feed," Suzume said sourly.

"Mouths that brought a two year supply of food and enough supplies to set up their own village," Yuki replied mildly. "I'd be inclined to allow them to stay even if they didn't come with one of us."

"What did he say his name was again?" Kimiko asked.

"Kamisori Hanzo," Yuki replied.

"What does Kamisori mean?" Kimiko asked, not as familiar with the dialect spoken in Water country as she'd once been.


"The Itami clan had a son named Hanzo, barely a genin when the village fell," Suzume said, dredging up an old memory.

"Wonder what he did to earn such a nickname," Yuki said thoughtfully, doing his best to ignore the girl happily snuggled up to his side.

They let everyone in one at a time and question them as to why they decided to accompany such a notorious man.

"He killed our father," the young girl replied. "We owe him everything."

Suzume frowned. "Was your father a bad man?"

"Our father was the kindest most noble man to have lived!" the boy shouted, glaring at the old woman for daring to say something less than completely complimentary about his dead parent.

"He was sick," the girl explained. "The doctors said he was going to die and he was in so much pain that I tried to end it for him."

"Big sister wouldn't let me do it," the boy added. "I tried, but sister took the knife away."

"What . . ." Suzume trailed off as she remembered the penalty in Water for patricide, crucifixion. "Hanzo ended your father's pain."

"And saved big sister!" the boy agreed. "He's a hero!"

Omake: Cloud and the Hyuuga, wasn't sure if I was going to use it or not

"Your daughter's betrothed stated that it was the minimum he was willing to accept,"

"My daughter's betrothed?" Hiashi repeated with a raised eyebrow.

"The Uzukage."

"I see," Hiashi replied, hiding his confusion.

"Your brother's life was forfeited to Raikage-sama's predecessor. Mine is a gift to your successor."

"To do what with?" Hiashi demanded.

"Anything Hinata-sama desires," Akane replied. "It is presumed the Hyuuga clan seal will be applied to me."

"What do you expect to happen next?"

"It is presumed, based on the psychological profile we have for you, Hyuuga-sama, that I will not survive more than an hour after that happens." The woman paused. "My uncle was the man you slew for attempting to kidnap Hinata-sama, Hyuuga-sama."

Without another word, Hiashi rose to his feet and strode out of the room.

"Come," one of the branch members ordered. "There has been a room set aside for your temporary use."

"May I see Neji-sama while I am able?" Akane asked hopefully.


"I have an apology from Raikage-sama to deliver."


"Neji, you will take a dozen others from the branch house to investigate this Uzukage," Hiashi ordered. "I leave it to you to determine if he is worthy of your cousin."

"Yes, uncle," Neji agreed. With luck, a dozen helpers would be enough to kill the man in the very likely event that he should he prove to be lacking. The boy had failed his duty to protect his cousin for most of his life, he was determined to do his best for her in what may be the little amount time he had remaining.


"What's this?" Neji demanded, glaring at the Cloud nin.

"Everything we managed to learn about the seal on your forehead after examining your father, Neji-sama," the woman said, bowing low. "Raikage-sama apologizes for the actions of his predecessor and hopes that this will be the first step in showing that."

"I see." Neji's eyes narrowed. The fact that it could lead to the branch house breaking their chains and revolting against their main house cousins was probably a side benefit. "What can you tell me about the Uzukage?"

"A man of terrifying strength and bottomless wisdom," she said quickly. "Your cousin was lucky to make such a good match."

Which told him absolutely nothing at all. "There's something else I want from you."

"Name it and it shall be yours if it is within my power to give it even if it should be my life," the woman agreed.


"If it is the same Naruto Uzumake, my cousin Hinata, the heiress of the Hyuuga clan, is his fiancée," Neiji stated. It was the least he could do to make up for the way he'd treated her. "Also, the man who gave me my life back."

"Hinata-sama is completely devoted to him," Neji replied.


"Why didn't the Uzukage approach me about this?" Hiashi demanded. "Why spring this on me?"

"I am loyal to the clan, Hiashi-sama," Neji stated. "But my first loyalty is to Hinata-sama."

"As it should be," Hiashi snapped. "What-" he nodded. "I see, what can you tell me, nephew?"

"Hinata-sama sees things others do not and chose well," Neji stated after a moment of thought.

"My daughter contacted the leader of a foreign village and persuaded him to marry her?" Hiashi snorted in disbelief. "All without alerting either me or village security?"

