AN:

-Again thanks for the wonderful reviews, the favorites, and alerts.

-I'm busy with school and a few family issues came up so I would lose my will to write. I rewrote this chapter twice since I didn't like the original version. This is one of the longest chapters. Brace yourselves.

-Thanks to Azure sea for beta-ing even when she's busy :D

-I did say this story would have a lighter mood but when the shit hits the fan, don't expect for the characters to be as carefree. Of course you can expect things to get chaotic…it's a fic dealing with drugs and gangs.

-To a reviewer who goes by Jen: Thanks for the constructive criticism! It means a lot to me that you pointed a few mistakes out. I was aware the title is wrong but I had submitted it already when I caught the mistake myself so when a saw a similar title (but it was the correct grammar) I just decided to leave it alone.

Chapter 10-

Dealing the Cards

Anxiety gripped him as his nightmares troubled his mind in the wee hours of the morning. Lately, his dreams were growing vivid; his past, his fears, and the present all mixed into one chaotic dream chased away any sleep Naruto had hoped to get. He laid tangled in the bed sheets with his thoughts haywire, jumping from one issue to another. Naruto sighed, turning to his side, closing his eyes and hoping for even a few minutes of sleep. It never came and annoyed, Naruto got out of bed deciding to take a shower and get a change of clothes before Sasuke came to escort him to Kiba and Suigetsu. In half an hour, he was dressed in the color of mourning, and waiting for Sasuke. The funeral would not be held at the Estate, but the traditional Uchiha clan house on the other side of the city was where most of the clan lived together. Naruto was thankful for the extra Uchihas roaming the house had returned back to the clan house. One day he'd have to meet them all and he was thankful that today was not that day.

Now he stood there, buttoning a black blouse, sighing heavily and wondering when Sasuke was coming. They agreed to meet to meet before the rest of the family came down for the funeral. Kiba and Suigetsu were to be stationed outside waiting for Naruto. The reflection of a woman in the mirror no longer surprised him, he'd gotten used to his new persona. What would happen if Sasuke found out? No, Naruto was determined to close the case and let Naru-chan die on the same day before Sasuke could even begin to suspect the truth of his identity. A soft knock at the door interrupted his thoughts. "Come in!" Naruto pinned the orange paper fan onto his hair again, finding it appropriate for their outing. People would think twice to question him with the fact he was associated with the Uchihas.

Sasuke grumbled as he came in, clearly annoyed with his crutches. "Oh." He'd seen Sasuke wear black, way too much black, but his raven hair was gelled back with not a hair out of place. "New hairdo? You should try it more often," Naruto said, grinning. Sasuke glared, his foul mood casting an ominous presence in the room.

"Hn." The small talk ended with the infamous Uchiha grunt, dampening Naruto's morning. He noticed a tie hanging loosely around the pale neck. Did Sasuke not know how to tie it? Suppressing a smile, Naruto closed the distance between them and got to work. "Dobe," Sasuke warned.

"Shut up and let me do it. Is your leg bothering you?" Naruto asked while concentrating on the task before him. Sasuke's jaw clenched tightly before he spoke, "No."

Naruto pressed his lips together, knowing the Uchiha was being stubborn. His expression betrayed what he said, but he'd leave it at that, no point in arguing with him. "I'm sorry, if I had noticed sooner, this wouldn't have happened."

"Why are you apologizing? None of this is your fault, moron. We should go now, Suigetsu has a tendency for finding trouble," Sasuke said, motioning Naruto to follow him. He would be lying if he said he wasn't concerned for Sasuke, but all thoughts were pushed aside.

The halls were quiet save for the crutches creaking against the pressure of Sasuke's weight. For a moment Naruto expected Itachi to appear from nowhere, but once they reached the front doors, relief swept over him. Kiba and Suigetsu paused from their conversation, both alert when Naruto and Sasuke stepped outside. "Boss!" Suigetsu waved from below the stairs, flashing his sharp canines. "Are you sure you're ok?"

"Fine. Is there a specific place to start searching?" Sasuke wasn't one to openly express his weakness, even in front of friends. Naruto shared the same feeling, he hated falling behind.

"Yes and no. We're in for a rough day and possibly night. I have a lead, not the best, but hey, it's a start," Suigetsu answered, adjusting the sword he had strapped to his back. The man's passion for swords was known even to strangers. There were few circumstances Suigetsu traveled without the comfort security of one of his many swords. He liked to be prepared for anything instead of waiting for surprises.

"Shisui's funeral the funeral may or may not last all day and when nothing is found that can be to our use, then we'll try some other time. The more active we are the more our enemies see us as a threat."

Sasuke leaned against the wall, reaching inside the pocket of his coat and drawing forth a gun in response to Suigetsu's statement. The safety was switched on as the gun was held out to Naruto expectantly. Naruto had left his own gun upstairs hidden well from prying eyes or the snoopy maid, Karin, but the thought Sasuke considered the possible danger, flattered him. Going unarmed was foolish and from Kiba's approving smile, he knew his friend hid his own gun from view. "Thanks," Naruto said, his smile radiant. The cool metal against his skin provided a sense of security.

"Do you know how to shoot one, Blondie?" Naruto scoffed in disbelief at both the assumption and nickname.

"I may be a woman, but I'm not helpless," Naruto answered sharply. Suigetsu sighed, muttering something about PMS earning a weak smile from Sasuke. "If we're going to deal with gangs, shouldn't we create an alias? Akatsuki is well informed and using our actual names places us at risk." Sasuke appeared thoughtful at this suggestion and he nodded in approval.

"Dobe, the pendant is a dead giveaway; use it only if you have to. You all need to leave now, unless you wish to meet the rest of the family. Good luck," Sasuke said, his wry smile bringing forth a smile from Naruto.

"Boss, stop worrying, we'll keep her safe," Suigetsu teased, running down the steps before Sasuke could throw one of his crutches in his direction. Kiba snickered on his way towards the car, knowing well enough he was digging his own grave.


Downtown Konoha

If there was ever an odd assortment of a group of three people it would be Naruto, Kiba, and Suigetsu in a car listening to the radio while discussing the recent incidents plaguing them. Suigetsu proved to be an easy man to like for his chatty attitude, which had both Kiba and Naruto wondering how Sasuke came to befriend someone as optimistic and carefree as Suigetsu. "Who exactly may have the information we need?" Kiba asked keeping track of the turns they made along the way.

"No idea, but it's a start to know the lower gangs have more information than the ones rising to power. Why? Akatsuki seems to favor smaller gangs which influence isn't widely known. People will buy drugs from your typical dealer around the corner without the dealer or buyer knowing exactly what the substance is although the dealer will claim its crack or anything else their silly heads can come up with," Suigetsu explained, though Naruto and Kiba already knew how some dealers dealt. Naruto knew that, if they wanted to find dealers, they couldn't come in looking like feds or made of money. The less suspicious they were the better.

