I've Got You
Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto.
Not much had changed in the five years he'd been away.
The village looked very much the same, save for a few new faces here and there, and he'd had no trouble at all finding his way around the streets of Konoha. Hell, he'd spent the first twelve years of his life here, and it'd be somewhat of a travesty if he would have gotten lost.
Although the village as a whole looked the same, there were many, often overlooked details that signified the passage of time in Konoha. For one, his all-time favorite haunt had gotten an upgrade. A major upgrade.
What used to be a privately owned roadside ramen stand was now a two story Ichiraku Ramen office building. Not only that, but there were apparently three more Ichiraku Ramen shops scattered around the residential and market districts if the proud banner hanging in front of the store window was correct.
Of course, he'd had to stop by for a bowl (or twenty) before continuing on his walk down memory lane. He'd eaten plenty of ramen in his time away; some of it made by the top chefs in the known world, and some of it made by adoring little girls with high hopes of marriage.
However, none of it had even come close to the quality and texture of Ichiraku's. There was just something so warm, so...affectionate about this particular stand's ramen. During the first year of his journey, he'd had to be subdued multiple times for trying to run back to Konoha for a bowl of the magnificent dish.
To his surprise, Teuchi and his daughter, Ayame, still worked at this particular location. The restaurant looked much newer and sleeker than it did before, and there were multiple booths and tables set up in the room. Thankfully, they had also decided to keep a countertop and stools in front of the kitchen for especially hungry and demanding customers. It was fairly empty, save for a handful of generic looking civilians, but that was to be expected at this time of night. Not many people wanted to eat ramen for dinner, after all.
Waltzing up to the counter, he hopped onto the stool directly in the middle, just like he used to do when he was a child. Immediately, Ayame appeared in front of him with a cheery smile and a small notebook ready to take his order. He glanced up at the menu hanging over the kitchen and let loose a small smile of his own. There were at least fifteen new flavors on the menu, and he fully intended to try each one.
"I see you have some new flavors," he said, smiling gently up at the woman. She lifted an eyebrow, but slowly nodded anyway.
"Well, we haven't added any new ones for almost a year now, but it's a vast improvement from what we had five or so years back." She paused and gazed at him with a critical eye. The young man was wearing a simple black bandana over his long, dirty blond hair. It was infuriatingly long enough to cover his eyes, but short enough to not touch the tip of his nose. "For some reason, you seem oddly familiar. Have you been here before?" Instead of answering her question, he only smiled mysteriously and pointed at the board of flavors.
"I'll have one of everything." Ayame dropped her pencil. The last person who'd ate that much ramen at one time had been...
"Um, sure! Right away sir!" She exclaimed before rushing over to where her father was boiling another large batch of noodles. He watched amused as she whispered something in the man's ear, occasionally glancing his way. With a speed that belied his age, the cook turned around to look at the teenager sitting patiently in front of the counter. He stared for a good five seconds before turning back around to quickly whip up the first few bowls of his order. Both he and his daughter served him, placing four bowls of different flavored ramen in front of him.
"So, young man," Teuchi started, leaning forward on his elbows, "I noticed that you're sitting in our special VIP customer seat." The teenager stopped mid bite to look down at the countertop. To his surprise, there was a large, rectangle shaped plaque directly under his bowl. His eagerness for ramen had apparently dampened his senses, as there was no possible way that any normal person could miss it. "Do you want to know the story behind that plaque?"
The young man lifted a curious eyebrow, but nodded, continuing his vigorous devouring of the steamy dish.
"Well, that seat belongs to our most treasured customer. Back when this place was still a low-class roadside stand, he'd come in everyday for a few bowls of ramen." The chef examined his customer with an invading gaze, searching for some kind of surprised or wistful reaction. All he received was an urging nod for him to continue. "Unfortunately, five years ago, he died in the joint Sand and Sound attack on the Leaf Village. They say his body was mutilated beyond recognition."
It was becoming extremely difficult not to snort his recently eaten noodles through his nose. He remembered that plan well. At the urging of his partner, he'd exchanged clothes with an already fallen Sound genin, and allowed the girl to perform a low class fire jutsu to slowly burn it to a crisp. By the time they were done stomping, cutting, and thoroughly molesting the body, it barely looked human at all. To be honest, it was actually kind of fun.
While these happy thoughts were going on in his mind, he was also nodding with slow sadness, sympathizing with the man and his daughter.
"He must have been quite the shinobi if you gave him a plaque to honor his death," the teenager muttered through his chopsticks. The owner and his daughter exchanged glances.
"We never said he was a shinobi," Ayame said, glaring at him suspiciously. Had he been the boy of five years ago, he would have been sputtering and stumbling over his words, trying his damndest to come up with a viable excuse to cover up his blunder. Unfortunately for them, he wasn't.
"Ah, I'm sorry. I just assumed that he died protecting his village from the attack," he skillfully lied without so much as batting an eyelash. It was just one of the many skills he had managed to perfect on his journey around the world. He pushed all four bowls towards the chef and his daughter (who were visibly pouting) and smiled. "So, how's that next batch coming?"
Ten minutes and twenty questions later, the teen waltzed out of the restaurant with a full stomach and a smiling face. He'd managed to either dodge or lie his way out of most of them, but it was only a matter of time before they would have managed to ask the right question. It's a good thing he'd had the foresight to place a small genjutsu over his whisker marks, or they would've recognized him for sure. Still, he was pretty pleased that they thought enough of him to give him a permanent monument on their countertop.
He idly fiddled with the katana resting loosely at his side, trying to decide where to go next. He'd pretty much been all over the village, and it was getting pretty late. She would definitely kick his ass if they didn't leave by daybreak. Sighing softly, he turned to head towards the outskirts of the village. While he had some time to spare, he might as well visit Team 7's old training grounds. Who knows? He might be able to run into Sakura-chan or Sasuke-teme. With that thought in mind, he quickened his pace to a slow jog, wondering how much -- if at all -- the place had changed.
He also wondered how long it would take for the owner and his daughter to notice the letter he'd placed in each of their pockets.
