Hooray for bad Intel [R
Niklas "Hawk" Jonsson

Summary: One of the worst things that can befall a ninja, is going on a mission based on faulty Intel. But for Naruto and his temporary team-mate, it might just turn out to be the best thing to ever happen to them! Completed!

Disclaimer: Naruto, Konoha and whatnot are not mine, though I certainly wish they were. The story is mine though, all mine.
If the layout looks screwy or symbols seems to be missing, you're probably reading the quickedit-mangled version of this fic on ff dot net, if it grates on your nerves too much, read it on hawksgalaxy dot com or something.

Feedback/Flames: Yes, please. Both of them are equally fun to read, although I must admit that I greatly prefer the first variety. :)
I can be found on ICQ as 21771860, MSN Messenger/E-mail as iamhawk at yahoo dotcom, though not very frequently as real life lately interferes with my online existance more then I'd like. More stories are available at my nifty lil' site at hawksgalaxy dot com or by clicking on my handle up above.

emphasis/shouts/Kindred Domination/post-hypnotic triggers
soundeffect/radio/telephone conversation/TV

Random thoughts

This was first published back in July 2007 on TFF for prereading and improvement, I've spent the past week going back over it to smooth out a few of the rough edges and make some other minor revisions, before it was finally time to spell-check and publish it 'for real' and not just for prereading.

Credit for giving me the idea for this fic goes out to GenocideHeart, who posted it in one of the Naruto threads over at TFF and caused my mind to barf up this little thing.

It's also one of the few fics I've upped in recent years that's actually complete ( Even if I'm 94kb's into a sequel at the moment, so don't worry. More shit based off this particular fic is coming... Eventually... ). Completed fics from me has grown increasingly rare since my days as a F/X - The series and Hawkverse/X-Men writer, so it's nice to finally upload a completed story again.

Anyways, not much of interest to say this time, so just lets go on with the fic itself...

Roll credits

Chapter One:

Naruto wasn't a person who spent a lot of time trying to find the guilty party when the shit hit the fan, as it so often had a tendency to do in his life.

Mostly because whenever he'd done that in the past, he'd discovered a disturbing tendency for himself being fully or at least partly at fault.

It was much easier on the mind to just deal with the crap, blame it on whatever or whoever was most convenient at the time and then never try to verify if his assumption about the guilty party was correct or not.

He made an exception now however. Then again, cases of the shit hitting the fan quite this hard and in such great amounts, were rare, even in his chaotic life.

"Go left!" a voice called from behind him and Naruto instantly darted forward and to the left behind a tree, behind the cover of which he continued running like all the hounds of hell was breathing down his neck.

There was actually someone breathing down his neck at the time, or well, over his shoulder at any rate. Bleeding through the back of his t-shirt too, from the feel of things. Realizing this allowed him to dredge up some additional scraps of strength by pure willpower and making him run just a little bit faster then before, wincing as he heard his reluctant passenger give off a pained groan.

"Sorry..." Naruto muttered apologetically, in spite of knowing that he didn't really have a choice, no matter how uncomfortable the current mode of transportation was for his companion.

"Fuck sorry. Just run!" was the terse response, grunted out from between clenched teeth.

"Right!" one of his clones suddenly cried out, right before Naruto heard the tell-tale poof of a clone being destroyed. He jumped to his right and if he hadn't been spending all his energy and focus on running as fast as possibly, would have swallowed nervously as he saw a Windmill shuriken whisk past in a line that likely would have cleaved his passenger in two and seriously wounded him, if he hadn't dodged to the side.

"Got a good grip? I gotta try to create some distance and need to get into my equipment pouch." Naruto asked.

"Do it!" came the snarled response from behind him, as the arms around his neck tightened their already hard grip.

