The shower felt amazing, sensational even. Naruto scrubbed vanilla scented shampoo into his blood-flecked hair until it was thick and foamy, and basked in the almost searing heat of the water pelting his back. After his nice little jaunt in the dump he had noticed a strange, unpleasant smell trailing him (not Sasuke, but an actual odor) and it was invigorating to wash off the grime.

Well, almost. Maybe if there wasn't another man in the bathroom only about a foot away from his naked splendor he would feel more comfortable. Really, it wouldn't even be that big of a deal if he wasn't attached to said man via handcuff. Male ninjas on missions were usually comfortable being naked around each other, the situations called for it. Changing and bathing around each other was natural since there's not much room for privacy while on a team.

Having a thin plastic shower curtain printed with paisley flowers as a border was on a whole other level though. Especially when you can only bathe with one arm because you don't have much slack to work with due to a fucking handcuff. Honestly, what sadist had concocted the plan of chaining him and Sasuke together? When he got home someone would be on the receiving end of a swift kick to the nuts.

Naruto leaned his head back into the spray and let the blast of hot water wash away the shampoo and tried not to think about it. Instead, he examined the damage that his body had taken from the mystery event.

Black and purple bruises were already beginning to fade due to his impressive healing rate, but other more major injuries were lingering. An impressive slice from his left shoulder to his right hip was the most noticeable cut, and he would bet a bowl of ramen it was from Sasuke's stupid katana. It was healing nicely, though soap had caused it to sting furiously while he was washing off. More cuts were laced all over his body, some deeper than others, but they were hardly life threatening. The only truly painful thing he was suffering from was on his shoulder, and that was from a harsh burn that he would probably have to thank Sasuke-bastard for. Other than that it was all roses and daises compared to some of the other injuries he had suffered.

He squeezed some conditioner out of the small bottle onto his head and began methodically rubbing it in one-handed. What he wouldn't give to be able to use both his hands normally again. Seriously it was such a pain in the ass...

"Are you almost done in there or are you trying to suffocate me with steam?" Speaking of pain in the ass.

Naruto poked his head around the edge of the curtain to see Sasuke sitting on the lid of the toilet, cleaning his kunai with a damp towel.

Naruto noted with satisfaction that some of the water had run down the chain of the handcuff and was currently dripping on Sasuke's pants. Served the bastard right.

He ducked his head back behind the curtain and called in a falsely-confused voice, "What? More steam? Okay then, if you say so."

He nudged the heat of the water up a notch and allowed himself a satisfied grin as he began rinsing out the conditioner.

"What did you say, Naruto?" Sasuke said coldly from the other side of the curtain. "Throw your towel in the toilet? Is that what you said?"

"You better not!" Came the alarmed cry from the shower.

"Then get the hell out of there, you're worse than a girl."

"Whatever. I woke up in a fucking dump today, I'm pretty sure I washed a banana peel out of my hair."

"Wouldn't surprise me. You smelled like a wet dog."

The water cut off and a very miffed Naruto stuck his head around the shower curtain again. "Can you hand me my towel?" He said, ignoring that last comment.

Sasuke wordlessly bent down and picked it off the floor, then proceeded to throw it at the tanned and dripping face. Naruto caught it before it connected, but he still shot the other a dirty look.

"You're such an asshole," he stated, but not with much feeling behind it. He wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the shower, successfully dousing the cheap tile floor as he went. Sasuke grimaced and shifted his feet away from the quickly spreading puddle.

"It's all yours," Naruto said, gesturing to the shower.

Sasuke gave him a dark look and set the kunai he had been cleaning on the bathroom counter. Then with a side ways glance at the other ninja he drew back the shower curtain and stepped inside. Naruto hopped a bit to give him slack for the handcuff, then plopped down on the toilet seat. Man, life would be so much easier without the stupid chain connecting him to Sasuke.

There was rustling in the shower as Sasuke presumably began undressing, then proceeded to toss articles of clothing over the curtain and onto the dry surface of the sink. Naruto sighed and settled himself in for a wait, leaning his head back against the wall and closing his eyes as the sound of rushing water started.

It was strange, only a day or two ago Sasuke had been some unreachable prospect. There was always sightings, rumors, and false leads. Convincing the old hag Tsunade to set him loose after faint trails had been getting harder and harder, and it had begun to seem that he would only be able to find Sasuke when he wanted to be found. Yet now he was right here, found, literally a foot away, and Naruto wasn't even really sure how they had met. Actually, he wasn't even sure what to do.

Sure, he had found Sasuke, but what now?

"Hey asshole," Naruto called conversationally to the shower curtain, "have you created some awesome return plan or anything yet? You know, for getting out of this weird place."

He was answered by the spattering of water hitting the shower floor, and Naruto rolled his eyes at Sasuke's expected silence.

"I'm fucking handcuffed to you so I know you're in there," the blonde persisted. "But seriously, any kind of return home plan?"

"How about you return to being quiet?" Sasuke snapped.

"Ooooh I'm so scared," Naruto said sarcastically. "I have your towel so I think you should carefully rethink that response."

A deep, angry sigh resonated inside the shower. "Naruto, I haven't thought of a goddamn plan. I don't even know where we are."

Well that was comforting. Naruto hadn't even begun to think of a plan, but usually the planning landed in other people's hands and he just proceeded with the kicking of enemy ass. Especially Sasuke, he was supposed to be the genius.

Naruto stretched lazily, trying not to wince as his still-healing injuries flared up. "So what should we do?"

Another long-suffering sigh came from behind the curtain. "Did I bother you while you were in the shower?"

The blonde rolled his eyes. "Who's the girl now?"

No response. Of course. Naruto sighed, growing bored already. He would really like to put on his pants, crawl into the strange bed in the other room, and fall into blissful unconsciousness. Maybe he would wake up in his own bed and it would all have just been some bizarre dream. He smiled slightly, leaning over to pick up one of Sasuke's kunai from the counter to twirl it in his free hand.

This all being a dream, well, it sounded nice. He could wake up in his own room tomorrow, throw open the window, and breath in the fresh air that so greatly contrasted the fume-laced air outside of the hotel. He could find Sakura-chan and tell her about the strange dream he had last night, and she would probably laugh and ask if he had eaten some bad sushi. Then he could go to Ichiraku Ramen and order the usual from the old man, leaning against the wooden counter that always still had swipe marks from when they cleaned it. A huge steaming bowl of ramen would be placed before him, and he could snap apart the chopsticks to---

The kunai slipped out of his fingers, clattering on the tile floor. He looked down in surprise, watching it wobble before gaining equilibrium and completely stilling. Sasuke's kunai. Sasuke.

If he really woke up tomorrow at home, then he would have never found Sasuke. The thought was exhausting. It dredged up memories of pointless chases, lost leads, and all the times he had returned home empty-handed. Yet at the same time he never asked to be this goddamn close to the guy.

The water shut off suddenly, and a pale, dripping arm emerged around the shower curtain. "Towel," Sasuke demanded, and Naruto rolled his eyes at his tone.

"Yeah, yeah, hold on princess," Naruto grumbled, first grabbing the kunai off the floor, then reaching for the other towel nestled in safety from the soaked floors on the counter. He wasted no time chucking the towel at the other ninja, who caught it easily without blinking.

"Did you drop one of my kunai?" Sasuke asked, narrowing his eyes. "The floor is wet."

"So, because the floor is wet it means I dropped your kunai?"

"No, it means the floor is wet so you sure as hell have better not dropped it. I just cleaned those," Sasuke snapped, wrapping the towel around his waist behind the curtain before emerging. "Dumbass," he added as an afterthought.

"Well I didn't drop it." I hope it rusts.







After hastily changing into their torn and bloodied pants with their backs turned to each other, it was time to sleep. Which, inevitably, meant that the two of them would be handcuffed together lying side by side in a matter of minutes. Naruto quickly deemed the situation as weird, but decided not to linger on it. The faster he fell asleep, the faster he could work on getting home. It was a stale comfort, for he wasn't completely sure how he was going to accomplish this, but Naruto had always been an optimist.

"'Kay, let's get some shut-eye," the blonde exclaimed, forcing down the feeling of weird again. He glanced over at Sasuke, who looked prepared to vomit. "Don't look too excited," he added dryly.

