Pairing: Itachi x Naruto
Warnings: Mentions of animal cruelty/deaths (including detailed poaching later on and some semi-graphic animal abuse).
Dedicated to AberrantAtHeart because she deserves an onbaa herself.
Falling Head First
Naruto stirred in his sleep and opened his eyes immediately as he felt a disturbance in the chakra wards he had set around the perimeter of his land. He relaxed a second later as the person crossed them; there was only one who would be able to cross that easily.
Instead of getting up to greet Itachi, Naruto rolled back over and listened out for him. It was likely Itachi had just got back from reporting to Tsunade and would probably head straight to bed. Naruto didn't want to disturb him, any questions he had or greetings could wait until the morning.
He started when he heard a thump and resisted the urge to see what was happening downstairs. Judging by the delighted gargles, Naruto surmised that Itachi's little admirer had noticed the object of her affection was back and he heard Itachi shush the little onbaa quietly.
He remained downstairs for a long while and Naruto couldn't contain his curiosity much longer. His face broke into a soft smile as he looked over the banister and down to see Itachi and the onbaa. She was cuddled to his chest, both of them sleeping peacefully.
Naruto greeted Itachi warmly in the morning, nodding as Itachi handed the blanket Naruto had covered them with in the night.
"Not long before the rest of these troublemakers set off into the wide world," Naruto said, looking over the six large onbaa surrounding Itachi. They were snuffling him, all delighted he had returned.
"What about this little one?" Itachi said, gesturing to the one still attached to his chest.
"I'm not sure," Naruto admitted. He pushed aside the largest onbaa, scratching behind its ear as he sat down, allowing a few to push him and one to climb into his lap. "She's underweight and I was wondering if you could get Inuzuka Hana to look at her. She could have an illness we're not aware of."
Itachi hummed softly, eyes raking over the onbaa. She gargled a reply and Itachi nodded.
"I'll come back later then," he said and Naruto watched him go, still every bit as refined as he ever was, regardless of the extra passenger on board. Naruto envied him, shaking his head a few moments later, wondering why he was still staring after Itachi.
"Come on," he said to the onbaa around him. "Let's go play outside."
Playing outside was a welcome distraction. Naruto could focus on the onbaa, help to strengthen their muscles and not on the way his heart had sped up slightly when he was in the presence of Itachi.
One of the onbaa head-butted Naruto and he pushed it away with a frown. He didn't have feelings for Itachi, not romantic ones at least. Itachi was a friend, though no one said you couldn't be friends with someone you were interested in or romantically involved with.
"I don't have feelings," Naruto hissed out, the onbaa that had head-butted him grunting in reply. It pushed his shoulder, giving a toothy grin, and Naruto rolled his eyes.
"I'd do anything for you, don't worry. It's just humans that are the pain." The onbaa mumbled something, rolling over and falling in Naruto's lap instead, staring at him with wide eyes.
"He's not like anyone else," Naruto began slowly, though why he was explaining this to an onbaa was beyond his reasoning. At least the little creature couldn't reply back (though little was a loose term at this point in time).
"He's lived his entire life sacrificing himself for someone or another and something like that… something like that could change people." Naruto sighed. "But it hasn't changed him, not really. Itachi… he's like the forest. Unmoving and unrelenting, yet welcoming and home."
The onbaa gave a low bark and Naruto narrowed his eyes.
"Shut up," he said and the onbaa gave a little onbaa-smile. "I don't have feelings for Itachi."
"I'm back," Itachi called out as he entered the house. It was dinner time, almost, and Naruto looked down, waving a hand as he prepared food for the little crowd that had gathered at the base of the stairs.
"It's a good thing they haven't mastered stairs yet," Naruto commented as Itachi set the onbaa he was carrying down and pushed through the others. "Imagine that! We'd have crowds following us all day."
One of the onbaa gave a cry of outrage.
"It's not a bad thing! But your parents need a bit of peace!" He turned back to his task, ignoring the feeling that came with addressing himself and Itachi as parents.
"She's fine," Itachi offered up as Naruto continued on in silence. "Inuzuka-san thinks she was a runt, hence the size difference and slower development. She also said…" Itachi paused and Naruto looked at him.
"Ahh, that would make sense," Naruto commented, waiting for Itachi to finish.
"She suggested that we keep this onbaa instead of letting her free. Inuzuka-san said she wouldn't stand much of a chance if she returned to her home territory." Itachi's voice was soft and light, but there was a hidden quality Naruto understood all too well.
Of course he'd contemplated keeping the onbaa. They were such little characters and creatures that infected their way into his heart. He'd been able to give Onbu back to his mother easily because he'd had a mother to return to and learn from. These onbaa had nothing and if Naruto had made a mistake somewhere along the line then it would be the onbaa that suffered.
