I am so, so, SO sorry it took me so freakin' long to write this. It doesn't help that I'm not too happy with it. I don't even know if it's finished, because everyone was suggesting that I do another chapter where Shikamaru learns everything about Naruto and Erisa Daelyn suggested I have one where Shikamaru learns about Naruto and their return to the village and I was like "Yeah, that sounds great!" My mind whirled with ideas far to fast for me to type, and then school and study and sickness and exams and failure and URGGHHHH!

I was also supposed to be writing this chapter with another author but I've heard nothing from them in over a year so... I basically got fed up looking at it sit there so I did something. I don't think it was worth waiting for and I don't really like how it turned out but...

I hope you enjoy this...

Answers to Riddles of Friendship

"I am Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze and I'm about to tell you an S-Ranked secret".

Silence. That's all there was. I think he was waiting for me to digest that piece of information, or he was thinking about how he would phrase his next sentence so I could comprehend it. I hoped he was doing that. The way he was looking at me though, made me think he was waiting for me to say something. Anything.

"Namikaze? As in…" I couldn't finish.

"Yes, my parents were Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki."

That made some sense. Naruto did look extraordinarily like the Yondaime Hokage but it was just so unreal to have that theory confirmed. I mean, while blonde hair and blue eyes were uncommon, Naruto wasn't the only one in the village to have those features. My own teammate Ino had those features; he could have been a distant, very distant relation of hers that was never mentioned. I've only ever seen one picture of the Yondaime, in the Hokage's office. Thinking back on it, there was no doubt Naruto spoke the truth. Not that I would doubt him in the first place, though sometimes he could be misinformed. While realising that, had things gone differently, Naruto's life and the way people perceived him would have been very different to what they were now, the fact just led to even more questions.

"Then why did you take your mother's name? Why is it that no one treats you as a Hokage's son? And why is it that, until recently, no one liked you?"

"You mean, why is it everyone hated me?" He corrected in a casual tone, yet the look in his eyes dared me to challenge his correction. I didn't. I winced at the truth in his words and just dropped eye contact looking at the ground. His challenging eyes held no accusation in them but I didn't want him to see the guilt I felt. I may not have gone out of my way to make his life difficult but I certainly didn't make it any easier for him. I know I could've, had I not been so lazy and un-caring. He must have thought I winced from my injuries, because he said softly;

"Lie back down, Shikamaru. Get some rest."

I did as I was told, not wanting to look in his all-seeing eyes anymore. I'd never noticed how deep they were and yet another question popped into my head. Why did Naruto never look anyone straight in the eye? I'd seen him do it on occasion, with the Lady Hokage and a few others but never with anyone else that he knew. I wonder did Naruto realise that he glanced at people's eyes? Did he do it on purpose? Or was it subconscious? I filed away this question as he began to speak again.

"I was given my mother's name as a baby to protect me from enemies of my father. Compared to my dad's name, Uzumaki was an unknown. My mom came from the Hidden Whirlpool Village before it was destroyed and hardly anyone knew she was married to my dad."

"No one treats me like a Hokage's son because no one knows that I am. It would be kind of hard to tell the village I'm their greatest Hokage's son and then tell the rest of the Elemental Nations otherwise."

Naruto's voice sounded happy when he said this. Like, he enjoyed talking about the parents he never knew. I suddenly remembered the Academy days and everyone talking about what they did with their dad over the weekend, what their mom cooked them for dinner, how their parents were so annoying because they won't let so and so do something. I remember one particular conversation I had like that with Choji and Kiba. We were complaining about how annoying our moms were, ordering us around then smothering us, when I had felt eyes watching me. When I looked I only caught a glimpse of the envy and longing in Naruto's eyes before he closed them in a goofy smile. The emotions didn't even register in my mind until well after the school day was over. Of course Naruto liked talking about his parents, because he never had anyone he could talk to about them. He probably didn't even know who his parents were at the time. Still, something else was nagging at my mind.

"You say the village doesn't treat you like the son of the Hokage because they never knew," I began cautiously, "but that's not all there is to it, is there?"

