Sorry for the wait!
Naruto sat staring into the fire. The bright orange and red flickering comfortingly reminding him of Kyuubi and his calming presence. Sasuke had gone off to catch some food for them; Kakashi and Iruka had now made up and were sitting close to each other in front of the fire. Sakura was in the carriage talking to the Princess and her kids.
Naruto lay down suddenly feeling very tired. He had used too much chakra over the last few days and it was taking a toll on him. He felt his eyes drooping slightly. He knew that it was stupid to fall asleep now. Everyone would know that something was wrong with him, but he couldn't bring himself to care. He was just so tired.
"Naruto… Naruto…NARUTO!" Naruto jumped up his eyes wide breathing heavily. He saw everyone looking at him worriedly, minus Sasuke of course. No emotion ever showed in his eyes.
"W-What?" He asked inwardly cursing for his shaking voice.
"Food." Sakura said slowly and Naruto nodded glancing to the fire to see the fish Sasuke had caught already cooked and ready to eat. Shit, he hadn't meant to doze off for that long. Hikari stuck her head out of the carriage window.
"Is everything alright? We heard a shout." She said in that calm voice of hers.
"Everything's fine your highness." Iruka said smiling to her. "Would you and your children like to join us for a meal?"
"Yes that would be very pleasant." Hikari said opening the carriage door and stepping out. She was followed by two children, a boy and a girl. The girl, clearly older than the boy, looked about eight, she had the same long raven hair as her Mother but her eyes were a bright blue and her skin was much more tanned. The little boy looked to be around four. He had a head of messy brown curls and the same emerald green eyes as his Mother. He looked around seeming curious about the shinobi. He saw Naruto and tilted his head to the side before walking over and promptly sitting next to him. The girl followed him and she sat down gracefully. Hikari smiled at her children before moving to sit next to Iruka.
Meanwhile Naruto was staring at the children with wide eyes as were Sakura and Sasuke. The children stared back at Naruto.
"Um… My name's Uzumaki Naruto. It's nice to meet you." Naruto said slightly nervously.
"It's nice to meet you too. I am Akemi." The little girl said. "My brother is Yuuki."
"I can says my own name Kemi!" The little boy complained and Naruto smiled slightly.
"So…um… Akemi-san, Yuuki-san. Would you like some food?" Naruto asked gently steering them away from a fight and Akemi nodded.
"Yes please." She said politely whilst Yuuki just stared at the food licking his lips. Naruto chuckled and took three fish from the fire. He handed one stick to Akemi, one to Yuuki and sat back and ate his own. It was only then that he noticed Sakura and Sasuke staring at him, along with Iruka and Kakashi.
"It seems young Uzumaki-san is very good with children. Does he work as a teacher in Konoha? I was told a teacher would be joining us." Hikari said and Iruka shook his head.
"That would be me. I actually had no idea that Naruto was that good with kids." Iruka said shaking his head slightly in bemusement.
"Well, it seems that none of you know Uzumaki-san very well then." Hikari said smiling at the way Naruto had finished his fish and was having a mini 'sword' fight with Yuuki with the sticks their fishes had been on.
It was late and Naruto was on watch. Everyone else was sleeping. Naruto's eyes strayed to Akemi and Yuuki, both were so sweet. It was obvious from watching the two that Akemi was fiercely protective over her little brother and her Yuuki just adored her. They were both sleeping next to their Mother. Both curled around each other.
It made Naruto's heart throb painfully. He wished that he had a family. It was something he had often thought about a lot when he was younger. What if he had had siblings, parents, grandparents? Then he thought to the future and wondered what it would be like to have someone love him, to have a husband (yes he was gay. He figured that out after a drunken night with Gaara), children, grandchildren?
Sighing heavily Naruto knew that it was hopeless. The past couldn't be changed and no one could love him, he was a monster. Nothing more, and certainly less.
'Shut the fuck up Kit.' Kyuubi growled and Naruto sighed.
'Leave me alone Kyuu.' Naruto thought tiredly.
'No I will not! You do not realise what you've got! Would you stop feeling so fucking sorry for yourself?! You have people who love you! You have people who would be willing to fucking die for you!' Kyuubi yelled and Naruto rolled his eyes at his demon.
'You know, Gaara's lucky. He doesn't have to listen to his demon anymore.' Naruto thought and at that he could feel Kyuubi's anger.
'Just you listen here you little PRICK! Shukaku was a great friend of mine and now he's dead! You don't know how good you've got it! I had a family! I had friends but now I'm stuck in here with you! Moaning on about not having any! You have the old hag- she's your grandma! That pervert- your grandfather, Kakashi- your Uncle! Iruka- your Father. Sakura-bitch- your sister. And that teme Sasuke- he's your mate! You don't know how lucky you are Kit! You've got people who love you.' Kyuubi roared into Naruto's mind causing him to almost fall from the tree clutching his head in pain as red chakra flared around him.
'They don't love me! They love my mask! If they knew the real me! THEY'D BE DISGUSTED!' Naruto screamed into his mind and he felt Kyuubi recoil in shock. He hadn't realised that was how the Kit felt.
