Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto

"Windows to the Soul"
by Chronos Astral

Chapter 14:

'To Realize'


Where…?

His eyes opened, revealing before him a towering steel cage that looked strong enough to hold the biggest of monsters. Beyond its bars were a damp floor covered in a haze of never-ending darkness. Looking around, the same darkness threatened to envelop him as well. The vastness of the ethereal chamber itself made it hard to know if he was looking into the cage or was in fact inside of it.

"We meet again…" A dark monotone voice echoed from the other side of the bars. The silhouette of an approaching figure came forth from the darkness, its shadowed outline making up the form of a human child no older than thirteen. The form stopped just within the edge of the shadows, arms crossed, giving little illumination its features. Its most pronounced trait was its eyes that held pools of empty grey, set into a narrow, cold, and unblinking glare towards him. One could barely see its lips pressed into a tight scowl of wry apathy. What surprised him most was that the mysterious visitor had to be at least ten times smaller than he was.

Meet… Again?

For some reason, upon hearing the voice of the stranger, he found himself giving off a deep guttural growl, one that was far too animalistic for any human to make. He did it against his will, or rather, not of his own will at all. His body reacted as if it were naturally unliking, detesting even, of this being that had come before him.

Another shroud of a person came forth from the depths of blackness, looking almost eerily similar to the first one in shape and form. Its few distinct differences were that it seemed to have its hands clasped in front of it while its eyes were a calm soothing dark-green that looked to him with an empathetic gaze. It spoke warmly, with a voice that held kindness to its character and genuine compassion. "I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable. I'd have sincerely wished there was another way," It bowed, both out of respect and apology.

Oddly, he had responded snidely back at the remark with an intimidating tone that could not be imitated by mortal tongue. "If you're that apologetic about it, release me then…" It was a voice he did not recognize, a voice, he was sure, was not his own.

Another voice penetrated through the darkness, this one much more subdued, raspy, and had a certain accentuated moroseness to it. It spoke strangely, pausing and stressing words at unusual and needless points. "Such a s-s…sad miserable crea…ture. O-nce… so great now s-so powerless-s-s…" The speaker seemed to shuffle soundlessly to the left of the first interloper. Its figure was hunched over, arms dangling downwards lifelessly, head facing weakly towards the cage, and glowing sorrowful eyes of fuchsia staring at the prisoner in haunting scrutiny.

Once again, his reaction was not of his own will as he snarled at the three, baring his great canines at them. With a massive stomp of his dark red paw he bellowed. "Don't you mock me, whelp!! I'll kill you where you stand!!"

"Try… it c-creature…" The third one taunted, eyes flickering strangely with those words.

He did not know what came over him as he let out a tremendous soul-shaking roar and pounced at the bars, claws outstretched, intent on decimating the existence of the three strangers before him. Despite his impressive might, the bars held strong without so much as a scratch or dent, but he continued to claw at them in a rage-driven fervor whilst snapping his jaws in an attempt to faze them.

When did I have claws? Or this much teeth?

"Calm yourself." The middle one with grey eyes spoke again in an icy tone. With a gesture of its hands, a shockwave of pure force enveloped the cage, knocking the prisoner onto his back.

Amazingly, he did not feel the pain or disorientation of the impact, even as his body reacted to it.

I didn't feel anything… Is this just a dream?

Without him knowing, his body had set itself upright on all fours once more, gritting its many fangs as a sign of pure rage. "What are you?" He asked, or rather, the body of his host asked.

There was a pregnant pause, no one moving or flinching in the slightest.

Then, the middle one spoke with a puzzling finality. "You will know soon enough, Kyuubi."

Naruto's brilliant cerulean eyes fluttered open, the sight of his white bedroom ceiling greeting him from his bed. Confused for a moment, the boy held out his hand, noticing how it was no longer the dark red paw that he had possessed in his dream. Underneath his sheets was the same thirteen year old body he owned.

Naruto sighed, stroking his face and hair so as to confirm that this was no longer a dream.

Today, he was planning to have his friends get together for some training. Final examinations were fast approaching after all and it wouldn't do for even one of them to fail.

But even then, the memory of the demon fox's question came back.

'What are you?'

'What' indeed. Those three strangers… Somehow, in the pit of his soul, Naruto had the eerie feeling that they were closer than they appeared…


The next two weeks were going to be trying; Hyuuga Hinata was sure of that. After all, it was at the end of those two weeks that the final examinations would commence, and as the Hyuuga heiress, it was a cause of concern, since its results would dictate her future as a kunoichi. It wasn't just her heritage and family's reputation on the line; her friends and family were also counting on her to pass: Ino, Sakura, Hanabi-chan, Otou-sama (even if he said it was for the sake of the clan), Sasuke-san, and…

The dark-blue-haired girl let a wistful sigh escape her delicate lips as she gazed out of her bedroom window. Even after spending all this time with him, Hinata still didn't know what to make of the one blond that had changed her outlook of herself and thus, turning her life around for the better. She acknowledged that she admired him a great deal, not only for what he did for her in the past, but for the insurmountable strength and maturity that he constantly displayed. She also enjoyed his unique charm and personality, not to mention his handsome features, heart-melting smile, and developed body.

Hinata stifled a blush at the train of thought. She had to admit, the boy in question did have some very enticing muscles underneath his concealing gi even at his age, a somewhat pleasant fact that she, Ino, and Sakura have borne witness to the moment he had taken said apparel off his person. As inappropriate as it was, she couldn't help but have her eyes linger on his form a little longer than they should.

Those thoughts aside, there was one thing that bothered Hinata the most since their fateful reunion: Uzumaki Naruto was an enigma.

So puzzling were his mannerisms, so mysterious was his smile, so unfathomable were his very eyes that yet lay sealed away from her. She wished to know more, more about the perplexity that was her blond pillar of strength. She yearned to learn of his strengths, his weaknesses, his hopes, and his dreams, to understand his drive and his will.

