Author's Note: Exams are over and I'm back! Sorry for the wait! Thank you for the continued support! Kinda talky chapter, but a necessary one. Things will speed up again soon. On the plus side, it is longer :P

EXTRA NOTE: Thanks to Soup for the heads up on the typos! Please, if anyone can see any, don't hesitate to let me know. I don't have a beta so I proofread stuff myself around 3 times before I post, but it seems... a few always seem to slip though :/


According to this fanfic, anything after Danzo's death is obviously AU. So I'll be running off

the canon of this fanfic. Hence, in this fic... where Danzo died is when my AU took full effect. Read: most anything post-chapters of Danzo's death is not real in this fic unless referred to as otherwise :D

Disclaimer: I don't own this

WARNING: this fic is AU, it will include some screwing about with the Naruto/Bleach timeline and character histories, as well as contain spoilers for the latest Anime/Manga (of both series). Character death. Swearing. Rating may change. Sporadic updates...

Published: 23 July 2010

Chapter 5: Lines in the Sand

Sasuke Uchiha kept his eyes resolutely fixed on That Man in front of him. He was waiting for the mocking smirk but it did not appear. The gleam of superiority in His eyes did not roar back to life.

For all intents and purposes, Itachi's expression was as blank as a brick wall.

But Sasuke could feel the air slightly lighten as he continued on and Itachi's amusement was evident.

He knew his older brother, no matter that he'd spent the worst years of his life trying to track him down and kill him.

Itachi may as well have been on the floor crying with laughter.

Sasuke glared, finally stopping his subtle attempts at breaking the Genjutsu he was now sure he wasn't under... as strange as this thought continued to be. It seemed real enough... for now, anyway.

"Where are you taking me now?" He asked flatly, mentally making a map of their path. He'd be returning to see his mother no matter what anyone said.

"We're almost there."

Sasuke gritted his teeth at the non-answer.

Naruto watched what could only be described as a wooden arm retreat back into the folds of a dark cloak.

A wooden arm.

And the man had called him the "Kyuubi brat," so who exactly was he? It wasn't every day that he was referred to as such- not anymore.

"Who are you?"

Jiraiya, who had slipped behind him, spoke. "Sasori of the Red Sands..." he murmured. A glance to the left and Naruto noted that Jiraiya's eyes were narrowed to slits, contemplating the man in front of them.

Naruto followed suit, keeping his eyes on the figure.

Sasori of the Red Sands... the man that had fought with Sakura and who had been their first strike against Akatsuki.

But Naruto could remember a bigger man, a nastier face and a rougher voice. The thing he was looking at looked no older than he was.

Sakura had told him that there was a man inside the puppet; that the person he'd once seen was a puppet himself- but that was no man.

It couldn't be.

But he was obviously dangerous.

The security of a kunai in this hand wouldn't go amiss right now.

A moment passed and the smirk on Sasori's face had long since passed into a look of bored indifference. A slightly arched eyebrow. "Well? I don't have all day."

"You're in no position to be talking like that Sasori," Jiraiya growled.

"I hate to wait," was the disdainful reply. "And I have places to be. So say your piece or I'll be going."

Jiraiya felt the light in his eyes harden. Disrespectful little-

"We have evidence suggesting that you've been behind several massacres in the area," Hashirama interjected smoothly, noticing Jiraiya's ire.

"And what business is that of yours? The time of your supposed authority is long since over." Sasori's eyes were back on Jiraiya and the smirk was firmly back in place. Naruto felt his stomach turn.

"If that was all..." Sasori made to leave, never fully leaving his back exposed to them.

Naruto felt Jiraiya press a weight into his arm, felt the slightest flux in chak-reiatsu behind him and the ground shudder.

Sparse weeds as the edge of the empty road were thrust out of their roots as wood rocketed up in a fluid jerk and wrapped around the red head retreating form.

They caught air and Jiraiya swore. Sasori had leapt out of the way a split second before contact and the three men jumped back out of the way of a sudden hail of senbon.

Sasori's eyes were sharp as he put the distance between the two parties. So not only was he up against the Kyuubi brat and the famed Toad Sannin, but... his eyes narrowed. What he could only assume to be the Shodai Hokage himself.

Sasori was no fool- this wasn't looking good. This didn't appear to be a battle that he could win.

But that didn't mean that it wasn't a battle that he couldn't escape from- his pride would not get him killed again. His eyes focussed on the older men in the vicinity as Hashirama spoke again.