Returning to the wild was the best thing though. They weren't pets, they were living, wild animals. Naruto had experience of how wild they could be first hand and he couldn't imagine taking a fully grown male onbaa around the village. What damage it would cause and who it could harm would be unthinkable, but what would happen to the onbaa? People wouldn't let something that hurt or damaged to live in close quarters.
But this onbaa, Itachi's onbaa, was different. Did she really not stand a chance in the wild? Was it even their place to decide? She had attached herself to Itachi, did she know she'd not have a chance if she returned to her birthplace?
"What do you think?" Naruto said instead of answering the questions himself. Itachi was a far more practical person, had had more reason to use his mind than Naruto over the years, and Naruto wanted to hear his thoughts.
It took a while before Itachi replied. They finished preparing dinner, served and got it all cleared away before someone broke the silence. It wasn't uncomfortable though, silence never was between them, and Naruto had learnt patience a while back. It was easier to exercise this patience when a war wasn't being waged.
"I've seen what happens when an onbaa matures," Itachi said as they started their own dinner. It was a simple fish and rice dish, green tea and water to match. Itachi sipped at his tea and looked at Naruto.
"For all we know, she could mature as well as the others. Her attachment worries me but… ultimately if she wants to return to the wild then I think we should allow her." Naruto nodded at the words, taking a bite of fish. It was the conclusion he'd come to as well; the onbaa knew what was best for them.
"Should she stay though… I don't know how it would work. She has a sweet temperament, if leaning towards jealousy now and again can be forgiven, but when they change, it's hard to say." Itachi looked down at his food and began to eat.
"Then we can leave it to time," Naruto said with a smile and Itachi nodded, smiling for the first time since he'd returned from the vets.
Not that Naruto was paying attention or anything. Of course not.
It wasn't long before Itachi's-onbaa was the last onbaa left. The house seemed empty and Naruto decided that enough was enough. He'd decided to keep the house, something he liked to tell Itachi a lot, just in case Itachi decided to stay (he hated to think of Itachi alone in a barren ANBU barrack after all), and had decided that furnishing it would be the best idea.
"So the kitchen will have to stay upstairs, bathroom too. I'll keep the dining area as a dining area, have a bedroom downstairs – a proper bedroom, no more pushing tables back to sleep! – and an office I think." Naruto narrowed his eyes and looked at his list. "I'll have another room – for guests maybe? And then… well I'm not sure."
Itachi looked over at him. "It sounds good," he commented, though Naruto caught the slight hesitation.
"It can be your room if you want. Fuck the guests, you're more important." The words practically fell out of Naruto's mouth and he focused on his list more intensely than ever before, hoping Itachi wouldn't hear the desperation in his voice and would just accept the words at face value.
Things were never that simple though.
"You'd let me stay here?" Itachi said. Naruto risked a glance and was surprised to see the genuine shock on his face.
"Well I was thinking more along the lines of you living here permanently, but if you prefer that shitty ANBU room then you can stop over whenever." He smiled, leaning back in his chair as Itachi's eyes widened.
"You helped to raise our onbaa and I think of you as a friend," more than a friend, his mind added, but Naruto pushed it down quickly. "I like your company and I think it's a terrible shame you live where you do."
He ran a hand through his hair. "Plus it fills that empty space."
Naruto saw the jolt pass through Itachi's body at his words and wondered why they had such a profound effect. He didn't move as Itachi took a step forward, then another and another, until he was standing next to Naruto, looking at him with narrowed eyes.
"You need to tell me if you really mean that or not," Itachi said and Naruto frowned.
"Of course I mean it. I don't say shit I don't mean," he said, snorting. Then, a moment later, his world came to a standstill as Itachi leant in, kissing him deeply, barely touching his shoulders as he leant in.
"Do you still mean it?" Itachi said as he pulled back.
Of course Naruto wouldn't have been able to hide his crisis from Itachi. This was Uchiha Itachi, a man who had lived years with his main job being to notice stuff. Of course he'd see when Naruto's eyes trailed over his body. He'd noticed everything, how had Naruto ever thought otherwise?
"I do," Naruto said, standing and placing his hands on Itachi's forearms, pulling him close. "But this isn't some pitying thing."
Instead of answering, Itachi kissed him, a gentle touch of lips before he pulled back again, eyes challenging as he glanced downstairs. Naruto followed his gaze, glad of the rain outside and the closed doors. Their onbaa was asleep downstairs and they were free to their own devices.
Itachi pushed Naruto against the table, Naruto hopping up onto it and wrapping his legs around Itachi's waist. His shirt was thrown over his shoulder as he met Itachi's lips, slipping a hand against his trousers. Itachi was hard and Naruto grinned into the kiss.
