Chapter 28

"How many?"

"Men of the mark or members of the family?" Naruto flinched at Sasuke's numb voice, that sounded more judgmental than it should be.

"Family members."


Naruto pressed his lips together, not able to grasp the thought of Itachi killing five of his precious people. …Or if they actually were 'precious'. "Was there a motivation? Any possibility of domestic abuse? Assault?" 'Anything!' For Naruto any flaw that could cause a dispute would do. Because he just couldn't believe that Itachi was capable of murdering his own family in cold blood without actual cause.

"None. All members of his family were prosperous people. Never reported or seen on the other side of the law…, except Itachi."


"Itachi wasn't the most docile of children. At a young age he's already been reported for theft, vandalism, public fights…" Sasuke stopped when it became clear Naruto wasn't listening to him anymore. "Naruto look. He's different. He's nothing like you or your brother. He's dangerous."

Looking up from the ground, Naruto's eyes narrowed in a determined glint. "I need to talk to him." Wheeling around, he darted straight for Itachi.


Passing his brother, Naruto grabbed Itachi's wrist and pulled him outside the cabin.

The crowd left behind all looked at the entrance where the blond had stormed off. Pain, Kyuubi and Sasuke were the only ones who kept their emotions void, while the rest looked on in major perplexity. Even Shikamaru was confused, not to mention a bit concerned. 'What the hell did you do now, Susanoo?' Sighing to himself with a shake of his head, Shikamaru turned back to the crowd and suddenly became aware of something very disturbing. He was left all alone with a bunch of brutal assassins. 'Oh Naruto, you inconsiderate prick, I hate you so much right now.'


"Where are we going?" asked Itachi, his voice empty and lacking; that only indicated that he was well aware what this confrontation would bring.

"I know what you did."

"And what would that be?"

Letting Itachi go, Naruto subconsciously figured that he must've led them to the cargo area.

"You're a mass mu-…"

"Mass murderer. Sentenced for life for second degree murder." Itachi's lips thinned and his eyes became stoic. "There's no need to remind me that, Naruto. I'm aware."

Naruto turned to him with his full body. "That's not what I was getting to. I…"

"I know what your friend told you about me." Itachi said suddenly. He was well gifted when it came to lip reading. "However you're wrong. You don't know what I did. You only heard what I did from another person's perspective."

"So… then are you gonna tell me what is it that you did exactly?" Naruto frowned when he couldn't seem to get a decent reaction out of that shell Itachi had hid his emotions in. "Who did you kill to be sentenced to death? And… why would you kill… kill your own family?" A slight flinch in Itachi's left eye was not missed. "It's true, isn't it? You murdered them."

Deep fury emerged from Itachi's eyes. It made Naruto want to step back, but somehow he didn't think it was he Itachi was staring at… it was memory. "Aa, I killed them."

Naruto sucked in a deep breath. "Why?"


After nothing else was said, Naruto was starting to get impatient and angry. "Itachi, you need to tell me."


"TELL ME!" Naruto yelled.

Itachi blinked. "Why such sudden curiosity? Why do you need to know? Are you getting scared of me?"

Naruto stiffened at that. He actually wondered if he was, because he rarely let himself burst in such rash anger. …Yes, he was scared, but not of Itachi but of the truth. He was scared to lose someone like Itachi. Even if the man turned out to be a murderer, that still couldn't stop Naruto from… from…. Naruto lowered his eyes, as the sudden awareness of that deep care he felt for the man finally caught up with his realization. Yes, he had fallen for Itachi… and fallen deep. "I'm not scared of you." Naruto answered calmly, "I just want to know the truth."

Red shaded eyes bore into Naruto's intensively and searchingly, as if measuring his very virtue and trust. Finally Itachi calmed down and his shoulders relaxed; something Naruto noticed immediately; making him wonder why was Itachi trying to guard himself in the first place?

"I would never hurt you, Naruto… You do know that, don't you?"

Naruto didn't say anything, but he did approach the man close enough and took his hands in his. Sometimes his actions just spoke lauder than words. "Please. Just tell me what happened."

It felt like eternity until Itachi started speaking again. "This might take a while, but hear me through."

Naruto waited patiently for Itachi to gather up his thoughts.

"I grew differently from the people I was taught to call my… family." The mention of a word family alone made Naruto feel the bitter bearing Itachi felt towards his relatives. It made him just as sad as curious – whatever could have went so wrong between Itachi and his family for him to hate them so?

