Standard Procedure:

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the characters used in this chapter.


Sasuke grunted as he kicked at a bush, not bothering to step over it. He looked around in annoyance as he recalled exactly why he was out after midnight.

He was out looking for the dobe – not that he cared about Naruto, but the fact that Naruto hadn't come back yet again was bothering him; if something had happened to him, or he was dead, then it could serve to alert the other, more competent ninja (Himself and Kakashi, of course). And Naruto had proven to be a valuable ally in the last battle, against a jounin level ninja no less- and could (hopefully) prove to be just as useful in another fight. Yeah, that was what it was.

Anyway, he was out in the near pitch black at an ungodly hour looking for the dumbest ninja in his group, and had been for a good ten minutes. Yet still there was no sign of the dobe anywhere. 'Maybe he went back while I was out?' Sasuke frowned at the thought – it would be just like the idiot to go home when someone finally came out looking for him. Sasuke sighed internally, sure right now that that was had happened, and turned around to start heading back to Tazuna's place.

He blinked as he almost right away stumbled upon the sleeping body of Naruto. Sasuke frowned again.

'The idiot fell asleep training?' He thought. It was obvious enough – there were marks all around the clearing, and the dobe's clothes were dirty and torn from whatever he had been doing. There was also a kunai in his hand, and he was sure the idiot wasn't unconscious, only out from exhaustion. He sighed, debating whether or not to drag the moron back to Tazuna's. 'I should leave him here, no one would care…'

"Oi…teme…" Sasuke jerked at the sudden noise, before narrowing his eyes at the other boy.

"You're awake?" Sasuke frowned walking over to the other boy and soon realized that Naruto was still sleep, as his eyes were closed and he didn't seem to really be paying any attention to Sasuke.

"Sasuke-teme…Lay off my ramen…you bastard…" Sasuke snorted as he looked down at the blonde.

"May as well," he muttered as he knelt down and grabbed the other boy right below the shoulders, ready to hoist him over one of his own, when the blinked as he noticed something beneath his jacket. The thing, torn up as it was, wasn't doing as good a job as it could to cover the boy, and Sasuke could see some bandages beneath the jacket and shirt, through some holes.

'The idiot hurt himself?' He frowned as he released his hold on the boy. 'If he's been hurt, then he should have told someone. He tries to be so tough, but if he went into a fight and no one knew he was injured he would be a liability of the worst kind.' his frown deepened and he unzipped Naruto's obscenely orange jacket, then pulled up his shirt. The bandages were only around the upper part of his torso.

"He doesn't look too hurt…" Sasuke grumbled as he put a hand on the dobe's chest. He frowned as he searched for an injury that might warrant such an extensive use of bandages, not caring at the moment whether or not he aggravated it. His frown turned from one of mild annoyance to one of curiosity, as he couldn't find anything. 'Is it an internal injury?' he thought. That would have been worse, but somehow Sasuke doubted that it was something inside. 'He's just being stupid… Probably thinks it's cool or something.'

"Don'…Don' touch those, you bastard…" Naruto's voice came again, and Sasuke froze, feeling that he'd been caught. Annoyed, he glanced at Naruto's face, only to see that the idiot had been talking in his sleep again. Although… for some reason, the boy's cheeks were tinted pink. He glared at the boy for having tricked him (even if unintentionally). He looked down at the bandages again shook his head, hoisting him over his shoulder as he made his way back to Tazuna's place.

They arrived within minutes, and once inside Sasuke grunted with a little effort as he laid the other boy on a futon, as he wondered for the nth time that night why he had even cared enough to bring the idiot back. He paused as he stood up and looked down at the boy; apparently all the jumping Sasuke had done through the trees had jostled the other boy enough so that the grimy bandages were totally loose and all but falling off.

'He's not hurt at all.' Sasuke frowned as he moved the bandages around. "Just as I thought. What a waste of…" Sasuke froze as the bandages finally came off. His eyes widened and they immediately shot up to Naruto's face and down to his chest again. 'This… These are…' He poked the other boy's chest just to make sure that the twin mounds of flesh were real, and not a figment of his imagination. He looked up and Naruto's face seemed to be turning red again in his sleep. He looked around before deciding to perform one last test.

Slowly, nervously, as though afraid of what he'd find, he started moving a hand down towards Naruto's pants.