They didn't need to think about anything, though they'd been dancing around the issue – unaware – for weeks now. Naruto had always admired Itachi, he'd dispatched Sasuke so smoothly and combatted Jiraiya just as easily (though he and Kisame had been fleeing from Jiraiya, but still) back when they'd first met. Unbound, that admiration had morphed into attraction then to desire and now… well now Naruto could finally act upon it.
Breathing heavily, Naruto pushed his hips outwards until he could rub against Itachi. A puff of warm air met Naruto's cheek as Itachi pulled to the side, impatient and with good reason. They'd been waiting too long and Naruto grunted as he sipped a hand into Itachi's trousers, triumphant when Itachi's breath stiffened.
They kissed again, sloppy and unabashed, as if they'd been doing this for years. Itachi's cock was a comfortable, needy weight in Naruto's hand and he gave a gentle squeeze, going to pull the trousers down completely when Itachi broke away, shaking his head with narrowed eyes and biting Naruto's lip gently. He pulled at the lip and Naruto shuddered in anticipation. The Sharingan wasn't the only dangerous thing Itachi could use his eyes for; this was his ultimate attack. Bedroom eyes.
Naruto moaned as Itachi mouthed his cock through the fabric of his trousers. He was cursing his need to wear underwear when he felt the fabric of his clothes push down slightly, Itachi silently asking him to move his hips to remove the trousers. Naruto wasted no time, lying flat on the kitchen table and letting Itachi slip him free of trousers and pants.
His dick throbbed as Itachi came closer, skirting over his erection and kissing the juncture of his hip, licking and teasing.
"Fuck you," Naruto said, voice barely a whimper as he sat up on his elbows, exactly at the same time as Itachi wrapped a hand around his cock and began to move, pumping slowly.
"What was that?" Itachi said, smirking as his tongue ran along the underside of Naruto's cock. He kept his hand steady, eyes even steadier, and Naruto let his arms collapse, head banging on the table as Itachi lowered his mouth.
It wasn't as if Naruto had never had sex before. He had, good sex too, but whether it was because he hadn't gotten any in a while (sex wasn't exactly a priority when you were in a war, after all) or because (yes he'd admit it) he really, really, liked Itachi, well he couldn't say. Either way, having Itachi between his legs, tongue dancing on his dick and mouth working in perfect partnership with hand… Naruto was in heaven.
He pushed up again, Itachi moving back and licking his lips. Naruto ran a hand against Itachi's jaw, kissing him deeply before coming to the edge of the table.
"Kneel," he said softly, voice firm. Itachi did as he was told, smiling and opening his mouth. Naruto slid off of the table, guiding his cock as Itachi moved forwards, wrapping his lips around the tip. Itachi then stilled, sliding his tongue out as Naruto moved, slowly to begin with and then increasing pace.
Itachi was warm and willing and, as Naruto came, he swallowed thickly, cleaning Naruto with his tongue after and kissing him gently. Naruto wrapped an arm around his shoulders and moved them back until they were against the table.
"Let me return the favour," Naruto whispered, pulling back as Itachi gave a huff of laughter.
"I'm afraid I already came," Itachi admitted, no hint of shame or disappointment in his eyes. And why should there be? It made Naruto proud to think he could cause such an effect and he grinned.
"I'm going to clean up. It's quite late already," Itachi said, moving away already. Naruto caught his hint and began pushing away the table, gathering their bedding and laying it out, right against each other this time. They could even share covers tonight, something that sped Naruto's heart rate up and put a wide smile on his face.
Itachi came back naked, looking as casual as he did with clothes on. He smiled at Naruto and climbed under the covers, pulling Naruto down a moment later.
"Do you think human sex scares onbaa?" Itachi said, breaking the comfortable silence they had lapsed into. Rain continued to fall outside and they heard a rogue snore from downstairs.
"I don't plan to let her watch us having sex, thank you very much," Naruto muttered, shuffling closer until his head was resting on Itachi's chest. Itachi was warm and comfortable, a perfect pillow for him.
Itachi was silent and then, "So you'd be happy to continue like this?"
Naruto shifted slightly, kissing Itachi's side as he pushed himself up on one elbow, looking down to Itachi.
"Of course. It's not like I haven't been having a slight crisis over it all," he admitted, causing Itachi to raise an eyebrow. "Anyone would be superficially attracted to you, but spending time with you? Actually being around you? Knowing you? I've grown to like you. A lot." Naruto smiled a little nervously, wondering if he'd originally thought wrong and this was just a casual hook up.
Sure he'd be happy with a casual hook up, but he would have preferred to know that from the start so he could enjoy the moment to the fullest.
"Good," Itachi said with a smile, looking towards the ceiling instead of Naruto. "I've always liked you."