Naruto nodded and moved his right hand, currently supporting the right leg of his passenger, over towards his equipment pouch. He felt the leg slipping down and the weight on his back shifted uncomfortably, but his injured passenger managed to hold on and remain on his back anyway. He extracted a small wad of explosive tags, glancing down at it with a sad frown for a few moments.

"Hey! Grab this! Hold those fuckers off!" Naruto grunted to one of his clones that were running alongside them, then held the tags out for the clone to take.

"Got it!" the clone responded, took the notes and then leaped up at the trunk of a tree, before leaping backwards in the direction they had come from.

Naruto moved his right arm down and fumbled for the leg it had been holding on to previously, without connecting. He tried again for a few moments, but supposed the leg was out of his reach at the moment.

"Your leg. Can you get it up?" he asked and heard a grunt of effort and suppressed pain over his shoulder, then felt something connect with his right hand. He hastily latched on and pulled it forward, wedging the leg between his torso and arm.

A horrible series of explosions sounded from behind, so rapidly that it almost sounded as one single explosion, only somewhat managing to mute the sound of several clones being destroyed as well.

A couple of pained screams that lingered after the explosions revealed that it hadn't been in vain, however. Even if all their pursuers hadn't been stopped, at least some of them sounded fairly dissatisfied with how things had turned out.

Of course, he wasn't feeling all that good about the situation either.

"Anyone left?" he called out.

"Three of us!" one of his clones responded and Naruto would have exhaled in relief, if it wouldn't have wasted time, energy and air that could be used to keep his body supplied with air as he frantically dashed through the forested slope, running up the hillside towards their only shot at making it out of this shit alive.

It wasn't fool-proof, but the presence of clones lessened the need for him to turn his head around to try and keep an eye out for attacks. They could do the looking back, leaving him free to concentrate on speed instead of dividing his time between running and keeping an eye out for attacks from behind.

"The bridge is up ahead!" he exclaimed as he spotted the structure in question, then blanched as he realized that he hadn't saved any of his explosive tags! He'd given them all way to hold off their pursuers! "Fuck! You got any explosive tags on you?!" he yelped to his passenger.

"Pouch... Left hip." came the weakening grunted response.

"Fuck it, hang on!" he shouted, becoming increasingly worried about his passengers health. "One of you, grab her pouch and destroy the fucking bridge once we've crossed it!" he ordered and saw one of his clones move closer to them out of the corner of his eyes. After some mucking about, the clone distanced itself somewhat from them and rummaged through the pouch, until it had located what it was looking for. The pouch was closed and tossed over to another clone for safe-keeping.

Naruto strained himself even further and managed just a little bit more speed then before.

It was no use pacing himself now. If they didn't make it across that bridge, they'd be dead anyway. That bridge was their only shot at survival. They had to make it across it and destroy it behind them, then their pursuers would have to take a six-hour detour to make it over to the other side.

Fucking hell!

There wasn't supposed to be any enemy Nins here, just some bandits!

For once, Naruto had quite happily tried to reason out the guilty party and come to the conclusion that the current situation could be blamed on bad Intel and/or some lying son of a bitch client!

There had been bandits, sure enough. That much was true.

But what also had been true, was that there were missing Nins with the bandits!

His companion had identified two missing Chuunins from Konoha and at least seven from Sand earlier, but the amount of people chasing them now was at least twenty.

What should have been a simple little workout crushing a large band of bandits and some easy B-rank money to tide him over during his training trip with Jiraiya, had turned into a major cluster fuck! Which was why Naruto was now running for all he was worth, carrying an injured companion on his back.

He nearly laughed in relief as his right foot slammed down on the rickety bridge, but instead just kept on running, ignoring the swaying as the simple rope and wood bridge weaved in all directions as he darted across it much faster then he was supposed to, followed by his three clones.

He tried to not look down or listen to the loud creaks from the wooden planks protesting against his harsh treatment of them and instead focused on speed and NOT FALLING DOWN INTO THE FUCKING CHASM BELOW THEM!