'Wait a minute. What am I doing?' He shook his head as he glared at Naruto's pants, then up at Naruto's face for causing his troubles. He steeled himself and quickly reached down, gripped the hem of the orange pants and Naruto's boxer shorts before lifting them up, stealing a glance and then letting go of them as if they were on fire. He stood up stiffly and stared down at the blonde ninja with a severe twitch in his face, trying desperately to keep his cool.

He suddenly noticed that the room seemed extremely warm, dropped a blanket on her haphazardly and bolted out, stopping only at the genkan to put his sandals back on. Once he was outside, he took a few calming breaths and tried to regain his composure.

'That was totally unexpected.' He thought. Several thoughts and emotions flickered through him at that moment; surprise, irritation and mostly confusion. Surprise that the dobe of all people was female, irritation for not having figured it out earlier, and confused that the idiot was doing such a thing in the first place. He shook his head and sighed in irritation; this upset his entire opinion of Naruto. Before, Naruto had been simple, but now he…

'No, she.' He reminded himself, was quickly becoming a puzzle. There was no way the moron knew how to keep a jutsu up in his…her sleep; no, it was far more realistic that the dead last of Konoha had been a girl all along. And because of that, many things the dobe had done were not making sense, which meant he would have to re-evaluate the idiot completely.

Sasuke put his hands in his pockets as he walked away from Tazuna's, deep in thought.


Naruto yawned groggily as she rubbed her eyes with a frown on her face.

'Uhh…' She slowly opened her eyes as she took in her surroundings. She sat up and slowly became more alert as she realized she was not outside in the forest, but in the room that she shared with Sasuke. A quick glance told her that Sasuke was already gone, but that she was not alone. Kakashi was sitting in the room with her, reading his chosen literature. 'Wait a minute…I fell asleep outside like the other days… what am I doing here?' She tried to think of a reason she could be there and blinked as it came to her suddenly.

'Kakashi-sensei must have gotten worried about me and carried me home…' She thought, looking at her teacher gratefully. She yawned and looked down at her chest under the blanket as she realized that her bindings had gotten a loose. 'Good thing Sasuke's not here,' She thought as she took off her jacket. 'And it's a good thing I brought an extra jacket too…'

"O-oi, sensei," she called out. "I'm gonna get a change of clothes on," she said, holding up her torn jacket.. Kakashi looked at her from the corner of his eye and blinked.

"Okay, but why do you insist on wearing the bandages under the shirt? I think the shirt and jacket together are enough to hide those…" He joked. Naruto stuck out her tongue at him. "Before I go, did you by chance hear or see Sasuke leaving after you got back?" Naruto blinked at that and thought for a moment.

"…I didn't see him," She said, frowning. "But sensei, didn't you bring me back? Wouldn't you have seen him leave?"

"I was in my own room when I felt him leaving…" Kakashi said evasively as he pocketed his book and then grabbed his crutches to stand. "I just thought he might have mentioned where he was going or how long." Naruto's frown deepened at that and she cocked her head to the side as she crossed her arms, thinking. 'He's been gone for a while? And hasn't come back yet…' Naruto's eyes widened.

"You think maybe he was ambushed or something?" She asked excitedly. "And then it'll be my job to rescue him! Heheh, and he'll finally realize who's the better ninja," she muttered the last part under her breath. Kakashi started sweating as he heard that last part.

"Naruto…" He started. 'If you came to help in a situation like that it would probably go from bad to worse, as you are now…' "…Don't worry about Sasuke. I'm sure he's fine." He stood and started hobbling out of the room. "Breakfast should be ready soon, so hurry up and come down," he said as he exited.

"All right, then…" She said as she pulled off her shirt (which had for some reason been pulled up…) to re-adjust the bandages. Once she was done with that, she decided her shirt was well enough as it was before putting it back on and grabbed her pack and pulled out her spare jacket.


Moments later Naruto walked into the dining room, stifling a yawn with her hand as she did so. Inari and Tazuna were already sitting down at the table while Kakashi sat down away from them. She joined them and Sakura followed moments later just as Tsunami served their breakfast.

"So, Sasuke didn't come back last night?" Tazuna asked as the last ninja joined them.

"That's right, I think he was captured by enemy ninja," Naruto said casually.

"As if," Sakura started, with a vein showing in her forehead. She had a very low tolerance for negative talk about Sasuke-kun, after all. "Sasuke-kun probably mastered tree climbing all on his own tonight. He's probably ready to come with us today,"

"I dunno," Naruto started. "I think the enemy ninja thing is more likely with that teme. Probably underestimated them all or somethin'," she muttered the last part under her breath.

