Only Naruto

Naruto saw people in a different light. They were tools, nothing more. But when he confronts someone much like him, can he keep his cold outlook, even with her? NaruTayu. One-shot.

Written in response to a request by 'babaga he who laughs at anime'.

Shikamaru wished that his job were easier. As Konoha's leading strategist, even though he was just a chuunin, he had way too much responsibility. He wished he'd just forfeited his match to begin with, and screw the promotion.

And his latest assignment was impossible.

It was one thing to decipher a coded message. Shikamaru was brilliant with that sort of thing. He had decoded some of the most obscure and complex messages in less time than the others who came before him took to decode their messages from other Konoha shinobi.

It was one thing to make a strategy for defending against an attack, or attacking against a defense. Shikamaru knew how to use the environment, the type of terrain, the time of day, and countless other factors to his advantage. Planning an attack was easy.

And it was one thing to extrapolate useful information from seemingly pointless bits of data gathered from Konoha's many spies. More times than he cared to count, Shikamaru had deduced incredibly important information from data that others had tossed aside as useless.

But this was completely different. Interrogation was not his thing. But for a few reasons, rather weak in Shikamaru's opinion, he had been assigned to extract information from the newest addition to Konoha's prison, the red-haired sound-ninja named Tayuya.

But she was not cooperative. At all. Ibiki had tired of her, and so now she'd been dropped on Shikamaru, who was supposed to be 'genius' enough to know how to get her to talk. But it seemed an awful lot of work to the lazy ninja, and besides, it wasn't nice to treat females that way.

So Shikamaru tried to become her friend, to do things the gentlemanly way, but Tayuya had refused in quite an obscene and very unlady-like manner.

He sighed again and walked toward Ichiraku. Maybe he would think of something over lunch.

Naruto happily slurped his ramen, occasionally telling old man Ichiraku just how great it was.

Because that was how he kept the owner of this place attached to him. Compliments puffed up his ego, and made him quite a bit more likely to give out free ramen.

To be sure, that was a rather pragmatic way of looking at it, but over the years, that was how Naruto saw him. And everyone.

It was hard, so long ago, before he had graduated from the ninja academy. No friends. No parents. Barely even a home. It was at that time that Naruto learned how the world worked.

People only became friends out of fondness or fear. And as far as Naruto could tell, no one was fond of him. Even after he graduated, and proved himself again and again, his only 'friends' were those who were awed by his abilities, or afraid of them. As he talked to those people who counted themselves his friend, he became aware of this, every time. They didn't like him, really. They barely even knew him. They never expressed interest in what he did, or what he liked. The only thing they were interested in was his set of rather unique abilities. His inhuman stamina. His unnatural strength. His monstrous chakra.

Yes, monstrous. Because for the longest time, even before Mizuki had blurted it out in an attempt to use him, Naruto had suspected. He could only be called a demon so many times, by the otherwise ignorant villagers, before it dawned on him that it was not just an insult. And Naruto had noticed, several times, when he had gotten angry, the strange, dark power that would flow through him. Protecting him. Strengthening him.

Naruto knew why no one could truly be his friend. He was a demon. And no one loved him. But that was okay. Naruto had learned to deal with it. Because he loved no one. He liked no one. After a time, everyone was just a tool. A pet. Naruto put in praise, or effort, or whatever, and they gave out what he wanted. Ramen. Training. Whatever it was that he was after.

After a time, Naruto began to wonder if he even had a heart, like those that others spoke of. Surely he did, since, though he was a demon, he was also a human. But obviously his heart was sealed. No one could penetrate beyond the cold logic of his experience, and the fiery rage of his inner demon.

Naruto was alone. But he liked it that way. It made things so much simpler. There was no reason to feel guilty about using people, if he didn't like them. And he liked no one.

And the best part was, Naruto could befriend anyone. With his false cheer and his winning optimism, even the strangest, loneliest people had fallen under his sway. Tsunade, the woman who had left Konoha long ago, vowing never to return, was now here, acting as Hokage. Because of him. Jiraiya, who had wasted years chasing women and writing stupid porn, now made great use of his many allies in service of the village. And Naruto was rather pleased with that, since the village gave him so many things. As long as he could keep it running, Naruto could get whatever he wanted.

And so it was not out of loyalty that Naruto served Konoha. Not out of patriotism. Not out of love. Naruto served Konoha, because Naruto served only himself.

