Chapter 12: One of Those Days

So I don't know if any of you authors out there have ever checked, but I was recently looking at my number of hits I get a chapter, and I felt a little… Sasuke-ish… when I found out that after every chapter less and less people read. Like literally from the first to the second chapter it's cut by a little more than half and after that it goes down by half again. The rest of the chapters go down by about two hundred. But in the end I just told myself it doesn't matter because I've got reviewers, and I'm not a terrible writer. And believe me I know terrible. You'd be amazed at some of the bad writing a I have read from classmates at school during the year… you'd think a bunch of honor students would be able to write a little better, you know? I end my rant.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Kishimoto does… But if I did own it that would be really cool. I own all OC mentioned in the story though! Enjoy ^_^v

"You talk to him."

"What! No, he's your son."

"Shikaku I swear on my life you'll sleep on the couch for a week if you don't do it."

Shikaku sighed heavily as his wife, Yoshino, pointed towards the slide door. He really didn't want to do this. It was way too much work, but then again, he'd have a legitimate reason to go out drinking. Nodding his head at the plan already formed in his head, Shikaku walked into the next room where Shikamaru was working with the red-haired Kazekage. That shock had already worn off days ago that his son was somewhat close to such a highly ranked figure, but when the Nara caught whiff of a certain rumor… well he didn't think too much about it, but his wife was hell bent on knowing what was going on. And Yoshino was a troublesome woman when she didn't get her answers; almost as much as Inoichi's wife.

Walking into the room, he was just in time to see Shikamaru close the back door behind him; the Kazekage's, Gaara Sabaku, shadow just barely seen exiting the house before completely disappearing. Shikaku beckoned Shikamaru over, placing his hand on top of Shikamaru's head and softly ruffling it. His son swatted it away, but both of them knew he didn't mind as much as he showed. Seeing as Shikaku didn't want this conversation to drag on for hours like most of their father son talks, Shikaku decided not to pull out the Shogi board. Sitting cross legged, Shikaku and Shikamaru sat on the porch overlooking one of their numerous gardens, but this one had a small pond.

Clearing his throat, he kept his face completely emotionless as usual, but if you looked slightly closer, you could see a slight tinge of red forming on the top of his ears.

"You've been busy."

"Mhmh. I overheard Lady Tsunade saying she was thinking about promoting me to Chunin."

The Shinobi Exams (Chunin, Jounin etc.) were not the only way for someone to advance in rank. If that were so, then there would be a lot more ninja lined up at each event. Some villages, like the Leaf, sometimes advance several ninja up a rank if they show enough skill. But that usually only occurs between Genin and Chunin. It's pretty much unheard of for a Chunin to advance to Jounin without taking the Exam, but there have been cases of Chunin being moved up to Special Jounin. Strangely enough, this usually only happened when Ibiki Morino was looking for another person to work in T&I. He liked them fresh, after all.

Both males lapsed into another moment of silence, with Shikamaru leaning on one hand wondering what was going on, and Shikaku trying to figure out how to start this conversation. He wasn't used to this sort of situation since Yoshino had always handled this kind of stuff. And when he meant 'this kind of stuff' he meant puberty, girls and safety. He always got off easy with speeches concerning weapons, respect and teammates. Sighing once more, he held up his hands in a don't-freak-out-when-I-start-talking kind of way.

"Look, Shikamaru. I think you're entitled to your own life, but your mother is a bit… curious. There's been word going around about your… preferences, and she wanted to know if it was true."

Shikamaru flushed bright red, coughing into his hand from the awkward atmosphere. How that got around, he had no idea. The only people that knew about that were there the day of the Chunin Exam and if they really wanted to tell people, they would have said something months ago. But Shikamaru knew that they wouldn't have said anything because everyone there was a Jounin or higher, and they would want to draw unnecessary attention to the person they were investigating. (No doubt after several months he was still being watched carefully) Shikamaru was brought out of his thoughts when his dad starting talking again. He must have taken Shikamaru's silence for embarrassment.

"There's nothing wrong with that. We won't love you any less. Though your mother might be troublesome for some time about not having grand kids."

Shikamaru, for one of the few times in his life, didn't know exactly what to say to that. He did not, could not believe that this conversation (although mostly one sided) was happening. Then again he never really imagined that anyone would find out. He always assumed that it would stay a secret for a long long time. (beside the few that already knew or saw them after they killed Orochimaru) And the surprises didn't even end there. If Shikamaru was told at that point that they really didn't go back in time, and this was just some weird side dimension where everything was completely out of sorts… he'd believe it. (He's turning into Naruto lol)

"Don't tell your mother this, but back during the Third Shinobi War we were away from home a lot, not knowing when we would come home or if we would ever see our loved ones again. It was after a particularly brutal battle that we a good hundred of us were sitting in a huge ditch while it was raining. We were all sure we were going to die if another wave of the enemy came by. Luckily the Fourth Hokage and reinforcements came just in time, but the week that we were waiting… well things happen."