"Where can we start?" Naruto asked already mapping out in his head certain popular places dealers loved to visit. He'd had a case about a year ago dealing with a wide distribution of narcotics. Unfortunately, though he caught the main suspect, the narcotics were still floating out there and being produced at an alarming rate.

"The site where Shisui was found dead…I know it seems like a dumb idea, but whatever Shisui found out, he was followed and killed or dragged there. I don't know why he was left in the city for everyone to see, but someone out there must have seen him or talked to him. There are some dealers, who might give us some information," Suigetsu replied. Naruto and Kiba nodded in agreement. They, too, were curious as to why Shisui was found dead near the ANBU building. Coincidence? Neither Kiba nor Naruto thought so. Someone knew ANBU was on the move and Shisui had been a clear warning.

Suigetsu drove into the heart of Konoha, where the city thrived both night and day. Everywhere you looked there were people going to work, leaving the workplace, tourists, and students going to the city college. He found a parking lot which shaded the summer heat and was also conveniently close to the site. Suigetsu opened the trunk of his car, whistling carelessly as he gently placed his katana inside the car and retrieved a bokken* instead. He couldn't just walk in the middle of the city with a katana in plain sight. When Naruto asked what good was a bokken, Suigetsu grinned only to say he could do a great deal of damage with his bokken. As for Kiba, he took off his tie and coat, and rolled up his sleeves also messing up his hair to appear a bit more on the wild side. Naruto had brought a purse with him (pride be damned) and managed to conceal his scars under the pounds of makeup he miserably applied. The gun Sasuke gave him was placed inside the purse. Kiba tucked his gun on the back of his pants and tucked his shirt out to conceal it more. They looked like a pair of college kids out on a stroll except the black really did mess up some of their image. Well, save Suigetsu who wore a wife beater shirt and a pair of jeans.

"Let's grab something to eat, and then get started," Suigetsu said, already half way out of the parking lot. Neither of them had had breakfast and the mere thought of warm food left no room for objections. The three of them ate at a diner Naruto had only been to once. They made small talk until it was time to leave and do their jobs. "Time to do a little spying! Naru-chan, will you partner with me?" It was a harmless request, but Naruto didn't trust Suigetsu fully enough to just accept. Suigetsu noticed the hesitance to answer from Naruto and chuckled. "I'm not going to eat you, I'm just following orders." Orders?

"Sasuke asked you to babysit me?" Naruto asked incredulously.

"No, but it's obvious," Suigetsu said in a sing song voice, already grabbing hold of Naruto's hand and pulling him away from Kiba. "We'll go searching on this side and you can take the other!" Before Naruto or Kiba could protest, Suigetsu whisked him away without letting go. For someone who looked harmless, he had an iron grip.

"Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing! I'm glad Sasuke actually cares, but this is taking it too far! I can take care of myself!" Naruto yelled in outrage. Suigetsu turned around suddenly, his face only inches away from Naruto's.

"I wanted to know more about you. I'm curious as to why Sasuke is infatuated with you. It's like he's a different person nowadays…heh…I like you, but I have a feeling this whole thing is forced," Suigetsu said, finally giving Naruto's hand freedom. For a second Naruto became unfazed but quickly recovered.

"What do you mean forced?" Naruto asked, playing the clueless blond card. Were people catching on? Was it not enough?

"Sasuke, when he goes out with women even if it's for a few hours does more than just kisses. He hasn't even touched you, and if he really did choose you out of all those women then I might have seen more romance? Then again Sasuke isn't much of a romantic," Suigetsu said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. Naruto would have liked to point out he wasn't a woman and if he was, he would never degrade himself to be just another of Sasuke's play things.

"I was under the impression we came here to find clues, not talk about my relationship with Sasuke." Naruto frowned, knowing he couldn't even think of a classification for his relationship with Sasuke. For a moment Suigetsu seemed to be taken aback, but he smiled that toothy smile that sent shivers down Naruto's back.

"Right, sorry if I spoke out of place, I'm nosy when it comes to the Boss. Shall we find us some junkies?" Suigetsu did most of the talking, which of course was odd since Naruto was quite the talker himself. Leaving the comfort of the city lights, they went through alleys trying to seek out anyone selling in the shadows. Suigetsu voiced how strange it was there wasn't even a trace of dealers nearby. He knew of a few who came by almost every day to provide drugs to the college kids or workers who wished to have a good time. None were in sight.

"Someone must have scared them off," Naruto said, when Suigetsu came to a stop in an alley with the stench of body fluids. A few tattered clothes lay around near the garbage bins along with other worthless junk and then Naruto caught eye of what Suigetsu stared at with a frown. Blood spatter was on the floor and walls. "Oh." Naruto hand a firm hand on the purse ready to pull out the gun for the perpetrator, but the blood had dried and the perpetrator was long gone.

"I don't like this one bit. We'll have to tell Sasuke to contact some of his buyers, I have a bad feeling about all of this," Suigetsu said, studying the blood closely.

"You knew some of the people dealing here?" Naruto asked.

"No, I know they are supplied by the Uchihas or other yakuza clans. They aren't our only sources, but it's a shame someone is hunting those who know too much down before we can track them," Suigetsu replied, a small smile forming on his lips.

Naruto hardly wished anyone death, but Suigetsu spoke the truth. The more bodies piled up, the clearer their trail became. He just hoped he could solve this before other innocent people got involved. "What about the gangs distributing drugs among the public?"

"Ah…jeez, we have no control over that. The Boss might have to taint his hands on this again," Suigetsu said, his fingers playing with the zipper of the guitar case. Naruto traced the blood, his hands wanting to find some form of evidence that could help. He didn't want to hear of the other side of Sasuke. He'd seen it at the UGZ when his killing intent reflected in his eyes. "We should go back." Even when he wished to stay longer and investigate, he nodded, not liking the unsettling feeling he was getting. Naruto pressed his hand against the wall were the blood was spattered and frowned. It was dry.

"Suigetsu," Naruto called out. His fingers trailed the path finding a dead end when they led towards the end of the alley. More blood was spattered on the floor and he followed it with Suigetsu close at his heel. The trail ended near a dumpster where garbage littered the floor. Naruto retrieved the gun from the purse he carried, taking off the safety. He looked into the dumpster and a sharp smell invaded Naruto's senses. The smell alone had him gagging, but he continued his search knowing exactly what the origin of the smell was. More blood inside…

"Damn, it smells!" Suigetsu exclaimed, pinching his nose. "Today is our lucky day," he added sarcastically when Naruto finally found their grand prize. The corpse was probably a day or two old, clothes tattered, eyes cloudy, hair matted with garbage and caked with dried blood, and surprisingly young. Despite the state of the corpse Naruto knew the young woman had been beautiful. He grimaced, finding bruised marks on her arms and legs.