Jogging through the streets of Konoha undetected was a trivial task. Soon after they'd scaled the Eastern wall and snuck into the village, he and his partner had placed an S-ranked level genjutsu over themselves to mask their presence. Instead of completely hiding them from view, the jutsu made anyone who saw them not think twice about their identities. Hell, he could probably walk through the ANBU Headquarters without being noticed if he wanted to.
It didn't take long for him to find his way from the ramen shop to the training grounds. He'd made the same trek hundreds of times in the past, and his body was practically running on muscle memory. Like the rest of the village, the training grounds hadn't changed a bit. The same three posts stood proudly in the middle of the clearing, and the same (albeit a little dingier) bridge arched protectively over the fast flowing river. The young man stepped onto the bridge and leaned over the railing.
He smiled wistfully as he remembered the first time team 7 had met here. He, Sasuke, and Sakura had been forced to take a second exam before being considered official genin of Konoha. Their jounin sensei, Kakashi, had been an infuriatingly lazy man, giving them only the bare minimum amount of attention and instruction while at the same time expecting the three of them to steal two bells from one of the elite ninja of the Leaf.
In retrospect, the intentions of the exercise had been pretty clear. If they were expected to work as a three man cell, teamwork was probably the most important skill they'd need to learn before anything else. He shook his head and chuckled quietly to himself. It amazed him just how dense he was in those days.
His ears perked up at the sound of quiet footsteps slowly approaching the bridge, brutally knocking him out of his reverie. He subconsciously reached for the sword hanging on his hip and turned slightly to greet the visitor. To his surprise, the girl stopped well before she got to him, and she leaned over the railing to peer into the murky waters below. She held two small tulips in her hands; one a bright orange color, and one a medium blue. He watched with interest as she reluctantly released the flowers, letting them float harmlessly to the river below and speed off along with the current.
There was something eerily familiar about the girl; her hair was a midnight black, and she wore a black long sleeved mesh shirt over a white tank top. Simple black ninja pants adorned her legs, and a blue banded forehead protected was tied loosely around her waist. It wasn't until she turned her jade green eyes up to the moonlight that he recognized her.
It was Sakura-chan.
Then again, it wasn't her. This wasn't the bubbly pink-haired girl that he knew from five years ago. The girl standing at the other end of the bridge looked like a defeated husk of her former self. Still, he concluded, it was great to see that she was alive. He'd been a little worried when he tried to sneak into her room to deliver a letter, only to find that her things were long gone from her parents' house. At least now he could make sure that she received it. Deciding to make his presence known, he slowly waltzed over to his former childhood teammate.
"A penny for your thoughts, miss?" he whispered, leaning his back against the rail next to her. She jumped as if she'd been shocked.
"Wh-who are you?! How did you sneak up on me?!" she stuttered, reaching for something behind her back. The young man lifted an eyebrow and cocked his head in mild curiosity. He thought that he'd made more than enough noise to be detected, especially by a shinobi.
"Relax, miss, it wasn't my intention to frighten you. You just looked like you could use someone to talk to," he stated, raising his hands to show that he was unarmed. She slowly relaxed her posture and removed her hand from behind her back.
"I didn't see you when I arrived. How long have you been here?" Her words were direct and to the point, leaving no room for misinterpretation. He was beginning to wonder if this was really Sakura.
"I was here when you arrived. You didn't see -- oh." He smiled sheepishly as he realized exactly why she didn't notice him. The genjutsu he was under pretty much made him invisible to the world, unless he somehow brought a significant amount of attention to himself. "Gomen, I tend to blend into the scenery sometimes." She narrowed her eyes and looked up into his face.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" The young man shook his head and smiled again.
"I'm afraid not. I just arrived with the convoy from the Sand village," he lied, remembering the group that had arrived earlier that afternoon. Sakura nodded and once again turned to stare at the water. She looked like she wanted to be left alone, but he knew better. She had the face of someone who had something to get off of her chest. "So, you look kind of down. What's up?" The young woman shot him a quick glance.
"It's nothing, really. I was just performing a small ritual for my teammates." He lifted his eyebrows in surprise. Teammates?
"Ah, I see. mind if I ask what happened to them?" She leaned forward to rest her chin on her palm.
"Well, it's a long story. The first one died in the attack by the Sand and Sound villages, and the second one abandoned Konoha soon after." He was floored. No wonder he hadn't been able to find Sasuke in the village. The woman laughed bitterly at his shocked expression. "Yeah, it was quite a shock for me too. I'd really taken Naruto for granted, and it wasn't until he died that I realized how much I treasured his friendship." The young man swallowed hard. He didn't realize that she would take his "death" so hard.
"I know what you mean. You don't know what you have until it's gone, huh?" When she nodded, he continued. "What about the second one?"
"Sasuke? Well, like I said, he abandoned the village soon after. Everyone says he left to obtain power from Orochimaru, but I know that's only half of the truth." Well, that was a surprise. He hadn't seen hide nor hair of Sasuke when he and his partner had thoroughly run Orochimaru and his gay lover Kabuto through a couple of years ago.
"Only half the truth?" He asked, genuinely curious.
"Yeah. I saw him right before he left the village. At the time, I was in hysterics. I'd already lost one of my teammates, and I was five feet close to losing another. But, I had to let him leave when he gave me his reasons."
"Oh? They must have been pretty good for you to let him go like that." She nodded her agreement.
"They were. He told me that Naruto wasn't dead." The man momentarily lost his composure. There was no possible way that Sasuke could've seen through their plan! The setup and execution were flawless! "He said that he was leaving the village to look for him, and if possible, reunite team 7 once again." She chuckled again, lifting her head to stare into the moon. "It's kind of funny; all that time I thought he hated working with Naruto and I, yet he was probably the one who cherished our time together the most."
For the first time since he'd left, the young man felt guilt welling in the bottom of his stomach. He hadn't realized that they cared so much about him. Sure, they'd miss him, but he was convinced that they'd forget about him in time. Yet, five years later, the girl who abused him daily still remembered.
