Comments: I'm baaaaaaaack!
Haha, and a day late, so my apologies. This week turned out to be a little crazier than I expected but here I am, as promised.
Alright, so welcome to Misery Loves Company, my Misery Business sequel. This one will be exciting, full of action and drama--and yes, like everyone is dying for, romance, lol. In fact, I have a strong feeling that the later chapters will get more explicit, so I will be posting edited versions here and unedited on my ygal account. But that's way in the future so we'll just take it as it comes, okay?
Thank you for all of your excitement following Miz Biz and for all of your amazing reviews. I was really excited too get this one going, and I hope that everyone enjoys it!
Chapter 1: The Time Between
"Did you kill them?"
"Hu—what?" Naruto twisted around in his computer chair, ignoring the groan it gave in response. The summer sun shot in idly from the window above his computer desk, making his already tan features seem even more russet than usual.
"I asked if you killed them," Shino repeated, and he knelt back against the kitchen counter with a skeptical look on his face. Naruto laughed before looking slightly irritated.
"No I did not kill Sakura or Kiba." He shook his head and turned back to his computer, pleased to see that his last disc had finished burning. He popped it out of the disc drive and into a case, scribbling a note with a sharpie on the cover. When Shino didn't say anything else, Naruto peered back over his shoulder.
"Why would you think that I killed them?" With one eyebrow raised, Naruto curled his lips into a frown, and he watched his friend intently for an answer. Shino was impassively still, hands buried in the pockets of a jacket blazer, eyes and expression hidden beneath sunglasses that were too small.
"Before midterms you came to my house. You said, "I may not see you for a while…", and then you took my car. When you came back and I asked what happened to them, you said it would all be clearer after graduation."
Naruto nodded and continued to sort through a stack of CDs he had burned, dividing them by nature. He had a book for software, a flip-through for music, and a smaller hardback for research and paperwork he had completed on his own. After a minute, he glanced back.
"And we graduated two months ago, and I still haven't seen either of them."
Naruto paused and took a long breath before turning around to his friend. He could feel his lips turning into a frown and his eyes narrowing more than usual, his buoyant personality beginning to sink under the miniature interrogation.
"Shino," Naruto started, and he shoved his books into a bag on his thigh. "Sometimes things happen to you in your life that you can't really talk about, no matter how much you want to—"
"Like killing people?"
"—and even though I know I'm being selfish by asking this, I really just want you to trust me." Naruto looked playfully agitated at Shino's remark and stood up, searching the taller man's face for a sign of approval. He continued after Shino continued to stare impassively.
"A lot of things happened while you were in Denver. Things between the three of us changed. To be honest, I don't even know what Kiba and Sakura are up to these days," A small part of him cheered the fact that what he had said hadn't been a lie.
Shino wandered over to the living area and sat on the couch, mindfully watching a fly buzz against a bay window overlooking the outside parking lot. The sun was hot and the pavement was glowing beneath it, and Naruto meandered beside him to fiddle with the air conditioning knob above the television set.
"Did they leave because you're gay?"
Naruto whipped around, his expression completely affronted. His eyes were wide and his lips were parted with confusion, and after a quick moment he looked strangely agitated.
"I'm not going to give you the satisfaction of answering that."
From the couch Naruto saw Shino smirk, and he turned back towards the thermostat, wondering why the small ball signaling cold wouldn't activate. It wasn't the first time he had experienced problems in his apartment complex, but he had no intention of calling anyone for maintenance. For how much longer he was staying, it didn't make much sense.
"So who is the guy?" Shino asked nonchalantly, and Naruto frowned as he twisted to a small duffle bag he had perched by the door. He shoved his CD booklets in and searched the room for his shoes, playfully avoiding Shino's cross-examination.
"Take a guess," he grinned, because that was a question he knew the other man couldn't answer. Shino seemed thoughtful for a moment before running a finger over his chin.
"It's probably someone I've never met, knowing you," he chanced, and Naruto looked disappointed. If there was ever a person he could get nothing past, it was the one sitting on his couch, looking apathetic for the poor creature still battling the window for exit.
"You're too good at reading me," Naruto said, and he pulled the duffle bag over his shoulder. "I'm 24 now; I'm supposed to have some sort of mystery."