"Poor kid." She couldn't have been more than seventeen. No shoes, no personal belongings on her, and Naruto scanned her state until he came across one of her hands. A glint of silver drew his attention and he took out his handkerchief reaching for her hand. Her fingers were stiff with rigor mortis and they were reluctant to let Naruto retrieve what she hid from view as if still protecting it even in death. He pried her fingers away, revealing a silver ring. The ring was silver with an orange crest surrounding a character of what Naruto deciphered as "three".

"Oh shit…" Suigetsu cursed, a sudden edge to his voice. "We need to really get out of here." As much as Naruto wished to protest, he realized why Suigetsu wanted to split. Recalling back to when he first met Suigetsu, the man had mentioned Akatsuki members wore designated rings as to distinguish them as a gang just like other gangs tattooed themselves as a mark. Why would Akatsuki murder a teenager? Unless said teenager caught them in the act or was in the drug business, there was no reason why they should hurt an innocent and risk exposure.

"Is she a seller?" Naruto asked, ignoring Suigetsu's frantic gestures.

"I don't know. Take a picture and let's vamoose," Suigetsu replied, throwing a few glances towards the end of the alley. How people hadn't found the girl was beyond him. The homeless took refuge in these parts of the city and frequently passed through this pass, heck even a few kids used this route as a shortcut so why had no one filed a report? Naruto examined the ring closely as if it could give him a message or reveal a name. Neither happened and he pulled out his phone. He couldn't leave the girl there rotting in a dumpster without her family or friends to give her a proper burial. He texted the first person he could think of. Calling would just risk Suigetsu overhearing him giving orders. Coordinates and a short explanation – Sakura would understand.

"They're getting sloppy," Naruto commented out loud. Suigetsu held back a groan, a bit antsy in spite of himself.

"Or it's a trap," Suigetsu added. He'd thought of that possibility as well. None of the Akatsuki had actually been seen, but the rings were a dead giveaway. If they were rising quickly, they were careful. Dumping a kid's body with evidence was too much of an amateur move. Suigetsu decided Naruto wasn't moving from the spot until every detail he could find was imprinted in his mind and peered closer to where the body was. He took out his sword and lifted the line of the shirt of her collar and frowned. "A rosary." The rosary was black almost blending in with the girl's clothes.

"Did Shisui also have a rosary on him?" Suigetsu seemed to consider his question carefully before answering.

"I don't know…I doubt it, the Uchihas would have been tormenting the churches by now," Suigetsu said, shrugging. The more they dug, the less all this chaos made sense. Naruto ran his hand through his hair, puzzled and frustrated.

"We're taking the rosary." Suigetsu gave him an incredulous look before he grinned that creepy toothy smile. He lifted the rosary with his bokken and dropped into the handkerchief in Naruto's hand along with the ring. Sakura was definitely not keeping this. Sometimes that woman was best not knowing what he did.

"You're a whole new level of crazy." In all day he hadn't smiled, but the comment brought a genuine smile to his face. People always said he was insane and not once did he correct them.

"So I've been told. I think we're ready to go." Suigetsu seemed so relieved to hear those words come out of his mouth that made Naruto wonder why the man was this jumpy. They were about to take their leave when a sound of footsteps erupted from the opposite end from where they stood. Closing the dumpster, Naruto made his way away from the footsteps and Suigetsu followed, keeping his own weapon ready. The sound of something metallic scraping against the pavement in the direction they chose to exit the ally stopped them dead in their tracks.

"I told you it was a trap," Suigetsu said, shaking his head.

"Someone knew we're looking? Either we have a spy amongst us or these guys are just too good." Suigetsu nodded none too pleased with the realization. Kiba was out of the equation and so was Sasuke or so Naruto wanted to believe, but Suigetsu…the man was a complete stranger to him. From what he'd seen the man was completely loyal to Sasuke, coming out here when he could be entertaining himself elsewhere, took more than motivation of receiving another sword as payment.

"It's not me if you're wondering," Suigetsu said, reading his mind. "I like the simple life. Kill idiots, not start a freakin' war."

"No one else knows…unless we're…" Naruto trailed off then mouthed the word "bugged". It's the only thing that made sense as to how information was circling without a spy amongst them.

"Perfect." The footsteps were getting closer and the scraping sent chills down Naruto's back. "We're trapped."

"Not really." Suigetsu's eyes went wide when Naruto pointed towards the dumpster and laughed nervously.

"No way. No fucking way."

Seconds later they were both inside the dumpster covering their noses and mouths as to filter as much air as possible from the stench. Sitting next to a corpse and having Suigetsu pressed against your back isn't much of a great plan. Heck the corpse can be infected with some disease and they were both inside risking contamination. They ruined evidence somewhat. Both of them were shuffling against each other, trying to keep as much distance as they could from the girl. When a sharp clang outside rung out, they stopped and only breathed.

"I could have sworn someone was here." A male's voice – nervous and high-pitched. "I swear I saw a chick and a guy come in here. They saw the corpse." The scraping had them wishing to cover their ears. It was like nails on a chalkboard.

"I'm not in the mood for dealing with liars," said another male voice. "God punishes those who lie." The other man whimpered something that must have been an apology. "Two things I hate the most are liars and snooping kids." Naruto motioned Suigetsu to turn his attention to the top of the dumpster. If they could manage to time it right, they could knock out at least one of them and make a run for it.

"Agreed," the nervous man said.

"I need my ring back or they'll have my head. Stupid girl was sneaky like a thief, never trust street sellers." Naruto placed one hand on the top of the dumpster and Suigetsu his as they clutched their weapons tightly with the other hand. They felt the metal tremble slightly when weight was added to the top of the lid and Naruto mouthed a count to three. Thankfully they had timed it well and they added enough force to hit one of the men. One of them cursed as the other man yelped in fright. He was already making a run for it.

"Take care of that guy!" Naruto shouted, going after the nervous man. He could hear Suigetsu yell all the profanities he could think of, but he paid no heed to them. He was covered in dirt, smelled like sewer, had blood on him, his hair was a mess, and hell if he knew why his blouse was wet. There was no way he was letting that guy escape. No high heels today – awesome. His whole life he outran most of the people he chased or when he was being chased no one ran fast enough to even match him. The man was screaming for mercy claiming he had nothing to do with the other guy. They ended up in a series of alley pathways when Naruto tackled the guy.

"I-I'm sorry!" the man sputtered out. "Please don't kill me!" The fear in his eyes had Naruto pitying the man for being forced into a bad situation. His skin was so pale and eyes sunken as if he as if he hadn't slept enough. The bruises along his veins were enough proof to indicate him being a dealer and user. Jackpot.

"Tell me his name!" Naruto ordered, pointing the gun to the man's head. He cried out, stammering out he knew nothing. "I won't hesitate to shoot."

"Man, I don't know, I swear! He's psycho! Came into our lab, started demanding we hand over Haku. He took him away and told us if we saw anyone near this alley to contact him. Shit! Now Haku is dead!" The man was practically sobbing now and if Naruto hadn't been holding on to the collar of his shirt the man might have curled up in a fetal position. Haku was the dead girl? Naruto did a double take, then scoffed.

