Disclaimer: I DON'T OWN NARUTO!

Takes place in the more or less modern times (Europe). Ninjas do still exist.
Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura are 25 years old.

"blah" – speech
'blah' – thoughts

General note: Country's names like France, England, and etc. are interchangeable with Fire, Water, and etc.
Villages to Countries: That are known so far.

Leaf - France
Mist - England
Snow - Russia (the European side only)

If you leave a review that criticizes some aspect of the story/chapter please elaborate on the issue. Saying something like "it was confusing" is too vague; at least give me an example. Thank you.


Chapter 3 – Arrival

Naruto got off the plane four hours later, and with the time zone change that made it eight in the morning. He made his way down the long corridor at a normal pace to the baggage claim. He preferred carry-on, but his duffel bag was a bit too big and he wasn't sure if he could sneak a bomb through security; he certainly didn't want to try.

Standing at the entrance to the carrousels and looking around as if not knowing which one to go to was the best way to scout the entire area without anyone noticing. Guards scattered about the room; their eyes sharp but posture relaxed meaning they have just come on duty, but there was no immediate threat. That was good, his departure had not raised any flags; the rest of the morning should be fine.

Ten minutes later – being the first flight in had its advantages – Naruto had retrieved his duffle bag and was standing in line for immigration. About the same procedure was at the carrousel except more reserved; same results. Immigration in the Russia is a pain, unless you know where not to go and Naruto knew exactly what to avoid.

'Tourists will go through A, B, C, and D to get to E, but everyone else will just go straight to E,' so Kane had told him the first time they traveled internationally.

"Not bringing in anything toxic, illegal… blah, blah, blah…" the security guard asks you; to which you calmly reply no. No smiles or frowns, either a cold or annoyed look works the best. They all expect you to be worn out from your journey, why prove them wrong? As long as you act like people expect you to act, suspicions don't arise. Once you've gotten to the check-in area, find a pay phone (preferable near a door) and only then make any necessary calls.

The phone rings twice then silence, finally a tired voice is heard, "Hello?"

"Victor, are your blinds open yet?" asks Naruto in code. Victor is Kane's cover name; the rest is a question of mobility.

"Halfway, I don't like too much light getting through, you know that," comes the reply. Basically meaning, that depending on the situation he'll make an effort to get there or not; the last part is actually a question of identity.

"You should open them and let in some of the sunrise, Lissa," answers Naruto. Meaning that it's a code-yellow priority and lissa is Russian for fox; used here as the name of the caller.

Kane's voice suddenly becomes slightly sharper and more annoyed, "I thought you said your plane didn't get in until lunch."

Code had been basically dropped at this point, Naruto knew that. The more you talk in code the more code there is for potential listeners to analyze and the faster it will be deciphered. That and they had both verified the integrity of the person on the other end. Still, the remnant that remained implied that Kane would not make the effort to Naruto up from the airport.

"Yeah, well, they moved me to an earlier flight," Naruto replied. "I'll take a cab then; we're still on for the meeting, right?"

A heavy sigh was heard through the receiver, "Yes, I trust you remember how to get there."

Naruto answered positively, they said their goodbyes, and the blond was out the door hailing a cab within a minute. He quickly got a cab started negotiating price for where he wanted to go. The driver looked disappointed, but bargained nonetheless. The best 'catch' for cab drivers there was a tourist; a tourist that had never been in the Snow before.

Naruto, the cab driver realized in dissatisfaction, was not a tourist, which meant that the blond could not be charged more than a reasonable rate. Numbers were exchanged, a price agreed upon, and thirty minutes later Naruto was standing outside of a random apartment building that he had told the driver to drop him off at.

This was not where Kane lived, far from it actually. However, this place was close to the metro station the blond wanted to use to get to his friend's place. Why such a round about way to get where he was going? To check for and/or throw off potential pursuits, so that if that cab driver were to be interrogated and asked where Naruto could be found the location would be wrong, to put it simply because Naruto doesn't trust people that he doesn't know.

Best way to blend in with the crowd is to do the same as anyone else in the crowd would. Now, usually locals would have someone meeting them, but Naruto couldn't afford to be that friendly right now. Taking a cab anywhere far was also dangerous, counter-intelligence officers sometimes posed as cab drivers.

The metro for all its security cameras, police, and potential shinobi in crowd was actually the safest choice. Who would suspect an S-rank missing-nin to be in the middle of all that acting like a respectable citizen?