Shikamaru slouched onto a stool at Ichiraku's, trying to ignore the blonde who was noisily slurping noodles from a rather large bowl. The lazy chuunin ordered one small bowl for himself, then watched in bored amusement as Naruto finished his bowl, and stacked it on top of the other four already empty bowls nearby.

Naruto turned to look at Shikamaru. He seemed troubled. Maybe this would be a good time to gain favor with the Nara genius, who, after all, had a significant amount of influence higher up.

"What's up, Shikamaru?"

The chuunin sighed. "I have the stupidest mission ever. I don't think I can do it."

"Like what?"

"Well… it's sort of like this. I can't say too much about it, but basically I'm supposed to become someone's friend. But they hate everyone. So I can't do much about it."

Naruto grinned, seeing his chance. "Maybe I can help! I can make anyone my friend!" And it was not just an idle boast. Once Naruto wanted someone as a friend, it was done. No one could resist.

Shikamaru opened his mouth to object, but stopped before he said anything. Naruto did have a tendency to make friends easily. Maybe he could do what Shikamaru could not.

"I'll have to run it by the Hokage, but I think that would be a good idea, Naruto. Thanks."

Shikamaru finished his ramen quickly and hurried to the Hokage tower. If she would let him, this would be great. He could finish his mission without any further effort.


Tsunade thought it was a great idea, too. And so Naruto found himself led into the prison, and placed outside the windowless cell of a red head from Sound.

Naruto analyzed her like he did for every target, ignoring her loud shouts and curses. A female, which was good. They were generally less aggressive, although this one might be an exception. Appeared to be in her late teens, or early twenties. Good health, despite whatever Ibiki had done. She was a little gaunt, but nothing terrible. Said to be a genjutsu user, so probably pretty smart. Short, and short-tempered. She used a flute, so she was musical to at least some degree.

Naruto wondered about the best way to approach the situation, even as his exterior self smiled brightly and asked for her name.

"Like I'll tell you, you goddamn shit-head! Didn't your fucking people tell you my name anyway? Your whole village must be a bunch of incompetent bastards if they can't even tell you that much!"

She was afraid, Naruto noted. Only fear could cause such foolish anger in front of those who could inflict further pain upon her. So she was afraid, but of what? Not him, surely, since his exterior projected a kind and slightly dopey cheerfulness.

Naruto decided to try a line of innocuous questions to try and gain her trust. Slowly, since she was very hostile.

"Why are you so loud?"

"Why shouldn't I be loud, you fucking little bitch?! You got a problem with it, shit-head?!"

"No, just curious." Naruto laughed a little, to appear more cheerful. "I get told off for being loud, too. All the time."

"Like I care!"

"I'm touched."

Tayuya's eyes narrowed dangerously. What was up with this kid? There was no way that a stupid blonde genin could get anything out of her, so why send him? Now it was obvious. It wasn't some stupid blonde kid. No idiot genin would have such a comeback.

The leaf were taking her seriously, after all.

Naruto watched her expression carefully. She was obviously suspicious and alarmed about something. Surely his last comment was acceptable? Then he realized. It sounded too intelligent, especially since he was supposed to be acting like a dumb kid. Whoops.

Thinking quickly, Naruto tried to salvage the situation. "What does that mean, anyway? Ero-sennin says it all the time, when people say mean things, but I don't get it."

"Don't play dumb with me, you blonde bastard." She bored holes into his head with her eyes.

"What? Do I have something on my face?"

Tayuya growled. "Don't act stupid now, like you can fool me!"

Naruto tried his confused look, squinting his eyes and scrunching his nose up. "What do you mean, huh?"

Tayuya became silent and turned around. "You think you can trick me like that? I'm not an elite ninja for nothing!"

Naruto frowned, letting his emotions show. No one was watching them anyway, since Shikamaru was not expecting results on the first few visits.

Tayuya looked back at him, and saw his sullen, disappointed look. "Yeah, now you understand, bastard. Can't fool me like that."

Naruto wondered if honesty would be good here? No, because if he actually got her to talk, then she might tell them about it. Hm… It didn't look like Naruto was going to be able to do it. But if he didn't, he would lose face with Shikamaru, and Tsunade, whose favor he required to get some of the things he wanted.

There had to be a way.

"So what you decide that acting stupid would make me suddenly spill my guts, huh? You think I'm some simple little girl from sound, who's never been interrogated before?!"

Maybe he could make her angry enough to say too much? "Yes, I do. You are a little girl who understands nothing." Even if it was out of his normal, character, Naruto decided that he wasn't too worried. She probably wouldn't think anything of it, now that she seemed to assume that this was his normal self.

