A/N: This story is on HIATUS. Graduating college and getting sucked up by real life is responsible for my first drop off the radar, the manga absolute 'WTF'ness is responsible for my loss of motivation, and moving to another country to teach English for a year is responsible for a lack of future updates. I will finish this story, but right now it is no longer a high priority for me. Sorry!

This is a brand new Naruto-fic starting right off from where manga chapter 406 leaves off. It is not related to any of my other fics.

Disclaimer: I will say this once and only once...I don't own Naruto. Too bad, so sad.

Chapter 1

'It must be nice,' Hatake Kakashi thought to himself as he eyed the villagers milling around, completely oblivious to the dangers that skirted by them every day, 'to be able to make life look so simple, so easy...'

The jounin sat on the roof of a crumbling hotel with his book open in his left hand and his mind elsewhere.

He grimaced as he recalled his most recent mission and the tense and depressed journey home for their eight-man squad after the latest failed attempt at retrieving Sasuke. The mission had been a disappointment to say the least, and it showed in the stiff shoulders and creased brows of his two remaining students. Kakashi knew quite well that Naruto and Sakura were extremely rash and emotional beings, highly prone to jumping to conclusions and making quick accusations. They both actively sought outlets for whatever overwhelming emotion they were feeling—especially when they were already aggravated. As such, it was fortunate that team eight had the good sense to avoid any unnecessary interaction with their co-team for the rest of their travel.

It seemed that no matter what they did, Sasuke would always just be out of reach and it wore on those kids' hearts every time. It hurt Kakashi to watch, for he knew how they struggled to keep hope, how they refused to face the cold fact that Sasuke did not want to come home. Sakura clung to her vision of returning team seven to what it formerly was while Naruto couldn't bring himself to break a promise. Call it her childish fantasy or his pride, but they were the raw basis for every complicated reason they deluded themselves into believing just to keep the hunt going.

Kakashi was of a different mind. There was still a part of him that wanted Sasuke to be safe—the young prodigy was once a student of his, after all—but Kakashi was far too old and experienced to give little hopes like that any fuel. Sasuke made his decision and he acted out against Konoha and against his former teammates one too many times; there was no redemption for the avenger even if he were to come back beyond these walls. Naruto and Sakura simply refused to see that.

Sometimes Kakashi just wanted to throttle those two before they ended up getting in over their heads.

But now...now he doubted Sasuke was on anyone's mind...

Returning to find that Jiraiya-sama had died at the hands of the Akatsuki was just the icing on the cake for their already dampened spirits. The leader, Pain, had slaughtered Konoha's spymaster, one of the most powerful shinobi produced by Konoha to date. It was enough to send chills down anyone's back.

Rolling his stiff shoulders, the masked ninja stood from his roost and tucked the book away into his vest pocket. He was due to take a mission in a couple days—a good way to get his mind off the devastating news he learned in the Hokage's office just yesterday—though it also came with poor timing. It was bad enough he couldn't be around to help uplift his students with their recent failure, but now he was about to leave Naruto to his own devices after the boy had just found out about his sensei's demise.

The Jounin sighed and hopped down from the roof into the sparsely populated street, starting the long, slow journey to his humble apartment.

Perhaps he could have been a little more sympathetic towards Naruto when the blonde went off the deep end after Tsunade delivered the news. The kid left the office with cold words yesterday afternoon and Kakashi had not seen him since. Iruka was kind enough to inform him that he had briefly spoken with Naruto last night and tentatively believed he had made some progress in calming the poor kid down.

Kakashi's dark eye flitted over the multi-colored heads moving about the avenue and gazed in the direction of Naruto's apartment district. The masked jounin had a small encounter with Shikamaru not long before, one regarding the code Jiraiya-sama had sent using the last of his strength, and had encouraged the young man to do what he could for Naruto.

It was a feeble hope, but Kakashi still hoped. He hoped that if Iruka didn't get through to Naruto then someone closer to his age would.

That boy was too important to this upcoming war to fall victim to his own grief.



Naruto really, really needed to wash his pillowcase. It smelled like wet moths.

Despite the musty smell, he took another deep breath into the pillow he had face-planted into nearly an hour ago. He simply couldn't bring himself to move from that position; he was far too confused and far too tired.

This was becoming a poor habit of his.

Jiraiya was dead. Sasuke had escaped them. Konoha was on the verge of war. He was being actively hunted by a fanatical group of psychopaths most likely bent on world domination or something of the sort. The list went on and on...