He was sweating from exhaustion, but some of the beads of sweat creeping out of him now were due to the fucking drop below them. He hadn't been all that comfortable with heights since that fucking pervert threw him down that gorge, trying to force him to pull on the Kyuubi's Chakra. The desperate situation and the bridge swaying weren't helping either.

He hadn't even made it completely across the bridge, when the first explosion went off.

He let out a small yelp and uncaring of his burden, jumped as high and far as he could.

"Gagh!" came a pained exclamation from behind him as he landed on the other side of the chasm, three soft thuds following soon after revealing that his clones had made it across as well. He spun around and exhaled in relief as he saw a string of explosions tearing the bridge completely apart, while a group of ninja came to a stop on the other side, staring in consternation at the destroyed bridge.

"Take that, you fuckers!" Naruto yelled defiantly.

"Fuckers..." his burden repeated weakly and got Naruto to focus on more important matters then taunting their opponents.

"Hold on. We'll head for that stream we passed on our way here and I'll take a look at your wounds." Naruto promised and set off at a more moderate pace, trying to lessen the jolting to the best of his ability.

Three minutes later, they reached the small mountain brook he recalled from a day earlier and Naruto kneeled down as his three clones helped Inuzuka Hana down off his back.

"Shit, but you can run..." Hana mumbled in a somewhat impressed tone of voice as she was assisted into a lying position next to the small brook.

"Shit, but you're a mess..." Naruto responded as he observed her. A deep cut on her left thigh had left her trousers soaked with blood. A slash across her stomach was probably mostly responsible for the bleeding through his t-shirt that he'd felt earlier. Her right arm was riddled with shuriken injuries and he also spotted a Kunai sticking out of the back of her left shoulder, an injury she hadn't had when she climbed onto his back earlier. "Shit, when did this happen?!" he exclaimed.

"About... Ten minutes ago." she replied, panting heavily.

"Damn it! You should have said something!" Naruto berated her.

"Didn't want... Slow us down... Nothing we could... Have done... About it... Anyway." she replied and Naruto had to admit that she had a point. Even if he'd known about it, he couldn't have done anything but run anyway. He tore his equipment pouch open and rummaged through it.

He usually didn't carry around much in the way of medical supplies, seeing as how he recovered from most injuries so quickly, but he did carry some bandages. The one of his clones that carrier Hana's pouch did the same and had much greater luck with that, finding not only two small emergency medical kit, but also soldier pills and blood replenishing pills.

Naruto gulped down one of the soldier pills. They couldn't stay here long and from the looks of things, Hana would still need him to carry her, so he needed whatever extra energy he could lay his hands on. He forced Hana to take one, as well as a blood replenishing pill, then he and his clones bandaged her up as best as they could after having hastily washed her wounds off with water from the brook.

Not the best or most hygienic of solutions, but they were pressed for time. Fifteen minutes after they stopped, Naruto once again had Hana on his back and was ready to go.

Besides the obvious injuries that he'd spotted due to the blood, she also had a broken right ankle and a fairly nasty bump on the left side of her head.

He had his fair share of injuries as well, but mostly bruises and various cuts of differing length and depth. There was a Kunai wound on his lower back, somewhat to the left of his spine, which hurt like hell. One of his clones had used a nasty smelling salve from one of Hana's medical kits to stop the bleeding, but it had otherwise been left untreated. He'd heal it anyway, so once the flow of blood had been stopped, he'd wrapped things up and prepared to take off again.

"You, hop onto the back of him. Then you'll run in a straight line towards Konoha until you run out of juice." Naruto instructed two of his clones, who did as he instructed. One of them jumped onto the back of another clone, which started running towards Konoha at top speed. Hopefully, the heavier then usual tracks would convince the pursuers that he was heading straight towards Konoha with Hana on his back. "You. Erase the tracks of us splitting up here, then come find us." he told the last one, then walked down into the brook and sloshed off downstream.