"Socially, they were rich, influential people. They ruled business industries, were the main holders of stocks, bonds and funds. As it was, it however didn't mean they're lives were easy in comparison. …There were many enemies who craved for their wealth or simply wanted them dead. But such influential people could not have been taken down without sequent consequence; not unless there was a downside amongst their perfection. …I was that downside.

"Not many know this, but the only ties that bound me to my so called family was my father." Itachi looked away from Naruto's startled expression; finding the surrounding cars as a sufficient distraction from the rising anger that was starting to push itself upon him. "I was born as a bastard child. Outside marriage and through adultery. My mother was the lover of my father, who was married and had a family of his own. The moment he found out of my unborn existence he left my mother to fend for herself. In spite of her poor financial position, she gave birth to me. Father didn't even look back on it…

"Living was very difficult for us. Through hard times she became very sick… and for me, it became only a matter of time until I was left alone." Looking back on the past, Itachi paused before he continued. "It was just before my mother's death that I was told of my father and got pushed into his care. Perhaps out of duty, grief or pity, but he accepted me to his family. I would not lie, he did make my life easier and I should have been thankful to him for that… However, all I felt was betrayal and anger. I was bitter.

"He never cared for my welfare before… Of course, not until someone spread the rumor of him abandoning his own son in need. He didn't want his name dirtied. So to perish that rumor he took me." Itachi smirked coldly, amusement being the farthest thing from what he felt at that moment. "I was thirteen years old when he finally took me to his home. …For thirteen years I was a needles insignificance he didn't even want to know of. By then I had already become a street rat. I had joined ill gangs and was seen around wrong people more than once. I wasn't planning on changing. And it didn't take long for the press to find out and go wild.

"At first, it was never about crime, I did what I had to to survive. I fought, I stole and I was punished for it. But later, when my father took me in, I started doing that out of hatred. I wanted to show him what he had forced me to become.

"When he found out of my wrongdoings he put a stop to it. And for a time it was peaceful. I was finally at peace. It took time, but eventually I calmed down. I didn't have to fight anymore." Itachi took in a small breath, his voice becoming mordant and hoarse. "At least… not until the next phase. That's when they showed up."

Naruto urged him to continue, "Who?"

"Rivals." clarified Itachi. "The majority of my father's competitors were people of quality and law, not to mention his close friends. In short, they were people who could easily influence others and hide their traits simply under their names alone. They found out about me, my past and my connection to my father and tried to use it to their advantage in bringing my father down."

"They tried to blackmail you?"

Itachi shook his head, "I don't think there could be an ink darker than what had already been printed on paper about my life. No. They threatened to kill my family, if I didn't do as they wished."

"All that to get your father out of business?"

"In order to eliminate the competition." said Itachi, "…But I told them I could care less what they did. Those people weren't my family."

Naruto's eyes widened at Itachi's cold and blunt words. Itachi answered to that with a simple shrug, "They wanted to daunt me, Naruto, and make me act recklessly. My reply was simply something they did not count for and that threw them off."

Naruto was confused. "So you used a reverse psychology on them or something? You didn't mean what you said-…"

"Iie." Itachi quickly cut him off. "I spoke the truth." His hands tightened around Naruto's. "I hated my new family. Their lives meant nothing to me."

"But Ita-…"

"However… I did care about them enough to tell them of this little confrontation I had."

Naruto blinked, feeling completely at a loss. So did he or did he not care about his family?

Itachi smiled sadly as a memory of him and his father flashed in front of his eyes, "Perhaps that was the first time I ever felt true parental affection from my father. I was even ready to forgive him… But in the end, I was too late." Itachi's eyes clouded again. 'We were both too late.'

"I came home around nightfall. They already waited for me inside the house. I can still remember them all – my father's enemies, business partners and friends… they were all there." Itachi licked his dry lips, feeling it become harder to speak as he went. "I was dragged to where my father was. Voices were faint around, but I could still hear cries in the other rooms. I vaguely remember a dead body in front of my father's feet… Only later did I recognize it as my older stepbrother. He's been killed in front of my father's eyes and I was next… or so I thought."

Naruto bit his lip, feeling Itachi's silent sorrow as the man's grip tightened even more around his hands. Itachi said that he did not love his family, but he was a blunt liar in that perspective.