Ever since Naruto had met the man, Jiraiya had been one of the few real constants in his life. For Christ's sake, they had just traveled the world together, forming a bond that was stronger than any other he had ever shared before. Jiraiya was more than just a sensei to him; he was a grandfather, a crazy uncle, a best friend, a tie—his only tie—to his past. And even more than that...he was a Sannin. A legendary fucking Sannin. They don't just die! They don't...they don't...they...don't...

Naruto let out a soft grunt into the flimsy fabric beneath his mouth. Shikamaru was right, Iruka was right...he couldn't lose himself right now. He had to make that pervert proud. He had to become an awesome ninja so that he could pass on his teachings to the next generation. He had to avenge Jiraiya's death by taking out the Akatsuki.

So then why was it so hard to let go?

He knew what he needed to do: he needed to get out of this dark haze fast and begin training again. But his heart simply refused to let him. Ever since he heard the fatal news directly from Tsunade-baa-chan's lips everything around him seemed to be moving in slow motion. Everything seemed darker, less significant, than the gaping hole that Jiraiya had left in his heart.

The slow recovery from the emotional blow could only be attributed to the many other smaller problems that were plaguing his mind.

Such as Itachi.

What had Itachi done to him back in that forest? What did he mean when he said that he gave him some of his power? Did he really or was it just a trick? It had to have been real—he could feel the change in his body, he was able to recognize an unfamiliar clout within him.

If Naruto were to be completely honest with himself he didn't want any more power—especially if it came from another source. It was bad enough trying to gain control of his own chakra let alone wrestling down the Kyuubi's. He didn't need another power messing with his head.

Of course, he hadn't told anyone about the details of his encounter with Itachi, just that the now-deceased ninja had trapped him in an illusion and escaped. Not even Sakura, who he could hardly look in the eyes these days, suspected anything strange happened between them; she had been too distraught over Sasuke ending up in the Akatsuki's hands.

And what about Sasuke? So many times he had been told to give up on him, so many times he where wanted to listen. But that wasn't who he was; he didn't give up on people—even after they gave up on themselves.

Would he really have to choose between Konoha and Sasuke?

He let out a strangled yell, muffled by the old pillow, as his mood dipped a little lower. What made him feel worse still was the fact that he wasn't going to be going on any long-term missions for a while. After confronting not one, but two, Akatsuki in the last mission, Tsunade had assured him that the council was doing everything in their power to keep him in the safety of the village walls. Kami forbid Konoha lost its trump card during these tremulous times.

Naruto knew it was for the best and he knew that it wasn't a snuff at his skills, but that didn't stop it from angering him all the same. Now he would be stuck in a village that only reminded him of the people he lost everywhere he looked. There was no escaping this temporary Hell, was there?

He was just so tired. Tired of smiling and being strong. Tired of carrying the weight of expectations and duty.

"We can't stay kids forever..." Shikamaru's words echoed in his head.

'I know, I know!' Naruto thought angrily to himself, 'But that doesn't make this any easier to deal with!'

"Nothing will happen if you keep hesitating..."

'I'm not,' he insisted. 'I just need time.'

He didn't have time though, did he? The Akatsuki were getting stronger, more and more of Konoha's ninjas were dying, God only knew what Sasuke was up to—

A harsh, rapid knock struck against his front door. The sharp sound jolted him out of the imprint his body had stamped into his mattress as well as saved him from his own depressing thoughts. He rubbed his head and looked at his clock, shocked to see that it had been nearly an hour since he got back to his home after his walk with Shikamaru.

The knock came again and he pushed himself to his feet. He shuffled out of his bedroom, kicking away stray articles of clothing as moved to greet his visitor. The door was wrenched open with one sweeping swing of his arm.

Naruto blinked at the sunlight that assaulted eyes. Once the black spots faded from his vision, he could make out a jounin—judging from the jacket—standing before him with short brown hair and a web-like scar etched across his left cheek.

He certainly looked familiar.


"Raido..." the man said stiffly, the scarred face dropping to annoyance. It all came back to Naruto with the name; he had spoken to the jounin a few times before he left for his training trip.

"Oh yeah!" Naruto said while snapping his fingers, "Raido! Sorry. What's up?"

"The Hokage would like to speak with you immediately. She is expecting you in her office in no less than five minutes." Raido said curtly. Naruto blinked at the order and then shrugged.

"Oh, um, alright. Thanks."