He wasn't certain that they'd even bother sending someone here to check out the point they had started at if they found the traces of his clones heading for Konoha, but he wasn't about to take any chances. Not with the injured Hana to worry about. So, he ignored the fact that his feet and legs were quickly soaked by the cold mountain water in favour of becoming harder to track.

If he recalled the map he'd glanced at before the mission started correctly, this little brook winded it's way southwards towards the border of the Wind Country.

It was sort of an obvious direction to take. Going north would take them closer to the border to Earth Country, which was a massively bad idea even if there was peace at the moment. But with resentment from the last war still going strong, he didn't want to take any stupid chances of getting Rock Nins on their tails as well. A blonde-haired Konoha Shinobi with an injured companion wasn't likely to be a popular sight, considering the damage that the fourth had done during the last war.

A straight line back to Konoha would take the two clones through the Country of Rain. Considering that half the team was badly injured and the mission was shot to hell, it was sort of logical to take the closest route back home, which is why Naruto wasn't taking it.

Going south towards Wind was a serious detour, but he'd rather take a risk of being chanced upon some overly enthusiastic Sand border patrol, then a Rock one. Besides, if it threw off the pursuit, it was well worth it.

He really needed a bit of time to check on Hana and do a better job at treating her wounds, but didn't dare to take the time for that now. First, he needed to create some distance between the two of them and those asshole fuckers who were chasing them, then he could seek out shelter and do a better job at treating the injuries of his partner for this mission.

He'd begged and pleaded with granny Tsunade to give him a cool mission after that mess with the ruddy bug-search he'd gone onto with Kiba, Shino and Hinata and she'd finally relented. He suspected that she'd done it more to take his mind off going to search for Sasuke and to stop his nagging then anything else, but he'd take whatever he could at that point.

After she'd made it clear that he wouldn't be allowed to go off gallivanting after Sasuke, he needed something to take his mind off that and a cool mission would do just that. Tsunade had, apparently in a way that would ensure a few weeks of peace and quiet for herself, sent him off on a B-ranked mission to Bird Country to deal with a band of bandits. Besides, the super pervert had said something about an extended training journey and a high-rank mission to pad his pockets somewhat in preparation for that wouldn't go amiss. Or so he'd thought, at least.

Since he couldn't go off on his own and there were few others to spare, Tsunade had assigned Hana to go with him.

Her animal clinic had been heavily damaged during the Sound/Sand invasion and was currently being rebuilt almost from scratch, so she was taking missions full-time these days to scrape together enough cash for the repairs.

She was a Chuunin and only one person, not really enough for the job Tsunade had given them, but the two Inuzuka ninja dogs she'd brought with her were supposed to make up the difference. She had other animal companions, but they were apparently recovering at the Inuzuka compound for injuries received during the Sound/Sand invasion or out on missions with other members of her family.

Unfortunately, one of the two she had brought had taken a Windmill Shuriken to the chest while protecting Hana from it and the last one had gotten lost in the confusion as Naruto summoned a shitload of clones to cover their retreat. The dog had tagged along with his clones in an effort to protect its mistress retreat and that was the last Naruto had seen of it.

Now it was just the two of them, on the run in a foreign country, with a gang of Shinobi who might or might not be hot on their tails.

He wasn't sure that the Missing Nins would actually bother chasing them down, but he wasn't about to take any chances.

"Left... Over and behind that hill. It looks like a cave." Hana suddenly spoke up and Naruto swivelled his head around, looking over the craggy landscape until he spotted what his passenger had.

"It does, doesn't it?" he mumbled his agreement. He hesitated for a while, but they had made it a fairly long distance from the destroyed bridge and it had started growing dark. He was tired as hell, injured although not as seriously as Hana, wet, cold and he'd almost slipped a couple of times while trudging down the stream. "Think we should stay?" he asked.