"My head was spinning, I could barely see what was happening around me. I remember hearing someone screaming my name before I felt a pain in my arm and a terrible ache at the back of my head. Only after a drug was pushed into me did I become aware. My body became unresponsive, I couldn't move but I could hear and see everything. They made me watch how my father's own friend beat him till he bled. I heard screams as my stepmother was taken into the room, screams of her children and painful cries of my father." Itachi looked away, his eyes glassy but emotionless. "After…, they placed a gun in my hand and guided my hold. They aimed the gun at my stepsiblings first and forced me to fire."

Naruto averted his eyes, hiding in vain from an image that has formed into his head.

"Next was my stepmother. And after… my father. I wasn't able to stop the shot." The two sank into a deep silence, not saying and not urging the other to anything for quite a while.

Breathing in deeply, Itachi calmed his scattered emotions and said, "It's true. I killed my family."

Naruto shook his head vigorously, "You didn't… It wasn't you!"

Itachi sighed, running his hand gently through Naruto's hair. Naruto wanted to cry, it wasn't him who needed to be soothed. "I might not have murdered them but I did kill them. I placed their lives on the line. If it wasn't for me and my arrogance, those people wouldn't have been forced to go this far. I threatened their status and lives when I told everything to my father. He was ready to report them, but he didn't make it in time. They found out and took him down before he could do the same to them."

Itachi looked down on their joined hands, his mind flowing through with many different thoughts and memories. Naruto was in remorse, he didn't say anything, but tried to let the man know that he was here and was not going to leave. They stayed in comforting closeness for what felt like hours on end, unaware of a presence not too far from hearing distance.

"They didn't leave me in the house." Itachi went on. "They took me to a car and drove me off a cliff." Naruto looked up startled. "Aa, they tried to kill me. Hoping to place an entire blame on a psychotic teenager, who murdered his family and then ended his life by suicide.

"It was by sheer luck that I survived the crash. I hid myself for quite some time. However, when I returned home, I found out that I had already been labeled as a prime suspect of my family's murder, as well as a wanted man." Itachi leant his back against somebody's car, his eyes staring at the cold iron ceiling of the plane. "I couldn't let it end like this."

Naruto momentarily understood; there wasn't any need for Itachi to explain what happened further. "I returned back to the streets, to my past life. I looked up people I trusted and gathered a group. It was no longer about survival, I had only one goal in my mind and that was an instinctive will to commit a murder.

"I murdered every last person who came to my house that night. I avenged the death of my family, but had little to no proof that could go on my behalf. Soon after I was captured and sentenced to death for the murder of thirteen people as well as the slaughter of my own family. The rest you already know."

Itachi breathed lightly as he finished reminiscing. It was never easy to recall such horrible scenes, especially after years of building a solid peace in mind to block them away. "Whether you believe that I told you the truth or not is entirely up to you."

Naruto stayed silent after Itachi finished. He never imagined that such a person as Itachi was carrying such a huge, cross burden. It was impossible to grasp what the man had to go through at such a young age. It was just twisted and unfair. "You're not a bad person, Itachi." was what Naruto whispered to him. "Not at all."

Near the entrance, leaning against a post and listening silently was Kyuubi. He had heard Itachi's life story from the start. Despite it being sad and sorrowful, he felt relieved. So it wasn't a lost cause, he could trust Susanoo with his brother after all. Just as silently as he came, he left.


Coming down the stairwell, Shikamaru looked around the cargo area. Nothing but cars met his searching eyes. With a tired groan he turned to his hip companion, "They're not here."

"Open yer dull eyes and peer between the lines. There! I see them sleepin'," Hachibi smirked slyly once his eyes caught the two missing escapees leaning against Pain's car. "Right next to Aston Martin."

That's where Shikamaru finally spotted them too. Both asleep and in each other's embrace. "Troublesome pair," with a grunt, Shikamaru headed towards them. "Oi! Get up you two! We're landing soon."

B pushed the switches on, lighting the entire area. Naruto blinked and momentarily covered his eyes from the burning bright lights. "Were we sleeping?"

Itachi stretched his sore muscles, sighing in content when his bones finally popped back to the right places. No, falling asleep on the floor was a really bad idea.

"You tell me." teasingly taunted Shikamaru, absorbing their suggestive position. "Did I miss anything entertaining?"

Naruto stuck his tongue out at him and gave Itachi a kiss on the cheek. Now fully awake, and granted with the opportunity, Itachi pulled Naruto back to initiate a lip-lock kiss.

"Oi OI! Don't even think about it! Not in front of me you don't!"

