Disclaimer: Masashi Kishimoto owns the original concept of Naruto and it's characters.

I'm terribly sorry for my unforgivable disappearance. Real life has been very tough for the past few months and my brain decided not to let me write. *sighs* But again, thank you for your continued support even though I've become one of those writers who have neglected their stories, not because I wanted to, of course. I doubt if anyone still remembers me *sulks in emo corner*

Here's another chapter. I hope you enjoy!


:Second Run:

.X.

It was a small and ordinary building, with only about five floors on it, situated in the part of Konoha where most of the middle-class could be found.

A man with an orange hair and face full of piercings turned heads because he clearly didn't belong in this part of the city.

Pein walked pass the guards with the black masks standing outside the building—ANBU guards—thinking how bold and careless of that man to leave this distinct part of the police force outside. Not that he cared; he was here simply for business.

He took the stairs and stopped at the third floor, then walked until he reached the end of the floor. The man pushed the only door and entered. The room was completely bare except for the large rectangular mirror in the wall, a white plastic chair and table with a headphone. Pein quietly picked the headphone, adjusting the mike before sitting.

"You failed." The voice on the other line was deep and flat. Pein knew that he was completely seething. "Three of my men are dead and the boss of the Lotus is bent on war against Akatsuki. I thought you were supposed to take care of this?"

"You gave this project specifically to Orochimaru," Pein calmly said. "Even if he was part of the organization, I told you that his true intentions are still unknown even to me. You are the only man who knows him well enough."

"He told me that you've shown no interest in this deal."

"I wasn't informed. I already sent some of my men to rob a bank; just delay the police into coming into the scene. Some of them are also stationed at the scene to observe and act if needed."

"I'm going to send one of my own to ensure that my name is not dragged down and associated with you lots. The handling is now transferred to you, Pein. Make sure you clean the traitor."

The man nodded, knowing that the other saw him clearly through the mirror. He turned around and was greeted by the sight of a man in a mask. The newcomer removed his mask, revealing a pale, young man with a fake smile.

"Hello. My name is Sai."

.X.

Naruto quickly slid off his 'pillow', and he suddenly felt a stab of pain and dizziness due to the sudden movement. Groaning, he clutched on his right shoulder in hopes of alleviating the pain that made itself known with the return of his endorphin levels to normal. He felt the stickiness of his own blood and with every minute motion; his nausea keeps on getting stronger and stronger.

Naruto distracted himself by looking at the first thing he saw, which was the hands of his captor. That sight was enough to make his nausea ran away like a philandering husband who saw his wife with a butcher's knife and his father-in-law carrying a shotgun. The fingers and palms had several cuts that split the skin into half, reminding Naruto of zombies.

"You know, you definitely have to visit the hospital," Naruto said, wincing while imaging the kind of pain that the other might be in now because of the state of his own injuries. The blond didn't see any sign of discomfort on the man's face so it just could be one of two; either he had high tolerance of pain or he simply didn't have any pain receptors functioning because he was not human, which was what Naruto suspected more.

"Remove your clothes."

"What?"

"I said strip, idiot."

"What the hell are you planning? And don't call me idiot! My name's Naruto." The blond covered his chest with both of his hands and held his clothes tighter to his body. What's worst than being stuck with a criminal was being stuck with a criminal bastard whose communication skills rivaled that of a hermit's who never saw another human and mistook his own reflection for an ugly ogre in the mountain.

"Don't act like a prude. I have everything you have, probably even better." Sasuke smirked.

"I'll show you who's got a better body!" Naruto quickly unbuttoned his jacket and took it off, unmindful of the strain in his injury. His cream-colored shirt followed, only opened but not removed. His confidence faltered with the way the other man was looking at him, his black eyes staring too intently for the blond's opinion. Sasuke crouched down, the tips of his hair tickling Naruto's nose, and dragged the right part of the shirt even lower and examined the wound. Naruto felt a firm yet gentle touch on the sore area, pressing down on varying motions and area. He could smell the scent of vanilla mixed with something much stronger and Naruto found that pleasant.

Sasuke reached into his pocket and fiddled with the object for a bit. Naruto gulped when the blade of the Swiss knife gleamed menacingly in the setting sun. He was too weak to fight and his right-hand was practically useless right now but he won't go out without a fight. The blond stared at the man's crotch, deciding where to kick him when the time came; you could always get even the greatest of the men when you go by the balls. But it turned out that Beardface was looking for the penlight and directed the light towards Naruto's affected shoulder.

