"Hey, daddy…" Naruto asked slyly as he walked slowly up to his father reading on the couch. He was attempting to look very casual as he rocked on his heels nervously and innocently clasped his small hands behind his back but, really, it was pretty obvious when a four-year-old was trying to butter-up their parent. They just aren't at the age yet where they can pull off anything remotely stealthy to save their lives, especially when they were trying to scam the great Copy Ninja of the Hidden Leaf. Poor kid just didn't have a snowball's chance in hell.

"No," Kakashi said automatically, not even giving the boy a chance to continue his request. He didn't even look up from his stupid orange book as he spoke.

The boy's apparently ineffective façade was instantly dropped and his hands moved to clasp at his sides angrily as he whined loudly, "You don't even know what I want though!"

His eye still scanning the pages casually, he returned in a monotone, "But I do. We both know that I know what you want and we also both know that the answer is going to be 'no' and we both know that that's not going to change."

Once his little mind made sense of his daddy's confusing sentence, he pouted exaggeratedly and clenched his fists even tighter when he practically shouted, "But I haven't had it for ages!"

Kakashi finally glanced up from his book and gave him a dull look when he said, "Pup, don't be ridiculous. You've had ramen two nights in a row this week already. Daddy wants you to eat some other things too and that's it. We already discussed that you could have it again next week when Tsunade takes you out, so I really don't see what the problem is."

"But I really want it tonight! And besides, your idea of other food is yucky vegetables and that meat you always overcook. Can't you just let me have it one more night? I promise I won't ask again until you say so!"

Not even mildly offended at having his cooking skills dissed so blatantly, he calmly replied, "Pup, there's nothing wrong with vegetables. They're good for you and you're really not eating enough of them as it is. And I've only overcooked the meat a few times and you've been using it against me ever since. Give a man a break, would you?" He said the last sentence with an amused glint in his single eye that Naruto wasn't able to pick up on as a result of his growing distress.

Realising Daddy was never going to give in this time, he slumped his shoulders miserably and stared dramatically at the floor with an exaggerated sadness in the deep blue of his eyes. He'd really wanted to have ramen again tonight!

Kakashi's persona instantly changed from mild amusement to a sort of grim pity…not that anyone could tell. No matter how much he tried to stay firm in his resolve, those damn blue eyes almost broke him every time. Naruto still didn't know just how much sway those damn things held over him and he was eternally grateful that the kid was oblivious in that regard. If he knew, boy would Kakashi be in trouble then. All it'd take was one look from those eyes used in the exact right way and, hell, he'd be giving that kid whatever he asked for.

Sighing resignedly and placing his book back in his ninja pouch, he walked over to Naruto and ruffled his short blond locks messily as he said in mild defeat, "How about we compromise? I know you've wanted me to give you some more taijutsu training for a while now. How about you go out into the yard and do the warm-ups I gave you last time and I'll come give you some pointers when you're done. How does that sound?"

It was like the boy lit up from the inside out at his father's words. His face, that had turned up to look at Kakashi in barely-contained excitement, was bright with enthusiasm as he shouted triumphantly, "That sounds even better than ramen! I promise I'll show you just how much I improved since last time! You're gonna be blown away, daddy; I promise!" With that, he leapt excitedly from under his father's hand still placed atop his head and practically bounced into the yard, instantly under-taking the warm-ups Kakashi had carefully taught him as soon as he reached the middle of the grassy area.

Kakashi's eye softened as he watched him warm-up with such glee that it was as if he'd promised him they'd move into Ichiraku's as soon as he was done. The brat had apparently taken on Minato and Kushina's love for ramen just as much as they had. He'd brought him to the stand as soon as he was old enough to eat the stuff as a sign of respect to his true parents…and partially regretted it ever since. The kid was absolutely obsessed with the stuff and it was becoming a real hassle to get him to eat anything other than those soupy noodles. What was even more mind-blowing was how thin his wallet was becoming as a result of it. The kid just wouldn't stop eating that crap until he practically burst. Nevertheless, their nights out there gave him nostalgic memories of when his sensei and sometimes Kushina would take him, Obito and Rin out for team celebrations, full of constant laughter and comfortable chatter. Perhaps he could make up for the fact that he never truly appreciated those small moments of happiness by enjoying the many times he and Naruto would go there, now and in the future.

For the time being, though, ramen had taken a sort of 'backseat' when Naruto had been truly introduced to the idea of 'shinobi'. Ever since his friends Shikamaru and Choji had ecstatically told him all about the fact that they would be starting at the academy in two years, he'd gotten caught up in their obvious excitement and was determined to become a super cool ninja just like the ones from the stories his buddies had told him. Just like with all boys his age, the idea of becoming a great and powerful hero was just too incredible to resist.

Kakashi found it most amusing, though, when Naruto would practically worship at his feet the few times he'd reveal old stories from missions and from the war. It wasn't long after he'd felt it was time to reveal such things that the kid was following him around everywhere, begging him to tell him more and to show him all of the cool moves he'd learnt during his time of being a 'super awesome and totally heroic ninja'.

That had then lead on to incessant nagging for him to teach him such moves so he could become just as awesome as his daddy. All he'd done was show him the Chidori and a few taijutsu maneuvers a couple of times to satisfy his cravings and Naruto had proceeded to insist that he teach him everything he knew with stars of adoration in his eyes. Kakashi had been very reluctant to push anything that strenuous on a kid so young and felt that it was proper etiquette to allow him to be trained properly by his teachers, but the kid had been so keen and so willing to learn even the smallest thing that Kakashi had eventually caved. He'd promised he'd teach him basic taijutsu, but nothing more. He'd allow him to learn chakra control and such at the academy. It had seemed like the least risky compromise.

They had only had a few sessions together so far (learning the standard warm-ups, routine stances and some basic kicks and punches) but the kid had been so ecstatic every damn time. Although he nagged his dad way too often for his deteriorating sanity for him to teach him even more, Kakashi was glad that the kid had such enthusiasm. His will to learn and to keep on trying to perfect every technique until he was absolutely exhausted was nothing short of awe-inspiring and Kakashi could already see that such determination would be very useful for the boy in the future.

Unfortunately, Naruto's training had given Kakashi a few concerns, though. Although the boy really did give it his all, he was having a much more difficult time grasping even the basic concepts than he had anticipated. Taking into account that he was probably comparing his ability to his parents' and his own a little unfairly, he still couldn't help but contemplate that Naruto probably should be able to grasp such things a little better than at the rate he was currently going at. It didn't help that his temper, which suspiciously reminded the elder Hatake of Kushina, interfered with his advancements on a regular basis.

Kakashi just hoped that such concerns would not end up putting him in danger in the future.

Once he realized that his thoughts had taken a rather sudden and grim turn, he pushed them aside to deal with at a more appropriate time. All he could do for now was offer the best support possible for Naruto and have faith that the kid would figure out the rest along the way. After all, he was the biological son of the great Fourth Hokage and one incredible kunoichi and he knew such underlying potential was not to be underestimated.


It was a rather long time before Kakashi was finally able to convince Naruto that enough was enough for today. The boy had been having a rather frustrating predicament with the round-house kick and always somehow managed to end up in a tangled mess, no matter how many times his dad pointed out the correct stances and sequence of movements over and over and over again. His determination was admirable, but Kakashi was getting incredibly hungry (having already skipped breakfast just to help him out at the kid's utter insistence) and was practically falling over at the need for any sort of food. He impressively kept up a collected façade, but the grumblings of his empty stomach were really starting to mess with his concentration.

Naruto had looked rather guilty when he realized that he had really been quite selfish in his need to prove his strength, but Kakashi was quick to remind him that such guts and determined attitude was important for a ninja and that he should never apologise for such a morale…but it would probably be best if he toned it down to a more suitable level in the future.

Kakashi tried to ignore the fact that as Naruto got more exhausted, his chakra also started to gain a more orange tinge. He wasn't quite sure what that meant in regards to you-know-who and he hated to admit that perhaps he was putting off dealing with it as long as possible. The idea that that bastard of a demon was gaining more power once more and therefore a very real threat to Naruto's safety made him a bit dizzy. The fact that there was nothing he could really do about it either made something in his chest clench noticeably as well.

"Is it almost ready?! I'm starving!" Naruto's overly loud voice burst through his depressing mood and gave him the distraction he had been unconsciously seeking. As he looked down into those pleading blue orbs, he felt a sense of calm wash over him he didn't realize he'd needed so badly. The boy was still here and he was still ok; that was what really mattered in the end.