"That dead girl is Haku?" Naruto asked.

"Girl? No man, Haku is a dude. Shit, when Zabuza finds out we're fucking dead! Shoot me! Just end all of this! I'm tired of being hunted down!" The man slumped to the ground, his expression of utter defeat and hopelessness that had Naruto sympathizing. So the man had a lab and now he was paying the cost of running a risky business.

"Who is Zabuza?"

"Our boss…or was, he could be dead too. Akatsuki is running the show now, we obey if they need us," the man said in a low voice, his eyes unfocused. He shuddered violently, allowing another sob to rapture from his throat. "Has us selling a new drug…the other gangs ain't too happy since they're cutting their share off." The man paused, chocking back a sob before continuing, "Some are angry, ya know. Yakuza clans aren't saying anything so they have to be involved helping Akatsuki. Fucking threatening us to fight. All I want is my joint!"

Naruto lowered his gun, allowing the man to have his space again knowing he wasn't going to try to escape. This was a man tired of running blindly. "Who is threatening who?" The man wrapped his arms around himself from an imaginary chill.

"Everyone. They wanna fight, cos' the yakuza clans are hiding something. Wouldn't you be upset? Do their dirty work, then we get Akatsuki to help us and now we're all pissed clawing at each other. Bad enough trying to hunt down, Uchiha Sasuke," the man said, snorting in disbelief. In a heartbeat Naruto's hand reached for the man's collar again, bringing him forward brusquely. A whimper escaped the man and he shielded his face as if Naruto would disappear once he glanced through his fingers again.

"What about Uchiha Sasuke?" Naruto demanded, shaking the poor man.

"I-I don't know! Gangs wanna find him and make demands from the clans. You get the little one and then the big one comes, ya know? I swear, man, this is all I know!" Tears were rolling down the man's cheeks again, his eyes wide with fear. "Haku said women were to be appreciated, but you're scary." Naruto rolled his eyes and pushed the man back to the ground, his mind elsewhere.

"Go. Now before I change my mind and shoot you." The man scampered away, not thinking twice to look back at Naruto. Killing had been his best option, but today he couldn't bring himself to smite a man only because he might reveal he had been caught by another person. Sooner or later that man would end up dead, that much Naruto was sure of. He glanced around, hoping no one had seen or heard him talking to the man. No one was in sight, at least not on this end of the alleys. He cursed, recalling he had left Suigetsu behind to fend off who could be an Akatsuki member. Sure, Suigetsu appeared to be physically fit for a hell of a fight, but could he really match someone from a powerful gang? Naruto bit his lip, wanting to believe Suigetsu made it out ok.

He rushed back to where they had split off, praying to find Suigetsu grinning in the middle of the alley. No such scenario waited for him when he arrived back to where they discovered Haku. The pit of his stomach dropped, when a glint from Suigetsu's sword caught his eye. In a puddle of water laid the bokken with a small pool of blood surrounding it. Naruto crouched, examining the area trying to calm his nerves. Footprints leading away from the scene of the crime…he grimaced and started following the trail. Naruto could only wish he wasn't too late.


The Uchiha Clan House

The household began to wake a few minutes after Naruto's departure. Sasuke could hear the rustling upstairs of their house maids, making the last rounds of clean ups before they would be dismissed until the funeral was over. He'd hoped the funeral had been set to a funeral home with them following a hearse but unfortunately their father and uncle (Shisui's father) had come to an agreement based on Uchiha tradition to hold the service in the traditional Uchiha house. It was one of the few historic homes left dating back to the origins of Konoha. Sasuke wasn't concerned in greeting a few relatives living in the traditional estate, his mind only thought of how he'd explain his injury and Naruto.

"Ah, Sasuke, you're already up!" His mother was looking rather pale that morning, but she made an effort to smile. "How are you feeling?" Mikoto worried easily and with Shisui's death, she felt the need to follow her motherly instincts of protecting her two sons no matter no matter what, even if they were young men.

"I'm fine. When will we be leaving to the main house?" Sasuke asked, wanting to distract his mother's attention away from his leg.

"Once Itachi comes down, I hope your brother is well." Sasuke could see his mother fumbling with her fingers, trying to keep herself focused on other thoughts other than death. Even when he thought of a few scenarios as to how Itachi conveyed Shisui's death, he made no comment. He wasn't surprised when Itachi came down with his usual blank expression followed by their father. There were a few words exchanged between the four of them, none of them mentioning Shisui or Naruto.

There were murmurs following Sasuke and his family as they entered the main house. The tensed atmosphere choked the air around him as all eyes focused on him. Rumors spread fast and now the news his fiancé was from the Uzumaki family added fuel to the wildfire of Shisui's death. Uchihas had once been allies with the Uzumakis, but the bond had been greatly severed over the years. If he married Naruto, the Uchiha clan gained a powerful ally. The Uzumaki clan was on the verge of economic problems, but that could be cleared easily once the two main houses came to an agreement. Sasuke had chosen well and his father for once agreed. The rest of the house, however, wasn't entirely for the idea.

"Fugaku," Shisui's father said, bowing in respect. Fugaku bowed, too before patting his brother on the back in some form of comfort. Mikoto joined their Aunt where the two women silently cried as they embraced each other. Itachi detached himself from Sasuke's side, going on greeting the rest of the family and expressing his condolences. Sasuke did neither. He wanted to disappear amongst the crowd, but his grandfather, Madara, caught sight of him.

"Sasuke! You've grown; soon you'll catch up to Itachi. Now where is the lovely Uzumaki Naruto? I hear she's a beauty," Madara said, his smile relieving some of the tension around Sasuke. His grandfather, though almost nearing his late sixties, appeared no more than forty. He was somewhat on the eccentric side, but also had been a fearsome leader until Fugaku was given the position.

"Grandfather, this isn't an appropriate setting to ask about my personal life," Sasuke replied, hoping those who had sharp ears would look the other way. Madara chuckled lightly, ruffling his grandson's hair.

"Funerals are depressing, I was hoping to lighten the mood. I'm quite curious as to why Miss Uzumaki isn't amongst us," Madara said, his grin widening. Was his grandfather suspicious? Sasuke mentally snorted at himself for becoming paranoid all of the sudden.

"She was feeling ill and left for her grandmother's this morning." Hopefully his grandfather caught on he wished to drop the subject. Already ears were open, wanting to get as much information on the remaining Uzumaki heiress as possible.

"Pity, the Uzumakis were a powerful family." Madara smiled, lacking all sincerity in his statement. He never truly clashed well with other yakuza families and the ties with the Uzumakis, Sasuke considered, were part of his father's young rebellion. "Ah! I see Itachi! Nice talking to you Sasuke." Relieved that his grandfather found his older brother to bother; Sasuke avoided any other relatives who wished to squeeze some gossip from him.