He stood in his doorway a moment longer after the jounin had left. He couldn't imagine there could be anything else to discuss with him after yesterday; what else could have happened? It wasn't like she was going to send him on a mission—or an important one at any rate. He was supposed to be meeting Shikamaru tomorrow at the cryptography unit to help break the code Jiraiya sent, so he doubted it had anything to do with that.

Naruto shook the speculations from his mind and stepped out of his apartment. He only hoped this wasn't anything that would bring his spirits even lower.

The last thing he needed right now was more bad news.



"Hey, baa-chan," the whiskered blonde greeted as he pushed his way into the Hokage's office without so much as a knock for warning. His voice was the same light, blasé tone that he always spoke with but even after three drinks Tsunade could hear the low disenchantment he tried to keep from leaking into his speech. It had been heart wrenching to witness the light suddenly snuff out from those once lively, vivacious irises when she first broke the news of Jiraiya to him—especially for an old woman such as herself. She could clearly remember the dull grey that stared searchingly back at her, denial and disbelief written all over Naruto's otherwise blank expression.

It was a small comfort to see a little more life in his eyes today—nothing like what it used to be, but a good start to a recovery nonetheless. She could only hope that the upcoming conversation wouldn't do anything to hamper that progress.

"Have a seat, Naruto," she said wearily, waving her hand at the single chair across from her. Naruto complied with the simple demand, thinking it weird that she had a chair set out in front of the desk at all. Usually there an open space for ninja to take a briefing stance sufficed.

Tsunade was silent for a moment as he settled himself before her, wondering how where begin. The younger blonde shifted uncomfortably at the stillness. He found it tense and bothersome and he had a vague idea as to why.

"Firstly, Nar—"

"I'm sorry," he said abruptly, shocking the words from her first sentence. Tsunade started at him a moment longer in bemusement and he hurried to continue, flushing just below his collar. "I'm sorry for going off at you yesterday...about Jiraiya I mean...I know you would never, uh, what I mean is that I know he was important to you too and...um..."

Tsunade's mouth closed and a soft smile briefly passed her lips as her shoulders relaxed.

"Apology accepted," she said over his jumbled words, sparing him from struggling further. "Though that was not why I had called you here."

His stiff back seemed to unwind slightly and a bit of the tension he perceived when he first arrived evaporated from the air. Tsunade didn't partake in his ease.

"The first matter I wish to speak with you about concerns Jiraiya..." she said tightly, getting straight to the point and mastering her emotions as she was trained to do. Naruto showed no outward sign of distress, just subdued interest, so she felt confident she could speak freely of his late sensei at this point.

"As you know, a couple of weeks ago he left on a reconnaissance mission in Amegakure, where he gathered information about the leader of Akatsuki." As Tsunade spoke she pulled out a large manila envelope and dropped it on the desk in front of him. "He sent this a few days prior to his death; inside is all the data to date that he has gathered on Akatsuki. I'm giving it to you now."

Naruto saw the older woman's hand clench tightly around the bundled paper before releasing it and a thin bone pulse at her neck. He frowned. It still hurt her to talk about it.

"Me? Why?" he asked dazedly. He leaned forward and took the folder into his hands. Opening it, he pulled a thin stack of papers halfway out, catching a glimpse of Kisame's bio on the top.

"Because..." Tsunade stalled, suddenly not knowing how to tell him this or how it would sound out loud to her own ears, "because now you will be taking over Jiraiya's spy network. You will be our most informed contact on Akatsuki."

Naruto's eyes snapped up from the figures and glared at her cautiously.

"Me?" he asked again for assurance, his voice hard and guarded.

Tsunade forced herself to hold his gaze as she tried to convey a silent message to him: 'Be strong. You can do this.'

Naruto swallowed in an attempt to keep his first response from spilling out of his mouth and clenched his eyes shut against what was happening. His mind raced with everything those words she just spoke implied. She was asking him to replace Jiraiya—to take over everything the man had worked for in his life, to help further erase him from this world. How? How could he do that?

"I can't...I-I don't think I can," he said quietly, almost calmly, keeping his head bowed as his shoulders huddled inward.

Tsunade was a bit disturbed at the unusually subdued manner in which Naruto took this. She had expected an explosion: screaming, yelling, crying, vandalism...something reminiscent to his first reaction regarding Jiraiya's death. Anything but this. His back was hunched and rigid while his fingernails unconsciously tore into the thin binding of the Akatsuki files; the boy looked ready to bolt at any given minute. There was something extremely unsettling about his attitude, something unstable about his entire aura. She could understand that he was already upset about his greatest loss to date, but perhaps it was too soon to throw such a burden on him all at once.