"We've crossed a fair distance and we don't know if we'll find any shelters further downstream." Hana pointed out, but didn't actually answer his question.

He could understand it, in a way. She was more or less entirely dependent on him for the moment. If the roles had been reversed, he wouldn't have wanted to decide things for her either.

It still felt extremely odd, however. She was both older, more experienced and higher ranked, so leaving the decision-making up to him didn't exactly rub him the right way.

He had declared his desire for becoming Hokage for years and he'd gladly take command whenever he was allowed to do so. But previously, there had always been someone else around that told him when he was being a fool. Kakashi, Sakura, Sasuke, Tsunade, Shikamaru, Shino, Jiraiya... There had always been someone around to point out when he was about to muck things up.

Hopefully, Hana would do the same.

"We'd better stop." he declared out loud and Hana grunted her agreement. "Hide our tracks, would you?" he told the last of his clones and trudged out of the brook, heading for the cave. He brought out two more clones once they were a fair bit away from the mountain stream and sent them ahead to the cave, to make sure that it was useable. One of them returned not that much later, letting him know that it was okay and would serve adequately as shelter for the night, while the second clone scouted the surrounding area.

He nodded and sent the reporting clone off to scout as well.

"Gotta learn that technique someday." Hana commented. "It does seem pretty handy." she added.

The soldier and blood replenishing pills had done her a whole world of good, leaving her somewhat coherent during the time they'd spent going downstream. She was starting to sound rather exhausted however and Naruto felt that he'd made the right decision in stopping for the night.

He put Hana down inside the cave and changed her bandages, also applying some foul-smelling salves from her medical supplies on her instructions. She also directed him to apply a sweet-smelling poultice to the bump on her head. When the third clone returned, she tried to instruct it to treat Naruto's injuries as well, but he declined and instead sent the clone back the way they had come, to see if they were still being followed.

"You're hurt as well, you know!" Hana irritably snapped.

"Yes, but I will heal without treatment. No use wasting stuff we might need for you on me." Naruto argued and Hana looked about to protest, before she merely sighed and gave up.

"I'm too tired to argue with you now. This discussion will be resumed tomorrow, however." she declared and closed her eyes, leaning her head back against the rocky wall. "What do we have in the way of supplies?" she asked.

"Not much, without our backpacks." Naruto sighed. "I've got some money, a few strings, a few empty scrolls, some kunai and a bunch of smoke bombs. Some matches in a waterproof case. A knife." he declared after checking his rather thin equipment pouch. He pulled open Hana's and checked that through as well. "Two emergency medical kits, one of them nearly empty. Matches in a waterproof case. Three soldier pills and two blood replenishing pills. A wad of bandages. Doggy treats. A scroll with blue edges, a scroll with red edges and a scroll with black edges, in a waterproof casing. Your wallet." he reported after he'd seen what she carried around. "Five Kunai and your sword." he added after a glance at Hana and the equipment she carried on her, not in her pouch.

"The red-edged scroll is veterinarian equipment for work in the field. The blue one is medicine, disinfectants, hot water and the like. The black one goes 'boom' in a serious way." Hana revealed after a few moments.

"Explosive tag?" Naruto asked with a curious look at the black-edged scroll.

"At least ten times as powerful. That lovely little thing can bring down a large building, if there's a need for it. There's a standard five minute delay though, so it's useless in battle. But it's great for sabotage or distractions." Hana replied.

"So... No spare clothes, no food, no blankets, no tent, no water." Naruto sighed, looking down at his dirty t-shirt and torn trousers. His jacket had been torn apart by a nasty hooked axe earlier and he'd thrown off the sleeves way earlier.

"No dogs..." Hana sadly added. "Poor Fireheart." she sobbed and a few tears trickled out from between her closed eye-lids. "Did you see what happened to Brightwind?" she asked after a few seconds of silence.

"He ignored your call to follow us and went back to hold those bastards off." Naruto replied. "I didn't see what happened to him after that."