"I am unable to confirm or deny, Hiashi-sama," Neji replied. "I am prepared to accept any punishment you wish to give me."

"Why Hinata?"

"It is my belief that the Uzukage wishes to seal a new alliance with the Leaf using a marriage to the heiress of its most important clan. Mirroring the marriage of an Uzumaki to the first Hokage."

"This all assumes the Hokage will chose to renew the alliance," Hiashi pointed out.

"Based on my knowledge of both the Hokage and the Uzukage, it would surprise me greatly if she did not."


He'd been the third youngest genin in Uzu history, the fifth youngest chunin, the third youngest jonin, the sixth youngest Anbu captain, and the youngest non Uzumaki for all. He'd been on a long term scouting mission to watch the other villages when Uzu was attacked. What had happened to his home was his failure, years of self loathing meant nothing could convince him otherwise. The first year he'd tried to get revenge. Over a hundred deaths later, the anger had cooled and he'd crawled into a bottle hoping to forget and hating himself for the selfishness. Three months later he'd crawled out and in the years since, he'd done his best to remember his village, reasoning that it was never truly gone so long as someone did. He'd wandered from town to town, earning enough to live on his stories and the occasional group of bandits with poor victim selection.

Omake by me: An assortment of scenes in spiffy random order

Tsunade keeps getting reports of the mysterious Konoha nin that every other village is watching and that keeps saving the day and killing hundreds of bad guys. Spends a lot of time trying to convince herself that they aren't talking about Naruto.

Tsunade felt a chill go up her spine as she read another report, this one containing a partial description of the legendary nin. The only blonds she knew were . . . but he was safe with Jiraiya, not even the old pervert would be irresponsible enough to . . .

"Get me ten bottles of sake, now!" she bellowed. It wasn't Naruto and that was that. The sake was just to help her calm down.


"Dead last?" the Raikage snorted. "Old monkey got a bit too cute there."

"Should have put him in the middle or maybe the last third," his assistant agreed. "Though there are some indications that he'd already graduated, it's possible the third Hokage didn't wish his hidden agent to effect the class standings of any of the actual cadets."

"What indications?"

"Most of this is conjecture," his aide cautioned.

The Raikage motioned for his man to continue.

"We know that one of the chunin instructors turned traitor on the night of the graduation, we know he attempted to steal their scroll of forbidden techniques, and we know that Uzumaki was originally fingered as the culprit." The man took a breath. "According to rumor, the Uzumaki captured the traitor using an A-rank technique he'd learned from the forbidden scroll after retrieving it."

The Raikage snorted in amusement. "More likely the third suspected one of his instructors and had one of his younger Anbu infiltrate the academy. Which begs the questions of why the old man kept up the charade and left him on a genin team?"

"The analysts are divided on this one, Raikage-sama. Half of them believe that the boy was sent to keep an eye on the last Uchiha, about one fourth of them believe that the third wished to reintegrate the Uzumaki back into the normal village population, and the rest fear that the boy's power level had reached the level that assassination attempts from Stone were no longer a concern."

"How sure are we of the Uchiha's defection?" the Raikage said suddenly.


"If the theory about the Uzumaki being sent to infiltrate the academy is true, and I believe it is, than it shows that the old monkey was willing to send his nin on long term infiltration missions," the Raikage pointed out.

"I suppose it could be possible," his aide said thoughtfully. "I'll have our people check into it, Raikage-sama."

"Have them spend a bit of time looking for anyone the old monkey might have sent here," the Raikage ordered.

"And if we find any?"

"Suggest to any suspects that it would be a good idea to go back to Konoha or Uzu while I'm still willing to let them," the Raikage said firmly.


"We have to get out of here right now," the girl hissed. "Orochimaru-sama has ordered that you be detained and your eyes removed."

"What?" Sasuke demanded.

"He believes you to be a Leaf infiltrator, we have to get out of here right now before the order leaks down to every level."

"And go where?" Sasuke demanded, suddenly realizing what it meant to abandon one's home village.

"Whirlpool is coming back. Maybe they'll let me in because of my name and if they do, maybe they'll let you in too," she said hopefully.

"We're risking a lot on a maybe," he pointed out.

"We've got nothing to lose," she pointed out.

The Outline:

Temari arrives in Uzu, confirms that Naruto is the leader and delivers an offer of alliance. Everyone notes that he's the Kazekage's best friend and sees it as another part of his brilliant plan. Temari returns to Sand and is sent off to find Naruto.