Sasuke cast him a look that said he would very, very much like to gnaw off his arm and escape through the window.

"The sooner we go to sleep, the better," Naruto said, voicing his earlier thoughts. "We can wake up tomorrow and figure out all this bullshit."

The words only seemed to agitate Sasuke further, judging from the deepening scowl smeared across his face. "I can't wait until your unconscious," he muttered darkly.

"Yeah, yeah," Naruto grumbled. "Always an asshole." He stepped towards the bed, then awkwardly clambered onto it while extending his arm for slack on the handcuff.

Sasuke, glowering, followed reluctantly. As Naruto kicked back neatly tucked in covers and wiggled under them, Sasuke settled his back against the headboard. He sat there with his legs crossed at the ankles and his hands woven together on his stomach.

Naruto shot him an incredulous look from his comfortable position, then rolled his eyes. Sasuke didn't look like he was preparing for sleep at all, but instead looked like he was posting up like a guard on night watch. He turned his head away from the other ninja, focusing on the blank hotel wall. Closing his eyes, he tried to even out his breaths and force sleep. It came easier than he thought.







Naruto was awoken by someone punching him repeatedly in the ribcage. Naturally, being woken in such a way is unpleasant. He returned to the world of the living with all the grace of a bear emerging out of hibernation, lurching upwards then sideways while simultaneously emitting a slur of curses. The sideways part of his flailing dumped him into empty space, which was quickly filled by the rock-hard floor. Seconds later, a heavy weight thudded on top of him, and Naruto opened his eyes to see the fiercely narrowed ones of Sasuke's.

For a second Naruto had absolutely nothing to say. Then, "Well that was almost the worst way I've ever been woken up."

Sasuke glared, then hefted himself off Naruto angrily. "You have to be the most moronic person I've ever met." Once standing, he hauled Naruto off the ground by brutally yanking on the handcuff.

Naruto lurched to his feet unsteadily, then rubbed the base of his spine with a wince. He had just fallen off the bed and dragged Sasuke down with him, and Sasuke was no light-weight with all that muscle. "Oww, damn." He pointed suddenly at Sasuke, "You! Never again. Wake me up like that again, and--- seriously! What's your problem?"

"I've been trying to wake you up for the past ten minutes," he stated simply in reply, sounding completely justified in punching people out of their pleasant sleep.

"Apparently they didn't have alarm clocks at Orochimaru's," Naruto muttered. "I don't even want to know what would happen if you tried to 'snooze'. It probably involved snakes."

Sasuke ignored him, instead reaching over to toss Naruto his jacket and shirt. "Get dressed. We're getting out of here today."

Naruto caught his clothes, a grin quickly growing on his face. "You have a plan?"

"Hardly. But it's the only thought keeping me sane at the moment."

"Awesome, just awesome," Naruto grumbled in reply. He then took that moment to assess his clothes. One side of his shirt and jacket were completely torn off due to it being hard to manage sleeves when you have a handcuff on, and his heart hurt a little to see the jacket he and Pervy-sage had gotten in such shams.

Sasuke's haori was in equal bad shape after hacking the material with a kunai, but he didn't seem to mind in the least as he shrugged it on. Naruto followed his lead, and couldn't help a small chuckle at the completed image of disarray they both made. There was no way they could blend in outside in that place, with its bright lights and strange fashion. They were torn and bloodied, and completely alien in that even more alien world. He felt another pang deep in his chest, feeling homesick.

"So where do we start?" Naruto asked as they began walking to the door.

Sasuke was silent as he turned the door handle and stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind Naruto. "The beginning," he finally said.

Naruto furrowed his brow in confusion. "The beginning? Ah, you don't mean... the dump?!"

"Obviously," Sasuke said flatly.

"I guess," Naruto grumbled. "I'm not exactly excited to visit that shit hole again, though."

They entered the stairwell and started padding down the paint-chipped stairs, their feet echoing with quiet shuffling sounds.

They didn't talk anymore as they went, the chain between them was the only sound as it chimed softly with their motions. Both were preparing silently for what awaited them outside the swinging glass doors to the hotel, for what the daylight would expose. Or so Naruto guessed. Sasuke could've been thinking about assassination or the "Macarena".

