A/N: I'm too guilty to say anything here, other than that I am super super SUPER sorry for the inconsistant nature of my updates. I hope you enjoy this chapter though! It's almost 5,000 words so prepare yourself :O
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. If I did, it'd probably be much less popular since I obviously suck at updating.
A week had passed since I had completed my last mission, and I had yet to be assigned another.
I was bored. Very bored. And irritated. VERY irritated.
At first, I had felt good about taking a rest after my long and continuous string of missions. After I had rescued Kiba, I thought-heck, I KNEW-I deserved a day or two off. So with that resolve in mind, I had marched up to Naruto and told him I wanted to kick back for a little while before I took on any more missions. The blond enthusiastically agreed, and immediately got his secretary to write me up for a month-long paid vacation.
Yes, that's right. A month. I ask for two days off and the idiot gives me thirty.
Now, I understand that any other normal shinobi would be ecstatic to have so much free time, all the while still getting paid as they loaf around on their arse. Only here's the thing; I'm not like other normal shinobi.
I like having something to do, and working for my pay, so to me, Naruto pretty much forcing me into paid leave was the equivalent to locking me in a padded room with nothing to entertain myself with but a piece of string and some pocket lint.
String and pocket lint do not have high entertainment values. At all.
I had even told him exactly that when he had shouted at his secretary to clear all my missions until June, but he only gave a look of pure stupidity and said, "Nao, you seriously need a life outside of work."
So for the past week I had done nothing but train in the mornings, and then wander aimlessly around town until it became dark enough for me to go home and sleep.
"Naruto, I hate you," I muttered darkly one day as I made my way down a random street in Konoha, ignoring the worried glances civilians were throwing me as I continued to curse the village leader.
It was a busy Saturday morning; the sun was high, signaling the approaching noon, and shop keepers were busily attending to their customers while children ran around happily, relishing in the absence of school that the weekend provided.
I followed whatever path my feet decided to take me. I had no place to be, so I took each step one at a time, allowing my eyes to wander over every detail of the town around me. I snacked on a popsicle as I walked, the coolness of the treat keeping the heat of the day at bay.
I eventually found myself out of the busy streets of the village and instead in the middle of one of the training fields. It was empty, so I allowed myself to collapse to the ground, soft grass pressing against my back as I stared up at the sky. Well, glared rather than stared. I honestly could not remember the last time I had been this bored.
The sound of footsteps met my ears, prompting me to immediately sit up with my popsicle hanging from my mouth. A giant dog was bounding straight for me. I let out a squeak as I rolled out of the way of the giant mound of fur, dropping my popsicle in the process. Before I could even complain about the contamination of my frozen treat, the giant canine leapt on top of me, let out a 'woof' in greeting, and happily began to lick my face.
I sputtered and flailed a bit until a voice called the dog back, "Akamaru! Don't eat her!"
"Yeah! I am not edible!" I flailed a bit more until the dog retreated a few steps, allowing me to sit up and see Kiba jogging across the field.
"You okay?" he asked as he reached me, a smile evident in his voice.
"If 'okay' translates to wet and popsicle-less, then yes, I'm freaking peachy."
The brunette merely rolled his eyes and grabbed my arm, hoisting me to my feet before I even knew what was happening. A "thanks" fumbled its way out of my mouth as I struggled to find my balance.
"You're welcome, but I'm ticked at you," Kiba whined, crossing his arms and puffing out his cheeks. It reminded me of a three-year-old who had just been deprived of sweets.
I scowl, "and why's that?"
"You didn't come back to visit me in the hospital!" he declared, pointing an accusing finger at me. Akamaru happily barked in agreement as he sat next to his owner.
"Oh," I replied lamely, deflating as I remembered Kiba's previous request for me to visit, "oops."
Kiba cracked a smile, "you'd better be. But I guess we can call it even since Akamaru here trampled you."
I couldn't help it; a smile found its way to my lips as well. Being around Kiba was just…comfortable.
"We're even," I agree.
I guess it's pretty safe to say that from that day onward, Kiba and I were the equivalent of best friends. Due to his injuries and extended period of captivity, Naruto had forced him into paid leave as well, so I assume our mutual boredom was a major factor in our fast friendship.
Most mornings during our mission-free month were spent training together, usually followed by us wandering aimlessly around the village and complaining. Kenny and Akamaru had become close as well (something I found ironically hilarious due to their vast difference in size) which was probably sparked by their mutual hatred of cats. They would often go off by themselves to torment the felines of the village, something Kiba and I were occasionally scolded for, but found so entertaining that we did nothing to stop them no matter how many old ladies chased us down for it.
During this time, I had also been gradually added to Kiba's and Naruto's circle of friends. After becoming close to Kiba and enduring Naruto's encouragement, I guess I just sort of gave up on my whole "don't get close to people" policy. I'm pretty glad, too; people are pretty good at making life less boring. Shocking, right?
About three days out from the end of our forced vacation, Kiba and I had decided to look through old mission reports along with the Bingo Book in preparation for our return to action. We had taken refuge from the heat of the outdoors in my apartment, sitting on the floor next to the air conditioner in my living room as we sifted through the mass of papers, popsicles hanging from our mouths as we circled the names of rogue shinobi we wanted to take out as our potential first mission back on the job. We had been at it for at least three hours and had racked up a pretty hefty list.
"What about this guy?" I asked as I pointed to a rather gnarly looking shinobi with my popsicle.
Kiba leaned over my shoulder to look at my suggestion, taking his frozen treat from his mouth, "Toshikuni Abukara…A-Ranked…stolen scrolls from central library…murdered seven…nah, too dull," he waved his hand for me to keep looking for other criminals.
I frowned slightly, flipping into the S-ranked section of the book. I turned the pages until the picture of a dark haired man stopped me. I studied the picture carefully, wondering why the face looked so familiar.
"Sasuke Uchiha," came Kiba's voice from next to me.
I looked at him for a moment as the name sank in, "oh yeah," I murmured softly, remembering the picture of team seven that was ever present on Naruto's desk. "You all were close to him, weren't you?" I think of Sakura, whom I had recently become especially close to.
"Yeah. We all were," Kiba sighed as he bit off the last bite of his popsicle, "especially Naruto and Sakura. As much as they say they've moved on, everyone knows they've never given up hope that he'll back. It's been eight years since he first left."
I nodded slowly and flipped the page to look at his stats, "the bounty on him has gone down over the past two years," I read, slightly surprised as I continued to skim the page.
"Eye-witnesses have sent in reports of him saving people; helping out shinobi from our village and allies'. I guess it's like getting off on good behavior. He hasn't done anything against anyone in about four years, so he's not seen as much of a threat anymore," Kiba scratched his head slightly, probably brushing off a bad memory, then reached over to turn the page, "he's not an option either."
Despite my intense interest in the former comrade of my friends, I decided it was best not to push the subject.
I changed the direction of the conversation by finishing off my popsicle and pushing the Bingo Book and the other papers off of my lap, "okay, I think we have enough," I stood up and stretched out the kinks in my muscles that came from sitting for so many hours, "I'm hungry. Let's go grab a bite to eat."
Kiba perked up at the mention of food, "awesome idea."
We left our mess next to the air conditioner, having decided that at the moment food was more important than tidying up. Kenny and Akamaru were sleeping in the middle of the hallway, so we just left them be as we left my apartment in search of nourishment.
The sky was fading to a deep shade of orange, but even with the approaching evening, the summer air was uncomfortably hot.
"I can't wait to go on a flipping mission," I whined as we walked through the streets of the busy village.
"Three days," Kiba stated, throwing his hands behind his head as we walked, "I haven't felt this lazy in ages. I'll kill Naruto if he ever does this again."
"Agreed," I frowned, "actually, I would probably die of boredom before I could kill the blond idiot."
"HEY! DON'T CALL ME AN IDIOT!"
Kiba and I both flinched at the familiar voice and turned to see the very man we had just been talking about. Cerulean eyes glared at us from the Ichiraku Ramen stand. Sakura Haruno waved excitedly from her seat next to the peeved village leader.
My brunette friend and I exchanged glances and headed towards the small establishment. If we were gonna eat something, might as well be ramen.
"Yo, Mr. Hokage!" Kiba greeted, clapping the still-glaring Naruto on the back.
The blond muttered something unintelligible at the greeting, waving his hand slightly before turning back to the steaming bowl in front of him.
I laughed and took the open seat between Sakura and Kiba.
"So what have you guys been up to?" Sakura chirped brightly as Kiba and I placed our orders.
Kiba answered first, "Scouting assholes in the Bingo Book to take out for our first missions back on the job after this idiot," he jabbed a pair of chopsticks in Naruto's direction, "deprived us of work for the past month."
"STOP CALLING ME AN IDIOT!" Naruto exclaimed as ramen noodles dangled from his mouth.
Sakura made a face of disgust before hitting him on the head with her gloved fist, "just because you're Hokage doesn't give you a pass to be obnoxious, stupid!"
"OW," Naruto whined as he nursed the new lump on his forhead, "three against one is no fair."
"That's what you get for not letting me go on any missions," I said cheerfully as I broke apart my chopsticks and began to dig into the steaming bowl that had just been placed in front of me.
"Hey. You should be thanking me for that. You have friends other than me now. I gifted you with a social life," Naruto commented before ordering his third bowl of ramen.
I merely shrugged as I continued to slurp up my noodles. Naruto had a point, the past month off did have a silver lining, but I would be damned before I gave in and said the blond was right.
"What about me then?" Kiba said as he finished his first bowl and started on a second, "I had a social life beforehand, so my month off was pure torture."
Naruto was quick with his rebuttal, "no, you got to meet someone who's as much of a smart-ass as you," obviously referring to me.
I didn't take that as an insult though, and apparently Kiba didn't either as we made eye-contact immediately after Naruto's comment and bumped our fists together, "he's jealous," I concluded.
Sakura laughed at our exchange while Naruto just continued to pout, "so when are you guys coming back to work?" she asked pleasantly.
"Three days!" Kiba and I exclaimed in unison.
Naruto's head suddenly snapped up from what had to be his fifth bowl of ramen and turned to us, "oh yeah, that reminds me. I'm cutting your break short. I need Nao for a mission tomorrow. Kiba, you'd probably be good for it too. A-ranked. Whaddaya say?"
Kiba and I jumped up at the same time, delighted smiles adorning our features.
"Hell yeah!" the brunette whooped, pumping his fist into the air.
I tackled Naruto, wrapping his spiky yellow head in a hug, "Naruto, you are the best Hokage ever! The best, the best, THE BEST!"
Naruto flailed wildly until I let him go, "geeze, Adachi, don't smother me," he complained, but a grin dominated his tan face showing his approval of my reaction. Excitement danced behind his blue orbs. "Sakura, I want you on this one too. You up for it?"
"Sure thing!" she complied happily, paying her tab as she stood from her seat.
"Perfect," the blond said, clapping his hands together in satisfaction, "meet in my office tomorrow afternoon at five for your briefing. I want you gone by sundown."
We all agreed on the meeting, paid for our meals and went off on our separate ways; Naruto and Sakura towards their respective homes, and Kiba and I towards my apartment to clean the mess we had left in my living room.
I was up the next morning long before my alarm was set to go off. Kenny was still fast asleep on his perch, so I just let him be as I made my way to the bathroom to prepare for the day ahead. I stripped down as soon as I reached the small room and hopped into the shower, letting the cold water drown away any semblance of sleepiness that the night had tagged me with. I relished in the feeling of a shower at home, realizing that the mission I was to embark on would deprive me of one for lord knows how long.
Wrapping myself in a towel once I finished, I scampered back to my room and dressed in my shinobi gear. It felt good to be back in attire fit for combat, especially since all I had worn for the past month were civilian clothes.
I made sure to take my time as I dried my hair and brushed my teeth, knowing that keeping myself busy would keep me from agonizing over the slow pace of the clock. By the time I was done with these tasks and had repacked my weapons and other mission necessities at least three times, it was only 11 am.
I was never good at waiting.
I laid out some birdseed for Kenny, who by this time was up and twittering about, and then collapsed face-first onto my couch.
"What the hell do I do for six hours!?" I screamed into the cushions.
As if on cue, there was a knock at my front door. I recognized the chakra to be Kiba's and yelled at him to come in, not even bothering to move.
I couldn't see since I kept my face buried in the seat of my couch, but I heard the distinct sound of my best friend kicking off his shoes and dropping his pack next to the door.
"Nao, what the hell do we do for six hours!?" Kiba wailed as he collapsed on top of my legs.
"Not sit on me, that's what," I groaned as I wiggled to free myself. I tumbled off the couch as soon as I removed my limbs from under the brunette and looked around the living room. "Where's Akamaru?"
"Naruto sent me a message last night and said that a giant dog would draw too much attention traveling, so I'll just have summon him if I get in a bind," Kiba said as he stretched out and took up my entire couch.
I just nodded, a smile blossoming on my face. Kiba raised an eyebrow in question.
