Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace

by Lazuli 5 Reviews

Time has passed and Naruto realizes that he can no longer keep the secret he has kept for so long...

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Naruto, Sasuke - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006/03/11 - Updated: 2006/03/12 - 5561 words

Fall From Grace
Chapter One
By: Lazuli

This is a new fic that was spawned by bouncing around ideas with arcanetherom one night, and the poor thing blew up into massive proportions. I hope that you enjoy it, though-I'm sure I'll have fun writing it.

Naruto does not belong to me. ^^



Naruto ran to each stall, eyes bright as he waved his friend over. "C'mon-by the way you're lagging, everything cool is going to be gone!" This was the first festival day they were allowed to attend on their own, no parents tagging along after them. Naruto intended to make the most of it.

"That is hardly possible, Naruto." Sasuke dry voice sounded behind him. "And running until you exhaust yourself won't make matters any better. You know that whatever they have on their tables is only a fraction of what they have in storage." He gave Naruto an indulgent smile, though, as his blond haired friend waited beside a food vendor.

"Hmph. I still think it's better to get it now than risk not having it at all." Naruto made a face, but he was already peering at the trays of rice balls laid out, most of them molded into the shapes of the different gods. He picked out two of them and paid accordingly, shoving the cat one at Sasuke as he nibbled at a fox one.

"I'm surprised your family let you out without five bodyguards following you around." Naruto teased his friend. "You've barely started real training and you're their precious son." He didn't have to mention that Sasuke was yards ahead of him when it came to weapons practice. He started when he was four.

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "The same goes for you, idiot. You're the only son in your family, and even with your ability to make up jutsu on the spot, an only son is more valuable." His tone was slightly sour as he and Naruto moved past most of the vendors to sit and watch the shows. Even if Naruto wasn't very strong yet, the ability to modify and create jutsu was a talent valued by the shinobi community.

Naruto snorted and shoved Sasuke in the side. "At least you don't have to go wandering through rice fields and cleaning up every damn temple that kyuubi has." He muttered. "You at least can focus on the actual weapons training while I have to slip it in every free chance I have until we go to the school."

"Hn." Sasuke mulled that over for a moment, but he smirked, eating the last piece of his meal. "You need the extra training in handling weapons, idiot. Why don't you stop your ridiculous jutsu modifications and actually try throwing shuriken once in awhile?"

"Maybe if I had someone to practice with." Naruto pointed out. "Someone that can match my level."

"You better start talking to the preschoolers, then." Sasuke grinned. "They're the only ones that won't hurt you when you trip over your own feet."

Naruto launched himself at Sasuke, the dark haired boy laughing as Naruto missed a punch and knocking him into a group of people. After a few exclamations over 'how rude children were these days', they mumbled apologies and ran off to the training grounds in the forest, both of them too caught up in their good natured rivalry to worry about the rest of the festival.


~

Naruto woke up slowly, mind still caught up in his dream. Him and Sasuke ...walking around together like friends. It wasn't something that happened these days. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair, eyeing the calendar near his bed. The red ink circling the upcoming date stood out clearly, and one hand clenched briefly in his sheets. /So soon/... He knew, theoretically, that this day had to come-but he didn't want to deal with it.

/Whining about it isn't going to change anything./ He told himself firmly as he got out of bed and ready for the day. What's going to happen was supposed to happen a long time ago/. As he adjusted the headband over his eyes, he took a moment to observe his reflection in the mirror. He was now eighteen years old-/time had finally run out.

~

"So what mission do we have today?" Naruto peered over Sasuke's shoulder, trying to get a closer look at the information. He and Sasuke worked together-he was one of the few people that Sasuke would work with, and Sasuke wasn't allowed to do any missions on his own yet. Even genin level missions required him to have a partner overseeing the task. It was a slow build of trust, his defection to Orochimaru and Otogakure wasn't likely to be forgotten anytime soon.

"/I/ have a mission to clean out an old storehouse." Sasuke said acidly, rolling up the scroll and tucking it into one of his pouches. "You can do whatever you want, but I don't need a babysitter for this mission, dobe. I don't think I'll find anything in there that is potentially dangerous."

Naruto shrugged at that, and followed Sasuke despite the scowl directed towards him. "Hey, I didn't make up the rules." He protested. "Until the Council of Elders have declared that you are mentally stable and completely loyal to Konoha once more, you are required to have someone watching you at all times. Be glad that it isn't an ANBU member." Naruto grinned.