"Yeah yeah it's ready now you greedy little buggar. Just let me serve it up while you set the table, alright?" Although what he had said was obviously insulting, his visible eye was turned up in an attempt at cheerfulness and his voice was heavily tainted by fondness. The kid just instantly brought up his mood with his constant presence, whether said boy noticed that or not.

Realising his daddy was in one of those funny moods again that he could never quite figure out, he left Kakashi to his own devices and set the table, a mood of angst and nervousness overcoming him when he comprehended that it was time for him to ask the question he'd taken a week to work up the nerve for. If he didn't ask it tonight, he was sure that it'd take a really long time before he'd be brave enough to do it again. He knew Daddy wouldn't be mad, but Shikamaru had told him that questions like these often made parents sad and he really didn't want to do that.

When Kakashi had finally brought over the reasonably appetizing food consisting of cooked veggies and white rice, he noticed that Naruto was staring at the placemat he had set up for himself a little too intensely and his instincts instantly alerted him to the fact that something was weighing heavily on the boy's mind. Where he would've normally asked others straight up what was wrong, he instead allowed the boy the space to sort it out for himself first. He found that Naruto preferred to work things over in his mind before he approached someone else; otherwise he tended to clam up and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. He was rather like himself in that regard, Kakashi somewhat-fondly noted.

The very late lunch was a rather somber and quiet affair, despite the fact that nothing particularly unusual had happened that day and that the food was actually not all that bad. Naruto even ate all of his veggies without a single complaint to the great surprise and slight worry of his father. Naruto never let on that the reason he had done so was because he futilely hoped that that small bit of kindness would make the question he wanted to ask a little less mood dampening.

Even though, by now, they had both finished every little morsel on their plates, they together remained in their seats and stared at the table as if it would somehow break the obvious tension in the room. Neither of them approached the fact that they were both awkwardly waiting for Naruto to finally say what was weighing so heavily on his mind.

"The food was nice, you know," Naruto said quietly, still staring with now furrowed brows at the dining table.

After a quick and slightly confused glance in the boy's direction, Kakashi mildly replied, "I'm glad it was to your liking."

Feeling the heavy weight of his building worry, he added, "The soy sauce made it tastier; you should put it with the zucchini next time you cook it."

"I'll try to remember that in the future."



"Um, you know, your meat really isn't all that bad either. You should probably just not read until after you finish cooking. Maybe you won't forget about it then and let it overcook."

A slight pause.

"I'll try to remember that too."

More silence.

Great, this was really going somewhere, wasn't it? No matter how many times Naruto opened his mouth to just spit out the damn question already, he ended up vomiting out the first thing that came to mind instead. His daddy probably thought he was crazy, he admitted to himself miserably. He knew that daddy was waiting for him to say what he actually wanted to say and he was glad he was being so patient, but even he had to admit it was getting a bit ridiculous and making the awkward tension worse and worse by the second.

With wary determination, he said as fast as he possibly could (as if saying the words quicker would miraculously mean it'd be easier to spit them out), "Whathappenedtomummy?"

Shocked at the sudden outburst, Kakashi's single grey eye snapped up to meet the nervous blue of Naruto's, as he took a moment to figure out just what the hell the kid had said. Unfortunately for the young adult, it wasn't long before his quick mind comprehended the blurted words and a sense of unexpected dread consumed him.

To be honest, he really shouldn't be as utterly frozen in surprise as he was, his gaze still locked with that of the young boy's, whose own eyes were now being steadily consumed by a rising panic. He'd been expecting the question since the kid was about three years old, but had been selfishly hoping he'd have a little longer to decide what exactly to do. In all that time, he'd still come up with absolutely nada to say in return and now the moment had come and he had no prepared reassurances or comforting gestures.


Sighing in remorse for both himself and Naruto, his gaze flashed to the floor for a few moments to give himself a few moments to close his eye and collect himself, before slowly meeting with Naruto's eyes once more that were by now cloaked in a dread of his own.

It hit him then why Naruto had been so unusually quiet and somber during lunch. It hadn't been because he was just nervous about his question like Kakashi had originally thought; it had been because he was worried that his daddy would be sad because he had brought up deeply buried grief regarding a woman that didn't even exist in the first place.

Oh, yeah, that too. Not only would Kakashi have the task of reassuring Naruto about the missing presence of his mother, but he also had to feed the lie he'd told everyone else he knew, other than Tsunade, straight to a boy he considered to be his own son. The mere thought of doing something so…so…deceptive to Naruto about his own mother made Kakashi feel like the worst parent alive. Fuck the fact that it was for his own good; he was about to tell the boy some stupid bullshit about someone that wasn't even real and make him believe in a mummy that was so very shallow compared to that of the inspiring beauty, in both body and soul, that comprised the identity of Kushina Uzumaki. The boy would never know just what a wonderful person his true mother had been and instead end up believing the woman had abandoned him because she was a spineless coward.

"Relax, Pup. I'm not upset; I promise. You have every right to know what happened to her," he took a deep breath before continuing, "Your mummy was a very nice person and she was very beautiful. She talked about you all the time before you were conceived and she was so excited to know you. There were a few complications, though, when you were born and Mummy had to leave. I'm sure wherever she is, though, that she loves you very, very much and thinks a lot about you every day."

Naruto looked back at his daddy with a look of slight suspicion when he returned, "But…what were the complications? Why would she leave me?"

Kakashi honestly felt like a piece of him died in that moment. Naruto looked so innocent yet so mature in that moment as he awaited the news even a four-year-old could tell he wouldn't like. He was trying to be strong, like he always did, but he was just a boy. Even if he wasn't just a boy still, the news would hurt terribly either way.

Feeling like now was the time to offer the most comfort, he opened his arms in an unusual initiation of physical affection and Naruto instantly pounced on the opportunity that he almost never had the chance to revel in. His daddy had never been a very physical person and therefore any affection in that sort of area he got he was sure to treasure greatly.

Once Naruto was situated comfortably in his lap, he forced himself to launch straight into what he knew needed to be said; it wasn't like he had much choice.

"Pup, sometimes things happen in this world that are just not meant to be. When I met your mother and she met me, we came to care for each other very much. She had a big role back in her birthplace, though, and we both knew we were never supposed to stay together forever. We were very fond of one another, though, and so decided we'd spend what time we had together making happy memories we could carry with us for the rest of our lives. Your mummy never wanted to leave you, but she had big responsibilities back where she came from and she knew I'd raise you right, the way she wasn't able to do then in her position."

"But wasn't I important? Why didn't she try to do her job and take care of me? Was I not good enough?" Despite sounding so mad, teardrops clung stubbornly to the edges of his eyelids, kept there by sheer willpower alone.

As Kakashi looked back into those wavering blue orbs, he felt something sting slightly in his covered Sharingan eye. Obito was attempting to cry for him in ways that Kakashi felt he had no right to do with his own grey eye, it seemed.

Pulling the tiny head against his chest, he smoothed his bright blonde hair in a calming manner as he replied in a noticeably strained voice, "Of course you were important, Pup. She couldn't abandon her people, though, just like the Hokage here can't abandon his. He's had to make some very tough decisions himself that I'm sure were just as heart breaking as the one your mother had to make. They both knew, though, that taking care of their people was so very important.

She loved you so much; she always did. I know I said that a lot of times, but I need you to believe it. She didn't leave you because of something stupid like you weren't good enough; she left you because she had a purpose she couldn't ignore. Can you understand that, Pup? Don't ever let anyone make you believe otherwise, ok?" Why Kakashi had slipped and started unconsciously describing Kushina at the end, he didn't know. Perhaps, part of him wanted Naruto to be able to believe in a woman that carried even the tiniest trait relating to his true mother, so that at least he could carry some part of her with him, no matter how small or indirect that part may be.

Naruto didn't say anything in return, his only response being to cling tightly to his father's jounin vest as Kakashi simply continued to hold him close. He didn't cry; he didn't shout; he didn't so much as hitch his breath slightly. He just held on for all he was worth, as if Daddy could be the one to anchor him when he felt so lost. The boy's emotions must have been all over the place and he simply didn't know which emotion he wanted to hold onto yet to see him through.