"Ah, so that's who the flowers were for?" She gave a small sound of assent. "Let me guess; the orange one was for Naruto, and the blue one was for Sasuke." Sakura slowly turned her head to look at him. There was really something off about this man. He just seemed so...familiar!
"Are you sure we haven't met? Maybe in the chuunin or jounin exams?" He only smiled and shook his head.
"Nah, I never forget a pretty face." When she blushed, he pushed himself away from the railing and began to walk off towards the Hokage Monument.
"You know, I've never told anyone besides my best friend that story. Thanks for listening...?" She trailed off, hoping he'd fill in the blank.
"Kyukon. Call me Kyukon."
"Well, thanks for listening, Kyukon." She smiled and waved before turning to stare at the rushing water beneath her. He suddenly stopped, and without turning around, started to speak.
"Oh, and I think you looked better with pink hair." When she snapped her head around to look at him, he was gone.
A few miles away, the man wondered how long it would take for her to find the envelope tucked neatly in her weapons pouch.
Shit. She was going to kill him. Glancing at his watch for the fifth time in two minutes, he realized that he only had three minutes until one o'clock, and drastically increased his pace to the top of the Hokage Monument. Scaling the front of the mountain was out of the question; even if he did have a distracting genjutsu over him, it didn't work as well on ANBU level ninja, or if he was doing something that called excessive attention to himself. Unfortunately, running on the Fourth Hokage's face fit into that category.
Luckily for him, he knew the mountain path like the back of his hand. He'd often come up after a long, hard day of training and just relax on top of the Yellow Flash's head. The view was breathtaking, and he longed to see it again, even if it was only for ten minutes until they had to leave.
To his genuine surprise, he'd somehow managed to beat his partner to their predetermined rendezvous point. Since there wasn't anything else to do except wait, he let out a loud, tired sigh and plopped down on the head on the Fourth Hokage.
It'd been a hard five hours; no matter who you were, sneaking into the homes of nearly two dozen of Konoha's most valued shinobi was no easy task. The hardest had probably been the Akimichi, Nara, Yamanaka, Hyuuga, Aburame, and Sarutobi households. Each building had top level security, including but not limited to laser motion sensors and chakra sensitive night vision cameras. A lesser man would've been caught before he even made it in the gates.
Unfortunately for them, he was no ordinary shinobi. With an arsenal of nearly two thousand jutsus at his disposal (admittedly, over half of them were pretty damn useless), tools not yet known in the Eastern world, and a seemingly limitless supply of chakra, breaking into a high security mansion wasn't too hard. He'd picked up a few tools in the West that allowed him to walk along the walls without using the slightest bit of chakra, and once he was out of the range of the cameras and lasers, it was a trivial task to henge himself into a small lizard and continue on in his delivery.
In each house, he'd discovered something interesting. In Chouji's clan house, he'd noticed a small, chubby baby running naked through the house, followed by an equally chubby young woman. She didn't look to be more than 17, and since they were in the main house, it was pretty obvious that they were somehow directly related to his former genin friend. It wasn't until he'd seen a picture with the three of them smiling happily at the camera that it all made sense. Who would've guessed?
Shikamaru's house was much less extravagant than his best friend's. Apparently, his family liked the simpler things in life, going for a more homely look instead of wasting time and energy buying brand new furniture or having the place remodeled. It wasn't until he'd reached Shikamaru's room that he noticed something was...off. The room looked a bit, well, girly. The distinct scent of exotic perfume wafted past his nostrils, and after taking a deep whiff, recognized it as Love Potion no. 9 from the Wind Country.
...his partner liked perfume. A lot.
Just as he was about to leave the letter on the nightstand and escape, something resting against the wall caught his attention. It looked like...a battle fan! His jaw literally crashed against the ground. There was only person in the known world who used a battle fan as a weapon, and the last time he'd seen Temari, she definitely hadn't mentioned anything about the lazy shinobi. If Gaara didn't know about this, he was going to kill Shikamaru when he found out. Still, it was good to see that she had found someone worth her time.
Still shaking his head, he slipped through the window and sprinted off towards the other houses, depositing the letter and running off before he was detected. The faint smell of perfume (Jean Patou's 1000) reached his nostrils, immediately knocking him out of his daydreams. He couldn't help the small smirk that made its way onto his face. She was so cute when she tried to sneak up on him.
"You really suck at sneaking, Kin-chan," he called, not bothering to turn around. The woman in question landed behind him and pouted.
"Shut up! You can only detect me because of the stupid Kyuubi." Well, he couldn't deny that. The Kyuubi had given him more than a few useful abilities, even if the fox was a pompous good-for-nothing jackass. Kin walked up to his side and stared down at the reminiscent expression on his face. She'd seen it countless times before during their five years together, and quite frankly, she was sick of it. She knew exactly what was going through his head, and crossing her arms over her chest, she glared down at him with as much hate as she could muster.
"I don't like it here."
"I'm not afraid to leave without you."
"You're an idiot."
Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed her hand, unceremoniously pulling her into his lap. The shocked and flustered expression on her face was well worth the beating he was liable to get later on, and before she could open her mouth to speak, he leaned in to capture her lips in a bone-searing kiss. Somehow, it seemed more passionate and frantic than any of their previous kisses, and she slowly felt herself losing to his lust-induced spell. She moaned quietly into his mouth, feeling his hand slowly creep under the waistband of her loose fitting pants. At the last second, she pushed his face away and slapped at the area above his wrist.
"Horny bastard," she murmured, nearly laughing at the hurt expression on his face. Even if he was a hot, intelligent, enthusiastically fervent lover, he was still Naruto. "Did you deliver all the letters?" He shrugged slightly, but nodded.
"Most of them. Sasuke left the village." Kin's eyes widened slightly, but she nodded understandingly.
"It was probably the cursed seal." She paused in thought, frowning at the memory of something. "Strange, we didn't see him when we killed Orochimaru. Maybe he ran away?" The man shrugged and slowly stood to his feet.
"Regardless, we should probably get going. It's only a matter of time before someone finds and reads their letter." She nodded her agreement, smiling at the resolute expression resting proudly on his face. He was vastly different from the first time they'd met.