Receiving no chance to go beyond the deep kiss, Itachi suddenly found himself being pulled away from Naruto and thrown aside. 'What just happened?'

"Stop being an ass, Kyuubi!"

Itachi sighed. Ah… of course, it was the protective brother, who, apparently, aside an uncontrollable character and a bad sense of timing, possess a brutal strength as well.

Kyuubi huffed. The little brat should know by now; it was purely instinctive for him to protect his brother from all those bloody vultures. "Well if you're going to get frisky with your boyfriend, you should have the decency to force the lock and do it in Pain's car. Away from the eyes."

"KYUUBI!" Naruto screeched at him in total embarrassment.

"I'll pretend that I did not just hear you say that, Kyuubi."

Itachi and Shikamaru both stiffened, while Naruto and Kyuubi went red and white in the face. B however was joyfully laughing his ass off as Pain appeared.

"So these are your new friends, huh, Naruto?" asked Pain, coming to stand in front of Itachi and Shikamaru.

Naruto hurried over to stand between them. "Hai. Itachi, Shikamaru, this is my dad."

Both nodded their heads in a short greeting. "Sir."

Pain cocked an eyebrow. "Peculiar." he smirked, giving Naruto a bad vibe. "It's rare to see someone trying to show me such respect out-front. Unless they're hoping to stay on my good side."

Naruto was ready to whine, "Dad, stop taunting them."

"I'm not taunting them. Simply measuring their endurance."


"These boys are A-OKAY! Checked myself." B patted Shikamaru and Itachi's shoulders encouragingly, "They even helped Naruto through his worse times."

Pain narrowed his eyes, doubt and distrust written all over his face, "And how would you know what they did to my son while in prison?"

B rubbed his neck in thought. "Well…"

"Oh come on!" Naruto threw his hands up, "Are you actually going to do this now? You liar! You promised me you would leave them alo-…"

Clapping his hand over Naruto's mouth, Pain held the struggling boy still. "Aa. I recall something of the sort." Sure, he promised a lot of things, but stood strong to his promises almost never. "However, there's such a thing as providence."

Shikamaru and Itachi exchanged looks. It was bad enough that they had to confront Naruto's father, but worse was the fact that it had to happen right now, with them standing very close to the plane's hatch. And suddenly, Naruto's previous joke of them getting thrown out of the plane became that much more realistic.

"Don't worry. There's only one question I intend to ask you two." assured Pain, calming Naruto and the others down. However, once the question was spoken, the escapees would've preferred ten other challenges to that one. "How did you persuade my son to let you join in his escape?"

Itachi and Shikamaru became a bit nervous. Actually, the way that went down would probably be enough to earn them a free ticket outside this plane without a parachute.

Not letting the silence linger, Itachi spoke first. "Your son and I didn't start off on positive terms. Frankly speaking, Naruto didn't even like me at the beginning. However, our roundabout did earn its benefit in the end. Naruto owed me a favor." Consequently, Itachi freely let Pain know that he practically forced his son to include him in his escape, but skipped out on actual details of his true motivation, the man would probably regard it as a pitiful lie anyway.

Shikamaru was reluctant to lay out his own answer. Thought he, on the other hand, did not miss out on details, just so he could see Itachi's reaction and rising anger. But that did earn him a promised talk with Kyuubi, who was silently cracking his knuckles. "… Sooner or later it was bound to happen. Naruto was my cellmate. And he wasn't particularly silent either." Naruto glared at the double meaning of that sentence.

Tapping his fingers against Naruto's shoulder, Pain appeared to be considering things over; however in truth, he had already decided to let Naruto deal with his friends as he pleased. After all, he was only there to condemn those two new faces to his memory, so he would remember who to shoot in case something went wrong with his son. Closing his eyes, he smiled. "It takes guts for a man to tell such dirtied truth. Though desperation might sometimes become a key in need. …Especially when a man's life is on the line." Ruffling Naruto's hair, Pain turned his back to them and started heading back to the stairs. "Come. We're descending soon."

Kyuubi's mouth agape as he stared after his departing father. "Wait! That's it?"

Naruto was over the top. Pain actually gave him this chance to deal with the matter on his own. He hugged Shikamaru and pulled Itachi for a quick kiss.

B smacked surprised Kyuubi on the back, "Yer old man sure has changed, ne? Or should I say – grown up? Earlier he'd simply shoot a man in the leg if he as much as looked at him wrongly."