"It's deep but it's not bleeding as worse as I expected it to be." Naruto thanked the fast healing ability that he seemed to have. The blond's eyes almost dropped out of their sockets when he saw his branded suit jacket picked up from the ground and was suddenly shredded by the other man.

"Hey! That's a very expensive jacket you're ripping, you jackass!"

He ignored Naruto and continued shredding the fabric with the knife. Sasuke lifted the blond's left arm and ordered him to keep that position. He started tying the makeshift bandages around Naruto's torso, almost embracing him in the process. Naruto blushed at the warmth of the other man's body so near...why did he feel so hot? He was too embarrassed to be in this position; to ease that, Naruto started rambling.

"Life probably hates me big time. I've just got dragged into this stupid chase even though I didn't have anything to do with it-"

"You were sitting there like a stone waiting to be kicked. That was your fault."

Naruto glared before continuing. "I'm a walking magnet for bad luck today, thrice the force that it usually attacks me with. I had to deal with a perverted supervisor, a backstabbing best friend -ex-best friend-and then got stuck with you. What's your name anyway?" It was kind of hard to talk while keeping his stupid blush away from his face and keeping his eyes open. He didn't know the man; what if he was a perverted rapist who gets off with assaulting sleeping people? It was not part of 'Naruto's Great Plans' to get his ass screwed by a badass criminal who took socializing lessons from a hermit.

"You don't need to know. Now, do me a great favor and shut up." Sasuke tied and snapped the bandage in place he got another strip and started rolling it around the other man's torso.

"I told you mine so its polite to tell me yours."

"You don't strike me as one with good manners. I think it's just as rude to force me to tell you something I don't want you to know."

"Fine! I can't wait to get out of here and go home. I miss my ramen…"

"You won't be heading home. The guys after us will certainly be in your doorsteps."

"What?" The blond was more than enraged. "Your buddies are after me now? I'm not related to your shady life! Give me back my home!" He started struggling, ignoring the pain and the tight grip on his sides as Sasuke tried to calm him down. Suddenly, the blond felt his eyes burning and he blinked, seeing black spots appearing on the edge of his sight.

Naruto's body felt heavy and he was tired, so tired of fighting against the unconsciousness that was threatening him earlier.

"I don't feel too good…" He succumbed to it and let his world fade to black.

.X.

Sasuke caught Naruto before the blond landed on the stony ground and break his face. He felt the burning fever that made him suspect that there was an infection. Sasuke checked the pulse and the breathing; they were both fast but they were steady in rhythm. He was more worried with the high temperature that could cause more damage than the wound itself. Going to a hospital or a clinic was out of question; once the doctors identified that the wound was caused by a bullet, the police would get involved and as far as he knew, criminals like him weren't buddies with each other and hang out in stripper clubs, unless they were the wrong kind of policemen.

Actually, the wrong ones were as dangerous as well. The Lotus gang and the Akatsuki surely informed their henchmen in the legal department and sooner or later, both police and criminals would be after them. Abandoning Naruto was not a choice either; even if Sasuke was a criminal, he didn't kill innocent people, especially the ones that seemed to attract trouble whether by choice or idiocy itself. The blond was worth more trouble than Sasuke's mind could handle –why did he pick him up again?

His body just moved on its own. As stupid as it sounds, that was what happened—maybe he needed to check the motor connections on his brain. Sasuke sighed and removed his denim jacket, draping it on the blond before standing up. He needed to find some source of water to alleviate the temperature.

Sasuke scouted the area, using his ears for the sound of streams and his eyes for a reflection. His senses were hooned to be sharper than an average person so walking in the night wasn't a problem for him; Akatsuki didn't and wouldn't settle for less after all. Luckily, Sasuke found a stream about ten minutes away from their earlier location.

He went back to Naruto and carried the blond bridal-style, before heading back to where the stream was. Surprisingly, Naruto didn't weigh too heavy and he noticed that there was a bit of disparity between their heights, probably by two inches or so.

He removed his jacket and laid it over the unconscious blond to prevent the cold from getting to him set the limp body against a tree before going back to the small body of water and soaked his own handkerchief in it, planning to use it as a rag to wipe the fever down. He stood watch, rechecking the temperature, wetting the rag when it became dry.

Naruto's temperature fluctuated, going from sky high to bottom low and Sasuke couldn't even risk biting the lure of Morpheus for the worry of losing the man in the fever. He now changed the cloth every ten minutes, keeping an eye on his wristwatch to track the time.