Which it was, but no one was supposed to know.

Tayuya purpled with rage. "What was that, you fucking retard? I'll rip your fucking balls off!"

The red-haired fury pounded on the bars of her cell, reaching out between, trying to somehow grab him and pull him in to teach him a lesson.

Naruto, standing a safe distance back, watched her with interest. She was angry all right, but that was not the sort of anger that brought out information. After a few minutes, she calmed down and collapsed to the ground in an exhausted heap, breathing heavily.

Naruto wondered what he should do with her. He would not admit defeat. But how could he get her to talk? While he tried to think of something, he tried to make some idle chatter.

"So you lose your temper like that often?"

"Fuck you." Tayuya felt too tired to put any more energy into her retort.

"I'll take that as a yes. But I wonder, why would you do that, knowing that you couldn't possibly reach me from in there, and that you couldn't possibly break the bars? What were you hoping for?"

Tayuya said nothing.

"As I thought, you didn't really think about it. You are rash and impulsive. You have very little self-control." Naruto felt like he was on the right track. Why did her anger seem to strange? So… familiar?

Tayuya made to get up, but slumped back onto the floor. "What, you my shrink now?"

Naruto shrugged. "If you want. I'm just trying to fill the silence while I think of something else to try."

Tayuya snorted, and sat up. "If you got sent in after Ibiki, then you must be at least as good as him. Why are you making so many stupid mistakes?"

Her eyes widened, and she looked around the room quickly, trying to see something she had missed. If he was really as good, then these mistakes were not mistakes, but part of a larger plan. What had she missed? What was really going on here?

Tayuya started to hyperventilate. Was it too late now? Had she fallen into some stupid trap? She tried every method she knew for dispelling genjutsu, and then fell back against a wall, eyes glancing wildly about her cell, as if something might spring out and get her.

Naruto watched all this with amusement, somewhat aware of what was going through her head. She thought that if he was at least as good as Ibiki, then any obvious mistakes were not really mistakes, but traps. As amusing as it was, this did not seem to serve Naruto's purpose.

"Don't worry about stuff like that, Tayuya. Ibiki is the best. I'm here because we're just throwing whatever we got at you, to see if something else might work."

Tayuya continued to breathe rapidly, her pupils shrinking and dilating at regular intervals.

Naruto sighed. "At least stop hyperventilating, you'll make yourself pass out."

Tayuya glared at him, but did as he suggested. Once she had calmed down, she realized how silly she had been. Of course, it was just like the kid said. But why would he tell her that? He didn't care about her. Did he?

Naruto smiled as the pieces clicked into place. He knew why she had gotten so angry before. He knew that rage.

She had no friends. No one to care about her. And so, like Naruto had done several times in the past, before he had seen the way things worked, she freaked out, and gave in to the despair and the terrible wrath that built up against all the uncaring others.

Here was a comrade, a person who had gone through what he had. And so even knowing that she was still probably like all the others, Naruto found himself worried about her predicament. She was so lonely, and so she clung to her village, staying violently loyal because it was all she had.

Just like Naruto, many years ago.

The blonde boy stood up to leave, but stopped at the sound of her voice. "Hey, where are you going?" You were almost nice, why are you leaving?

Naruto turned and gave her a sad smile. "I'll be back."

He came back the next day, right after lunch. Tayuya sat calmly on the edge of her bed.

Naruto took his seat outside the cell, and waited quietly for her to speak first.

After nearly an hour of absolute silence, Tayuya couldn't stand it anymore. It was so quiet that she hardly dared to breathe, for fear that it would sound too loud.

"What are you here for, fucker?"

Naruto blinked away his drowsiness. "What do you think I'm here for, Tayuya?"

"Hmph. So you know my name, after all. You're here to make me tell about the Sound, you stupid man-whore. Don't play dumb."

Naruto nodded. "That, too. But since you're being rather obstinate about that, I have other things I'd like to know about, too."

"Think you can trick me into talking by starting on another subject? I'm not a stupid like your little Konoha bitches. Just 'cause I'm a girl doesn't mean I can't think straight!"

"What's it like, having no friends, Tayuya?"

She froze. No sound came out of her mouth. Tayuya just stared at him in awe and terror. There was no way he could know that. He was… he had to be guessing. She hadn't given herself away… she hadn't talked about friends at all! How had this guy known?

Naruto spoke up, filling the empty silence. "It's not much fun, is it?"

Tayuya found her voice again. "How? How did you know?" She was quiet, afraid.