The redhead huffed, not at all pleased that Itachi and Shikamaru got off the hook so easily. "What the hell is he thinking? The least he could do was break their noses, like he did with all those other suitors."

B hummed. "I'd say that he's finally starting to trust you two to fend for yourselves."


A lot of hugs were exchanged at that hour as Naruto and the rest said one final goodbye to their acquaintances and friends. The gangs were wishing each other luck on the way, the best for the future or simply shouted a snarky comment before they skedaddled. The leaders, however, exchanged their byes a bit differently.

"You always know how to rip-off a man from his last socks, Pain. The flight wasn't even that conformable for you to charge me with such a sum. Furthermore, you were a lousy host." grumbled Hanzou, receiving strong support from Ay and Zabuza alike.

"Watch it, Salamander. Don't force me to hack your account for the fourth time, just because you don't know how to stand on your own two feet through measly bumps." said Pain with a nonchalant frown. "A deal's a deal."

"Ravenous bitch," Hanzou turned his glare away with a huff.

"Aww come now, Pain. Surely you can't be that evil. Didn't your boys ever teach you about such a thing as benevolence?" Mei chirped in a persuasive tone. "Surely having such sweet angels running around your life must have softened that steel of a heart you have."

Pain's eye visibly twitched. "Angels? Kyuubi and Naruto? …Ah …Sure, they taught me a lot." Losing that wicked smirk, Pain scowled. "Especially, how to persuade someone into getting what they want! Now. If you don't pay up within the next two weeks, I'm going to trash your lives."

Zabuza grit his teeth. "You twisted son of a bastard! You and your sons are a pain! I hope I won't see you again for the rest of my life!"

Kyuubi chuckled as he watched Pain deal with the rowdy leaders, while those same leaders looked just a pinch away from starting another war with him. "Surely this whole issue can't be good for you, old man. No matter how much you get a kick out of it."

Two equal weights suddenly dropped down on either side of him. Kyuubi wasn't that surprised to see his two cousins sitting next to him on the boarding stairs.

"What's up?" grinned Ginkaku.

"Haven't got a chance to talk now did we?" said Kinkaku.

"Not since two years ago." nodded Kyuubi.

"Aa. Though I can't help but ask first. What's going down with our cheery blond?" asked Ginkaku. "I hear he got himself a fine keeper."

Kyuubi arched his brow, "Who the hell told you that?"

The two brothers burst with a loud laugh, "Geez man. Everyone knows by now."

"After all, you should never fall asleep in the arms of another man. Especially while staying all alone in a dark room."

Kyuubi groaned. 'Of course…' he could name a number of people who could have walked in on Naruto and Itachi while they were in the cargo area – starting from Shukaku (who probably was the one to babble everything out from the beginning) and ending with the last plane navigator. "A twaddler nest is what you all are!"

"You forget. There's no such thing as privacy when it's between all of us." remarked Ginkaku.

"I for one feel content… maybe." said Kinkaku, his eyes watching a certain blond in the mix of other people. "The little nitwit has finally fallen in love~" he singsong, "Now ain't that sweeeet?"

Kyuubi smirked, "Over my dead body. And who said it is love?"

"Stop spacing out, you glum bastard. It's not like I'm dying or anything."

"No, that'd be too good to be true."

"Shut up! You know you'll miss me!"

"Hn," Saskue just stuck his nose away, hiding that small smile that came out at his friend's short tempered blowups.

Not able to catch the expression on Sasuke's face from his perch on the car's hood they were sitting on, Naruto pushed his best friend with his shoulder. "Oi. You know that this isn't the last time I'll be seeing you, right?"

"Perhaps not, but it'll be the last until a few years will pass."

"Aww… you're so sw-…"

"And I'll be enjoying every second of it."

"You're such a bastard!"

The dark-haired male chuckled and finally turned to his friend with a content look. "I'm not going to ask for your number, because I know you have mine." It was already a common knowledge to them all, that no one is to know the number of the Namikaze twins or Pain. And the only chance of contacting them is whether through the gang or if they decide to call you themselves.

Naruto's ambivalency returned back to the soft side. He knew Sasuke would want to know his phone number or location, but for now, it was just too dangerous to reveal. "Sasukeee… stop making me feel like an ass."

"It can't be helped. But I guess there's also a bright side. That means I won't have to spend money on calling you."

Naruto's grin turned upside-down, "Oh yeah!? Well then, I'll just make sure you pay for all my received calls, you cheap bastard of a best friend!"