They crossed the lobby with the large wooden desk and towards the door. Several people in strange clothing reclined on the patterned furniture arranged on the far side of the room, and many cast the two ninja alarmed and guarded looks. Naruto kept his eyes on the floor or else he would exchange the same look, except probably with a twist of horror in his expression.

He was not excited to immerse himself outside again into that sensory-overload of a place. Just the hurried walk to the inn on the edge of town was overwhelming, and it had been in the middle of the night. There was too many machines, rumbling, screeching, and pouring out harsh smells, too many lights blazing and distracting...

Sasuke pushed open the glass door. Instantly, sound enveloped them.

Naruto's mouth gaped a bit as Sasuke lead him out in front of the inn, and he watched in amazement at what the light of day revealed. People, clashing in their colors and styles, walked swiftly and with purpose, darting out in front of the noxious machines snarling on the road. The stone paths and walls of the town were... dirty. The alien trash from the dump was swept up against the walls, fluttering in the breeze, flattened on the road.

The people walked briskly by the two ninja, hardly sparing them a second glance except to flick a disturbed look down at the handcuff extended between them before continuing on their way. It was strange. Naruto had been expecting to be questioned, glared at, something. This eerie ignorance of their presence was probably more disturbing than being confronted. He had to wonder if something was wrong with them. In Konoha, two strange tattered ninjas on the streets would raise suspicion, or concern. Here, it was like they just didn't care.

"Stop standing there like an idiot," Sasuke snapped, bringing him back to earth. "Let's go."

"Y-yeah," he replied.

They began walking stiffly through the crowds, Sasuke with his aloof expression, and Naruto with his eyes flicking every which way.

"Oi, Sasuke," Naruto said quietly, edging deftly around a woman talking rapidly into a device held to her ear. "Isn't this weird? No one is really re-acting to us. Maybe we were wrong, and there are ninjas here?"

"No, they are," Sasuke replied lowly. "Just subtly. They're the kind of people that ignore eye-sores. You can tell just from the surroundings."

"The surroundings?"

"The trash. The filth of this place. The way they live with it is they ignore it."

"You're just assuming," Naruto said, but the words made sense. They stopped with the procession of people on the sidewalks, waiting for the blinking sign over the road to change. Naruto avoided eye contact with the people around them, instead taking the chance to see how Sasuke was faring.

He looked completely unaffected, his black eyes as unresponsive to his surroundings as a dark pane of glass. His body language translated the same message, seeming to say: "Hey, I'm completely normal, someone just fucked with my clothes." As usual, Sasuke was too goddamn cool. It couldn't be healthy.

Naruto, on the other hand, was sure he was just emanating stress and waves of uncool in every direction. He was once again glad that the inn wasn't very far into town, and soon they would be able to peel themselves out of this crowd of people, even if it was to go into a dump.

The light changed, and the crowd scuttled forward again with the two ninjas immersed in their depths.

As they continued their walk much further towards the edge of town though, Naruto began to notice the people thinning out. The sidewalks had cleared enough that it was mostly empty besides a few fast-walking people chattering rapidly into the devices tucked against their ears. They passed quickly, usually with a nervous glance out of the corner of their eye, but continued on their way with the hectic pace most of the people in the village seemed to be possessed by.

The buildings became dingier, with more space between them for dark, littered alleyways, and the people were fewer and growing more dingy with the decline of their surroundings. Though the emptier streets were more ominous, the edge of town was clearly in view and much further out was the faint speck of the dump with its tall fence.

Naruto let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "We're almost out of this alien village," he commented, his steps becoming lighter.

"We'll just have to go back eventually," Sasuke grumbled, his mood as dark as ever.

"No shit, captain asshole. I'm just saying. Anyways, isn't the whole point of visiting the dump to get out of here?"

"You really think it's going to be that easy? We're looking for clues, Naruto. Not a magical door."

"Aww, no magical door?" Naruto fake whined, tossing a sarcastic look at Sasuke. "Fuck you."

The dark haired ninja's gaze sizzled with its irritation. "Whatever. At least I wasn't shaking with terror in that crowd of people."