'He does have an ego…' Kakashi acknowledged privately, giving a bored look to Sakura. 'And she and all those other little academy girlies aren't helping at all as far as that's concerned…'

"Maybe he just went so high he's afraid to come down," Naruto said thoughtfully. Kakashi and Tazuna chuckled at that but Sakura was visibly steamed. As Tsunami set Sakura's food before her, Naruto stood up.

"I'm goin' for a walk," She announced lazily. Sakura glanced down at the blonde kunoichi's plate as she noticed that Naruto was already finished.

"That's disgusting," She started angrily. "Can't you at least eat properly?" She asked. Naruto snorted as she opened the door.

"'s for wussies," She quipped, walking out and closing the door behind her. Sakura fumed as she took slow, purposeful bites of her own food.

"How can he just…" When the chopsticks in her hands snapped, Kakashi cleared his voice and decided to speak up.

"Sakura…" Kakashi started. "Believe it or not, Naruto is probably worried about Sasuke too. I'm sure that's why he's taking a 'walk'." Sakura looked at him apologetically.

"I know, but… that Naruto makes me so mad… he's so annoying!"

"Ah, well, you know boys at their age don't like to show weakness," Tsunami said thoughtfully.

"He's just trying not to seem like a sissy or something." Tazuna added, agreeing. Sakura looked down at her half-eaten food, feeling her appetite leave her and Kakashi chuckled.

"Don't worry about it. They'll both be fine."

"All right…" Sakura let it drop and she continued eating, this time a bit less aggressively. Kakashi nodded at that, secretly pleased that she understood and was genuinely worried about her team. His gaze turned to the door.

'Sasuke… These two are your only hope, it seems…I just hope you don't make the same mistakes I did with Obito and Rin…'


Sasuke frowned from his position in the tree, staring up at the blue sky through the branches. After finding out that one of his teammates had fooled them all in a most spectacular way, he hadn't been able to go back to sleep and quickly decided to make use of his time in the most efficient way possible; that is, training himself in the tree-climbing exercise, while attempting to unravel the mystery that was one Uzumaki Naruto. Now, because of his extra training, he had more than tripled the height that he could reach and was closing in on the top.

But that didn't mean he was anywhere closer to figuring out Naruto.

'Naruto…' Sasuke shook his head. 'I had no idea at all…I will have to watch you closer. I don't have enough information to form a satisfactory conclusion about you.' Annoyed that he was spending so much time re-thinking his opinion of someone he had written off as a moron with no potential as a ninja for so long, Sasuke tried to think of something else. The sun had started coming up about an hour earlier, and he could tell it would be breakfast at Tazuna's soon. He dropped from the tree, landing noiselessly in the grass below. He stood up and turned around to walk to Tazuna's but froze as he realized there was someone standing right there.

"Hello," a young, pretty looking person – boy, Sasuke noted with a quick glance to his neck, wearing a pink kimono was standing before him. "Are you a ninja?" Sasuke slowly nodded and the other boy… giggled, which more than slightly disturbed him. "You're not a very good one," He said. "You aren't very observant,"

"If I wasn't observant I wouldn't have noticed you were a boy." Sasuke noted with a piercing glare.

"Ha ha, I guess that's true," the feminine boy said, suddenly looking at the boy in front of him in a new light. "What were you doing up there?"

"I was training." Sasuke grunted. 'Something feels off about this guy…' he noted.

"But you already look so strong. What more could you possibly need to train for?" the boy asked, cocking his head to the side.

"It's none of your business," Sasuke muttered, but the other boy pretended not to hear.


"…I need to get stronger so I can kill a certain man." Sasuke found himself answering, against his better judgement.

"So you can defeat someone…" the other boy repeated thoughtfully. "That doesn't seem to be a very good reason," He frowned.

"Hmph, whatever." Sasuke muttered as he turned to walk around the boy. Sasuke stopped when he was a good ten feet away, as he realized the other boy hadn't moved. He turned around and looked at the boy.

"I think… that a person truly becomes strong when they have something precious to protect…" the boy said. Right after that, he continued walking in the direction he was facing.

"Hn." Sasuke frowned.

"Oi, Sasuke," came a whispered voice from the side. Sasuke blinked and he turned to look the person to his side.

