"If I'd known how bugfuck insane you were, I wouldn't have signed up."

Jiraiya smirked at Naruto.

"That's what they all say, dumbass. Now get on with it."

Naruto gave him a venomous look, but didn't reply. Which was promising, thought Jiraiya. He hadn't expected the little psycho to develop a sense of decorum quite so early on. That talk about a snide sense of humour being a useful weapon in a Ninja's arsenal had probably helped, though, as had keeping him tied up with a toad sitting in his mouth when he'd made one snarky joke too many.

It had taken Jiraiya six months to learn that. If he was honest, it was ever so slightly disheartening that the kid had got it before he did.

The training was going pretty well, though. The kid's tai-jutsu had come on leaps and bounds since they'd left Konoha, and his nin-jutsu was improving pretty fast too. Gen-jutsu was pretty much a lost cause at this point, though- the brat didn't have the patience or the sensitivity needed for fine chakra control, and the amount of chakra he produced didn't help matters. Still, he'd gotten the basics down on breaking out of them, and that he could work on.

This was why Naruto was currently sitting in the middle of a small glade, tied up and dosed to the gills with Chakra suppressants. He was also suffering from a quite minor gen-jutsu. Nothing too fancy; it had just screwed up the kid's sense of balance, which left him lolling around weakly on the ground. The idea, as Jiraiya had cheerfully explained to him, was simple. If he could break a little gen-jutsu like this with his chakra suppressed, then he could break a big one when it wasn't. Naruto had not been enthusiastic (at least, not if his filthy chorus of death threats had been anything to go by), but then again, what was a sensei for if not to teach you the hard lessons?

And to punish you for burning dinner last week. But mainly, hard lessons.

Naruto growled something incomprehensible at him from where he lay, but after a moment, Jiraiya felt the hum of chakra in the air. For a few minutes, nothing happened. Then he felt his gen-jutsu snap apart like a twig, and Naruto sat up, glaring at him.

"Finally!" Jiraiya said, with a sunny smile. "Christ, I thought I was going to die of old age before you got out of there."

"I should be so lucky," Naruto muttered. Jiraiya gave him a good natured clip around the ear.

"Now, it's time to do it again-" began Jiraiya. Then he stopped dead, as a sudden surge of chakra flared behind him. His head snapped around.

Danzo smiled at them both. "My apologies for barging in, Sannin-sama," he said politely. "I was wondering if I could have a word?"


Two hours later, Danzo stepped into Tsunade's office. She didn't look up, but he felt the silencing nin-jutsu hum into life in her walls. She'd beefed up her security a bit, which was disconcerting. He'd have to find another reason for them to conduct their private discussions in his offices, now.
"He agreed. They'll deal with Door."

"Good." She stamped a form in front of her and pushed a small cup of tea over the desk towards him. He sat down and took it, gratefully. His relationship with Tsunade was still distinctly strained, but she was professional enough to put her work in front of her feelings.

Although she might have drugged the tea.

He sipped it.

Worse. It's Oolong. What's she trying to do, poison me?

"Naruto has no idea who he's protecting, I assume?" she still wasn't looking at him.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you, ma'am. I was as careful as the situation allowed, but he's quicker then most."

Tsunade went silent again. Danzo put his tea cup down, still half-full, and bowed respectfully. "If that's all, ma'am?"

"Yes, Danzo. Dismissed."


"So explain to me again what an Infiltrator is?"

Jiraiya refrained from clipping Naruto around the ear. That was a bad sign. If things were bad enough that Jiraiya wasn't indulging his irritation- at the very least with sarcasm- things were getting serious.

"Infiltrators are ANBU high stealth specialists. They operate in twos- one Handler, one operative- and they sneak into other villages or ninja cells, usually by building a cover identity and then faking a defection. Most of them get covered on-book, so an Admin doesn't send a hunter-nin after them by accident. This one, however, isn't happening on-book to maintain plausible deniability if it all goes to hell, so someone's sent a hunter-nin to kill the operative."

"Okay... So where's the operative?"

"In Sound. We've only recently gotten a few in place." There was a pause.

"...Wait, Sound? You mean Sasuke's-"

"I don't know, kid," he said, abruptly. "The identity of the operative and handler is classified to fuck. With any luck, we won't even see them. Just get in, deal with the hunter-nin, and get out again."

"Yeah... alright." Naruto backed down. Infiltrators in Sound. Only recently put in place.

Sasuke, you clever son of a bitch...

"Kid, get your head out of your ass. We have work to do." Jiraiya shoved something into his hand. "Now drink that. We've not got much time."

"What is it?"

"Antidote for the chakra suppressants. And take your pants off, the side-effects are unpleasant."


Author's Note:

*cough* Hi, guys. No, I'm not dead. I have, however, had a remarkably crummy half-year, which is partly what delayed this chapter so long. It's incredibly bloody short for such a long wait, for which I apologise, but it leads right into the next one, and I'm starting that once I've finished uploading this. Hope those of you still reading get a kick out of it.

Keep on truckin'.