Disclaimer: Yea, I don't own Naruto.

Rated M for later chapters- The first few chapters may go slow but I am just trying to get inside of the characters heads. I am writing this after the time skip so it is a bit hard considering the lack of some information. If any facts I write are wrong or incorrect with the series or manga please let me know. I'm up for criticism but I hope you guys like it.

Ok, here goes…………………….

The Way Things Are

Chapter 1

There had been no recent news regarding Sasuke. In fact, the last time anyone had seen him had now been two and a half years, everyone except Naruto and Sakura that is. Its true that when Naruto and Sakura had successfully located Sasuke a few weeks ago that the meeting had not been a very pleasant one. However, that did not stop either of them from wanting to find him again.

Naruto still pondered about when he saw Sasuke that day. It was hard for him to believe that all Sasuke wanted to do was kill him. He didn't want to come to terms with how Sasuke hardly cared about whether he and Sakura lived or not. But he knew he would never give up on his old friend. He knew he would never be able to stop looking for Sasuke. The only problem was that Naruto had no idea how to handle another reunion with Sasuke.

Naruto was back in Konoha a bit after the mission to rescue Gaara was a success. Ever since that mission, Naruto had to be on his toes at all times or have someone watching over him to protect him from Akatsuki. They had taken Shukaku out of Gaara and were now after the Kyuubi within Naruto. Naruto was sometimes not even allowed to train by himself because of the danger he could be in alone.

Sakura took a particular interest in watching over Naruto and learning new things to help him. She had changed a lot over the last two years. Besides gaining incredible medical jutsu abilities and insanely painful inhuman strength, she actually matured quite significantly. She still would kick Naruto's ass if he ever said something stupid, which had not changed. (Except for the amount of pain he felt during an ass kicking by her.) But, she was much more interested in being the best she could be. She wanted to hone her skills and eventually become a powerful shinobi. She was much less worried about boys than she was before. Her girlish immaturity was gone and she developed into a more responsible, strong young woman.

Sakura missed Sasuke but nowhere near as much as Naruto. Her crush for Sasuke disappeared and she now thought of him as an important friend she had to help. She was even willing to fight Sasuke if it meant bringing him back.

Naruto liked the change in Sakura very much. He only wished that Sasuke could have been around through all this. He wondered about what would have been different and wished it could have been. Team seven certainly had come a long way since their early days.

Naruto woke up alone in his small apartment. He sighed as he rose from his bed, stumbling over ramen cups and gear. He took a short shower and threw on one of his black undershirts and a pair of shorts. He had been so bored ever since the mission to save Gaara. He walked out on his small porch outside and stared at the sky. He knew that kakashi wouldn't let him train alone for a long time. The blonde ninja stretched his arms above his head, whining to himself.

"I just wanna be able to be alone for a bit or something! Clear my head and have some solitude in my training! I bet nobody would even notice if I left just for a little bit. I can take care of myself!" Naruto finished hitting his fist off the railing in anger.

The past few days had been terrible. Naruto would wake up, walk outside and find somebody like Sakura or Kakashi calling for him and then watching him for the rest of the day. Kakashi and Tsunade sure were intent on keeping him safe. He had woken up to Iruka outside his door, Shizune in his kitchen, and even had the shit scared out of him when he found Anko, licking her lips, behind him with a kunai to his throat once when he tried sneaking away to train.

With that, the blonde looked around suddenly making sure that there wasn't some jonin watching over him from somewhere. "Ha! Granny Tsunade must be getting even lazier! No kakashi, Sakura, Iruka, or anyone in sight. But that's weird……… I mean I know she can be forgetful….. But geez how could she just suddenly forget? I mean its not just Tsunade, its Kakashi too!"

Naruto smirked rather largely and said right out loud, "Well I guess I'll have to just go then. I can be so foolish without a babysitter to watch over me!"

The blonde snuck back inside and put on his normal training attire. He zipped up his black and orange jacket, threw off his shorts, and pulled on his black pants. He tied his head band on his forehead and gathered some kunai and shuriken. He poked his head out his front door cautiously and crept outside. He sighed in relief once he had walked for a while and laughed mischievously to himself.

"Naruto, you are one sneaky shinobi. Now I just gotta reach a private spot and I'll be all set!" Naruto reached a small grove in the woods and decided that it would be a good enough place.

"Finally some peace." Naruto spoke softly and lay down in the grass.

It was fairly bright out and Naruto had to squint as he stared at the sky. He placed his hands behind his head and relaxed every muscle in his body. The wind picked up and blew straight through Naruto's messy blonde hair. His eyes slid shut and he thought in silence. The warm sun surrounded him and caused him to dwell deeper into in his mind.

Naruto thought about Gaara and what he went through when Akatsuki kidnapped him. He thought about the way that old lady Chiyo sacrificed herself to save Gaara when he was dead. He remembered how Kankouro and Temari were willing to do whatever it took to protect their brother. Their protective and caring nature made him think about Sasuke. He thought about the way Sasuke and he fought before Sasuke left for Orochimaru. "Ahh, he won't get out of my head! Sometimes I can't help it! Why do I always think about him? He's my friend and I want to help him……. But, sometimes, he's……… he's all I think about."

Naruto's mind wandered to the most recent time he saw Sasuke. He remembered running through those strange hallways screaming Sasuke's name. He saw it all in his head. That image of Sasuke up on that ledge had never left his memory. He remembered thinking about how different Sasuke looked. He remembered asking Sasuke why he didn't kill him while he had the chance. Then he remembered that Sasuke said he let him live on a whim of his own. He told Naruto that it was because he didn't want to follow Itachi's advice.

