AN: First off, thanks for all the wonderful reviews.
-I should have updated weeks ago but school's kept me busy. Un-beta-ed so excuse some grammar mistakes and typos.
Follow the Leader
Breakfast usually meant a peaceful ordeal for Itachi with a light conversation with his mother or father but today that wasn't the case. Already he woke to a bustling blond youth who no longer called him "Itachi" but instead adapted his nickname he so detested. Thinking maybe the teen only sought to push his buttons and all would pass, Itachi chose to ignore the boy. If only it were that easy to cover the sun with your finger, Itachi thought watching Naruto lick pancake syrup off his slim fingers.
"Naruto, stop doing that," Iruka-sensei warned from the other side of the table not approving of Naruto's lack of table manners. Naruto grinned continuing his ministrations with an amused Kakashi eating his own pancakes.
"C'mon, Iruka-sensei, you let Kakashi-sensei do it too," Naruto protested tilting his head in the direction of the shameless silver haired man. Iruka immediately pursed his lips not at all happy that Naruto always found a way around his scolds.
"Kakashi never listens to me but you, young man, have been told to behave from your grandmother," Iruka said waving the spatula at Naruto. The boy grumbled under his breath about an old hag being unfair and wiped his sticky fingers on his blue jeans earning another warning from Iruka.
"Let the boy do as he wants, Tsunade-san isn't here," Kakashi said sighing but a small smile could be seen behind the mask. Iruka gaped at his lover not being supportive.
"We have a guest over," Iruka pointed out and Itachi raised his eyes to the man with an impassive expression. Kakashi chuckled lightly patting Iruka on the back gently.
"Itachi doesn't care. Do you?" Kakashi asked to the raven who continued to stare at the couple.
"Hardly," Itachi answered receiving a large grin from the boy sitting next to him. Naruto stuck his tongue out at Iruka now continuing to do as he pleased. For a sixteen year old, Naruto, sure acted like a child. Itachi finished his meal while the boy chattered away about school gossip that surely provoked Iruka more than he did to Kakashi. "The breakfast was delicious, thank you," Itachi said to Iruka as he stood and bowed. Iruka blushed slightly nodding furiously.
"You're welcome, Itachi-san," Iruka said his harsh tone softening as he addressed Itachi. Naruto stood up as well, now facing the man with a foolish smile. Kakashi leaned closer his good eye watching a scene unravel before him. Iruka was prepared to stop Naruto in case he bothered Itachi.
"Where are you going?" Naruto asked innocently raising a puzzled expression from the raven.
"I don't have a planned destination bu-" Itachi was cut off when Naruto took him by the hand and dragged him towards the kitchen door.
"Hey, pervert, I'm going to show Ita-chan the town so see you guys later! I promise to be good!" Naruto yelled out laughing already pulling Itachi by hand in a hurried manner. Itachi could have stopped the boy if he wished to but somehow he wanted to be lead out to wherever Naruto was taking him. Before they could hear either Iruka or Kakashi say anything in return, they were both out of the house greeting the autumn sun and chilly air. "Phew!" Naruto sighed allowing Itachi to draw his hand back.
"May I ask why I have to spend a day with you?" Itachi asked messaging his hand and finding the situation somewhat awkward. Naruto snorted impatiently looking at Itachi like he was insane.
"I guess you wanted to stay and watch them get all lovey dovey," Naruto said placing his hands behind his head. Itachi had no interest in Kakashi's love life and the revelation that Naruto spared him from such scenes relieved him greatly.
"Actually that is that last thing I wish to witness," Itachi said watching as Naruto gave a longing look at Kakashi's car. No doubt the kid wanted to use it for a joy ride of some sort.
"Good because it's gross," Naruto replied drawing himself away from the Volvo.
"Because they are the same gender?" Itachi asked curiosity taking the best of him. He had no problems with Kakashi's preferences in male partners or anyone who dated the same sex. Did the boy have some homophobia? Naruto grimaced slightly but shook his head.
"Nope, that has nothing to do with it. They get all touchy feely and say corny stuff that it makes anyone want to puke," Naruto said his eyebrow twitching as if remembering a traumatizing memory. Itachi questioned no further feeling the boy had probably walked in Kakashi and Iruka doing something more than "touchy feely".
"If that's the case, where do you intend to take me, Naruto-kun?" Itachi asked switching the subject. Naruto grinned and motioned for the older man to follow him. Seeing as there wasn't much Itachi could do, he complied following Naruto to the back of the house. Naruto cast his gaze around searching for something. Again he broke into a silly grin and excitedly rushed to a red scooter.
"See this, it's our tour vehicle of the town," Naruto said patting the seat that could fit two people proudly. Itachi raised his eyebrow seriously rethinking about going back into the house. "Come on, I'll show you around! I mean Konoha is small but we have lots to do!" Naruto exclaimed already hopping onto the motor scooter expecting Itachi to ride behind him. One word came to Itachi "no." He was a grown man and to be seen riding with a younger man would be rather embarrassing if he may say so himself.
"Or…we can take Kakashi's car." Naruto cast him a hopeful glance.
"Can you drive?" Itachi asked but he already knew the answer.
"I wish but you can right?" Itachi hesitated before answering but replied with a simple "No" then sat behind Naruto his arms wrapping around the slim waist. It was almost like a woman's but there was no mistake the boy had some muscle under the light jacket.
"I guess we'll stick to the scooter for a while longer. I just can't believe you have no idea how to drive. There's no problem with that since most of Konoha gets around by walking but you came from the city so I expected some driving skills to top off your perfect image," Naruto explained starting the engine. Itachi tightened his grip slightly on the boy earning a surprised gasp.
"Just go," Itachi said wanting to avoid a delicate subject.
"Ok, ok, going you impatient bastard but first loosen your hold!" Itachi relaxed his arms unaware he had been sustaining the boy harshly. Naruto disregarded the occurrence and began to advance forward then away from Kakashi's house. Itachi knew it was going to be a long day.
Over the few years Itachi realized he changed drastically but Konoha remained a remote peaceful town that had its own lethargy pace. A cool breeze brushed against his cheeks as he watched the scenery of familiar roads and houses unfold before his eyes. Naruto steered carefully on the streets as an assortment of different colored leaves fluttered past them. Konoha was beautiful but Itachi couldn't see this place as his home once again.
"We should visit the local ramen stall!" Naruto exclaimed pulling Itachi back to reality.
"We've already eaten breakfast," Itachi replied calmly refusing the suggestion. Naruto let out a playful whine taking a sharp turn at a particular corner.
"Any place you'd like to visit first?" Naruto asked in hopes of cracking some emotion from the Uchiha.
"I supposed guides already had some form of schedule planned to prevent such meaningless questions." Honestly, Itachi had no desires to even walk around and even less with Uzumaki Naruto. There were no places he'd like to see again or people for that matter.
"Sourpuss," Naruto muttered. "Hey, I came up with the idea suddenly to get me out of the house without the pervert or Iruka-sensei breathing down my back! I figured I'd improvise now that we're here." Itachi blinked for a few seconds before a chuckle escaped his lips. This boy certainly was something.
"Naruto-kun do you treat strangers all the same or am I an exception?" Naruto hit the break fiercely nearly sending them both tumbling onto the pavement. "Careful!" Itachi definitely lost his serenity over a silly mistake.
"S-Sorry but this is the nearest place I can park without paying or fearing of my scooter getting taken again," Naruto said his voice shaky or at least Itachi thought it to falter. Itachi had no complaints of walking as the stalls of shops were already in their view and pedestrians were here and there with children or groceries. Konoha's population compared nothing to Itachi's current city but the peaceful scene of everyone setting up their own pace instead of rushing to whatever plans set him at ease.
"So Naruto-kun, what is your brilliant idea for improvisation?" Itachi asked ignoring the fact Naruto made no effort to reply to his previous question. The boy turned abruptly this time grinning.