"If Naruto wants us to be on the down-low that means this will probably be an espionage-related mission. I'm. So. Excited." I squealed as I rolled into a little ball and kicked my feet excitedly. I couldn't remember ever being so excited for a mission. I guess a month without action can do that to a girl.
Kiba let out a deep laugh, "me too. That reminds me, this is the first time I'll really see you in action. We'll see if your bite matches your bark."
I rolled my eyes, "ha ha, Dog Boy. Your canine puns have me in stitches."
He just grinned at my sarcastic jab and continued, "but really, I can't believe you'd be good at anything stealth related, what with how much of a loud klutz you are."
I scowled at this, "hey, I've only fallen around you, like, three tim—"
"Shut up. If you're gonna just make fun of me, don't come to my apartment," I threatened in a less than serious manner, ignoring the fact that he was right. I had a tendency to trip over anything and everything when I wasn't focused, which happened to be a lot over the past month.
"Nah. My company makes your life worth living," Kiba sat up as he praised himself, "now get me food."
"You know where the pantry is. Get it yourself."
Kiba let out another laugh as he hoisted himself up from the couch to raid my kitchen. Kenny had since finished his meal and went to greet my common house guest by landing on his shoulder and nipping happily at his ear.
Before I became friends with Kiba, Sakura, and the others, there was never anyone who came over. Like, ever. Naruto had dropped by maybe once or twice, but that was only on the rare occasion that I didn't have a mission and he wasn't drowning in paperwork. Kiba, however, had been over at least once a day since the day Akamaru trampled me in the middle of the training field. Sakura also came over frequently, which was a nice change since she wasn't constantly exuding testosterone.
Kenny, whom I had thought might become a bit stressed at the sudden influx of visitors, enjoyed the newfound company to a high degree. I smiled a bit at the thought; I guess being around just me all the time could get a bit old.
My mind wandered to the other people I had met over the past few weeks as well, amazing me, yet again, at how quickly my personal life had changed courses. Being around Kiba so much inevitably acquainted me with both Hinata Hyuuga and Shino Abarame. I had a hard time believing that they were Kiba's teammates, what with how loud he was in comparison to their quiet nature. Through Sakura I met her best friend, Ino Yamanaka, whom I didn't necessarily click with yet still found easy to tolerate. The blond's teammate, Shikamaru Nara, was another story. I can appreciate individuals with a good sense of sarcasm, so I found the company of the pony-tail wearing Jounin to be quite welcome.
I was snapped out of my reverie by a bag of chips flying at my face. I looked up and scowled in the direction the projectile had come from to see a smirking Kiba and a clearly amused Kenny squawking happily from the tanned man's shoulder.
I begrudgingly whistled and the little bird fluttered over to my shoulder, "you're supposed to be on my side," I mumbled, tearing open the bag of chips.
"You're so spacey," Kiba commented as he took a seat on the ground next to me, another bag of chips clasped in his own hands.
"I prefer thoughtful," I said between bites.
Kiba shrugged and began working on devouring his snack.
I was still quite amazed at how comfortable it was for me to be around the tanned male before me. Our personalities were so parallel it was almost scary; granted his temper was quite a bit shorter than mine. Even so, as I ate my chips, I found myself thinking about just how little I knew about Kiba. I'd met his immediate family and close friends from hanging around him so much, but I barely knew anything about his abilities as a shinobi. Sure, we had been training together just about every day for the past three weeks, but it was never anything serious. I also didn't know much about past missions he had been on, or any sort of experiences he'd gone through involving conflict.
He had mentioned to me once about how he was involved in the most recent shinobi war back when he was sixteen, but that was five years ago. Back then I was still with grandpa; we had heard about the war but decided it was best to stay back and defend our own home if need be.
Basically, the mission we were about to embark on would be something completely new; full of unknowns and discoveries.
Kiba let out a chuckle, "Nao, I know I'm insanely attractive and all, but even I can get uncomfortable if you stare like that."
I snapped back to reality and rolled my eyes, "don't flatter yourself, Inuzuka. I was just thinking."
"The mission," I started slowly, "about how it's gonna go."
"We're gonna kick ass is how it's gonna go," he declared with a toothy grin.
A smile broke out across my face and I pushed all of my curious thoughts to the back of my mind, "hell yeah, we are."