"That'll surely save me time to avoid a nasty surprise."


Laughing in his sleeve, Sasuke suddenly got distracted by Susanoo Itachi, whom he saw having a small one-on-one conversation with Nara Shikamaru. "Naruto. Are you sure he's the one for you?"

Naruto also looked at Itachi and smiled, "You know that I can't ever be sure on everything. But I can't help but feel that he and I will be alright together."

Giving up on trying to persuade him, Sasuke knew that the only thing left now was to open his arms. Naruto grinned at the gesture and hugged Sasuke with all his might. "I'll miss you, teme."

"Same. Be safe, dobe." with a final kiss to Naruto's temple, Sasuke got into his car and drove off.

As soon as the speeding car disappeared down the horizon and the rest of the gangs dispersed, Naruto returned to his two escapees.

"Did he have to kiss you?" irritated asked Itachi after Naruto was finally done on saying his goodbyes and exchanging wet kisses left and right.

Naruto elbowed him. "Stop being so jealous. And he didn't kiss kiss me."

Shikamaru agreed, "He's right, Susanoo. A kiss goes on the lips. Like this." Before it occurred to Itachi what Shikamaru was trying to imply, he saw his blond being dipped over and Shikamaru kissing him fully on the lips.


Quickly pushing Naruto into advancing Itachi's claws, Shikamaru sprang back. "Temper temper lover boy. Don't cause trouble on public airport."

"No one will miss you."

'Good grief.' rolling his eyes at the two, Naruto pulled out a neatly wrapped wallet from his pocket and handed it to Shikamaru. "Here. This is for you."

Perplexed, the brunt reluctantly took the offered item and opened it. His eyes widened at a handful of dollar bills it contained. The leather parcel nearly slipped from his hands from the shock. "The hell, Naruto, I can't accept this!"

Naruto crossed his arms, denying the return of the given gift. "And how do you suppose you're going to travel to Canada without any cash? Swim for it?"

Shikamaru lost count at a thousand. "Where did you get this much money?"

"My earnings." the blond replied. "Though I do expect for you to return it."

Shikamaru looked at Naruto's genuine smile and caught the double meaning behind those words. It wasn't as much about returning the money as it was about them meeting each other again, and hopefully, real soon. "Then don't take too long to call me." Shikamaru handed Naruto a piece of paper with a number on it. "It's Ino's."

Naruto nodded and pulled Shikamaru into a strong hold. "Good luck, Shika. Say hi to your kid from me." Though before the two could exchange a touching kiss, Itachi's voice boomed, "Don't. Even!"

The two ex-cellmates burst laughing and settled for another man-hug.

Turning then to Itachi, Shikamaru offered his hand. With an intense stare, the two gave the other a firm shake and one final smirk.

"Stay out of trouble."

"You know I won't."


Kyuubi woke up from his drowsiness with a startled snore. His head falling from the hand he was leaning on. They should have had departed an hour ago, if not for the waited arrival of their retarded guest, who was late as hell. "What the fuck is taking so long?!"

"Surely important matters came at an inconvenience." guessed Hachibi. "We can give him a few more minutes."

"Fuck this! We should just dump him and leave already!" standing up, Kyuubi marched up the boarding stairs.

"I bet Ero-sennin is just having another one of his inspiring moments in the 'bath-club'." Naruto mumbled sleepily, halfway leaning against the yawning Itachi.

"Who's that now?" curious asked Itachi.

"My uncle."

Just when Kyuubi opened his mouth to declare their departure, a car honked, parking in the confined zone. A flashy man in hazel crocodile shoes, white pants, red shirt and white jacket stepped out of the driver's seat and flipped his glorious spiky white mane. "Greetings squirts! Master has arrived! Ah Yeah! I'm in spotlight! Hahahahaha… Now prepare to be blown by my glorious-…"

"Shut the fuck up, you ero-freak! What the hell took you so long?!" yelled Kyuubi over the entire airport.

A tick marked quickly appeared on Jiraiya's forehead, "It's a fashionable thing to be late, you brat! Stop ruining my groove!"

"Your groove is just as nonsensical as your books – old, cheesy and illegal!"

"AH! How dare you insult such fine artistic sanctity?! My books are the pride of all male species! The very balance of life lies in the pages of my awesome novels!"

"Don't confuse the balance of life with the demise of humanity!"

"Why you little…-GHAA!"