These desires burned deeply in her heart, that, she knew, but why? Why did it feel so important for her to know? Was it just to repay his kindness from years ago, or was it something… else? There was a great longing there, a longing to do… something, a sort of pulling or tugging feeling that would always surface whenever he was around and whenever she thought of him. It was something she could not grasp. It felt so simple, and yet, so confusing, like she knew what it was but…

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on her door. "Ane-ue…" The muffled voice of a younger girl beckoned to her from the other side.

"Come in, Hanabi-chan," Hinata smiled as the door opened to reveal the small form of her little 10-year-old sister, Hyuuga Hanabi. She was a girl of very petite frame, an expected build for one so young, yet a little taller than most her age with a lithe and slender form achieved through constant training. Her hair was a long dark-brown, much like her cousin, Neji's, with the trademark white eyes of the Hyuuga and pale delicate skin. The Hyuuga kunoichi garbs, a dark shirt with a netted collar accompanied by a pair of dark kunoichi pants, hung loosely on her thin body. Her face and posture was that of a trained regality that showed her noble upbringing, but in her eyes were the softness and innocence of a child. Notably, wrapped around her wrist was a thick black thread that held a distinct yellow stone that glittered in the light of the sun.

"Ane-ue, aren't you supposed to be training for the exams?" The younger Hyuuga queried innocently with a hint of respect.

"Hmm… Yes I suppose I should be…" Hinata looked contemplative once more, putting a finger to her lips in thought.

Hanabi worriedly approached her older sister. "What's wrong, ane-ue?"

"It's nothing…" Hinata dismissed her sister's worries with a pleasant smile which only served to make her worry even more.

Another knock on the door alerted the two siblings, followed by another voice, the voice of one of the servants. "Hinata-sama,"

"You may come in." She said with formality and gentleness.

The servant complied, entering the room and gave the two Hyuuga heiresses a deep bow. "There is a visitor waiting for you in the garden: One Uzumaki Naruto." It was by luck that this particular servant was the one to have greeted Naruto when he visited the compound, for this one held no contempt over the Jinchuuriki's condition and also deeply respected the kindness that both Hinata and Hanabi showed to many of the Branch House members.

Hinata smiled while Hanabi had a strange twinkle in her eyes. "Thank you. Please tell him that I'll be with him shortly."

"Right away," There was a slight upturn of the servant's lips as he bowed once more and left to inform the blond boy before any of the less lenient Hyuuga's discover him.

Hinata turned to face her bedroom window a few more moments before addressing her younger sibling. "Shall we g-?"

Hanabi was already out the door.


Naruto grew to enjoy the visual quality of the Hyuuga gardens. Being an unwelcome guest in the home of the noble clan, he would often be snuck into the compound and onto the garden grounds for him to hide in every time he wanted to meet with Hinata. He was a little surprised the first time he visited when the servant that initially politely rejected him from entering the Main House had proposed to smuggle him into the lush greenery and have him wait there as he fetched the girl. Naruto had to smile and be thankful of the servant's good nature.

As he took in the vast decorative garden of the Hyuuga home, he couldn't help but be reminded of the flora of his own home. Though his was more natural, the garden nonetheless radiated with such tranquility made more blissful by the billowing of the wind.

Rapid footsteps in the grass alerted him of a presence approaching from behind. Excited breathes, a hurried beating of heart, followed with a rush of elation in a pool of innocence, all encompassed into one big smile.

"Naruto-sama!"

Naruto smiled as he sensed Hanabi rushing towards him from across the garden, laughing with ecstatic glee at the sight of him. Hinata followed in a more sedate pace, wearing her usual attire.

He turned about and spread his arms out in welcoming of the growing girl. The younger Hyuuga literally planted herself against him, arms encircling into a fierce hug around his back. "You're back, Naruto-sama!" She laughed in childish giddiness as if not having seen him in a long time. When it came to Naruto, keeping the image of a noble's daughter was the last thing on her mind. She'd let herself free from the burden of maintaining her image in favor of acting how she truly felt.

Naruto hugged her back, a playful smile donned on his features. "It's nice to see you again, Hanabi-chan." He rubbed her head affectionately which she responded with an amused giggle.

Hinata approached the duo, a tad uncomfortable having her sister snuggled up so close to the boy, but nonetheless grateful of his presence. "Ohayo, Naruto-kun,"

"Ohayo, Hinata-chan," He greeted back with a dazzling smile that always made both girls' hearts dance.

Stifling a blush that threatened to rise, she composed herself. "What brings you here, Naruto-kun?"

"I wanted to invite you over for some training. It's almost the exams after all and, despite my total confidence in you passing, I'd like to at least have ourselves improve on a few things before then,"

Again, Hinata was flustered. To know that he had confidence in her own abilities made her fluttery inside. Nearly stuttering, she replied. "I-I will go. Thank you."

"What about me, Naruto-sama?" Hanabi pouted cutely at him, not wanting to be left out.

"Hanabi-chan, you might get hurt," The elder Hyuuga warned in genuine concern.

Hanabi puffed her cheeks in defiance. "I'm not little anymore, ane-ue."

Naruto laughed amusedly, ruffling the littler girl's hair. "Of course you can come, Hanabi-chan. The training would benefit you as well, I'm sure,"

The little Hyuuga cheered with a new-found vigor, hugging the older boy tighter than before. Hinata was apprehensive of his decision but was heartened with a warm and reassuring smile from Naruto. The tugging feeling came at her in full force once more as she saw the tenderness from his upturned lips, melding ever-so-perfectly with his handsome features. Her face reddened to various degrees as she was torn between feeling confused, excited, and anxious. She settled for all three.

"U-um…" She'd gone back to stuttering, a habit she could have sworn she had broken years before.