The funeral service was held minutes later when the whole family assembled outside for them to pay their respects to Shisui in the family shrine. He felt a wave of mixed emotions about Shisui's death. True, they had been cousins, but never close enough to rely on each other or mourn if one of them died. He wondered what his brother felt as he and Shisui had been inseparable since birth. Sasuke couldn't imagine Itachi depressed let alone crying for anyone. He glanced around once he had laid flowers at the altar to pay his respects, but Itachi was nowhere in sight.

Women were gathered in a circle, their whispering frantic and clutching their young close to their bosoms in fear for an unknown enemy lurked by. He passed them, wondering where the rest of the Uchiha men were. The main house had few people wandering around or spreading more stupid rumors about which Uchiha was shaming the family. Sasuke was about to turn at the corner when he heard heated words coming from one of the rooms.

"My son was murdered and nothing is going to be done!" Sasuke pressed his back against the wall, ignoring the fact he was eavesdropping.

"I'm sorry, brother, but there is nothing we can do without proper evidence. If it is indeed ANBU, acting this soon they can ruin our plans." Sasuke heard his father speak and his excitement was becoming difficult to contain. Murmuring followed, nobody daring to speak against his father's decision without confirming with the others. Even from where Sasuke stood, the tense atmosphere suffocated the air.

"ANBU! Our tracks are clean, they have no business poking their noses where they don't belong!" His uncle was seeking for justice; Sasuke knew blaming ANBU eased everyone's nerves. Unfortunately nothing fit precisely to point fingers at anyone.

"I disagree." Sasuke's breath hitched, hearing his older brother step into the conversation. Even now, Itachi sounded confident on his deduction. All the time Sasuke searched around the house, Itachi had been here, waiting for an opportunity to lead his search astray. Itachi continued calmly, "ANBU isn't reckless as to investigate us for extortion or for the people we dispose of for personal gain. We are after all one of the most influential yakuza clan. No, if ANBU wanted our attention, they'd cut out the gangs first and send in one of their dogs after us." What the hell was Itachi planning? Why did he direct the blame away from ANBU? Wasn't he hoping ANBU stumbled onto a yakuza war without aide from allies? Sasuke rubbed his temples trying to make sense of Itachi's comment. His brother knew more than he let on.

"What do you mean by that? Isn't it enough your odd jobs claimed my son's life!" Distraught by his son's death, Fugaku's younger brother questioned his nephew's authority. If the situation had been different, Fugaku would be fuming that his own brother had dared to blame his own flesh and blood.

"Shisui was aware of the risks, he had no qualms should our project endanger his life. I can't say I'm sorry, apologizing won't undo what has been done. Our project remains unfinished and crucial to the clan which is why I wish for Sasuke's assistance." His body ran cold the instant Itachi spoke his name, almost as if the man knew he stood outside the door. Sasuke clenched his fists together, the whole situation making him sick. Nothing could please him more than scarring his brother's handsome face. First Shisui, now him. Was that the grand plan? Finish off the top candidates for the heir of the clan? He was disturbed just at the thought Itachi sacrificing his own family for more power.

"You will risk your own brother's life, too?" By this point his uncle concluded Itachi had horns attached to the halo on his head. Sasuke could hardly blame him.

"No, Sasuke will be safer working under my command. He's already wandering into dangerous waters. I'm sorry, Uncle, but this is my goal…it was Shisui's as well," Itachi said in a tone Sasuke thought would be the closest you'd get to sympathetic. It was unlike Itachi to demonstrate affection even amongst family.

"I've agreed to allow both of my sons to finish the project, though there's more than meets the eye with all the upheaval occurring as of late. Please brother, let us watch the younger generation bring justice to the clan. Shisui's death will be avenged, I swear it," Fugaku added to support Itachi. Sasuke grimaced, knowing his father promised a bloodbath for Shisui's murder or murderers.

The tense atmosphere lightened when Itachi offered sake in memory of Shisui. Sasuke released his breath, surprised he hadn't realized he'd been holding his breath the moment his brother mentioned his involvement. Now nothing added up right. The equation he was hoping to solve became complicated, leaving him with missing factors and no solution. Akatsuki was the jigsaw piece that stubbornly wouldn't fit anywhere on the board no matter how many times you flipped it. Itachi…no words came to him when he tried to fit his brother into it all. There was never enough evidence to prove that Itachi was involved with Akatuski. About the time he gave up making sense of the situation, his phone vibrated against his thigh. Quickly and quietly he walked away, praying his crutches didn't alarm anyone in the room of his presence. He reached the serenity of the courtyard and finally answered with an unintentional snap of "Hello."

"Moody as always." As comical as it may seem for Naruto to be the one teasing him, Sasuke found none of it funny.

"Did you call me to start insulting each other or do you actually have a reason?" An image of Naruto throwing a fit on the other end made the corners of his mouth twist into an awkward smirk.

"Ungrateful prick, pull that stick out of your ass and listen to me. We, um, you're not gonna like this.." Naruto hesitated before continuing. "Someone is killing off dealers, yeah that's not news, but there's a pattern. Each dealer was selling the 'new' drug to the public, but some weren't exactly following orders. They thought the yakuza clans weren't giving them enough dough so they've tried to rebel. Some of them realized the clans have been hush hush about supplying and none of you have made a move. They're angry, Sasuke. Angry enough to kill," Naruto explained, his exhaustion apparent when he paused occasionally. Sasuke could feel his mind ready to detonate with the information overload.

"We have little involvement with what other gangs do and we don't have a 'new' drug unless the other clans are stupid enough to ask for trouble," Sasuke said, his hands beginning to grow clammy with excitement.

"Exactly. A yakuza clan becomes too involved, ANBU steps in but they haven't. So…" Sasuke groaned, the truth hitting him with a whiplash affect.

"Akatsuki wants to start a civil war within the underworld starting with gangs," Sasuke said almost in a whisper. "How the hell did you find this all out?" That was the only reasonable thing Sasuke finally decided to ask.

"About that..." He heard Naruto chuckle. "Let's say we ran into some trouble and caught us a rat. I lost Kiba and Suigetsu trying to track this bastard down. I've been looking for them for a while now and neither of them answer their phones. Look, whatever is going on, we'll handle it," Naruto said, cursing.

"Idiot, getting separated. I'll go find y-"

"No," Naruto said firmly. Ok, that was it, Sasuke had enough shit for today. Damn the crutches he'll bring Naruto home safely even if it meant dragging himself on the floor. Being a hero sucked, but right now all he could think of was Naruto alone in the city vulnerable to hidden dangers.

"Why the fuck not? I don't know if you know this, but I hate my property to be damaged," Sasuke replied haughtily.

"Oh, that's rich. Get real, Uchiha, no one owns me. Call Shikamaru or even Karin, but you can't come, so go soak that pretty face in the sun," Naruto growled, her impatience clear.

"Uzumaki," Sasuke warned.