The blond made his way to the metro, stopping only to buy a newspaper from a kiosk. The outside of the metro station was packed; he had forgotten how early in the morning it was, and that everyone would be taking the metro to work. He sighed, the line to get metro tokens was long, but it gave him time to think and plan at least a little ways ahead. He doubted that Kane would refuse to let him stay, it's not like Naruto's picture was on bulletin boards, so it was relatively safe.

Besides that, there were two factors that were on Naruto's side. One: is that it was winter, which meant he didn't have to leave the house unless necessary. And two: even if he did have to leave the house, he could bundle himself up, so that people would only be able see his eyes. Also, Kane owed him.

That brought up another point, what would happen when Sasuke arrived; for he had no doubt that the Uchiha would find his way here. 'I have a week, maybe two, until he gets here,' thought Naruto. The blond could call in the favor from Kane to have Sasuke stay with them, but that wasn't so much the issue. The issue was what to do with the Uchiha? Naruto wasn't going back to Konoha. Sasuke likely knew that; the blond would be horribly disappointed if the 'so-called' genius didn't know. Hence, Sasuke will want answers, but was he prepared to give them; that was the real question.

The blond's train of thought paused as he was now first in line. Naruto got enough tokens to last him for a couple days of traveling and made his way down to the tracks. There was literally a mob of people and for a moment the blond thought it would be impossible to even get off the escalator. Getting on the train actually wouldn't be too hard, since this was the start of the line (looking north to south), so the train would be empty.

Naruto didn't manage to catch the first train; he was simply too far back in the mob to have a chance, but he wasn't worried. There were a lot of trains; he wouldn't have to wait too long for the next one. Normally, he liked to walk around the station and admire the architectural designs, but that was impossible in his current situation and thus the blond was reduced to waiting in one place and occasionally making sure no one cut in front of him.

The Uzumaki got on the next train. Holding the rail with one hand and his bag in the other, he was happy that he only had five stations to go. Paranoia was high, the chance that someone would try and steal something from his bag was even higher, but the blond knew that was impossible. Before entering the metro he had placed a seal on his bag; it was weak against a shinobi that wanted to gain access, but impossible for a civilian. Even if it was broken, Naruto would instantly know.

Someone still tried, the zippers didn't budge no matter how much the person pushed and pulled. Naruto was trying very hard not to burst out laughing; he simply readjusted the bag and practically smelled the fear on the would-be thief. His destination was announced and he forcibly squeezed and pushed his way to the door, and then through a crowd of people that wanted to get on the metro even though there were people getting out.

Once outside, he realized just how stuffy the metro was, but how very nice and warm too. Needless to say he wasn't well-dressed for this weather; he had a jacket, but it was too thin for subzero temperature, at least he was wearing pants and boots, and not shorts and sandals. He started briskly walking to Kane's apartment. The blond saw his breath come out as thick steam as he brought his hands up to his mouth to warm them up. He wasn't wearing gloves either, he didn't have a scarf, and his bandana should be a wool hat. For all his preparation to blend in Naruto had forgotten about his clothing; he felt the urge to slam his head into a wall.

'Great, just great,' he thought sarcastically. 'Oh yes, a typical Snow Country citizen wears exactly what I'm wearing right now on a regular day.' He could pretend to be poor, but even poor people in this country stole better jackets than the one he had on.

Luckily the walk was only ten minutes. Once inside, Naruto briskly rubbed his hands together to get them warmed up as he slowly made his was to the elevator. It was a very old wooden elevator; the shaft was surrounded by a metal cage so the elevator could actually be seen, there was a metal door on each floor that allowed access through the metal cage. Naruto pressed the button several times and then looked up the shaft and sighed, 'The elevator's broken,' he thought in annoyance.

He glanced at the staircase that was right next to the elevator, 'Well, this is one way to get warmed up after freezing my stupid ass off in the subzero temperature outside.' While the apartment he was going to was on the ninth floor it wasn't too bad; after all the only luggage Naruto had was his duffle bag.

There were two hallways on opposite sides of the staircase and elevator shaft, each one behind a metal door the top part of which had a glass window, so that the residents could see who they were opening the door for. Said door had to be unlocked with a key different from the apartment key. There was also an intercom right next to the metal door; the blond prayed he remembered the room apartment number correctly.

He pressed the button, but didn't hear anything for a moment. Then a greeting sound from the speaker and a couple questions were asked. It was very similar to the conversation they had had at the airport. A door at the end of the corridor opened and a gray-haired man stepped out. He slowly made his way towards Naruto, all the while observing the blond just to make sure that this was indeed who he thought it was.