Kin ran through the streets of Konoha, fighting to hold back the tears that were threatening to spill out from the corners of her eyes. She'd just come from a meeting with Orochimaru himself, and had been gaily informed that she and Zaku would be used as human sacrifices for his latest summoning jutsu. She had somehow managed to keep her emotions in check in his presence, but as soon as she'd left the inconspicuous underground hideout hidden beneath a dango stand, she immediately began to sprint in a random direction.
She didn't want to die.
Not like this, anyway. Not without experiencing love, having kids, or hell, even just having sex. But what choice did she have? What Orochimaru wanted, Orochimaru got. She couldn't run, seeing as how he would hunt her to the ends of the Earth and kill her anyway, and she certainly couldn't hide within the village. What could she do? She clenched her eyes shut in a last ditch effort to keep in the tears. A shinobi never showed their emotions; It was one of the first things she'd learned when she became a kunoichi. She'd like to see how the person who made up that rule would react in her shoes.
In retrospect, running blind through the streets of a highly populated ninja village probably wasn't the smartest idea she'd ever had. She suddenly bumped into something firm yet soft at the same time, and whatever it was let out a loud grunt before falling to the ground. Unable to keep her balance, she too fell to the ground, narrowly missing the thing she'd just knocked over.
"Geez, watch where you're going, will ya?" the thing said, sounding more than a little annoyed. Kin slowly opened her eyes and blinked a few times to clear some of the fuzziness. It was now obvious that the thing she'd bumped into was a person, and whoever it was seemed to like the color orange. She rubbed at her dark brown eyes with the back of her hand, smearing the tears that had managed to slip out all over the sides of her face. The action wasn't missed by the blond staring down at her, and true to his nature, he immediately became worried. "Hey, are you okay? What's wrong?" He reached out a hand to help her up, only to have it smacked away before it could fully extend.
"Nothing, just wiping some sweat out of my eyes," she lied, standing up on her own.
"It looks like you were crying to me." The blunt way in which he'd said it almost caused her to confirm his observation, but she managed to only allow one or two tears to roll down her cheeks.
"Well, I wasn't." Her voice wavered ever so slightly, and she cursed herself for being too weak. Dosu and Zaku were right; she was easily the weakest genin in the Sound village. Her best jutsu was basically useless once the opponent figured it out, and it wasn't very effective for one on one battles -- as she'd found out during her match with the shadow user from Konoha. For the first time since she'd run into him, she raised her eyes to look into the face of her current annoyance. She almost gasped as she realized who it was; Uzumaki Naruto, age 12, genin from the Hidden Leaf Village. Weak in both taijitsu and genjitsu, but strong in ninjitsu. Able to use the Kage Bunshin very well, creating upwards of two hundred clones if necessary. She only remembered him because he was on Sasuke's team; the boy they were supposed to kill at her master's order.
"What?" Naruto asked, noticing her analyzing and confused expression. The black-haired girl was just staring at him, and to be honest, it was beginning to unnerve him. She wore a black and white camoflauge scarf, dark grey pants, and a simple black sleeveless shirt. There didn't appear to be anything overtly special about the girl, but she did look a little familiar. The girl once again shook her head and began to walk away, leaving a slightly pissed off blond in her wake. "Hey, aren't you going to apologize for running me over?!" Kin suddenly stopped in the middle of the street, feeling anger begin to well up inside of her. Who did this weak little genin think he was? Just because she was the weakest genin in the Sound village didn't mean that she couldn't take down this idiot.
"Why should I?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder at the equally annoyed boy. "It's your fault for being in my way." Naruto gaped at the sheer audacity of her statement. What the hell kind of sense did that make?!
"Hey, don't try to blame this on me! I was just minding my own business, and suddenly you came out of nowhere and knocked me over! It's your fault!" She quietly stared at him for a few tense seconds, putting Naruto on edge. Tears slowly began to seep from the corners of her eyes, shocking the blond even more. He honestly hadn't intended to make her cry, and noticing the glares he was getting from random passerbys, he quickly closed the distance between them and attempted to calm her down. It wouldn't look good for his future as the Hokage if things got any worse. "Oi! Are you okay?" She fiercely shook her head, not trusting her voice to speak yet. Her throat felt thick and constricted, and she once again rubbed at her eyes to get rid of the salty liquid. "Well, uh, are you hungry? I was just about to get some ramen."
He pointed at the building in front of him, and she noticed with some surprise that it was a cheap ramen stand. It amazed her that she hadn't smelled the usually fragrant dish; then again, that was probably a result of her nose being stuffed with snot. She then looked at the grinning boy with a mildly suspicious look on her face.
"What's your angle?" the girl asked, managing to pull off a scowl despite her messy face. She was certain that her face was streaked with both tears and mucus by now, but quite frankly, she didn't care. Naruto shrugged lightly, folding his hands behind his head.
"I dunno, you just looked like you could use some. Ramen makes everyone feel better!" She eyed him strangely for a few seconds, but eventually nodded and stepped under the thin veil of the restaurant. Now that she thought about it, she was a little hungry after the huge amount of running she'd done to get here, and a bowl of soup did sound good. Taking a quick, surveying look around the small building, she noticed that it looked just as dinky on the outside as it did on the inside. The thin wooden walls of the shop were slightly yellowed with age and steam, and while clean, the floors looked like they could use a fresh coat of varnish. A couple of the red pillowed stools were ripped on the sides, exposing a bit of the beige colored fluff inside, but she couldn't complain too much. It was, at the very least, clean.
She sat on one of the old stools with a small amount of uncertainty, jumping a little when the blond genin hopped onto the seat directly beside her. If it was even possible, his grin stretched fully across his face as he opened his mouth to yell.
"Oi, old man! Two bowls of miso!" He lowered his voice when the owner of the stand nodded. "What do you want?" he asked, staring at the black-haired girl. Kin frowned lightly in thought. She didn't eat ramen often, and when she did, it was always either packaged chicken or miso flavor. Feeling a little daring, she glanced up at the menu and chose the first item she saw.
"Beef?" Naruto nodded and smiled at the choice. It was one of his favorites.