Sasuke was now debating whether to take the man to the hospital when finally at about 3 am, the fever settled down. But he still kept his eyes open until the sun had risen and he was finally satisfied with the temperature. His hand traveled to from Naruto's forehead to the scarred cheeks, feeling the dents in them, as if they were carved on. It was a contrast to the softness of the skin on his face, which was free from stubble and other imperfections.

Naruto had a bright blond, spiky hair that went well with the tan tone of his skin, making him look more like a foreigner than Japanese. Sasuke traced the contours of the blond's face and decided that sleeping Naruto looked good, with his mouth shut and all…Sasuke might have actually tried to hit on him—Naruto's lips looked so full and inviting…if he just kept his mouth shut.

What would he taste like? Just a little bit more and he'll know—The lack of sleep was definitely getting on him. Sasuke pulled away before his lips even made contact with Naruto's. Shit, he was really tired and it was making him act more out of his character. He fixed the jacket covering the blond before resting himself in a tree a few inches from where the blond lay. He crossed his arms before closing his eyes; the last thought running on his mind was setting up a check-up for his motor nerves to see if they were delivering the right information on the command center.

The sound of grass being stepped on disturbed him. He grabbed his gun and waited in full alert.

.X.

Naruto groaned as the glare of the morning sun hit him on the face, breaking his somewhat peaceful sleep. He pulled the comforter up to his face and scooted far away from the window, sighing as his back hit the warm wall. The blond sighed and started to drift off once again when the wall behind him shifted; making his sleepiness ran away in a mad dash to the safety of his subconscious.

Walls are supposed to be cold and hard and immobile; not warm and moving and wrapping its nonexistent arms around your waist. Naruto counted one to three before turning around and peeking out the comforter's safety, his face just inches away from the sleeping Beardface. Of course, the only thing to do was to kick the sleeping person out of the bed and scoot until your back reaches the actual, solid wall.

"What the fuck's your problem?" The other man rubbed his forehead, glaring at Naruto for the very rude (and painful) wake up. He didn't want to start the day with his face meeting with the floor heads-on.

"You-! You are my freaking problem! Howe dare you...you..."

An eyebrow rose in question. "How dare me what?"

"Do what you did to me. You...you..." Naruto really didn't want to continue on talking.

"Oh?" Sasuke smirked, finally getting what the other man was saying. He stood up and slowly walked towards the bed, leaning too closely to Naruto's face. "But you weren't complaining last night," he said in a low, almost seductive voice. Naruto kicked him again, this time in hitting his abdomen.

"You…you filthy criminal! Get away from me! I don't want to do anything with you."

The amusement from those eyes disappeared and Naruto realized that he should just have kept his mouth shut. Sasuke stood up and suddenly yanked the blond's right arm, making Naruto yelp in pain because of his injury. His other hand went to the blond's neck, his fingers taking hold of it dangerously. Sasuke leaned closer until they met eye-to-eye.

Naruto felt the dangerous aura that surrounded the man and he could not help but feel fear. The fingers around his neck flexed, loosening and tightening, threatening him that his life was in one hand.

"Listen well, you shit," The fingers tightened once again, making the swallowing of air more difficult, "I know you don't like me—the feeling's quite mutual—but you should be careful on what you say. You are with a filthy criminal; don't force me to add your body to the ones I've already disposed."

His body was turning limp and his mind was going into that dangerous swerve again. He didn't want to die but his body was betraying him, falling into a state that he thought he already had forgotten. He noticed that the other man's harsh expression turned confused as he met Naruto's eyes.

Then the hand was gone. Beardface turned his back and picked up his clothes before leaving the room. Naruto let out the breath he was holding—he didn't know if it was a sigh of relief or it was just because he was deprived of breathing normally for some minutes.

So maybe he did have the habit of letting his mouth run before his brain cells could; that doesn't give the man to threaten him…right?

"I don't understand him. And I think I don't want to learn anything about or from him."

The blond decided to survey his current location. Everything in here was made of wood, reminding him of pictures of log cabins. The room he was in was small, with little decorations but Naruto felt the semblance of being at a place that real people lived in here, not just people who used it as a place for sleeping. He found his ruined shirt and pants folded neatly on a chair.

Naruto saw that he was still in his boxers and aside from hid stinging injury, his body felt normal. Why did he even assume that? He did owe the man his life, in some kind of twisted way he guessed. He had to apologize.

