Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. I wonder if ideas like that are something that are crafted over time, or if they just hit their creators at once – like some kind of detailed fever dream. I wish I could have a dream borne of a brain-burning illness that could grant me a top-flight franchise to latch my name to.

But then I would also need to draw, and historically I have never been good at that.

Chapter 51: Priorities of Youth


There would probably be no high school graduate happier than Naruto Uzumaki. On the day he would be handed his diploma, he would weep joyous tears of blood, because he would never have to crack a textbook again or put pencil to paper in an academic setting for as long as he lived.

School was where his soul went to die, and homework was the IV slowly feeding poison into his body whenever he wasn't there.

It was fortunate that Tenten's office had no windows and was basically a cordoned off section of Kaisha Hien's underground parking garage, because if there were anything to actually look at, he would be staring blankly at it.

Tenten knew that letting Naruto into her personal space for the purpose of studying was a bad idea. Studying? Him? It was damn near laughable. She had to stop repeatedly to keep him from wandering over to her workshop and mistakenly destroying one of her creations that was a work-in-progress.

Sitting on one of her stools at a cleared away workspace, he looked nearly rabid with his book open in front of him. Tenten had no doubt that if Naruto had been chained to something to ensure that he remained in place, he would have given fair consideration to chewing off that limb in order to escape.

Eventually tiring of the way things were going, Tenten closed her thick text with a snap, getting Naruto's full attention, "Are you serious?"

Naruto raised an eyebrow at the bun-haired girl. She'd been in a pretty iffy mood all afternoon since he'd dropped by her office/workshop. He also noticed that she had a few bruises on her bare arms. Tenten wasn't one for early-morning training, and if she had the option, no one would get close enough to leave any sort of bruise on her in a fight, so he wondered what had happened.

Still, defending himself and his currently slothful tendencies came first, "I don't know what you're talking about."

A dry stare, devoid of any kind of humor to the situation followed, "If that pencil sits there any longer it's going to start gathering dust," Tenten said, "Are you going to actually start on that anytime soon, or did you really just waste a full hour sitting here doing nothing?"

Naruto sighed and lowered his head down onto the table with a thud. His homework woes weren't exactly what he wanted to talk about, "I hate everything about this. You know that."

Tenten rolled her eyes in return. He chose the dumbest things to be dramatic about, "Do you want to keep doing your job? If you do, you have to make sure your grades don't suck," She told him bluntly, "I'm not saying sit there and read all your school books cover-to-cover, and study your notes meticulously, but finish your damn homework! You have the book! You know what part of the book you're studying! The answers are literally right in front of you!"

"This is boring!" Naruto exclaimed, wildly waving his open book in the air, "The only good thing about books is that sometimes they have some great pictures! Well, these don't!" He said, slamming it back down on the workbench with a bang, "I need something cool to do! I don't do stuff when it bores me to death!"

"You're wasting more time complaining about your homework and not getting it done than it would have taken to just shut up and do it," Tenten reminded him in an even tone before slowly smirking, "I guarantee my classes are harder than yours. I'm not even talking about the fact that I'm a year above you."

Tenten was a very good student. Seeing as how she specialized in making dangerous weapons to sell to the masses and use for her own purposes, she had to be skilled at several different math and science-related subjects that were considered extremely advanced for public schools.

If she wasn't good at those subjects, she wouldn't have been able to make half of the things she was capable of creating. The other half would blow up in her face.

Naruto stuck his tongue out at the sight of the five different assignments he was supposed to do that evening, "If you had me at knifepoint, I'd still probably rather get stabbed than sit here and do this," A rather sick idea then filled his head, "Maybe I should just ask my teachers if they would give me 'A's if I let them stab me?" He could probably get a few of them to hate him enough to take him up on that, "I could deal with it."

All of that effort just to keep from having to put pencil to paper. Naruto was a clear example that the education system in their country was dead as far as Tenten was concerned, "I'd do your homework right now if you'd let me stab you, but I don't want to set a bad precedent."

XxX

(The Next Day – At School)

There was something… off about the new history teacher Mr. Gen'yuumaru.

Sasuke couldn't quite place his finger on it, but the man was strange. He spoke well and was a good teacher from what Sasuke had managed to glean from several lessons with him. He was definitely teaching things in a way that had Sasuke actually learning something.

"Do you think something's off about the new teacher?" He asked Kiba as they walked down the hall at the end of their history class.

Kiba raised an eyebrow, wondering just what Sasuke was getting at, "Like what?"