"Old man! make that two bowls of miso and a beef!" The man lifted his hand to show that he'd heard and set about creating the requested dish. "So," the genin started, glancing at the Sound shinobi, "What's your name?" She momentarily bristled, unsure of what to say. She wasn't supposed to reveal her name or status to anyone if it wasn't required, and doing so would directly be going against Orochimaru's orders. Still, she was going to be dying the next day during the Chuunin Exams anyway, so it wasn't like he could do anything about it. With that thought in mind she lowered her head a little and peeked at Naruto from the corner of her eye.
"Tsuchi Kin." The blond grinned again, exposing every one of his teeth.
"My name's Uzumaki Naruto! I'm gonna be the next Hokage!" Kin snorted under her breath, crossing her arms underneath her chest in annoyance.
"I know who you are. We were in the Chuunin Exams together." He blinked a few times in confusion, and she was literally able to see the gears in his head turning. Finally, his eyes lit up in recognition, and he rudely pointed at her with a triumphant grin.
"Ah! You're the girl that lost to Shikamaru! I remember now!" She winced at being outed so loudly, but nodded anyway. She was feeling too stressed out to get worked up over his blunt declaration. "Is that why you were crying? Are you still sad about losing?" Kin shook her head, mildly annoyed that he'd even think that she would cry over something like that. Their conversation was interrupted when the chef placed three bowls in front of them. As if she'd never existed, Naruto immediately dug into his dish, slurping the noodles down as if he didn't have a care in the world. The aroma from her own bowl eventually got the best of her, and she too began to eat her ramen.
Her eyes widened in surprise as she placed a small amount of the food into her mouth. The packaged stuff had nothing on professionally made ramen, and she wondered how the hell she'd survived for fourteen years without tasting the stuff once. Just how much else had she missed out on? How much would she never get the chance to experience? She ate more and more of the steaming noodles, barely noticing her vision becoming blurry nor the snot mixing in with the broth as she ate. It wasn't until she'd practically choked on her food did she realize that she was crying. Her hands slowly began to tremble more and more, and the chopsticks she'd been holding eventually slipped out from between her fingers to fall to the hardwood floor beneath them.
"H-hey! What's wrong?!" Naruto asked, hopping up from his stool in concern. His cerulean blue eyes were wide with worry, and he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. Surprised, Kin flinched away from his hold.
"Nothing, I just have something in me eyes." She stood up from he seat and began to exit the establishment. "Thank you for the meal." The blond narrowed his eyes disbelievingly. He'd often made the same excuse when the Third asked him what the trouble was, and it didn't take a lot of effort to see that she was lying. Throwing some money onto the counter, he hurried outside to follow her.
"Oi, Kin, wait up!" he yelled, jogging to her side. The black haired girl sped up, breaking out into a slow jog of her own. The tears in her eyes refused to stop, and she couldn't afford to face him in such a pitiful state. True shinobi didn't show weakness; that was one of the founding rules for ninja.
"Go away! I told you, I'm fine!" Naruto frowned and picked up his speed, trying to catch the now running kunoichi.
"Then why're you running?!" Her eyebrows furrowed when she realized she couldn't answer his question.
"Because...I want to! Leave me alone!" Unconvinced, the jinchuuriki put on an extra burst of speed and grabbed the Sound nin by the arm. "Let me go!" she screamed, gaining the attention of a few curious civilians. The people began to whisper amongst themselves, staring curiously at the dramatic scene playing out before them. A couple of the people even began to look for ANBU officers to stop the Kyuubi before he killed the crying girl. However, Naruto tuned them all out and stared straight into Kin's watery eyes.
"What's wrong?" She quickly averted her gaze, quietly staring down at her feet. She was wholly, completely, and utterly ashamed of herself. The fact that she had to be comforted by someone else -- not just anyone, but a Konoha ninja no less -- made her feel sick to her stomach. On the other hand, she was also a little relieved that she wasn't alone anymore. That she had another person who seemed to care about her; even if just a little bit. Her teammates certainly hadn't given a damn about her, and neither had her parents.
She sucked in a large, shaky breath of air and slowly let it out between pursed lips. What did it matter if she told him? Orochimaru was going to kill her regardless, and it wasn't if he'd even learn of this minor transgression against his orders. Lifting her eyes to meet the blond's once again, she slowly opened her mouth to speak.
"Because...I...I'm going to die tomorrow."
"Kin-chan? Oi, Kin-chan!"
The woman in question snapped out of her reverie, blinking a few times to regain her focus. They were still standing on top of the Hokage monument, although Naruto had somehow managed to stand directly in front of her without her noticing. She smiled softly at the concerned missing nin, realizing how similar he looked to the idiot blond she'd met all those years ago.
"What?" the man asked, tilting his head in the cute way she'd become accustomed to. Quickly erasing the small smile, she shook her head and motioned for him to follow her down the trail.
"Nothing, just remembering some things about the day we met. You were so cute back then! I wonder what happened?" Naruto frowned and crossed his arms, glaring at the back of the kunoichi's head. He knew she was laughing; he could tell by the subtle shaking of her shoulders.
"Bah! I'm just as cute now as I was back then! Hell, I'm probably cuter!" His words fell on deaf ears as Kin jumped the last twenty or so feet down the mountain. Jumping from that height was child's play for shinobi of their caliber, although it still panicked him a little when she did it. The young man suddenly stopped in his tracks, just comprehending her previous sentence. "Wait, you thought I was cute?!" Her giggles could be heard from the dark patch of trees below him, and he jumped down into the forest to join her.
"Of course. Especially that look you had on your face when I told you I was going to die."
"I won't let you." Kin's eyes widened in disbelief. The expression on his face was reminiscent of the ones often worn by the main character in action movies; a mixture of determination and resolve. Hardly a trace of the idiot blond could be seen in his demeanor, and she briefly wondered if this was even the same person. Still, his words angered her, and she took a guarded step back while shooting him her most spiteful glare.