Naruto shrugged. "I want to make you a deal, Tayuya. It has nothing to do with your information regarding sound."

Tayuya waited expectantly.

"If you'll agree to be polite and honest about everything you say, I'll come here every day. We can talk about whatever you want."

Tayuya had to restrain herself from agreeing immediately. He was willing to… be her friend? Or at least talk to her. But wouldn't he try to trick her? Tayuya felt the despair creep in, strangling her faint hope.

Her voice was still soft. "Will you promise to also be honest with me?"

Naruto nodded, and Tayuya's heart leapt up in joy. Even if it was an enemy, even if it was just some kid… she had someone to talk to. To really talk to. About little things, and the stuff that didn't pertain to ninja…

If he kept his word. Tayuya desperately hoped that, against all the odds, this strange shinobi from Konoha really meant what he said. "So, does this start now?" She failed to keep her emotions out of her tone, and she knew that she sounded small and hopeful.

Naruto nodded again. "As long as you are polite, and you are honest, I'll come here for an hour every day."

Tayuya was suddenly nervous about starting a conversation. What did one say in a situation like this?

"So… what's the weather like outside?"

Naruto smirked at the question, but answered it without comment. "It's sunny, and pretty warm. A few clouds here and there, white, puffy ones."

Tayuya nodded. Of course it would be wonderful outside, now that she could not enjoy it. "Did you guys manage to get that little Uchiha back? I never heard."

"No. He got away."

Tayuya thought she heard something left unsaid. "He just got away? Is there something you're not saying?" She now realized that honesty meant telling the truth, though not necessarily all the truth.

"I caught up to him, and fought with him. Because I was supposed to bring him back alive, I couldn't use as much force as he used. He left me for dead and ran off." Subconsciously, Naruto rubbed on hand over his right lung, which had been pierced almost clean through by the dark chidori Sasuke used.

Tayuya didn't miss that either. "He got you in the lung? You're lucky to have survived."

Naruto smirked, remembering how Kyuubi had healed the wound within minutes. "It happens. So tell me, Tayuya, how are your legs? I wasn't given much about your health, other than that you were still dangerous."

Tayuya frowned. "I can walk. But that's about all. The bones are all messed up, and because they weren't set properly, I can't move them right. So walking is about as fast as they go."

"How's your cell?"

Tayuya flinched, perceiving an insult. "You think you're better than me just because you're outside, fucker?"

Silently, Naruto stood and began to walk away. Tayuya's eyes widened as she realized what she had done. "No, wait! I'm sorry! I didn't mean it! It just slipped out!"

Naruto didn't turn around, and reached the door at the end of the small hallway.

Tayuya grew more desparate. Here she had someone willing to just keep her company, and she had screwed it up. "Please! Give me another chance! Please! I won't do it again! I promise!"

The door clanked shut with an edge of finality. Thrown into despair by the sudden introduction and removal of a real chance of something like happiness, Tayuya cried for the first time in years.

On the other side of the door, Naruto tried to convince himself, unsuccessfully, that there was something in his eyes causing the tears that ran down his face.

For a week, Tayuya saw not a single living person. Her meals were left in her cell while she slept, and were taken away also while she slept. There was no noise, no movement, nothing. In her closed-off cell, Tayuya couldn't even tell what time of day it was. Only the food left on her meals trays gave her a general idea of the time.

Until, after seven days of solitude, she heard the door open with its normal clank and the groan of its hinges. Tayuya immediately sat up on the edge of her bed, eager to see someone. Anyone. Even Ibiki would be better than this constant nothing.

Her eyes got as big as saucers when Naruto sat down outside her cell, in the same place he had sat last week.

"Hey, Tayuya."

As if his words had opened the floodgates of Tayuya's words, she began to babble as quickly as she could.

"I'm so sorry about what I said won't you please forgive me I won't do it again don't leave me in here all alone it was so…"

Naruto cut her off by holding up a hand. "I'm back. We'll give it another try, alright?"

Tayuya nodded eagerly. Anything so that she could have someone to talk to. Or yell at. Or even just to stare at. Anything was better than being alone.

Naruto sighed. "You're looking thin, Tayuya. Don't they feed you enough in here?"

She looked away. "They give me enough. I just haven't been hungry."

Naruto just looked at her.

"Well… I… da-" She quickly cut herself off. She would not mess this up again.

"You were lonely, and didn't feel like eating, you mean?"

Tayuya nodded slowly.