Smoothing his hair back in vain as it stuck right back up, Sasuke battled with himself coming up with something reasonable to justify his paranoid outlook on the world around him, "I don't know," He said, "You're the one with the enhanced senses. Anything that you can smell on him, or maybe something that you can hear in his voice. Anything."

With a gruff snort, Kiba shifted his backpack around on his shoulder, "Look, there's something wrong with all of you pasty pretty boys as far as I'm concerned. Instead of talking about the weird new teacher, you could do something more productive, like put in a good word for me so I can actually have a shot at getting a date this year."

Sasuke let out a disgusted sigh in return, "Are you serious?"

"Are you?" Kiba said, not willing to be deterred so easily. He stopped and gestured at the girls walking past them in the halls, "Look at all the potential around here? You can't seriously tell me that in a school with 800 students, there's not one hot girl who'd be willing to give me a shot? Come on!"

"If I knew, trust me, I'd probably do something to make it stop," Sasuke grumbled, irritated at both the topic at hand, and his friend's unwillingness or inability to help him, "You're a world of help, Kiba."

Kiba let off a shrug, "What do you want from me? It's not like the guy smells like old blood and guts. One in every ten person I walk past around this place has something off with their scent. By now, I've just chalked it up to the fact that most of them freelance."

By 'freelancing', Kiba meant mercenary work. And it was a fair point for him to have. Even for ones that weren't, like Sakura, she had taken part in junior police officer camps throughout the summer, so that would only muddy the waters for the boy even further. His nose wouldn't know where exactly to look for anything strange in particular, because his senses were likely being pulled in every direction to begin with.

It made sense that everyone involved in that lifestyle, even loosely, had something about their scent that lent to their line of work. Asking him to pinpoint anything off about one particular person that hadn't been overly suspicious in the first place was like asking him to search a through a haystack with needles sprinkled throughout it, just for one needle in particular that looked the same as the rest.

Maybe Sasuke was just being paranoid. It wasn't as if he had any solid evidence. Just a creepy feeling. If he could go after someone based on that, there were about ten other people he'd take a look at first.

XxX

(With Naruto)

Not another minute. Not one more.

Naruto was not going to sit there and listen to this damned lecture any longer! School hadn't been such a problem before back when he'd been allowed to make whatever on his grades, because then when he'd gotten bored with class he could let his mind wander to more fun things.

But now his job was on the line, and now that he had to sit still and pay actual attention to the droning words coming out of his teachers' mouths, it was driving him stir-crazy. If he had to sit somewhere for long periods of time, at least he usually had the luxury of turning his brain off and spacing out. Not at school. Not anymore.

If Jiraiya was holding the knife to his career's proverbial throat, he wasn't going to let it just die. He may have found school distasteful, but he loved being a mercenary.

And that meant that he needed to knuckle down, and write notes on what the teacher was saying.

But the pen in his hand wouldn't make any more words on the page. In fact, against his will, his hand actually lifted it up from the page and jabbed it down into his free hand. Deep.

Naruto shot up out of his chair, gaining the attention of the rest of the class and the teacher, who stared at his bloody appendage, "…Yes, Naruto?"

"I need to go to the nurse?" Naruto said unsurely, not entirely certain if what had just happened was real or not.

"How did you even-?"

"I don't wanna talk about it."

The teacher stared at Naruto and his desperate attempts to keep blood from dripping onto the floor, "…Yes, you can go to the nurse."

Bleeding all over his notes, Naruto quickly gathered his things and carried himself from the classroom as quickly as his body would manage. Part of him felt shame at subconsciously inflicting such a graphic wound upon himself just to get out of class, but it was quickly forgotten by the time he reached the nurse's office.

It took him a little while to find, as Naruto wasn't accustomed to retreating to the nurse for any kind of injury received at school. In fact, he hadn't gone once for his entire freshman year. As he walked in, he got a good look around, taking in his surroundings as the person stationed there called to him.

"What seems to be the problem?" A familiar voice said, apparently amused for some reason from the inflection in the woman's voice.

"I'm bleeding from the-," Naruto matched the voice to a face before he even got a look at the nurse and quickly stopped all other trains of thought. His head snapped over to the grinning, purple-marked cheeks of the woman who had a hand in raising him, "R-Rin? No…"

If anything, her grin grew wider as she sat at her desk, chin set in her palms as her elbows rested on the surface, "Well, don't you look surprised?"