Having a gift of near-omniscience, not to mention the ability to sense emotions, Naruto had caught onto his friend's uneasiness. "Something wrong, Hinata-chan? You seem nervous,"

"A-ah? Well um… Y-you see…" The flustered girl began tapping her fingers together, another bad habit that had resurfaced once more. She looked from left to right, trying her hardest to hide her immense blush yet failing utterly as Naruto only inched closer. "Y-you know…" She started, the tugging at her soul starting to pour out through her words. "I-I haven't properly thanked you for what you did for me back then when we were kids,"

Naruto pondered on the memory. "No, actually, I think you did thank me, with a hug, remember?"

"O-oh yes, I did do that," Fighting back an even bigger redness to her cheeks, she pushed on. "But I never realized how much it changed me and how much it helped me to be who I am today. I-if it wasn't for you, I might still just be as unconfident as I was back then, and I would never have earned the respect of my father or find the strength to fight,"

Naruto sensed warmth within her, a passionate resolve intertwined with an unending gratitude that seemed to fill her inside. He listened on in wonder to the girl that had once been so timid and now was so resolute with herself (albeit just a little timid at times).

In wide-eyed amazement, Hanabi watched her sister as well as she narrated the welling emotions in her heart.

"I feel that I am indebted to you, Naruto-kun, but I am not friends with you just because of what you've done for me. It's because I admire who you are that I want to be close to you. But again, I'd like to express my sincerest gratitude to you."

Hinata gave a sharp unhesitant bow before him. "Thank you so much, Naruto-kun…"

Naruto stood speechless, seeing how the girl had just genuinely poured her emotions, exposing a great part of her own soul before him, just for him. To be respected, revered, and admired to this degree, it made him feel important, a feeling that he had rarely ever felt. With a touched smile, he reached out with his fingers to gently cup her chin. She squeaked in slight surprise at the contact, but couldn't will herself to move away from his delicate touch. He moved her face up, allowing her to stand up straight once more and in one swift motion, he pulled her against him into a gentle hug.

The white-eyed girl gasped, surprised and dumbstruck at his reaction. The feel of his closeness and warmth had her nearly hyperventilating, not to mention the faint outline of his muscles molding together with her own body. The skin of the side of his face and neck brushed against hers with his warm breath tickling at her ears.

"It's you I should be thanking Hinata…" The way he spoke to her was different now; almost tempting and enticing in a way, yet still so gentle and warm, and the way his voice crept into her ears made her shiver in repressed excitement. She had been close to panting, her emotions raging so fiercely and chaotically that her mind had almost shut-down. "Both you and Hanabi…" His hands encircled her back, tenderly gliding up her spine. Hinata felt that if he didn't stop doing that she might either just faint or do something… inappropriate. She felt one of his hands wander over to her neckline, his fingers brushing the prized yellow stone hanging off her necklace.

"You've given me something far greater than what I've done for you," Hinata listened intently in flushed silence as the boy opened himself up to her, despite the unneeded (though admittedly nice) closeness.

In an amazing feat of will, she had found the voice to speak in a tone that was torn from being scared and excited with his answer. "W-what have I ever done for you, N-Naruto-kun?"

"You became my friend, Hinata. To me…" His voice changed suddenly, turning into an entrancing and hypnotic symphony that echoed from his lips to her ears in a pleasant resonance. "That's worth the world and more."

Naruto leaned his head back to face her, brilliant blue eyes looking into the depths of her own pale white.

Hinata gasped once again, imitated by that of her own sister, as they both gazed into his eyes.

'Kami… They're so… Beautiful…'

The two Hyuuga's lost themselves in his eyes, amazing fathomless pools of intense cerulean that revealed the raw emotion and very essence of his soul. They were mesmerizing, almost mystical and warm. The two saw in them the yearning for acceptance, for love, and for purpose. In his eyes, they felt the maelstrom of his spirit that breathed his life. It emitted an ethereal glow that was both soothing and entrancing to behold. If one looked closely enough, the twin pools would shift from a sublime blue to a tinted green.

Naruto watched the two girls stare at him like they were on the brink of nirvana, something that was beginning to make him uneasy. "Hinata-chan? Hanabi-chan?"

"Hai." Both replied in an eerie breathless synchronism that hinted at a blank or unfocused state of mind.

"Are you both… okay?"

"Hai." They responded again in their euphoric daze.

"Erm…" Naruto looked away sheepishly as they continued to stare. "Well… I'll meet you both at the usual place at noon?"

"Hai."

"Alright then..." Awkwardly, he took a few steps back from their half-lidded gaze. "I'll just go and fetch the others now… Bye…" He turned tail and leapt away, leaving the two dazed kunoichi-aspirants to their euphoria.

A few moments after the boy had left, the two Hyuuga's had finally snapped out of their daze, both confused, and yet, at the same time, enlightened.

Having exhausted all reserve of her will, Hinata's knees buckled from underneath her, forcing her to sit on the ground in a tired heap. 'I think I understand him a little better now…' Hinata thought to herself. 'And maybe… This feeling… Like when he hugged me…' The brief enlightenment quickly turned to embarrassment, as she remembered, in rather vivid detail, his tender embrace. For the nth time that day, her cheeks heated up uncontrollably and she couldn't help but bury her face in her hands. 'I have to admit… It felt really nice…'

'Maybe…'

She turned to face her sister, who, to her surprise, was busy eyeing her rather sharply. "Hanabi-chan?"

Hanabi scowled, white eyes boring into the identical ones of her sister's in a hostile light. She took a deep breathe and announced in an almost childish huff. "I won't let you have Naruto-sama!"

"R-reh!?"

The younger Hyuuga raced off for the Hyuuga home to ready her equipment, leaving a stunned Hinata to gawk bewilderedly at her retreating form.

"A-ah! Hanabi-chan, wait!" She ran after the smaller girl.

Perhaps she would ponder deeper into these thoughts later.