"You're seriously starting to make me regret this union, Jiraiya." Soft, feminine, yet powerful voice reached through Jiraiya's spinning head. Or rather it was that hard punch that reached him…

Seeing that none of the two idiots were planning on ending this verbal exchange anytime soon, the woman decided to end the misery her own way – by punch Jiraiya on the head.

Opening his eyes, Jiraiya's 'kicked-puppy' gaze travelled from high heeled shoes, up to a white dress hugging a perfect body and (after lingering a little just below the collarbone) up to the woman's divine features. "But honey… I…"

Crossing her arms over her fine chest, the female's amber eyes flashed in stern warning, quickly causing Jiraiya to shut up. "Honestly, you're behavior is worse than that of a child."

"I'm innocent I tell you!"

The woman rolled her eyes with a tiresome sigh. "Dear god. What the hell was I thinking when I said yes?"

Coming to, Jiraiya blinded her with his flashy grin, "You were thinking: 'about damn time you stud of a hulk'."

Huffing, the woman passed him with a sly smirk on her red lips. The diamond shaped crystal on her forehead glittered against the setting sun behind the Boeing's tail. "Try: 'you're sleeping in the shed for the next week'."

Jiraiya's eyes shot wide, "NO! You can't!"

Sending Jiraiya a clear look that clearly said 'just try me', Tsunade proceeded with the first priority of her business here – that being Naruto. "Come here, brat! Let me take a look at you."

Naruto sprang from his seat and ran into the woman's warm embrace. His fingers feeling the soft texture of her long blond hair falling freely over her back. "Obaa-chan!"

Tsunade groaned in annoyance at the name, but decided not to comment on it right now as she was more than willing to return the embrace.

"Why don't you ever greet me like that, woman?"

Ignoring Jiraiya's complains in the background, she reprovingly pinched Naruto's cheeks. "You made me worried sick, you stupid boy."

"Ow! Grandmaaa!"

"What were you thinking getting yourself caught and imprisoned? I should seriously smack you right here and now." While stating her threats, Tsunade's sharp eyes quickly looked over Naruto's entire body, making sure her troublemaking nephew was fine and well.

Despite the inflicted pain by the devilish woman, Naruto couldn't stop himself from smiling in joy. Yep, that was his lovable aunt, who always showed her concern for him through anger while at the same time hugged the death out of him. That woman had always been one of the most important people in his life, right after Pain and Kyuubi. An antipode of law, a great healer, strong willed, smart, hard-shelled woman with a strength that made men shake.

Breaking her line of concentration, that stopped fixed on his shoulder, Naruto grabbed her hand and pulled her along. "Come. I want you to meet s-…" Feeling something rough on her finger, Naruto suddenly stopped, "Wait a minute!" Quickly he pulled her hand closer to his eyes and gaped at a glittering diamond ring on her ring-finger. "Oh god! You're married?!"

Tsunade's smile only guided Naruto to ask more. "But how? When? To whom?"

Jiraiya placed his hand around Tsunade's shoulders and flashed Naruto another one of his large grins. "Have a wild guess, kiddo."

Naruto's eyes widened even more when he saw a ring on Jiraiya's left hand as well. "You… you're married to Jiraiya?"

"Oi! What's with that face? What the hell is so wrong with marrying one of the greatest men on earth?" Another vein popped on Jiraiya's forehead. "If anything, you should have long since seen this coming!"

Tsunade looked at the ring with a genuine smile, a rosy hue appearing to her cheeks. 'How could I not. Who else can make sure to keep this idiot out of trouble?'

"Oh Baa-chan, I'm so sorry…"


After her pouting husband fled in search of Pain, Tsunade turned back to the matter at hand. "Let's leave the story telling for the nighttime. More importantly, who made such a sloppy job on treating your injured shoulder?" she asked, pulling his shirt to look at the bandages.

Hearing that, Kyuubi snapped his mouth close and crossed his arms with an offended 'hmph'.

Naruto blinked, he had already forgotten about his injury. But that wonder how Tsunade managed to figure out that he was injured still astounded him, even more because his injury was covered behind a shirt (which, by the way, he should probably return back to Sasuke someday, as it belonged to him).

"Never mind that," shaking his head, Naruto steered her back towards Itachi. "Come and let me introduce you to my friend."

Tsunade blinked as Naruto brought her over to a no-name man, whom she never saw and knew nothing about. The young man was tall, dark and looked rather sinister to her. But once she saw Naruto take him by the hand, all that ice melted away. As if just by being next to Naruto had brought the man his light back. She cocked her eyebrow in serene curiosity, "Who might this be?"