Abruptly, he set himself back on his father's lap slightly and allowed his clenched fists to release the now rumpled flack jacket. Looking into his father's face with an unreadable look, he asked in a quiet voice, "Can we go out for a while? I'm thinking too much. I don't want to think so much anymore."

Noting the slight desperation in the boy's voice, his body shook imperceptibly with absolute uncontrollable emotion. He had done this. He was the one who had put Naruto in so much pain at the moment that he hardly knew what to do with himself. He wanted to scream at himself; shout so loud that it tore his throat to shreds and destroyed him because dammit he was never supposed to hurt him; not like this. It wasn't even the truth in the first place. God, what the fuck was wrong with him?

His voice cracked almost unnoticeably when he said, "Sure, Pup. Let's head out."

With that, Kakashi lifted Naruto up and placed him on the ground before he, too, got up from his dining chair. Grabbing the smaller hand presented to him, they both set out towards the front door, neither of them speaking despite having so much to say.


"Hey, Shikimaru! Choji!" Naruto shouted animatedly, a bright grin on his face as he charged away from his father and up to the playground where he had spotted his friends sitting casually on the swings, Choji eating his chips with great vigor as usual.

Sighing in slight amusement, he watched him go as he trudged slowly behind, feeling no need to halt the boy. As long as he was happy unexpectedly seeing his friends, that was all that really mattered at the moment. The both of them were still rather torn up inside, but the relaxing walk and basking in each other's mutually calming presence had brought them back to a state that didn't feel quite so grim. Kakashi wasn't an idiot; he knew the both of them still had a lot of pent up emotion to deal with, but he was in no rush. He'd make sure Naruto was as happy and carefree as he had been earlier that day as soon a possible. For now, he'd let him enjoy playing with his friends. Memories such as these were precious and not to be tainted; Kakashi knew that all to well.

Feeling like he needed some time alone, he walked up to Shikimaru and Choji's mothers whom he had spotted chatting lightly on a bench about ten metres or so from where the boys were currently situated. Once they spotted him walking over, they greeted him politely and asked if him and Naruto were going to join them.

"I'm sorry to bother you," Kakashi said with a practiced innocent eye-smile, "but do you mind watching over him while you're here with your boys for a little bit? I have some things I've been meaning to get done for quite some time that I can't really do in the presence of Naruto."

Both women taking his vague response at the end as alluding to personal shinobi business, they asked no more and simply happily replied that they would watch over Naruto as he took all the time he needed. The boys were having so much fun in each other's presence anyhow, so it wasn't like they'd be going anywhere anytime soon.

"Thank you very much. I will be back as soon as possible."

With a short wave, he turned towards Naruto and walked a bit closer to the group before saying casually, "You guys mind hanging out with Pup for a bit? I've got some things to do but I'll be back to get him soon, alright?"

After both Shikimaru and Choji had snorted slightly at the 'degrading' nickname, they both responded that it was alright and Kakashi thanked them politely. He then turned to face Naruto, who had an obvious pout on his face in response to the nickname he'd begged his daddy not to say in front of his friends. His gaze softened heavily as he looked at him for a long moment, before he snapped out of his unusual daze and straightened his hunched shoulders.

"See you later, guys! Have fun!" And with that, he disappeared in a whirl of leaves, leaving the children in his wake staring in barely-restrained awe.

"H-he just disappeared!" Choji exclaimed in utter amazement.

"No kidding! How often does he do that?" Shikimaru asked in an unusually interested tone.

"I've never seen him do that before," Naruto replied with a slight frown, the small moment of amazement for him having vanished abruptly. He wondered idly why his daddy had disappeared so suddenly. Was he still sad? Was that why he had left so suddenly?

His scowl deepened even further and it wasn't long before his friends got over their initial awe and noticed his gloomy mood. They both looked at each other in worry, before Shikimaru took the dreaded first step and asked, "So, did you ask him?"

His gaze snapped to his friend's in surprise, before turning to face the floor in what appeared to be undeniable misery. His friends had actually been the ones who had urged him to ask his father about his mother in the first place. Naruto had never really thought that much about his mother…or perhaps he was just afraid of what he would discover. Either way, when his friends had asked about his mother and had found out the kid new nothing about her, they had been insistent he asked. They believed it was very important for all kids to know about 'Mummy', whether she was there or not. It just seemed incomprehensible to have it otherwise to a four-year-old's mind.

"Yeah, I did," he replied solemnly as he plopped onto the ground in a pile of tangled limbs, similar to the way he'd fallen earlier in the day when he'd continuously failed at performing the roundhouse kick.

Shikimaru and Choji once again looked at each other in even more worry, this time with Choji bravely taking the next step and simply asking, "And? How did it go?"

Not noticing his friends' growing concern, he still stubbornly kept his gaze to the floor of the playground as he told them everything his father had said, leaving out the part where he'd almost cried. They were at the age now where it was considered totally uncool to cry anymore; that was for 'babies'. Naruto never realized the fact that his friends would never have faulted him for such an action in the face of the awful news he had received.

It was quiet for a moment as Shikimaru and Choji gave themselves time to allow the news to fully sink in to their still-developing minds. In fact, they were still trying to comprehend such a crushing discovery when a new voice announced to Naruto's back, "That's all? Honestly? Mummy left you behind and you're acting like your whole world fell apart. It's absolutely pathetic."

Naruto froze for a moment as his friends' heads snapped up to look at the newcomer they hadn't yet noticed as a result of being so taken-in by Naruto's tale. Once their eyes met with a pair of dark black, they both gave him a warning glare that clearly told him to back off and leave their poor friend alone.

Naruto knew that voice; in fact, he'd know that voice just about anywhere. Turning around slowly with the darkest glare a four-year-old could manage, he said in a clearly angry tone, "What did you just say, teme?"

Once their equally blazing gazes locked, the boy sighed in mock sympathy and said in a haughty tone, "What are you, deaf?"

"Shut up, Sasuke! You have no idea what's going on here so just go away!" Naruto then shot up off the ground and unconsciously got into a battle-ready stance, their fights so common now that it was practically instinctual.

Sasuke gave him an angry sneer and clenched his fists tightly when he said darkly, "I have no idea what's going on, dobe? You are the one that has no idea what it's like to truly lose someone! If that's what's made you so upset, then you're just weak!"

Naruto looked back into Sasuke's hateful glare in absolute shock, those words repeating over and over again in his small head. He'd forgotten what had happened to Sasuke not so long ago in the face of his blinding emotions, finally understanding why he was suddenly taking such an aggressive approach to the subject. He felt like Naruto's pain was unfounded because he had only found out his mother had left him, while Sasuke's family had been slaughtered by one of his most precious people.

While normally he would've instantly backed down and awkwardly apologized for being so thoughtless, today was a different kind of day. He'd been so worried about making Daddy even more sad that he'd refused to allow himself to openly express how he was truly feeling. He'd been desperately searching for a quick release and, as always, Sasuke had presented the perfect target. They always ended up being each other's ideal punching bag to let out their frustrations, one way or another, so what was another round?

"I'm not weak! I'm so much better than you will ever be! Let me show you!" And with that, Naruto launched himself at the unsuspecting Uchiha, landing on him so hard that they both tumbled to the ground in a painful instant. Sasuke had never expected Naruto would react quite so quickly and had therefore caught him off guard, but that upper hand sure wouldn't last for long.

Tumbling over and over on the unforgiving ground, they proceeded to mercilessly beat the shit out of each other in any way they could. At first, they used the basic techniques they had each learnt from their respective families, but eventually their desire to tear into each other had become so strong they let all inhibition go and attacked each other in blind fury. They clawed, they scratched, they smacked, they kicked; whatever felt like the perfect way to inflict pain on one another at that moment.

They were so focused on their tasks and one another that neither of them noticed Shikimaru and Choji trying desperately to find an opening to break them up and their respective mothers dashing over in a panic with shouts of alarm, both of them desperately making their way over in the hope nothing to damaging happened before they arrived.

Suddenly, both boys were snapped out of their blinding trance as they felt themselves lifted up by the backs of their jumpers and tossed hard at a near-by tree, the both of them colliding with it head-on and feeling a slight dizziness replacing their once uncontrollable primal urges.

All was still and silent as an incredibly controlled voice asked their turned backs, "And just what the hell was going on there, huh?"

Sasuke looked back with a confused glare, while Naruto looked at the man in a growing panic.