The pink-haired kunoichi-to-be swayed her legs from side to side atop her modest bed, the smallest indications of boredom starting to show on her face. The standard ninja academy handbook resting in her palms did little to abate her of her growing agitation. Because, having not only read the passages on said book but also having pretty much memorized nearly all of them, it would not be surprising for her to be frustrated.

"'A little review on your studies wouldn't hurt, sweetie.'" She said to herself, imitating her mother's words in an exaggerated fashion. "I've read this damn thing over five times already. Cut me a break, kaa-san." With a cry of frustration, she tossed the handbook into the air, fed up with studying the infernal text. She'd wanted to leave and go train or something but her mother practically kept her on lockdown until her two-hour study session was over. Unfortunately for her, she still had an hour left and there was absolutely nothing to pass the time with.

"Mou… I wish someone would come and save me…" The girl mused as she lat on her bed, staring at the ceiling of her room.

Her thoughts drifted over to a point in her life that she had been saved. She still remembered how her favorite blond friend had 'saved' her and instilled a drive within her to become stronger. To this day, it warmed her heart. It was something she would never forget.

"Are you that bored, Sakura-chan?"

"Very…" Sakura's eyes widened as the voice registered in her brain. Her head swiveled quickly towards the source, which, apparently, was right next to her.

"Ohayo Sakura-chan." Naruto's beaming face greeted her from a mere ruler apart.


A woman of middle-age with an interesting mane of long pink hair busied herself with dutifully carrying out her duties as a loving wife and mother.

"Iiiiiiiiiyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaa!"

The shrill cry of her only daughter made her drop the laundry basket she was carrying. The woman swiveled her head at the direction of the noise, maternal instincts kicking in as she rushed up to the source of the commotion: her daughter's room. She made a grab for a nearby broom and barged into the room, brandishing the aforementioned cleaning utility as a weapon against whatever danger her beloved child had befallen.

"Sakura!?" The woman screeched in worry, her normally beautiful emerald eyes bloodshot in her mad panic.

"Gah! O-okaa-san!?" Sakura retracted at the sight of her mother bursting into her room, broom in hand, with the look in her eyes that would have made armies (Sakura's father included) cower in surrender.

After several heavy huffs and a thorough scan of the room, Sakura's mother proceeded to calm down, sheathing her impromptu weapon. She turned to her daughter, who was still a bit shaken and looked curiously nervous. "Sakura? I heard you scream. What's wrong?"

"W-well… That's because… I saw a bug!" Sakura said a little too quickly, followed by a nervous laugh. "I-it flew right in front of my face a-and I got surprised. That's all."

Mrs. Haruno narrowed her eyes at her daughter's unconvincing tone of voice, making the smaller girl sweat in her intense scrutiny, eyes darting left and right for a means of escape. Then, just as quickly, her face warped into a motherly smile. "Oh is that all?" The older Haruno chuckled amusedly. "My, my. For a kunoichi-to-be, you're still so surprised by such things." She ruffled her daughter's hair affectionately. "Sorry for barging in. I hope I haven't disturbed your studies."

"N-not at all." Sakura forced a crooked grin.

The mother tried budging the door slightly, noticing how the hinges had been damaged by her untimely intervention. "I'll get your father to fix that." With a quick wave and smile, she exited the room, closing the door behind her.

A few moments afterwards, Sakura heaved a relieved sigh, wiping the sweat that had collected on her somewhat-larger-than-average brow. "You're going to have to teach me how to do that someday, Naruto." Her head turned upwards to the hidden figure above.

"Your mother seems like a delightful person." Naruto chuckled bemusedly as he sat on the ceiling, his chakra applied to the surface so as to prevent him from falling.

"Could you come down from there? It's hard to talk to you when your face is upside-down."

"Hai, hai." The blond removed himself from the ceiling and soundlessly landed atop the bed in the same sitting position as before. He looked to Sakura with an apologetic smile. "Sorry for causing all this, though."

"It's fine, really. Okaa-san can just really be scary sometimes." The pinkette shivered in fear of all recollected instances of her mother in her 'maternal rampages'. "How did you get in here, anyway?"

"Window." He pointed simply to the aforementioned opwn window.

Her narrow-eyed look spoke a silent 'You can't be serious', but his honest smile pretty much answered it all and she slowly shook her head at the incredulity that was Uzumaki Naruto. "But anyway, what's up?"

"Ah, that's right." Naruto grinned, having nearly forgotten his reason for coming. "I wanted to invite you over for some training with the rest of us. With the exams coming up, I thought now would be as good a time as any."

"Sounds good. I'm in." Inwardly, Sakura cheered ecstatically having found a means to relieve her of her growing boredom. Her 'study-lockdown' period would be over soon, anyway.

Sakura then noticed Naruto looking over at her table, or more specifically, the neatly folded handkerchief that lay on top of it. It was lined with soft brown edges, its body colored light beige. Its most noticeable features were the brown swirls that patterned its entire body.

"You kept it..." He said more as a statement than a question. He picked it up, studying its creased and worn state with a nostalgic melancholy.

At once, Sakura felt embarrassed. The handkerchief had become a symbolism of her change and drive brought upon by the very boy that stood before her; something that she had grown to cherish and hold as a secret. She was very conscious of the item, trusting no one, friend or family, with its care. To see it being held once more by the very person that it reminded her of was one thing, but having that person know that she had kept it after all these years would have been all too embarrassing.

"A-ah. W-well you see…" She turned to face him and breathe was taken away by the sight.

The blond stood before her, focused solely on the handkerchief in his hands. His eyes were finally open, revealing to her the dazzling blue orbs within. His face was mesmerizing in the light of the sun, eyes twinkling with a glitter that danced in the twin pools of cerulean, and his hair shining in its sun-kissed glory. But none had compared to the longing smile that graced his lips, a smile that spoke out his very emotion, and melted the girl's heart. All she could do was stare mesmerized into those extraordinary eyes, mouth hanging slightly agape in sheer wonder.