'I'm sorry Kit.' Kyuubi said softly and Naruto nodded tears falling from his eyes. He leant back against the trunk of the tree and took a deep calming breath.
'It's okay Kyuu.' He whispered both outside and inside of his mind.
'Maybe you should tell them.' Kyuubi said slowly and Naruto sighed sadly.
'They would never understand.'
'Maybe they would. Then you wouldn't have to worry about hiding so often. You could even tell them that you hate the colour orange.' Naruto chuckled slightly as Kyuubi tried to make light of the situation.
'I can't tell them Kyuubi.' He thought and Kyuubi huffed but he didn't say anymore.
"Oi Dobe, it's time to switch." Sasuke's cool voice brought Naruto from his thoughts and Naruto looked up to see Sasuke standing above him his pale skin glowing in the moonlight making his onyx eyes seem impossibly darker.
"Sure." Naruto said grinning his fake grin up at Sasuke who seemed to frown for a second but then Naruto jumped down from the tree and snuck under his blanket falling asleep almost instantly. He was still so tired.
Naruto woke to feel someone poking him in the side and he groaned and rolled over away from the poking but it persisted and Naruto peeked open one eye to see Yuuki poking him. A small smile appeared on Naruto's face and he grabbed Yuuki throwing him into the air before catching him causing the young boy to giggle.
"Why are you waking me up then?" Naruto asked and Yuuki bit his lip.
"They're cooking breakfast outside and I thought you might be hungry." Yuuki said looking worriedly.
"Wait? What do you mean outside?" Naruto looked around himself to see that he was inside the carriage lying on a soft futon.
"Uchiha-san brought you in after you didn't wake up when they called you. Umino-san said to leave you sleep." Yuuki said.
"Thank you for waking me Yuuki-kun." Naruto said smiling and lifting the boy into his arms before moving out of the carriage. Everyone looked up as he exited.
"Yuuki, you shouldn't have woken Naruto-kun up." Hikari chided her son frowning and Naruto shook his head.
"No, I'm glad he did. You shouldn't have let me sleep in." Naruto frowned as he sat down next to the fire Yuuki still in his arms.
"We didn't have a choice Dobe, it was like you were unconscious." Sasuke said narrowing his eyes and glaring at the blonde who bit his lip rubbing the back of his head unconsciously.
'What happened Kyuu? Why didn't you wake me?' Naruto asked.
'I was asleep Kit, I didn't hear them.' Kyuubi said and Naruto could feel the tiredness Kyuubi was exuding.
"Oh well, Naruto would you like some breakfast?" Iruka asked holding out a piece of meat which was cooked over the fire. Naruto took it gratefully and smiled at his teacher a mere shadow of his true smile.
"Thank you Iruka-sensei." Naruto said taking a mouthful of the tender meat almost moaning at its taste. After eating ramen for a lifetime it was a blessing to be able to eat something else.
It wasn't that Naruto didn't like ramen; it was that he had eaten so much of it that it had lost its appeal. But it's not like he could ever eat anything else aside from when he was on missions. The villagers refused to serve him in most restaurants. Old man at Ichiraku's only fed him because when Naruto was younger he had been caught rifling through the bins at the back of his shop and Old man had instantly fed the boy some ramen for free.
Naruto looked up and noticed everyone staring at him.
"What?" He asked after swallowing.
"It's only fish Naruto." Sakura said slowly and Naruto bit his lip.
"Yeah but it tastes so good." Naruto said nervously.
"It's not like its ramen." Sasuke said sarcastically and Naruto glared at him.
"I don't only eat ramen. I like other stuff too. A lot more stuff actually." Naruto snapped and he saw Kakashi roll his eye. "What? You don't believe me? I don't even like ramen!"
Naruto's mouth snapped shut as soon as he said it and everyone began staring at him before Sakura suddenly began to laugh. Naruto looked at her and saw her wiping tears from her eyes, soon Iruka and Kakashi joined in and even Sasuke had a smirk on his face.
Naruto just watched them until the chuckles died down. He could feel tears stinging the backs of his eyes; of course they didn't believe him. Why should they? But Naruto felt outrage anyway and he stood storming away to the trees near the clearing. He ran up one and sat on the highest branch crossing his arms over his knees and burying his face into them forcing his tears away.
"Naruto-san!" Someone called and he glanced down from his branch to see Akemi and Yuuki watching him. He sighed before leaping down from the tree.
"Hey Akemi-san, Yuuki-san." He said softly and he noticed that they were frowning.
"Why were they all being so mean to you?" Yuuki asked sniffling slightly and Naruto shook his head.
"They weren't being mean." He said kneeling down next to the boy who pouted.
"They were! They wouldn't believe you and Naruto-san looked like he was going to cry." Yuuki whimpered and Naruto's eyes widened, he couldn't believe that the little boy was so perceptive at his age.
"I'm fine Yuuki-kun." He said softly and Yuuki hugged Naruto. Naruto eyes instantly widened in shock. He was rarely hugged and if so only by Iruka. Akemi soon joined in with the hug burying her face into his shoulder. Naruto hugged them back gently before pulling away and smiling at them. "We need to get back to camp before anyone starts to worry."