And with that, Kiba and I set about finding means of occupying ourselves until it was time to leave for the briefing. We spent most of the time comparing gear and running back and forth between my place and his to grab something he had forgotten. His laid-back attitude contributed to his unruly forgetfulness, so after returning back to my apartment from his house for what had to be the fifth time in order to retrieve his soldier pills, we were delighted to see that the clock on my wall read 4:30.
We set out for the Hokage tower after double-checking our gear one last time. The streets were surprisingly crowded for a Sunday. Kiba waved at multiple people as we went; he definitely had to be one of the most social people I had ever met.
Before long we made it to the tower and raced our way up to Naruto's office. We were a good fifteen minutes early, but heck, it was close enough and we definitely weren't willing to wait any longer. I knocked once before pushing the office doors open and bolting inside. Luckily this time there weren't any angry council members to stare me down and criticize my manners.
Sakura was already there, chatting away with Naruto. They both looked up as Kiba and I walked in.
"Cool, since you're all here early we can just go ahead and get started," Naruto declared as he opened a folder that had been lying on his desk.
Kiba, Sakura, and I stood side by side in front of said piece of furniture; even though Naruto was our friend, mission briefings were a time to get serious.
Naruto seated himself at his chair and folded his hands in front of him as he scanned the open folder, "so," he started slowly, "I'm sure you guys have guessed that since I specifically asked for Nao that this mission will be heavily reliant on espionage."
We all nodded at his statement and I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from an outburst; the briefing was getting me pumped. Kiba must have noticed my effort to contain myself for out of the corner of my eye I saw his mouth twitch to suppress a smile.
Naruto, however, just continued with the briefing, "Nao, the reason I need you is to get some information out of a drug lord about a certain person of interest. We have sources on his general location, but Kiba, your tracking skills will be needed to pinpoint exactly where he is. Sakura, things could get a bit hairy, the guy is known to have some pretty high level shinobi-guards, so you'll need to act as both back-up and the team medic in case any injuries are sustained. Nao, since your skills are the biggest necessity in this mission, you're team leader. Sakura, Kiba, make sure to follow her lead. She knows what she's doing."
We all nodded again as we soaked in the information.
"So who's the guy I'm duping?" I asked as I crossed my arms over my chest.
Naruto tossed a photo to me from the folder, which I caught and looked down at, "Kenta Arishima is his name. Like I said, he's a drug lord. but your focus isn't to bust him for that—we'll get him for that later—your focus is to get info on the whereabouts of another person the council and I have decided to set our sights on capturing."
Kiba and Sakura both looked over my shoulder at the image in my hand. Kenta Arishima appeared as a stocky man with thinning hair and a rather unattractively square face. He looked to be in his forties or so, and his exuberant clothing displayed the obvious wealth he possessed from his trade.
I looked up after memorizing the target's face, determination radiating through me, "okay, sounds easy enough." I grabbed the folder containing the rest of the details on the mission as Naruto handed it to me, and passed it to Kiba who began to leaf through it and scan its contents. "So who is this 'person of interest' I'm getting dirt on?"
Naruto looked down at his desk, a hard expression adorning his features. The look on his face immediately clued me in on how important this mission was; he had my full attention.
Kiba looked up from the folder at Naruto's drawn out silence, "who is it?"
Naruto heaved a sigh and looked up, but not at me or Kiba; his blues eyes were glued to Sakura's green ones.
The rosette had a confused and worried expression on her face, "who is it, Naruto." She said it as a statement, not a question.
Another sigh escaped the blond man's lips before he spoke, serious eyes still on Sakura, "You guys are finding out where Sasuke is... Sasuke Uchiha."
A/N: Dun dun DUUUUUUUUHH. Yeah, I went there. Anyway, I felt so bad about not updating in such a long time that I pretty much made two chapters into one as a sort of compensation. I also didn't have anything else to do since I'm bedridden with the flu. If I'm still feeling crummy tomorrow I'll try to work on getting another chapter out before I lapse into another spell of no updates. I have excuses on my profile if you feel like reading them, but you know. Things happen.
Anyways, to those of you who have reviewed, you are awesome! Remember, anyone can review, even if you don't have an account! The new layout makes it super simple to do so:D I would also like to point out how much I appreciate when people give me reviews on each individual chapter instead of just one collective review. That is not only because more reviews make me feel special, (I won't deny it. They all give me that warm and fuzzy feeling) but also because they help me gauge my readers' reactions to the story and make it easier for me to convey the story in a way that I hope will be universally pleasing. So leave as many reviews as you can! They don't go unnoticed and they are GREATLY appreciated, I promise:)