"Naruto." Sasuke acknowledged the other ninja.

"Who was that?" Naruto asked, pointing at the kimono-clad boy.

"I don't know, and I don't care," Sasuke said as he continued to walk to Tazuna's. "But something was weird about him."

"What was that last thing she was saying anyway, about protecting people?" Naruto asked again as she turned to follow.

"He," Sasuke corrected. "It's not so hard to believe that there's a guy who looks so much like a girl, is there?" Sasuke asked with a smirk on his face. "Especially for you."


"Nothing, forget about it. It's breakfast soon, right?"

"It had just started when I left, and I already finished," Naruto said. "But knowing Sakura-chan, she probably made sure someone saved something for you," she grumbled.

"Oh?" Sasuke asked as he stopped. 'That girl…' his mood turned sour at the thought of the pink haired Kunoichi. He didn't necessarily dislike her, as much as he found her annoying and meddlesome. He glanced at the blonde ninja and suddenly realized he wasn't as hungry as he'd thought. "Naruto…" He started.

"Eh?" The blond girl looked up at him in confusion. Sasuke looked a bit more distracted than usual, so obviously there was something wrong. "What do you want?" Sasuke glanced at the…Kunoichi to his side. 'Why the hell are you pretending to be a boy?' he had wanted to say. Instead, he settled for a grunt and merely stopped. Naruto looked at him in confusion. "Aren't you gonna go back for food?"

"I can go a little longer without," Sasuke snorted. "Unlike some people, I'm trained to survive under those kind of circumstances."

"E-eh?!" Naruto asked, her face reddening with anger. "What's your problem? Quit being so dramatic when there's no reason to!"

"Hn," Sasuke glanced at her, a look of disinterest plastered on his face. "Whatever, dobe." Sasuke reached into his supply pack and pulled out a kunai that he had been using earlier. He flipped it in his hand and suddenly started running towards a tall tree. Naruto growled as she did the same and began up a different tree determined to do better than the Uchiha. She soon noted that he was going much higher than she was and scowled in frustration.

'What the hell?! I trained all those nights several times in a row and only got a little better, but he trains extra one night and he's gotten way better!' she exerted herself in an attempt to catch up, but that proved to be a mistake as the burst of chakra sent her flying head first into another tree. Sasuke stopped at a branch when he heard Naruto crash into another tree, and the cursing and yelling that came as a result.

"You total moron," He sighed, shaking his head. He turned back to his own tree and started running up again from the branch he'd stopped on.


Sakura looked around, slightly worried as she and Kakashi looked through the forest. "Sasuke-kun's been out all night and Naruto never came back from his walk," She said. "I'm not too worried about Naruto, but Sasuke-kun never even came back for breakfast!"

"They're both tough," Kakashi said, unconcernedly. 'Not 'too' worried about Naruto?' he smiled, as that was better than not worried at all and another improvement over the previous day. "They're both fine, I'm sure." He said. They kept walking for a few minutes when they heard some noises coming from further ahead. Sakura quickened her pace and stopped just beneath a tree where Naruto was lying on a branch.

"Eh? Naruto?" Sakura blinked in surprise. "You got that high?!" She asked, incredulously.

"Oh?" Naruto opened her eyes as she looked down at Sakura. "Oiii! Sakura-chan!" Naruto grinned and hopped up to her feet. "Look how high I can climb now!" She stood there, grinning at them for a few barely a second, before she suddenly 'tripped' and started falling backwards. "E-eh!?"

"Ah! You idiot!" Sakura shouted, panicked. Naruto fell off the side of the branch…only to end up standing on the bottom. Both Sakura, and Kakashi, who'd just arrived, looked at her in shock.

"Haha! You fell for it!" the blonde girl laughed.

"What…" Sakura growled. "That was horrible! I was worried!"

"Eh?" Naruto's eyes widened. "Sakura-chan…worried about me? Heheh, how sweet!" She said just as she fell from the tree.

"Hey! Stop showing off already!"

"YAAAAAAAAA-ack!" Naruto's fall was halted as a blur flew up, caught her, and landed on the branch.

"You moron," Sasuke muttered. He let go of her and she stood up on her own, frowning at him.


"Oh wow! Sasuke's the best!" Sakura yelled happily at his rescue. Kakashi looked at the both of them with an appraising eye.

"What are you two doing here?" Sasuke asked.

"Oh, we were worried about you two," Sakura said as she seemed to remember the reason they came. "So we came to check up on you!"