She was clearly loving this. Whatever 'this' was.

Naruto shook off his initial shock and awe to launch into the questions that were truly important, "What the-? Rin, what are you doing here?"

"I work here~!" Rin exclaimed with a singing timbre to her voice, hands waving gleefully.

Naruto's jaw dropped, "Since when?"

From the way her upper body moved, Naruto just knew that she was kicking her legs under the desk, "Well, I just love children so much, I decided to take a day job as a nurse here when the new school year started. Ta-da!"

It didn't take an expert at reading between the lines to realize that this simply was not the truth, "That's a complete load. You're an actual doctor, who does surgeries every shift, and makes real money and everything. Besides, if you love kids, high school isn't the place to go," Naruto said, "Even if any part of what you just said was true, this place'll make you hate us really quick. I promise."

The grin fell as Rin remembered that Naruto wasn't the little kid that would go along with most of whatever she said any longer. That had been a long time ago. In any case, letting him know what was going on wouldn't have hurt anything.

"Okay, fair enough," She said, "After the whole ROOT thing that happened just before your summer break, Jiraiya figured having a few eyes around here just in case something happened again wasn't a bad idea."

"So it's to protect me?" Naruto said, while still bleeding on the floor, "Tch. I don't need it."

Rin eyed him seriously before speaking up again, "Not just you. We do have other operatives your age who go here too," From Naruto's expression, he clearly didn't buy that as an excuse, otherwise something like this would have been enacted a long time ago, "Oh, don't make that face. You're a strong kid, Naruto, but just being able to level a city block by yourself doesn't do you much good when people have the intelligence and resources to outmaneuver you at every turn. In case you haven't noticed yet, being alone doesn't exactly work out for anyone."

She motioned for him to come closer and began working on his injured hand once he allowed her access to it.

The fact that he was speaking to Rin on school property brought forth another much more terrifying thought, "Obito-nii isn't around here anywhere, is he?"

"That's not even funny," Rin said immediately, "The only reason we still let him around you is because by the time we realized what a bad influence he was, it was too late. The damage was already done. There isn't much else he can do to mess you up worse without actually meaning to."

"…And because he's family, right?"

"-And because he's family," Rin admitted after the fact, continuing to focus on mending Naruto's injury, "But no. It's just me. And it's not just here. I think Gai is a gym teacher at your little friend Lee's school."

"That's Tenten's school too," Naruto pointed out before putting two and two together as to why she had been so ill-tempered back when they'd been studying, "Oh man, no wonder she's so grumpy these days."

The two settled into what Naruto thought was a comfortable silence as Rin finished patching up his hand. She began wrapping it in bandages as she addressed him again, "I think a lot of things are going to start happening soon," She said softly, her eyes focusing on her handiwork, "None of it should involve you. It shouldn't be any of your business, but just in case, I want you to be prepared."

"Prepared for what?"

"If I knew… I'd be doing everything I could to keep from having this conversation with you in the first place."

XxX

(Kaisha Hien Headquarters – Team Kakashi's Office)

It was mission planning time, which was just another day for the field operatives of the Kaisha Hien private military company.

On this particular occasion, due to responsibilities taking them elsewhere, Kakashi and Rin were indisposed on separate assignments, leaving Obito without his regular team members. Thus, he had sought out two replacements to join up with him for his next assignment.

In keeping with the traditional dynamics of his actual team, he needed a logical medic who was easy on the eyes and a human bulldozer type in a mask to do the heavy lifting in straight-up fights. Easy to fulfill in this particular instance, as he had two candidates who didn't hate his guts.

Zabuza stood by the door, leaning against the wall and Kubikiribouchou, which was set tip-first into the floor. Shizune on the other hand, sat reservedly in front of the desk, keeping a cool head as Obito sat behind the desk and outlined what he had come up with as their approach for the coming mission.

To locate Danzo at an upcoming event and follow him, hopefully to a base of some sort. If nothing else, as much information as possible was to be obtained that would help predict his next move or take him down in the near future.

One member of the party was more interested in taking him down as soon as possible.

"Alright, I've been wanting to get at this dried up old bitch for a while," Obito started out, rubbing his hands together with an evil grin on his face, "You have no idea how much I've wanted to put the boots to him."

Shizune sighed; the first of what she figured would be many for the duration of this meeting, "We're not supposed to be attacking him. It's just an information-grab. It's espionage."