"Ya'know down at Kurenai's shop they're selling hot chocolate!" As a child, Itachi had a sweet tooth and even now that quirk hadn't changed one bit. Of course he'd never bounce in joy as Naruto did at the moment but a feeling of content washed over him.
"Lead the way." Naruto's smile widened already running up ahead of the older man with his hand making frantic notions to speed up the pace. 'All for chocolate,' Itachi thought pathetically wondering if he truly had matured into a fine adult.
Kurenai's Coffee Shop sold an assortment of drinks and desserts and Itachi decided the shop hadn't changed much since he had come with Sasuke as a children. The same bell hung above the door that rung alerting the customer's presence. However a bell wasn't entirely necessary when Naruto burst in making a ruckus. Other customers glanced up either in annoyance or surprise but Itachi supposed it was the latter. "Kurenai-sensei, I've come for some hot chocolate!" Naruto called out dismissing the stares he received.
"I work to keep my household running Uzumaki, not to tend a kid's commands," said a dark haired woman. "Oh, who's your friend?" Kurenai took keen interest in Itachi. Naruto snorted at the 'friend' remark. Before Naruto could reply, Kurenai's eyes widened slightly then a bright smile took over her tired features.
"Itachi-kun is that you?" Kurenai asked the excitement in her voice hardly refrained. Itachi bowed slightly and Kurenai laughed. "No need for pleasantries. I haven't seen you in years! They say time flies and it sure does!" Kurenai chattered happily knowing she had other employees who could care for the other customers. Naruto looked from Kurenai to Itachi his face expressing genuine confusion.
"You know him Kurenai-sensei?"
"We're distant cousins but I was Itachi's babysitter," Kurenai replied giggling at the reminder of the chatty little Itachi she once knew. Naruto looked from Kurenai to Itachi his eyes wide in wonder before laughing. They both had similar features, the same raven hair, pale skin, and eyes.
"Stop giving him ideas. Kurenai lived with my family for a while until she moved in with Asuma-san," Itachi said seriously reconsidering whether to still get the hot chocolate. Kurenai sighed knowing Itachi wished she stopped speaking of the past but yanking his chain truly was amusing.
"Oh come now, Itachi-kun, stop being such a spoilsport or I won't give you any sweets." Itachi stiffened slightly his onyx eyes sending off threatening vibes to Kurenai who only laughed. What's worse was Naruto smirked realizing he could use this information for future blackmail of some form. "So what will it be boys?" Kurenai took her post behind the display glasses waiting for their orders.
"Yeah Ita-chan what will it be?" Naruto mocked receiving a sharp poke from Kurenai.
"Don't tempt him," Kurenai warned smiling when she saw Itachi shoot daggers at both of them. Naruto shrugged carelessly but kept his distance from the older man in case he did try to form some type of revenge. Blue eyes scanned the glass containers hungrily taking in the breathtaking view of different styles of sweets.
"I want that chocolate éclair!" Naruto never asked, he claimed the sweet from the moment he saw the display. From Itachi's relaxed stance and a slight nod, the boy decided he'd agreed with his preference. In less than a minute, the two were now sitting together enjoying the mouth watering éclair. Unlike Itachi who believed in tasting his food, Naruto gulped down the éclair before chugging down a mug of some cappuccino Itachi ordered for him.
"Kurenai-sensei sure knows how to make some mean éclairs! If I knew you were related, I'd brought us here sooner! I mean c'mon free sweets are more than I can ask for," Naruto said rubbing his stomach in satisfaction.
"Before this becomes a habit of ours, Kurenai without a doubt will place a bill in front of us erasing traces of us being cousins. It's best we keep visits limited," Itachi replied watching the boy rapidly change expressions. Pouting, Naruto slumped in his chair wondering how exactly he could spend the rest of the day with the Uchiha.
"Ne, Itachi, we should go to the lake!" The boy jumped up suddenly grinning widely. Eyebrows rose in question indicating the man would like to know if Naruto was up to anything again. "I mean there's lots of stuff to do at the lake! Like fish or fly kites!" One thing was clear: the Uzumaki truly was from a different world. Itachi, ready to protest, received a ruffle of his tidy hair from Kurenai.
"That sounds great Naruto! Itachi loved to fish as a kid, I'm sure he can teach you a few tricks," the woman said smiling nudging Itachi in warning. The raven wanted nothing more to cause some physical hurt on his older cousin but of course that would be childish and un-Uchiha like. When it came to Uzumaki Naruto, there were no objections to begin with and the boy already grabbed his unsuspecting hand to tug him towards the door.
"C'mon! The rental boats aren't there all day!" Itachi mentally groaned following Naruto reluctantly while he caught sight of a smiling Kurenai who watched them from shop window.
Anyone would be slightly nervous riding with a teenage boy on a scooter especially if said boy rode on the docks near the watery doom. On the contrary Itachi hardly felt anxiety for such situations but ever since he met Naruto (it had been hardly a day or so) he constantly got a tugging emotion of releasing some sort of caution in words. Coming to a stop, Naruto set his scooter aside against a plain looking shack entitled "Fishing and Boat Rentals". A wonderful fact about Konoha was it had a low crime rate thus one felt security leaving their cars unlocked or bikes outside businesses without worrying about purchasing a lock. In Itachi's city, leaving anything worth of value out in the open was ludicrous.
They entered the humble establishment to be greeted by fishing poles lined up against the wall, hooks inside cases, and other merchandise stocked carefully. Itachi pulled out his wallet knowing Naruto held no kind of money to rent a boat or even buy hooks and bait. He requested for a simple boat, two fishing poles (which he, himself, chose), a few fishing gear, safety lifeguards, and a cooler for the fish (Itachi was more than certain they'd catch a few fish). At all this, Naruto marveled and gleamed in joy. The owner led them outside to the docks giving instructions about precautions and so on forth. Naruto was the first to hop onto the boat with fishing pole in one hand and the cooler in the other.
"Ah it's been a while since I've been here!" The blond took his seat on the boat waiting for Itachi to join him on the opposite bench.
"Hn. Years to be exact," Itachi answered placing his equipment down in order to take control of the paddles. To this, blue eyes reflected puzzlement.
"I mean, Dad hasn't had time to bring me down here," Naruto admitted frowning, his olive hand dipping into the sparkling water. The mere mention of the boy's father interested Itachi. He hadn't thought of who the boy's parents could be or he even had any considering he lodged at his grandmother's. "Always busy with the village and blah, blah." They were drifting away from the docks and onto the vast lake. "I don't blame him for not spending time with me but you know I wish he were here instead of Ero-Sennin or Baa-chan." Itachi could relate to Naruto as he recalled his father being occupied with village politics often leaving him to tend to his mother or Sasuke.
"What about your mother?" Itachi asked still rowing further away until he decided they had found a decent location. He saw the boy tense with his eyes casting down into the turbid water.
"She died when I was two years old," Naruto replied patting the water with his hand. Ok this was bad. Already he had upset the boy and cheering someone (a kid for instance) was not one of his top-notch talents.
"Naruto-kun…" Blue eyes stared at him now almost expecting an exchange of some sort.
"Whatever, Itachi, don't worry about it. Happened years ago, let's catch some fish!" Again that silly smile stuck to the whiskered face. Out of all the people he'd met in life or grown Itachi understood their characters but Naruto was an untold story, someone who had an array of emotions all displayed in one single smile. Nodding, Itachi handed him the bait giving him a few hints on the best way to cast his line. Impatience seemed to be Naruto's weakness when he fiddled with the hook his foul mouth penetrating the air.
"Use mine," Itachi sighed handing over his fishing pole to a pouting young man.
"No! I'm going to get this myself!" Gritting his teeth in frustration, Naruto truly wasn't one to give up easily. Minutes later he let out a cry of triumph showing Itachi his success. Itachi took his space as Naruto did his both casting their lines in the water playing the waiting game. "Aw geez I forgot you gotta wait a long time for the fish to take the bait. So hey Itachi, you used to come here often?"