"More like check up on 'Sasuke-kun'." Naruto muttered, saying Sasuke's name in a whiny imitation of Sakura's voice, crossing her arms. Sasuke merely raised a brow at the apparent jealousy and shrugged, dropping down from the tree.

"I was actually just getting hungry," the boy said as he shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking in the direction Sakura and Kakashi had come. "You guys were going to have lunch, right?"

"Oh! Now you want to eat!" Naruto yelled, angrily.

"…Shut up, idiot."

"Yeah! Leave Sasuke-kun alone!"

"Eh…" Naruto scowled angrily. "Fine! You go eat your lunch! I'm going to keep on training!" She turned around and started running up the tree again.

Sasuke spared her a glance as he kept walking. 'That Naruto… gets harder to understand every minute of each day…' he frowned as he continued walking, ignoring Sakura's attempts to call his name. 'And then I find out that he's…well, a she,' Sasuke's grimace deepened. 'What else could you be hiding from us, Naruto? If you're able to hide something so big from us… who's to say there isn't something bigger?' He vowed to start paying more attention to the outwardly simple ninja who had just become a troublesome puzzle.

Sasuke was of the mind that knowledge was power, and Sasuke was unnerved that he had been so limited in relation to Naruto. 'I wonder if even Kakashi-sensei knows about this…he doesn't seem like he's all there some times, and this would be just the thing to get by him…'


Much later, Sasuke approached the trees where he knew Naruto was. The girl was cursing and panting loudly as she stumbled off the side of a tree. Sasuke stood at the edge of the clearing, watching as Naruto slid down the tree a bit more gracefully than she had hours before. She fell down on her bottom in exhaustion as she panted heavily, looking at the tree as if she and it were the bitterest of enemies.

"Dammit…" She coughed out. "Dammit!" She slammed her fist in the ground beside her and tried to stand once more. "I'll…get that teme… to acknowledge my existence…as a ninja!" She bit out the last bit more forcefully as she stood up.

'Does my opinion matter that much..?' Sasuke watched silently as she took a few more deep breaths and then sprinted, running up the tree faster than he'd seen her move before. She disappeared up the top of the tree and when he could no longer see or hear her, he decided to follow her up.


Naruto panted as she looked up at the quarter moon from her perch on the very top of one of the taller trees in the forest.

"Hah…hah… I doubt the teme ever got this far," she muttered, exhausted.

"Oi, dobe," came a voice from directly below her. Naruto jolted from the shock and almost let got of the tree. Once she had her bearings back together, she glared below at the source of the voice. Sasuke was standing on one of the branches below her.

"…Sasuke? What do you want, teme?" Sasuke casually shrugged as he looked up at the moon.

"I need to talk to you about something."

"Eh?" Naruto blinked. There was none of the usual sarcasm or conceit in his voice. "What? What's wrong, teme? You've been acting kind of weird all day…"

"Why are you pretending to be a boy?" He blurted out suddenly. Naruto's blood ran cold at the question and she slowly turned her head to face him. He was looking right back at her.

"Wh-what the hell are you talking about?" She asked haltingly, panic written clearly on her features.

"Hn." Sasuke gave her a half lidded stare. Had he been mistaken in his initial observation? It had been late at night, so it was possible he had been hallucinating or in some kind of half-dream state… 'No,' He thought suddenly. 'There's no way I'm wrong. You're a girl.'

"I'm not pretending, you asshole!" she yelled.

"Oh really?" Sasuke asked with a smirk. "You can't hide that kind of thing from me. I figured it out a little while ago, but I haven't been able to figure out any possible reason you would do such a thing." He half-lied, deciding Naruto might be more forthcoming with information if he claimed to have known longer than one day. Naruto was silent for a while, as she stared at Sasuke. Her face betrayed her conflicting emotions, and she merely grunted before looking back up at the moon. "Besides, who do you think carried you home last night? I could have easily found out then if I hadn't already known. You need to be more carefully. Be glad Sakura doesn't care about you as much as you seem to want her to."

"I guess you ain't the number one rookie for nothin'," Naruto said in a low voice. "…Though, Shika and Kiba figured it out first." Sasuke's eyes narrowed in recognition at those two names.

"Shikamaru and Kiba?" He asked, trying to remember the two. Sasuke frowned; He hadn't really paid much attention to any one aside from first impressions and passing glances, which was part of what had landed him in his current situation.