He frowned. "Not in a sexual way until recently," he continued and Naruto laughed, flopping back down and sighing.
"Well I'm all for this new development in our relationship," Naruto said, glancing over to Itachi. "Though I understand if you don't want to. It'll be hard living together and… well…"
Itachi turned his head and smiled again. It was such a heart-warming smile, one that made Naruto feel tingly from head to toe. He couldn't help but smile in return, roll over and kiss Itachi until his smile faded and he was more preoccupied with using his lips for something else.
It wasn't awkward. Okay, so it was awkward, but then again it was always going to be a little bit awkward the morning after, but it would have been less awkward if they hadn't woken up to an onbaa flinging herself on top of them.
At once, Itachi rolled to the side and Naruto shot up, arms wrapping around the intruder as Itachi's Sharingan flashed. A beat later and they looked at each other, looked at their captive and then laughed, Itachi sneaking back under the covers and stroking the onbaa's fur.
"I thought they couldn't climb stairs," Naruto muttered, running a hand through his hair and yawning. "You nearly gave me a heart attack."
A large crash outside sounded and Naruto suddenly understood why the onbaa was here. All of the onbaa had been scared of storms, but they'd huddled together and never needed reassurance from Naruto or Itachi. Now, there was no one but humans for this onbaa to turn to and she whimpered, shivering as lightning flashed and another roll of thunder sounded.
"I'm going to grab some pants," Naruto said, standing up and heading to the clothes drawers. He was fine being with Itachi and naked, but he didn't feel like facing a scared onbaa without clothes. He noticed that Itachi did the same, a little put out when Itachi also shrugged on a pyjama shirt.
"Do you think we should name her?" Naruto said from the kitchen, pouring glasses of water for him and Itachi. "I mean… it's pretty certain she'll be staying with us, but even so, I named Onbu and he was fine to return to the wild."
Naruto padded over to Itachi and the onbaa, kneeling down and stroking the onbaa's fur. She half-closed her eyes, leaning into his touch.
"We could call her Sasuke," Naruto said with a straight face. It took just a glance to see the deadpan expression on Itachi's face before he broke into laughter, falling back onto his bed and dragging the onbaa with him, snuggling her and letting her run her paws on his face, bashing him for fun.
"While I would love to see my little brother's face when he learns we named a female onbaa after him, his ego wouldn't handle it." Itachi smiled. "Plus she needs a brand new name. A brand new name for a brand new onbaa."
"How about Onbe?" Naruto suggested, going with the theme he'd picked for his first Onbu. They didn't need human names, onbaa were onbaa. Their names were only for human use, really. Itachi and himself would never be able to tame an onbaa fully, but they could be friends with her.
"Do you like the name Onbe?" he asked the onbaa and she snorted, waddling over to Itachi instead, grinning back at Naruto as Itachi gave her a cuddle.
"Onbe it is then," Naruto said and rolled onto his back, stretching.
They spend the rest of the early morning like that, waiting for the storm to subside and then the rain to stop. At one point, Onbe fell asleep and Itachi soon followed her. Naruto watched them fondly, wondering how he'd ever been able to convince himself he had no feelings for Itachi.
One thing was true though; he'd found his little family. No matter what, he'd always have this moment in his life and that was enough for him to forget the lingering darkness of the war. He settled into his covers and closed his yes.
They woke a little before midday when Onbe started running around, crying out for food. Naruto set to making her a late breakfast, leaving Itachi to cook for the humans. They were just sitting down to eat, Onbe granted permission to join them at the table since she'd climbed up the stairs herself and would be a nightmare otherwise, when someone called out from below.
"Sorry to intrude!" a woman's voice called out and Naruto looked over the bannister in surprise, calling for Shizune to enter.
"Do you want something to eat?" Naruto called out as Shizune took off her shoes. "We're just about to start lunch, come and join us!"
Shizune declined the offer of food, but took some tea and joined them. She smiled at Onbe, turning to Naruto.
"Tsunade-sama asked me to come and warn you that a few poachers have been spotted in the Fire country. She's not sure if they know about your onbaa, but we all wanted to warn you." Shizune took a sip of tea, smiling again at Onbe.
Naruto frowned, unsure what to think of this new bit of information. Poachers were bad news all round and he hated to think that his onbaa were facing a deadly challenge just when they'd gone back to the wild. Naruto liked to think that they would be able to take on poachers, but he'd seen the damage that could be done and if hunters knew how to deal with an onbaa then there was nothing that would stop them.
"Tsunade-sama's sent a few teams out to track them. Mainly genin who need to get a little more experience, but they're all good teams." She sighed. "There's also another reason why I came out here, one that we're all a little uncomfortable with."