The middle-aged man opened the door and Naruto could take in his appearance; the metal door's window was thick and somewhat blurry. Kane had not changed much since Naruto had last seen him. He stood straight, proud and confident as he looked the blond over. Kane had an overall tank-build, he was slightly taller than Naruto, his shoulders were wider, and he had a rough-looking face that practically said 'you do anything wrong and I'm throwing you out a window.'

Kane motioned Naruto to follow him and the blond obeyed. The older man was wearing his in-house clothes: a gray wool sweatshirt over, a t-shirt of some sort, black fleece pants, and white slippers.

"So you're here," Kane asked as he closed the door behind Naruto.

"Yes," replied Naruto somewhat sadly and apprehensively.

Kane nodded, "I understand, can't say I didn't predict this. I just thought you'd give more of a warning."

"Sometimes, things don't go as planned," said Naruto. "And you end up catching the last plane out and waking your friends up at eight in the morning to tell them you've arrived at the airport."

"Isn't that usually the case?" asked the middle-aged man sardonically. Naruto made an acknowledging sound before sitting down on a bench to take his boots off. The owner of the apartment handed the young man a pair of slippers to wear.

The apartment itself wasn't anything special, just two bedrooms, an average sized kitchen, a small bathroom separate, and a sink and shower room. The one cool thing was that since this was the top-most floor the ceiling was unusually high, at least three meters. The man pointed to the bedroom directly on the right, "You know the drill, I sleep here and you will be taking the other room."

The blond made his way to the other room and began unpacking his stuff.

"I'm going to the market," Kane said from the doorway. "I don't have enough for the both of us." Naruto nodded in acknowledgement.

Since the blond traveled light, unpacking took only a couple minutes. He soon made his way through the hallway that connected all the rooms to his friend's room.

Naruto looked around the room and was pleased to see that nothing had changed. It was a rectangular room with the door on the right edge of the short side. There was a large dark-wood dining table right next to the balcony door on the short side of the rectangular room. An entire bookshelf, completely filled with books, covered one of the long sides of the room. Opposite the bookshelf was a three-seat couch that folder out into a double bed. The blond also noticed a brand new TV sitting on top of an old stool-like thing a couple of feet away from the door, set up in such a way that it would be perfect to watch from the bed.

Naruto walked over to the balcony door, opened it, and quickly slipped outside. It was a covered balcony, so it wasn't as cold as being outside, but it wasn't exactly warm either. However, Naruto wanted a view of his surroundings and to simply gaze at the cityscape. He was denied the latter as there were thick clouds setting it and obscuring everything from view; not to mention signifying that it was going to snow.

The blond shivered as he once again realized that he wasn't dressed properly for this sort of thing and went back inside to his room. His room was probably equal in size to Kane's room, if only a little bit smaller. It also was a rectangular room with the door on the right edge of the short side. There was a full-sized bed along the left side of the room, next to it was a small nightstand on top of which was a lamp, and on the wall above it hung a decorative rug. The right side of the room had – in this order starting from the door – a wooden bookshelf, each shelf having sliding glass doors; a table set up as a work-desk with a slab of glass on top of its surface, beneath the glass were pictures, data of some sort, and notes; and a TV in the corner of the room that looked to be about ten years old, but with all the latest audio and video equipment hooked up to it.

Naruto sat down on the bed, propped the pillows up behind his back, leaned his head on the wall behind him, and started reading the newspaper he had bought, waiting for Kane to get back.

Lunch had been a quiet affair. Kane wasn't much of a talker and would usually just listen to Naruto talk, but Naruto was tired and simply wanted to get food into his system before he took a nap. They ate at a small table in the kitchen that would probably fit four people at best considering how one side of it was pressed into a wall; a modest white and red checkered table cloth covered it. The silverware was really silver, but that was sort of the standard in the Snow, and the dishes were plain white ceramics with flowers painted on the side.

Naruto thanked Kane for the meal and collapsed on his bed. He was asleep soon after. The gray-haired man watched him from the doorway. He was apprehensive, he wouldn't deny it, to let Naruto stay here. He may owe him, but that was a gray area. The first time the blond left Snow – after his first and longest time here – Kane had been, and still was, completely against Naruto's insane plan.

The second time he left, Kane had wanted to wring his neck; but then again the gray-haired man knew something that the blond didn't. He still knew that something and had not told Naruto, in fact he could not for the life of him imagine how to bring that up. However, no matter the excuse and no matter that he had been asked to tell Naruto, the guilt of knowing this and not telling the blond was beginning to eat at him.

