I don't own anything that has to do with Naruto. The plot of this story, and most of the history that is depicted in this fic are the only original ideas that I have.
-Chapter 1. Regrets.-
Uzumaki Naruto. Shinobi of Konohagakure. Recently promoted to Anbu, given the uncomfortably fitting name of Fox. Slowly, gradually closing in on his ultimate goal of becoming the Rokudaime Hokage.
However, today, all of his hope, all of his dreams, every single up in his life gave way to a pair of unfortunate circumstances on this day.
The first, and most obvious of these circumstances was the fact that today was October 10, the day that he was conceived and condemned at the same time.
Though the 'surprise' that he had received on that day caused his usually depressed mood towards this day to sink even lower.
Even though it had been half a year ago, it had seemed like yesterday that he had finally dragged his first true friend back to Konoha. It came to a bloody, violent end when Naruto and Sasuke, intentional or not, worked together to finally take out Uchiha Itachi, ending Sasuke's war against his brother.
After finally bringing him back, after spending a month in the hospital, and after a meeting among the elders, clan heads, and the Hokage herself, in which Sasuke was reluctantly excused for all transgressions on the pretext that he acted within the best interests of his clan, which would in turn, only improve Konoha, Sasuke was reinstated as a Shinobi of Konoha.
Naruto had received a wide array of reactions to bringing back the official last Uchiha back to the village. The elders, although they still resented him because it was him, still had to respect the fact that he had accomplished his mission, and looked at him with begrudging indifference, a good reprieve from the usual glares that they gave him, though not by much. The Shinobi of Konoha openly acknowledged the fact that he had brought back one of the geniuses of Konoha. His friends all had different reactions to this, but they all basically said the same thing, "Good job, Naruto."
Rock Lee hadn't changed. Looking at him was still the same as looking at a smaller Maito Gai. He still trained constantly, recently surpassing his sensei's expectations and opening the eight gate far earlier than Gai had ever dreamed of. He still wore that appallingly green jumpsuit, hiate-ate wrapped around his waist, absurdly heavy weights on his legs concealed by those orange leg-warmers, eyebrows still incredibly bushy, hair still in one of the most 'unique' bowl-cuts ever seen in the world. The only truly normal part of his appearance was the Jonin vest that he proudly wore.
He had been one of his loudest supporters on his return with Sasuke, though he did quiet down just long enough to whisper to Naruto, "Good job. You kept your promise to Sakura-san." He gave him the most discreet 'Nice Guy Pose' that he could muster, though the gleam that came off of the perfect teeth of Lee left Naruto rubbing his eyes for the next hour.
Hyuuga Neji had become involved in the training of Hyuuga Hanabi, the current heir of the Hyuuga clan. Naruto had noticed how much the Hyuuga genius had changed since their fight during the Chuunin exams, evident by how he had laid off of his cousin over the years. Neji had also acknowledged Naruto's accomplishment, although he seemed completely indifferent towards the situation.
Ten Ten, also a Jonin, had taken a part time job at the academy to teach the students about basic all around weapons that every ninja uses. She had tried, on numerous occasions, to win the heart, or at least the attention, of a certain teammate, but eventually gave up, realizing a lost cause when she saw one. She too supported Naruto.
Aburame Shino was just as mysterious as he had always been, and only gave Naruto a short nod upon his return. Naruto wasn't exactly sure what to make of the Jonin bug user's reaction, but decided to simply pass it off as a good mark for him.
Hyuuga Hinata. Naruto didn't think that there was any question as to how the timid Hyuuga would react to anything he did. And although he was still oblivious to something that was blindingly obvious to everyone else, that being the recently promoted Jonin's undying affection for him, he still respected the girl for her complete trust and confidence in him and his abilities.
Inuzuka Kiba. He and his faithful partner, Akamaru, were training with his older sister, Hana, in becoming professional trackers, and eventually succeeding his sister. He had also joined the ranks of Konoha's Anbu squad, as he felt that his abilities would be much more useful, and probably more appreciated, there. As one of the ninjas who were on the original Sasuke Retrieval mission, he still harbored some hostility towards the last Uchiha. So while he still accepted what Naruto had done in the name of Konoha, he did so with a very angry scowl, though he made it very clear to Naruto that it wasn't directed at him.
