Updated Summary:
"It's the promise of a lifetime! To me and to you and to Kakashi-sensei." But now, Kakashi watches in despair and horror as blood stains the water a deep, unending crimson. "To abandon one's duty is not courageous. Beneath the courageous, there is noth—"

AN: Why yes it's an update. ^^;;

Chapter 5: The Second Promise


The wind was surprisingly cold for that time of the year. He pulled down the folded sleeves of his orange jacket and crossed his arms, stuffing his fingers into the crook of each arm to keep them warm.

He had no idea why he was just standing there.

Perhaps he was waiting.

...

But stupid Kakashi-sensei could move damn fast when he wanted to so he was probably long gone.

...

Although stupid Kakashi-sensei was also often very late, so there was a chance he'd pass by.

He had no exact idea why he was waiting, but he still did.


Kakashi stopped at the village gates.

"Naruto?"

"Uh, hi." Naruto stepped out of the shadows, smiling sheepishly.

Kakashi looked him over with a concerned grey eye. "You alright?"

"I guess," he gave a half-shrug. "You?"

"Mission."

"That kinda really sucks."

A small laugh. "Yeah. I'm awfully late, actually... even though it's a solo mission." He gave a shrug of his own. "At least it's short."

Naruto looked him up and down and up again with narrowed eyes. "They're sending you on a mission this soon?"

"Can't be helped, not when the village is still recovering and manpower's been cut almost by half." He slouched slightly, a hand in his pocket. "The downside of being one of the elite jounin, I suppose."

"You still need rest," Naruto frowned.

Kakashi smiled reassuringly. "Maa, I'll survive."

The next sentence was spoken very, very softly. "You better do..."

He glanced at the boy again, faintly surprised. "What is it?"

"...Nothing."

A brief pause.

"You never did tell me why you threw a kunai at yourself, you know," Kakashi remarked suddenly.

Naruto ducked his head and scruffed his toe against the earth. "Last thing he'd expect. If I aimed for him the other guy'd just catch it anyway." He shot the man a stubborn, defiant look, then crossed his arms and stared fiercely at the ground. "And it worked, didn't it?" The boy muttered.

Kakashi drew in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Just. Don't do that a—"

"—I know," he interrupted hurriedly. "...Sorry."

Kakashi felt the tension in his shoulders, which he had not even realised, loosen a little.

"Well, I guess I should head out now." He took a step forward, paused, and added, "Ah – thought you'd like to know that I talked to Sasuke earlier."

Naruto slanted a glance at him. "Oh. Um, how'd it go?" (Is he... a threat?)

Kakashi sighed. "I don't know if he'll listen, so just... be on your guard." (...Yes.)

Dammit.

A hand tapped his arm lightly, and he half-turned.

"Hmm?"

"Stay safe, Kakashi-sensei," Naruto muttered, turning an embarrassed pink. "Take care of yourself."

He smiled again, ruffling the boy's blond hair. "Of course I will. And look after yourself, too."

Naruto nodded, Kakashi's hand slipping off his head to pat his shoulder lightly.

"Yeah, I'll do that. See you."

He watched the silver almost-shadow leap away until it finally disappeared from sight, before finally turning and heading back to his apartment.

He stared absent-mindedly at his ceiling for a long, long time before finally drifting into slumber.

It's been a long day.


Naruto awoke to a sharp knocking on his door.

"Shikamaru? Wuzzup?" He blinked, still bleary.

...

"He WHAAAAAAAAT?"

The other boy winced at the volume.

"Gimme a sec, I'll be changed and ready in no time!" Naruto dashed to the bathroom, nightcap and several expletives flying haphazardly into the air.

A moment later, the two boys ran down the streets, both grim-faced.

"So, who else will be coming with us? Shouldn't there be chuunin and jounin if we're gonna run into enemy shinobi?"

"Nope," Shikamaru grumbled. "Hokage-sama said I can only take genin for this mission. The village's forces are spread way too thin, and no upper-ranks can be spared."

Naruto groaned. "Crap. So we'll just have to make do with what we have, then. And Kakashi-sensei's out on a mission too..."

"Troublesome," the other boy agreed.

"D'ya think there are any trackers available to help? I can track, kinda maybe a little, but I'm out of prac and I haven't actually been professionally trained..."

"Hope we'll be lucky enough to get Shino or Kiba to come along."

"'Kay."


He grit his teeth, staring grimly down the road which would lead further and further away from Konoha's green gates.

Frustration and confusion grated on his nerves like a cheese-grater on flesh– which hurt, dammit. He kept reminding himself that this was a mission, a freaking important one, so he and to stay calm and not screw up something by being stupid.

Not again. Not like last time.

Naruto shifted his attention to Shikamaru as he started explaining their team formation – Kiba and Akamaru first, followed by the chuunin himself, then Naruto, Chouji, and Neji right at the back.

"I don't like Sasuke at all," Shikamaru shrugged as he brought their briefing to a close. "And I don't really care about him either. But he is a fellow shinobi of Konoha – a comrade, and it's our mission to retrieve him." He stared at all of them intently. "That's why we will put our lives on the line for this, because it's the way of Konoha!"

Naruto nodded, rather surprised.

I guess even a lazy guy like him puts in effort for things like this, huh. 'Cause that's how we Konoha-nin view duty.

His brow furrowed, and he stared pensively at the ground.

I wonder, though... just what does duty really mean?


To abandon one's duty is not courageous. Beneath the courageous, there is nothing.

—Hatake Kakashi, quoting the words of Namikaze Minato.


I think... my duty is...


"Sakura-chan? What're you doing here?"

"Please, Naruto... Please bring Sasuke-kun back to Konoha!"

Naruto frowned, but remained silent as he thought things over carefully, fiddling with the knot of his hitai-ate behind his neck.

'I don't like it any more than Sakura, but... there's always the possibility he left willingly and doesn't want to come back. That'd make him... a traitor. A missing-nin.'

Like Orochimaru.

Sakura stared imploringly at him, desperate and tearful. He winced at the pleading in her pale green eyes.

'Sasuke is my friend – or at least I thought he was – but... He's... not the only thing that's important,' he realised slowly. His eyes drifted to the Hokage Monument. 'Not the most important.'

"Sakura."

The other four Genin watched him curiously as he finally came to a decision.

"I promise... that I will fulfil my duty as a shinobi of Konoha..."

She started in surprise. That was not the response she had expected from the blond, whose blue eyes were unusually serious.

"...and also as a member of Team Seven."

He turned to leave, re-tying his hitai-ate on his forehead.

"And as you know, I don't go back on my word."

Maybe she understood, just a little.

"Thank you, Naruto..."

He half-turned to give her one last smile before they set off.

"It's the promise of a lifetime! To you and to me and to Kakashi-sensei."

—If it was his mission to capture and retrieve a runaway Konoha-nin, he would do so. If Sasuke was willing to return, he would bring his friend back home. If Sasuke had no wish to go back but Sakura wanted him to, he would drag the boy back as a favour for a teammate.

And if Kakashi did not wish to lose another person that was important to him... he would get that stupid bastard back to Konoha, no matter what.

Because it was his duty. To Konoha and the Hokage, to Kakashi and Sakura and even Sasuke – and, of course, to himself as well.


.

.

.

.

And so, he makes his second promise. A promise to Sakura, to himself, and even to Kakashi because he has realised what really matters, and what his duty actually is.

Naruto's concept of duty is something very, very unique indeed.

Hope you liked it? Do leave a review, thanks! (: Sorry for the rather long wait! ^^;;

~rakku(: