The Definition of a Friend

Written by Lady Red 88

Copyright December 2009

Author's Note: I just read the latest Naruto chapter and it made me so mad! The tension is amazing and I just had to write what I'd very much like to happen so major spoilers for those of you not keeping up with the manga.

SPOILERS! Do not read any further unless you're up to date with the latest chapters.

As quickly as the Suna shinobi had arrived, they once again moved to depart. Barely a minute had passed but much had happened recently and there were many things to be prepared. The Kazekage did not have time to linger.

The promise to protect his life, made by the Kazekage of Suna, was not something Naruto had been expecting and he knew he should feel immensely surprised but his own problems with Akatsuki had paled into existence from the moment he'd learnt that Sasuke of all people had joined Akatsuki.

Now he knew why too but at this point in time, he couldn't be sure that what Madara said was the truth and nor could he be sure that if others knew, they would re-evaluate the situation concerning the Uchiha.

A part of him wanted to scream. He wanted to rage and vent. It was all so unfair! He was only 15 for Kami's sake! How could anyone expect him to have all the answers?

He wavered, caught in his own private hell as he leapt from one frantic idea to another, trying somehow to find a way to fix the god awful mess this had all become. Outwardly he remained, morose and silent. He knew he looked tired and every bit his 15 years of age and a large part of him definitely felt that way on the inside too.

He was so detached from everything that he started when Kakashi's hand clasped his shoulder suddenly. He looked up, surprised to find Kakashi-sensei's gaze not on him but Gaara.

"Kazekage-sama, there's one final thing before you leave," said Kakashi.

The red haired shinobi paused, his gaze curious as he met Kakashi's eye. Kakashi squeezed Naruto's shoulder just once, almost lingeringly and then began to speak. If Naruto had been surprised before, he was now shocked. The sensei he knew seemed to have vanished and the Copy Ninja suddenly stood straighter and his single eye hardened to a steely hue. The bearing and the way he held himself was almost entirely unfamiliar to Naruto. In fact, he'd only seen it once before and that been in a dream.

When he looked at Kakashi now, it was almost like he was back in that limitless white expanse of space with the Fourth Hokage. With his father.

Somehow, with Gaara's vague suggestion that Kakashi become the Hokage of Konohagakure for the time being, the silver haired Jounin had transformed himself and become just that. He'd taken the responsibility and settled it around his wiry shoulders, as if it had every right to be there.

"I'll take on the position of Hokage but it's only for the time being," said Kakashi smoothly. "Every effort will be made to revive Tsunade but in the mean time," and suddenly Kakashi's grip seemed to tighten on Naruto's shoulder, "I will train Naruto to be the Sixth Hokage of Konoha."

And now Naruto was well and truly beyond shocked. All the shinobi looked surprised, even Gaara whose pale eyes had widened fractionally. Naruto stared at Kakashi, completely blindsided by the statement made only a moment ago.

"My sensei was the Fourth Hokage but I think it'd be more fitting if his son were the Sixth Hokage of Konoha," said Kakashi. He moved to stand behind Naruto and then raised his free hand and clasped Naruto's other shoulder so that he could feel the full weight of his sensei's support behind him as the temporary Hokage of Konoha. "Naruto has well and truly earned the right and it is high time Konoha had a Hokage like him."

Words could not express what Naruto felt in that moment. His whole being was a mix of emotions. Fierce triumph, disbelief, shock but largely terror consumed him. He'd wanted the title of Hokage his whole life but in the wake of all the confusion and tormenting emotions of the last several weeks, he did not feel ready to take on something like this at all.

"Naruto is the Yondanime's son?" murmured Gaara. His siblings looked just as stunned.

"Yes," answered Kakashi simply. "Naruto is the most amazing and surprising shinobi I have ever known. He has already surpassed Jiriya and drawn level with the Fourth himself. When Naruto becomes Hokage, he will be the greatest shinobi Konoha and the world has ever seen and it is not because of his skill or his determination."

Kakashi paused, his eyes drifting over the assembled shinobi from Yamoto and Sai to the three Suna siblings.

"He will be the greatest because Naruto knows better than all of us what it means to never give up. I believe he holds the answer to bring peace to the shinobi world."

Naruto's throat tightened painfully rather suddenly at his sensei's words. They had been spoken so strongly and with such utter conviction that it was clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Kakashi believed them whole heartedly.

"K-kakashi-sensei," he stuttered weakly. "I'm not - "

"Naruto," interrupted Kakashi firmly. "You will be the Sixth."

Kakashi stared firmly down at him and Naruto felt whatever words he might have said fall away.

"I am going to return to Konoha and all the Leaf shinobi will be recalled to the village immediately," announced Kakashi. "A lot of new information has surfaced so I am calling a new summit, to be held in Konoha itself. Kazekage-sama?"

"Yes?" replied Gaara.

"Would you mind spreading the word to the other Kages?" asked Kakashi.

The Kazekage's eyebrows rose slightly. "I don't," he responded. "But?"

"Yes, I know it's not an appropriate location," confirmed Kakashi in answer to the unspoken question. "However, this war is Konoha's fault."

All the shinobi present suddenly stiffened but Kakashi continued onwards, seemingly unaware.

"As the temporary Hokage I accept the blame."

It was a huge statement to make and even Naruto knew it. Taking blame upon the village's shoulders could lead to complications in the future but Naruto also understood how Kakashi felt. In the wake of Uchiha Madara's unwelcome visit, it was exactly how he felt too. He had never expected to feel ashamed of Konoha before but he did now. Somewhere along the way, Naruto had set his home village up on a high pedestal above all others. The Uchiha Clan Tragedy was a harsh wakeup call to the fact that Konoha and its inhabitants were just like any other village. In the shinobi world, they were just as cruel as Kirigakure who had once tested their genin by pitting them against one another in a battle to the death as Zabuza had been forced to participate in and they were just as evil as the previous Kazekage of Suna who'd ordered the assassination of his own son. That would change, that would have to change! If Kakashi didn't see to it then by hell Naruto would.

"Uchiha Madara's problem lies with the Senju clan and both clans are Konoha clans," said Kakashi. "In asking the other hidden villages for their aid, we are asking an enormous favour and it will take many years to repay the debt."

"That may be," replied Gaara, "but Uchiha Madara has given plenty of reasons for Suna and the other villages to also wage war with him. Kirigakure has a very strong reason to go to war with Madara. His actions as the Fourth Mizukage almost crippled the village."

"True," acknowledged Kakashi.

"If that is all then?" asked Gaara.

"Almost, there is one last thing," replied the Copy Ninja, holding up a hand. Once again, Naruto was caught off guard as Kakashi's gaze flattened and his expression almost seemed to sharpen. It was not open hostility but there was enough warning there that Gaara could easily see it.

"Uchiha Sasuke is to be released from his status as a missing shinobi," said Kakashi. Naruto started beneath his grip. "Please inform the Raikage that if he is killed, we will wage war against them."

"That is a serious threat," stated Gaara.

"It is not an idle one," answered Kakashi grimly. "The Uchiha Massacre was ordered by the Third Hokage. We have handled the situation poorly in the end and Sasuke has ended up becoming the victim of his own village by the people that should have protected him and his family."

Naruto had long since lost his ability to be surprised since the conversation had begun or at least he thought he had. Kakashi once again however, caught him off guard. He had not expected Kakashi to reveal the information Madara had told them barely half an hour ago.

"If that is true," began Gaara slowly, his expression grave, "then Konoha indeed has a lot of explaining to do. I understand why now, that you wish to hold another summit in Konoha. The other villages will not be pleased to hear this."

Kakashi inclined his head. "Take it as you will Kazekage-sama but that is all for now."

"Very well," murmured Gaara. With one final glance at Naruto, the Kazekage and his two siblings turned and vanished, speeding away to find the other Kages.

The four Leaf shinobi remained still for several moments and then with one final squeeze, Kakashi released Naruto's shoulder and moved away. Naruto span, his mouth opening to say something only he could think of nothing to say. Finally he rather pleadingly asked, "Kakashi-sensei?"

Kakashi paused and smiled suddenly at Naruto, the gesture as comforting as it had always been. "I don't know what your answer will be Naruto but I found mine a long time ago," remarked the Jounin. "All I know is death doesn't solve anything and for me, that's enough."

At a loss for words, it took Naruto several moments to process and understand what Kakashi had said. When he did a strange and familiar warm feeling flooded his chest, one he'd always been intimately familiar with.

It was hope.

He'd been lost and confused and hadn't understood anything for so many weeks now. With those few simple words though, Naruto could suddenly see the path ahead once more. He didn't know how he'd lost it in the first place but it had been there all along. Kakashi was right: his answer wasn't quite what Naruto was looking for but it was a step in the right direction.

Suddenly brimming with grim determination, Naruto straightened and met his sensei's eyes squarely.

"Hokage-sama?" he asked, a fierce grin growing on his face.

"Yes Naruto?"

"I think it's about time I found Sakura-chan and knocked some sense into her. She needs it just as badly as that other bastard I call a team mate does."

"I can't say I disagree," drawled Kakashi. "Then again, you always were the only one any sense on my team."

Naruto laughed, feeling so light and free (just like his old self) that it almost felt like flying. So this was what purpose felt like? He'd always assumed that Sakura had been the rock of Team 7, somehow restraining Sasuke but drawing Naruto to her at the same time. What an idiot he'd been. It seemed he was the core of Team 7 after all.

"So does that mean I have a new mission?"

"Aa," replied Kakashi. "Return to Konoha and drag Sakura if you have to. We'll go on ahead and when you get back, we'll decide on a plan to find Sasuke and bring him home. I think he's suffered long enough."

"You said it," agreed Naruto seriously.

"Alright then, I'll see you in a few days?" asked Kakashi.

"Yeah," replied Naruto. "And if you see Gaara before I do, tell him I know what the meaning of the word friend is. I kinda forgot before but I remember now."

Though it was hard to tell, to Naruto it was obvious Kakashi smiled a small smile at the comment. "I'll tell him," he promised.

Naruto grinned and with one final jaunty wave, he turned and headed in the direction Sakura and the others had taken in hot pursuit. He'd catch them up in an hour he promised himself, you see if he bloody well didn't.

Author's Note: OKAY! Got that out of my system. ^_^There will be a second part to this which I'll probably write tomorrow. Comments are most welcome – in fact the author is fairly lusting after them. I guess I kinda want to debate the latest two chapters of Naruto or something. All I can say is I bloody well wish Naruto will find a bit of his old resolve again. The way I see it (as mentioned in the fic) Konoha did a terrible thing to the Uchiha clan and I don't really blame Sasuke in the end. True, he made some bad choices but they wouldn't have happened if Konoha hadn't done such a terrible thing to him in the first place. He's been manipulated time and again and frankly – I just bloody well want someone to save him so Naruto! It's up to you! Death doesn't solve anything. Convince Sasuke to forgive Konoha, to come home and then before you know it, we can all move on. Frankly, I never wanted him to leave Konoha in the first place and it's just killing me waiting for him to come back. Bloody author is bloody brilliant but he sure knows how to fuckin' ('scuse the French) drag something out.

Ah!!! Got that off my chest.