Nara Shikamaru had already established himself as quite possibly the laziest ninja in Konoha since Nara Shikaku, so the simple fact that he was the first of the Konoha 12, if you choose to include Sasuke, to be promoted to Chuunin was already a fact that still blew Naruto's mind. Then he was promoted to Jonin. Then he was given a Genin team to look after. The only upside to that would be the fact that he was given the next generation Ino-Shika-Cho trio as a team. "Such a troublesome team to have to deal with," Naruto remembered him saying. "But at least they were born to be able to work together, right?"
His reaction to Sasuke's return was little different from his reaction to everything else. "It is kinda troublesome that you had to accomplish this mission about 8 years too late, but at least you did."
Akimichi Choji, also Jonin, simply nodded his head in agreement with Shikamaru, whilst shoving another handful of chips into his mouth. Naruto simply smiled and asked if he wanted to join him in a celebratory visit to Ichiraku Ramen later that day.
Yamanaka Ino was doing quite well for herself. Though if you can call being the only apprentice to Morino Ibiki, Head of the Anbu Torture and Interrogation Force, the most sadistic bastard that Naruto had ever laid eyes upon, doing quite well for yourself, you must be either just as sadistic, or equally as insane. Naruto figured that Ino was the former, though he would never tell her that to her face. After all, he had a lot to be thankful for because of Ino.
She was the one who had pushed for his acceptance into the Anbu, being an Anbu herself, and she was always there whenever he needed a helping hand with something or if Kiba wasn't around. He wasn't sure just why she was doing this, but he could remember that it started around the time he confessed that the main reason that he was trying to bring Sasuke back was because of a promise he made to Sakura. Ino, who had already given up on Sasuke immediately after she heard of his defection, immediately took pity on the boy. She figured that he knew that if he brought Sasuke back, Sakura would not leave his side. And considering how long he had been chasing after her, that must not have been an easy thing to admit to himself.
So she made herself visible to him. After all, he was everything that a woman would want. Strong, good-looking, extremely caring and determined to whatever he set his mind to, and fun loving. Granted, his undying love for Ramen was still something that she would eventually have to fix on him, she was up for any challenge that would present itself to her for the sake of her friend. The fact that he never responded to her subtle advances never once deterred her. Though her advances did come less and less.
Haruno Sakura. Her reaction had completely thrown Naruto off. Simply because there was no reaction. The moment he stepped through the gates, an injured and unconscious Sasuke on his shoulders, she had immediately taken Sasuke to the hospital, completely ignoring Naruto's presence. Naruto didn't blame her then; after all, if he were in her shoes, he probably would have done the same thing.
Then the month came and went. Sasuke was finally cleared to leave the hospital, and Sakura was with him, practically every step of the way. What really got to Naruto was the fact that Sakura hadn't said a word to him during the entire month. Sure she was needed at the hospital to make sure that the Uchiha genius survived, but whenever he would stop by to visit, Sakura would simply get up and walk out of the room, claiming to have other work to do.
The five months after Sasuke was released were torture for Naruto. Every time he attempted to talk with Sakura, she would run off, saying that she was going to visit Sasuke, just to make sure that he was ok. Then there were the countless missions that Sakura had requested that she and Sasuke do, under the pretext that he needed to 'get back into the groove. She also requested that it be them alone, as he didn't need to be around too many faces that he was hostile towards at the moment, once again leaving Naruto out of the loop, which only further pushed him in the direction of Anbu. It also didn't help that the Elders saw fit to give Sasuke the rank of Jonin as soon as he was healthy enough to do missions.
But all of that were just drops in the lake compared to the atomic bomb that Sakura had just dropped into Naruto that morning.
He had just come out of the Ichiraku Ramen booth for his morning serving of Ramen, thankful for once that it was indeed festival day as most of the villagers were in the newer parts of town either preparing the festival, or preparing for the festival. He was about to head for the Hokage tower and see if Tsunade had some kind of mission for him. Anything to keep him away from the village for the day. However, to his immediate shock, he saw Sakura running up to him, looking like a school girl that had just been asked by the most popular guy in the academy to the dance. "Naruto!"