His answering chuckle sounded a bit hollow and when I turned my head to look at him, his own head was down and his eyes, I assumed, were looking at the weathered hands in his lap.

"In relation to special treatment because of who my dad was, yeah, that is all there is to it. But, in relation to your third question…"

Naruto paused for the briefest of moments, before sighing heavily. As if, in some way, he was admitting defeat.

"In relation to your third question, you're right, that's not all there is to it." Then he seemed to think of something, because he chuckled darkly.

"This were I warn you again that what I'm about to tell you is an S-Ranked secret, which if spread is punishable by death, apparently, by word of the Sandaime Hokage, Hiruzen Sarutobi."

My eyes widened, because, even as he said flippantly, as if he didn't real care about what he was saying, I listened more to his words than his tone to tell me how serious this was. My conclusion: very. Naruto raised his head to me then and looked me straight in the eye. His eyes shone with hope and unusual minuscule smile on his face as he asked,

"So, can you keep a secret?"

It was a moment before I answered him. My eyes closed, as my mind screamed at me to say; "no, I'm not risking it." His eyes had begged me, pleaded for me to say yes and the more I thought about the more I realised I would. All the times Naruto risked his life for, not only me but, all of the Konoha Eleven, the Sand Sibs, Lady Tsunade, the village, the list just keeps going. He's been a friend to everyone, without any of us realising it until he was gone. He's willing to sacrifice his life for those he considers his friends, over and over again. He's done all of this for us and I can't think of anything he's gotten in return other than the betrayal of his best friend.

"Shikamaru, you don't-"

He noticed my hesitation. I opened my eyes and looked at him before he say anything more, but his eyes caught me again and I began to speak my thoughts over my simple confirmation.

"I can keep a secret, Naruto, but do you know what you're asking me? If I slip up even once, I'll be executed. Are you sure you trust me that much?" I asked, quietly cursing his eyes in my mind. They were worse than Ino's kicked-puppy look. Still, he let out a sigh of relief, and then he got a perplexed, worried look on his face.

"Shikamaru, you're my friend and I trust you with my life. I know you won't slip up, but I think you misunderstood."

He blushed with embarrassment. All the while, a warm feeling enveloped me. Naruto considered me his friend. This I had already guessed, Naruto made friends easily and there were many people he called friends. But, I was set apart from the rest because Naruto trusted me with his life.

Throughout the entire time I've known Naruto, many ideas were theorised and a lot of pieces of information were learned about Naruto. But one simple fact became astonishingly clear very early on. Naruto never fully trusted anyone who had once posed a threat to him. That meant that throughout the majority of the time he spent in the Academy, if not the entire time, Naruto only trusted Iruka. An odd fact, if you think of how often he tried to get our attention and yet never trusted us to stay away from him.

I noticed when we first began learning combat. When we practised throwing weapons, he would always be the first person to go or the last. He would stand or sit beside or behind Iruka, out of the way, so if anything came at him he was safe, even if he couldn't dodge. And when we began to learn jutsu and physical combat, he would stand and partner up with people like Shino, Choji and me because we seemed to have the least amount of dislike for him. Even then he was always in sight of Iruka. He would fidget and glance behind him when he had the chance to make sure no attacked him without his knowledge. Even in class, Naruto always tried to get a seat from which he could see the entire room.

When we were older and some of us began to ditch class with him, because it was always his idea, he wouldn't hang around to enjoy the day with any of us. People like Kiba welcomed this with open arms and thought it was because Naruto knew of the dislike for him. While I admit I too welcomed the fact the hyperactive ninja never hung around, I noticed after several occasions how long he did hang around. Just long enough to make sure no one was trailing behind, had got caught or that we were being followed. When on the rare day this happened Naruto was the first one to help, rescue and/or cause a distraction. That done, he never hung around for thanks. I assume, he thought he wouldn't get any.