"I thought maybe that might be the case. I brought you something." He reached into his pocket and tossed something through the bars of her cell.

Tayuya's hand snapped out, catching it with ease. A granola bar. With chocolate chips.

Tayuya loved chocolate.

Naruto watched in amusement as the red-headed prisoner wolfed down the granola bar in seconds, and then began staring at his pocket in a thinly veiled hope for more.

He chuckled. "What are you looking at, Tayuya?" The slight teasing edge to his voice revealed his humor.

Tayuya blushed scarlet and looked away. Although she'd been looking at his pocket, it was quite close to…

"You stuuuuu…" her voice trailed off, and she glanced up in fear.

Naruto laughed out loud. "Nice save. Have you always been so foul-mouthed, or was that just here?"

Tayuya scowled. "Always. Which is why it's so difficult for me, you…" She didn't dare continue.

Naruto reached into his pocket and tossed her another granola bar. "Well, it's good to know you're trying, anyway.

Tayuya just smirked and savored the beautiful taste of chocolate.

Tayuya kept her tongue in check, and this continued every day for several weeks. Naruto would visit her every day, bringing some form of chocolate with him. They talked about anything and everything. Naruto told her about some of his missions, and she talked about hers. They talked about different foods, and other things.

And Naruto was terrified.

Against his better judgment, against his logic, and against his will, he liked her. And he was supposed to be using her to get information. Using her just like he used everyone else. But he couldn't bring himself to ask the questions, questions that he knew she would answer. He could have snuck them in by now. But somehow, he couldn't. Every time he considered it, his stomach would twist into knots and he would instead talk about something else.

Tayuya understood his situation. She was in his situation. She knew what it was like. And Naruto couldn't bring himself to do anything that might upset her.

But he couldn't give up on the mission, either. Not that he would have given up his chance to talk to Tayuya, but even if he could still talk to her afterwards, which was unlikely, he couldn't give up because he still wanted to get points with Granny Tsunade and the Nara guy.

He continued his normal routine of visits like this for quite some time, until one day she asked the question.

"Why haven't you tried to ask me about sound, Naruto? You could have done that by now, but you haven't. Why?" Her voice was carefully neutral, but overly so, in a way that told Naruto she was very interested in his answer.

As he had promised not to lie, and he couldn't bring himself to disappoint by refusing the question, Naruto decided to tell the truth.

"I… I like you, Tayuya. You are just me. No friends, no family. No one who cares. I saw that, the first day, when you got so angry. Because I used to do that, too. I used to lose it when people disrespected me, when they tried to use me. And so I knew, when you freaked out, that you were just like me.

"And Tayuya, I couldn't bring myself to do anything that might upset you, even though it's my mission to get you to talk. And I knew that if I did, you might not trust me anymore. And that the mission would be over, and I might not…"

Tayuya's eyes watered with unshed tears. "You might not what, Naruto?" Her voice was soft. Vulnerable. Hopeful. Fearful.

"I might not… see you again. And so I didn't want the mission to end. I just, I just…"

Naruto couldn't believe that he was crying. He was supposed to be the demon, unmovable, unshakable. Using everyone but not allowing anyone to use him. But here he was, crying over some girl from another village who just happened to be like him.

It was pathetic.

But for some reason, Naruto didn't care.

Walking over to the bars, he reached through and took one of her hands. "I just want you to be happy."

Silent tears fell down both their cheeks. Tayuya spoke quietly, but with great emotion. "Naruto, tell them… tell them that I'll talk, as long as they'll let you visit as often as you like."

Naruto nodded slowly.

Shikamaru walked into the Hokage's office, smirking. Tsunade perked up in anticipation. "Well, Shikamaru? Got something for me, finally?"

He grinned and laid down a think folder, packed with pages and pages of information. "It's all in here. I took the liberty you gave me, to make some special arrangements concerning the prisoner, and struck a deal."

Tsunade nodded, eyeing the folder eagerly. "What sort of arrangements?"

"Eh, they'd become such good friends, and since she was all but crippled anyway, I let her move out. I think she's staying with Naruto."

Tsunade just stared at him in confusion for a few moments, before bursting into laughter. "Only Naruto!"

End. I was gonna write up a different ending, probably adding one more scene, but I couldn't think of anything good, so I ended it here.

A note to those of you, however few, who've been reading my daily one-shots: I'm going to be very busy tomorrow. I will make every effort to write something, but no guarantees. Sorry, but unfortunate, I have to put real life first. sad face

Anyway, let me know what you think of the story!