As Naruto scrambled for something to say to the man that was so obviously (even to the four-year-olds surrounding him in slight fear) barely restraining his fury, Sasuke instead asked in a sharp voice, "And just who the hell are you to be asking? This is between me and him; meaning it's none of your business, shinobi."

A chilled feeling washed over the boy as a dark grey eye locked with his in a cool yet absolutely scathing way, the emotions clear in his eye and his posture so cold and yet so full of an out-of-control burning fire. The feeling was absolutely indescribable yet wholly terrifying, even to an Uchiha.

"This is my business, in fact," replied the frozen voice, "You see, I'm Naruto's father. That's why I'd like to know just why the two of you were trying to tear each other apart. Is that any way to treat a future fellow member of the academy and comrade?"

Finally finding the courage to say something before Sasuke could blurt out an outraged reply, Naruto said in a small voice, "Daddy, it's ok, really. Sasuke and I were just-" Everything he was about to nervously blurt out instantly escaped his mind as that dark stare turned from his rival to Naruto himself, becoming even more full of barely-controlled anger, if that was possible.

Before Naruto could attempt to smooth over his father's obvious fury, a woman's voice said nervously but firmly, "Perhaps you should take him home and sort this out, Kakashi. Here and now is not the time."

All eyes turned from the cringe-worthy stare down between father and son to Shikimaru's mother, the one that had spoken the levelheaded words. Kakashi, allowing some of the fire to defuse from his eyes as he met her questioning stare, said in a tight voice, "Very well. I'm sorry we caused you so much trouble. Once we're done, I'll be sure to get Naruto to find you at some point and apologise for his behavior. Thank you very much for watching over him while I was unavailable. We'll leave you to it."

With those unusually formal words, he turned towards the playground's exit, walking stiffly towards it, as if the tightness he had forced on his limbs was the only thing holding him back. Holding him back from what, none of them knew.

As Naruto silently rose from his position and rubbed his sore head, neglected in his panic at his father's sudden and fiery appearance, Kakashi turned his head slightly so that his voice could be carried clearly back to the Uchiha still sitting in stunned and perturbed silence beside the tree Naruto was reluctantly trudging away from. Just as Naruto had caught up to walk beside his father solemnly, Kakashi finally said, "Just remember what I told you back there, Sasuke. Your comrades are just as important as family; don't realize that too late."

With that, Naruto (with a bowed head) and Kakashi (with barely-restrained emotion) walked in absolute silence out of the playground and towards their home, leaving a group of equally stunned, worried and angry people to simply watch them go in a silence of their own.


Naruto was naturally a very loud person. In fact, some would say that he never shut up and it was absolutely annoying beyond belief sometimes. Their anger never lasted for long, though, when they realized that the boy was just so full of energy and life that he simply couldn't help himself. His constant kindness towards those he cared for and his never-ending happiness was unparalleled by many and therefore others couldn't help but bask in such obvious carefree joy.

However, at the moment, Naruto was as silent as he's possibly ever been; a real feat if you knew the boy well. He was currently sitting in the living room, staring at his father's unusually stiff and straight back through the clear glass of his home's sliding doors, as the man sat on the edge of the porch leading to the backyard and looked on into absolute nothingness.

The lack of action and speaking was really starting to worry the boy. All the way home, his daddy hadn't said a damn word, not even to those he knew politely greeting him as he walked by. He just stared ahead as if he didn't even notice them, an unreadable look in his single eye. Sure, there was definitely some serious anger visible in it, but there was something else there too; something unidentifiable but somehow even more terrifying.

As soon as they had arrived back home, Kakashi had proceeded to completely ignore the boy standing in the kitchen awaiting his expected lecture and punishment and moved straight on to the porch, doing exactly what he was still doing now. He hadn't moved a single centimetre for a whole half hour; not so much as even fricking breathing.

In the past, if Naruto had done anything wrong, his daddy had been quick to lay down the law; lecturing him about it and making him clean up the eternally messy study or something as incentive not to do such things again.

Even though Naruto knew that what he had done had definitely been worse than those silly pranks or bad words he'd said, he still thought the behavior must be unusual. Daddy's supposed to yell and stuff, right? He's not just supposed to sit there like a stupid statue and act like he didn't even exist.

Finally having had enough of the silence trembling with an underlying tension waiting impatiently to burst forth, Naruto got up from his position in the living room and walked slowly on weak legs towards his father, ignoring the slight twist of pain in his gut from the nasty hit Sasuke had managed to get in earlier. He had been fortunate that their fighting had ended up so primal that they hadn't had the necessary skill to actually land any decent hits. Apart from the growing bruise on his belly, he was outwardly perfectly healthy; not a damn scratch on him. He idly wondered earlier why Sasuke had so many more visible injuries than him by the end of their fight despite the both of them landing an equal amount of blows, but he obviously had more important concerns to be focusing on at the time.

As he opened the sliding door, the squeaky sound made him wince slightly in a moment of unfounded panic, as if just that tiny sound could set off the bomb in Kakashi just waiting to magnificently explode.

Taking a moment to watch his father for any sign of acknowledgement, he trembled slightly when he found none. This unexpected reaction from Daddy was scary and he wanted him to stop. He didn't care if he screamed or if he gave him an outrageous punishment, just so long as he did something; anything.

As he walked forwards and sat at a considerable distance away from his father, he suddenly felt surprisingly numb, save the dreaded anticipation growing within him like a wave slowly rising to the surface.

After a few moments of utter silence, he looked nervously at his father's lax grip on the edge of the porch and said with sincere remorse, "I'm sorry, Daddy. I really didn't mean to make you so upset."

That was obviously not quite the right thing to say. In a split-second, the hand Naruto was watching clenched impossibly tight around the wooden boards, the grip so incredible that the wood must be nastily cutting into his pale skin. Suddenly feeling very afraid for reasons he couldn't quite decipher, he raised his head slowly in fear and looked in stunned shock back at the single grey eye blazing with the same fury from earlier that day, except so much more intense now that it was practically alive.

His harsh stare never wavering, he said darkly, "You're 'sorry'? That's all you have to say?! You were completely out of control back there! How many times have I told you that your comrades are one of the most important parts of being a ninja?! You're supposed to look out for them and work together, not attack them!"

As he watched his father breathing heavily from his angry words, he ashamedly noticed tears pricking at his blue eyes. Daddy was just so mad and he didn't like it. Daddy wasn't supposed to be this mad; he wanted him to stop!

"Daddy, I'm sorry! I don't know what else I'm supposed to say!" He cried as he felt a few tears escape down his whiskered cheeks uncontrollably, his emotions overtaking him in an entirely new way this time.

"There's nothing else you can say to make what you did suddenly alright, Naruto! The first thing I told you when you asked me about being ninja was that 'those that abandon the mission are scum, but those that would abandon even one of their friends or comrades are worse than scum'. I always believed I had raised you to appreciate that, but perhaps I was wrong."

At that last statement, Naruto's eyes widened dramatically and he stiffened to the point where his small back was as straight as a board. He honestly couldn't believe it. Even though he hadn't said the words outright, had Daddy really suggested that he could be worse than scum?!

Kakashi, appearing to have suddenly realized what exactly it was he had just blurted out, widened his eye to match that of his son's, an apology for his completely awful and totally untrue remark poised on his suddenly cold lips. He hadn't meant it the way it had sounded, he just wanted the boy to accept how important that rule was.

Before he could do so, though, Naruto shot up from his spot on the porch, his finger pointed accusingly at Kakashi with tears absolutely pouring down his face as he shouted in a pain-filled tone, "All I wanted to say was that I was sorry and tell you that I would never disappoint you like that again, but you wouldn't even listen to me! You got so mad and so quiet and I was so scared and I just wanted you to stop! If that's how you really want to treat your own family, then you're the one that's scum here, not me!"

And with that, Naruto turned his red face messy with uncontrollable tears towards the sliding doors and ran as fast as his little legs would carry him straight through the small opening they presented and up the wooden stairs, heading straight for his room. Once he had quickly dashed inside, he slammed the door with a deafening bang as he slumped against the cold surface and sobbed. All he could think about was the fact that his father had actually implied that he was worse than scum, the words themselves not all that bad, but the meaning behind them being able to bring so much agony to his already cracked heart. Daddy had been so insistent earlier that he cared about him when he had told him about his mummy leaving him behind, but perhaps he had lied. Maybe, Daddy really did think of him as nothing worse than scum after all.