Even now when we are in our teens. Even when all of the Konoha Eleven have been promoted to chùnin or higher. We've grown up together, fought together, ate together, laugh together, mourned together… Naruto still only trusts a handful, of his already small group of close friends, with his life. To know I am one of those select few Naruto completely trusts is a great honour and a greater responsibility. It's troublesome and I'm honesty not sure that I deserve it but I'll try to believe in myself like Naruto seems to believe in me.

It had been a long silence as we both mulled over the conversation so far, when Naruto finally broke it. He sighed tiredly, as if drained before he unexpectedly stayed true to his title as Konoha's No. One Unpredictable Ninja.

"Shikamaru… I'm the Jinchùriki of the Kyùbi, the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox. That's the big secret" he said that last part with a certain amount of disgust and venom before continuing.

"The Sandaime Hokage decreed no one who bared witness to the attack of the Kyùbi and knew of the Kyùbi being sealed within me could tell the younger generation and those who could not remember or didn't know. What I told you was something the Sandaime had me know by heart when I learned that I was a Jinchùriki. He didn't know if I would tell anyone and he wanted to be sure that if I ever did, for one reason or another they would know exactly what they were getting into. All of our sensei and your parents know, so if you want to talk to anyone about it, they're the ones to go to. I don't care if you hate me now or not, but," he paused suddenly after his fast paced explanation and looked down at his hands again. He finished so quietly; I almost missed what he mumbled.

"…Just don't tell any of the other teams. I want…I want to tell them myself…when I feel ready."

It was quiet for a moment. I didn't know what to think. This…Well, it explained a lot. The villagers' hatred of Naruto, his slight distrust of everyone, even his friends. It explained the red chakra and his phenomenal rate of healing. It also explained the enormous chakra reserves, though I still think his natural reserves are massive. With all of these facts explained, I suddenly comprehended what Naruto was waiting for. The flat out rejection, with cold, hate filled eyes. The sneered insults as I walk away, deserting him, completely uncaring. It hurt that he thought I would do that and I almost got angry with him before what he said sunk in.

"Just don't tell any of the other teams. I want…I want to tell them myself…when I feel ready."

I was the first person he told himself. The person he trusted most of all the other teams.

"You are such an idiot, Naruto."

He looked up so fast, his neck cracked painfully. He didn't notice it he was so surprised, if the look on his face was anything to go by.

"You really think, after all we've been through together, I would care about something like that? You think, I would hate you because of something you had no control over? Honestly? That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."

His mouth was slightly open in shock no sound was coming out. Any colour that had returned to his face disappeared, as he paled. Finally, his eyes were wide in surprise, shining with unshed tears. It was to this lonely, unsuspecting and nearly fragile looking person I lectured to. Before I finished I promised to do everything in my power to make sure he never had that expression on his face again.

"We're friends, Naruto. You said it yourself and friends don't do that to each other."

He stared at me desperately for a few seconds, searching my eyes for any hint of a lie. When he didn't find it, he bent his head shielding his eyes from sight with his spikes. He put his hands on the ankles of his crossed legs and braced himself. Still, I saw the tears of joy glistening in the firelight as they fell to the hard ground Naruto sat on. I watched him cry, in a rare moment of weakness…no, vulnerability. Naruto was not weak, not even now. He sat like that for a few minutes more and I lay and watched him, until he rubbed his eyes furiously with his arm. His eyes still hidden by his bare arm, he said to me in a clear but quiet voice;

"Thank you. You have no idea how much that means to me. Really."

I smiled softly, and replied; "Your right. But, I think I'm starting to get a hint."

He rubbed his eyes again and then looked at me, his bright eyes rimmed with a slight pink, and smiled. It wasn't big or goofy, but it was content and genuine. I smiled back, lazily.

"Get some sleep, Shikamaru. You can ask me more questions in the morning. I'll keep watch."

Shocked, I looked to the entrance of the cave and true enough, it was dark outside. Naruto stood up and moved only to sit in front of the small entrance looking out. I watched him for a minute before closing my eyes and trying to sleep. Leaving Naruto with his jumbled thoughts.

I woke up the next morning slightly stiff. I hadn't shifted my position once all night and now I was paying for it. The fire was still alight heating and illuminating this small cave. As the fire crackled happily beside me, I once again heard the heavy drops of rain on the rock just outside the cave. I heard a content sigh near the entrance.

Quickly turning my head to see if it was friend or foe, I calmed to see it was just Naruto. He was leaning against the far wall of the cave, one arm across his stomach; the other was perched on the knee of his leg, bent close to his chest. His other leg was stretched out in front of him. I notice a black top and orange coat folded neatly beside him. His chest was still bare from yesterday and I wondered how he could have stayed like that the entire time since he healed himself. His head was bowed, his eyes were closed and he had a small smile to match his content sigh. Naruto looked perfectly relaxed and yet I knew he couldn't be, he wasn't in Konoha, he wasn't home.

My movement must have disturbed him though because he slowly raised his head and opened his eyes to look at me. The content, peaceful smile stayed on his face as he asked me,

"Hey, how you feeling?"

"Stiff, and a little sore, but okay" I replied groggily, never really the morning person.

I went to sit up slowly, but a wave of dizziness still overcame me and a dull throb went up my arm to my skull and back down my spine again. I was grateful it wasn't electric like yesterday. I yawned widely, pretending I didn't notice the throbbing. Naruto looked at me amused. Like he knew something I didn't.

"What?" I asked, not liking to be left in the dark.

"You're a good actor but you'll have to do better than not wincing when you stretch to fool me" he smirked. I stared at him blankly; on the inside I was gawking at him. That's like something I'd do.

"I need to have a look at your wounds anyway."

He stood up from his sitting position against the wall and reached down for his black tank top, which he shrugged on while walking over to me. My curiosity got the better of me when I thought of him wearing a tank top when it was raining. There was something unusual about that, considering that even in the sleeping bag I registered the chill in the air.

"How are you not cold? You were up all night with hardly anything on."

He laughed at my curiosity. It was a free and easy laugh that didn't fill the entire cave with noise but was slightly infectious as I found the corners of my mouth turning upwards. I had never before heard him laugh like that. I found I preferred this laugh to his other louder and slightly awkward one.

"Being a Jinchùriki does come with certain perks, depending on how you look at it. Not feeling the cold is one of them." He answered.

"You don't feel the cold," I stated unbelievingly.

"Well, it's more that I don't acknowledge it rather than feel it. I know it's cold it just doesn't bother me," he explained. "I also don't get sick that easily. I've never had a cold or the flu once in my life."

"But you were out sick in the Academy a few times, weren't you? Or were you just ditching?"

"Oh come on Shikamaru. Do you really think so little of me?" he joked.

I raised an eyebrow as I looked up at him, a smirk on my face, which was otherwise completely serious. It was clear I was beginning to question whether Naruto really had been hiding brains in that head of his. Though I still believed he was. As Naruto stood over me he rubbed the back of his head, a sure sign he was either embarrassed or nervous about what he was going to admit.

"Well, I said I don't get sick easily, not that I don't get sick. I have got food poisoning a few times. I also had to go to hospital for a few things here and there. The other times I went off for survival training. You know, to blend in with things and what not."

He was still rubbing his head and I got the distinct impression he was lying but I wouldn't push him. I'd ask him another time for the full truth. Until then I had more interesting questions to ask.

I still remembered the questions I planned out from yesterday before I was stunned into silence by the sight of Naruto. While he explained a lot from the one question I asked there was still so much more that I wanted to ask, so much more I was curious about. He gave one last shrug and a genuine smile before kneeling down and checking my wounds. I debated on whether I should ask him my questions now or wait until he was finished checking my wounds. He didn't like multi-tasking and he didn't seem to mind answering my questions yesterday, but I still wasn't sure if he would tell me everything I wanted to know if he wasn't distracted.

I decided to take an ironic leaf out of Naruto's book and just ask and see what happens. If nothing else, he would probably get a kick out of me using his methods.