Obito gleefully ignored her and began laying out his vision for what was to come, "Alright, we'll need to capture one of his entourage so we can interrogate them for Danzo's escape route, because you know he has at least one."

"Obito."

"Once we have that, we set explosives all along the path he'll take. I volunteer for that part."

"Obito!"

"Then we'll cause a commotion in the arena that would make him leave. He'll head straight down that route, and BAM! Body parts and bandages everywhere!"

"OBITO!" Shizune finally snapped, standing up and slamming her hands down onto the desk, "Were you listening to even half of what came out of your mouth just now? Setting explosives in a public arena?"

"Yeah," Obito said, completely unrattled by the dark-haired medic yelling at him, "It sounds like a decent frame for a strategy to me."

"For an assassination!" Shizune clarified for him, "An assassination put together by terrorists!"

"Right. I like most of your idea," Zabuza chimed in, causing Shizune to groan in resignation, "But let me shoot you this one in return," He continued, tapping the dull side of his massive blade on his broad shoulder in thought, "You can do everything you just said, but instead of making a distraction, I can just go in through the front and start cutting fools in half until I get straight to that wrinkly, prune-faced-."

"Both of those ideas are awful. You shouldn't need me to tell you that," Shizune said, cutting Zabuza off and shooting down the plans of her two partners on what was to be their next mission, according to the PMC leader Jiraiya, "We're not killing anyone. We need to get close to Danzo so we can find a way to track him. From everything we know and everything Tsunade-sama's told me, the man spooks like a deer. If he has the slightest reason to think something's wrong, he'll bolt."

This was the one event that they knew they could expect to see Danzo at. He would be at an arena near the capital of Hi no Kuni in order to spectate a fighting competition with no rules. He went every year it was held.

The special caveat was that it was a showcase for prize fighters looking to earn some money through bloodsport. It usually involved mercenaries who were low on the totem pole of their respective PMCs, or skilled younger members, all of whom were looking for an influx of cash that came with winning.

One thing that was well-known about the shadowy figure that was Danzo was that he had a thing for watching people fight.

…Whether it was because he did the bulk of his recruiting with people he could shape and mold, or because he just got his rocks off seeing any portion of the mercenary population go for one another's throats, no one could say for certain.

If they missed the opportunity to gather some useful intelligence at the event, it would likely be a long time before another one would present itself. They needed to make this count.

"So we give him something to preoccupy his attention with," Obito mused, rubbing at the stubble on his chin, "The tournament itself is a nice start, but we've got to make absolutely sure there's something in it worth looking at. Otherwise he'll spend the whole time watching his back for the first sign of trouble."

"You want to plant somebody?" Zabuza asked, "Fine. I'll get Haku. I seriously doubt he knows her and she'll get the old man's blood pumping once he sees her go a few rounds."

"Mmm. I like that. Haku's a good one," Obito said, acknowledging Zabuza's trainee and daughter as someone who would readily get Danzo's notice for her talent, "But if you want to play this one dangerous, why don't we give Danzo something else. Something that we know for certain he'll be interested in."

Shizune thought about it for a moment before the person he meant became painfully clear, "You couldn't mean-," Obito's widening grin only made the even-tempered medic woman put a hand to her head to slow down the mounting headache she could feel coming, "Obito… no."

He was already up and halfway out of the room by the time her displeasure for his intended idea reached her, "I'm grabbing Naruto!"

XxX

(Naruto's Apartment – That Afternoon)

Naruto was surprised to see Obito at his home, as the man had hardly ever stopped by ever since his last place had burned down, however he had been very much on his guard for the duration of the visit.

Not that he didn't love Obito. He did, dearly, even when they butted heads repeatedly in an effort to get under the other's skin. But if he didn't openly acknowledge that the man was super-shady, that would lead to a level a street ignorance that would make Naruto too dumb to survive in his chose profession.

Whatever shenanigans Obito had planned, Naruto wanted to be ready. He hadn't even finished fixing his home from the party mishap that had recently occurred, so he definitely didn't want to start fixing things all over again.

Fortunately, Obito was willing to cut to the chase when he picked up on this, and explained why he had come to see Naruto after school.

"So let me get this straight," Naruto started after hearing the man out, "You want to use me as bait for the creepy old guy that had me kidnapped when I was a kid, just so you can get some information on him?"

"Yeah, it's gonna be really dangerous," Obito said, his tone completely disregarding the warning that was supposed to go with his words, "You in?"

A part of him remembered what Rin had said while he had been at school earlier, about how she would rather he not get involved with any of this at all.