It may have been a phantom sensation, but Naruto could have sworn that tears started to gather against his lower eyelids. He couldn't understand it, why this simple (or not so simple) request had shaken him so much. He quickly ducked his head again, willing the tears at bay no matter how much his throat and chest hurt.

Shit...how pathetic could he get? Hadn't he just gotten over all this?

Tsunade lifted a hand to reach out to him, only to falter and hesitantly bring it back.

"I'm sorry," she said, as soothingly as she could. "I...I know this must be extremely difficult to hear and everything, and I wish you could take the time to think about this. But I must also ask that you accept this responsibility and try and study these files as soon as possible. Olease. You are the only person in Konoha who knows who all of Jiraiya's contacts were in his spy network. Without him, we are left blind to the Akatsuki movements—we need you to—"

"It's fine," he cut her off sharply. Naruto's head snapped up and, upon spotting the stricken look on Tsunade's face, he repeated in a softer voice, "It's fine. Really. I understand. I can do this. I—I—"

Tsunade's eyes turned gentle and she gave him a sad smile. "Thank you Naruto, I know it is extremely unfair of me to ask this of you, but I also know that you'll come through for us."

"Is...is that all?" he asked hoarsely. His watery vision was locked on the folder held limply in his hand and his body was poised to rise and leave.

Tsunade could hardly stand to keep looking at him, not so long as he looked so freshly devastated, but there was one last piece of news she had to deliver to him—one that was long overdue.

"No. There is one more thing." He didn't relax back into the chair; he remained seated on edge, keeping his eyes lowered. "This one concerns your parentage..."

Naruto drew shallow and shaky breath: it was the subject that had practically become taboo in his mind. True, he had waited years to hear about them; as a child he had been brimming with curiosity as to where he came from. But as he got older he began to care less and less, until he finally reached the point where he dreaded to know. After all, he had become so accustomed to doing everything on his own—so used to defining who he was in the world without any influence but his own experiences—that he was afraid to learn who he "really was". He had long since decided that who he "really was" would be whatever he made himself out to be; he didn't need nor want any name to carry him through life. He didn't want to change his own view of himself.

Despite this mindset he developed, Naruto already had a pretty good idea about who his parents were. Or, at least, who his father was. He could recall a number of times Jiraiya would stumble back to their hotel room, drunk, and call him Minato by accident. Naruto wasn't entirely stupid—he knew the name. He had seen the pictures and the resemblance was uncanny. But it was for that reason alone that he never pressed the issue. He was Uzumaki Naruto and there was no way he was going to become Hokage riding on someone else's heroic deeds. He didn't want the village to suddenly respect him at the drop of the hat upon discovering his lineage. That would defeat the purpose of all he had worked towards, as well as take away from the satisfaction.

Tsunade's eyebrows rose at his lack of response and continued by stating slowly, "Naruto, your father was Namikaze Minato, the fourth Hokage."

Naruto didn't react, having long since come to the conclusion and the proper time to digest everything that it meant—including the fact that his own father had no choice but to condemn him to a cursed life.

His refusal to acknowledge anything she said left the Hokage at a loss.

"I know it must be a lot to take in," she said softly, taking his silence as shock. "Especially considering your tenant. But you must understand, your father only wanted—"

"I know why he did it," Naruto cut her off in another blunt manner that almost had her biting her tongue. He said nothing more and, once again, Tsunade found herself particularly disturbed at his perturbing demeanor.

After fingering the corner of the manila envelope in his lap a little longer Naruto finally asked, "What about my mother?"

It was the true mystery, in his opinion.

"Uzumaki Kushina," Tsunade said with a light smile. "She was an immigrant from the former Whirlpool Country and a rare beauty. You take after her a lot."


"Is that all you have to say?" she asked, shock clear in her voice. She at least expected him to ask more about his parents: What they were like? How he was like them? Did they love him or not? (To which the answer would have been a large, resounding "YES").

"What do you want me to say?" he replied instead. His voice was hollow and it was obvious that Jiraiya's death and everything pertaining to it was doing its job in overshadowing any proper reactions to the news. "It doesn't change a thing, knowing who they were or not. But thank you, anyway, for telling me. Now can I leave?"

"Yes," Tsunade sighed. Her shoulders sagged with a weight nearly as heavy as his heart was at the moment. She watched Naruto rise with troubled eyes, frowning at the bangs that shadowed his face and barely hearing the light footfalls of him exiting her office. Tsunade laid her head on her desk as the door shut. She was really getting too old for this job. She didn't think she could wait much longer for Naruto to grow up and take over.