He smiled widely. 'Sakura-chan is actually talking to me. I can't believe it.' "Hi, Sakura-chan. Is there something you needed?"
Sakura caught her breath before finally looking up at Naruto and, speaking in an overly excited tone, said, "Sasuke and I are getting married."
And that leads us to the present. Naruto, sitting on top of the Yondaime Hokage's stone head, looking down at the village as it carried on with its day long festival. Never before had he felt so depressed. Even his dream of one day becoming Hokage couldn't lighten the mood for the blond-haired boy.
Somewhere deep within him, part of him actually knew that this was how it would turn out. No matter what he did, no matter who he had hurt, Sasuke still remained the center of the Konoha universe. Yes, there were a few there who shared his opinions that Sasuke shouldn't have been treated like he was some sort of God, but in comparison to the overwhelming number of Uchiha supporters, they might as well been ants in a jungle.
The years since he had graduated from the academy had given him time to find something that many said that he didn't have, though he only begun actively searching for it during his 2 and a half year training venture with Jiraiya; The part of his brain that dealt with thinking. And although it may not have seemed that way to many, if not all, of his peers, he did indeed think about the things that happened around him. After all, he seriously doubted that he wouldn't have made the promise to Sakura if he hadn't been thinking about how she felt about the Uchiha traitor.
So, on top of the Hokage monument, he tried and tried to think about what the Village, what Sakura had seen in the boy so much, that they were willing to completely excuse all of his sins, all of his transgressions, even going so far as to promote him? Yes, they may have been friends, and yes, he may have forgiven his friend for what he did, but he was also completely conscious that if it had been him that had committed all of these acts, he wouldn't have even been let back into the village. He had spent damn near his whole life trying to reach the point that he is now. The glares came less and less, the open insults diminished to almost nothing, and the elders accepted him enough to allow him to rise in the ranks of Shinobi. And yet, Sasuke basically spit on the name of Konoha, but just about everyone welcomed him back with open arms.
His thoughts carried him back to Sakura, but it didn't take much thought to figure her out. He basically summed her up in one sentence. "I never had a chance with her." He wasn't exactly sure when her heart became so dead set on winning over the last Uchiha. Most of the time after and during their academy years, her affections towards Sasuke were simply puppy love. However, some time during their Team 7 time, she had grown something more for the boy. And as much as Naruto had wished that she would have let it go and turned her attention to him, somewhere, he knew that it would not be possible.
So here he was, atop the massive visage of the fourth, looking down upon the village that accepted Sasuke but shunned him all because of who they were.
-In another part of the village-
"Where the hell is he?"
Clad in her usual purple tank top and purple skirt with black shorts underneath, because she felt that the standard issue Anbu uniform she had been given should only be worn when doing actual Anbu worthy missions, Yamanaka Ino strolled her way through the streets of Konoha, searching for another blonde haired, blue eyed Anbu member. Considering that there was a giant festival going on, she would have thought that, in spite of the sheer number of people that would be in attendance, it would have been easy to find the only ninja that wore colors that made Rock Lee look like an actual ninja. However she was shocked, and slightly perturbed, to find that her colleague was nowhere to be found.
She had asked a few people at the festival if any of them had seen him anywhere, and though she had gotten simple 'I don't knows' from her friends, she became somewhat confused with some of the older generations, which began with "That brat had better not show his face here," and only got worse as she went on.
She had spent some time with Naruto before his induction into the Anbu, even before he admitted his reasons for wanting to bring back Sasuke, so she was not completely oblivious to the glares and stares that he received from the villagers. Back during their Genin days, she had simply passed it of as their reaction towards all of his pranks. Which she thought wasn't all that bad. His remodeling of the Hokage monument actually prodded a nice fit of laughter from her.
Anyway, as the years went by, the memories of his past, good-humored pranks gave way to an avalanche of surprising deeds from the boy, including the completion of his first C rank, up-graded to B rank, mission, the first among the three rookie teams, and his unexpected victory over last year's number one rookie, the Hyuuga genius, Hyuuga Neji. However, the stares continued to come to him.
Even after his 2 and a half year training trip, they came, though not in the numbers that they usually came in. At first, she thought that it was extremely childish for them to continue to hold a grudge against him simply because of some harmless pranks that he made when he was younger. This was about the time when she began to suspect that there was some sort of deeper reason towards their hate for Naruto. It only seemed a little strange that he always seemed to disappear on this particular day.