Naruto thought about how fast Sasuke got down to his body from the ledge he was on and closed the distance between them. Naruto remembered the feeling of Sasuke's warm breath on his neck as Sasuke whispered darkly to Naruto that he could kill Naruto on a whim right at that moment. His teeth clenched together as he remembered Sasuke swinging his sword towards him. Naruto met the other boy's eyes in that moment before Sasuke almost killed him. He thought about how his narrowed eyes stared deeply into Sasuke's expressionless ebony ones.

"Sasuke really would have killed me. He would have stabbed me right there. I almost thought he wouldn't and that's why I didn't try to stop him. I'd be dead if Sai wouldn't have stopped Sasuke. Naruto clenched his fist for a second as he remembered everything. He forced the thoughts from his mind and relaxed his hand and jaw.

"Ha……Some friend Sasuke is alright………I can't believe……… How could he, I mean………Did he ever care? Does he still care? I guess I really was foolish to try and save him……… I never could have brought him home. Just like Jiraiya told me…….. I should've listened to the pervy sage. I only wish that I could have-That he could have." Naruto let out a lonely sigh. He really believed that Sasuke and he were friends once. Even though Naruto pretended to hate Sasuke most of the time, he really felt closer to Sasuke than anyone else.

"What the hell is wrong with me? Why do I put myself through this? Thinking about that teme makes me so angry that I could put my fist through somebody's face. Thinking about him makes me so sad that I almost wanna fucking cry or something! But why?! I mean sure he's a friend…………Why did he do that? Didn't he ever like me?

……………………………………………………Sasuke……."

The wind stopped and there was a sudden uneasy stillness as the grove fell silent. Naruto tried to get Sasuke out of his head and suddenly felt his ears tingle strangely as though a pesky fly was buzzing by. His once soothed muscles suddenly began to tense and twitch. Naruto's mind slowly went blank and an image of Sasuke gradually vanished from his subconscious.

"Crack!"

A nearby sound startled Naruto. His eyes snapped open and he sat up scanning the horizon.

"Swoosh!" A shadow appeared in the trees and darted quickly out of sight. The blonde's head turned to follow it but found that he was staring only at an empty forest.

"Shit! This isn't good, it could be Akatsuki! God, I'm so stupid! What was I thinking coming out here!?" Naruto saw the shape rush past again and stood up balancing himself on the balls of his feet.

"Swish!"

Naruto's head jerked reflexively just in time to dodge a group of shuiken heading straight for his face. "Dammit! It is an attack! I've gott-"

"Clank!"

A Kunai flew towards Naruto from behind. His legs tensed as he heard it approaching. He turned swiftly and drew a kunai from his own pocket and blocked the one headed for him. A small spark appeared as the weapon his attacker had used hit his own and flung helplessly towards the ground. "How the hell did he get behind me that fast? Who is this guy!?" Naruto stayed in a defensive position and peered cautiously at his surrounding.

"Swoosh!" A shadow flew by Naruto's left. As soon as he saw the black silhouette moving about he hurled the kunai he was holding directly towards it. Naruto watched angrily as his attacker disappeared and his kunai hit rather forcefully into a tree.

"Come out, you bastard! Show yourself! You want what's inside me huh?! Well come an-" Naruto stopped as he saw three kunai fly past him, Naruto didn't even have to move to dodge them. He flinched and thought to himself.

"Nice aim asshole. HA! I didn't even ha-" Naruto suddenly felt his arms slam tightly down along the sides of his torso. His stomach and chest compressed forcefully thrusting all the air out of his body. Naruto exhaled very sharply and made a strange sound as his lungs painfully pushed his air out of his throat. He lost his balance and fell to the ground.

"Can't Breathe!" Naruto managed to get out as he realized he had been tied up by several almost invisible strong lines. His chest and abdomen were unable to fill as he inhaled because of the tight restraints. Naruto cringed and fell on his side trying desperately to get some oxygen.

"He must have attached these cords to those kunai he threw at me. But how he managed to get them to wrap around me and put so much strain on me is strange. Maybe he used chak…. Shit I really can't breathe… damn it I won't stay conscious for long."

Naruto writhed on the ground, trying desperately to breathe and free himself His vision began to get splotchy and the once calming bright sun was now making him sick. He burst into a cold sweat and his head began to throb. His eyes were full of desperation and confusion as he searched wildly for something to free himself with. "Gotta…… something…. Anythi…. THERE!"

Naruto's eyes widened as he rolled himself wildly toward the kunai he had blocked earlier. He heard footsteps approaching him. "have to hurry….. if I just can grab….. with one of my hands….."

Naruto reached for the kunai in desperation until he managed to get ahold of it. A shadow loomed over him blocking out the obnoxiously bright sun, he didn't have much time now. The kunai in his hand sawed viciously at the cords around his arms and torso.

A gruff scoff sounded nearby.

The attacker almost seemed intrigued with the way Naruto madly tried to free himself. "If I can just…………… GOT IT!"

The lines fell from Naruto's body now that they were cut. He chest heaved upward as he filled himself with air. Naruto jumped to his feet ready to fight, but felt the world spinning around him. His vision was still black and his head hurt like hell. He stumbled back, lost his balance and fell forward on his chest. He tried to pick himself up but failed several times. He looked up helplessly and right before his eyes were a pair of feet.

"Hn. How clumsy of you..." The voice of his attacker was smug and stoic sounding.

Naruto's eyes widened as he realized what was happening. He recognized that teme's voice and knew who it was immediately. His fingers clutched at the ground, grabbing a handful of dirt as they turned to fists.

Naruto raised his head weakly and was able to pull himself on his knees. He stared into the pale, expressionless ebony eyes of his attacker. There was a moment of silence until the wind picked up again and blew swiftly through the grove and the hair of both boys. Naruto's lips quivered and he exhaled lightly.

"Sa…Sasuke?"