Shizune glanced between Naruto and Itachi, focusing on Naruto.
"People want to know what exactly you're doing out here. Tsunade-sama understands, but people are beginning to question whether this is the best thing or not." Shizune bit her lip. "There's also people wondering why you're living with Itachi-san too."
Though she was clearly not one of the people who thought that way, Shizune looked uncomfortable by what she was saying. Naruto sighed; in all honesty, he'd been expecting this from the first day he'd started living out here. It had only been a matter of time before people began to wonder where he was and why he was out here, though he didn't owe the ones asking questions anything.
"What do I need to do to get them off of my back?" Naruto said, rolling his eyes before nodding to Itachi. Silently, they swapped some of Naruto's rice for a piece of mackerel, ignoring the look Shizune shot them, both intrigued and suspicious.
"A few missions, low-key in terms of skill, but high profile. Tsunade-sama was thinking about putting you on some paperwork duty once a week or so to build up your knowledge of everything a Hokage needs to do." Shizune smiled. "It might also help if Itachi was seen outside of ANBU, interacting in the village."
"I have no wish to parade through the village just to keep up appearances," Itachi said, setting his empty bowl down. "I've done a lot of playing up for the village and learnt that one cannot always be the image people want one to be."
Itachi sipped at his tea. Naruto watched the steam rise around his face, curling over his thin nose and high cheekbones. Dark shadows lined his eyes and Naruto watched as Itachi was unwavering in his gaze, staring solidly at Shizune and she nodded sadly.
"I can't say that I blame you," she said, setting her cup down and rising. "Just keep an eye out for your onbaa. Hiding away sometimes brings unwanted attention and people start to pry. With poachers on the lookout now, I'd hate to think of anything happening to her."
She blushed and continued. "Not that I think you should do what the village wants," she hastened to correct. "Just that I… we all want you to be happy."
Shizune left after that, wishing them well. Naruto sighed and leant back until he was lying down, legs still crossed.
"What do you think, Onbe?" he said and Onbe slammed her paws on the table, indignant expression on her face. She looked at Naruto and then threw herself backwards, mimicking him.
"I know my table manners are appalling and you haven't had any of your treats today, but come sit by me and give me some advice." Onbe stood and shuffled over to him, sitting on his chest. She was heavy and Naruto struggled to breathe as she adjusted herself.
"So you have no ideas, huh?" Naruto said as he scratched behind Onbe's ears. He stretched his legs out under the table, smiling as he felt Itachi's hands on his ankles, moving to absentmindedly massage his feet.
"How about you?" Naruto said, looking at Itachi for a moment before Onbe shoved her face into his line of view.
"I think it would be a great opportunity for you to work with Tsunade-sama," Itachi commented, working down the centre of Naruto's foot. "As for me… I was going to retire from ANBU anyway."
Naruto sat up at that. Itachi said it so casually, so flippantly, as if it meant nothing when it really meant everything.
"It's not that I think it's a bad idea," Naruto began openly, "but ANBU's pretty much been your entire life."
It wasn't, as he said, as if Naruto thought Itachi leaving ANBU was a bad idea. In fact he thought it a very good idea, but Itachi had been in the ANBU forces since he was young, the Akatsuki after that. ANBU was, literally, his life and if Itachi had nothing else to fall back on, there was a good chance he'd be forever lost to them all.
Itachi smiled softly.
"It's not like that, though I appreciate your concern. It's always been on my mind, but I'd love to become an instructor of some kind. Whether it's at the Academy or within the interrogation unit, I have no preference." His eyes crinkled as he smiled and Naruto's heart warmed. "It's just time I was around people more."
Naruto stroked Onbe's fur slowly, mulling over the words. He nodded and hugged Onbe tightly.
"Just so long as I don't have to share you too much," he muttered, heart pounding as the words escaped him.
Itachi laughed gently. "That could never happen," he assured Naruto, nodding his head warmly.
Onbe rubbed her head against Naruto's cheek and he ducked his head into her fur, just in case there was a hint of red to his cheeks.
Days flew by and Naruto settled into what he considered the most boring job in the world (he was on organisation duty in one of the archives – not even the assistant there enjoyed pulling out dusty tomes and categorising things).
Itachi moved jobs too, taking on a teaching position within the specialist unit. He specialised in genjutsu, but found himself teaching extra sessions on the side when his pupils sought him out. Already he was gaining a reputation for being one of the best teachers, his pupils taking on board skills and living up to the Uchiha Itachi name.
It was only natural that they had forgotten about the threat of poachers. Onbe was still with them – still young and unchanged – but it wasn't until Itachi came home one day that Naruto realised something was very wrong.