"You don't have a choice!" she screamed, raising her voice considerably. "You can't beat him! No one can!" Glancing around at the growing crowd, Naruto threw his arm around her shoulders and quickly led her away from the villagers. A few attempted to follow them, but were quickly discouraged by the menacing glare he threw over his shoulder. He was, despite his appearance, the Kyuubi.
They walked for a few minutes in silence, neither one of them knowing what to say next. Naruto was itching to ask who exactly 'him' was, but surprisingly, he was also afraid to know; especially after running into that insanely powerful Grass-nin during the Chuunin Exams.
Kin, on the other hand, was quite content walking through the streets of Konoha under the guidance of the blond genin. She felt oddly comfortable by his side, subconsciously edging her thin body closer to his. She knew it was wrong; she knew that this could possibly lead to a situation worse than the one she was already in. Still, she cast her common sense aside and decided to go with it. This was her first time in nearly ten years that she'd been touched so affectionately, even if it was just a companionable embrace.
"So, who is he?" he asked, trying to sound as casual as possible. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well as he'd hoped, and the black-haired girl immediately stiffened under his arm. She shuffled uneasily for a few seconds, staring at her slightly dirty toes as if they were the most interesting things in the world. Finally, she let loose a tired sigh and turned to meet the inquiring gaze of her momentary companion.
"Orochimaru." Naruto blinked and tilted his head in thought. The name certainly sounded familiar; he was sure that Iruka-sensei had mentioned the man sometime during his lectures, but his mind refused to make any more connections. Surprised by his confused expression, Kin stopped walking to stare wide-eyed at his face. "Wait, you don't know Orochimaru?! One of the legendary sannin? Nukenin from this village?!" When the blond shook his head, she figuratively felt her jaw hit the ground. "Are you stupid or something?!" He shrugged and set his hands on his hips, staring disinterestedly at the surprised girl.
"It doesn't matter who it is! I'll protect you from him! That's my nindo, my ninja way!" She smiled lightly at his words. It was nice to have someone standing up for her for once. The way he spoke made her feel like he actually could bring down the snake sannin, no matter how young or powerless he looked. Her smile dropped a bit when she realized that no matter how she felt, they would both die if he tried to fight.
"Thank you," Kin said, lowering her head towards the ground, "I appreciate you wanting to help me. I really do. However, there really is no way you can save me." A sudden thought flickered through her mind at that moment, and she rested her hand lightly under her chin. "Unless..." Excited that there was something he could do to help, Naruto stepped forward with an anxious frown marring his face.
"Unless what?! I'll do anything!" She lifted her eyes to meet his, and before a word even let her mouth, the blond knew his life was about to change forever.
"You and I run away together."
"I was really surprised when you suggested that we run away together. Looking back, it almost sounds like a cheesy romance novel!" Naruto chuckled, walking towards the Eastern wall at a leisurely pace. The woman glanced back at him and smiled, eyes shining with both mischief and happiness.
"You were surprised? How do you think I felt when you agreed?"
Kin's jaw dropped.
"I'll do it. If it'll keep you alive, I'll do it." Her mouth refused to form a single word, and as such, she was reduced to a sputtering, stuttering mess. It didn't make any sense! Why would a guy willingly leave his friends, family, and entire life behind to help her? She'd only suggested it so that he'd leave her alone; she never thought he'd say yes.
"But you don't even know me! What about your life here?! Why are you going so far to help me?!" Naruto smiled sadly, looking over at her with bone-chillingly serious eyes.
"I don't have much of a life here anyway. If I left now, the only people who would miss me are Iruka-sensei, the Hokage, the people at the ramen stand, and maybe Ero-sennin. No one else gives a damn about me, and it's not like I have anything to lose by leaving now." Kin nodded her head, immediately understanding the pain he felt on a daily basis. She hadn't realized it at first, but they were exactly the same. Both were lonely, and both were looking for an escape from that loneliness. She couldn't refuse him now; not after she'd found (and given) some hope.
"Alright." She paused to think about what she would say next. Sure, deciding to run for it was all well and good, but they still needed some sort of plan. Orochimaru and Konoha would be looking for them if they just left, so in order to get away scott-free, they'd need to make it look like they were dead. Much easier said than done. "Listen, we need to find a place away from prying eyes and ears. How about your place?" The blond lifted his eyebrows, but nodded.
"Uh, sure, I guess. This way!" He led her down a side street, doing his best to avoid the areas where most people congregated around this time of day. While them being together wouldn't be overly suspicious to a normal civilian, a shinobi would immediately be able to tell that something was up. They were taking a risk by walking so close to one another, but neither one of them wanted to be too far from the other; even though they'd only known each other for two hours at the most, the genin already felt like friends.
Luckily, they were pretty close to his home, and the two of them managed to reach his apartment in just under ten minutes. As far as they knew they hadn't been spotted -- then again, it was hard to say with so many high level ninja constantly milling around the village. Kin tentatively followed the boy into the rundown building, and taking a quick look around, she realized that he really wouldn't be missing too much by leaving. Dirt, grime, and mold covered the walls outside of the apartments, and it was obvious to even the casual observer that it was unfit for a human.
"Here we are!" Naruto exclaimed, motioning for her to enter one of the cheap apartments. She nodded slightly and stepped inside, immediately surprised at how much different it looked inside than out. While it wasn't much to write home about, it was at least ten times cleaner than the outside. A small smile flickered onto her face; apparently, he knew how to do a bit of housework.
"Nice place," she commented, kicking off her sandals before moving further into his home. He scratched the back of his head sheepishly, mimicking her actions as he too moved towards the living room.
"Thanks! The old lady at the orphanage used to make me do all the chores by myself, so I learned a thing or two from that." Kin smirked at him from over her shoulder.
"Sounds like a nice woman." The blond laughed, immediately picking up on her sarcasm. He found that memory wasn't quite so bad when humor was added. He calmed down a bit and walked into his kitchen, looking through the cupboards for some kind of drink. His eyes lit up when he found a small box of unused black tea sitting behind a stack of ramen.
"Want some tea?" he asked, already pulling a couple of cheap porcelain cups from the neighboring cupboard. The black-haired girl pulled off her fatigue scarf and tossed it onto the back of the couch, plopping down onto the cushioned piece of furniture shortly after.