After all, it was never a good sign when your heart hurt more than your body...especially at her age.



A young, pink-haired kunoichi moved through the sparsely populated halls of the Hokage administration building with the slow, distracted walk of someone deep in thought. Her spirits had been particularly low since Sasuke slipped through their fingers again—they had been so close, Naruto's clone had run into him and everything, and now all they knew was that Sasuke was injured and taken by the Akatsuki. To make matters worse, things seemed to have only gone downhill since they got back to Konoha; Jiraiya-sama had been killed. Not only was Naruto hurt immensely but the barely concealed pain exuding from her normally unshakable master had herself feeling cold and unsure.

The thought of losing a teammate, a friend whom the Hokage had known almost an entire lifetime...well, Sakura couldn't begin to imagine how her sensei felt at the moment.

Man, she would never get to sleep tonight.

Sighing, Sakura lifted her head as she approached the door to her master's office, only to narrowly avoid walking into the person who just exited.

"Naruto!" she exclaimed at the blonde who strode right by her. He must have not noticed her. "What are you doing here?"

She saw his back stiffened at the sound of her voice and she frowned. The boy had hardly spoken to her since they returned to Konoha, not since he stormed out of the Hokage's office yesterday. She almost went to check up on him at his apartment last night, her concern for his mental and emotional health getting the better of her, but at the last minute decided to let him cool off first. Now she regretted her decision because he was sending of an aura of isolation, like she had missed a crucial opportunity to get her foot in the door and have him open up to her.

Naruto turned his face a little so that she could see the slope of his cheekbone and the profile of his lashes, but never moved his body around. He didn't want her to know he was about ready to break down again; then she would ask questions, and then he would have to explain. He couldn't explain anything right now...and he couldn't explain why. He couldn't explain what he was feeling. He just wanted to go home. He was far too emotional right now and he could hardly handle it.

"I had to talk to Baa-chan," he said huskily. Kami, he hoped she would just take the answer and go away.

"Oh?" Sakura took a step closer to him and he lowered his face, clearly conveying that he didn't want her near him. She bit her lip and pressed lightly, "What about?"

For a fraction of a second, Naruto actually considered telling her everything that was wrong in his life at this point. How Itachi had done something to him, how Sasuke had not only slipped through his fingers again but was a potential threat to Konoha, that his sensei was dead, damn it, that he had to re-orchestrate a spy network...but the thought yanked back the minute it emerged and he kept his mouth shut.

Sakura frowned at his silence as well as his tense posture. It was obvious that something aside from Jiraiya left him extremely upset—he seemed in worse condition than before. Strangely silent and withdrawn, like he was trapped in his own mind. He wouldn't look at her, but she could see the slight tremble of his hands and hear the raw emotion in the few words he spoke to her. Sakura couldn't imagine anything that would cause him to act like this unless it pertained to the latest devastation in his life, so she went ahead and assumed the most obvious choice.

"Naruto," she said as soothingly as she could while reaching forward and placing a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry. We'll crack that code Jiraiya-sama left us; we'll destroy the Akatsuki. His death won't be in vain, I promise."

She could feel his body give a slight shudder under her fingers. Her hand gave a small squeeze, recognizing that the subject as still extremely sensitive to him.

"What's that in your hand?" she continued on as she noticed the files gripped in his fist and tugging lightly on his shoulder to turn him around. "Is that a new mission?"

Naruto jerked his shoulder out of her reach and squared his back to her.

"No. It's nothing," he said far harsher than he intended. He winced, unseen by Sakura, wishing he could have more control over his emotions.

"You don't have to snap at me!" Sakura snapped back herself. "I was just asking!"

Naruto could feel a few eyes turn on them and he shrunk in on himself. For once he didn't want attention. For once he wanted to be alone.

"Not now, Sakura," he said tetchily, taking a step away from her. She stopped him with her hand back on his shoulder, this time her grip tighter.

"Please, Naruto! Tell me what is wrong with you! I only want to help! I—you're scaring me, please—"

"No! I said not now!" This time his voice had risen to a sharp bark and he flung himself away from her, no longer caring who was looking at them anymore.

Sakura did not take kindly to him yelling at her. "Why are you being such an ass? Why can't you just talk to me?"

She couldn't have another teammate pull away.

"I have to go," Naruto mumbled, not rising to her challenge. Sakura watched him walk away from her, her anger at his attitude conflicting strongly with her concern over his behavior.