"Her." Hana countered. "Brightwind is a she." she mumbled with a tired yawn.

"Okay. I didn't see what happened to her after that." Naruto amended and looked around, letting out a faint sigh as he failed to locate anything they could use other then rocks. His legs felt like ice, but starting a fire was likely a bad idea. No clothes to change into, no blankets to sleep in and nothing to eat.

This was going to be one seriously nasty night.

"I'll take first watch. You try to get some sleep." Naruto told Hana, who merely grunted in response. Five minutes later, she started snoring softly.

Naruto watched her for a few moments, then shook his head and stood up, walking stiffly out of the cave and silently observing his surroundings. He rubbed his thighs and moved his legs more then necessary, desperately trying to work up a bit of heat and rid himself of the sensation of being chilled to the bones.

Two of the clones returned after a while, reporting that the area seemed quiet enough. Naruto sent one of them out to fetch Dragon Spruce branches. It was a bit coarse to lie on and the needles had a tendency to find their way underneath your clothes with pin-point accuracy, but it was softer and warmer then lying directly on the stone of the cave. Clone number two, was sent out to hunt. The spruce needles were edible, if only just barely. Rich in vitamins and full of moisture, they could be eaten raw in a pinch or boiled in water to create a nasty-smelling and even worse-tasting hot brew. But he'd rather that it didn't come to that, as the taste left quite a bit to desire, no matter how one consumed them.

After having to repeat the survival classes at the academy twice due to his failures to pass the final exam, he had no desire to ever eat or drink those blasted things ever again.

After almost two hours, during the time which Naruto and the clone he'd sent out to collect spruce branches had fashioned makeshift bedding and moved Hana over to that, the third clone returned.

It looked to be on it's last legs, huffing and wheezing as it jogged towards the cave. More disturbing then that however, was the fact that it was nearly transparent!

"What the hell happened to you?!" Naruto demanded to know.

"Dunno... The further away I got, the more tired I got. I started to fade about an hour or so ago and decided to head on back. Doesn't seem to get any better, though." it replied, causing Naruto to scratch the back of his head in confusion.

It was at times like these, when he really regretted not reading more about this cool technique when he had the scroll in his hands. He'd mainly just read the descriptions on how to perform the technique and skimmed through the rest, before he was interrupted.

But it appeared that these things either didn't last very long or couldn't move too far away from him without loosing their juice.

Or possibly a combination of the two.

He'd never really used them for any extended periods of time before, just summoned them, used them up and then gotten rid of them.

Come to think of it, he hadn't sent any of them very far away from him either.

"Well, whatever. Did you see anything?" Naruto asked.

"Not before I had to go back." it reported and Naruto nodded. He reached out towards it and did something unusual. Ordinarily, he just had them burst into smoke when he was finished with them. He had heaps of Chakra anyway, so he didn't really need to reabsorb his clones when they were of no further use to him.

Now, he felt as if he could use every single little scrap of energy he could lay his hands on, just to stay awake.

So, he reached out and reabsorbed the clone, feeling how a faint trickle of Chakra was restored. Not as much as he used up to create the clone, not by a long shot, but a little bit of Chakra more was better then nothing at all.

What surprised him however, was that Chakra wasn't the only thing he got. A torrent of memories washed over him, letting him know everything the Shadow Clone had experienced since he created it up until the moment he reabsorbed it.

"Hey, that's kinda cool..." he mumbled, deciding that he really had to experiment a bit with this technique once the two of them were in the clear and back in Konoha. It was pretty obvious that he hadn't quite mastered the use of this technique just yet and that there was a lot for him to learn about it, things that were potentially extremely useful.