"I thought you were out walking," Naruto said, standing up hurriedly as soon as he noticed Onbe wasn't on Itachi's back. It wasn't unusual to come home to an empty house on Itachi's days off; he enjoyed taking Onbe for walks and she loved them too. Still, Onbe wasn't here, nor was she with Itachi.
Panic began to creep in and clutch at Naruto's chest.
"There was an emergency strategy meeting and Tsunade-sama asked that I give some advice." Itachi frowned, looking at Naruto a moment later with wide eyes.
"Shit," Naruto said, practically throwing himself down the stairs and pulling on shoes, just as Itachi slipped his own feet back into his own. "What time did you leave?"
"Early afternoon so she can't have been gone long. Were your wards affected or could she have just escaped the property?" Itachi said as he opened the door and they set off, eyes raking over the ground in the semi-darkness dusk brought.
"The wards were unaffected, but they weren't perfect. If they're poachers, they know how to get past wards. I never warded against animals," Naruto muttered, cursing his lack of foresight. How could he have been so stupid?
"Stop blaming yourself. If it's anyone's fault, then it's mine." Itachi took a deep breath and turned to Naruto, placing a hand on each shoulder, steadying him. "What matters is that we get Onbe back safely. I trust you, you love her as much as I do."
Naruto nodded, clasping Itachi's hand before he moved off.
"I'll take the south, you take north. You're better at navigating the forest so I'll head out of it, see if they've moved on enough." It was true – Itachi's time stroking the trees could be put to use now, just like Naruto's speed.
And what speed it was. He reached the outskirts of the forest, back in onbaa territory now, in under thirty minutes. He instantly began looking around for signs of onbaa and signs of traps, failing. It was fully dark now and Naruto was about to run back into the forest when he saw smoke rising in the air. It could be someone who had seen Onbe or, better still, the poachers themselves.
Naruto moved towards them slowly, like a predator stalking its prey. He couldn't afford to take any chances with these men – they had Onbe and he needed Onbe to be safe. Without Onbe, Naruto would be nowhere now, just staring at the sea, lost. He wouldn't have Itachi even, not had the courage to talk to the man walking through the forest and certainly never have had the courage to kiss Itachi the way he did now.
Onbe was precious and these poachers were going to discover just how I felt to take something away from Naruto that he loved.
"The adults coming from that place were stronger than average too," Naruto heard as he crouched low. "One of them took out half of us, but we managed to get the bastard in the end!" laughter met the man's words and Naruto's eyes opened in horror as the speaker brandished an adult onbaa head.
It wasn't just any onbaa head though. Naruto recognised it as one of his onbaa. It belonged to a particularly feisty male, one who had made sure to bump heads with Naruto gently before he'd walked off into the wild. Strong and kind-hearted, that onbaa deserved more respect than these monsters had shown him. He'd never deserved to be butchered, skinned and then had his head paraded as a trophy.
Naruto wanted to slit their throats, but these were overly-proud men, cowardly men. They'd fight dirty.
The bushes stirred next to Naruto and he saw Itachi. He wasn't surprised that Itachi was here, but the look of pure fury on Itachi's face was enough for even Naruto to flinch back slightly. Itachi had evidently heard of their onbaa's fate and Naruto wondered how many others had died under these poachers' hands.
"The babies are easier to get though. Lured it out with old onbaa pelts, caught it and we'll get a good profit from it!" Naruto's eyes whipped around the camp, searching for where they were keeping Onbe. Itachi signalled and Naruto frowned, looking over to the edge of the fire where Onbe sat in a tiny cage.
A poacher sat next to her and he brought the cage over into the light a little more. Her fur was dirty with mud and blood, blood that Naruto hoped belonged to the humans and not her. She reached out to scratch at her captors, but was rewarded with a sharp jab in the side with a sharpened stick, and that was the last straw for Naruto.
"Gentlemen," he said calmly as he rose from the bush. Onbe was silent and that unnerved Naruto. She'd never been this silent before. "You seem to have a few rare artefacts on your person. Mind if I take a look?"
The poachers shuffled and looked to the man holding the onbaa head, the leader most likely. Naruto raised an eyebrow and the men stiffened as Itachi rose too, entering the light with vermillion eye, the fire flickering in the sharingan's depths.
"Who the fuck are you?" the lead-poacher said and Naruto tilted his head back slightly, looking down at the man.
"I'm the one who raised the onbaa you took the head of and the one you hold captive over there. I rescued them after you butchered their mothers and left them to die. I'm the one that loved them while you were simply interested in what price they'd fetch on the black market." Naruto balled his hands into fists, fighting down the urge to let Kurama's chakra rip through them all. Let them have the former malice of the Kyūbi no kitsune, Naruto thought. Let it tear at them and haunt them for their life.