It didn't take much for Shikamaru to connect the dots, and although the story was meant to be serious, Shikamaru had to hold back a snort that was trying to force his way out.


Shikaku's brow twitched at how fast Shikamaru was able to figure it out. It wasn't even a question, but more like a statement. Sighing again, he muttered a troublesome and got out of the sitting position he was in.

"You get the idea. My work here is done. Tell your mother I'll be back later today."

Shikaku said that as quickly as possible, and then slouched through the house and out of the door. He wasn't surprised to see Inoichi and Chouza standing outside the front entrance ready to knock.

"Our wives sent us. They want to know if…"

"Yeah. Now let's go. I need a drink."

Inoichi, who was smiling mischievously, elbowed Shikaku in the ribs.

"I knew one of these days a Nara would think women were too troublesome."

Shikaku only sighed, and then scratched his head in irritation.

"I don't really care either way, but Yoshino does, and now she'll want to know who it is. And guess who's job that is?"

Chouza and Inoichi slouched alongside Shikaku as they walked to the nearest bar. "Ours."

In the blink of an eye, Naruto ducked out of the way of a blood stained sword just as it tried to cut his head off. Somersaulting back a few feet, he swiftly let loose a few kunai from the confines of his arm guards. They spiraled towards the enemy ninja, but he was quick to leap in to the air. Smirking wildly at him, the enemy ninja laughed victoriously as he watched the three kunai pass right under him. But unfortunately for him, he would never see the kunai hit the tree on the other side of the forest clearing as his throat was slit open.

The cut was clean and precise, and nothing less than Itachi's best. It never mattered to him whether or not it was the strongest or weakest person, he abhorred laziness and that included sloppiness. Not even watching as the man fell to the ground lifeless, Itachi cleaned the blood off his sword and placed it back in its holster. He turned around to see Naruto light the man on fire to cover their tracks. Once the man was only a pile of ash, Naruto fixed the mask over his face and joined Itachi, who was leaning against the tree where his three kunai were embedded. Plucking them out for him, Itachi flicked them towards Naruto, who promptly caught them and stuffed the three weapons back under his arm guard. Passing by the pile of ashes, Itachi quickly formed a hand seal, and the ground under the ashes shifted to where the remains were sucked underground. They both gave the area a once over to check for anything left behind, and then left to go back to the campsite. Kakashi was most likely still at the castle talking to the feudal lord who had stolen a necklace from their employer, and then set the guards and ninja on them. They really didn't have to worry about him considering the there were no traps set in the castle, and the guards really were no match for the Copy Ninja.

Making their way back to the campsite, they jumped higher into the trees until they found the area where they had set their supplies. Naruto hadn't been in ANBU in his past life, but back during the war, they all had been paranoid enough to sleep up in trees instead of the ground. It was also a lot easier to sense someone from up in a tree because you had more range. Scooting closer to the base of the tree, Naruto took off his mask and hooked it to his waist. Leaning his head back, he cracked his knees and back which were still trying to get used to the extra few inches he grew. They wouldn't be there long, since Kakashi would probably be back within the hour, but Naruto saw no need in not getting a little comfortable. His eyes were half mast (but still held a gleam of awareness in them) as he watched Itachi take his own mask off, and straddle the branch across from him. They both sat there in silence for a bit before Naruto decided to break in a conversation.

"You know, back before Sasuke left for Orochimaru, I had this whole image in my mind set up on how I wanted my life to work out. I always thought to myself that Sasuke and I would become Chunin and Jounin at the same time, and then a few months before I became Hokage, we would work together in ANBU. I find it exceedingly ironic that the man I end up working with is you, Itachi. No offense of course. Hey, what did you do to your partner Kisame, anyway?"

Itachi nodded in recognition, before retying his hair. "None taken considering I'm to be eternally grateful to you."

Naruto cocked his head to the side, twiddling with a loose string at the end of his black gloved hands. "How so?"