Ino, however, wasn't going to put up with her partner's mood anymore. When her partner wasn't in a good mood, his performance suffered greatly, which meant that their team suffered as well. No, today she would make sure that her teammate would have at least a halfway decent time today. Now if only she could find him.
After an hour of searching, she began to use at least a little bit of her intuition. "Ok, he isn't in his apartment, he isn't at the ramen shop, and the Hokage hasn't seen him all day, so he wasn't out on any missions. So where else could he be?" She closed her eyes for a minute, collecting her thoughts, then opened them back up and took off. "If I were as obsessed with becoming Hokage as he was, where would I go to be alone?"
Her answer led her to the top of the Hokage monument, and sitting on top of the head of the Yondaime was Uzumaki Naruto.
She was extremely grateful that his choice of clothing had taken a turn for the better since he came back. She remembered when he returned to Konoha after his training trip with Jiraiya. His clothing, while still atrociously orange, had been extremely toned down since his academy and Genin years, and he had all but eliminated it from his clothing altogether with his present uniform, though it was still present in the form of streaks down the sides of his black pants, which continued up the sides of his black sleeveless shirt, and on to the shoulders. 'He actually looks like a real ninja now.' She remembered thinking to herself when she saw his new outfit.
She walked up behind him not bothering to conceal her presence from him. "Oi, Naruto."
Naruto stiffened for a second before turning his head back to greet her. "Oh, hey there Ino. What are you doing here?"
After spending just a little bit of time with the boy, Yamanaka Ino, being the expert reader of faces that she was training to be, already knew about the mask that Naruto had tried to put on at that moment. She was also aware of the fact that whatever was plaguing him would come out whenever he was ready to let it out. So she simply carried on the conversation as if everything were normal. "Looking for you, you idiot. Why else would I be coming up here all by myself? And before you ask, the reason I came here looking for you is because I figured that a Hokage obsessed person like yourself would probably find this place to be most comforting."
Naruto let out a light laugh before scratching the back of his head. "Yea, I suppose you got me there. It is a great place to be. If I could, I'd probably live up here."
Ino took a seat next to him and stared out over the village. "Yea, it is an awesome view. I remember the last time I was up here, when we were trying to stop that Gennou guy. I didn't get a chance to truly appreciate the view that you can get from up here then."
Naruto simply nodded at the statement. This caused Ino to look over at him a little more. Even though she knew that there was indeed the mask, a silent Naruto was not something that she could deal with. "Listen, I'm sorry if I brought up a sore subject for you. Sakura told me about how close you were to him."
She didn't miss the slight tensing up that occurred in her teammate when she mentioned the pink-haired medical-nin. 'So it's about billboard brow.' "What is it, Naruto?"
Naruto then looked over at her, allowing a bit of his mask to come off, revealing just a hint of sadness in his eyes. Ino's eyes widened. He had never let this amount of pure emotion show in front of anyone that she could remember, much less her.
"Sakura and Sasuke are getting married."
Ino was, to say the least, shocked. Not because Sasuke had decided to marry Sakura. She saw that one coming from a mile away. No, her shock came from the fact that she had been completely wrong about Naruto. 'He still thought that he had a chance with forehead?' This would be one opinion that she wouldn't keep to herself however. "And you are surprised by this? Despite everything that has happened, everything that Sasuke has done, the village as a whole still accepts him as a ninja. From what I have seen, Sakura has spent more time with him than she has with her own family. You should have known way before you brought him back that she wasn't going to give up on him." She turned her head away from him and sighed. "I knew you were an idiot but I had no idea that you could be this idiotic."
"Yeah, I know. Pathetic, aren't I?" Ino turned her eyes back to him, now hugging his knees to his chest, hiding most of his face behind his knees. Only his eyes were visible. "Even though part of me knew that no matter how good I treated her, no matter how many favors I did for her, no matter how many time I saved her life, she would only seem me as a friend, I continued to chase after her, hoping that she would just forget about him and turn to me." He let out and small, sarcastic laugh. "What a wild goose chase that turned out to be huh?"