"There was no shaking or terror!" Naruto hollered defensively. "So just shut up!"

"You still think they're aliens," Sasuke accused.

"You're an alien," Naruto muttered back childishly. "An alien asshole from fuck-space."

"I won't dignify that with an answer," was the curt reply.

Naruto opened his mouth to retort with some more well-versed and colorful insults, but was cut short by a sharp yelp in the alleyway ahead of them. The blonde ninja frowned and turned to Sasuke, the mocking tone gone as he asked, "Did you hear that?"


"Really? I swear..." The sound erupted again from the darkness of the alley ahead, this time noticeably louder. "There! It sounds like a person!"

"How unnecessary," Sasuke replied darkly, his face emotionless.

"Unnecessary?" Blue eyes narrowed.

" stop...!"

Sandaled feet sped up, making scuffing sounds as the Naruto picked up the pace, dragging Sasuke behind him. "Someone's definitely in trouble," he said, his tone taking on the determined notes it always did before he made a hard-headed decision. "Let's g--"

He jerked to a stop abruptly, and turned in confusion to see Sasuke standing rigidly in place, his posture stiff with stubbornness. Frustration and urgency glinted in Naruto's eyes as he glared ferociously at the other ninja.

"What are you doing, teme?" Naruto snapped, pulling on the handcuff. "Someone's obviously in trouble--"

"It's not our problem," Sasuke interrupted. "Don't involve yourself in something troublesome. We have somewhere to go."

"Yeah the dump. It's not going to go anywhere," Naruto growled, tugging at the handcuff again. "Let's go!"


"You're joking."

Sasuke would have crossed his arms if one of them wasn't being tugged by an insistent blonde. "No."

Several emotions washed over the other's whiskered face as he stared incredulously at his rival and supposed best friend. Understanding swept across his expression first, then fury boiled up with a white hot churning. "Who the fuck are you?"

Sasuke's eyes widened a slight fraction at the thick disgust in the tone from the usually sun-shiny blonde, but they narrowed almost immediately, disguising the flicker of shock. For a moment, he was taken aback by the violent switch in attitudes. One second the other ninja had been jokingly arguing, but now after one faceless cry for help he was all claws and fierce emotions. But then again, that had always been Naruto. He had just forgotten.

A hand fisted roughly on the collar of his tattered haori, and he found Naruto's angry face very near his, the blue eyes twin flames burning with ocean-bright brilliance. "I don't know who you are, I'll admit," Naruto said, his voice strong and filled with that determined tone, "but I know who you were, and that person wouldn't have turned their back on someone calling for help."

Sasuke pulled off the hands clutched on the fabric by his neck roughly, eyes burning with equal dark waves of anger. "Keep your prattling speeches to yourself, Naruto. Those heart strings you're trying to pull were cut years ago. It won't work."

Another distressed cry floated from the alley, and Naruto flinched as if he was being physically torn. Cerulean eyes darkened, turned calculating, then deepened with understanding. He then turned without saying another word, and lunged with all his strength in the direction of the alley.

Surprised, and not completely expecting Naruto to leap at that exact moment, Sasuke was ripped forward off his feet and was dragged the last couple of feet to the lip of the alley. "Naruto you fuck--" The dark haired ninja quieted as he took in the cruel scene in the filthy cement hallway before him.

Two men, fairly large and muscled, had managed to pin a middle-aged woman to the wall with an arm twisted behind her back. One was holding her purse and rifling through it greedily, and the other man had a hand clapped over her mouth while he tugged at the waist of her skirt. Tears had made jagged black lightening bolts of mascara run down her face, and she still struggled even though the pain of her twisted arm caused her to make muffled cries of pain around the hand silencing her.

"Yo," Naruto said, and the men looked up in surprise.

"The hell?" The man holding the purse said, looking at the two ninjas suddenly standing in the alley. "Who the fuck are you assholes? Get lost on the way to your Halloween party?"

"That's a lot of questions," the blonde haired ninja noted, his entire body bristled with anger, "I'll answer one for every bone I break." Sasuke cast Naruto a slightly surprised look. Well, his banter had improved, if only slightly. At least he wasn't screaming.