Sasuke rolled his eyes. "They certainly would have been more competent." He said dryly. "But they do watch my apartment at night. I guess they realized that you'd fall asleep on the job if they were to give it to you."

"Bastard." Naruto glared at Sasuke. "I can so stay up on long missions. You just weren't around to see what I've been doing. I'm not the same thirteen year old that you tried to beat up."

"I tried to kill you, Naruto. Don't try and cover it up, you and I both know the truth of what went on." He turned away from Naruto as he knocked on the door of their employer. "Just don't think about it too much, idiot. We have a job to do."

Naruto nodded and eyed the ancient looking storeroom attached to the house. Whatever they found in there was bound to be old. He snapped his gaze to the front when the old man opened the door, glaring first at Naruto and giving Sasuke an uneasy look.

"Label everything you find in there and clean up the entire place. Anything of proposed value or interest gets brought to my attention first and then to the Hokage. It's my stuff." He snapped, as if Sasuke or Naruto was going to protest this order of hierarchy. "I'm just sick of most of it, it's been in my family for generations and it's about time I hired someone to get rid of this crap for me."

With that unceremonious introduction, the door was slammed shut again. Naruto raised an eyebrow. "Shall we get on it, then?" As they entered the room, both were a little taken aback at the sheer number of items in the room. It looked as if the family had been storing materials since before the founding of Konoha.

Sasuke sighed and rolled up his sleeves, noticing Naruto doing the same thing. "Just don't expect to get paid for helping me out." Sasuke muttered, but it was half hearted. He knew that Naruto wouldn't ask for anything, he'd changed a great deal over the years, becoming more restrained. He could just sit on a box and watch everything, but he was helping Sasuke because he wanted to, not because he expected anything out of it.

Sometimes Naruto tried too hard.

"Why on earth you have to clean out these old buildings is beyond me." Naruto grumbled as he shifted through boxes of dusty scrolls. "Isn't that supposed to be a genin task?" He knew that Sasuke wasn't in high favor, but a genin task was a bit insulting for a member of the Uchiha clan.

Sasuke gave him a scathing look. "Since this stuff is extremely old and easily damaged, they requested someone older to handle it." Sasuke paused and smirked slightly. "Besides, there aren't that many missions available right now. Would you rather be chasing after cats again?" It wasn't a facetious comment-the information in the shed could be potentially volatile to Konoha or surrounding communities, and a genin couldn't do it on his own, and a whole team was a bit much. Cleaning out sheds was one of the more exciting missions these days, with no major conflict going on.

Naruto grimaced at that. "Thank you, but no." he muttered. "I don't do so well with cats. Although you act enough like one that I'm sure they'd come running to you these days." He was pulling out another box of scrolls while Sasuke was inspecting statuary in the darker corners. "I swear, some of this stuff has been around for centuries." He muttered as he carefully pulled out one scroll.

Sasuke grunted as he started arranging the miniature shrine emblems, setting them carefully side by side. As he knelt by another, more shadowy section of the room, his hands stilled over a stone carving. "What the..."

Naruto looked over to see why Sasuke sounded so surprised, and his eyes widened slightly. "It's a statue of the kyuubi." Naruto said, voice shaking slightly. It was fairly small, and he reached past to lift the figure into the light. His face was pale as he stared down at the stone kitsune, one ear broken off and several pockmarks in the stone.

"Didn't you know that there was once a shrine to kitsune?" Sasuke's voice was calm, as if he wasn't explaining that a demon that terrorized their village and fucked up Naruto's life was once something people looked up to. "It was a long time ago, and Kyuubi pretty much destroyed any hope of reviving those temples, but it was common, even in the ninja villages."

"Maybe that's why Kyuubi was so pissed to be locked up. I mean-being a god and all, it's kinda shitty to be locked up by the people that once worshipped you." His eyes brightened slightly. "I guess even gods have their temper tantrums."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow. "Hn. It's rather hard to imagine Kyuubi whining like a child who's had a toy taken away from them." Sasuke murmured as he stacked the kyuubi statue with the rest of the pieces. Once everything was laid together, it was easy to see that it was a dismantled shrine. Sasuke stared at it for a moment. "People must've been upset with kyuubi even before he attacked." He mused. "I've never seen a shrine so ... beat up before."

Naruto gave a shrug at that. "Everyone gets upset at the gods every now and then." he said wryly. "Who's to say it wasn't an upset worshipper at that time the temple was thriving?" He grinned widely. "Or Kyuubi could've stepped on it himself when he stomped his foot."