Ino started to feel bad for her partner, and then remembered why she was up here in the first place. It was bad enough that he was feeling like crap, but the fact that it was starting to rub off on her was not something she was going to accept. She stood up and turned to him in a manner not unlike a mother would when she was demanding her child to go outside and play rather than stay in and watch TV all day. "All right, that's it! Uzumaki Naruto, you are coming with me." She grabbed his arm and pulled him to his feet in a not so gentle manner.
Naruto was immediately dragged out of his depression by her sudden actions. "Huh? Hey, Ino? Where are we going?" He had managed to get in step with her pace after a few feet of stumbling while she dragged him along. "I really don't feel like going to the festival today."
"I know. That's why we aren't going to the festival." She walked along the path leading down to the village, an arm wrapped around the arm of a semi-reluctant Naruto. "You are going to take me to get something to eat. And you are going to pay for the both of us."
Now Naruto got scared. "But Ino, you already know about-"
Ino cut him off right there. "Yes I already know about what the villagers think of you." She remembered the reaction that he had received from one of her favorite restaurants. They had just come back from a particularly gruesome mission in the land of water, and they were, to say the least, a little hungry. She had suggested one of her regular spots, and although he had his initial misgivings about it, which she simply attributed to his ramen obsession, he eventually gave in to her wishes.
At first it was just the man that was supposed to show them to their seats. The moment he saw Naruto, he walked straight up to them, and in the most sincere voice that he could force out of his mouth, said, "I'm sorry, but we are completely booked for the night."
Ino stole a glance over his shoulder, and was not surprised to see that there were indeed rows of empty tables in the restaurant. She came here all of the time, as this was one of the healthier restaurants in the village, so she was well aware of the amount of customers that they received at certain times. And aside from the fact that it was never usually full at this time of day, the restaurant didn't take reservations either. Apparently, he was a new employee, and wasn't aware of her frequent visits. "Don't kid around with me. You don't take reservations, and there are plenty of open tables for us. Just show us to our seats."
He allowed his true feelings to show through and sent an angry scowl towards Naruto. "We do not serve the likes of him. And if you wish to take his side, then I suggest that you leave right along with him."
Ino was angry, to say the least, and would have unleashed Hell upon the poor, unsuspecting soul if Naruto hadn't picked that moment to speak up. "It's ok, Ino. I don't mind. I'll see ya tomorrow, ok?" And with that he jumped on to a nearby building and bounded off to his apartment.
She watched him jump off slightly worried about her teammate. 'That was weird. It's almost as if he was used to this kind of reaction.' She felt her anger return tenfold when she heard the man say, "Oh, how about that? One of our reservations just canceled. Shall I show you to your seat?"
There is now a picture of her in front of the restaurant, banning her from ever entering.
So she was familiar with his reluctance for eating in other places. And as much as she didn't want to, this was supposed to be about cheering him up. "That is why you are going to treat me to…" She inwardly cringed at the fact that she was even considering this, but swallowed hard and said, "Ichiraku Ramen."
"………" Naruto stared at her in complete shock, even as he allowed her to pull her along with him.
"What's the matter with you?" Ino felt his stare upon her.
"You never want to eat ramen with me. Every time I ask you, you always say that you want to 'keep your perfect figure' and go somewhere else."
"Maybe I just haven't given it a fair chance before." She looked back at him with a friendly smile.
All Naruto could do was smile back.
"Besides I would think that you would actually like to enjoy your birthday for once."
Naruto stopped right there. "You…… know?"
She turned around and faced him. "I did a little digging and eventually found it out. Though I was surprised to find that your birthday and the festival were on the same day."
He just gave a light smile and nodded at her.
"So today, I will ensure that you actually have a happy birthday." She sighed and grabbed his arm. "Tell you what. Since it is your birthday, it will be all the ramen that you can eat, on me."
Naruto smiled a little wider, and Ino was glad to see that it wasn't forced, wasn't just a mask to try to hide his true feelings. 'There is still something there, but at least I can make him forget about it for now.'
-End Chapter 1-
Ok, this is my first crack at a Naruto fic. I would like to make a full story out of it and I already have an idea as to how I want to play this story out. So please tell me if you would like to see more of this story. Thanks.