"Un," she grunted half-heartedly. "Shikamaru is just scary smart and Kiba…well he's half dog, you know," She snorted.

"I see," Sasuke nodded - it made a little bit of sense; dogs could tell male from female from scent alone. "So…" He started. "Why are you doing that, anyway? You look and act so much like a boy it's creepy."

"Heheh, I've had tons of practice and all of my friends were guys when I was younger… Well, if you could really call them friends…"

"Hn… How long have you been doing this again? Since you started at the Academy? Why?"

"Since way before then," Naruto snorted. "And why do you care all of a sudden?" Naruto asked as she glared down at him. "We're not friends or anything." She reminded him.

"…Really." Sasuke said, looking away from her. "Of course. It's none of my business. We're just teammates." He was about to leave when Naruto called out to him.

"O-oi!" Sasuke looked up at her.


"Er… help me down?" She asked. And it was just then that Sasuke noted how tightly she was clinging to the top of the tree. "Heheheh…"

"You…moron," Sasuke sighed turned back to her.

"You're not gonna tell anyone about this, though, right?" She asked as he slid one of her arms over his shoulders and wrapped an arm around her waist.

"It's not my secret to tell," He shrugged. "Besides, it's not really that important. I was just curious." Naruto stared at him as he started jumping down the tree, branch by branch.


"Ah, you found him," Kakashi said as the two walked into Tazuna's house. He raised his only visible eyebrow as Sasuke smirked.

"You could say that." Naruto glanced at Sasuke and decided to say something.

"We both made it to the top." She said, with a grin.

"Good," Kakashi nodded. "Then you two can accompany us tomorrow with Tazuna-san to the bridge." Naruto's grin widened.

"Alright!" Sasuke walked over to the dinner table and set her down on a chair and Sasuke sat himself opposite from her just as dinner was served. When they were done, Naruto was slumped over the table and Tazuna decided to make small talk.

"The bridge is almost complete, thanks to you guys. But, I wanted to ask you earlier…" All of the Konoha-nin looked at him expectantly. "Why are you all still here when I lied about the mission?" Before any of the three Genin could respond, Kakashi spoke up.

"'To abandon one's duty is not courageous. Below the courageous, there is nothing.' These are the Shodaime's words." There was silence as most of the table's occupants considered that. Naruto looked up as she noticed Inari crying.


'What the hell…' She thought. "What?"

"Why do you all keep trying so hard? You can't beat Gatou's men even if you try! Now matter how hard you work, or how big you talk… the weak can not win against the strong!"

'This little punk…' Naruto narrowed her eyes as she looked at the boy. "Shut up! We're different than you!"

"You shut up! Seeing you pisses me off! You don't even know anything about this country, and yet you butt in! You haven't had a rough life! You're always having fun and laughing!" Naruto's face darkened with rage as he spoke.

"So…like an actor in a tragic play, you're going to cry all day long? An idiot like you should just keep crying! You little sissy!" Inari froze up and Sakura scowled at Naruto.

"Naruto! You went too far!" Naruto snorted and stood up, walking away. Sasuke watched her walk away out of the corner of his eye. Inari stood up and ran out of the room and Tazuna sighed as Tsunami went about picking up the dishes, moving a bit slower than she had earlier. Sasuke frowned and stood up as he walked out of the room.


Sasuke looked up at the night sky from Tazuna's roof. 'Haven't had a rough life…' He snorted. 'That boy…makes me angry, thinking he knows everything.' He glared up at the moon. "But Naruto was right. You can only cry so much before it's unacceptable… Doing such a thing excessively like that…it's a total waste." Sasuke stood up and was turned to climb back into the window when he heard Kakashi's voice.

"Can I join you?" Sasuke blinked as the sound was coming from below. He walked over to the edge of the roof and spotted Kakashi sitting next to Inari. After a brief pause as he sat down next to the much smaller boy, Kakashi continued. "Naruto didn't mean everything he said back there. Sometimes he just doesn't think…" Kakashi paused again to let it sink in. "We heard about your father from Tazuna," He started, "Like you, Naruto didn't have a father when he was growing up… actually, Naruto never knew either of his parents. He never even had any real friends…" Inari looked up as Kakashi continued.