"Ha! You hear this kid, man?" The man said, his voice thick with amusement as he turned to the other who was holding the woman captive.

"Ah," the other responded, his voice a sharp rasp. Beady eyes flicked between Sasuke and Naruto, calculating. "You boys should leave now, this is a game you don't want to play." His partner beside him flicked a knife out of his sleeve. "Keep walking."

"But I love to play," Naruto grinned darkly. "Especially with useless scum like you." He took a threatening step forward. "Sasuke, I know you were opposed to this for some dumb shit reason, but can you honestly just let these assholes have their way?"

Sasuke was silent, then he sighed. "It's not like I have a choice now, we're involved."

The purse in the man's hand dropped with a thud to the ground, and he wiped his mouth with his sleeve while sneering. "What kind of weird fucks are you? Think you're heroes? Listen to him," he jerked a thumb at the man holding the woman, "keep walking, boys."

"That may be what everyone else does," Naruto said, his voice rough with anger, "but I'm not going to turn my back, not on anyone."

Beside him, almost invisibly, Sasuke rolled his eyes. Gallant speech #15, coming up.

"That's a good way to get yourself killed," the raspy-voiced man commented, his eyes glinting dangerously.

"No, it's a good way to live," Naruto corrected. "Enough talk, Sasuke, are you helping or not?"


"I'll take that as a 'hell yes'. Let's get the guy with the knife first," he said, and slipped liquidly into a fighting crouch. "Now."

It only took a second really, the men hardly knew what hit them. In a blur of motion, the two ninjas flicked forward simultaneously, then appeared next to the man holding the knife. With a swift hit to his pressure points, he collapsed with a heavy thud to the cement. The knife skittered across the pavement, spinning with glints of steel menace, now useless. Then, before the man on the ground had completely faded from consciousness, Naruto disabled the man with the captive and Sasuke had a sandaled foot on his throat, pinning him to the ground.

Both ninjas now stared down at the man squirming under Sasuke's foot, his eyes wide and his face slowly deepening into a purple-magenta color. "H-h-how? S-so f-f-fast," the man croaked, his breath wheezing out from the pressure on his windpipe.

"Because you're weak." It was Sasuke who spoke unexpectedly, his voice cold as it rained down mercilessly on the man's ears. "Pityingly weak and helpless."

Naruto, silhouetted beside him, heard the darkness inside Sasuke speaking loud and clear in that moment, like razor blades were in the words stabbing into the incapacitated man. He cast a worried look over at his friend, feeling a wrenching sickness flutter through his belly. Who was Sasuke, really? He had kept his faith in him, all these years, had wanted to save him... but he couldn't be too late, could he? He couldn't have actually become a monster...

"That's enough," Naruto whispered as the man finally gurgled and passed out. Sasuke removed his foot, his eyes infinitely dark.

"O-oh my god, t-thank you!" A voice erupted from behind the two ninjas, and they turned to see the woman leaning weakly against the filthy alley wall with her hand clutching her chest.

"No problem," Naruto called, his thoughtful moment passing in exchange for a wide good-guy grin. He stooped to pick up her purse and walked it over to where she was standing unsteadily against the wall. She took it from him, still shaking slightly, then straightened and ran trembling fingers through her hair.

"R-really, thank you so much," she repeated, her eyes wide and sparkling through her ruined make-up.

Naruto, still grinning, scratched the back of his head awkwardly because of her intense gratitude. "Really, it was nothing," he laughed. "I'm just glad you're alright. I'm Uzumaki Naruto by the way." He thrust out a tanned hand which she shook warmly.

"So nice to meet you, I'm just Larisa, no need to be formal." She laughed. "And who is my other rescuer?" She switched her gaze to Sasuke, who was staring stonily at the wall with fixed determination not to be involved.

"That asshole is Uchiha Sasuke," Naruto answered, poking a thumb sideways to indicate the cold bastard. "He has a speech impediment so he doesn't talk much. Something about when he was a baby and he got dropped..." He trailed off, shrugging his shoulders.

"Shut up," was the expected response from the other ninja.

Larisa looked between the two of them with a smile that said she didn't quite get it. "Um, great, nice to meet you too."