They began to walk back when Naruto froze suddenly, he could feel someone. He closed his eyes for a second pushing his senses out further. He instantly found six rogue shinobi hiding behind different trees.
"Akemi-kun, keep close to Yuuki-kun and stay behind me." Naruto whispered and Akemi looked up at him before nodding and grabbing her younger brother's hand and holding it tight. Naruto turned to face where most of the shinobi were hidden and smirked.
"You know you're all really bad at screening your chakra, I sensed you as soon as you were in the area." Naruto said casually. Suddenly a few clones appeared in front of Naruto and he raised an eyebrow. "Wow, clones. I'm impressed. But watch this."
Naruto placed his hands in a seal to quick for the eyes to see.
"Kage Bunshin no jutsu!" Naruto yelled and instantly the forest filled with hundreds of shadow clones. All of them smirked. "Do you think that you can beat all of us?" They all chorused and the six shinobi stepped out all with smirks plastered over their faces.
One of the shadow clones grabbed Akemi and Yuuki and began running back to their campsite. One of the shinobi threw a kunai but many shadow clones blocked it.
"Maybe you should think this through." Naruto said patronisingly and the shinobi glared at the clone who spoke. Akemi and Yuuki would be back at the campsite by now which meant that the others should arrive in five…four…three…two…one.
"Hey Dobe." Sasuke said appearing within the many shadow clones landing instantly next to the real Naruto who nodded.
"Only six? And I was hoping to have some fun." Sakura said pulling her gloves on tighter. Kakashi landed in front of the sea of Narutos and raised an eyebrow.
"Making a point were you?"
"Well, they were truly pathetic clones that they made. I thought that I should show them what real clones look like." Naruto said shrugging before all of his clones disappeared leaving masses of smoke behind.
'Behind you Kit.' Kyuubi yelled and Naruto spun around catching the shinobi's punch. The man's eyes widened before narrowing in a glare. He pulled his arm back and kicked. Naruto caught the kick before he reached out and grabbed the man's throat his eyes flashing red for a second.
"You shouldn't have bothered." He hissed before he broke the man's neck. He could feel Kyuubi draining the man's chakra and felt a sudden burst of strength. He grinned; he hadn't felt this good in weeks.
"Bastard!" One of the other shinobi yelled throwing shuriken at him most of which he dodged. One got through and pierced his shoulder. The shinobi disappeared before reappearing in front of him.
The shinobi tried to stab him but he just caught the man around the neck and once again broke it before Kyuubi sucked the man dry. He turned around in the forest to see that all of the other shinobi had also been killed, they obviously weren't prepared.
Sakura was looking Kakashi over before she moved to Sasuke when she reached Naruto her eyes narrowed and she stormed over to him.
"Take off your shirt." She said sighing and he frowned before he noticed the stinging pain in his shoulder.
"Oh don't worry about it Sakura-chan. It's just a scratch." Naruto said rubbing the back of his head but inside he was panicking, if she tried to heal him than everyone would see his scars. Kyuubi had been so tired lately that he could only heal them to the point where they weren't fatal. He couldn't make the cut disappear completely any more.
"Naruto." Sakura said threateningly moving to take it off herself but Naruto stepped back.
"Seriously Sakura-chan. It's just a scratch it's not worth wasting chakra on." As he said it Naruto knew he was lying. Blood was soaking through his shirt at an alarming rate from the deep cut.
"Let me be the judge of that." Sakura said angrily and Naruto just stepped back once again.
"Shouldn't we go check on the campsite first?" He asked before he ran off without giving them a chance to answer. He ran into the clearing not waiting to hear Sakura's protests. He entered the clearing to see Iruka and his clones standing protectively over Hikari, Akemi and Yuuki who were all huddled together.
"Naruto-kun!" Akemi yelled and Naruto smiled weakly feeling suddenly light-headed. He walked forward.
"Is everyone okay?" Iruka asked and Naruto nodded.
"The shinobi weren't prepared. They were easy to take down." Naruto said smiling grimly. Naruto sat down heavily by the fire; his dispelled the clones before lying down wincing as his shoulder made contact with the ground.
"Was anyone injured?" Hikari asked worriedly. Naruto opened his mouth to answer but was cut off by Sakura storming into the clearing. She grabbed Naruto by the collar and flipped him over before he realised what was happened, she managed to take his jacket off before he caught her hands.
He instantly began to struggle but Sakura was crazily strong, especially when she was angry.
"What is it Sakura?" Iruka asked his eyes widening.
"Stupid baka injuring himself then not letting me heal him!" Sakura ground out trying to cut Naruto's shirt off without cutting the struggling boy. He suddenly felt a grip on the back of his neck and fell still momentarily paralysed. Sasuke sat down beside the pair. Sakura thanked him before cutting away Naruto's t-shirt.
Naruto closed his eyes waiting for the gasps. But they never came. The only thing he heard was Sakura's small intake of breath before silence. Nobody spoke; nobody moved everyone just stared at the criss-crossing scars lacing his back which was still blue and purple from the last attack. Naruto turned his head away from everyone and that small movement seemed to jolt everybody into action.
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