"My other student's entire family was murdered years ago as well, and because of that he's been a loner for as long as I've known him…" Sasuke froze up at the reference to himself. "He and Naruto seem to have connected on some level recently. But… I've never seen either one of them cry or complain once. Naruto is always trying his best to get people to acknowledge him, especially Sasuke. And Sasuke… He's been too bent on getting stronger to care about anything else…" Kakashi paused and looked down at the water.

"They're probably both sick and tired of crying. Naruto understands what it's like to be truly strong, just like your father…He may understand your feelings better than anyone. The things Naruto told you tonight… are probably things he's told himself many times." Kakashi stood up. "Well, that's all I wanted to say…" He turned around and walked away. Inari watched as he vanished in a puff of smoke.


Sasuke looked down even as Inari went back into the house, in thought. 'Is that what you think, Kakashi?' Sasuke turned around, walking right into his Jounin-sensei.

"Hm?" Sasuke looked at Kakashi warily. "What?"

"It's rude to listen in on other people's conversations," The silver-haired jounin remarked in a mock-scolding voice, crossing his arms.

"Did you want to tell me something or are you going to waste my time?" Sasuke demanded impatiently. Kakashi regarded him for a few moments before speaking again.

"…You've been even more reclusive than usual today." The older man commented. "Is something on your mind?" It was Sasuke's turn to regard the man.

'Perceptive bastard when he wants to be,' Sasuke noted. "I recently discovered something… disturbing."

"It's about Naruto." Sasuke gave a slight nod and Kakashi tensed. "What did you find out?"

"You did know about Naruto's gender, right?" Sasuke turned to face the moon, watching Kakashi out of the corner of his eyes as he waited for a response.

"Of course. So, how did you figure it out?" Kakashi relaxed, to which Sasuke made a mental note.

"There were enough clues," the Uchiha replied tersely. Kakashi raised his eyebrow as he could have sworn Sasuke's face had a reddish tint as he answered that question.

"…Well?" Kakashi asked.

"Well what?" Sasuke inquired, looking at his mentor.

"What do you plan to do with that information?"

"…Nothing." Sasuke replied after a moment's thought.

"Hm… Well, she is your teammate. Don't you feel at least a little annoyed or something that she kept such vital information from you?"

"It's not important," Sasuke said, turning away. "That's just one more girl I have to worry about," He muttered.

"I doubt you have to worry about Naruto like that," Kakashi snorted.

"What, so is she really after Sakura or something?" Sasuke asked.

"She won't tell me. She probably thinks it's funny. But I don't think so." He shrugged. "Well, you should go to bed, too. You're going to be coming with us tomorrow, remember?"

"Aa," Sasuke followed his teacher into Tazuna's house.


The following day, Sasuke, Sakura and Kakashi were following Tazuna to the bridge. Kakashi had explained to everyone that Naruto was still exhausted from the day before, and that he would be given the day off.

And so, Sasuke was walking beside pink-haired teammate, once again deep in thought, and only slightly annoyed by Sakura's presence. Sakura, for her part, seemed to be less focused on Sasuke and more focused on protecting Tazuna as the four walked on. Though he would catch her looking at him out of the corner of his eyes at times, those times were fewer and further between than normal, and she seemed to be looking at him with something akin to determination rather than infatuation this time…

'Did something happen?' He thought, interrupting his own thought process. 'First Naruto, and now Sakura's acting a little different…' He turned away and focused on the road again. 'This mission has been one big annoyance after another.'


A/N: If the name doesn't clue you in, the whole point of this story is to show the effects over a timeline that even the smallest of changes can have and how much of an impact that bigger ones can have down the line. Things really start changing next two chapters, but this has to be here to show how and why. Also, I wanted to do a 'Female Naruto' story that didn't segue into a NarutoXSasuke romance right away. Maybe eventually, but not now. I will only say this once; don't mention any of my other stories in reviews and look at my profile if you are really curious as to what is going on in my life or with those stories.

Aside from being a girl, the Naruto in this story will be more or less parallel with Canon Naruto in terms of personality. She's not going to suddenly reveal that she's been under a henge/genjutsu for ten million years and sprout hair as long as she is tall, or suddenly start acting like a wimpy girly girl (in her own words, of course) or some kind of feminist. There may be occasions where she does something completely different or extra, but since they have the same personalities and experiences to this point, she will probably be making the same choices that I feel canon Naruto would, given their situation.

I'm rather new to the Naruto fandom, having only seen the first episode some three weeks ago. I am current on the manga however, but I did not watch more than two or three of the Anime's filler episodes.