"So when did you become a mednin? I was under the impression you didn't have the most... suited abilities for it" I asked, silently adding that almost everyone was probably under that impression. Naruto laughed at my momentary pause, as he began to unwrap my arm and check it. He used that easy, unfamiliar laugh of his and I found myself wondering if the one he used in public would start to grate my nerves if I heard it again.

"I don't have, as you so kindly put it, "the most suited abilities" for it. Grandma Tsunade worked my ass into the ground, so that I could even get a grasp of the basics. I got the practical stuff of first aid really easily; she seemed kinda surprised to be honest. But once we added chakra into the mix, it got really difficult. Grandma Tsunade kept laughing at how hard I found it and it really irritated me. In the end I just wanted to prove to her that I could do it, and she knew it too. She laughed at me to egg me on," Naruto explained with a fond smile on his face.

"But why did she want to teach you?"

"I asked her to."

I was taken completely by surprise by his answer. Why would Naruto want to learn how to do medical ninjutsu? I'd seen him heal right before my eyes.


Naruto's face seemed to darken as he re-wrapped my arm. It seemed the answer was a little more personal than I thought. I waited in patient silence to see if he would answer me. Naruto finished wrapping my arm and leaned back on his knees before answering.

"When I was away on my training trip with Jiraiya I learnt a lot. One of the things he tried to teach me though was how to control the Fox" Naruto was tense as he told me this, his whole body rigid.

"I lost control at four tails and attacked him. I hit him straight in the chest and nearly killed him. Both of us were lucky I came back to myself only a couple of minutes later, or he would've died. I realised that had I not come to so soon, I wouldn't have had time to get him help. Jiraiya wanted me to learn how to control the Fox but I didn't want something like that to ever happen again, so I asked Grandma Tsunade and Shizune to help me. Surprisingly, it didn't take as much effort as I thought it would".

I snorted, and just like that, the dark thoughts that shadowed Naruto's eyes as he spoke, lifted and he was oblivious Naruto again. I wasn't fooled, but I took the hint and hoped my next question wouldn't have the same affect as my last.

"So what's with the sleeping bag? It was only a C-rank mission, we weren't even going to be gone a full day. Not that I don't really appreciate it" I added to the end quickly, when he gave me a look as if to say; look how that plan turned out. He smirked at my amendment and answered cryptically as he started to check the bandages on my chest.

"I always carry extra survival supplies with me whenever I leave the village. Have done for a while now. You never know what's going to happen, I know that more than anyone".

"But why carry the extra weight?"

"It was, as you say, troublesome, at first. But then I got Jiraiya to do a blood storage seal on my shoulder blade. Only I can open it and I don't notice it at all. I check it every month or two, just to make sure I have everything and re-stock if I don't".

"That's very sensible of you, Naruto," I teased, thoroughly amused by his organisation. He stuck his tongue out at me and flipped me the bird. "Very mature, Naruto".

"Never said I was," he sniffed, "now, lift your arms slightly so I can unwrap the bandages on your chest".

As I watched him unwrap the bandages, I thought of all he had done for me in the past forty-eight hours, hell, everything he's ever done for me at all. I deserved none of it. On an impulse that was becoming quite common while being in Naruto's presence, I asked another very general question.

"How do you do it, Naruto?"

Just as he finished unwrapping my bandages, his fingers twitched, his eyes shifted and his body stilled for half a second. Then, he looked at me, his face portraying nothing but poster-perfect innocence and asked;

"What do you mean, Shikamaru?" His voice dripping with curiosity and honey like sincerity.

I didn't buy it for a millisecond.

"Cut the crap, Naruto. You know what I mean".

Naruto grinned a sly-fox grin. This grin, like his genuine laugh, was unfamiliar but somehow fit his face. It told the world that he knew a funny secret we didn't and he wasn't sharing until we worked for and he deemed us ready. I imagine that's the grin he used whenever he preformed a successful prank and no one knew he was there to see it. I found myself musing that this grin probably looked completely different to the one on his tenant's furry face. At least, if the pictures in the history books were anything to go by.

