AN: Sorry I took so long, I wasn't prepared for the holiday season.


Chapter 15: Home Again

The horror that filled Sakura's eyes was like a knife to Naruto's soul. Yes, is schoolboy crush was gone, but in its place Sakura had become a close friend and her reaction was exactly what he was afraid it would be. Fear, hatred, disgust, all those and more filled her eyes. And so it was a complete surprise when she hugged him and stared cry incoherently into his chest. He stared at her for a moment before nervously rubbing her back and looking to his teacher and other teammate for help. He froze again as he saw one emotion he hadn't expected on their faces.

Guilt.

For Sasuke it was the guilt of having his friend suffer so much because of a member of his clan. He had no doubt Naruto's story was true, it was a well known fact in his clan that Madara had been able to control the Kyuubi and had used it in his battle against the first. Someone else had unlocked those eyes and attacked a woman who had just given birth, a woman who would have her newborn child used to seal away the same monster she'd been burdened with. This was why everyone had told him to stay away from the blond, why he had so much chakra and why he healed so quickly. It all made sense and it all made his sick.

For Kakashi it was the guilt of letting down his father figure and letting the boy who should have been his brother in all but blood go through life alone. He knew the kind of life Naruto had lived, even being assigned to look after him a few times during his ANBU days, but to have it all laid out like that made his disgusted with himself. The cold weight of guilt that had been building ever since they sat together watching the stars was finally too much for him.

Sakura's emotions were far less focused, but at the same time more intense. That Naruto had been treated so poorly disgusted her and the idea that a father could do something so horrible to his newborn son was horrifying. The way the villager's had treated him, the way SHE had treated him, was just too much for her and so she clung onto him and let it all out.

Silence filled the room for a while, slowly going from nervous to comforting. Sakura's tears stopped, but she still hugged Naruto and Sasuke moves so he was sitting on the blond's other side. They would be there for him, just like he'd promised to be there for them.

"So," began Naruto when they were all calmed down. "what happened after Kurama did his thing?"

"We told everyone you summoned a demon to kill Gato." Stated Kakashi, the tense atmosphere relaxing. "Zabuza and Haku accepted that it was a village secret, but weren't happy about it. Surprisingly, they took not being allowed to kill Kaiza better than I thought. After we got you two back here we raided Gato's hideout and the partying just died down about an hour ago. Unfortunately, Kaiza..."

"Coma, right?" Sighed Naruto, earning surprised looks from the others. "It's part of the seal on his face, once the designated 'master' is removed from influence the seal shuts down all unnecessary functions. It's actually closed to suspended animation."

"Can you remove it?" Asked Kakashi.

Naruto shook his head. "As I am now, no. I'm going to need to study it a bit before I know if it even can be removed. Slave seals aren't exactly meant to come off, or at least not without consequences."

"What about your blood?" asked Sakura.

"My blood doesn't create or destroy seals, it just rewrites them. That's why I have to draw the seal out in ink before using my blood. I also can't change their basic function. I can change the power and direction of an explosive tag, but I can't turn it into a storage seal." His eyes lost focus, something they now knew meant he was listening to Kurama. "That may not be a bad idea. If I do it right I can alter the submission command into a repression lock and if I reverse the polarity of the will interface I should be able to rig up an occlumenty matrix to block the nerve..." He stopped seeing the glazed looks in their eyes. "I can repress the memories and keep his arms from hurting while giving him back his free will."

"Ooooh." They said in unison, making Naruto facepalm.

They fell into silence again, at least until their stomachs growled and Naruto found himself on the receiving end of two and a half sets of puppy dog eyes.


He woke slowly to two strange voices speaking over him. He couldn't tell what they were saying, his mind too foggy from his sleep. They were quiet enough for him to ignore and he was still sleepy.

"He moved!" One hissed urgently, breaking through the fog. What was going on? Who moved? "My name is Naruto, can you hear me?" He slowly opened his eyes to the sight of a blue eyed blond staring at him from less than an inch away.