Shino almost smiled but instead got up from the couch and went to open the widow. The outer screen was missing, something Naruto had requested be fixed many times before, but it seemed to bode well for the insect that dodged out into the morning sunlight.
"Everything about you is a mystery, these days," Shino said, and Naruto couldn't help but hear a serious edge in his tone. It made him pause for a moment, and he waited for Shino to turn and face him.
"Shino," he started, but the other man looked dismissive.
"I know. You're going to miss your flight." Even through his sunglasses Naruto could see Shino's eyes make a furtive glance at the duffle-bag at his side. Naruto smiled and turned towards the door, letting the familiar features of his apartment in Boulder, Colorado make a lasting impression in his mind.
"Thank you for putting up with me these past couple of years," Naruto said, and he clutched the bag tighter against his back. Shino glanced over to him from the window and nodded, though Naruto knew what he was thinking. Mostly because he was thinking it too. Somehow, between the both of them, they both understood that this was a long-term goodbye, even if Naruto had only pegged his upcoming absence on a chance to study in Europe.
"Be careful," Shino said, and Naruto nodded, grinning.
The door slid shut behind him and Naruto took a deep breath, resting against it for a long minute. The sun was sweltering for as early as it was, and the sky was a crystal clear blue without a cloud in sight. He could hear the rhythmic rush of traffic from the main street alongside his complex, and after pushing himself off the door frame he drifted to his beat-up Geo Metro, a car he had only bought for point-a to point-b purposes.
He started the engine and darted off, ignoring the fact Shino was still peering out of the living room window, grateful that even despite his roommate's hassling he was still on schedule.
That's how long it had been; how long he had waited. It had been two years since the day he had been left stranded in the mountains, Danzo's flaccid smile imprinted in his memory, the entire situation embossed in his mind. Two years since he had been deceived—and two years to sit down and make sense of the puzzle his presence had created.
Two years…since he had seen Sasuke.
It seemed like ages since he had seen the future world, or even his once-closest friends. It had been two years since he had discovered he even had a son, and that fact alone made his heart still a little more than even imagining Sasuke's expression when he would return.
But all of the answers to his questions led to that one man, and that one man opened the doors to his future—and his child. If anyone would have looked after Ju, Naruto was convinced that Sasuke would have stepped up to the plate.
Naruto turned on to a narrow road that led to a private community—a gated neighborhood nestled in a thick grove of trees and towered by a large set of foothills. It always surprised him how close everything was in mountain towns like Boulder and Fort Collins, and as his car jostled up a winding dirt road, he contemplated why he had never made the effort to buy a vehicle with four-wheel-drive.
He curved around a few pine trees and saw a large log cabin down the road, the gate left open for him. As he passed through he swiped a toll badge and as soon as his car drifted through the gates began squeaking to a close. His duffle-bag jumped up and down as his car bobbled over the rough terrain, and as he slid into a vacant bit of space outside of a gravel driveway, he let out a deep breath. As much as he loved driving, in the mountains, it was hardly ever fun.
As he pulled himself out of the car and yanked the duffle-bag out behind him, a harsh slam from a screen door made him jump.
"Naruto! You're right on time. Unusual, for you." Naruto turned and shrugged, running a hand through his hair. He had cut it short for the summer and it tickled the palm of his hand, and he grinned at the older man stalking towards him.
"Hey, hey, I've gotten better, Sarutobi." He almost pouted before bringing his bag to his side, and he closed the door to his car with a thud. He tossed the keys to the older man who caught them with a surprising dexterity considering his age.
"Hmm. I suppose I shouldn't hassle you too much," the old man said and he chuckled. Naruto nodded and walked up beside him, throwing a playful arm around his shoulder. "Yeah, we've been over this, right? I mean, after saving you and all…"
Naruto laughed and set forth to Sarutobi's front door, glancing back to make sure his former professor was following him. He looked old and worn down, but the man had an energy that never seemed to break. Even when CU had fired him over a year ago, Sarutobi had still made a vicious fight for his pension, despite losing a good amount of credibility in the scientific world.
As they entered the house Naruto made for the kitchen, rubbing his stomach in anticipation. He glanced back as Sarutobi followed him, and frowned a little.