Last time he thought about this he had stayed up all night bickering with himself whether or not to tell the blond, but not having reached a concrete 'yes or no' decision he put off telling the blond. The problem was every time he saw Naruto, the Uzumaki was in some sort of trouble and the middle-aged man didn't want to add to the blond's burden.

Kane sighed and left a note telling Naruto that he went to work and would be back at night; it was the dead of winter, the blond wasn't going anywhere for a while, Kane would have plenty of time to think about this.

/'/'/

Sasuke sat in his study at the Uchiha manor, Naruto's anagram in front of him and a pencil in his hand. They had gotten to the village quickly enough and Sakura had been rushed off by the medics almost instantly. He, on the other hand, had had to report to the Hokage to give a detailed – since her apprentice had been injured so much – account of exactly what happened.

'It's not like this was a mission,' contemplated Sasuke as he made his way to the Hokage's office. 'Then again if it wasn't a mission why the hell is Sakura injured?' The idea of lying had occurred to the raven-haired man. He could say that Itachi and Kisame had attacked them with the intent of getting information about Naruto. The problem with this kind of lying was that Sakura was not informed of this story, not only that but it would never even cross her mind to lie to Tsunade. If you are caught lying to them that means you are hiding something; and since he really was hiding something it would be good if they didn't have probable cause to dig deeper into his report.

The account he gave was accurate, minus a couple scenes namely the one where Naruto gave him the anagram paper. Just as he was about to leave, the Godaime was told that Sakura had actually been poisoned. It was a weak poison, but still she needed her rest, with the chakra exhaustion and all, no visitors until at least tomorrow. The raven-haired man was still wondering how he had missed that Sakura was suffering from chakra exhaustion. I mean it was simply beneath him to miss such details; absolutely unbecoming of an Uchiha.

He made a mental note that his ego needed to be killed, or at least made mute.

He needed a distraction, he also needed to figure out this anagram; hence why he's sitting here right now. 'Where to start?' he thought. 'Start at the beginning.'

First word: HEMUSOY

'Soy… soy sauce,' he thought absentmindedly. 'That goes good on rice.'

The Uchiha blinked several times; his mind had just gone to an entirely different place. Judging from the place it went he was incredibly hungry, as his stomach backed up in the next second. Food made sense, a lot more sense than going to Shikamaru because he couldn't solve a seven-word anagram.

Sasuke went out to eat and brought the piece of paper with him. By the end of the meal Naruto's note had been deciphered, and on the way home Sasuke wondered why the blond had made it so easy. Then he realized – it was very simple actually – to get the note, a person would have to get to Naruto, and if you got to Naruto, the note didn't matter.

As soon as Sasuke got home he rummaged through the mailing center drawers looking for a certain object. He finally found it tucked away at the back-most corner of the lowest drawer, it was the key to Naruto's apartment. He would need it, since the anagram read as follows: MY HOUSE, COUCH LEG, MUNICH.

The only 'house' Naruto had, was his apartment in Konoha. Of course, this was as far as Sasuke knew, but considering that Naruto had given him this piece of paper it was safe to assume that it was something that Sasuke would know about; at least that's what he hoped.

It was midday now. It would take at least two more hours for the news of his and Sakura's return to circulate through the shinobi populace. After that their friends would go to the hospital first, waste at least thirty minutes of their life trying to get in to see her, and then finally realize that he wasn't there and go try and find him. Naruto's place would not be where they go first; his house and the training grounds being the first ones. Meaning, he had a good three to four hours before he was disturbed.

'Plenty of time to dig for clues at Naruto's house,' thought Sasuke.

All the couch legs looked the same. This was the final conclusion that the Uchiha came up with after studying the legs with and without having his Sharingan activated. Maybe the Sharingan had been a bit too extreme, but you never know, not with the most surprising ninja. Figuring it was more complicated than one of the legs being white while the others were black; he tapped each one of them and found that one was hollow. Carefully, lifting the couch up and removing that leg had produced a small silver key in the hollowed out section of the leg.

'A key to what?' wondered Sasuke. The key was too small to be a house key. The number on it made it look more like a key used for lockers. That's when it hit him, 'This must be a key to a locker in Munich; a train station locker most likely.' He would have to go to Munich.

His first thought was that he had to take Sakura with him, but soon realized that Naruto's trail might go cold if he were to wait. The blond had been saying he would be dropping off the face of the Earth, and last time he did that even Jiraiya couldn't find him. He needed to go, but he couldn't; obligations and responsibilities weighed him down. The Uchiha scoffed lightly as he remembered Naruto saying that that was one of the hardest things to get used to after being a missing-nin for such a long time.