"We have a proposal for you."

"Oh?" Sasori's eyes returned to their half-hooded stated and he kept his senses alert. It seemed he was out of any immediate danger, but best to be aware. It wouldn't be the first time that opponents thought that they could spew their words in an effort to distract the enemy.

"And what proposal could you have that could possibly interest me?" He sounded vaguely bemused at the idea.

"An alliance." Hashirama's voice was firm.

Sasori felt his eyebrow twitch in mild amusement. "An alliance?"

"We wish to ally the districts in order to bring down peace-" A dark chuckle interrupted Hashirama's words.

"You wish to ally the districts?" The blatant amusement in his voice showed complete disrespect. "You? Forgive me Hokage-sama, but need I remind you that you're dead? The time for peace is long since over, as is your authority. Tell me, you wish to resist against the will of the Shinigami?" He snorted. "I see where the Leaf inherited their foolish idealism from."

Jiraiya smirked, unperturbed. "So you refuse?"

"What reason do I have to accept?"

"If you valued your life you would, Sasori."

Light brown eyes narrowed, assessing. Unstable buildings would not hold for long under the velocity of battle and the last he remembered- the Kyuubi brat was a Shadow Clone specialist. This was not going his way at all.

"You seem to be underestimating me."

"Oh no, we know exactly what you're capable of, Sasori." The gleam in Jiraiya's eyes was practically feral.

'I highly doubt that,' the red head thought blandly. "And yet you still want my assistance."

"Your... skills could be an asset to us," Hashirama spoke. Naruto was watching the exchange with tensed shoulders.

"And yet you decided to attempt to track me for months-" Jiraiya's expression didn't flicker but Sasori knew he'd surprised the man. "-to put an end to my... unsavoury actions?" He smiled condescendingly. "I doubt you'd appreciate the value of my art."

Naruto's grip tightened around the weapon in his hand. Art. He remembered what Sakura had told him about Sasori's art. The Third Kazekage. Human puppets.

"So that's what you were doing all this time?" Naruto snarled. "Killing people- making people into puppets for art?" He hadn't expected Sasori's eyes to gleam or the edges of his lips to slightly quirk.

"You don't approve?" He didn't wait for an answer. "Either way, it matters not. Many of the people here are unworthy of the honour of becoming a part of my collection."

"Aside from yourself, of course," Jiraiya said flatly. "You seem to have had no qualms about returning your body back to its previous state."

"Art is everlasting."

Knowing that this man was Orochimaru's former partner in Akatsuki, Jiraiya didn't find it surprising that he also had some sort of fixation on immortality. Birds of a feather... it seemed they would never learn.

"You have two choices, Sasori-san," Hashirama suddenly added conversationally. "You may join us... or we will have to put an end to you. You don't seem to show any remorse and bloodshed on the scale that you've been going for will not stay unnoticed for long. We can't risk you garnering attention from the Shinigami because of your actions- not with so much at stake."

He saw Sasori's cloak flutter lightly as the man shifted. "Gifted as you may be, Sasori-san, you cannot defeat the three of us," Hashirama said quietly.

As frustrating as it was to admit that, it was true... for now. Sasori's eyes were still half-hooded and his expression had yet to change.

"And what do I have to gain from this arrangement?" Brown eyes were calculating.

"We'll allow you to make puppets-" Naruto's eyes swept to the side, "-of the wooden variety, of course. I shall provide the materials personally. For your contribution to our cause you will also have the benefits of belonging to our... society."

Sasori let out a small breath. The way that they were operating seemed similar to what he'd read to the founding of the hidden villages. Bands of people joining together using trade to barter and recruiting others on the basis of benefits they could give and receive.

"And you plan to take on the Seireitei?" Sasori's voice was velvety, scheming.

"When the time is right."

Human puppets weren't yielding the results that he'd become used to- the majority of the people settled in the Rukongai were just so weak. But Sasori had seen a Shinigami fight, just once before, a few years prior. The result had... intrigued him, to say the least.

He had to wonder how different their bodies were.

No, he did not appreciate being backed into such a corner, and he did not agree with Hashirama's foolish ideals, but he was in no hurry to cut his life short a second time because of foolish pride. Hashirama's offer, undoubtedly naive, but Sasori knew better than to take things at face value. They were all ninja here and Hashirama was obviously a hell of a lot more shrewd then he let on. His offer would definitely open new lines of enquiry, however.

"Well?" Sasori's eyes took in the sight of Hashirama slowly crossing the distance between them, a hand held out.