'He looks so… handsome…' Deep within, a voice stirred, relaying her very thoughts. It was a voice quite similar to hers, but deeper and more uninhibited. 'So much you want to just jump him...' As shameless as the thought was, she couldn't find it in herself to disagree.

After what felt like a blissful eternity, Naruto had come to his senses, looking up from his friend's prized memento to face her. "Ahaha, I'm sorry. I got lost in the memory for a moment there." His eyes twinkled as he laughed, pulling Sakura deeper into entrancement.

'His eyes…' Her own emerald green stared longingly into the boy's deep cerulean blue. 'You could just stare at them forever…' Her inner persona added once more.

"I am grateful that you kept it, even though you didn't need to." He drew closer to her, his lips still locked in a smile.

Sakura paid no attention to his words as she was enamored with his closeness, watching how his smooth blond locks would sway with each of his steps and how it glistened softly in the sunlight. 'His hair looks smooth to the touch… It must smell nice too…'

"Sakura-chan?" She briefly shivered at the mention of her name. "Are you feeling alright?" Inquisitively, Naruto had tilted his head to the side, noting her sudden light-headed appearance.

'His lips look so soft…' Her attention turned to the blond's lips, drinking in its every detail. Her inner persona continued voicing her deepest desires. 'Makes you wonder how sweet they'd taste…' In an involuntary motion, she licked her lips.

"Is there something on my face?" Although his unique enhanced senses wouldn't have failed to notice anything out of the usual on his own face, the way she seemed to be openly gaping at him made him think otherwise.

'No. There is nothing on your gorgeous face…' She inwardly replied. 'Though I'd gladly lick it clean to be sure…'

"Sakura-chan?"

BAM! CRASH!

The violent crash snapped Sakura from her trance as her head snapped towards the disturbance where the faint outline of an older pink-haired woman could be seen within the smoke that had kicked up from the destruction.

"AHA!" The intimidating form of Mrs. Haruno burst into the room, knocking the door off its hinges. Smoke filtered out her flared nostrils like an angry bull ready to charge, the broom from before once again held steadily in her hands. Her bloodshot eyes scanned the room thoroughly before turning to the awakened form of her daughter. "Where is he!?" She demanded with such authority it had nearly made Sakura soil herself.

"W-who?" Sakura fearfully whimpered.

"The boy you were talking to!! You know how I feel about boys at your age coming into our home, young lady!!" She screeched, wringing the wooden handle of her broom tightly, almost splintering the poor cleaning utility. "Where is he!?" Her eyes flashed towards the open window, its curtains fluttering gently against the wind. She approached the window and peeked her head outside, spotting nobody on the street below.

The woman blinked curiously, pulling herself back into the room to address her daughter once more. "There was a boy here… Wasn't there?" She queried.

"A-ah… N-no?" Came her daughter's subdued form of an answer.

A brief silence followed.

Then, laughter.

"Ahaha. Is that right? Silly me, I must have misheard," The older Haruno laughed pleasantly to herself, all traces of menace in the forms of bulging veins and red eyes replaced with an embarrassed smile.

She took notice of the door she had just totaled and gasped. "Oh my! I'm so sorry, dear!" Mrs. Haruno attempted to forcefully shove the door back into place. The doorknob simply fell off, accompanied by the door itself which crumbled into a heap. "Err… I'll get your father to fix that later."

In an attempt to lighten up the situation, the woman clapped her hands and smiled. "Well, as an apology for causing so much grief, I'll give you the week to do what you want. Just be sure to get back to your studies soon, 'kay dear?"

At a loss for words, Sakura resolved to nod dumbly.

"Okay then. Now shoo, I have a lot of cleaning to do." Sakura's mother waved her away, a request that Sakura was all too happy to oblige, scampering through the broken doorway like a frightened mouse.

She exited her home, heaving a sigh of relief.

'Damn, Okaa-san…' A grim thought passed her followed by another: 'She ruined the moment…'

The pinkette's head snapped upwards in surprise. Had she really thought that? In fact… Had she thought all those things while she was with Naruto?

Her face turned a beet red as she recalled her trance-like euphoria as she gazed upon the eyes of the boy she deeply respected and admired. Her blush grew in intensity with each recollection of every dirty thought that had escaped her. What was worse was that she couldn't actually deny them.

'He is… rather attractive… What am I saying!?'

Rapidly, Sakura shook her head, banishing the very idea.

'It's probably just hormones…' She concluded. Though, in the back of her mind, she knew and hoped that it was something more.


The melody of sweet sensual humming could be heard within the room of one Yamanaka Ino, or, to be more precise, from her bathroom. The telltale signs of a shower could be heard in the background as water pattered noisily on tiled floor and steam filtered through the door to said bathroom. From within a pre-teen girl of barely thirteen years old emerged with one towel wrapped around her maturing frame and another being used to dry her platinum blonde hair. Had it not been for said towel, she would have noticed the boy that was sitting on her bed.

"Ino-chan," He said, making the girl stop abruptly in surprise. "You have a lovely voice…"

Slowly, Ino turned her head towards the familiar voice, her teal eyes locked onto blond hair that was more yellow than hers and a smile that seemed to never falter. "Naruto…? What are you doing in-?"

The gears in her head started to click to life, putting the scene into perspective:

There was a boy in her room. She happened to be inside that room. And she was naked.

It took about two seconds.

And she would have very well screamed at the top of her lungs had it not been for the hand that covered her mouth. All that was heard was a muffled "Mmmmmmpphh!!"

"Haha. Sorry Ino-chan, but I think it would be better for me not to have a repeat of what happened with Sakura-chan," Naruto grinned apologetically, keeping the female blonde at bay with one hand clamped over the lower half of her face.