Now that she wasn't being held captive and he could clearly see her, Naruto had to admit she was a pretty good-looking lady. She was about the same age as Kakashi-sensei, with dark waves of hair that fell just barely to her shoulders and soft doe eyes centered in a smooth oval face. She looked out of place in the edge of town, and Naruto had to guess that was why she was attacked.

"So how can I ever thank the two of you?" She inquired, looking between the two of them with a gracious smile still on her face.

"Oh, no, no," Naruto said, waving his hand as if to dismiss the idea. "We don't want any kind of reward."

"No, please I insist. I could treat you both to lunch," she pressed. "It's just food, I'll be hurt if you decline, really."

Naruto, who was about to protest again, was stopped by the sudden snarl of his stomach. He blinked, remembering he hadn't eaten anything since they came to this place, then laughed. "Heh, guess my belly agrees. Fine, we'll accept."

Sasuke's head snapped over, looking incredulous. "Naruto."

"What? How else will we eat today? Just shut up," he hissed back, throwing a "Can you believe this guy?" look over to the woman.

Larisa smiled warmly, her gratitude once again lighting up her face. "Great, great! We can meet at wherever you want, my treat. I'll have to freshen up first though, these alley muggings are never good for your complexion," she joked, though she still looked unsettled.

"Awesome, that gives us time to go by the dum--" Sasuke's elbow jammed into his ribs, and Naruto sucked in a breath painfully, "--dumpling store? Yeah, we really have a thing for those, er, dumplings."

"Dumplings?" Larisa questioned, one eyebrow raising.

"Yes, dumplings," Sasuke said flatly from beside the blonde ninja who was stammering with his awkwardness at lying. Naruto, after hearing Sasuke say the word "dumplings", was suddenly seized with the horrendous urge to laugh.

"Okay, well where would you like to meet?" She asked with a "moving right along, now" tone.

With a straight face, Naruto offered to meet outside of the inn they were staying at in an hour, and she agreed amiably. They all walked out of the alley (mostly by the urging of Naruto who very much wanted to get rid of her so he could laugh openly about the dumplings), and with a parting wave the lady was gone, her purse rightfully by her side.

Naruto stood, watching her go with his arms crossed and a small smile on his face. "Don't you feel even the least bit accomplished, Sasuke-teme? That lady got to walk away unhurt because we decided to take action."

"Hmm," was the annoyed response, but as usual Naruto translated it into a known language that went somewhere along the lines of grudging agreement.

"That's why I want to be Hokage, I'll take care of everyone in the village," he continued, very unnecessarily in Sasuke's opinion.

"If everyone on this planet didn't know you wanted to be Hokage, I would be shocked," Sasuke said sarcastically. "Don't you ever think of anything else?"

"Sure," he said, unfazed. "There's ramen to think about, and my friends. Oh, and this asshole that ran away from home to join the fucking dark side. Gotta drag him home at some point."

"I'm sure that 'asshole' would like to be left alone to live his own fucking life," Sasuke growled.

"Nah, he just needs a push in the right direction," Naruto said nonchalantly. "But of course, you have no idea who this guy is, so don't butt in, Sasuke," he joked.


"So shall we get dumplings, teme?" He laughed, his whiskers curving with his smile. "We only have an hour."

"You're an idiot," Sasuke stated, as if it were a documented fact. He began walking in the direction they had been heading though, before the unplanned act of heroism. Naruto trotted to catch up, then kept pace beside him as they continued to the dump.

Hopefully, within an hour, they could find a magical door.





A/N: I apologize for this taking so long! Besides dealing with my stubborn muse and it's penchant to run off and go drinking (then pass out and not return for several weeks), there's graduation coming up and speeding tickets to deal with... whoo! Hopefully making this a longer chapter will make it worth the wait? I really do appreciate your reading and reviewing of this story, it's what helps me kick out these chapters :] If you could give me a handful, or even a bucketful or your thoughts through a review that would be awesome, it's nice to know what you think, or even if you think I'm just sneezing this all out. (Which would actually be kind of awesome... "AH-CHOO! Oh hey, would you look at that? It's sasunaru." Hehe, 3 M&S