"You're being stupid, Naruto." Sasuke said scathingly. "Gods don't really exist, and those that worship at it-what kind of idiot would defile the temple of their god?" Sasuke snorted. "Even if the god didn't exist in their minds, the people who ran the temple would hardly be pleased."

Naruto turned to sweep the dust in the room. "Everyone has their reasons, Sasuke-of course, some do stupid things because they get caught up in their anger, frustration-helplessness. Sometimes it's easier taking it out on the stone statue of a god you thought was a wimp."

Sasuke paused in his organizing to stare at Naruto in confusion, but shrugged it off as the dobe being stupid again. "Well, they're not around anymore, are they?" He asked reasonably. "If Shukaku was a god at one point-he's no longer active, and Kyuubi is sealed in you, so that makes him equally hard to worship." His lips turned up briefly "Sorry, dobe-I won't be leaving rice and sake at your feet anytime soon." He paused and smirked. "Or would a bowl of ramen be better?"

"If you did that, asshole, I'd wonder what was wrong with you." Naruto snickered. "Let's just get this done and catalog all this shit." As he started making the list of all the items in the room, he barely glanced at the beaten up pieces of the kitsune shrine. Sasuke didn't really blame him-if he was Naruto, he wouldn't want such a blatant reminder of the demon he would never be rid of.

"Naruto-I'm going to ask Sawa-san about the shrine. Go ahead and finish sweeping." It was easier to have two people doing this task-one person could run back and forth while the other person finished up a task inside the shed. "I don't trust your handwriting to catalog."

Naruto made a face at him as Sasuke gathered up a piece of the shrine to show Sawa. "Yes, oh great one that didn't want me along." He teased. "Glad I can be of service to you." Sasuke didn't respond to that particular piece of idiocy as he went to inquire about the shrine and several other items they uncovered.

~

It took the rest of the day to finish up the organization, and in the end they had to borrow a cart to haul the stuff to present to the Godaime. It seemed that Sawa didn't care for many of the items his family collected for so many generations, and his reaction to the kitsune shrine had been a snarl and a mutter about 'no good foxes.' Sasuke didn't relay that particular message to Naruto.

Tsunade looked at the collection of items, one eyebrow raising. "I had no idea that cleaning out someone's storage area would result in their crap being dumped on my doorstep." She said dryly. "What the hell is this stuff?" If she had any major dislike for the Uchiha, it had mostly dissipated now, and what animosity she did hold for him was never shown in front of Naruto.

Sasuke didn't rise to the bait, but relayed the information blandly. "According to the earliest document that we filed, it dates back to approximately five hundred years." Naruto nodded in confirmation as Sasuke went on. "Sawa gave you most of what his family owned and it tells us a great deal about the village that lived here before Konoha, including its customs." He put the carefully reconstructed Kyuubi shrine on the desk. "Including some of their religious practices."

Tsunade's eyebrows shot up at the sight of the shrine. "A shrine to the demon fox?" She asked, peering at it. "Quite old-I take it this is one of those 'five hundred year old' artifacts?" She asked dryly.

"It didn't exactly come with a date carved into its body, but Naruto did some research on it, and we surmised that it does come from that time period. I'm not sure how this Kyuubi from the past is connected to the one that we know of, but there are some strong similarities." His mouth turned down briefly. "Besides the rampaging."

Naruto grinned faintly. "I said that he probably got pissed no one liked him anymore. You know how people get when their slighted. Have to throw a tantrum until they're worshipped again. Ba-chan-there is a good chance it's the same kyuubi, speaking from my... ah... personal experience with the fox."

Tsunade snorted at that. "I'm sure." She muttered, rubbing her head, not responding with her usual acidic reply to Naruto's nickname for her. It was expected now and almost a term of familial endearment. "Well, this does give an interesting perspective on our past, but hardly bears on our future. I'll take the scrolls and whatever else artifacts you dug up... I'll look through them and if anything, I can give them to the academy so they can use it for a history lesson."

"As for this..." She poked at the damaged shrine. "I'll put this in our vaults-I don't hold with destroying shrines of any sort, even if they did belong to a god that decided to have a pissy fit all over Fire Country."

Naruto's lips turned up in a brief smile as she summed up Kyuubi's rampage so simply. "Sounds good, ba-chan." He said easily, tugging on Sasuke's arm. "Glad we could be of service to you."