"Jesus, please just stay. Whoever these fuckers are working for, they mean business. God, they know who we are and they're not happy, Sasuke. You're the next target."

The air around him became suffocating, not only because he had a bulls-eye painted on his forehead, but the sheer realization Naruto, Kiba, and Suigetsu stumbled onto some pretty deep shit put him on the edge. "Are you hurt?"

He could hear Naruto scoff. "I'm a big girl, Sasuke, I can handle myself. Oh shit…I gotta go, there are some gunshots nearby and playing hero requires free hands for action. By the way, stop brooding, I can hear you from over here!"

"Nar-" Click. Conversation done and closed. Frustration crept over him as he retreated to the main living room. That stupid girl going on her own towards a site of danger, had she been dropped as a child? Of all the women Sasuke became involved with, Naruto was complicated, an idiot, reckless, foul mouthed, noisy, had no sense of femininity, still he felt the urge to protect her, to remain in her company. He laid himself on the couch, staring at the wooden frame of the ceiling. Naruto Uzumaki – the girl who left bad impressions. With that he smiled, reassuring himself that if anyone could survive a rain of bullets, Naruto would come out unharmed grinning stupidly.

By nature Sasuke is a light sleeper, even the softest thud of a footstep stirred him awake from his dreams. Exhaustion clung willingly on his body despite the four hours he spent lucidly dreaming on the couch away from mourners. A couple of nudges later his eyes snapped open, a bit startled to find Itachi crouched next to him. Instinct begged him to escape from sharing the same room with his older brother, but he was in no mood or position to move. "We're returning to the estate. Grandfather wished for your presence, but I convinced him to reschedule," Itachi spoke with the same soft tone he used when Sasuke was a kid who idolized him. In a reassuring tone to delude him that nothing had changed, that his big brother will protect him from oncoming threats. Flattering as Sasuke once thought it to be, he frowned.

"Ok, thanks," he replied simply, rubbing away the drowsiness. Sasuke grabbed the crutches resting on the arm of the couch, wincing when he stood on his injured leg. Itachi made an attempt to aid Sasuke, but the younger man shook his head, wanting no physical contact. He was injured, yes, but not handicapped. For a second Itachi seemed unpleased by his brother's reluctance, but he sighed and let Sasuke get his way.

"Are you upset with me?" Sasuke glanced in his brother's direction, taken aback by the simple question that entailed more than Itachi led on.

"Should I be?" Sasuke countered, wondering what his brother was truly asking for.

"Little brother, you always make things complicated," Itachi replied, teasing him and a small smile playing on his lips. By this point Sasuke had given up hope making sense of his brother's actions.

"Whatever," Sasuke muttered, running his hand through his combed hair. He had forgotten he'd taken the time to tame his hair.

"I wonder what Naruto sees in you. It's not the looks she is charmed by," Itachi remarked, smirking knowing his brother would grow agitated.

"Shut up." Sasuke wanted to go away as far as possible from Itachi, but his brother was persistent and when Itachi wanted something, he'd acquire it no matter what. He wanted to call Naruto to ask for an update, but when he saw the glowing screen of his phone indicate he had no missed calls or texts he frowned.

"By the way, Naruto called, she is visiting her Grandmother as you said. She told me to pass the message: Hold on tight, Princess. This isn't my business, but you two have odd fetishes," Itachi said, his eyes were gleaming with amusement. Oh how Sasuke wanted to murder both his brother and Naruto. She had to stop saying strange things to Itachi unless she had a death wish.

"I'm leaving," Sasuke growled, seeking refuge away from Itachi. Maybe it had been his imagination, but Itachi might have laughed.


Downtown Konoha

Traveling from alley to alley, Naruto's anxiety was taking its toll. The trail ended a while back when he reached the back alley of a restaurant and now he couldn't fathom where Suigetsu might have been taken to. He'd tried calling Kiba, but he wouldn't answer. Either he was busy interrogating people or he got tied up somewhere. Kiba was alone, but the man was a great fighter and a couple of ruffians were nothing. Naruto mentally slapped himself and taunted he was truly acting like a woman. Focus on finding Suigetsu, worry later. He wondered if Sasuke would be upset being informed that Suigetsu might have been kidnapped or worse, dead. Picturing Sasuke crying brought a faint smile to his face, because everyone knew Uchihas didn't cry. Unconsciously his hand reached for his phone, the screen flashing Sasuke's name. Great now he was craving to call the bastard.

Why? There was no need to tell Sasuke anything until they got back. Sasuke was capable enough of sending someone down here or even dragging himself to return them safely home. He gave in and he regretted it. As always the man complicated everything, but Naruto assured him everything was fine. It wasn't. Suddenly he heard gunshots and he closed his eyes trying to make sense of where they could be coming from. Sasuke was still yammering away and with a quick goodbye he snapped the phone shut.

Gunshots from the east, without hesitating Naruto gripped Suigetsu's sword tightly in one hand, swearing to bring him back alive. He came out of the alley down a deserted area of downtown where hookers lingered, people sold drugs, and just about anything considered the dark side of the city wandered around. He drew attention to himself when a few men leaning against the wall of a burnt down building nodded in his direction. Ignoring their cat calls, he walked on getting closer to the noises. Shouts and screams now. He sped up now almost in a jog and went between a few buildings. He snuck behind a car before he dared take a peek at who was fighting. In instant he sighed in relief seeing Kiba and Suigetsu together trying to fend off a couple of thugs. The man who had been after the ring wasn't among them, but Naruto had a feeling he'd been the one who sent an army of little soldiers for cannon fodder.

Naruto whipped out his gun taking careful aim at two guys hiding behind one of the other cars. He shot them down, alarming Suigetsu and Kiba. They looked in his direction and he demonstrated Suigetsu's sword first before rising up. "Miss me?" He joked. For the first time in the short time he'd known Suigetsu, he wasn't smiling. Well he deserved that. Kiba on the other hand smiled widely, yelling at him to join them.

"Why, Miss Uzumaki, you sure know how to pull off asshole moves," Suigetsu said sarcastically, his hand making motions for Naruto to hand over his bokken. "Remind me if my life is in danger to not get stuck with you."

"I'm sorry! I let excitement take over," Naruto said truthfully. Suigetsu sighed as he examined his sword, then to wave off his apology.

"All is forgiven. That son of a bitch fights dirty, not to mention he's weird. I can see him as one of those crazy preachers converting people against their will. Anyway I got nothing," Suigetsu said, rubbing a smudge of dirt from his face. His lip was busted, but other than that he would live. Only Kiba's clothes suffered from injury, but Naruto and Suigetsu were the worst in appearance. On cue Kiba wrinkled his nose, pointing at both of them.

"What's that smell?" Kiba said, pinching his nose.