It was quickly squashed behind the idea of getting paying work again. It had been a few weeks since his last paid assignment, and while he had plenty of money in reserve, when you were responsible for your own bills, there was no such thing as too much money, "Oh, hell yes. I was in the second you said Haku was too."

"Great! We just need a third, and it can't be my cousin."

"Aww. Come on, Obito-nii. Deputy can handle it."

Obito didn't want any teenage whining out of Naruto. Some things he would be a stickler for, "Danzo would know who Sasuke is. I can't bring him," He explained, "You by yourself is suspicious enough because he definitely knows you're with us, but you're such a big juicy carrot he won't be able to help himself when it comes to keeping an eye on you."

"-Because I'm awesome."

"Because you're weird."

"Weird is just another word for awesome as far as I'm concerned."

Obito ignored his spiritual younger brother's egotistical remark and continued to explain the situation to him, "Just don't get squished like a bug in the first round. Give us enough time to set up some kind of surveillance on him if you're gonna lose," Naruto looked offended at the idea that he could be defeated, "Also make sure that your third is good enough to survive their fights well enough to watch your back, just in case the shit goes down."

Naruto sat down on his counter and began to go over his mental rolodex of friends.

He needed someone tough, that wouldn't necessarily oust him as there to be a distraction. So it couldn't be another member of Kaisha Hien. Haku was fine, because she wasn't exactly a well-known member. She did mostly clandestine work. But most of the others would be a problem to bring along.

An outsider. He needed an outsider good enough to hang around in the tournament and get Danzo's attention.

XxX

"Neji!" Naruto greeted brightly, calling the unsociable Hyuuga boy from the roof of his apartment.

It wasn't necessarily a friend that he chose, but he would be effective nonetheless.

"How. Did you get. This number?"

...If he could get him to agree, at least.

"Both of your cousins love me," Naruto said, using that vague reasoning to explain his process before getting on to more important things, "Anyway, I was wondering if you wanted to do something interesting."

"If you recall, I'm not exactly happy with you after the party you threw. The one where Hinata-sama woke up in a bed with Uchiha Sasuke."

Naruto blew a raspberry into the phone. Hinata was a grown woman... almost. If the drunk version of her decided that Sasuke's bed was the best place to sleep off her stupor, that was her business.

They both liked each other. Naruto could see it. And there were a lot worse guys in the world that Hinata could have her eye on than Sasuke. Naruto himself would never let anything bad happen to her in the first place.

"That was a 'Sasuke' thing, not a 'me' thing. Besides, he didn't even do anything, and you busted his nose. Get over it already," Naruto said, moving on before the conversation could be bogged down in subtopics, "I just called to ask, how interested would you be in joining a tournament with me? Fighting would be involved."

"...I'm listening."

Ah, Neji Hyuuga. The guy had a stick up his butt the size of a walking stick, but he was just as nuts as the rest of them in his own way. For all of his prim upbringing, he was a fighter at heart. Naruto had stood against him and by his side on the battlefield. He knew there was a badass behind that stony, stoic expression, and he took pride in being very good in the art of combat.

He wouldn't even care about the idea of there being a mission behind their presence in the tournament. He would only be there to win. Great for a cover.

XxX

(Amegakure no Sato)

Yahiko wanted to be the god of the new world that his followers wanted to deserve, but he had been imprisoned and tortured for months at the hands of the Hanzo regime. He was far from a weakling, even half-dead as he had been after his escape. But he needed time to recover, and he was almost back to a serviceable level of strength.

Still, for the time being, he was under Konan's watchful eye while Nagato handled the believers of the Akatsuki cult in the village.

They were still in the messy stages of weeding out whatever was left of Hanzo's influence. That could take a while, and it would still likely be months or years before Amegakure was truly cleansed of the man's fingerprints.

Which was why Yahiko was irked as he sat by and let Konan poke and prod at him to make sure he was healing properly from his injuries.

"That's surprising," She said, checking over the various scars, some still rather fresh, that littered her leader/lover's body, "I figured Hanzo's jackbooted warden would have been a lot more thorough in making you suffer. None of this should be permanent."

Yahiko rolled his eyes with a snort, "Really? Because it felt like he was definitely trying to leave his mark at the time. Thank goodness for small miracles."

Konan ignored his sass and continued her due diligence until she finished the checkup. She was no doctor, but she knew well enough to handle observation of his wounds, "You should still be very careful for the time being, but I don't see anything lasting."