"Are you sure you're okay with all of this?" Naruto asked, and he dug some bread and turkey from the refrigerator. Sarutobi sat down in one of the barstools by the kitchen counter and rolled his eyes, nodding and smiling afterwards.
"For goodness' sake, Naruto, we've been through this so many times," he let out a chuckle and Naruto lathered some mayonnaise onto his to-be sandwich, releasing a deep breath in the process.
"I know. I guess, you've just done a lot for me and I feel like, well…this will probably be the last time we see each other." Naruto folded some turkey onto the thick slices of wheat bread below, and pulled some slices of onion and avocado from a plate of vegetables already on the counter. He layered some cheese and put everything back into the refrigerator, before stacking the last piece of bread on top, symbolizing completion.
"Naruto, you saved my life. That and I've sort of always seen you as something like a son…" His voice drifted into silence as he glanced outside to his porch, watching as a squirrel rummaged for food in a small bowl of peanuts he had set out. Naruto took a bite and chewed slowly, thinking to himself.
"Besides, I think that they need you there more than I need you here," Sarutobi mentioned, and Naruto swallowed.
"I'm positive that Uchiha Industries is in trouble, and I can't help but feel like the government credibility is sinking. I'm not lying when I say that their police departments were completely divided."
The older man twisted in his chair and folded his legs, biting his lip as he thought. After a minute he frowned. "It's strange how things have come together, isn't it?"
It was an awkward statement, but Naruto took another bite of his sandwich and nodded anyhow. Sarutobi seemed to be immersed in his own thoughts, thumbing through the knowledge that both he and Naruto had combined.
"You learned that all information related to cryogenics had disappeared in our century now, and that it was only recently, in the future, that their corporations had picked it up."
Naruto nodded, now understanding where his former professor's train of thought was headed. "Yeah. I was meant to come back—to save you, and to stop that thesis from going anywhere. Although…I never thought that it would cost you your job."
Naruto looked remorseful and Sarutobi chuckled. "There's no need for that long face. My battle with the board of science was probably about as epic as your trip to the future,"
Naruto laughed and shook his head, knowing full well that Sarutobi knew just about everything he had encountered and experienced. When he had arrived back nearly two years ago it had been only a few hours since he had been frozen, and as if everything had meant to fall into place he had managed to set some things straight.
The new knowledge he had on cryonics and machinery had helped him in re-programming the chamber Sarutobi had landed himself in, and after a short debate on how best to dispose of the evidence of research they both had, they decided to hide it in the basement of an old bar on Colfax street—hidden and protected by the owner who was a friend of Sarutobi's.
Everything seemed to piece together in Naruto's mind—how when he had first arrived in the future he had been in a dank underground room, on a street that was strangely familiar…
It was as if he had planned everything for himself, unknowingly. It reminded him how delicate time was and forced him to think hard about returning, and how to handle himself if he did. After all, it had taken non-stop planning and assembly to build the newest form of the Gamabunta hidden in Sarutobi's basement, and he wasn't going to waste the risks they had taken—or that everyone else had taken in the future—for a dream that was young and childish.
No, he had big plans, and no small fish to fry. To find Sasuke and stop Itachi, and to alleviate the conspiracy that seemed to be centered around Uchiha Corporate and himself.
Naruto finished his last few bites of his meal and dusted his hands off over the sink, motioning to Sarutobi. He felt fed and refreshed, and mentally ready. It seemed like an eternity that he had been waiting, and with the prospect of returning directly in front of him, he felt impulsive and determined.
"Are you ready?" Sarutobi asked, and Naruto nodded.
"Yeah. I've been ready for a long time," his voice sounded almost pensive, and he grinned, waiting for the older man to lead him down to his basement where the small one-person contraption stood. Naruto knew the machine by heart and tossed his duffle-bag inside, throwing his arms around Sarutobi afterwards in a firm embrace.
"Thank you," Naruto said, and he felt the older man pat his back from behind.
"No, thank you," he said, and as Naruto pulled away, Sarutobi grinned. "Be careful out there and try not to get into too much trouble, although, I think that will be hard for you avoid."
Naruto laughed and planted himself in the silicone seating, waving lightly as the door slid closed. Before it locked, Naruto threw a comment.