"Sure, thanks." She stretched her bare arms towards the ceiling, wincing at the sound of her bones popping back into place. "So about this plan; have any ideas?" Naruto nodded as he set the kettle to boil, walking over and sitting down next to her on the worn chair.
"Yeah! I was thinking that we should fake our deaths! You know, so they won't keep wondering where we are or look for us." Kin blinked. She didn't think he was smart enough to come up with something like that, but perhaps she'd been wrong in writing him off as an idiot. A sweet, courageous idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. If only she knew about the nickname he'd received from most of the village's ninja.
"Really?! Great! I was thinking the same exact thing!" her eyes were lit up with excitement, and she turned her body a little more to face him. "So how do we do it? We should probably leave some kind of bodily evidence behind so that they'll think we really died, but how do we do that without killing or maiming ourselves?" The blond frowned in thought. She definitely had a point there. He suddenly remembered Iruka-sensei lecturing them about how they recovered fallen shinobi during times of war, and how sometimes, they were only able to identify a body by the name etched into the metal of the Konoha forehead protector. He grinned with excitement, and leaning closer to the deeply thinking girl, began to explain his idea.
"What if we find someone our size, kill them, and mutilate the body enough so that they won't even be able to tell that it's not us! They'd think we were killed by some random nukenin, and they'd be too happy to see I'm dead to do any real investigating." Kin's jaw dropped for what had to be the third time that day. His plan was evil, sick, dishonorable, and...awesome. She smiled mischievously at the excited boy, and a small flicker of something was easily seen in her dark pupils.
"I like the way you think, Naruto-kun. I like it a lot." They stared intensely at each other for a few seconds, neither one of them daring to breath in that short amount of time. The sound of the kettle snapped them out of their brief exchange, and Naruto hopped up to tend to the whistling device.
"Water's done! Do you want sugar or honey?" he called from the kitchen. The girl roughly shook her head, blinking her eyes back into focus in the process.
'What was that?' she wondered, biting her bottom lip in thought. "Uh, honey, please!" The blond nodded and poured some of the requested sweetener into the steaming cup. He approached her with a small smile and held the cup of tea out to her.
"Here you go!" Kin nodded her thanks and took a small sip, setting the cup down on low table in front of them shortly after to get back to business. They had less than a day to come up with a workable plan, and she wasn't quite ready to die yet -- especially now that she'd found some form of a friend.
"So, we find someone our size, kill them, dress them in our clothes, and run?" she asked, watching him as he drank his tea. Naruto nodded again.
"That sounds good. But when do we do it?"
"Orochimaru wants me at the stadium before nine o'clock in the morning. He'll start looking for me if I don't show up, so we'll have to do everything before then." The girl scratched at her baggy pants and sighed. "We'd have to be out of the village by nine-thirty tops. Is there any way you could buy us some time?" He furrowed his brows in thought, thinking over a list of possibilities. He admittedly wasn't the smartest guy in the world, but he could come up with plans when his life or his precious people's lives were on the line.
"What about Kage Bunshin? I could make it look like you, and they won't realize you're gone until they either dispel it or we move too far away for me to control it." Kin smiled widely in response. It could work! It wasn't as if Orochimaru himself would be checking to see if she were real or not; he'd be too busy posing as the Kazekage!
"That could work! The only thing left to figure out is an exact time frame and a couple of victims. I don't suppose you'd want to kidnap a couple of civilians, would you?" When Naruto frowned, she shrugged lightly and smiled again. "Worth a shot." The two teens sighed as they struggled to come up with viable options for targets. With Naruto refusing to use a civilian as a decoy, there weren't many options left. "Well, I suppose we could use one of the soldiers that are going to invade Konoha tomorrow." The blond blinked at this new information.
"Wait, what? Who's invading Konoha?!" he asked, hopping up in surprise. His tea was immediately forgotten as he stared down at the reclining girl.
"...Oh. Oops. Guess I forgot to tell you." Naruto grunted out a response. "Well, thing is, my--I mean, Orochimaru's village is planning to attack Konoha during the Chuunin Exams. He was going to use me as a human sacrifice for his summoning jutsu." He frowned deeply, crossing his arms over his chest in what looked like anger. She was surprised, however, when his anger gave way to a wide, foxy grin.
"That's perfect! With all the confusion, it'd make it look even more like an accident!" Kin nodded and stood up, stretching as she did.
"I believe so. We'll work out the kinks in the morning." She began to unbuckle the large belt wrapped around her waist, and Naruto watched in shock as she nonchalantly let the baggy pants fall to her ankles. She stepped out of the loose fitting garment and kicked it into a corner before flopping back on his couch in nothing more than her black tank top and panties. Noticing his appalled stare, she lifted an eyebrow and frowned. "What, I'm not allowed to crash here?" she asked, completely unaware of what he was gawking at. It didn't help any that one leg was splayed out on top of the chair while the other was stretched towards the opposite end.
"No! I mean, won't that Orochimaru guy get mad if you're not there?" he asked, averting his gaze. She closed her eyes and shrugged, yawning widely before answering.
"Nah, Orochimaru doesn't keep tabs on us too much. Besides, he said I could spend my last day however I wanted to as long as I showed up on time." He gulped noisily and nodded, walking stiffly towards his room. She watched him leave with an amused stare, tilting her head a bit at his strange actions. "Are you okay?"
"O-oh, yeah, I'm fine! Ahahaha! Uh, well, night!" He rushed down the hall and slipped into his room, shutting the door behind him with a slam. His blush covered his face in a red glow, and groaning loudly, he fell face first onto his pillow. He couldn't help but wonder if she'd done that on purpose or not; it wasn't often that girl uncaringly dropped her pants in front of a guy she barely knew. Shaking his head, he willed himself to go to sleep. They had a big day tomorrow; a day that could potentially be their last.
"Is that why you were staring at me so intently? Ha! You were so innocent back then! I wonder what happened?" Kin asked, preparing to scale the wall and leave the village. Before she could jump, a pair of strong, wiry arms wrapped around her waist. Naruto pulled her in towards his body, resting his lips in the crook of her neck.