Several caravans of supplies arrive in Uzu. Mostly food, building materials, and ninja equipment. Also includes a few things from Cloud, scrolls looted from Uzu or something. Shortly afterward, similar arrives from Stone.

Rumors start that Temari, the Kazekage's sister is romantically involved with the Uzumaki. Stone figures that he's planning to strengthen the alliance by marrying her. Cloud figures the same about Hinata and Leaf, Sand figures the same about Yugao and Cloud. Leading to Naruto getting a reputation as a ladies man that Jiraiya could only envy. No one bothers to tell the girls involved that they're in a harem. Possibly political entities that don't have a girl in the harem will find and send them along with some amount of aid to Uzu. Naruto of course has no idea that any of this is going on, Jiraiya hears about his student's way with the ladies as soon as he gets off the boat.

Uzu gets offers of trade and alliance from all corners, everyone wants a chance to pay Naruto back for what he did for them or is hoping to get on the good side of the most fearsome nin in the world.

Naruto eventually links up with Uzu's delegation to Konoha about the same time Jiraiya gets back. Uzu sees this as a sign that the Uzukage wishes to negotiate with his cousin/home village himself. Jiraiya gets an emergency recall signal from Tsunade and rushes back to Leaf in the company of Uzu's delegation to Konoha. They return to Konoha a short time later, Jiraiya is too busy quizzing Naruto in an attempt to find out just what happened and why Tsunade would be so angry with him while hoping with all his might that Tsunade doesn't know what actually happened for fear of being brutally murdered for dereliction of duty.

Omake: The Ending

"I don't know how you did it, but good job," Tsunade told her old teammate.

"Thank you," Jiraiya replied, trying to keep his confusion from showing.

"Of course, if you'd failed, what I'd have done to you would have made you wish I'd only castrated you to death. Meaning I'd castrate you, heal you, castrate you again, heal you again, and so on till your heart went out so bad I couldn't fix it," she continued calmly. "Can't argue with results though. Just never do something like it again or I'll stomp your testicles into paste." She turned away from the suddenly sick looking Jiraiya to Naruto. "What are you plans regarding the alliance between our villages, Uzukage-sama?"

"What are you talking about?! Why are you acting so strange,granny?!" Naruto shouted.

Tsunade took a step forward and slapped the boy on the back of the head. "Show some respect you little brat! We're having an important meeting here!"

Rage filled the watching Whirlpool ninja, several picking out targets for the fight they knew was imminent.

"I missed you too, granny," Naruto said, hugging the woman.

"Welcome home, brat," Tsunade said fondly.

The watching nin relaxed, realizing that they were seeing a family reunion and not a meeting between two village heads.

Jiraiya managed to contain himself till after he was alone with his wayward apprentice. "Just what in the hell have you been up to while I was gone?"

AN: Beta by dogbertcarroll for everything above that I wrote.

Omake for Chapter 03 by samhainredux

Here's my try at it. I tried to use the statement just below to make the conversation.

"Speaking hypothetically, Uzumaki-sama, what would Cloud have to do in order for you to forgive them if they slighted you?"

Naruto stopped slurping his noodles to look at the girl that sat beside him. Looking closely at her face to see if he knew her.

Squinting softly to no avail, he simply cannot recognize her.

Taking time to think about her question he answered confusedly. Taking note that slight meant that they made him angry or something. Wow, that dictionary in Jiraiya's pack was useful after all... who'd knew.

"Eh? Cloud hasn't really done anything to make me angry or anything." He said amicably.

He waited for a small while, but the girl didn't reply. So he continued...

"Well, they did try to kidnap Hinata-chan once and they took Neji's father..." He trailed trying to think of any reason to be angry at cloud. "yeah, those bastards just walked in Konoha and tried to take Hinata-chan and killed Neji's father, they could at least apologize right?"

"I see. Thank you for your time Uzumaki-sama." Junko said shakily.


It could go like this too... I'm hoping you'd just give up reading and say to hell with this I shall fix this abomination and write a proper dialogue.

"Speaking hypothetically, Uzumaki-sama, what would Cloud have to do in order to..."

Slurp. Ah. The ambrosia of the gods! It has been a long, long time!

Junko sweated slightly as she awaited the answer, but seeing him slurping still at his Ramen blissfully as if he wasn't concerned that a potentially deadly ninja was sitting beside him... well there was arrogance and there was confidence.

Deep inside, Junko was impressed at the blondes diplomacy tactic, since he did indeed hold the cards making the other guy sweat it out was pure genius.