Kaiza blinked as the boy continued to stare, his big blue eyes seeming to pierce right into his soul. "Um...hi?"

They boy, Naruto he remembered, smiled the biggest smile he'd ever seen and leaned back to Kaiza's right. "Sakura, Haku, I need a full medical scan." Almost immediately Naruto's face was replaced by those of two girls who hovered glowing green hands up and down Kaiza's body.

"Will one of you please tell me what's going on?" He got a sinking feeling as they all glanced silently at each other.

"What's the last thing you remember?" Asked Naruto as the girls finished their scans and moved away.

Kaiza closed his eyes and thought. "I went out to fight someone…he…I can't remember his name. He had been hurting everyone, I needed to stop him. I…I can't remember anything after that." His eyes shot open and he grabbed Naruto's jacket. "My family! Are they safe?!"

"They're fine." Assured Naruto. "They were the ones to hire my team to protect Tazuna and finish off Gato." Kaiza relaxed into his bed as Naruto continued to explain. "It's been about a year since you went off to fight Gato. There's no easy way to say this so I'll just spit it out: you failed. I won't go into the details, but it was bad enough that everyone thought you were dead. Unfortunately Gato had some stuff from overseas to pull you back from death's door." He pulled out a mirror to show Kaiza the flowing marks on his face. "Originally this kept your mind locked up and forced you to obey him, but I've rewritten it. Your arms have also had prosthetics implanted in them to repair the damage, but the girls were skilled enough to smooth everything out." Kaiza stared up at him in shock as Naruto continued. "From what we can tell Gato never used you until a few weeks ago, apparently your arms took that long to repair, and even then you never managed to hurt anyone. Well, no one but a water clone." Kaiza relaxed a little hearing that, at least he didn't hurt anyone. "Once Kurama-nii took care of Gato a fail safe in the seal kicked in knocked you out until I did my thing. Any questions?"

"Why don't I remember any of this?"

"Part of what I rewrote was to change the part that kept your mind locked up to keep your memories repressed. I didn't think you'd want to remember stuff like that."

Kaiza nodded. "I guess so."

"That's about it then." Smiled Naruto. "The seal will do its thing and you should be able to use your arms just fine. You'll probably have to put up with people starring at you, but that's about it." He shook his head and blinked. "Wow, didn't think he'd do that...sorry, ninja thing. Inari is on his way t-" He was interrupted by Inari running into the room. "I'll just leave you two alone."


Once Kaiza was up and about again team seven said their goodbyes, Zabuza and Haku deciding to stay in Wave. It was on their last night in there that Sasuke was further traumatized.

He gulped and shook himself, he shouldn't be this nervous. How many times had girls done it to him? He took a calming breath and knocked on Haku's door. "Haku, are you up?"

After a moment the door opened to a sleepy Haku rubbing her eyes. "What Sasuke?"

He gulped again. "Um...well, we leave in the morning and I didn't...didn't want to leave without telling you...telling you...why are you laughing!" As he spoke Haku had slowly woken up and realized what Sasuke was doing.

"Sasuke," she giggled. "sorry to break it to you, but I'm really a guy."


The return trip was mostly spent in silence, Naruto talking with Kurama, Kakashi reading his book and Sakura trying to figure out why Sasuke was had a thousand yard stare. When they were almost to the village Naruto stopped with a wide smile spreading across his face.

"Let me be the first to congratulate you on you're first successful A rank mission." Said Sarutobi with a grandfatherly smile. "Though I must ask that you not create a parade of shadow clones every time you do."

"I haven't pranked anyone for a while, I needed my fix." Whined Naruto, pouting like a child. "Besides, everyone loved it."

"I'm just impressed that the floats were so detailed." Mused Kakashi. "How did you learn all those instruments for the marching band?"

"Shadow clones." He replied happily. "Though I consider Kurama's float to be the the best part, you should have seen some of the reactions I got when he moved."


AN: That's it for now, pretty much just filler. Next time I'll try to get some of the Naru/Hina going.