The girl struggled against him, using all her strength to pry him from herself and trying to flail her body so as to throw the boy off-balance. If not for the fingered appendage that impaired her speech, those of nearby proximity would have heard her loud exclamations of death-threats and various profanities. Instead, any sound that escaped her lips was a suppressed muffle.

Moments pass and Ino hasn't relinquished her relentless assault. Seeing as the situation wouldn't be progressing any better and the fact that the blonde girl's towel was slowly easing off her body due to her movements, Naruto sought to pacify his enraged friend. How?

With a little nostalgia.

"Mmmph!?" Ino's eyes opened wide in surprise as she felt a warm hand take hold of her shoulder. Before she had any time to protest, Naruto's hand began to caress her deltoids with firm loving tenderness, molding it like putty with practiced ease. It was then that she noticed the faint coursing of chakra being channeled into her own body, further enhancing the kneading sensations he made. It took a great amount of effort not to moan in ecstasy.

As he saw that Ino's outcries died down, he confirmed it safe to remove his hand from her face and rest it on her other shoulder which he also began caressing with the delicacy and expertise of a certified masseur.

"Mmnnn…" Despite her best efforts, the young Yamanaka couldn't help but let small whimpers of pleasure filter through her lips. These sensations were ones she had sorely missed since her childhood and it was only Naruto who could make her feel this way. All other masseurs/masseuses failed in comparison to his magical hands.

"Ino-chan…" His voice sounded soft and sweet like honey to her ears. "It's okay. I can tell you're a little conscious and embarrassed, but I assure you…" With emphasis to those words, his hands trailed down to her exposed upper-back, pushing just a little chakra to tickle the surface of her skin. "That you can trust me as I would trust you."

Ino turned to look the boy, a beautiful smile gracing his handsome features as he gazed back through his lidded eyes. She was taken aback at his smile. It radiated with such innocence and assurance that it made her feel like she could trust him with her life.

Her consciousness of her own naked body fell away with a content smile of her own, giving in to the pleasurable ministrations of her friend's loving caress.


"Hey… Ino-chan?"

"Nnn…?"

"I need to get going,"

"Mnnn…!"

"I still have to call on Sasuke to join us,"

"Mmm…"

"Haha. Don't be like that Ino-chan. I'll do this for you again,"

"Mn?"

"Yes, I promise,"

"…"

"You will be joining us, right?"

"… Mmm."

"Wonderful!"

With that said, Naruto sat up after finishing his massage on the blonde girl, much to Ino's groaning displeasure. To her, time couldn't possibly have elapsed to thirty minutes so soon. Then again, the feeling of Naruto's expert hands melding with the skin and muscles of her back pretty much overpowered her sense of time (and any of her other senses in general). In fact, it still didn't matter to her that she was still in a state of undress.

Shakily, Ino herself tried to get up from her bed, albeit with great difficulty as the blond boy's massage had left her in a euphoria that felt like she had taken a pleasant 100 year nap. A good portion of her mind had protested in making any effort as her body had been blessed with such comfort and bliss.

'Definitely better than before…' She thought to herself. The Naruto before her had definitely gotten more experienced with his use of chakra, evident in how wonderful it was compared to before. She was sure that Naruto would never try anything with her and her trust paid off immensely. He didn't eye her like a piece of meat like some of her more perverted classmates did. In fact, it didn't seem to bother him or even register in his mind that what lay on a bed was a beautiful, vulnerable, and, most of all, naked kunoichi. The fact that he was touching her didn't faze him for a moment and his hands didn't roam into areas she believed were off-limits.

It was an odd and yet welcoming sensation to have someone this close without worrying if they would hurt or take advantage of her. It was like being with her closest friends and yet, so much more.

"Hey, Naruto…"

She supposed she could get used to this feeling of closeness; this bond that could evolve into something stronger.

"Yes, Ino-chan?"

After all, it was with the boy that had, knowingly or not, become her pillar and source of strength.

She elevated herself on her elbows, her body still sprawled on top of her bed, the sheets only partly covering her, and her platinum blonde hair untied and spilled onto her bed and her on her shoulders. The sunlight that illuminated through the curtains outlined the curves of her developing body and the smoothness of her creamy white skin.

The sight would have been enough to get most boys hot under the collar. But again, Naruto has proven himself unlike most men as he gazed unflinchingly at the form of his friend.

"Thanks."

'For everything…'

Naruto sensed the gravity of her gratitude; the hidden words that she was meaning to say. Her bright cheery smile said it all.

The young Uzumaki couldn't help but smile back, with his eyes revealed to Ino in genuine compassion.

"You're welcome…"

As Ino stared into his eyes, twin pools of the most brilliant blue, deeper and vaster than any ocean, all she could hear was the loud beating of her own heart.

It was then that she realized, Naruto had been the only boy, the only person that had touched her this way; that made her feel this way. This feeling of utter completion. She could trust no one else to do the same. Perhaps that was why she had been so distant from any other boy, for it was only he that she allowed to get this close. Only that one boy. Only Naruto.

In his eyes she saw this. She confirmed it.

"Bye…"

She didn't notice that the boy had already left her room until the sound of the window fluttering open had snapped her from her thoughts. In fascination and wonder, she watched the boy flit through the roofs of Konoha in an expertise that would have taken months of practice.

Ino was left alone to her thoughts, slightly dazed and confused as to what had just happened. It was as if the moment the boy's eyes were open, the entire universe clicked into place. Now that her brief entrancement had subsided and her friend had departed from her bedroom, she started to feel rather cold, something expected to happen due to her unclothed state and the breeze that passed through her window.

The young Yamanaka shivered at her exposure to the cold winds, wrapping her blanket closer to her body.

Now was not the time to delve deeper into these thoughts. Right now, she needed to get dressed and ready for the meeting.