"I'll tell Jiraiya you said hello!"
Naruto watched as the metal door blocked out his vision and he turned to the panel in front of him, anxious to make out how to activate it. Jiraiya's instructions had been complicated, even though he had been the one to write them down, but on a good note Naruto felt like he now had a better understanding of how electronics of the next century worked. He fiddled with a few keys out of practice and was satisfied with the gentle hum the machine gave, entering all of the information carefully on the re-hashed Dell computer monitor in front of him.
After it was entered he took a deep breath and pulled the clutch forward, releasing the momentum. There was a flash and the familiar feeling of motion sickness, but Naruto stomached it as his mind raced.
He was returning, finally. And he was older—he felt older. He had taken up some construction jobs to toughen out, and worked hard to graduate with a strong-standing degree in engineering. He had worked harder than ever before in his life to prepare for this moment, and the only thing that reminded him that his experience hadn't been a dream was the crumpled piece of paper he had written with Jiraiya.
Aside from the general confusion when he had left, he was positive that things were falling apart in the future world. What seemed like a conspiracy was beginning to weigh on his mind, wondering how Sasuke was doing with the company, or how everyone had reacted upon his disappearance. And even though he knew it would be difficult, he knew he would be figuring out their reactions soon enough as he had chosen to go back a year after the incident at the station.
Naruto frowned as he felt the machine slow, feeling almost anxious as he realized he was almost there. He pulled a hat from his duffle-bag, grateful that his hair was as short as it was, and also a black sports jacket. It would be cooler, he remembered, and he was positive that because a year had passed, in future time, that most of the steam of the situation had blown over.
The engine stuttered to a halt and Naruto sat idly for a moment, letting his stomach settle. The excitement and nerves had sent it reeling, and as he pulled his bag to his side—almost like he was going to have a sleepover in the future, he mused— he reached under the dashboard of his machine and withdrew a small socket full of wires, grinning to himself. He locked down the computer and stuffed the socket into his bag.
"No one will ever be able to use you, little Konohamaru." He and Sarutobi had jested about the machine being like the older man's son, and so he had thoughtfully named it after the building it had begun in—the Konoha building in the CU complex.
Naruto stepped out and was pleasantly surprised to realize he was in an alleyway of the city, with grey skies and flickering neon lights lighting the way to the main street. He threw an abandoned tarp over Konohamaru, not too concerned with it considering he had the key element in his bag.
He let the familiar smells invade his nose and closed his eyes, feeling the slight condensation of a rainstorm sponge his cheeks. It was all just as he remembered it—the metal buildings, the brick gratings, even the cement and blacktop sidewalks and street clearances on the main roads. It was amazing how he had been gone for so long, but had remembered so much.
He jogged out onto one of the main sidewalks, glancing up at the street signs to pinpoint his location. A few looked familiar, and so did the area. In fact, with a small surge of triumph, he knew exactly where he was.
He walked forward through the small amount of people bustling about until he was standing in front of a massive glass infrastructure with security features detailing two huge doors. There were sticker signs that warned in-goers about precautions that needed to be taken, and Naruto held a low and confident smile before he opened the door and stepped inside, walking with a brisk pace towards a receptionist counter. There was no one in the main lobby, and the man at the desk glared up at him, somewhat irritated.
"Can you please remove your hat?" The man said, and he swept a smooth strand of black hair behind his ear. Naruto smiled and nodded. "Of course."
He pulled off his hat and the receptionist glanced up from his computer work, his eyes wide and disbelieving.
"Tell Morino there's a traveler here to see him," Naruto mentioned and he smiled with charm. "Oh, and that this time, he's not leaving."
Naruto smiled as the receptionist dodged off, leaning forward over the marble counter of the desk.
It's good to be back.
I do love a headstrong Naruto. Ah, confidence is so attractive. Too bad he's all Sasuke's. XD
Okay, in all honesty, this chapter as of now is un-beta'd because I felt guilty about being a day late. I'm sending it out right after I post and I'll be fixing it later, so please don't be upset if there are a few typos.
Other than that, hurrah. Naruto is back.
With a vengeance! Hahaha.
OMG if Sasuke loses an eye I might have to cry myself to sleep.