"Susanoo Itachi, ma'am." Itachi introduced himself.

His surname made Tsunade sink in thought, 'Susanoo?' memories flashed before her eyes until they stopped before a bold title of an old newspaper – Slaughter of the Susanoo family. 'He's the one who…' "You're that boy," she said suddenly. "A murderer…"

The lack of benevolence in her voice made Naruto tense. Her rage was manifesting into something bad. "Baa-chan! No!" jumping quickly between them, Naruto nearly knocked her off her feet as he enclasped her tightly to prevent her killer fists from flying at Itachi. "Don't kill him! It's not what you think! He's innocent!"

"Naruto, you little fool! Don't you think I know that?!" Tsunade snapped at the blond, pushing him away.

Her abrupt words froze Naruto on the spot, making him blink repeatedly. "You… what?"

"We're well aware of his history, Naruto."

"Y-you are? How? And who's we?"

"Pain, Jiraiya and I." Tsunade snorted at Naruto's dumbfounded expression. "Did you honestly think we'd let you bring inmates from that prison without gathering all the data first?"

"You mean to say, that you knew everything about Itachi, Shikamaru and Madara before we even escaped? And Dad knew as well?!"

"You honestly need to get a clue, brat. Did you not think he'd make a thorough search on your friends' history till the very last detail?"

"I…" Naruto paled. "But why didn't he tell me sooner?"

"He was curious. I believe he wanted you to find everything out on your own. He has confidence in you after all." 'And for good reason too.'

"So… you know about Itachi then, right?" Naruto fiddled with his words weakly, "I mean, everything?"

Tsunade fixed her gaze on the black-haired man. "Yes. I know what happened. And I'm sorry, Itachi."

Itachi's gaze lowered, the annoying pain of guilt squeezing his heart harshly. 'I'm sorry too.'

"I may not be the one to console, but I can see where you're coming from. Pain's childhood hasn't been flourished as well." said Tsunade. "At least…" looking to the side, she saw Kyuubi and Naruto, "…not until the appearance of something special in his life." Tsunade smiled then at the man as she saw Naruto take Itachi by the hand again, their exchange of warmth and compassion in gesture and eyes speaking loudly for the both of them. "And I think there's no need to say, that you have just received a part of that same gift that he did."

Itachi was startled by her words. Was she actually implying what he thought she was? "Ma'am?"

"I do not know you well, but Naruto seems to know enough to place his trust in you. And it is fine with me. I entrust you to take good care of my nephew, Susanoo Itachi."

Itachi did not know what to say. He just received the second approval from one of the most important people of Naruto's life. Not to mention a whole new set of string of threats of what's going to happen to him if he doesn't treat Naruto right.

"Tsunade-hime. You're being awfully rude, siding with Naruto's new boyfriend without consulting the rest of us." Gamabunta, the ever witty man stared down at them from the entry door, a pipe in his hand. "Now then. Are you going to board soon or should I just inform your husband that you finally decided to run away from him?"

Tsunade's eyes flashed menacingly. "Careful Bunta, don't force me to throw your dear pet in a soup."

"Dear god, Bunta! Don't let her near the kitchen! We still have 24 hours left to fly." Jiraiya screamed somewhere behind the bulky man. Tsunade's teasing smile snapped in half and she stormed the rest of the way into the plane to find Jiraiya and hit him.

Naruto chuckled as he soon heard a familiar yelp. "Don't worry. They seem crazy but you quickly grow to love them." he squeezed Itachi's hand to reassure the man that it wasn't as bad as it might look.

'Nothing really matters as long as you're here.' Itachi kissed the back of Naruto's hand before they boarded the plane, finally set towards their freedom and new lives.

… … …


Ending is really close by now. Not sure yet, but I guess it'll take 2 more chapters before I finish this story. Thank you all for sticking with me this far! ;))

& a big thanks to: NiChee, baka36411, brokenfromthepast, TigrezzTail, jayjay jin, Kuruizaki-hime, lulubeck, xdevil-childx, Manga Ren, Kyuubi's Death, yaoilovelove, LillyTigress, Emiko. Senju. Uchiha. Namikaze, P. Nutte, The Winggoddess, Narutopokefan, guests, Kurokage Kitsune, JackFrost25, krazylittlekat, Izzy848, the-darker-side-of-things & Conflicted Soul! XD