It was risky. They didn't trust him and he didn't trust them in the slightest. He'd be outnumbered, but...

But this would most definitely be a mutually beneficial agreement.

A ninja waits until the time is right. When the enemy sleeps and drops his guard. When his weapons lay forgotten in the stillness of the night. When the enemy turns their back. That is the moment for a ninja to strike.[1]

Flesh met chilled wood as the agreement was set.

Kyoraku Shunsui, Captain of the 8th Division, laughed raucously, clapping the third seat of his best friend's division on the shoulder.

The man flushed.

"Kyoraku-taicho, it's not funny!" Kaien mumbled, looking across to his own captain for support. 13th Division Captain Jushiro Ukitake chuckled at his subordinate's plight.

Kaien stewed.

Smiling, Ukitake dismissed the younger man and watched him stride away. He turned to Shunsui who was adjusting the pink haori he wore, his own smile slipping slightly.

"So what do you really think, Shunsui?" Ukitake asked. Indeed, the white haired man could see the calculating glint masked by a happy haze even as Shunsui pulled out a bottle of sake from somewhere within the extensive folds of his haori.

"I have no reason to think anything contrary to what Kaien reported," the darker haired man replied, offering Ukitake a glass.

"But we should keep an eye open and an ear out as a precautionary measure, regardless," Ukitake finished with a small frown, declining the drink.

"It is a little unusual that a few untrained plusses managed to outrun Kaien, but he did say that he wasn't using shunpo. Stranger things have happened."

"He said they vanished; that he couldn't even sense their reiatsu- just like Kisuke reported." Something in his gut was telling him that something wasn't right, and Jushiro Ukitake hadn't lived for as long as he had, been a captain for as long as he had, by ignoring his gut instinct.

"Or he just simply lost track of them." Seeing Jushiro's frown deepen, Shunsui held up his hands in a placating manner. "I'm not disregarding what he's saying- you know that I trust Kaien's judgement. I just don't think that we should jump to the worst possible conclusions without proper evidence. Kaien is young. Prodigy he may be, but he may have just overlooked something- it happens to the best of us."

Jushiro sighed. "Do you feel we should inform Genryusai-sensei?"

"But of course."

Because as inconsequential this incident seemed, the Captain Commander had to know everything.

They walked, Kyoraku's pink haori flapping in the mild night breeze.

Indeed it was strange... but stranger things had happened.

Sasori slipped into a non-descript building silently. He'd been "allowed" to go pick up the few possessions he had but had blatantly disregarded the request to take an escort.

"How can we trust you not to run?" The Jinchuuriki had snapped.

"You can't."

Of course that had caused the blonde haired boy's jaw to set to a jut. "But it's not in my interest to leave."

He'd been shadowed by a clone, regardless, and could already feel his limited patience begin to wear thin.

He was not an errant child.

He felt the clone's signature pause and ignore the feeling of a sneer spreading across his lips. The clone wasn't even bothering to hide its presence by suppressing its reiatsu. They wanted him to know that he was being watched.

Obviously they weren't as foolish or naive as they made themselves out to be.

He crossed a dark hallway up and out into a warmly lighted room. Nodding at the sole occupant, he walked over to a drawer, opening it and removing the false bottom.

A compartment.

Removing a last blackened seal the compartment slipped open and Sasori deposited several scrolls into the folds of his cloak. They would come in useful later.

He turned back to the person seated behind him. "I'll be leaving now."

"How long will you be gone?" A voice withered by age. At the non-answer, she sighed. "Sasori, you conceal too much." She watched as he strode from the room. "Take care of yourself, at least!"

She heard a scoff and saw him give a half-wave before he vanished from sight.

She'd known the boy for a while- he'd just showed up on her doorstep one day; come to her rescue for some inexplicable reason and had moved in. A strange man he undoubtedly was, a man who could terrify her on some level, but she would not deny that she felt some level of familiarity with him.

He wasn't all that bad.

He certainly had that amazing puppeteering talent of his.

...She had vomited he day she realised what he was hiding under those long sleeves of his, seen that although it had had been textured as skin it was cool and slightly waxy to the touch, like well furnished wood. He wasn't as human as he claimed. He had said nothing, calmly pulling the sleeve down and never bringing the event up again. Not that she'd asked.

He had his secrets... but who didn't?

She wished he'd be safe, she'd be lying if she said that she hadn't grown a little attached to him over the time that she'd known him.