"I'm taking my friend back," Naruto said. "And taking whatever animal parts you've collected. You don't deserve to even be alive," he added and moved forwards, in perfect synchronisation with Itachi.
They didn't kill any of the poachers, just disabled their weapons and left them unconscious. Itachi moved over to Onbe's cage as Naruto began rifling through their belongings, shaking his head at the various pelts, bones and other animal parts they had collected. He'd already dispatched a clone to get teams from Konoha and Naruto returned to the fire circle, trepidation filling his stomach.
Onbe was cradled in Itachi's arms, her body limp. She was still breathing, but they were able to get a proper look at her wounds now and Naruto resisted the urge to kick the poachers a bit while they were defenceless.
One of her eyes had been gouged out and blood matted her entire face. The bleeding looked to have stopped and it was the only injury Itachi could find, but it was a big injury.
"I'll take her straight to the Inuzuka clinic. My clone will be back soon," Naruto said and Itachi nodded wordlessly, understanding the need to stay behind. He'd make sure that the poachers were taken into custody without fail.
The journey back to Konoha seemed to take both forever and no time at all. All Naruto could think about was getting Onbe proper care and he sped faster and faster, yellow chakra lighting the forest as he sped through.
"Do you know what the fucking time is?" Hana said as she came to the door, eyes widening as she saw the reason Naruto had been banging on the clinic door so frantically.
"Bring her in. I'll get more help, take her straight through into the first examination room." Instantly, Hana was a professional and she ran to get a support team.
Naruto set Onbe down on the table gently. She gave a little murmur, single eye crinkling as she tried to reach out to Naruto.
"It's okay," Naruto said and stroked her back gently. "Hana's going to look after you. I'm sorry those bad people took you, but you're safe now. Itachi and I will never, ever let it happen again, okay?"
Naruto felt tears welling up and he bit them back. Onbe would be okay, there was no need to cry. She was strong, hadn't she proven that by still standing up to the poachers regardless of what they'd done to her? She'd be fine.
"Naruto," Hana said from the doorway, gown already on as she slipped gloves on. "We're going to have to operate on her eye. I've seen this before in some guard animals, the poachers take an eye out to subdue the animal enough to catch it or get away. They do a messy job of it."
Naruto nodded and kissed Onbe on the top of her head.
"Hana will look after you now, I have to go," he said, understanding what he needed to do. He'd only be in the way in this room. "I'll just be outside, I promise."
Narto hardly registered Kiba at his side until his friend sat him down firmly.
"I'll be helping my sister," he said. "Akamaru will stay here and I'll make sure to keep you updated when I can."
Akamaru placed his head on Naruto's lap, comforting him in a way only dogs understand. Kiba was gone a second later, the room where Onbe was being operated on sealing away from the real world and out of Naruto's grasp
This was something he couldn't fix, Naruto realised. He gripped a chunk of Akamaru's fur, leaning forward until his head was buried in the white fur. He didn't care anymore that he was crying and Akamaru moved closer, setting his head on Naruto's shoulder.
Naruto wasn't sure how much time passed, but Akamaru backed away gently, whining low in his throat. Naruto looked up, wiping his cheeks as he met the cold gaze of Itachi, an Itachi who moved forwards quickly, wrapping his arms tightly around Naruto and buried his head against Naruto's neck.
"She'll be alright," Naruto managed out, voice shaky. "She has to be."
They sat down, preparing to wait out the night. Their hands were clutched together tightly, Akamaru resting at their feet, guarding the two humans from the terrors of the night.
"She's resting now," Hana said as she began to wipe down the table. "There is no sign of infection – she's a very healthy onbaa – and they hadn't messed her head up too bad. Obviously she'll never see again and I have no idea how this will impact her relationship with humans… but I'm very positive for her full recovery."
The life seemed to leave Naruto's body and he slumped accordingly, smiling brightly at Itachi. Itachi's eyes were watery and he sniffed, thanking Hana heavily.
"I'd suggest you go home and get some rest. She'll be a handful when you take her home." She smiled, dark circles under her eyes evidence of the hard work she'd put in through the night.
"We can't thank you enough," Naruto said, ready to do anything for Hana and Kiba should they ask.
"You love her and that's all I need to know," Hana replied, spraying the table one last time. "Now go home, and not just for yourselves. I want to go back to sleep too." She grinned and Naruto nodded, taking Itachi's hand and leading him from the clinic.
They walked back in an odd trance. They were happy – undoubtedly – but guilt reared its head. None of this should have happened in the first place.
The house was unnaturally still when they entered.
"They lured her out then," Naruto said, breaking the silence as he headed upstairs. He wasn't anywhere near hungry and started pulling out their beds instead. Itachi wordlessly joined him, bumping shoulders gently.