"You happened." His breath tickled her as he spoke, and giggling quietly, she leaned her head back to look at his face.
"Are you trying to blame the loss of your innocence on me? I believe it was you who attacked me first." The young man snorted, tickling her again with his warm breath.
"Only after you enticed and teased me for weeks on end." He nipped softly at the sensitive flesh between her neck and shoulder, grinning when he felt her shudder against him. She suddenly pushed him away and stepped towards the wall again, glaring at him from over her shoulder.
"Stop it already! I told you we could have some fun after we escaped from the village! Can you really not wait half an hour?" The blond pouted and crossed his arms over his chest, shooting her his infamous puppy dog eyes. Unfortunately, her expression remained largely unchanged, and she channeled some chakra into the bottom of her feet.
"Nice try, Naruto-kun, but that stopped working years ago." He watched her walk up the wall with a scowl, reluctantly mimicking her actions. A sudden memory flashed through his mind as the walked, and he sped up a little until he was walking side by side with his lover.
"Hey, isn't this the same wall we escaped over five years ago?" Kin stopped momentarily, seemingly thinking the question over.
"Probably; I believe we dumped your mutilated body directly underneath that tree. I'd give anything to see the expressions on your teammates' faces when they got a load of that corpse." Naruto chuckled darkly at the memory. To be honest, it didn't look much like a body when they were done with it. They'd been lucky enough to find a Sound genin around his size wandering around outside the Eastern walls. He didn't have blond hair, and his skin was much lighter than Naruto's own, so they'd decided that burning the body would leave the least evidence and make it impossible to tell what the boy originally looked like.
After capturing the boy in a simple genjutsu and pummeling him into the ground with a shitload of Kage Bunshin, it'd been child's play to exchange clothes (headband and all) with the unconscious boy. They sliced him up a bit with their kunai, cutting off a few fingers and sawing through his bones to make it look like he'd been tortured before he died. Finally, they'd burnt and left the body in hopes of finding a girl suitable to act as Kin.
They'd done nearly the same thing with her replacement, only this time, they killed the girl outright with a kunai to the forehead. The teens gouged out her eyes, cut out her tongue, and stomped on her face enough to make it so that she didn't even look human. They'd then dragged the corpse to a small secluded piece of forestry and left it there to (hopefully) be found by Orochimaru's men. If things went according to plan, they'd pronounce her dead and move on, leaving her and Naruto alone.
Needless to say, it worked.
"Ah, that was fun. Too bad we never got the chance to do it again," Naruto commented. The woman snorted and motioned for him to continue walking.
"I bet the Kyuubi was laughing with glee the entire time -- even though you couldn't hear him back then." She flipped onto the top of the wall with practiced ease, stopping to look back at the village one last time. "It's still kind of hard to believe it's been five years. So much has happened in that short amount of time, and I wouldn't change any of it for the world." Kin paused for a few seconds, trying to figure out how to phrase what she wanted to say next. "It's just that...sometimes...I feel as if what I did was wrong." Her companion glanced at her from the corner of his eye.
"Wrong? What're you talking about?"
"You know! I...I took you away from your team, your friends, and your dream to be the Hokage! You always say that it was your decision, and that you're happier this way, but I see that longing frown that appears on your face every now and then. I know you miss this place." Running a frustrated hand through her hair, she closed her eyes in defeat.
"I don't like it here." Naruto grinned slightly, recognizing the familiar conversation they'd had only an hour before.
"I'm not afraid to leave without you."
"You're an idiot."
"I love you." The young man blinked in surprise. This was new. Still, he widened his smile and wrapped an arm around her.
"I know." Her eyes began to tear up as she
"That's why...I want you to stay. You can tell them you were kidnapped, or that you got amnesia! Or maybe, they'll accept you back without any questions! You did used to be a shinobi here, and you did come back of your own free will. They can't execute for that, can they? Or if you want, you can--" Naruto cut her off with a hug, pulling her small frame firmly against his own body.
"Kin." The kunoichi sniffled as quietly as she could, not wanting him to see or hear her tears. She relaxed heavily against his chest, and wrapping her own thin arms around his waist, she answered.
"You're right. I do miss it here sometimes." She choked back a sob, tightening her grip around his midsection considerably. "But, that's not nearly enough to make me want to stay. Even if I miss my friends, teammates, or this village, I am and always will be the happiest man in the world. Know why?"
Unsure, she lifted her eyes to his in silent question.
"Because I've got you." He lowered his lips to hers in a quick but gentle kiss, and forming a few one handed seals behind her back, transported them away from the village.
The next morning, twenty-five of Konoha's top shinobi and a couple of civilians were admitted to the Konoha General Hospital. All of them-- even Sarutobi, the Sandaime Hokage -- had fainted after reading the mysterious message left by an unknown stranger. Morino Ibiki, the head of the torture and interrogation department, frowned as he stared at the piece of paper resting innocently on the old man's desk. Everyone who had received the message was hospitalized, and for that reason, no one dared pick up the letter to read it. If it could take out even the Hokage, it was obviously some kind of high level genjutsu.
Still, the scarred special jounin couldn't help but wonder if that was really the case. Even Konoha's top genjutsu specialists, Yuuhi Kurenai and Haruno Sakura, had fallen prey to the mysterious letter, and they could smell a genjutsu a mile away. Unable to take the curiosity any longer, the man reached over and snatched the note from the desk, lifting it to his eyes in careful concentration. As soon as he read the first line, a wide smile appeared on the normally scowling man's face. Now that he thought about it, the victims of the letter made perfect sense!
"That guy, he hasn't changed a bit." Shaking his head, he skimmed the line one more time to make sure that there was no mistake:
You are cordially invited to the wedding of Tsuchi Kin and Uzumaki Naruto.
AN: Ahhh, I've been working on this for at least three months. It's been at the very back of my mind for awhile, but I decided to go ahead and finish it before I forgot what it was I wanted to do. My first oneshot! It was almost a two shot (; I hope the changes of time aren't too confusing, though.
Melody of the Fox will be updated next week! Thanks for reading!