Threads of energy slowly disintegrated under weathered hands and the small marionette dancing on the table collapsed, boneless.

Sasori met up with the Mokuton Clone, eyeing it with a bored look. The clone didn't appear at all abashed at being "caught".

An hour later tentative allies met up and set off for a new destination.

Sasuke had walked and walked and seen as the streets darkened, emptied, and filled with a different breed of person.

They had meandered through sparse crowds and as sparse grew sparser, buildings followed, becoming less common as vegetation grew thicker, greener and more common. The atmosphere changed subtly from one of hustle and bustle to one of a quiet hush.

Sasuke took a closer look. The buildings, although fewer, were definitely a lot more sturdy. Sasuke could see the dull shine of new screws amongst patches of rust; could see wooden ladders and scaffolding and pillars holding things up.

Itachi finally came to a halt.

"We're here."

Three raps on the wood and the door creaked open.

Naruto had been brought into a fierce hug when he had entered the homely kitchen.

"Old hag- you're choking me!"

The hug grew more painful. "Can it, brat- it's been a while. I missed you."

Tsunade pulled away, a hard smile on her lips and Naruto cleared his tightened throat. He caught sight of the figures behind her and his grin grew impossibly wide.

Kankuro- had he not seen the man without his face paint that one time in Suna he would have been puzzled as to his identity.

Temari, looking as stern as ever-

Sasuke... (Itachi).

Naruto nodded in their direction. "It's been a while, bastard!"


Naruto made to step forward, but red nails clung onto his shoulder in a tight grip.

"Not so fast, Naruto." Tsunade's eyes were cold and tension was seeping into every crevice of the room. Naruto had the feeling that there was something he was missing.

Of course, Jiraiya, Gallant Jiraiya, along with a certain ex-sand shinobi who prided himself on being punctual took that exact moment to enter the room. There was a sharp intake of breath from Temari, a twist upwards of Kankuro's lips and the tension in the room grew stifling.

"Sasori-san," Itachi murmured, inclining his head slightly.

And then a snort as Kankuro shifted in his seat, shaking his head. "Well... it was bound to happen eventually."

Hashirama was the last to enter, leaning against a countertop. Naruto glanced at Tsunade, whose hand had yet to release his shoulder.

"Oi granny- you can let go now," Naruto grumbled, trying to shake his arm free. To no avail. It seemed that the old bat had retained her monstrous strength in the afterlife. Tsunade was ignoring his struggles, her eyes shooting daggers in the direction of a younger Uchiha. Naruto felt the grin on his lips slowly die away.

Tsunade had died a time ago. He'd still been trying to find a way to save Sasuke, to make him see, but she had woken from her coma to find her soldiers falling bloody and in pieces to the hands of a demented avenger and the remnants of the Akatsuki.

She had died- an event mimicking the invasion of Pein and yet again she had slipped into a coma after expending all her chakra; but instead of awakening with Sakura looming over her with tears in her eyes, Tsunade had awoken in the land of the dead.

Needless to say she had died cursing Sasuke Uchiha for everything he had done. For everything he'd put Naruto through; Sakura through...

...Shizune had died at Sasuke's hands, and with her death went the last aspects of Dan in the world.

"He shouldn't be here."

Hashirama glanced over at his granddaughter. "Tsunade-"

"Hey granny- Sasuke should be here," Naruto spoke up, finally managing to shrug off Tsunade's grip.


"No, wait, listen. I know that things were bad the last time I... saw you, but really- they... got better." Sasuke had- repented- towards the end of the war and they would be lost without him. She had to see that.

A scowl crossed the lips of the elder woman and she turned back to her grandfather. "Sasuke Uchiha is an individual who would most likely threaten the movement."

"I have my suspicions of Sasori, also," Temari finally spoke up She glanced at the red haired man coolly.

"Sasori killed the Sandaime Kazekage before leaving Suna- and was indirectly involved with the death of the Yondaime-" Father was too personal for the bond that man had shared with his children. "He was also involved in the kidnapping of the Godaime Kazekage and his death."

"Temari..." Kankuro cut in. "Leave it for now."

If Sasori wondered why the boy who he'd left to die was not opting for his removal, he didn't voice it. His expressions hadn't changed from the bored look it had adopted since entering the kitchenette.

Sasori didn't know exactly who Kankuro had acquisitioned as a puppet after his death.