She snorted and waved him off. "I can tell." Her smile was fond, though. "Shoo, go eat ramen or something. I'm sure I'll see you in here tomorrow, trying to win me over the idea of you becoming Hokage."

"That'll be the end of Konoha." Tsunade heard Sasuke murmur as Naruto shoved him out the door, still waving cheerfully with one hand.

Boys.

~

"So do you want to go somewhere to eat?" Naruto asked, hands behind his head. "I promise that I won't suggest Ichiraku this time." He knew that Sasuke only ate there occasionally, saying that Naruto ate there too much and was going to roll away one day, instead of simply bouncing.

Sasuke nodded slowly. "I would suggest that we train first, but since you neglect to eat a great deal of the time, training before you put something in that underfed body of yours would simply be not worth the effort of fighting you." He smirked. "I do like a challenge, dobe-and you're the closest thing to it."

Naruto scowled at that remark. "Well, if it wasn't for me-you'd never have anyone to keep your skills up." He said, puffing up slightly. "I can't match your shuriken still-but not all of us have special eyes to hit the target easier. Some of us have to work up to that level of skill." He completely ignored the fact that Sasuke trained himself into obsession and exhaustion to obtain the skill he had now. The Sharingan had nothing to do with it.

"Genin throw better than you, Naruto." Sasuke taunted. "I think you need to go back to the academy and learn how to throw properly. I don't know how they let you teach occasionally."

"Because I can actually teach?" Naruto asked. "I at least smile at children and don't frighten them away." There was an underlying note of how happy he was that kids didn't get pulled away from him anymore. The almost twenty years since the kyuubi had changed many people's minds, and the respect that both the Hokage and the ANBU gave Naruto had a great deal to do with it as well.

"A smile doesn't cover for you being an idiot." Sasuke teased, enjoying his habitual banter with Naruto. It was one of the normal things in life, something he didn't realize he missed when he left Konoha. As they turned the corner, Sasuke was surprised to see the ever-silent ANBU members waiting for them. There were no expressions to read, and they stood so still that they might as well been part of the walls. Then they spoke.

"Uzumaki-san. We need you to come with us." Naruto didn't seem surprised, just nodded quickly, a quick glance over at Sasuke.

"You pick the place, okay? I'll find you, don't worry-but pick a good place!" When Sasuke looked at the ANBU and then back at Naruto, he raised an eyebrow and Naruto flushed.

"Hey.. I'll be back soon." he said quickly. "Don't wait up for me. You know how it can be." He made a face. "Who knows what they want me for." Rolling his eyes for effect and ignoring Sasuke's muttered 'dumbass', he went with the ANBU members.

~

The ANBU member didn't remove his mask, but Naruto didn't expect him to. He honestly didn't expect them to talk to him so soon, and he just watched them as a few more gathered in the room.

"I take it that you know of the date coming up as well?" He asked quietly. The ANBU nearest to him nodded.

"Yes, Uzumaki-sama-we know of it. That is why we are bringing you here today, so that we may discuss what the next course of action will be." There was a certain wryness to the tone that the mask couldn't hide. "We do not wish to have another incident like with Kyuubi." There was a pause. "That was unexpected and rather... " The ANBU coughed, voice trailing off.

"Childish?" Naruto supplied. "Tactless, selfish..." He raised an eyebrow. "I could go on about his over inflated ego for hours, but this is a little more serious." He stared down at his hands for a moment. "No-I do not believe that he will do the same thing Kyuubi did. For one, cats are more accepted and still openly worshipped in remote parts of the world. He does not have to worry about his shrines being defiled."

There was an audible sense of relief throughout the room, although the one nearest Naruto-the one wearing the fox mask-spoke up. "There are still shrines to kitsune scattered as well, Uzumaki-sama. Not so much to Kyuubi himself, but to his messengers that aren't looked upon as coldly." There was almost a smile in her voice. "Messengers like you."

Naruto gave an absent-minded nod at that, not really caring about the shrines that were dedicated to his kind. He wanted to get back to the subject of Sasuke. There was going to be a problem once Sasuke found out-well, problem was putting it mildly. Pissed off and hell bent on demanding answers was more like it. Answers that Naruto was bound from giving. "You will direct Sasuke when I cannot?" It became a habit to talk more formally with whatever generation of ANBU he was speaking with. They spoke so formal, that it just rubbed off.