"The smell of dumpster and corpse – best scent ever. Naru-chan's idea. She has more balls than the boss does," Suigetsu replied, satisfied by his own joke. At least he got one thing right, Naruto thought. Pulling out the ring from his pocket, Naruto demonstrated it to Kiba who merely motioned him to explain. In a span of ten minutes he explained everything the man had spilled and added his own ideas. Neither Kiba nor Suigetsu interrupted until Naruto finished. Suigetsu muttered something under his breath and pulled out his own phone quickly texting something, then showing it to them.

'What about the bug?' Naruto frowned, knowing he'd been careless talking freely instead of remembering there was a possibility they might be bugged. Kiba's eyes were seeking Naruto's attention, wanting answers about this but Naruto shook his head and texted back.

'We worry about that when we get home. It has to be an item we carry with us always. Until then we don't talk about this without omitting a few things.' Kiba pulled out his own phone saying the whole situation was ridiculous.

'Fine, but we debug ourselves once we are all clean.'

'Agreed :D ' Naruto glanced at Suigetsu finding the emoticon too suiting for him. Suigetsu grinned and shrugged muttering he was trying to relieve the tension and fortunately his plan worked. Naruto was glad Suigetsu had tagged along or where would they be?


Uzumaki Residence - Later that Evening

Clean, exhausted, and fed all three men sat, made themselves comfortable in the Uzumaki living room and staring at their items scattered across the glass table. Kiba had gone back to his office to retrieve a bug detector while the other two had dumped what they had on them onto the table. Naruto kept a normal conversation with Suigetsu which he regretted the moment Suigetsu made a perverted remark on him wearing men's clothing. Naruto stuck out his tongue only replying that what he was wearing was more comfortable than his girly clothing. When Kiba got back, he kept the conversation flowing to random topics as he first scanned himself but he came out clean. He did the same for Suigetsu and Naruto, but neither had any bugs on them.

He took out his cell phone and opened it and tested the line but nothing and moved on to both of their cell phones. The only one they were missing was Sasuke's, but they'd have to tell him tomorrow. He then moved on to their items and clothing they had been wearing. Nothing on the clothing, nothing on Kiba's stuff, nothing on Suigetsu's items, but Kiba stopped halfway through Naruto's purse. Kiba cursed then gaped. "Clever," Kiba muttered. Since they moved to the mansion, Naruto always carried the pin with him.

Kiba held out the orange fan. "I say we have a winner." Naruto opened and closed his mouth as many scenarios played in his head but none positive. Could Sasuke have planted it? No, he was the one who wanted to stop this all. Naruto looked helplessly at Suigetsu who only pressed his mouth into a thin line. Kiba inspected it carefully and nodded. He was able to take out the bug and before he destroyed it said, "We know."

"The boss wouldn't do this," Suigetsu said firmly. "At least not on his comrades," he added, when Kiba raised his brow.

"Do you know who Sasuke bought this from?" Naruto asked, his eyes fixed on the broken ornament feeling slightly sick. Does that mean they heard when he was talking to Kiba? They must have, but haven't taken action how they'll relay the information. What if they tell Sasuke? The mere thought of Sasuke knowing everything made his heart sink. He hated lying.

"The Uchihas have an agreement with one of the most talented jewelry crafters in the Five Great Nations. The man is very discreet about his clients, but the boss and his mother went with him. Maybe the guy was bribed or someone planted it without him knowing. I don't know, Naruto, though I do know the boss isn't behind this." Suigetsu replied, placing a hand on his shoulder. Kiba coughed meaningfully at Suigetsu to remove his hand away from Naruto sensing Naruto's distress.

"I know Sasuke and Mikoto-san aren't to blame," Naruto said calmly, because if he could trust anyone in the Uchiha family it would be those two. Normally suspicion dominated under these circumstances, but he couldn't bring himself to even doubt Sasuke or Mikoto. They probably had no idea what his gift contained. This was all planned from the start, Naruto thought. Someone knew too much and just the sheer realization of this had his skin crawling. The orange ring came to his mind, nauseating him further. He breathed in deeply disturbed by today's events. "Let's call it a night."

Kiba and Suigetsu bothered not to even argue as they both were dead tired. Once Naruto escorted Suigetsu to a guest room, Kiba pulled him to the side. "Do you think they know about us?" As much as Naruto wanted to keep an optimistic view about their case, lying that all was well and would work, just wasn't going to cut it.

Dejectedly he nodded and said, "Since the start. They want us here for a reason. The only part I don't understand is why."

Kiba shrugged. "You got me." The rest of the night Naruto found no comfort to lull him to sleep as he lay restlessly in bed trying to make sense of it all. Nothing made sense, but the fact that they were targets in plain sight.


Next Day

Uzumaki Residence

Naruto preoccupied himself with examining his hand, mapping every detail carefully. The concentration on a simple task droned out the screaming, though he knew ignoring his teammates would only piss them off further. A medal for digging deeper into the case should be awarded to him, instead he received an angry Sasuke and Kiba scolding him. Did he mention Tsunade grabbed him by the ear threatening him should he go solo again without backup? Suigetsu received the same lecture as Naruto, but he had a shit-eating grin plastered on his face the entire time Sasuke unleashed hell on earth. Distracting himself ended up infuriating Sasuke even further as the man paced around the room without crutches, though a slight limp remained. To a certain extent he deserved scolding, but he had about all he could take.

"Are you listening?" Sasuke asked indignantly, his arms crossed almost expectantly for a white flag of defeat from Naruto. In some way Naruto did raise the flag, unfortunately he came out too honest.

"Not really, you lost me after the whole I'm-too-weak-to-go-on-my-own part," Naruto said, now starting to fidget with the golden tresses of his wig. He'd agreed to be honest and it was honesty Sasuke got. Kiba placed a hand to his head in disbelief, knowing none of this would do any of them any good. They'd been at it for an hour now and frankly he had no intentions on helping Naruto out. The man didn't know how to define danger.

"Uzumaki, you are lucky my gun is in your hands," Sasuke growled, his anger getting the best of him. All night he'd been tormented with pessimistic thoughts. Maybe Naruto failed finding Kiba and Suigetsu, maybe one of them was fatally wounded, maybe they were tortured, and the endless possibilities drove him to the brink of insanity.

"Lucky ol' me," Naruto said, rolling his eyes. "Are we done? I find this conversation pointless if we aren't planning our next move." Another hour of Sasuke being a complete dick simply couldn't be endured and focusing on the case would relieve them all. For seconds Sasuke said nothing, his grimace telling them all he was considering whether or not he would be able to contain his frustration.

"We do nothing," Sasuke finally said, earning himself an outraged expression from Naruto. He expected as much and he could see a storm brewing. Today wasn't in his favor, then again, since yesterday at the funeral his foundation had been crumbling down.

"What do you mean nothing?" Naruto exclaimed, standing up, his hands clenching and unclenching. There had to be something to do. One day without searching made a big difference and he had no means to spend a few days allowing the situation to worsen.