"Sasuke Uchiha was also a registered missing-nin," Tsunade said flatly. "A missing-nin who aided in attempts to destroy the Leaf-"

"-He helped save it," Naruto cut in. "We wouldn't have won the war without him. I vouch for him personally."

"He cannot be trusted," Tsunade snapped. She gave Naruto a look. "Don't think that your words aren't biased towards him."

"We would have lost the war without him- everyone would have died." Naruto repeated evenly, withholding the wince as he recalled that even though they'd saved the majority, Sasuke indeed been the cause of quite a few deaths. "He screwed up- badly- I know, but he's not unforgivable. He came through- you weren't there."

"And whose fault was that?" Tsunade snapped icily. "Or have you forgotten who attacked the village?" Not waiting for an answer, she turned back to her Hashirama. "He should be dealt with, grandfather, before he becomes as big a problem as last time."

Jiraiya frowned. "Come now, Tsunade-"

"That will not be necessary, Tsunade-sama," Itachi finally interjected, quietly.

Naruto glanced back at Sasuke. He was sitting stiffly, still eyes boring into Tsunade's, Hashirama's and Jiraiya's in turn.

"Sasuke will be staying." Itachi's tone was mild but left no room for argument.

No-one saw Sasuke's hand twitch under the table- Itachi of all people being the one to defend him was ridiculous.

"Listen here, Uchiha-"

"Tsunade." Hashirama stood with a small frown. "And Temari-san. We have a goal and alienating people on previous crimes is not something that I wish to do. What's done is done- we're trying to bring people together, not draw them apart."

Eyes flicking between her grandfathers' gaze, Jiraiya's and Naruto's, Tsunade stilled. "One reason to suspect treachery, grandfather... and I'll be the one to finish him."

It was the best she could offer for the time being. She didn't suppose she'd be waiting long for the boy to make a mistake. Sasuke Uchiha had a record, after all. Konoha had been the first, followed by Orochimaru and if she had heard correctly, later Madara.

Hashirama sighed, watching Jiraiya sidle up to his granddaughter. He didn't fail to notice the way that Kankuro's eyes were greedily fixed on the puppet-master (puppet) in the immediate vicinity, or Naruto give Tsunade a last, tight smile before he made his way up to the Uchiha men at the table.

Sasori had secluded a separate corner of the kitchen for himself and was... adjusting the joints in his hand.

It was the slightest semblance of peace at least, no matter the real feelings that were being masked for the time being.

They were professionals, they could deal with this.

Putting the youngsters at the table out of his head for the time being, Hashirama went over to his granddaughter- she'd been left in charge of the small group in the time that he'd been gone.

"Any problems?" He asked her quietly. He and Jiraiya had been out tracking and on errands for the last week and a lot could change in seven days.

"There's been a few patrols- but it seems that they're bringing out students from the academy with the guard as of more recently. I thought it odd."

"They're bringing academy students out here? That is odd," Jiraiya mused. "Granted these kids will be somewhat trained, bringing them this far out into the districts doesn't seem wise."

"It shouldn't be a problem for us, though," Tsunade shrugged. "But we are running out of supplies- clean water and food. We should remedy that as soon as we can, especially with the new arrivals." She glanced at the occupants at the table, a smile at Naruto and a frown at Sasuke. He would screw up, she was sure of it. Clearing her throat- now was not the time- she glanced at her grandfather. "New clothes would be helpful, too, if we can manage it"

"Of course, we'll see what we can do."

"I want to take Naruto to see some of the others, tomorrow- I can recruit some of them to help us out- see if they can spare anything," Jiraiya interjected.

"That would be helpful," Hashirama nodded, with a small smile. He noticed Tsunade's distracted look. "What's the problem, Tsunade?" Her eyes were flicking between the puppet master and the Uchiha, so he could probably guess.

"Are you sure about them, grandfather?" Her eyes were back on Naruto. "They were Akatsuki- you know what they strived for."

You know who they worked for...

Hashirama Senju and Madara Uchiha had always been rivals, after all.

"I've explained myself once, Tsunade," Hashirama sighed. "Criminals or not in life... life here is different, and we need as much community as we can achieve. We'll be careful, of course, but unless someone gives us real cause for concern, they are allied with us." His eyes skimmed over the room. "I believe our shinobi are well enough equipped to deal with anyone who attempts them harm."

Tsunade looked away.

"I find myself willing to trust Naruto Uzumaki's judgement on Sasuke Uchiha. From what I've heard he made a fine Hokage. You know him, Tsunade. Do you trust his judgement?"