It would have been a simple feat. Of course, it had been made more difficult as her entire body felt like jelly and it took a great amount of will to just lift a wrist. She cursed at how comfortable her bed suddenly felt.

This would most probably take a while.

"Augh! My legs refuse to move!"

A very long while.


He was here again. As he always was. As he always wished to be.

Maybe it was a weakness, as many attachments were, or at least that's what he had taught himself to think. Even so, in all his bitterness, he could not find the heart to abandon one of the few things that still gave him a reason to live.

The memory of his family.

The raven-haired boy sat there before the many gravestones that lined the vast Uchiha estate room that housed its many passed ancestors and family members. His arms rested on his knees while he craned his head in his arms. Onyx eyes cast over the many memorial stones before him, glued to two in particular. The engraved words did both to provide a sense of purpose and also an unfathomable sorrow. It was words that would forever weigh a burden into the lone boy's heart.

'Uchiha Fugaku'

'Otou-san…'

'Uchiha Mikoto'

'Okaa-san…'

The youth hugged his legs closer to himself, his eyes, though not betraying a shred of emotion, remained downcast on the floor. And he remained this way, sitting on the floor and in the darkness of the unlit room he had once called home. But it was not his home anymore. Homes were supposed to be places of security; of peace and of comfort. He felt no such thing in those lonely halls. It might have housed him, but he could hardly call such a cold, dark place his home.

It was then that light had violently assaulted his eyes, leaving him temporarily blind and disoriented as stumbled over himself. He stood up in alert, feverishly rubbing at his eyes so as to recover from the brief flash and finally surveying the room to ascertain any threat or intruder.

"Sorry. Did I scare you?" A familiarly pleasant voice alerted the raven-haired youth to the direction behind him. He caught sight of a blond youth that was roughly his age, marks resembling whiskers trailing the sides of his cheeks, and his hand hanging off a light switch which had been the most probable cause of the light bulb having suddenly gone on.

Still a little bewildered and having some difficulty adjusting to the drastic change of illumination, he could only respond somewhat hesitantly. "Wh-wha? Naruto?"

"Haha. I just thought it was a little too dark in here so I helped myself to the lights here. Hope you don't mind, Sasuke." Naruto chuckled amusedly to himself, an act that Sasuke frowned upon slightly as he didn't find anything particularly amusing.

"Why are you here?" The Uchiha asked briskly, rather irked at having been disturbed so abruptly.

"I was going to ask you if you wanted to join the rest of us for some training this afternoon. The usual place," Naruto grinned, trying to abate some of the Uchiha's initial agitation. Fortunately enough, it had worked to some degree and Sasuke had calmed down a little, though his scowl was still present.

Again, Sasuke could feel the strange, relaxing aura that his blond friend always exhumed with his presence, a perplexity he has never been able to understand. There was just something about the blond enigma that was incomprehensible, inhuman in a sense. The fact that he smiled almost all the time and how he never saw the need to open his eyes to actually see anything surrounding just added to how strange a character this Uzumaki Naruto was.

"Sasuke? Are you listening?"

The raven-haired boy grumbled something under his breath, a little uncertain of what to do. He did want to train, but then again, he wanted to spend a bit more time to himself. That's all he's ever wanted these days. Just to be left alone.

"Y'know, Sasuke…" Naruto said, pausing a while to get his companion's attention. "It really isn't healthy just sitting around in the dark like this. You need to get out into the sun more and enjoy life while you still can. You need to stop moping and have a little fun,"

Sasuke turned his head away, shadowing his eyes underneath his black bangs. "'Fun'? As aspiring ninja, we don't have the luxury of time for fun. It only distracts us from our goals as ninja. It won't make us any stronger," He replied in a monotonous tone.

The boy's head snapped up in surprise as his blond companion started to laugh. "What's so funny?"

"I'm sorry. It's just that, even though what you say is true for a ninja, it still sounded like you needed to get out more,"

The small jibe at Sasuke's apparently poor social life made his eyebrow twitch. "What do you mean by that?"

Naruto made a grin, catching Sasuke off-guard for a moment. "Well, aspiring ninja or not, we're still human. We can't live on our ambitions and goals at every single moment of our lives, can we?"

"And what if it's our only reason for living!?" The Uchiha spat back, showing an aggression that had not resurfaced since the day they first fought. "What if your very reason for being alive is to accomplish your ambition!? What then!?"

"Then, like I said, you need to get out more," Naruto replied in a sagely, almost playful tone. "You can't honestly believe that all there is to life is to simply live to realize your goals. There is far more to it than just that."

Apprehensive, Sasuke looked at his friend in the eye and asked. "What more is there?"

A moment of silence followed as Naruto thought on this question. With a satisfied smile, the young demon-vessel calmly strode over to the Uchiha, feeling the presence of doubt and uncertainty within his fellow genin-to-be, but nonetheless continued. He stopped in front of the boy, placing a supporting hand on his shoulder. "Well…"

"Why don't you come to the light and find out, Sasuke-chan?"

'S-Sasuke-chan!?'

Outraged at the nickname, Sasuke's eyes narrowed dangerously, the edges of his scowling lips twitched in indignation.

"C'mon, Sasuke-chan!" The blond beckoned to him as he ran out the door, laughing to himself all the way.

"Oi! Naruto-ani!" Sasuke was about to give chase, but paused briefly to look around.

The room did look a great deal nicer with the lights on. He had never bothered to look for the light switch during the times he had visited, mostly because of how emotionally vulnerable he was in that place. Now that he thought about it, the place looked less like a place of eternal sorrow. He could clearly see the engravings on each of the stones and the memorial pictures mounted on each of them. With the new illumination, the picture of his mother's and father's smiling faces was clearly visible. Somehow, in a strangely satisfying sort of way, he felt stupid to have never tried to find that light switch.

In the rarest of times, Sasuke allowed himself a ghost of a smile. He still didn't understand what it was that his new surrogate brother was trying to tell him, and maybe Naruto didn't expect him to, at least not so soon. Hopefully, someday he would.