Yahiko got up and immediately threw on a shirt to cover up his ugly scars, "Great. Am I cleared to get back to work yet, mom?"

"That depends," Konan snarked back at him, "Is that work getting yourself thrown into political prison to be your worst enemy's favorite slab of meat to butcher again? Because if it is, I have to say no."

"You're lucky you're sexy."

"You're lucky I'm sexy."

Yahiko laughed as he buttoned up his black cloak with red clouds. He wore the uniform of his organization proudly. Built from the ground up by other likeminded individuals coming together to avenge the wrongs wrought on humankind during the time of troubles by the warmongering half-demons mixed in with the pure human population.

They were proof that humans from all over the world could join hands and work toward a common cause that would benefit all of them. It was his greatest accomplishment, and would give way to his future greatest accomplishment.

"So what now?" Konan asked, following Yahiko through the halls of a penthouse in Amegakure's largest tower.

Yahiko refused to take up residence in Hanzo's former palace, instead choosing a place amongst his people, watching over them. The windows alongside them allowed them to look out and survey the entire city and the countryside around the lake that surrounded it.

"Well, first I figure we consolidate our power in this country," Yahiko said, his brow furrowed in thought as to how they could go about the next stage of the process, only to be distracted by Konan's gentle laugh, "What's funny?"

The blue-haired woman waved off any offense he might have taken at her reaction, "You don't need to worry about that. While you were away, Nagato and I made sure to make the transition of power as easy as possible after Hanzo's death," Akatsuki had made many of Hanzo's points of power outside of Ame go dark before the final attack on the city proper. There was next to nothing left to take control of, "I suppose we have to thank those intruders from Konoha then. They actually took care of the hardest part of our revolution for us."

Hanzo himself was done in by a fight with Itachi Uchiha, if the reports were to be believed. The reasons for a well-known Konoha police officer to be in Ame were suspicious and needed to be looked into, but the fallout from his presence was something that worked to their advantage.

A pleased smile came to Yahiko's face. The dirtiest part of their takeover was complete. That meant they could move on to bigger and more important endeavors, "Then we have all we need. Amegakure's resources and thousands of willing fighters to take to the front lines. We can start planning our crusade properly then."

No longer bogged down in wretched, useless civil war, the real reason for Akatsuki's existence would soon be underway: the eradication of the damned half-demon genome.

There were plenty of other places around the world that those with muddied blood considered a sanctuary, not least of which, the city considered as the one that got away from him.

Konoha still needed to be cleaned out. Yahiko knew of at least two half-demon rats that he could find there. That was two too many as far as he was concerned.

XxX

(Konohagakure no Sato – Naruto's Apartment)

Preparing for a mission was all well and good, but Naruto had learned to value the downtime that he could carve out for himself before any major assignments. He wasn't necessarily known for doing nothing, but when the mood struck him, he could laze about with the best of them.

This was made that much easier by the presence of a girlfriend that only helped to facilitate that practice.

After all of the business of the day had gone along the wayside, the two of them spent their evening hanging out on the couch, watching television and feeding each other whatever finger food snacks Naruto had stocked his shelves and refrigerator with.

"I'm amazed you have fruit in your house," Kyuubi said, holding on to a bunch of grapes that Naruto ate straight off of. His head rested in her lap as she ran her fingers through his hair, "I know I didn't go shopping with you lately, so who got you real food?"

"I did get it. It's to help. This is all supposed to be brain food, right? I need decent grades or my boss is putting me on probation," Naruto explained, still aggravated at Jiraiya for Kaisha Hien's new policy, "I thought you were grounded, by the way."

"I am grounded," Kyuubi replied, dropping another grape in Naruto's mouth before pointing to herself, "Clone."

Naruto stopped chewing and stared up at herself for a moment before poking her in the stomach, eliciting a giggle and a swat out of her. It proved nothing. He did teach her how to do that. Kyuubi wasn't good at making very many though. One was basically her limit.

"That's such a 'me' thing to do," Naruto told her, "You realize that when your parents figure out you're not really there, this is the first place they're going to check on, right?"

"No, I'm the clone," Kyuubi specified, "Since the real me will get all of the memories anyway, why be stupid about it and go myself?" She asked, only getting a blank look in return from her boyfriend, "Wow. You've never thought about using yourself as a decoy for your clones to do something bad, have you?"