"Sometimes but that's all in the past." Sheesh, this kid truly was too curious. Itachi tugged on his fishing line sensing those radiant blue eyes studying him closely. He could hardly blame Naruto for wanting to know more about him.
"Boring! Adults are all the same – boring. I bet you go to some fancy school in the city that's why you find Konoha worthless. You've had this look on your face since yesterday like you're upset or don't want to be here. Can't blame you really, this place can get old but its home." Itachi would be lying if he said he wasn't impressed by such accusations coming from a boy who was at least four years younger than him. People never understood his reasons or even contained the ability to read past his impassive face. Then here sat, Uzumaki Naruto, grinning like a fool, spitting out all of Itachi's inner turmoil.
"I don't find Konoha worthless. Memories from this place will never be worthless…speaking of school you must be in your second year of high school," Itachi said switching the subject smoothly. At this the boy smiled.
"Yeah! Unfortunately Pops thinks I might fail the year if I keep skipping with Kiba and the gang." Why he wasn't the least surprised to hear Naruto was a rebel? His entire attitude rebelled against every rule known to Itachi.
"Do you have any goals Naruto-kun?" asked Itachi meeting wide eyes that sparkled with some kind of profound happiness.
"I want to be Mayor of Konoha!" A ripple of laughter emitted from Itachi catching the boy by complete surprise. "Hey, I'm totally serious!" Fingers poked him lightly on his forehead the soft melodic laugh mesmerizing.
"And what might the mighty Uchiha's goals be? To be a host at a host club?" The laughing died down the Uchiha going back to his thoughtful gaze until he ruffled the kid's golden hair.
"My father and mother thought Konoha may provide me with inspiration to realize my goals," Itachi replied gazing at his own reflection in the water.
"Everyone has a goal even you Ita-chan. It might not be the coolest goal but you can never let it go. I'll help you find your goal because seriously that face scares kids." Normally, Itachi would refuse to such a ridiculous idea but when he met determined sapphire eyes, and an innocent smile all his will to reject the offer disappeared. Instead he could feel the corners of his mouth pull upwards into a weak smile. Truly this boy reminded him of…
Itachi smirked shaking his head at the thought. "Well then, do your best Naruto-kun." Just like that their conversation was followed by a peaceful silence which both was comfortable with. That is until Naruto's line began to force the rod from his hands.
"A fish!" He exclaimed already reeling in his line and impatiently pulling the line towards him. Itachi went towards the boy his larger body over the youth when he saw how rash Naruto was being. "Calm down Naruto or you'll lose the fish," Itachi warned grabbing tan hands to steady them. "Pull and reel but not so fast," Itachi instructed his breath so close to Naruto's ear. He might have been paying attention to the fish did he not have knowledge the older man was half embracing him. "Naruto-kun." Itachi took control of the fishing line when he saw the blond grow dazed and confused on who knows what. Seconds later he held the line with a fish gasping for air. "Are you afraid of fish, Naruto-kun?" Itachi teased placing the fish into their cooler. The boy appeared flustered and he continued to shout.
"Like hell I am! Don't stand too close to me, man!" It was amusing to see Naruto intimated by his innocent assistance. Then again he probably had to keep a distance knowing this boy was underage and such. Itachi froze almost wishing to end his life realizing the sudden thoughts crossing his mind about a boy who was about Sasuke's age.
"Hn. Naruto-kun, you're of no interest to me," Itachi replied simply wondering who he was trying to convince. Himself or Naruto? Blushing, the boy took his spot again concentrating hard on casting his net. It wasn't moments later when Itachi's own net began to pull him and with grace he caught another fish for tonight's dinner. The processes repeated until Naruto was grinning and laughing at the fish filling the cooler. A few hours later, Itachi suggested returning to the docks concluding that day's adventure. Sighing heavily, Naruto agreed but satisfied with the fact they wouldn't arrive to Kakashi's empty handed.
Upon coming to the docks and gathering their materials, Naruto let out a scream of horror. "Oh shit!" Itachi glanced from boat as he stepped back on land, and faced a replica of Naruto, well an adult version of the boy. Itachi remembered why he felt he should know the boy. Uzumaki may have been his surname but Namikaze roots were dominant in both males.