Through right now, he had a blond to catch. It would be his new resolution to ensure that nobody ever called him 'Sasuke-chan' again.


The pale-eyed duo waited patiently on the grassy terrace that was the training area. Well, in actuality, the older of the two was the one waiting patiently whilst the smaller one swayed her legs back and forth as she sat atop a tree stump. Garbed in their individual sparring outfits, Hinata wore her usual jacket over the traditional Hyuuga kunoichi uniform and while Hanabi wore the same, minus the jacket.

Across from them was a girl of the same age as the eldest of them who had a unique mop of pink hair and was wearing her red training garb. Sakura stood leaning on a tree, also waiting for the rest of their group to meet.

"Hey, Sakura," Hinata said as she spotted a figure through the foliage. "Isn't that Ino?"

Sakura turned to the direction Hinata had pointed at, indeed, seeing a limping and almost tired looking Yamanaka Ino who had her purple training ensemble for the occasion. The platinum blonde was dragging herself in an odd fashion, as if her limbs did not want to move with her. She also looked rather sleepy, or more precisely, unresponsive.

Concerned, Sakura ran over to her friend, supporting her like she was dead weight. "What happened to you, Ino?"

Ino turned a lazy eye towards the pinkette and mumbled a dead-panned: "The best massage of my entire life,"

Though the pink-haired Haruno didn't hear Ino's answer very well, she nonetheless helped to a tree she could lean on.

It was then that a raven-haired boy entered the scene, looking a little sweaty and winded from having run all the way there. In the standard Uchiha shirt and his white shorts, Sasuke stood surveying the group, wiping some of the sweat that had accumulated on his brow. He looked at each of them, raising a curious brow at the state Ino was in and at the young Hyuuga that he had never met before. "Where's Naruto-ani? He should have gotten here before I did,"

"Wasn't he with you?" Hinata asked.

Sasuke shrugged. "I thought he had gone ahead of me, so I dunno where he went."

"I'm over here guys!" The sweet melodic voice of their blond de-facto leader called to them.

Walking towards them in a sedate and regal pace was Uzumaki Naruto in his traditional hakama and gi, his hand raised up in a waving gesture and his lips upturned into his usual dazzling smile. Although, he wasn't alone.

By his side was a girl, a kunoichi, to be more precise, evident in the Konoha headband wrapped over her forehead. Her brown hair, the same color as that of her eyes, was tied into two identical buns on the sides of her head. She wore a sleeveless pink top of some foreign descent, with dark-green kunoichi pants, a weapons pouch fastened to her right leg, and the standard blue ninja sandals.

She didn't seem like the kind of kunoichi to stand out too much, but the fact that she was in rather close proximity with Naruto seemed to irk the other females and one quirked eyebrow from the other male in the group.

As the two drew closer, the newcomer glanced over the other assembled girls and involuntarily twitched her right eye.

Naruto had felt the unrest amongst his friends and so decided to lighten the mood with an introduction. He stepped aside to fully display his companion to them. "I'd like you all to meet TenTen. She's an old friend of mine from way back. I happened to bump into her on my way here and look-" He put an arm around the bun-haired girl and tapped at the metal protector on her head. "She's already a genin. Impressive isn't it?" The contact, though unwarranted, along with the small praise made the new girl flush just a little as the scowls of the other girls' present deepened.

"Anyway, TenTen, along with Hanabi-chan, which you've already met as that cute little girl over there (Hanabi looked down in embarrassment), will be joining us in our training from now on. I'm sure her experience with the final examinations as well as her experience as a genin will be beneficial to us. Her skills in kenjutsu are also top-notch for someone her age so I'm sure she can teach us a few things, ne Ten-chan?"

Again, the many compliments along with her little nickname served to embarrass TenTen even further. There was a mild blush across her face, but she otherwise did not falter in greeting back. "It's a pleasure to meet you all," She bowed briefly, aware of the suspicious eyes that were hawking at her.

Ino, Sakura, Hinata, and even Hanabi eyed the new girl with a level of uncertainty, as TenTen did the same to them. Then they focused their eyes towards Naruto, who was currently conversing with Sasuke about something or other, and then to each other, shifting glances back and forth from each female member. There was the tiniest hint of hostility there, not just towards TenTen, but amongst them as well. They didn't know what the growing tension was or why it was happening amongst themselves, but one thing was for certain:

They were not backing down without a fight.

"Hey, Naruto-ani…" Sasuke looked over the silent stare-down of the girls. "What are they doing?"

"Hmmm…" Though Naruto could sense hostility and competition blooming, he did not see the reason why. "I honestly don't know, but whatever it is, I'm sure they can resolve it amongst themselves," Naruto grinned mischievously. "Now let's train, Sasuke-chan!"

"I-I told you not to call me that!" Sasuke yelled indignantly. But his anger disappeared as he felt the prickling glares of the females from behind him. Somehow, in a distorted sort of way, they saw him as a threat as well.

'A threat to what!?'

"Sasuke-chan, hurry up!"

"D-damn it! Stop calling me that!" The raven-haired boy stomped off for the blond, leaving the girls to confirm a solid fact:

Everyone was a threat. Possibly even Sasuke.

"C'mon guys! We're burning daylight!" Naruto beckoned the rest of his company.

"Coming!" Was their simultaneous reply.


A/N

Ye Gods, I deeply and most sincerely apologize for the horrible delay on the update. Some crazy stuff going on around here back at home so I wasn't able to update for a while. As compensation, I made this chapter uber longer than I usually do. It's nearly FIVE TIMES the size of my regular chapters.

Again, I shall say, there shall be absolutely no yaoi. I might just imply the subtlest kind only for the sake of comedy.

I'll be advancing the story soon, so please be a little more patient with me. Thanks!

Chronos out.