Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Pokémon. If I did, I'd have a lot of money…but I don't. So don't bother suing, you won't get anything out of it.

Notes: (Crossover, could be a crack!fic if you want) Here there be Naruto characters and Pokémon monsters! This is a short story which takes place a little bit before, but mostly after "Surf's Up!".

Be ye warned…this one's gonna be sad.

Shadow and Ash

Part I

Kabuto adjusted his glasses as he withdrew his collapsed glaceon from the battlefield. The current challenger was on his last legs with only a weary umbreon left able to fight. The silver-haired trainer toyed with the idea of using his last and most powerful pokémon—his venusaur—to crush the noisy blond boy. But the rules that he'd declared at the start of the fight had limited him to using only five of his six monsters and if he violated that, the kid just might be bright enough to report him and draw unwanted attention to the gym.

So, with a friendly smile, he conceded the match.

The boy managed a cheer and eagerly accepted the gym's Serpent Badge. Kabuto kept his cheerful, harmless smile on his face until the challenger had scampered out the doors with his umbreon trotting at his heels. The instant he was alone, the expression on his face faded into something cold and neutral.

He calmly left the battlefield for the back rooms of the gym. Depositing the pokéballs that contained his injured creatures into the healing machine, he strolled into a control room filled with video screens that displayed feeds that came in from dozens of cameras all around the building. He settled himself in front of a control panel and prepared to review the match he'd just lost before adding it to the archives, but hesitated when he noticed the position of some of the dials.

"…You're back early, sir. Is everything alright?"

"Everything is fine," a dark, velvety voice hissed from the shadowed corner of the room. "My business simply didn't take as long as I had estimated that it would."

"Did you enjoy the show?" Kabuto asked as he glanced over his shoulder.

Orochimaru seemed to melt out of the shadows as he pushed off the wall and moved to sit in the chair beside his subordinate. He was unnaturally pale and his narrow, serpentine face looked inhuman in the poor light of the room. The gym leader ran his unusually long tongue over his lips before giving Kabuto a thin, reptilian smile.

"Yes," he decided, brushing a few strands of limp black hair away from his golden eyes. "It was most entertaining. I found that boy's ninetales especially fascinating. It's too bad we can't risk stealing it here."

Kabuto nodded, then arched an eyebrow when he spied something slide out of Orochimaru's loose kimono-like sleeve and slither out onto the control panel.

It was green and slender with very stubby limbs and a three-pronged leaf at the end of its tail. The small monster was clearly a grass type and serpentine in form, which was probably why the gym leader had chosen to acquire it. The unfamiliar creature stared at Kabuto with a smugly superior look on its narrow pointed face.

"The egg I picked up on the black market finally hatched," Orochimaru chuckled. "Such a marvelous little creature, isn't he? I've decided to call him…Kusanagi."

Dosu polished his metal forearm guard, rubbing away countless imaginary smudges. Not only did it protect the back of his right hand, wrist, and part of his arm from damage in fights, it gave his wicked backhand an extra bite. It also made a lovely sound when he tapped it against other metal objects like railings and door handles. He rubbed the cloth over the metal, huddled deeper in his bulky trench coat, and did his best to ignore his teammates.

Kin was a whiny brat with delusions of grandeur. She dreamed of being a famous model and singer someday and constantly practiced being an annoying diva for the day when her goals magically came within her grasp. The bratty girl kept her black hair ridiculously long and sometimes Dosu wondered if she had a phobia that involved scissors or hair salons.

Zaku was a hot-headed punk that wanted to be a tough gangster more than anything. He kept a pair of air-powered pistols that fired tranquilizer darts close at hand, which he used to shamelessly cheat in both human and pokémon battles. Dosu always sneered at the pistols. After each shot they needed to be pumped back up to be able to fire again and that took time, leaving Zaku vulnerable.

As team leader, they were subordinate to him, but their personalities made them a headache to deal with. Kin would complain and tease Zaku and always tried to get her own way. Zaku was loud and impulsive with a short fuse and he would rise to Kin's bait every single time. Most days Dosu contemplated killing them as he mediated their stupid childish spats and struggled to keep them on task.

They were currently at loose ends, hanging out on the fringes of Oto City a few minutes away from their boss's gym. They weren't working on any job or project, and probably wouldn't get much action for a good long time. After their stint in prison in Wind Country, they were too hot. If they got collared again from a crime, they'd go back to jail for even longer.

It could cost them their place in Team Sound.

"Hey!" Zaku hissed and shoved Dosu's shoulder, breaking his concentration. "Hey, look! It's that stupid punk!"

"What stupid punk?" Dosu muttered, adjusting the bandages that covered his face to hide the burns from a childhood accident.

"That dumb shit that got us locked up in Suna!" Zaku snarled, barely able to keep his voice down. "The blond with the weird scars!"

"Let's crush him, Dosu," Kin pleaded. "He's all by himself—no creepy gym leader back-up this time!"

Attention grabbed, Dosu stood up from his tree stump seat and peered through the bushes at the dirt road down the slope. Sure enough, the blond pokémon trainer with the odd facial scars that had ruined their museum heist in Suna City was walking down the road leading from the gym towards the nearest Pokémon Center, clear on the other side of town. And he was alone, with only a tired-looking umbreon at his side.

Anger boiled in the pit of his stomach as he watched the little idiot stroll along without a care in the world. The stupid kid had no idea what his meddling had done to their lives, no idea what it was like in juvenile prison. It was because of this carefree little fool that they were in the doghouse with the rest of their organization.

If he's just leaving the gym after a challenge, his monsters will be all tired out, and there aren't many people around this part of town at any time of day…

Dosu plucked one of his pokéballs from his belt and glared hatefully down at his younger foe.

…I think our odds are good enough.

Naruto felt almost giddy with relief as he and Shadow headed back towards the gritty heart of Oto City. Even though Kabuto had only been a substitute gym leader it had been a harder match than he'd expected. Twice he'd almost lost, but they'd persevered and come away with the badge.

It was an odd-looking badge. There was a purple snake coiled around a silver musical note. The snake he understood as the gym leader was supposed to use only snake-like pokémon, but the eighth note made him scratch his head.

Maybe this Orochimaru guy likes classical music?

A rustling sound to his left tore his attention away from the shiny pin and he looked up the slope—

A whismur, a loudred, and an exploud burst from the woods and barreled down towards him with the exploud quickly racing into the lead. The pink whismur and the gray loudred were whipping themselves into uproars while the massive exploud was ominously silent, its enormous mouth closed tightly. Naruto gaped as the seconds seemed to crawl by as the exploud charged right at him, one arm stiff, straight, and glowing.

It's going to hit…me?

The exploud swung its arm—

Naruto stumbled sideways, stunned paralysis broken, as something tackled his legs—


"Shadow, no!"