"Namikaze Minato," Itachi said staring from Naruto to Minato. The older man's elegant features softened into a warm smile.
"Itachi! I heard from Kakashi you'd be coming but he didn't say when. How has it been?" Minato's polite manner always calmed Itachi even as a child he felt drawn to the man.
"So far I'm being treated as a guest of honor though you failed to mention you have a son," Itachi said directing their attention towards Naruto who stopped dead in his tracks. Minato chuckled shaking his head in Naruto's direction.
"Well he's a handful and it was best at the time. You understand don't you? Enough about that, what brings you back to Konoha?" Minato shot Naruto a warning glance preventing the blond to go any further. Itachi spoke about his father and mother's wishes which Minato agreed to. He left out the piece about Naruto wanting to help.
"I see. I hope Naruto hasn't been giving you a hard time so far. Kakashi told me my mother left to a book convention with my father. It was his silly idea to take Naruto from me for a few weeks while I settle some business in Suna," Minato said his chuckle lifting away the tension in the air.
"Not at all. Naruto is…amusing," Itachi replied earning a scorn from the younger blond.
"Since you're here, you can teach my boy a thing or two about staying in school. He has many friends but I think a brotherly figure can be a good change while you're here. I'm sure though he's different than Sasuke, he'll be easy to get along with," Minato said a wide smile forming on his thin lips. Naruto's eyes caught the twitch of Itachi's cheek that his father missed. Was it because of this guy called Sasuke?
Itachi cleared his throat. "They are complete opposites; they would fight if they ever met. Minato, it has been a pleasure meeting once again, but I have to report back to Kakashi," Itachi said his voice detached of all emotion. The older man nodded disregarding the fact the younger man dismissed the conversation so briefly.
"Hey, Dad can I stay at Kakashi's house? Please?" Naruto pleaded hoping Itachi wouldn't leave without him. The man had an invisible magnet around him that attracted Naruto. He also was curious to know who Sasuke was.
"Naruto, I think Itachi needs some time alone, don't you?" Itachi glanced from the one blond to the other. They were so much alike yet so different.
If he went back to the house without Naruto would Kakashi tease him? Would the empty bed next to his taunt him all night? The idea of Naruto bothering the heck out of him was strangely soothing unlike the thought of facing invincible ghosts. Did Minato even mind parting with the son he handed around from his parents to close friends? It was just like when his father would leave him and Sasuke behind with their mother while he was on a business trip. Minato and Fugaku had been good friends but Itachi never met Naruto or at least he had no recollection of meeting the boy.
"I'm only Kakashi's guest, I have no qualms having Naruto stay over," Itachi responded carefully drawing forth a silly grin from Naruto.
"Ah, well, I have no problems lending my boy for another night. Behave Naruto, and you better be in school tomorrow unless you want me to have Jiraiya use you as his critic for his novels," Minato warned lightly. The warning was effective as Naruto shivered thinking of having to read erotic novels his grandfather wrote.
"I'll go just don't get those books anywhere near me! Oh, and dad, do you think we spar tomorrow?" Naruto asked his cobalt eyes glancing at his father's in hope. Minato chuckled nodding ruffling his son's hair affectionately.
"I have a new move to teach you," Minato added only enticing Naruto further to behave unless he wished to miss out on learning a new move.
"Fine, I'll go to school and I won't bother Kakashi-sensei or Iruka-sensei!" Naruto happily ran off to his scooter beckoning Itachi to hurry before the sun set behind the horizon.
"Itachi…" Minato called out stopping Itachi from going any further on the docks. "Don't be too hard on yourself." After a pregnant pause broken by Naruto's shouts, Itachi continued on his way. Minato knew of his past, of everything that led to the Itachi today. He understood the man's concern but there were certain things that couldn't remain buried forever.
AN: I couldn't resist the tempation of including Minato in this story. I've never had him alive in any of my other fics so this is fun to write with the occasional Minato scenes.