"Of course I do," she said indignantly. "But Sasuke has always been a special case for Naruto. His judgement towards that brat has always been lax."

"I'll give him a second chance," Jiraiya rumbled, with a slight grin. "If only for that student of mine..."

"Naruto-kun," Itachi had said as Naruto made his way over to the table. Naruto's grin had wavered somewhat, but he had nodded in respect. While he may not have agreed with the decisions that Itachi- that Konoha had made, he could respect the man's intentions. He'd done what he had thought best at the time, the only option available to him.

"So Sasuke, how'd you get found so fast? The Pervy Sage said it took a while to find people," Naruto asked, taking the spare seat.

Sasuke started at him, before awkwardly nodding in Itachi's direction.

"It was chance," Itachi said in that monotonous tone that sounded vaguely uninterested. There was a nasal edge to it- Naruto had noticed the darkened tissue around the man's nose but decided not to comment. Itachi had deserved at least that much- Naruto was surprised that aside from the broken nose, Itachi wasn't missing any limbs from his confrontation with Sasuke. Sitting docilely at the table, Itachi looked harmless. Naruto knew better. Nothing in Itachi's voice or expression said otherwise, but Naruto had to wonder.

Sasuke ignored the urge to roll his eyes at the speculative look that Naruto had adopted. It seemed that his death had caused his maturity to regress somewhat. That, or with seeing familiar faces, the pain of loss wasn't quite so pronounced.

Naruto glanced at the table's occupants, a small grin firmly back in place. He glanced at the older residents, leaning in.

"So who else is here?" The Pervy Sage wasn't telling." He noticed Temari's gaze. "Gaara here?"

"He's around."

"Kakashi-sensei? Sakura? Hinata?"

Temari frowned. "I'm not so sure about Sakura, but Hinata's stationed in one of the other districts. It's been a while since we've had contact with some of the other groups- more people may have turned up."

"But everyone should be around somewhere, right?"


"What's that supposed to mean?" Naruto asked with a frown.

Temari shrugged. "We know that we woke up here- not sure everyone else will though, This is supposed to be 'heaven'-" her eyes darted to the red haired man screwing the digit back into his hand and Temari's lip curled slightly. "Odds are that there's a 'hell', too. And we haven't had the chance to explore everything yet either." It made sense, Naruto nodded.

"So you guys found each other through the pulses, right?"

Kankuro tore his eyes away from the corner to regard him, surprised. "You know about that already?" He shook his head, ignoring any answer Naruto was about to give. "Yeah, through the pulses. But I guess you know that they aren't exactly the most reliable means of tracking?"

Naruto nodded.

"So then we conduct manual searches. As long as we keep up with our duties here we can look for others when the time permits." He smiled sheepishly, scratching at his nose. "Still haven't been able to find Baki, though." His eyes drifted back to the corner and Temari sighed, shaking her head.

"Let it go, idiot."

"Hey now, I don't trust him either, but he's gonna come in useful, Temari."

"Or he'll really kill you this time." Temari snapped, eyebrows rising pointedly.

Kankuro scowled.

Hashirama cleared his throat garnering the attention of the party in the kitchen.

"Now that you're all re-acquainted I suggest you take this time to rest. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow- Naruto, we'll be taking you to see some of the others, and we'll also be going for some supplies." He smiled slightly. "Talk more tomorrow."

Nodding, Naruto stood and stretched, arms over his head as he yawned. "Fair enough. Where am I sleeping?"

"Naruto- Sasuke, both of you follow me, I'll show ya," Kankuro mumbled, getting to his feet. Sasuke had pushed off to follow them, Itachi moving to do the same, but brushing past Sasuke, Tsunade had grabbed the older Uchiha by the arm and forced him back into his chair.

"Let me heal your nose first."

Glancing back at Sasuke as they left the small kitchen, Naruto felt his lips twitch. Sasuke wasn't meant to be smirking like that... but at least he treated all his "brothers" the same...

[1] – The saying was taken from Part 1 of Naruto during the Chunin exams.

Authors Note:. I've outlined pretty much where I want this fic to go... during... revising... time _... can you blame me? xD Good news either way!

I'm going away on holiday for some downtime, so while I'll be drafting the next chapter, it might be a little late... I think we should just say sporadic updates from here on in, people -_-' Sorry. But in no way is this/will this be abandoned, and I'll try not to leave it too long... :)

Next Time: Brotherly talks, the reunions continue, and some insight into a life on the Rukongai.