He hung around the cave opening for a couple of hours, keeping an eye out for any danger, while his two remaining clones hunted and fished. He'd told Hana that he'd take first watch, but he didn't intend for her to take any watch at all. She needed the rest far more then he did. His smaller wounds had already mended themselves, the rest would soon enough and it was likely only the kunai wound on his back that would be still giving him problems in the morning. The frantic itching sensation from it revealed that it was rapidly healing, though it likely take a while longer before it was completely mended. Sometime mid-afternoon tomorrow, Naruto guessed.

After seeing how badly the clone he'd sent back to look for signs of pursuit had managed, he'd grown increasingly worried. If the same thing happened to the two clones he'd sent off towards Konoha, they'd likely expired a long time ago and thus wouldn't provide much of a distraction if the enemy had decided to follow them.

An hour or so before sunrise, his worst fears were confirmed as the clone he'd sent out to hunt returned, revealing that a search party of eight was heading downstream. The one he'd sent out to fish returned shortly after that, revealing that it had spotted them as well.

"Fuck..." Naruto grunted and headed inside the cave, ordering his clones to ensure that their tracks were well hidden. They had started to look worn as well at this point, though not as much as the other one. Obviously, distance from the Summoner played a part in how long they lasted. He walked back and forth inside the cave, fretting and worrying, kicking stones and casting the occasional glance at Hana.

He really should wake her up, but he didn't have the heart to do so until it became absolutely necessary.

He stopped his pacing as a background noise alerted him to the fact that something was seriously off. He looked in the direction the last stone he'd kicked had flown and slowly walked over in that direction, coming to a stop at what had seemed to be the end of the cave.

However, the hole in the ground revealed that the first impression had been incorrect. He crouched down, picked up a stone and dropped it into the hole, hearing a faint splash after a few seconds of waiting.

"They're following the river downstream and doesn't appear to have noticed anything off." one of the clones reported, entering the cave.

"Good." Naruto replied, emitting a relieved sigh, before he glanced consideringly at the clone. "Hey. There's more to this cave. I hear water down there. Head on down and see what's down there." he told the clone, who nodded before crawling down the hole and was missing for several minutes, before it returned, climbing up instead of simply walking up.

"I ran out of juice. I can't stick to walls any longer." it reported and shook it's head, panting somewhat. "Anyway, there's a huge cavern and an underwater river down there. Seems like it goes on forever." it reported and Naruto nodded, then reabsorbed the clone, nodding to himself as it's memories confirmed what it had reported, although in much greater detail.

"They've noticed that the tracks stopped! They're heading back this way!" the last clone reported, bursting into the cave.

"Fuck!" Naruto grunted and headed back towards the cave opening, carefully peeking out and now he saw the search party with his own eyes. It was eight of them, one of them was one of the Konoha Chuunins that Hana had identified earlier. He also recognized the Rock Nin with the hooked axe. That had been one nasty bastard. He didn't know what the other six were capable of, but he wasn't feeling all that confident in their chances of surviving an encounter with this group. "Keep an eye on them. I'll wake Hana." Naruto ordered and slunk back into the cave, leaving the clone to keep an eye out.

This one was starting to look worn as well, though it hadn't gotten to the transparent phase yet. But it likely wouldn't last much longer.

"Hana. Wake up." Naruto urged her after kneeling down next to her, putting a hand over her mouth to prevent any accidental outcries.

Her eyes shot open in a split second, swiftly focusing on him.

"We've got company." he warned her and slowly removed his hand from her. She nodded and winced in pain as she experimentally moved various parts of her body.

"Fuck!" she angrily hissed. "I won't be able to use my right foot. My left leg is stiff and my shoulder hurts like hell!" he reported in an angry murmur. "How many of them are there?"

"Eight. One of them is one of the Konoha Chuunins and the other is a really nasty Rock Nin, probably Chuunin as well. I don't know about the other six." Naruto replied.

"Fuck." she repeated and hissed as she pulled herself up into a sitting position, her eyes widening as she spotted the spruce branches she was sleeping on. She had hardly even stirred earlier as Naruto and one of the clones moved her over to sleep on that, so she was quite obviously surprised to not find herself sleeping up against the cave wall. "Are you okay?" she asked.

