My Guardian, My Friend.


If either Sasuke or Sakura had noticed how Naruto guided them to each shop they visited, they said nothing about it. Something both Naruto (and Kakashi, who'd been trailing them silently from the start) had been very thankful for.

After dividing up their new stash and packing their gear evenly, with some of the excess going into Naruto's 'storage' scroll (a gift from Hayate), the trio said their farewells (well, two of them spoke. Sasuke still hadn't developed too much of a vocabulary beyond grunting.) and went to get a good sleep before their new exciting mission the next morning.

After ensuring each of his students arrived home safely, Kakashi left for his own lodgings, settling down later than the others as he topped up his almost-always ready pack.

Morning came and 0745 hours found three excited students awaiting their sensei at the village gates. Naruto, having actually arrived their first, was standing a little apart from his teammates as he and his brother (Haya-nii) conversed with the gate guards- Kotestu and Izumo, who were acquaintances of Hayate's now for some years.

Waving briefly to the pair, Naruto bounced over to his teammates, his public persona in full swing.

"Yatta! We rock, ne! First rookie team out the gates- hey Sasu-teme, Sakura-chan?" Naruto exclaimed, jumping up and down in his typical hyperactive way when in public.

Sasuke's only response was a roll of his eyes, and a muttered 'Dobe' followed by an unintelligible grunt.

Sakura's was a little more boisterous. "Naru-baka! Stand still! If our client sees you acting like a demented monkey he'll request someone else! Then Ino will never let me hear the end of it!" Sakura scolded, trying not to yell but only managing a somewhat quieter tone of voice.

Looking properly chastised, Naruto rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, ruffling his hair. "Sorry, Sakura-chan. I just can't wait! It'll be so awesome!" he grinned enthusiastically.

Sasuke raised his head from where he'd been leaning against a post by the gateway, looking beyond Naruto and Sakura as he spotted their sensei casually strolling up, his pack slung over one shoulder, ninja puoches secured fast to both thighs. Trailing behind him was an older man who looked a little unsteady on his feet, and was squinting heavily into the early morning light.

"Sensei" Sasuke greeted reservedly, causing his other two teammates to turn around and greet him enthusiastically.

"Team 7, meet Tazuna-san, our client. Our duty is to escort him from Konoha to the Land of Waves and protect him if necessary. Tazuna, meet team 7- Haruno Sakura, or as I like to call her, Pinky, Uchiha Sasuke, or Blacky, and Uzumaki Naruto, also known as Blondie. Ready to go?" Kakashi drawled, pointing casually to the man behind him during the introduction and ignoring the annoyance each of the kids showed at his 'nicknames'.

"Hai Sensei!" Naruto replied happily, though he eyed the man behind his sensei a little oddly.

"What? These brats are supposed to be ninjas?" The man exclaimed disbelievingly, snorting, "That one's not even high enough to reach my knees!" he taunted, pointing to Naruto.

Just as Naruto was about to retort, Hayate came over to the four of them, laying a hand on his 'little brother's' shoulder. "Naruto, would you like to introduce me to your team's client?" Hayate asked civilly, eyeing 'Tazuna' a little oddly [in Naruto's opinion, anyway].

"Tazuna-san" Naruto began, "meet my nii-san, special jounin of Konoha, Gekkou Hayate" Naruto continued, smirking as the older man eyed the sword attached to his brother's back.

"Ha-hajimemashite" the older man stuttered out, causing Sakura to cover her mouth in hopes of hiding her smile. With his dark-rimmed eyes, bandanna and long sword, Hayate did look pretty grim, she supposed, especially when you didn't know him.

Silence rolled over the quintet for a while, until Kakashi clapped his hands together suddenly.

"Shall we go? Long way to go, hmm? Wouldnt' want to be late now would we?" the jounin exclaimed, his smile showing in his eyes as he ignored the scoffs and groans from his ducklings.

Naruto nodded, saying his farewells to his brother, as did Sasuke and Sakura, and even Kakashi, if his 'ja ne' was to be taken as a polite farewell, considering he was already facing away. Naruto gave Hayate one last hug and a wide grin before catching up to his teammates and falling into formation, excited to be going on his first 'real' mission.

"Bye Haya-nii! I'll bring you back a present!" The small blonde called behind him, watching as his big brother waved back, standing at the gates watching them.

Hayate slowly turned from the gate after his little brother and the rest of the team vanished from sight, waving to the gate guards casually as he passed, heading back to the Hokage's tower. He supposed the best thing to do while his little brother was gone was to continue his work. Naruto was right though, being on the 'waiting' end of thestick sucked.

Giving a chuckle which briefly turned into a cough, he made his way to the tower for his visit with Hiruzen-sama, thoughts on Naruto and his safety all the way.

Naruto slowly settled down into a more sedate version of himself as the day wore on, enjoying the fresh air and walking, even if their client was a grumbling, bumbling drunkard (and supposedly -he- made bridges for a living). Naruto snorted to himself, he wasn't sure he'd like to go on any bridge a drunk built.

Turning his mind back to their mission, he wondered what Wave would be like. "Ne, ne, sensei, what's Wave like?"

Sakura and Sasuke both perked up at his question, clearly interested in the answer as well, though Sasuke tried to be more casual about it.

Kami forbid the teme show interest in something, Naruto mentally giggled to himself, though he was determined to 'crack' Sasuke eventually.

Maybe Anko would have some ideas when they got back...

Turning his mind back to the question (now conversation) t hand, Naruto listened as Kakashi began to describe what he knew of the Land of Waves, giving a brief overview of their history to his three students, with Tazuna remaining rather quite about it all, something the silver haired jounin found quite odd.

A/N: Apologies for the super long absence, hopefully back on track with updating now (...hopefully lol). Love reviews, kick me in the butt to write more, they do =P