"Look up the definition," Sasuke shot back, his last straw of patience collapsing. Naruto's shoulders sagged and he glanced at Kiba, hoping his friend would support his cause. Unfortunately Kiba shared the same ideas as Sasuke and weakly smiled, telling his friend to let the argument go. Before the conversation could be heated further, Kiba quitely slipped away. Naruto knew both of them were right, but he refused to sit behind and peering through glass and watching, helpless to prevent anything ominous from occurring.

"Fuck you, Uchiha."

"Naruto, you were bugged under our very own noses. Now they know our plans and I had to call Karin and Shikamaru not to be alone until they come back. None of us are safe and doing nothing is the best thing we can do right now," Sasuke explained dryly. Although he could relate to the helplessness of standing by, waiting for an answer or solution and risking further exposure, placed them at a high risk of receiving a bullet to the head. "I'll talk to the jeweler and the ring will be tested for fingerprints, but that's all." Naruto only glared sharply at Sasuke, irritated because the man reeked with authority.

"Sasuke, I-"

"Tomorrow we have a nice dinner and the rest of the week relax, ok Princess?" Naruto groaned, knowing his little comment to Itachi wouldn't be slipped easily. Leave it to Sasuke to toss it back at him. If Kiba were in the same room, he would be barking with laughter.

"Fine whatever you say, Your Highness," Naruto said sticking, out his tongue. His phone rang and he ignored Sasuke's questioning look ,when he stared at the screen. At the moment he couldn't deal with explaining every detail to Sakura and of course he'd pay with dire consequences of ignoring one of his close friends, but there was a time and place for everything. He simply allowed it to ring.

"Not going to answer?" Sasuke asked puzzled.

"You're more important," Naruto replied, smiling and pinching Sasuke's cheek. Taken aback, Sasuke grabbed his hand keeping it in place. Neither of them moved and what had meant to be a playful remark had taken a turn Naruto hadn't expected. His fingers retracted from pinching and now laid against the smooth skin of Sasuke's cheeks. The intensity in Sasuke's eyes was smothering him and he was unable to break away.

"Am I really?" Sasuke was genuinely surprised to hear Naruto saying anything sappy. The words remained stuck in the back of his throat and Naruto only found himself staring back. Sasuke suddenly trembled slightly, a sound of a laugh breaking Naruto's trance and leaving only confusion and perhaps disappointment instead. "You never fail to surprise me. Don't strain yourself, usuratonkachi." Naruto gaped, pulling away from Sasuke and shooting him a heartless glare.

"Shut up," Naruto moaned, feeling his face grow hot.

"I have to leave on some business," Sasuke said suddenly, his voice distant. Naruto glanced up at Sasuke curious and determined to receive answers. The older man pursed his lips, unsure whether he was ready to tell Naruto.

"Oh," Naruto said stupidly. Mentally he slapped himself for providing no more than a monosyllable for an answer. If Sasuke thought it to be idiotic, he made no rude comments, but continued even when Naruto hadn't asked anything.

"Tomorrow you can return to the estate," Sasuke says, detached of all emotion. Oh now the man dared to give him the cold shoulder.

"I want to come with you," Naruto said suddenly, surprising himself by his outburst. Apparently Sasuke had other plans for him and he frowned, shaking his head in disagreement. A whole day he'd been without Sasuke, not that it bothered him, and he turns him down. Sasuke can see the mixture of hurt and disappointment in the creases of Naruto's mouth, but he couldn't drag her into this.

"No."

"I told you everything that happened and you keep whatever happened at the funeral a secret," Naruto said lowly, her eyes blazing with anger. Before Naruto had told his side of the story, Sasuke had kept his day at the funeral short and simple, adding hardly any details other than that it was boring and uneventful. Of course Naruto hadn't believed him, but after Sasuke started demanding what happened after Naruto had called him yesterday he didn't get a chance to press the issue.

"Naruto," Sasuke started.

"I told you I'm not weak." Naruto pressed on forward, wanting to know exactly what had caused Sasuke to react so violently earlier.

"Itachi is going to ask me to help him complete a project," Sasuke said, certain that Naruto now wouldn't let him leave alone. For moments neither of them spoke as Naruto closed her eyes, considering what to say next. She crossed her hands, opening her eyes again, now focusing on his leg. "I'll be fine," Sasuke added.

"You are Shisui's replacement," Naruto stated. Sasuke's silence alone was confirmation and he sighed, too, tired to piece everything together. He understood now why Sasuke had been on the edge – nothing made sense anymore. "We've hit a dead end."

"Right now this seems like the case, but Shikamaru hasn't called about his findings yet and neither has Karin. Until we don't hear from them, we're better off resting for a while." Naruto's brow creased, his worries crashing down and though neither of them spoke, the uncertainty of their path lingered clearly in their minds. True he was grateful Sasuke even made an effort to shine some light, but it wasn't helping.

"Ok." Sasuke appeared genuinely surprised that Naruto shrugged carelessly in defeat. He expected more of a fight or a struggle to see who made it out the door first. No doubt the dobe processed he would interpret whatever plans Itachi had to them later. Even so the gig was dangerous and people were already out there waiting for a chance to skin him alive. "I wasn't able to get a sample." Sasuke blinked for a few times before he chuckled, finding the sudden statement amusing.

"I'm serious," Naruto muttered grudgingly.

"Information is sometimes the crucial piece of a puzzle instead of physical evidence. Give yourself a break, usuratonkachi," Sasuke said, attempting to hide back his smile. "You managed to snag an Akatsuki ring and Suigetsu gave us a rough description on one of the members. I see this as a successful mission."

"You truly are a bastard," Naruto said dramatically. He paused suddenly, receiving a questioning look from Sasuke, then pulled out Sasuke's gun from the back of his pants. "Your gun. It's pretty awesome," Naruto admitted as he handed it back to its original owner.

"Hn." Judging from Sasuke's smirk, the man's ego had just been boosted more than it should have. Now he'd have to hear Sasuke's ego gloat for days to come. He examined his gun, pleased to find not a single scratch and Naruto had loaded his gun for him. She was one hell of woman. "As I said before, dinner tomorrow? I reserved a table for us at an Italian restaurant."

"Oh cool, I'd like that," Naruto said, smiling sincerely. Sasuke nodded and began to take his leave, waving his gun in the air as a sign of departure. "Hey, teme!" Sasuke turned and Naruto grinned foolishly, outstretching his hand, his thumb up and index finger pointing forward in a mimicking form of a gun. "Kick some ass if you have to."

"Is anything intelligent ever going to come from your mouth?"

"No promises there." Sasuke waved at him, smiling and for an instant Naruto felt a soothing warmth fill him, locking away all his doubts and replacing them with a sense of hope. After days of anxiety he truly felt at ease. They'd think of a plan. Everything will work out in the end.


*Bokken – Japanese wooden sword

AN: Phew 11k words. Sorry you guys have to wait again because I have final exams coming up soon and I have to turn in another fic for another fandom.