"They used onbaa they'd killed before to lure her out and then capture her," Naruto said, lip crinkling upward in disgust. "And for what? A bit of money? Recognition?"
"At the expense of something else," Itachi finished, walking to Naruto's side. "Tsunade-sama has them in custody now. None of them will get away with what they did and we can bury the onbaa remains – as well as the other animal parts – with the respect they deserve."
Naruto nodded, yawning as he finally realised how tired he was. He lay down beside Itachi, curling up against him as Itachi did the same, falling asleep a moment later.
They woke up mid-afternoon to a familiar voice and a familiar dog. Naruto greeted Kiba warmly, eyes widening at the creature Akamaru was carrying on his back.
"She wouldn't stop making the clinic a living hell until Hana said that she should just let Onbe go home." Kiba shrugged and Onbe hurled herself off of Akamaru's back. Naruto cried out, stooping to pick up the injured onbaa, but instead of pain, Onbe looked delighted.
"That's the funny thing about animals," Kiba said as he scratched Akamaru behind his ear. "No matter how cruel or paingul the world becomes, if they have someone they love, they will love them unconditionally. The best place for her is with you two."
Kiba understood. It would have been ridiculous for him not to, seeing as he'd been raised to care for dogs and understand them, but a lot of people closed their minds off even when they had pets. Naruto heard Itachi thanking them and while he offered tea, Kiba declined.
"I expect a spar with you in return," Kiba said to Naruto. "Maybe see if that onbaa of yours wants to join the shinobi forces!"
For a brief moment, Naruto entertained thoughts of riding on an adult Onbe's back and forming an anti-poaching league, but if it would ever happen, those days were far off. Kiba left and it was their little family once more.
Life trickled by slowly. Celebrations began and ended to mark the passing of an entire year since the war and their little house in the forest changed. Itachi and Naruto had a proper bedroom now, as did Onbe, and it felt warm, warmer even than when it was filled with baby onbaa.
"Shit, shit, shit," Naruto said as he darted around the house. "Where the fuck did I put that scroll? Baa-chan's going to kill me!"
Itachi looked over in amusement from upstairs, the banisters refurbished to allow the people at the table to overlook even when seated. He shuffled the newspaper and shook his head, glasses slipping down his nose ever so slightly.
"Itachi!" Naruto called out, panting slightly. "Have you seen a scroll? It's small and has a red seal. Shit," Naruto muttered again, running into the bedroom.
"You mean the scroll that contains your application to run for Hokage?" Itachi asked and Naruto poked his head out of the bedroom. "It's on the kitchen table."
Naruto's eyes widened as Itachi threw the scroll down and caught it with a relieved smile.
"What would I do without you?" Naruto asked, but instead of heading to the door, he walked upstairs. Itachi was standing by the time he reached the top step and he smirked, kissing Itachi deeply and wrapping his arms around him.
"Do you want to meet for ramen later?" Itachi murmured against Naruto's lips and Naruto raised an eyebrow.
"Are you asking me on a date?" he joked, spinning around and heading back downstairs. "Because if so, it's a definite yes."
Naruto looked to the door as it opened and a long nose peeked around the corner, snuffling in annoyance.
"Onbe's getting annoyed with me now, I'll see you for lunch." Naruto slipped his shoes on, tucked the scroll into one of his pockets and waved goodbye to Itachi as he closed the front door.
Onbe stood waiting on the path, full grown and impressive. Her empty eye socket had healed long ago and she turned her good eye towards Naruto, giving him a look that said it all.
"I know I'm late, girl," he said, starting to walk, a little quicker than he'd usually go. "And of course you're invited to lunch. I know you love ramen, I'll even sneak you my uzumaki."
Naruto smiled as Onbe shifted to walk on all fours, nudging him along with a smile on her face. He laughed as she looked at him, no other emotion except happiness shining in her eyes. It was hard to believe how far she'd come and Naruto couldn't help but smile back.
He had everything he wanted in his life, his Onbe and his Itachi, and he could scarcely believe how lucky he'd been.
"How about a race?" Naruto said and Onbe grunted. She was fast and Naruto had yet to beat her without using his hiraishin. It was a fact that Onbe loved to parade in front of Itachi (she still worshipped him, time did nothing to change that) and if Naruto felt a little jealous of it then well… nothing was ever perfect, even his life.
Still, he was as close as he could ever get. And that was more enough for Naruto.
And that concludes this story! Thank you so much for all the support, I've really enjoyed writing this. I'm planning on finishing up a few stories and working on others that need updating (tentatively saying WYDK at this point…), but I also have a few ideas for one or two shots I'd love to try.
Thank you again and I appreciate every single follower to every story. Reviews are very much appreciated, but I don't demand them! Have a great weekend or week, depending on when you read this story!