"I'm mostly healed, yeah. A bit tired, but otherwise okay." he replied, downplaying the kunai wound on his back and the various injuries that hadn't quite healed yet.

"Eight of those bastards and only one of us who's of any use... Fuck. We're smoked!" she muttered, then looked up at him with a deadly serious expression on her face. "Listen, Uzumaki. You've gotta get the hell out of here. Leave me here." she instructed him, fumbling around for her pouch from which she extracted the three scrolls, readying the black-edged one.

"Forget it. I don't much fancy the idea of running, but I'll carry you on my back and run like the wind all the way back to Konoha if I have to." Naruto protested.

"I'll just be slowing you down! Together, we 'aint got a chance of making it. Alone, you might!" she argued as loudly as she dared.

"If you weren't injured, I'd beat the crap out of you for even suggesting that I'd leave a comrade behind." Naruto coldly informed her. "If I was to just leave you here, I'd be lower then trash!" he snarled. "Forget it. We're getting out of here together or not at all."

"Stubborn asshole! Just leave me and get the hell out of here!" she whispered fiercely.

"They're coming this way. I think the Konoha guy discovered our tracks." the clone reported.

"Fuck! Of course! He'd know all about standard Konoha techniques for concealing our tracks!" Naruto exclaimed.

"See? Just, get the hell out of here! I'll make sure that I take down at least two of them before I go down!" Hana snarled.

"You couldn't defeat a newborn kitten at the moment." Naruto snorted. "Besides, I said that I won't just leave you here and I don't go back on my word! That's my Ninja Way!" he declared.

"You'll never outrun eight of them with me on your back." Hana argued and Naruto had to concede that she had a point. He was exhausted from earlier and from not sleeping, so he wouldn't be able to run as fast as he had earlier. He looked over at the seeming end of the cave and his eyes narrowed.

"There's an opening to a huge cavern over there." Naruto said with a nod. "I don't much fancy heading that way without knowing if there's a way out or not, but it might be the only way for us to get away from these fuckers."

"That swirling thingie you used earlier, can that cut through rock?" Hana asked after a few moments.

"I haven't really tried, but I think so, yeah." Naruto responded after a few moments.

"Then we can make our own way out if it's necessary. If you're not going to leave me here, then I'm all for it. If I leave this thing here, it might stop those other assholes from trying to follow us." Hana replied and held up the black-edged scroll.

"Five minutes, eh?" Naruto asked, looking at the scroll.

"Yeah. Think you can buy us that much time?" Hana asked and Naruto shrugged.

"It's worth a shot. Fire that thing up." he declared and headed for the cave opening. The search party had less then a minute left until they'd reach the cave. He took a deep breath and summoned almost hundred clones, which was nearly everything he had the juice for at the moment. He sent half of them towards the immensely startled search party and had the other half split up. Half of those that remained transformed into the spitting image of Hana, then jumped onto the backs of the remaining Naruto Clones, then they all took off at a dead run.

If the assault team didn't manage to hold those bastards off for five minutes, hopefully they'd waste some time after that chasing down the copycat clones that were splitting up and running off in various directions.

Four clones and the fading one from earlier remained with the two of them.

"Keep those bastards away from here until Hana's scroll blows up." Naruto instructed the rear guard, then headed for Hana who was shoving the scroll underneath the spruce branches she had been resting on, hiding it from view. "Ready?" he asked and Hana grunted in response, then was helped to get up onto his back.

Naruto walked over to the opening to the cavern and looked down, letting out a faint sigh.

"Into the darkness, fearlessly we go..." Hana mumbled softly, quoting a passage from an old poem. It was completely lost on Naruto, who'd never read that particular poem.

"I guess..." he mumbled, then started directing Chakra to his feet before carefully climbing down into the hole.

The End! ( For now... )