"I'm an 'in the moment' kind of guy. You know that," Naruto reasoned, leaning back with his head still in the girl's lap, "The instant gratification of doing what I'm going out to do on my own beats sitting in a room and getting the memories of some cool thing a stand-in did after the fact."

Kyuubi froze, staring off into the distance in thought before refocusing on the show that they were watching on TV, "That actually makes sense, but real me thought this was a good idea when I made me and sent me out," The clone of a redhead said, "I mean, I feel great right now, but when the real me gets the memories of this later, that point of yours is probably going to piss me off."

"I'll deal with it later then," Naruto said with a shrug before gesturing to his face, "See? 'In the moment' kind of guy," And at that moment, he had a very spontaneous thought, "…I've never slept with a clone before."

Kyuubi's clone thought about the physics. True enough, she had all of the correct equipment that her original had to make such a thing happen. The only problem she could think of was a possible durability issue, "It might dispel me," She informed him out loud before a devious grin spread across her face, "Wanna see if it does?"

It took all of two seconds of thought before Naruto hopped up off of the couch and threw his girlfriend's clone over his shoulder, caveman-style. His attempt to run off to his room was interrupted by his elevator buzzing, causing him to trip over the side of his couch, sending them both spilling to the floor.

"Ow! Fuck!" Naruto cried out, climbing up to his knees, "That didn't pop you, did it clone-Kyuu?"

Kyuubi sat up next to him, holding her head moments after, "No. I think it was close though. Good thing you took most of that fall."

Naruto grumbled and stomped over to the locked door leading to the stairwell, opening it up to reveal Sasuke and Karin. The former stood around looking bored and at anything else other than Karin, while Naruto's cousin seemed less than thrilled that Sasuke had brought her there, "Hey," He greeted before noticing that Naruto looked a tad disgruntled, "What's wrong with you?"

"People really need to call first before they start coming over here," Naruto said, getting out of the way to let the pair in the apartment, "Even you. I don't care if you have a key or not. It's goddamn common courtesy."

Sasuke stopped and let out a sarcastic laugh, "You and courtesy. Hah, that's the best joke you've ever told," He stopped to acknowledge Naruto's beau who was also present, "Hey Kyuubi. I thought you were grounded?"

"Clone," Both Naruto and Kyuubi said, getting a silent 'oh' of understanding from Sasuke, "Hi, Karin," Kyuubi said, trying to be friendly to Naruto's distant family member.

"So what's up, guys?" Naruto asked, leaning against the wall as his company wandered across his living room, "You interrupted a very important scientific experiment that I still plan on finishing sometime tonight," Kyuubi kissed at him through the air in return.

Sasuke didn't bother making eye contact with either of them as he walked to a couch to sit down, "I saw that, Kyuubi. Also, gross."

"It's not gross. It's a beautiful thing," Kyuubi argued, hands on her hips as she stood back up, "…Also, fun. You'll understand one day. From Karin's face whenever she looks at you, I'm willing to bet she's down to fu-."

"Ah-ah-ah! Kyuu, shhhhh!" Naruto shushed the half-demon female, "I don't want to hear about my family like that."

Karin sat down next to Sasuke and glared over at Naruto, "You think I want to hear about you and your 'experiments'? We're probably barely related, anyway," She pointed out before leering provocatively at Sasuke over the rim of her glasses, "Also, she's not wrong."

Sasuke promptly found another seat without saying a word. Naruto fought the urge to dry heave. Even distantly related, that was still more than close enough for him to be uncomfortable.

Smelling blood in the water, Kyuubi walked over behind Naruto and threw her arms around his neck, "Would it really be so bad, Naruto?" She said into his ear, "You and Sasuke are basically brothers. Wouldn't it be cool if it were more official, like in-laws?"

"Sitting right here," Sasuke said in regards to the conversation that had apparently been enacted without his input, "Just making sure: in this fantasy world of yours, I clearly don't get a say in this, do I? Because if I did, none of that would be happening."

"Yeah, Deputy wants to hook up with-," Anything Naruto was about to say was cut off by an optically-initiated genjutsu that put him in a temporary stupor.

Kyuubi frowned and pressed her index finger to Naruto's head, trying to disrupt his chakra to break him out of fantasy-land, "That wasn't fair. You know he's bad with illusions."

Sasuke shifted in his seat, arms crossed stubbornly, "He deserved it. He shouldn't put people's personal business out there in the street like that then."

Kyuubi sighed as Naruto seemed to be readjusting to the real world once more, "I know who you like already. Everybody who's seen you two in the same place does," She said, "Sakura and Ino don't, but I'm pretty sure that's just because they're in denial."