With renewed determination, Naruto decided he had to leave and he had to leave now. Just being in the same house as Daddy was making him even sadder and so he, without a single thought for regret, stamped on over to his window and practically threw the damn thing open, climbing outside carefully and down the drainpipe without a single pause. His daddy was already so mad at him anyhow, so what was the point in getting worried about his reaction? He barely even noticed the pain it caused the bruise on his stomach at his sudden and forceful movements.

As tears still streamed down his face never-endingly, he glared at the sky slowly turning a deep purple as he nodded to himself silently and sprinted towards the one person he knew could offer him the most comfort in a situation as awful as the one he was in now.


"Naruto? What the hell are you doing here at this hour?! Does your father know you're here? What's going on?"

All it took was one mention of his daddy and he instantly lost the tiny amount of control of his emotions he had been able to obtain on the way over. With a soft cry, he launched himself at the woman standing worriedly in her doorway, completely missing the fact that he was about an inch away from smacking into the half-open doorway instead.

"Granny Tsunade, I don't know what to do anymore! I just…I just want it all to stop!" he sobbed in desperation, his mind so muddled by now that he barely knew what he was saying anymore.

By this point, Tsunade was incredibly alarmed. What could possibly have happened that was so awful to put the normally cheerful boy in such a wretched state? Had something happened to one of his friends? Or Kakashi?

With that last thought making her pause slightly in panic, she collected herself enough to create a reasonably calm façade as she gently pried the boy from being practically wrapped around her like a ribbon. Once she had crouched down and looked him understandingly in his blue orbs bright with some of the largest tears she'd ever seen, she said firmly, "Naruto, you need to calm down. Letting your emotions control you like this will only put you in hysterics. You sit at the island counter and I'll make you some hot cocoa to help you calm down. Then we have to talk about what's going on here; whether you like it or not. Got it?"

Realising that he was probably making her worry a lot more than necessary, he scrubbed his bright red face harshly until only a few tears were leaking from his stinging eyes. Once he felt composed enough to speak more coherently, he asked in a wet voice, "Can I have some whipped cream, too?"

Smiling subconsciously at the completely innocent question, she continued to look him steadily in the eye as she said kindly, "Sure, kid; as much as you want."

The tiniest twitch of his lips was seen before he walked slowly over to the counter and scrambled awkwardly onto one of the bar stools. Neither of them said a single word as Tsunade bustled on over and prepped Naruto's hot chocolate with the most whipped cream the boy had ever seen; way more than she had ever allowed him to have before. She was doing her best to give him some time and some much needed space to get a hold of himself, but her patience was running thin as it was. From Naruto's reactions now, she could tell that nobody was in life-threatening danger, but she could clearly see that something very bad had gone down; something that was slowly making the boy break apart at the seams right before her eyes.

Once the hot chocolate had been prepared to perfection a couple of minutes later, Tsunade carefully carried the steaming mug towards the living room, a silent signal for Naruto to follow.

The boy instantly complied without a word, snuggling into her comfiest armchair he always liked to sit on when he came over as soon as he arrived within the room. Tsunade herself sat tensely on one of her longer couches, leaning forwards towards Naruto across the coffee table in morbid anticipation as she silently placed the mug before him.

Accepting the hot mug cautiously, he avoided the whipped cream at first as he took a small sip of the sweet substance underneath, before scrunching his face up at the temperature. A bit too hot to drink right at that moment, it seemed.

"Sorry," Tsunade said, finally breaking the surprisingly comfortable yet tense silence. "I didn't mean to make it quite so hot. It was a bit chilly out and so I thought you might need some extra warming up from your trip over here. It looks like I over-did it a little though, huh?"

Looking back at her solemnly with a tense jaw, he said quietly, "That's alright, Granny. It still tastes just as good as usual."

Tsunade sighed slightly at his unusually polite attitude, before shaking herself minutely and returning seriously, "Kid, I know you don't feel like it right now, but I need to know what happened. You understand that, right? All I want to do is help."

Looking remorseful at worrying her so much, he reluctantly started in on what had happened earlier that day, "I found out about mummy today. Daddy told me about why she wasn't here and he said she loved me and that she didn't want to leave me, but the whole time I kept on wondering if he was just lying to me to make sure I wouldn't be sad. I got so angry that she would choose to leave me behind even though she was doing it for her village and then Daddy took me to the playground where I saw Shikimaru and Choji and Daddy left me there for a bit to play while he did stuff and-and I told them what happened and Sasuke had snuck up on us and said I was weak because I didn't know what it was like to really lose someone! I didn't mean to; I swear! I just got even more angry and I just really wanted him to hurt too and so I just attacked him and Daddy threw us into a tree to stop us and he was so mad. I was really really scared and I'm pretty sure he was even scaring everyone else there and then he took me home and he was just staring out on the porch at nothing and it was so creepy and scary! He sat there for a whole half hour until I came over and all I wanted to do was say I was sorry and he told me that hurting my comrades meant I was worse than scum and I just-I just-I-" After that stream of endless words depicting rather stunted events full of obvious confusion and pain, he could no longer control the damn of emotions those awful memories brought up and threw his head into his tiny hands as he sobbed for the umpteenth time that day.

Instantly feeling the need to comfort the traumatized boy, she bustled on over as quick as she could and picked the boy up while allowing him to curl into her ample chest as he sobbed his little heart out. She proceeded to sit down on the armchair Naruto had been sitting in beforehand and stroked his back soothingly as she silently sent out waves of reassuring comfort to the small boy.

As she allowed him to let out all of his pent-up sorrow, she, too, attempted to deal with own her wave of emotions. Naruto's fight with Sasuke was understandably much rougher than usual as a result of finding out about the mother he believed was his own. She tried to ignore the threateningly looming guilt hanging like a dark cloud over her conscience, but it was incredibly difficult. She had also been responsible for creating such an awful lie to the totally undeserving boy, but just allowing everyone to believe that Naruto's mother had been a sweet woman who had so very unfortunately died would seem too convenient to many of the more intelligent shinobi and therefore raise too many dangerous questions.

Kakashi, though, being the boy's father, would undoubtedly be feeling catastrophically worse than she was, particularly since he was the one who had to directly tell the kid the stupid story. He was so utterly self-destructive in the way he allowed his guilt to destroy him from the inside out, as if that somehow was his own punishment for his sin. He must have been absolutely torn apart on the inside with no healthy release, as had become an unfortunate instinctual mechanism for him now.

With the both of them so utterly consumed by the endless waves of negative emotion, it was inevitable that Kakashi would lash out uncontrollably at someone eventually. Unfortunately, Naruto just happened to have created the breaking point when he had so viciously attacked Sasuke in his own wave of lashing out. Normally, Kakashi would have handled the situation firmly but accordingly, but Kakashi obviously hadn't been feeling all that normal at that moment. In fact, he barely must have been in control at all.

Although she wasn't quite able to decipher why he had been so damn weird on the way back and when they had arrived back home, whatever it was must've been so consuming that he hadn't even realized the awful thing he had said to his son until it was just too damn late.

That was when her anger finally had a moment in the spotlight. How could Kakashi be such a Goddamn thoughtless arse? Here Naruto was, practically falling apart at the seams once he found out that his mother had essentially abandoned him, and Kakashi was letting his own selfish emotions control him like a Goddamn child. She had trusted him to always look out for Naruto in every which way he needed, but just look at what he'd done the moment things got a little harder than usual for him to deal with. It was just so bloody wrong and Tsunade was sure as hell gonna make him believe that the first damn chance she had.

"Granny Tsunade?" a small voice asked, thick once more from so many endless tears.

Snapping her head down to the small boy attentively, she gave him her most reassuring look as she replied, "What is it, Naruto?"

He fidgeted nervously in her lap as he said, "I know what I did was wrong. I should never have attacked Sasuke like that because I know letting out your anger on others is wrong. It's just…isn't that what Daddy just did? Didn't he just let his anger out on me just then? How does that make sense if he was the first one who taught me how important that rule was?"

Blinking slightly at such a mature assumption from a boy so young, she gathered his tiny form to her chest once more. It looked like it was time to tell the kid some things about his father he didn't know. Despite her anger, she knew it was up to her to start the process of salvaging their relationship. She cared about them both too much to make it any worse. They made each other so happy and full of life that she couldn't bear them to continue this anymore.

