Title: Mask Built Off Lies

Summary: Shinobi from all around feared the Shin'en no Kitsune. People of Konoha simply saw Naruto as a troublemaking brat. How wrong they were. The jinchūriki is finding it harder to keep his 'mask' of happiness on and his team start to suspect something. Especially Sasuke.

Disclaimer: If I owned it why would I be on this site?

A/N: Just a little thing that's been floating around my head for a while :P Enjoy.

Naruto grimaced. The beating from last night had not yet fully healed and pain lanced through his body with every small motion he made. Even with his accelerated healing rate, the mob was unusually vicious and had made several deep gashes along his arms and chest. Sighing, Naruto wrapped the last of the bandages around his arms and took off to the Team 7 training grounds. He absently made a note to restock on instant ramen once he finished his special Henge designed to not dispel upon a 'Kai' or physical contact, making it perfect to manoeuvre around and buy groceries. Until then, he would have to see if he could leech off Iruka or go hungry.

He paused outside the meeting spot and frowned before taking a deep breath and running in to greet Sakura with the usual sunny smile. She never noticed when his smile ceased to reach his eyes. No-one ever did.

"Sakura-chan! Good morning! Do y'think we'll get a B or even A rank today? Ne, ne?"

Team 7 was now a group of one Jonin (Kakashi), Two Chunin (Sasuke and Sakura) and one genin (Naruto). The reason for this was because despite Naruto's performance over the years, the bias of the council had rejected his applications into the Chunin exam under the excuse of 'Kyuubi-might-go-rampage-and-we-can't-trust-you-so-no.' He hated how even through Tsunade's efforts, the council overruled her decision…multiple times.

Over the years, he had forged an ANBU identity as Shin'en no Kitsune (Fox of the Abyss) where he could truly be himself and drop his mask of an idiot and deadlast. He was never stupid and was the true definition of a genius. From young he had been forced to live on his own to survive and he had taught himself the basics of Math and how to read. No-one outside of his ANBU team Anko, Genma, Iruka (who later asked to re-enter ANBU service after retiring from his position as a teacher) and Tsunade and Shizune knew his true identity.

"Naruto-baka. Shut up." Sakura simply replied before turning to the Uchiha next to her. "Sasuke-kun, will you go on a dat-"

"No." Came the curt reply from the raven as he glanced towards the blonde. "Dobe, tried to add to your non-existent fashion sense?" He jabbed at his friend's bandages, thinking they were an added accessory.

Naruto was not in the mood however, and simply glared in return.

"Oi, dobe."

The blonde looked sharply up in shock before his mind registered what he was meant to do. He pasted a fake smile onto his face and started to babble on about ramen. Sakura passed it off as a strange mood swing but Sasuke simply stared at the jinchūriki with growing concern. (Not that he would admit it) Why was the dobe acting so strange? He hadn't been called 'teme' once. How odd.

It was then their silver-haired sensei chose to appear. "Yo!"

"You're late!" Sakura and Naruto shouted though Naruto's shout was not as exuberant and rather half-heartedly shouted.

"Haha, sorry- you see I had to help get my neighbour's ex-boyfriend's sister's cat out of a tree at the other side of Konoha and when I was headed here a black cat crossed my path so I had to take the long way around." He lied offhandedly.

"Liar!" The two students shouted in unison again.

"Well, anyway, no missions today because I have a meeting to attend, ja ne!" The Cyclops disappeared in a plume of smoke as the remainder of team 7 stared on in irritation.

Naruto left without another word to his team.

"Mission accomplished Hokage-sama." The ANBU reported as they stood waiting for a dismissal from the Hokage.

"Well done- excellent job for the execution without any additional casualties, I expect a report on my desk by tomorrow morning. For now, head home and get some rest." The blonde replied before adding on something before the ANBU team left. "Kitsune, could you stay for a second?"

The fox masked ANBU hung back before running a hand through his bright blonde locks. "Yes Tsunade baa-chan?"

Tsunade chuckled as she threw a paperweight at her favourite gaki. "Take off your mask…Naruto."

Naruto swiftly removed his mask as he caught the object thrown at him and replaced it gracefully on her desk, a tired smile adorning his face.

"You aren't coping with both duties." It was more of a statement rather than an inquiry. Tsunade took note of Naruto's glazed eyes- she hated it. It suited a veteran far better than that of a child. 'One that shouldn't have experience half the things he has.' She added mentally.

The shorter blonde didn't reply before dully stating. "October 10 is next week."

The Hokage rubbed her temples in a circular motion before breaking the news to the ANBU. "Look, Naruto, about that- I'm temporarily pulling you out of ANBU services, the stress on you is too much."

Naruto looked shocked before he felt his temper flare. "You can't do this! What do you plan my team on doing? None of them are willing to replace me as captain during my absence. And you of all people should know what happens during that day! I need to be out of Konoha by that day! I can't stay!"

"Naruto I-"

"You out of everyone should understand. I can't be in Konoha!" Naruto's eyes flashed red with barely restrained anger.

"Please…you're pushing yourself too hard. You can't keep up with your duties while being on another team." Tsunade attempted to reason.

"Oh please. My wonderful team consisting of a screaming banshee, revenge driven emo and an incompetent teacher." He muttered sarcastically.

The Hokage felt guilt well up inside her. She knew Naruto was trying to escape the wrath of the villagers and many shinobi alike on his birthday but he had been pushing himself to take several S rank missions in order to get out of the village. "Naruto…"

"You can't do this!"

"As the Hokage I have all the right to do this Kitsune." She said sternly, her resolve solidifying. The blonde had to learn to stand up to the villagers, running away would only serve to add to his problems over the years. "My decision is final. I'll inform your teammates as soon as I can but for now take some time to go on mission with team 7."

"I'll be taking my leave now then Hokage-sama." The honorific attached to the end of her title made her feel crushed. Naruto had never addressed her in anyway other than 'baa-chan' unless he was pissed. She sighed as the blonde left in a yellow flash much like his father.

"I need sake."

A/N: This is an intro to this fic. There won't be sasu/naru until later on though, it's more of an angst/trag fic ;; (On a brighter note I'm getting the official bleach fanbook! Woot!) Review please?