"I came here for a reason, and not to talk about my nonexistent love life."

"Oh Sasuke, don't worry. We'll help you fix that sooner or later."

"Hate you both."

By now, Naruto's brain had fully shaken off the genjutsu that Sasuke had put him under to shut him up, fully reinvesting him back into the conversation, "So what did you come here for?"

Sasuke peered over at Karin who suddenly became self-conscious at the attention, "Oh, uh… I might know of a place where you guys can find out more about my boss."

Naruto looked back at Sasuke with wide eyes and saw the smirk on his face. He knew how much of an obsession his best friend had with finding Orochimaru and bringing him down. This was probably like an early present to him. Even if it turned out to be a trap, it still meant he was on the right track.

Clearly, he was excited from how he chose to spill what he had detail-wise so far with his plans, "I'm debating whether to just raid the place or go in quieter and see what I can see on the inside before making any other moves."

Naruto hated to burst his bubble, but had no real choice in the matter, "It's gonna have to wait then," He said carefully, wincing as he felt all of Sasuke's excitement leave him.

"What?" Sasuke asked in a flat tone of voice.

"I'm leaving for a mission on Friday," Naruto said with a shrug. Things were out of his hands, "I probably won't be back until sometime next week. Kyuu's grounded, and she's not much of an operative anyway."

"Hey!" Kyuubi cried out indignantly, "I did just fine the first time I helped Sasuke with something."

Naruto flicked her on her exposed shoulder where a discolored, darkened patch of skin lay, "You still have the scar from burning a wound shut."

"You love that scar."

"Doesn't change the fact that you got it doing a Sasuke mission."

Sasuke could see where this was going and begrudgingly conceded the point, "Fine, I'll wait," Naruto was skeptical at taking him at his word, "I will! You're the only one that's strong enough for me to not worry about and is crazy enough to back me up in the first place."

"It won't be for that long," Naruto assured him, trying to keep his buddy from doing something impulsive. It was a shame that he had to be the voice of reason in situations where Sasuke got it in his mind to do something, consequences be damned, "Besides, it should take longer than three days to plan a decent raid. If I was ready now, you'd probably just rush the whole thing."

"-Which wouldn't end well," Sasuke admitted. The memory of the hand-to-hand beating the two of them had received from Kabuto was still fresh in his memory. That hadn't exactly been a grand moment, "I know. I don't need to hear it. I said I'll wait."

"I'm just making sure," Naruto replied defensively, "You do that thing where you tell me what I want to hear, then do the exact opposite. You," He said, pointing to Karin, "If he goes, you'll probably know. Call me if he does so I can chew his ass out."

Karin had been against the idea of going against Orochimaru altogether. She was only doing so because as far as she stood, she was marked for death whether she helped them or not, "I don't think it's a smart move to make at all," She said, throwing in her opinion, "Orochimaru is a scary fucking guy. Anything having to do with him is more dangerous than you can imagine. I've never even seen him, but he's got serious reach."

"Oh, we know," Naruto said, remembering some of the things that they'd had to deal with because of the underworld figure's influence.

Sasuke was too determined to let the idea of anything that man could do to him stop him. They had all dealt with too much and were in too deep at this point. Backing out was off the table a long time ago.

"I've been looking for this guy for a full year," The police-officer-in-all-but-name told Karin, the sternness in his eyes actually causing her to lean away from across the room, "The police have been after him for longer than we've been alive. He's ruined a bunch of lives, used tons of people like pawns on a chessboard. It's time someone put a nail in his coffin."

Naruto leaned over to his cousin to whisper to her, "Deputy has a boner for justice," He said, too loud to be considered subtle.

"I also have a lion," Sasuke said, arms crossed nonchalantly despite Naruto's attempt at irritating him, "You want him back in your living room again? I'm pretty sure he sprayed and marked territory in this place somewhere. Keep talking."


I love writing a non-evil, older, unbroken alternate universe version of Obito. Based on what we know about him from canon in his childhood, I see him in this story as the manifestation of all of Kakashi's bad traits, with more extra tacked on, unashamedly turned up to ten in adult body. It's just a lot of fun doing any kind of dialogue involving him.

So yeah, if you haven't noticed yet, this story is where my more ridiculous ideas go. My sense of humor is rather... well, that's a matter of general opinion, really. Take that for what it's worth, guys.

I apologize for nothing.

Kenchi out.