After hours of thinking about it, Sasuke had realized that he would have to go alone. He would tell Sakura that he would come back as soon as he could; that he wasn't planning on staying with Naruto for a prolonged period of time. But he would have to go alone. He didn't like the idea too much, but at the same time she would be safe this way; and he could send her a message to tell her where he was. At least that was the theory, the ideal plan; Sasuke could easily guess her response.

'Maybe I should write her a letter instead?' thought Sasuke. She would understand his reasons, 'But she will still be angry. But, otherwise, she will want to come along… this is a pain.' The Uchiha found himself torn once again; he would need to think longer.

At this point he was very grateful for the privileges given to Special Jounin; getting a mission to or around Munich was probably impossible. On that note, getting into a Hidden-Stone-controlled territory was near impossible. Naruto thought this out pretty well, even if someone from Konoha had found the anagrams or the key and wanted to find him that person would have to go to the Stone and risk death.

Still, he had to go to Munich, which meant that he had to get into the Stone. Flying in was out of the question; the Stone was insane about security. Trains weren't a possibility either: passports were checked while boarding, randomly in transit, and when leaving the train station. Sasuke realized he would have to sneak into Germany or Austria and more-or-less hitchhike his way to Munich.

However, before any of that there was the problem of leaving Konoha. Sure he had Special Jounin privileges, but the fact that he had just returned and with an injured comrade no less would certainly make his leaving again, for lack of a better word, bothersome. Sasuke sighed and plopped back in his chair, privileges are privileges but the Hokage has the final say. That said and everything considered, the Godaime wouldn't let him go.

'I could promise her Naruto,' contemplated the raven-haired man. The question was would he be able to keep that promise; he was doubtful. "The truth goes a long way," he had heard that before, but never paid it much attention, after all shinobi lie and deceive. 'I could tell her the truth about where I'm going and how I'm going to meet up with Naruto and…' he trailed off; and what? What was he going to do once he found the blond?

Bring him back? No, Naruto wouldn't come. There was something that just… no, Sasuke just knew – he knew not how he knew, but he knew – that Naruto would never come back to the Leaf.

So, if it wasn't to bring him back, then what was going to be Sasuke's goal? He definitely wanted answers. Answers to why Naruto became missing-in-action, why did he disappear, what happened with the Akatsuki, what happened with the Kyuubi, and – maybe most importantly of all – what does the blond plan to do now?

He wasn't the only the only one that wanted answer. The Godaime would want these answers too. Would she let him go and retrieve them? Sasuke was leaning towards yes. Would she trust him to go and retrieve them? Now for this one Sasuke was leaning towards no. So who would she trust to go retrieve these answers? Sakura is a good bet for holding the Godaime's trust.

What does it all boil down to? Final conclusion:

Sasuke wouldn't be allowed to go alone in search of Naruto. He would have to wait until Sakura was able to make the journey and they would both go in search of Naruto and the answers that he possesses.

It was not a very comforting conclusion; he had just contented himself with the fact that Sakura would be safer in the village and now he would be forced to bring her along. Also, Sakura would need time to heal; time that they might not have. How long would Naruto wait for them before completely disappearing? Is Naruto waiting for them or has he already disappeared?

Now the latter was a bone-chilling question, Naruto hadn't been very forthcoming when he gave Sasuke the anagrams. Could the Uzumaki just be wasting their time by having them go to Munich, all the while giving himself enough time to disappear without a trace? Maybe this message is so outdated that Naruto gave it away because it is worthless?

No, Sasuke shook his head, he was over-analyzing. The blond wouldn't come up with a plan as convoluted as that. No, the message was real, this key is real, and the contents of that locker are real; what if the locker is empty? 'Damn it! Stop over-analyzing!' the Uchiha scolded himself. The Naruto he knows doesn't give dead-end clues and wouldn't nest keys in lockers.

This is real. He would assume it to be so, convince himself that it is so, and then present it to the Godaime as if he were holding the key to the meaning of life.


A/N:

Sort of a random thought, but it holds weight in a lot of fics that I read:
I haven't put much dialogue into this fic so far, it has mostly been thoughts and narration. This is because I firmly believe that people don't disclose their life stories and/or their biggest problems in some random coffee-shop or bar where a bunch of strangers can hear. Applied to the shinobi world, this would mean that shinobi don't go into lengthy conversations about their life stories, problems, and/or weaknesses in the middle of a mission and/or on enemy territory. This kind of talk happens in private safe environments where all of the people present feel comfortable.