"Leave him be, Sakura."

The young woman turned back around to see the Hokage standing in the doorway of her office with her arms crossed under her bust and staring off at where Naruto had just been.

"But shishou...what is wrong with him? What's going on? Does this have to do with Jiraiya-sama or Sasuke?" She was so confused. She already lost one teammate and now another seemed to be slipping farther and farther away from her. "Why isn't he telling me anything?"

The pig-tailed woman closed her eyes and drew in a small breath.

"Sakura...you're going to have to be patient with him. Just give him his space; he has a lot he needs to work out right now. But when he is ready to talk, don't...don't let him put up a tough front for you."

Sakura cocked her head to the side and furrowed her brows, "Huh?"

Her master simply sighed once again and returned to her desk, hoping that Naruto would pull through this.



Naruto moved in a zombie-like trance down the moderately crowded streets. After bumping into the fourth person his subconscious had the prudence to move his body to back roads and alleyways, giving him an encounter-free trip back to his apartment. It really should take over more often.

He only realized he reached his home when he found himself kicking his door open with the side of his foot while pulling the key out of the lock. The hinges were well in need of oiling as a cringe-worthy screech erupted from the rusted bolts. He flicked the lights on and threw the key and envelope on a heavily dented coffee table while toeing off his shoes—all a highly practiced ritual devoid of thought.

Nothing passed through his mind at the moment. Even as he drifted into the kitchen and set about boiling some water for ramen—ramen he had no appetite for—his mind stayed blissfully blank. He felt a familiar numbness that came with being overwhelmed and he was fine with it so long as he didn't have to feel the unbearable pain he knew was just lurking behind the thin wall he had thrown up. If he didn't think, he couldn't feel. So he wouldn't think about the newest burden Tsunade had so generously granted him, he wouldn't think about the heritage that had been denied to him for so many years for whatever reasons. He would pretend he never even went to see the Hokage that afternoon for as long as he could allow it.

Opening the cupboard he was greeted with several different flavors of his favorite salty noodles. Now which one did he want today? Pork always seemed to fill him up, but there was something soothing about chicken and he could definitely use the comfort. On the other hand, he couldn't go wrong with miso—

A soft knocking on the hollow wood of his door interrupted his crucial decision making process. He stuck his head out of the kitchen and glared at the worn plank of wood, debating whether he should pretend to be asleep or something. He wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone—he didn't think he could ever talk to anyone again.

If it was Sakura, she would probably want Naruto to explain what was going on at the Hokage's office, or to hash out what went down in the hallway, because she could never let it sit that he had brushed her off—unjustly as it might have been.

If it was Kakashi Naruto would just kick the Jounin in the balls for leaving him stuck in Konoha for a week without missions.

And if it was anyone with any more news...

The knocking came again, this time a little harder.

"Fine, fine..." he grumbled, stalking toward the door. He walked past his coffee table, refusing to look at the folder, refusing to acknowledge any of it just for a little while longer. He reached the handle and wrenched it open, already armed with a number of excuses to make his visitor go away.

An odd humming noise escaped his mouth instead of the words he so carefully prepared in his mind. His brain shut down as he was greeted with the sight of the last person he ever thought he would see standing in his doorway.

She still had the same shining, hazel eyes that he remembered, the same thick, wavy, lavender hair and the same one-dimpled smile. The only real difference he noticed from all those months ago was her height; some of the baby fat had left her cheeks making her seem older than he recalled. That and her clothes looked a lot less tasteful; the bulky grey cloak look worn and drab and the brown boots were peeling from their soles—nothing like the elegant garments he was used to seeing her in.

Oh yes, and she was also heavily pregnant.



Tra-laaa! I ish back! :3

Damn, there were so many times during the summer I wanted to get this story up, but I kept hesitating. Bah, well it's up now and I'm trying to coincide it with the current manga for as long as I can while keeping the same plot. I like writing, and throwing these out here, and entertaining you all! This first chapter is actually the worst, IMO...compared to the rest of the chapters I wrote, anyway. I had a lot of fun writing this, and it helped that I got so many PMs from people asking about it. It kept me inspired to keep writing.

There is no set pairing at the moment. Naruto will be with an OC for a while, but then it may be a bit of a tossup. If Naruto ends up with someone (and please bear in mind that this is not a romance fic), the most likely candidate would be Sakura, only because it's the most cannon to me and comes to me more naturally.

Also, with my return comes the lovely—er—I mean manly strider714, my editor and sanity checker.

Now let's hear some reviews!