"To be honest, kid, I don't quite know why your daddy was so emotional. Sure, some of it is pretty easy to figure out, but the rest is kind of murky…even to someone like me. All I know is that you're very much correct when you say Daddy was feeling overwhelmed by lots of emotions and therefore said and did a lot of things that he didn't mean. I know for sure, though, that he never meant to hurt you.

It's just that, Daddy sometimes forgets that you're not one of his soldiers he's commanding without really meaning to. You see, you're daddy has gone through some pretty awful things too, far worse than either of us can imagine. He closed himself off from a lot of people as a result and ended up treating others just as another one of his soldiers so that he could pretend he didn't care about them so much.

All of us were so worried that he was going to stay that way forever. We feared he'd stay in a cold and detached reality until he faded away into nothingness. But, then he received something very precious, something so valuable that he could no longer hide away from how he really felt and who he truly was. Do you want to know what they very precious gift happened to be?"

By now, Naruto was no longer curled into her warm body and instead was staring up at her in growing anticipation. He nodded so eagerly in return to her request that his chin almost smooshed straight into her ample chest with every motion of his head.

Smiling at the fact that he no longer looked so devastatingly unhappy, she conveyed quietly, "You. You were the one who saved your father from his endless torment. If it hadn't been for you, your daddy might never have been truly happy in his life ever again. He so very nearly could have ended up dying alone without ever knowing the absolute joy you could bring his broken heart.

What I'm trying to say is: you're daddy loves you so very much and he's flying blind here on how he's supposed to go about that. Just know that he's gone through so much accepting you into his life and that he is so grateful that he did. You saved him from so much more than either of us will ever realize, I'm sure. Whatever it was your father said about you being scum, I guarantee he didn't mean it and I'm positive he's beating himself up about it inside terribly; even as we speak. In fact, he'll probably come knocking on that door before we know it because he'll be so worried about what's happened to you. He really cares for you that much; don't ever forget that."

Stunned. That was probably the only emotion Naruto's little mind could put a real name to. He had had no idea that Daddy had been so sad for so long. Whenever he looked at Daddy, he always seemed so invincible and strong; like he was completely untouchable. It seemed so silly, thinking back on it now, to believe that.

According to Granny Tsunade, Daddy had been through things far worse than finding out his mummy had left him. Even now, he still had never gotten over that pain and it still hurt him all the time so badly. Just knowing the pain he felt now and realizing that Daddy has felt so much worse, made him feel a little guilty, despite knowing that that wasn't the point of what Granny had told him.

For so much of this day, he had irrationally thought Daddy believed that he was worthless, when in fact, he had been entirely wrong the whole time. He had been so consumed by self-pity that that had been the first thought that had come to mind when Daddy had lashed out at him; but now he could finally see the forest through the trees.

He was the main reason why Daddy was happy in his life now; why he wasn't so lonely or sad as he apparently used to be. He didn't know why and he honestly didn't really care right now. All that mattered was that Daddy needed him more than he had ever realized. That was why he was going to wait for Daddy to come and they were going to make things right. He loved Daddy so much and if he needed him as much as Granny Tsunade said, then he would be there for him; no matter what.


What the fuck is wrong with me?

No matter how many times he numbly turned over what had happened in his mind, that thought always seemed to come back to Kakashi full circle.

If he had felt like shit before, that was nothing compared to the way he felt now. He swore he had heard a distant shattering sound when he had said…what he had said to Naruto earlier. He couldn't help but believe that that was the sound of his world falling apart just a little bit.

He had been so torn up about what he was doing to Naruto's life; how he was breaking it apart piece by piece with his endless lies that he was completely volatile in regards to his emotions. His personal walk to attempt to gather himself had failed miserably and he had therefore turned right back around pretty quick with a heavy heart and feelings raging within like an uncontrollable storm.

When he had returned and instantly been confronted with Naruto fighting Sasuke, sure, he was mad…but he was mostly just scared. They had been attacking one another so viciously that he swore his heart had skipped a beat. As they attempted to practically tear into each other, all he could see were flashbacks of that boulder heading straight for a tiny one-and-a-half-year-old child, the resulting head wound that could have been so very fatal and that tiny little infant crying his eyes out in pain and absolute fear.

He hadn't even thought for a second at the consequences and charged in there in a wave of pointless anger. He knew the way he had thrown the kids apart was too harsh, but that had seemed insignificant in the face of what he had just seen and the awful memories it had brought up as a result.

That boiling chill the poor kids had felt they probably thought was just his anger bubbling below the surface…which it partially was, to be fair. What they were all too young to fully comprehend, though, was that most of that was his killing intent spiking to rather noticeable levels with no exact target. He felt like crap for scaring them all so much, particularly Naruto, with something that should only ever be used on the battlefield, but for the life of him he just hadn't been able to control it. He'd finally hit the end of the road and it was taking everything he had not to fall over the cliff awaiting him and lose himself to the fall.

After that, the trip home had been an absolute blur. His thoughts were spinning and his emotions were warring with another so fiercely that he hadn't even realized that he'd made his way home and was sitting on his back porch staring at nothingness until a solid ten minutes later of having done so.

He had sat there for quite a while longer, trying desperately to figure out what he was supposed to do. It was all crashing and burning around him so fast and he just didn't know which way was up anymore.

Unfortunately, Naruto had approached him with incredibly awful timing. That wasn't an excuse for his resulting behavior, just an unworthy explanation. The kid had actually apologized for what he had done. He hadn't done it because he felt bad about Sasuke, though. He had done it simply because he didn't want to let his father down. Why that outraged him so much and why that caused the last bit of everything in him lose to lose itself to uncontrollable, blind urges, he didn't know. He was just such a useless idiot for letting it happen and saying something so utterly ridiculous to the boy who had so tearfully admitted that his daddy had scared him with his behavior.

Overall, the boy had been right; he was worse than scum for what he had done. He'd fucked up so much with this kid, no matter his intentions. In fact, because of his attempts at trying to do everything right by Naruto, he had ended up not seeing what was right in front of him until it was too late. He had been the one to lecture Sasuke about such a concept earlier, but look at the hypocrite he had become in regards to that anyhow.

Feeling like absolute shit and knowing he had to go up and make things right, he walked up to the stairs leading to Naruto's room with pathetically slumped shoulders and a drag to his heavy footsteps.

Once he had finally made his way there, he knocked on the white wooden door, the sound somehow fittingly hollow and lifeless.

When he heard no reply for quite some time, he sighed and pushed open the door, knowing that Naruto must just be so upset that he didn't even want to so much as breathe in his direction.

He took a quick scan of the room, looking for any noticeable Naruto-shaped lumps or a spiky head of bright blonde hair. Frowning to himself when he spotted none on his first try, he looked over the room more carefully this time. When he still didn't notice his presence even the tiniest bit, that was when he started to feel a little worried.

Centering his chakra, he allowed it to feel out the other's presence, wondering just where the boy could be hiding. Was he really running away from his father because he had hurt him that badly?

Once he had thoroughly scanned his surroundings with his chakra as accurately as possible, he froze when the results finally sunk in.

Naruto was gone.

His eye widened and his pupil practically disappeared into the surrounding white when he came to that awful realization. Had something happened while he had been preoccupied with his never-ending self-pity? Had he really failed the child again?

Before he could completely lose himself to his wildly-beating heart and out-of-control paternal instincts, he bit into his thumb far viciously than necessary and went through a series of seals so fast that it was invisible to the naked eye.

With a resounding slam on the shaking wooden floorboards, blank ink spread out in a small circle and a puff of light grey smoke appeared, leaving a small brown pug in its vanishing wake.

"Hey, boss! What d'ya need?" asked Pakkun with an attentive wag of his short tail.

"Naruto. He's missing and I need you to find him; I need you to find him now."

As Pakkun took in the slight tremble to his master's usually completely composed form, he asked in obvious worry, "You lost him? Kakashi, how-"

"There is no room for error this time, Pakkun; got it?" Kakashi interrupted with a dangerous glare.

Realising his master was hanging on by a mere thread, he nodded gruffly and had a quick but thorough sniff around, rummaging through the endless mess to make sure he got a good whiff of the boy's scent.

It was only a few seconds later that Kakashi noticed Pakkun look sharply up at the window, leaping up onto the sill and down on the ground below without so much as a word. Apparently, he really was taking this just as seriously as Kakashi was. He loved the boy a hell of a lot too and cared what happened to him just as much as he would for one of his own pups.

As Pakkun raced on below the now completely darkened sky, he made absolute sure not lose the boy's scent for even a split second. Thankfully, the boy hadn't had any sort of training in regards to covering his tracks and therefore it was child's play to follow his trail. Besides, he had a feeling that if stopped for even a second, Kakashi would surely step on his small tail in an instant. He was practically on top of him as it was, his need to find Naruto so intense that he probably didn't even realize it.

Very suddenly, Pakkun stopped in his tracks outside of a small apartment, one that was hauntingly familiar even to the dog.

As Kakashi screeched to a surprisingly inelegant stop, he asked his summon sharply, "This is where the scent stops?"

Looking at the house determinedly, the small dog replied, "Yes. This is where he is."

Kakashi almost couldn't hold himself upright when the relief crashed into him. It looked like Naruto had snuck out to see Tsunade for some comfort, nothing more. No kidnappings, no awful accidents; nothing that put his precious life in danger.

Pulling himself together as much as possible, he thanked Pakkun for his assistance and dismissed him with a small but grateful wave, the grunted 'your welcome' and look of confusion at his already retreating back for why Naruto had left to see Tsunade without permission his only response before he poofed out of existence.

The walk up to the apartment felt like it lasted for a small eternity, yet it could have barely been moments. Feeling so much and yet feeling nothing at all, he knocked on the door in rapid succession, his fist still going despite a voice inside exclaiming loudly, "Yeah yeah! Hold your bloody horses; I'm coming out!"

The door widened fractionally as Kakashi's hand was pulled from the surface, a pair of golden eyes watching him intensely for a few moments once they focused on his form. Then, abruptly, the door flew open and smacked harshly against the wall on the other side, surely leaving some sort of noticeable mark.

In the doorway stood one very pissed off Tsunade, hands balled into tight fists beside her hips and golden eyes blazing with a melting fury.

"You son of a bitch!" she said lowly but harshly, "You swore to me over and over again that you wouldn't hurt him, and yet just what the hell did you think you were doing before, huh?! I trusted you to-"

"Please," Kakashi said in an unusually passive voice, "let me see him. I just want to see that he's ok. You can kick me out or punch me in the face as soon as I'm done; just let me seen that he's alright. That's all I ask of you."

Looking at what must have been a subconsciously pleading expression on what was visible of his face, she sighed slightly in reluctant understanding, stepping aside to let him through with movements stiff with resounding anger.

"You better know what you doing here, kid. I am not gonna let you off like this next time so easily. You've been warned. The only reason I'm not throwing you out flat on your face is because I know how much you need him and because I care about what happens to the both of you; despite what a Goddamn fool you turn out to be most of the time."

If Kakashi had been feeling in better spirits, he would've smiled at her indirect, some-what forgiveness for his behavior towards the boy she considered her own grandson by now. Instead, he grabbed onto her reluctant invitation before she could change her mind and barged on through, his sense of smell finally kicking in enough for he himself to pin-point Naruto's scent.

In what must have been a mere split-second, he was in the doorway to Tsunade's living room, taking in the sight before him with a crowd of overwhelming emotions.

Naruto had been quickly been pulled out of his maelstrom of thoughts and conflicting emotions when he noticed a familiar presence in the doorway to the room he had occupied for the last half hour or so.

Instantly, he felt an uncontrollable wave of panic when he saw his daddy standing absolutely frozen in the doorway. He looked so blank as he looked on his equally frozen form with an unmoving gaze. He really hoped Daddy wasn't mad again! He didn't want him to-

All thoughts of such fears escaped his already overwhelmed mind when he felt himself lifted off of the couch and clutched tightly to a hard but warm chest in a flash of speed so fast, it must have been akin to lightning. He would have protested at such manhandling, if he hadn't recognized that oh-so-familiar hold as it enveloped him with the slightest of trembles.

Daddy was hugging him?!

Why the heck was Daddy hugging him? He was supposed to be mad, right? He was supposed to be yelling at him for breaking so many rules and being such a disappointment, not crushing him to the point where his breaths were a little shorter than usual. It looked like Daddy was still reacting really weirdly like before. What had happened to Daddy?

In a brave attempt to ask about his father's sanity, he allowed a single, timid word to pass through his lips, "Daddy?"

His father had no words in response. Instead, he only held him that much tighter, bringing his right arm up around the small of the boy's back to crush him that much closer.

Not such a good idea, perhaps.

As soon as his little stomach made rough contact with his father's hard jounin vest, he winced at the painful sensation…and that sure as hell didn't escape the notice of an already over-wired Kakashi.

Pulling back slightly and letting his hands brace the boy's small sides, he looked directly into the boy's wary gaze as he asked slowly, "Pup?"

Oh, crap; now Daddy was gonna get angry again. He always got so quiet whenever Naruto hurt himself. He had no idea why, but he always got very quiet whenever he was mad as well and didn't want anyone else to know, so Naruto had just assumed in his four-year-old mind that that meant Naruto getting hurt meant he was mad for some reason. He never bothered to ask questions about it, just nervously waited until Daddy wasn't mad anymore, patched him up if possible and came back to play with him again like nothing had happened.

With his gaze flickering from Kakashi's unreadable gaze to Tsunade's thickly-carpeted floors like he was watching a vertical tennis match, he said quietly, "It's ok, Daddy. I just got a bruise on my tummy from when Sasuke and I were fighting, that's all."

Great; like he hadn't been feeling like absolute shit before. Now, Kakashi had just realized that Naruto had been hurt and he'd been so preoccupied with his own selfish feelings to notice such a thing. How could he be such an arse to have not done the first thing you do when someone's been in a fight: check that they aren't hurt?

Closing his single eye to collect himself, he then opened it and looked at a corner of the coffee table conveniently situated directly to the right of Naruto's head as he said in a flat voice, "Let me see."

Feeling very nervous all of a sudden for no particular reason, Naruto returned quietly, "Daddy, you really don't need t-"

He was interrupted, though, by his father's very intense gaze switching back to look directly into his own clouded blue orbs. Naruto couldn't decipher what it was that look meant, but it, for some reason, made him comply with his previous demand without any further hesitation.

Slowly, he placed one of his small hands on the hem and lifted it up inch by inch, somehow very reluctant to show his injury. Once his wound had been fully revealed, they both instantly latched their gazes onto it, eager for different reasons to take in the extent of the damage.

While Naruto only stared at it in mild fascination, Kakashi reached forward before he could stop himself and allowed himself to hesitantly brush his fingers over the bruised surface. It was a pretty damn nasty one, too. The bruise was a ring of deep purple, surrounded by another thin, pale yellow ring. It landed right over his belly button and mapped out about a good ten or so centimetres from there on all sides. If Kakashi hadn't been so focused on the damage, he perhaps may have worried slightly about such a mark screwing up the now invisible seal on the boy's stomach. He may have also noticed how the pale yellow ring was slowly retreating, healing at an unusually rapid rate for any average human.

At first, both of them froze at the soft and careful touch, before Kakashi's typically icy fingers became a bit uncomfortable for Naruto and he scrunched his body away slightly from the cold sensation.

Kakashi, misinterpreting such an action as a sign of discomfort for having his father so close after…after what had happened between them…attempted to snatch his hand back as if he'd just touched an operating stove.

Before he could complete the action, though, a tiny hand reached forward and stilled it for a moment, before it bringing it back to its original position over the dark bruise.

Making sure that Daddy was looking into his eyes, albeit in obvious shock at such a bold action from the boy, he said in small but serious voice, "Don't be afraid, Daddy. We'll both make each other's hurts go away."

Kakashi's eye widened at such a mature yet innocent statement. He knew that Naruto didn't just mean injuries from a rough-and-tumble gone too far; he also meant the pain they both felt from what they had gone through. Despite being a mere four years old, Naruto was willing to do whatever it took to make his Daddy happy, even going so far as to promise to take all the hurt away despite that being a simply impossible feat.

But then he realized, perhaps that's where he had gone wrong. In a flash, he remembered that moment from the mission that he tried not to think about too much these days; the one where he had finally realized that he couldn't ignore what was between him and this child anymore. He had said that he believed the boy could be the one to save him from his pain, to help him truly live again. Had he really forgotten something so important so soon? Was he really trying to push away the boy who had given him a purpose in life again simply because he was afraid of the repercussions of the ever-looming truth of the boy's past?