"Are you feeling fine now?"

A young woman stood in the open doorway carrying a first-aid kit. Naruto nodded dumbly, staring as she entered the room. She was probably younger than him with a snow-like complexion and a very beautiful face. As she came nearer, Naruto noticed the distinct lack of chest and the presence of Adam's apple.

"You're a boy?" He blurted out, blushing in embarrassment with his mistake. The other person just gave out a small masculine laugh and set out the kit on the bedside table. "Sorry!"

"Don't worry, I get that a lot. I'm Haku. Zabuza brought both of you here during his early morning rounds."

"I'm Naruto. Nice to meet you."

"Your friend Sasuke-san introduced us while you were unconscious. I need to check your wound and change your bandages-could you move closer to the edge?"

So, Beardface's name was Sasuke. Did their friendship develop during sometime in the blond's sleep?

"You're lucky that the hunter only injured your shoulder and didn't kill you," Haku said as he gently wrapped the gauze on the afflicted part. "This forest is full of dangerous things and people, Naruto-kun."

There was an underlying meaning in those words. Having no clues on what Sasuke the Beard told the kind boy (man?), he just chose a neutral answer. "Guess I had to learn the hard way."

"Done! The wound's healing fine on itself although it will be painful to move for a while. Here is something to change to."

The blond accepted the folded clothes and the other left to give him some privacy. Haku was quite a likeable guy and Naruto could see himself being good friends with him. He hurriedly put the clothes on and readied himself for apologizing for his tactlessness.

Maybe later. No one could give an apology with a very empty, ramen-deprived stomach after all.

.X.

Sasuke washed the lather off his face and patted it dry with a small, clean towel. Instead of the strong-looking bearded man, a much younger face stared back at him from the mirror. The last time he saw his normal face was more than two years ago; with all of the dangers involved in his job, looking normal and attractive weren't in the options.

He shouldn't have snapped at the blond for that comment—he had heard more insults (curses) from the people he killed—but he had. His conversation with Naruto was probably the most normal he had since he joined Akatsuki. For a while, he forgot that he lived in the dangerous shadows.

And he remembered people don't' trust criminals. They were lawless and menaces of the structured society, and whatever the reasons, motives behind committing their unforgivable actions didn't matter—they were criminals. With that feeling of temporary normalcy, he forgot that the 'normal' people don't see the people behind the title of criminals.

Naruto won't care for the reason he chose to walk this path, his sole reason he chose to walk this path. It was the reason why good turns into evil and sanity turns into madness—vengeance. Akatsuki was just a stepping stone for him to fulfill his goal, although that stone turned out to be so sharp that it wounded his feet.

For three years, he learned that the best way to survive and deal with the underworld is to throw your humanity away. Regret, remorse—they have no place in this kind of life; you do these things because you chose to go down this road of life.

Why was he getting so worked up about a simple argument? Sure, he felt physical attraction for the blond but that shouldn't make him mull over his life this seriously. There was also that expression when he threatened the blond. Naruto looked as if he was ready to die.

He finished up and changed into the spare clothes given to him. He was about to put on the plain shirt when Sasuke threw the garment, grabbed his gun and turned around, pointing the barrel in the middle of the forehead of Haku, who was holding his arms up in placating manner.

Sasuke drew his weapon down. "Why are you here?"

"I was about to tell you that breakfast is ready but I guessed I surprised you. Sorry about that; Naruto-kun is already at the table waiting." Haku said, giving him a small smile before leaving the bathroom. "Oh and Sasuke-kun? You shouldn't be waving dangerous things around the here—you might kill someone, worst, yourself."

He finally left. Sasuke frowned, his forehead creasing as he looked at the retreating back of the other man, his mind mulling over those last words. There was something familiar—deadly—about Haku and Zabuza, his instincts honed by his now-former life telling him that they were dangerous.

And just what he needed—another thing to worry about when he already had Naruto who was already the equivalent of a 30-foot tsunami in terms of troublesome. Next, he'll be leotard-wearing superhero who wears his underwear outside saving people from the wrath of the rabid bunnies.

How he loved his life. And sarcasm too.

.X.

Meanwhile, a crowd had already gathered in the accident area along with the policemen scattered around that arrived two hours after the incident.

"What happened here?"

"A car fell down from to the sea and blew up in mid-air. I heard it was some kind of hold up-robbery, which is probably true from all the money that had been scattered here."

"But that's not what I heard!" The two bystanders that were talking turned to see the source of interruption, looking at the man with great interest.

"This was actually a failed elopement. The boy was a member of some gang and the girl was a daughter of a wealthy government official. Of course, dad was against his little girl's choice, all that reputation and heaven and earth gap. So the two planned to leave with the guy planning to steal money from one of his group's deal to fund it; somehow, their plan was intercepted."

Kakashi covered his laughter with a cough so he wouldn't appear to be so rude; he couldn't help but laugh at the story. It sounded so nice and romantic, which is not usually the cases he dealt with.

The police was crawling all over the place, examining every square inch of the area and interviewing seemingly plausible witnesses. The white-haired man reluctantly closed the orange pocketbook that he was holding to do what he was sent here to do—to meddle and mess with the police force's ego.

Kakashi ducked down to cross under the yellow marker with the words "Police Line: Do Not Cross", ignoring the gasps and squawks of both the police and bystanders and entered the crime scene. He immediately took note of how the money didn't have any tire marks, the bullets positioning mostly forward instead of backwards and how every police was focused more in the area rather than finding any survivor or corpse from the crash. So the part about some wealthy official might have some truth in it.

"Sir, excuse me!" He turned to the source of that voice and found one of the officers running towards him. "Civilians are not allowed to enter. I insist you must leave immediately."

Kakashi smiled at the brunet and walked to where the officer who was in charge of the crime scene with the other officer still behind him, still trying to get him to leave.

The chief investigator had a scowl on his face when he saw Kakashi approaching, muttering something about meddling ANBU before offering a reluctant salute to him.

He wasted no time. "Situation?"

"A hold-up robbery in a bank in Kunai District. Vehicles of the robber were the blue Toyota Corolla that fell and the other was an unidentified black car. Bullets are being sent to the ballistics lab along. The bank owner confirmed that it was their money and the identification of the assailant's car."

"Good enough. I wonder why I had to be sent here if you folks already have everything covered." Kakashi sighed and retrieved his Icha-Icha Paradise novelette. Damn guidelines.

"Sir!"The brunet from before saluted. "There were no survivors found. Should I order retrieval for the corpses?"

"Don't bother. We were sent here to collect the money and so some superficial investigation."

"But—"

"Umino," The overweight investigator growled. "I already told no and I'm not going to waste any more time to search for dead criminals."

Umino had a very disapproving look on his face but still maintained his cool and saluted to the lazy pig of an officer. He admired the determination that the other man had, remembering his own passion for his work before he got jaded with the ugliness it came with. He hoped that the brunet remained the same; God knows they needed more honest officials with the crocodiles already seated at the position.

"You're not a civilian, are you?" The officer addressed him.

"No, he's part of that ANBU." Umino's superior answered him. "Hatake Kakashi, head of Strategies and also part of their forensic division." He spat out the words bitterly.

Well, there was no love lost between the police force and the ANBU. ANBU started out as division under the police to solve the rather difficult cases that involved city officials until it evolved into a separate body that became rivals with the law officers. Although, he really didn't care; his presence here was merely for show that the ANBU is doing its job. Kakashi had done his job and he wanted no part of this anymore.

Another police arrived, handing an item that Kakashi would've ignore if it wasn't so familiar. Without much thought, he came towards them and grabbed the plastic that contained it, confirming his suspicions.

It was a necklace with three crystal gems shaped like prisms with one large in the middle and two smaller ones on both sides. The smaller gem in the right side had some chips in it—he perfectly knew how it got there and also knew the person who gave it to the young blond that he also knew inside and out. And to add to his many knowing, he also knew that Tsunade will be in a hissy fit when she discovers on what kind of trouble Naruto had gotten into—what kind exactly, Kakashi had to find out.

"Tsunade will kill me," the man groaned. "Maybe I could tell her Naruto eloped…"

.X.

"There were no bodies found."Sai reported as he walked away from the scene, removing his wig.

"Which means that boy is still alive. Some of the survivors from the Lotus gang told me that he had a blond accomplish."

"I'll be glad to find and get rid of them for you."

The only answer he got was the click, signaling the end of the conversation. He could translate that as a yes…he really wasn't sure because people-reading was not his forte.

He'd rather have them dead and expressionless.


.tbc.


See who decided to show himself again. Once again, I am all apologies and I hope all understand. I still love writing so it was really frustrating when I'm holding a pen and I can't write anything.

Thank you.