And through all of my musings, Naruto remained silent and grinning. It seemed my assessment was right. He wasn't sharing until I worked for it. I sighed and Naruto laughed his unfamiliar, carefree laugh. Typical, stubborn, unpredictable, troublesome Naruto.

"I mean, how do you fight off an enemy out numbered, with a man down behind you? How do you survive after said enemy tried to literally rip you to pieces? How do you find a cave in the middle of a forest, while on Death's doorstep, with another dying man on your back? How do you evade capture, set up a shelter, heal a comrade and still ignore the stabbing pain and the blood-loss and everything else that's wrong with your body? And all of that doesn't even begin to answer how you stayed loyal to the village even with all the crappy things you've had to deal with in the years you've been there? How do you even-"

I stopped abruptly. During my rant, Naruto had checked my wounds, nodded to himself, gently rubbed some healing cream on them and re-bandaged my wounds. He was, now, sitting back, with a calm and softly content expression on his face replacing his grin, watching me get frustrated with my string of questions that I had no answers to. I was now frustrated, sore, a little bit breathless and unsure whether or not Naruto was going to make me work harder for what I wanted.

He leaned closer, looked me right in the eye and spoke clearly; "Now you're asking all the right questions, rather than thinking them".

I blinked. I'd forgotten that he was watching my family just as much as we were watching him.

"Well, to answer your first few questions, being a Jinchùriki and knowing the Shadow clone technique helps a lot. I know these forests like the back of my hand, for reasons I'll explain to you another time," he smiled sheepishly when it looked like I'd interrupt, before continuing, "I simply made three clones. A blood-clone for them to rip apart, again I'll explain later, and two shadow clones, one to get you and one as a back up distraction. After that, I met up with the shadow clone carrying you and we headed towards this cave. While I healed you my shadow clone made another shadow clone and they closed off the cave a bit before covering our tracks".

I sat and stared at Naruto, he was explaining this casually, like none of this was amazing or awe-inspiring. He said it like it was normal. I still couldn't comprehend it.

"But, how, Naruto? How did you do all of that?"

As if just realising that it wasn't normal, he became flustered. It was something I'd never seen Naruto become and if I still hadn't been so amazed I would have laughed out-right at his predicament. He scratched the back of his head and shrugged his shoulders.

" I dunno how I did it. I just did".

I stared at him for a minute and then I burst out laughing. Naruto looked shocked for a moment, before once again smiling sheepishly. I continued laughing at him and his ridiculousness, because that answer was just so typical, unpredictable Naruto. It took me a while to calm down and after I did we sat in companionable silence for a while, before we started getting to know each other the way 'normal' friends do.

That night, as I lay in Naruto's sleeping bag, with Naruto sleeping lightly and a clone standing watch, I thought back on what I had learned about Naruto. I've come to the conclusion that, even with the extra few brain cells in his head, he's still the same old Naruto. He saved me, healed me and taught me because I'm his friend. He does everything he can for who he loves, because he can. It's just who he is.

He is Naruto Uzumaki Namikaze, loyal ninja of the Village Hidden in the Leafs. A man who trusts me with his life. A typical, unpredictable idiot.

Right so, my idea is to have one, ONE more chapter, where our heroes return to the village. I am gonna need your input on this, because I have ideas but unlike last time, nothing is written at all. And we all know how last time went...
My next STORY is just finished (hopefully) but I'm getting fed up with it, because it is WAY too long for a one-shot. I think I'm at around 32 pages? I could be wrong. It's about Naruto and Gaara dying in battle and going to the Soul Society. I don't know whether to put it down as a crossover or not, because really only 2 actual characters from Bleach make an appearance. Let me know what you think anyway, I have a poll up about it.

By the way, THANK YOU! For reading, reviewing, favouriting and watching! I still have to get back to some of you but before I do I just have to ask... When you say the 1st chapter had a "Monty Python Ending" did you mean the series or the films? Because I've only seen the films...

Talk to you soon!