Honestly, what a fool he had been…for about the thousandth time that day.

His hand shook slightly with underlying emotion as he brought that tiny head forward and rested it on the junction between his own neck and shoulder, having no response but simply wanting to just bring him as close as he could without further hurting his stomach. His fingertips on his other hand still remained lightly pressed to the boy's injury.

Realising that Daddy had understood what he was trying to say despite not having completely spelled it out for him, he buried his face into the crook of his father's neck that he had offered to the boy so willingly. Daddy had always been able to understand him without him having to exactly express what it was he was trying to convey.

The stayed like that for a moment in peaceful silence, neither one of them moving or making a sound. It was in that resulting silence, that Naruto noticed something rather odd: Daddy's pulse was going crazy. With his ear pressed so closely to such a pulse point, he could clearly hear it hammering away like a woodpecker at a piece of particularly tough bark.

Not realizing he was saying it out loud in mild wonder, he announced quietly to himself, "Wow, Daddy really must've been worried when he noticed I was gone."

At that particular declaration, Kakashi tensed harshly, snapping his fingers back from they boy's stomach and pulling back quickly to stare into his now stunned gaze with a glare. Did the boy really think Kakashi hadn't just about lost his mind with worry when he had just fucking vanished?

He was about to go into a loud rant displaying such outraged views, when he noticed that Naruto now looked afraid again. He obviously was worried that Daddy was gonna say something bad again and they were going to get into an awful fight once more.

Realising that allowing his own selfish emotions to control him was exactly what he had done last time and had resulted in hurting both himself and Naruto catastrophically, he allowed his stiff frame to relax slightly and his single eye to take on a much softer and gentler quality.

When he saw Naruto had noticed this and was now staring at him in confusion as a result at such a quick change in mood, he brought his forehead to the boy's slightly and closed his eye in a wave of overwhelming emotion when he announced quietly but with such force, "I don't think I've ever been so worried for such a long time. I was-" he gulped slightly before continuing, "I was so terrified something had happened to you. Please, Naruto, I beg you: don't do something like that again. If you want to see Tsunade, all you have to do is ask. I'll let you go, no matter how much we argue or how mad I am. I'd much prefer that than feeling like I could've lost you."

Naruto, hearing the obvious pain in his father's voice like he had never heard before, stared back at that still-closed eye in stunned silence. He finally realized just why Daddy wasn't mad and instead was, as he had said, 'so terrified'. He remembered for a small moment Granny Tsunade telling him that his Daddy had gone through so much more pain than either of them could ever understand and therefore Daddy was afraid than most others would be at losing the people precious to him. He also remembered, although he still hadn't quite being able to fully accept such a remark, that she had said that, in fact, Naruto was his most precious person and therefore the one that had saved him from eternal loneliness.

In a moment of pure instinct, he brought up one of his little hands and placed it atop his father's head of gravity-defying silver hair and tussled it in the exact way his father would do to him when he was feeling down. In some part of him, perhaps he felt that maybe, just maybe, that would bring him some sort of comfort like it had always brought Naruto when he had done it.

Kakashi snapped his eye open at the completely unexpected action, but Naruto was already speaking before he could think up a coherent response.

"Granny Tsunade told me that you've hurt a lot. She said that we'd never be able to understand exactly how much. I get it now why you were so upset before. I get that you were sad because I was sad and then you were even sadder because Sasuke could've hurt me and then you even sadder than that because I ran away when I could've gotten hurt again and you didn't know what had happened to me. Granny Tsunade made me realize that you didn't really mean the things you'd said, and so, Daddy, I'm just so-"

"No, Pup," Kakashi interrupted as he placed his hand atop the smaller one still sitting in his head of thick, silver hair, curling his fingers around the small appendage tightly as he continued, "you shouldn't have to say you're sorry anymore. I am the one that is truly in the wrong here. I said and did a lot of bad things despite the fact that I never meant any of it. You had every right to react the way you did and I was just too caught up in my emotions to realize that. I wasn't there for you the way you needed after I told you about your mother and I ended up hurting you far more than a father should ever do to his own son. So, I say it again: I am the one that is sorry here."

A small moment of heavy silence.

"Does that mean you're sorry enough to by me ramen again tonight?" Naruto asked with a sly smile and an obvious twinkle in his eye.

At first, Kakashi looked at him in confusion for such a rapid change in character, before realizing that Naruto no longer wanted the somber and heavy mood to continue and instead wanted to move on to happier times once more. They had both said what they needed to say and they both understood each other once more; that was all that mattered to the boy in the end. He was never one to linger in the darker times of life for no reason; that was just who he was, after all.

Giving his hand a playful squeeze, he said in genuine amusement, "Oh, I see how it is. This was all just a way to scam some more of that soupy crap off of me, wasn't it?"

"Hey!" a loud voice announced before Naruto could respond and as familiar figure stamped into the room with an accusing finger pointed at the young man, "Don't swear like that in front of him! He's only four years old! Control yourself, Hatake!"

Both members of the Hatake family froze for a moment at the unexpected intrusion, before their gazes locked with one another with a sly look becoming rapidly apparent in both of their eyes.

As they looked at the flustered woman, Kakashi asked in a neutral tone, "Say, how did you know that I'd sworn, Tsunade?"

"Yeah," Naruto tagged on with a small giggle, "that must've meant you were eavesdropping, eh Granny?"

Golden eyes changed from a look of outrage, to shock and then to embarrassment, before turning back to anger once more as she shouted, "That's not the point! Now come here so I can wipe those cocky smiles off your faces, you bastards!"

As she stalked on forward, Naruto asked his father quietly but still loud enough for the approaching woman to hear, "Hey, Daddy…isn't 'bastard' a pretty bad swear word too?"

Both Kakashi and Tsunade froze for a moment, before Kakashi looked down at the kid with a eye that somehow smirked when he returned, "Why yes, Naruto, I believe it is. What do you have to say to that one, 'Granny'?"

At that sly remark, Tsunade was instantly in action again, waving her hands in the air dramatically as she stormed forward with renewed determination and announced loudly, "Oh, I'll show you who's a 'Granny', you disrespectful fool!"

Before Tsunade could take a well-aimed lunge at the both of them, Kakashi quickly whipped Naruto up into this arms and carefully placed him atop his shoulders, grabbing on to his stubby little legs as he leapt out of the near-by window and raced with impressive speed on the street below as he did his best to escape the clutches of the mad woman still raving like a lunatic behind him.

If anyone had been watching the lot of them now, it'd be quite a sight to see. There Kakashi was, the usually stoic and completely disinterested ninja, running down the street like hell was on his arse as he laughed louder than anyone had who had ever known him thought he'd be capable of. Atop his shoulders sat a small boy with bright blonde hair and even brighter blue eyes, laugher even louder than his companion and waving his arms in the air with unrestrained joy. Behind them, a woman who was clearly on an angry rampage chased them with hollered promises of retribution, but even a stranger could see the uncontrollable smile tugging at her thin lips and the small glint of amusement in her glowing golden orbs.

When others looked on at the amusing but utterly heart-warming sight, they didn't see the pain present not so long ago, or the lies that would one day tear every one of their worlds apart. They saw the uncontrollable happiness and the way they couldn't help but bask in the glory of one another's presence, as if these tiny moments of joy were some of the most precious memories they would ever have.

Because, in the end, everyone's going to hurt you; you just have to decide who's worth the pain.

A/N: First off, sorry for taking longer than usual! This one ended up taking twice as long, didn't it? I do actually have a valid reason, though. It was end of term this week and I had a lot of tests to study for as a result. Also, this chapter had a lot of things going on that were actually pretty damn hard to find the right words for. A lot of other chapters in the future are going to be just as hard to write, therefore I am changing the way I update. From now on, I will have no exact timeframe for when the next chapter will be up. I don't want to feel like I'm rushing important parts to keep up with my typical schedule. It's the school holidays at the moment, so I'll have more time to write anyhow. You'll probably more notice the longer time period of updating when school's back on. Anyhoo, I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I have to say, I really do mess with Kakashi a lot, don't I? I love the guy, but he's seriously just the perfect character to throw into these situations where he doesn't know how to deal with how he feels. I tried my best to show you why all of the characters were feeling the way they felt and why they reacted they way they did during each scene, but if you're still confused, feel free to ask! Please leave a review if you have a moment!

Ja ne!