"I hadn't expected my plan to go wrong, and with your memories, the world can be better." ('My plan' is referring to Sasuke killing him and both of them finding peace)

"And it was a bit of trouble, but let's hope a fisherman is smart enough not to make blue sushi." Naruto laughed at the implication, happy that Itachi wasn't like Sasuke. In other words a complete prick most the time. Naruto would never say this to anyone, but Itachi was one of the best teammates he'd ever thought he'd have, and they'd only been working together for close to a month. It was silent again as Naruto and Itachi both watched the moon. Itachi glanced over at Naruto who looked like he was meaning to ask something, but wouldn't say it.

"You are restless."

Naruto nodded at Itachi's statement. He rolled a poisonous senbon between his fingers; not that worried if the end of the weapon pricked him.

"Did you… regret killing your family?"

Itachi remained relaxed as ever, probably expecting such a question to be asked. He gave a breathy hum like sigh before facing away from the moon. His face was half cast in shadows and it took a lot of will power not to look away from Itachi. It pained Naruto to see him; and in a way, Naruto was sure that if they had gone back in time when Itachi was thirteen, he still would have fit perfectly amongst the haunted eyes and powerful frames that he, Shikamaru and Gaara held.

"Sometimes I feel like I should have never done it, but someone had to. From your memories, I saw that I prevented the Fourth Shinobi War from occurring a good decade early. But I regret… my mother and Shisui."

"I'd like to think that no matter what you do, your best friend and the ones closest to you find it in their hearts to forgive. If only but a little."

"Wouldn't we all like to believe such a thing."

"If it's any conciliation, there was a girl we captured right as the war was declared… Karin. She was an old teammate joined with Sasuke. She said he cried when he found out your true intentions. Last time she saw him sane, she said."

Itachi laughed inconsolably. "I don't know whether to be flattered or bitter that the last thing a sane Sasuke thought about was me before he became nothing more than a killer."

Naruto shrugged, unable to find words to comfort such thoughts. Looking in the opposite direction, Naruto got up and straightened his clothes; Kakashi was running their way.

"In any case, that won't happen this time. But it is too bad that we'll be the ones to start the war this time."

With that hanging in the air, Naruto and Itachi readjusted their masks back onto their faces and disappeared into the night.

Madara stood quietly on top of a high cliff close to Amegakure. It was cloudy, and he you practically smell another thunder storm coming. It would probably come in a few hours, but until then, he would sit outside and shuffle through thoughts. Orochimaru's death was quite inconvenient since the curse seal on Sasuke Uchiha would have been greatly beneficial for his manipulation of the boy in the future. He was curious though, he very well knew that the Sandiame was a formidable opponent, but he was old. And Orochimaru had learned quite a few more tricks since he left that disgusting village ages ago. If anything, Madara had expected the Third Hokage to at least die killing his former student. His orange mask was still firmly in place as he rubbed his eye threw the hole. Something was missing or somewhat off. He could feel an almost shift in the air, at that certain something, but he couldn't quite grasp it. And then there was the issue with one Itachi Uchiha. He took his eyes off Itachi for one moment and next thing he knew, he couldn't find Kisame and the black haired swine anyway. Technically he never really had to watch Itachi carefully because the man had his own agenda, which kept him in line for Madara most the time, but it never hurt to check on that conniving weasel. Madara Uchiha knew more than anyone else that trusting an Uchiha who isn't quite loyal to you is a dangerous game to play. He knew that Itachi would never go back to Konohagakure, and the last he heard of Kisame and Itachi, they were in Sand; they probably went to meet up with Sasori and Deidara. Now that he thought of it, it wasn't completely improbable that they got in a fight and something happened, but if anyone were to disappear if that were the case, it would be Sasori and Deidara; who really didn't fight on the same level as Itachi or Kisame. They were strong, but not strong enough to take down those two.

Zetsu was currently occupied, but if Madara really wanted him to come, he would. But this was somewhat interesting, and he felt like investigating. It had been a while since he had actually done something without doing it through the Akatsuki first, and this would be the perfect chance to get his eyes back on the job. Cracking his neck, Madara took one more glance at the high tower where Pain and Konan were in, and headed off. He could leave those two alone for a bit. It wasn't like they would start their own revolution anyway. Jumping into the nearest tree, he set off towards Fire Country to find out what was really going on and where the two Akatsuki members had disappeared to.

This will sound really random, but I've recently become obsessed with this series called Soul Eater. It's been a good year and a half since I've gotten this excited about a series, and when I went to check it out on , I was greatly astonished that it didn't have more stories. I expected it to be one of the top archives and yet I was bitch slapped with the results. Anyway, thank you for reading, reviewing and sending suggestions these past few months as I write this story for you. It is greatly appreciated.