There were nods from all around, and this time Naruto gave a sigh of relief. "That's good then." He said, relaxing and giving them all a wide grin. "I know that you'll take good care of him." There was a brief, true smile for a moment. "It's good to see that some people still have ties to what came before."

"And we know that you'll never reveal our secret." Came another voice dryly. "Remember, Naruto-it's not all of the ANBU that know of this. Only a small group is privy to this knowledge and have those ties."

"Please." Naruto rolled his eyes, formality pretty much gone by that point. "I've been around longer than any of you have, I think I know this by now." Another grin. "You'll just have to remind sourpuss of it."

There was silence to that, and Naruto gave a mental roll of his eyes. Sometimes the ANBU were too serious, but he really couldn't blame them... their job was deadly and full of secrets-so many that it could drive someone insane. But they needed to lighten up every once in a while. He cleared his throat.

"Anyways." He said quickly, trying to move the topic back to where it was previously. "The five hundred years are almost up and the agreement will need to be fulfilled at that time. Nothing can be given away, Sasuke has to find out on his own. If he connects-/remembers/-the ANBU's connection, then you can confirm any questions he might have. Until then, just keep in contact with me until everything has been completed."

If anyone thought it was strange that an eighteen year old, barely-made jounin was giving seasoned ANBU members orders, nobody mentioned it. But then again, every ANBU member in the room knew of Naruto and what he was. There was no question of who was stronger and more knowledgeable about the upcoming events.

~

"So what did they want you for?" Sasuke asked, eyeing Naruto as the blond sat down next to him. "Or is it something that must be kept confidential?" He'd been questioned by the ANBU more than a few times after he'd come back from Orochimaru, but the blond didn't look disturbed at all, not in the way that most people looked after having a one on one session with the most elite shinobi in Konoha.

Naruto looked up at him. "Oh, that?" He shrugged it off. "Just about how you acted during your so called mission, to make sure that you weren't 'undermining the fabric of Konoha' again." He rolled his eyes, clearly disgusted.

Sasuke snorted, unconcerned as he poked Naruto with a menu. They weren't eating at Ichiraku, but a place that served food besides ramen. "Nice to know some things remain consistent." He said dryly. He was still a little annoyed that Naruto was his so-called babysitter, having to tattle to the 'parents' if he got too out of hand.

"So did they tell you how much longer this was going to go on?" Sasuke asked, taking the menu away from Naruto before he could change his mind over the meal and handing it to the waitress that came by. There was a brief pause as their orders were taken, and then Sasuke turned his attention back to Naruto. "Well?"

Naruto gave a shrug, pushing his water glass from side to side. "They did...sort of." He said evasively. "By the end of this year, you will no longer be under 'village supervision', but the ANBU will always be watching you in some way or another." At Sasuke's scowl, Naruto hurriedly continued. "Hell, they watch me, Sasuke! Don't worry so much about it. You screwed up and you know it."

Sasuke still didn't look happy about it, but he conceded defeat. "So they watch you, but allow you to watch a 'dangerous' nin like me?" He asked mockingly. "Shows that they have more trust in you than you think."

"That's what you think." He snorted. "They can keep an eye on both of us this way, and who knows-you'll probably be asked to watch over people as well in a few years, so that they can start the cycle all over again. Everyone is watching someone else."

"That's true..." Sasuke acknowledged the truth in those words, and put the whole being supervised to the back of his mind. It would change one day, and he sometimes still wondered why they let him live, what made them change their minds about him to let him regain his status as a shinobi.

Naruto snickered. "Yeah, just give it another year or so and they'll let you run around unsupervised." He pushed the menu away, opening his mouth to tell Sasuke that he was still going to have ramen. It was slowly becoming a habit to eat together.

"And no ramen tonight." Sasuke looked at him, already knowing the blond's statement. "You're not at Ichiraku or your house, you're ordering something besides ramen. Order noodles still if you want, but not in that salty broth you call soup."

"I wasn't going to have ramen." He said sullenly, even though he was and Sasuke could still read him so well. He wasn't that predictable when it came to his favorite food, after all... "I was going to have... " He picked up the menu again, cheeks darkening slightly. "Um..."

"Do you know what anything besides ramen tastes like?" Sasuke asked acidly. "For gods sake, Naruto-you're eighteen now, you should have at least tried something else." He gave an exasperated sigh as he ran his hand through his hair. "Here-Yaki-Soba should be fine. It still has those thin noodles and plenty of vegetables."

Naruto blinked in surprise at the way Sasuke handled things, and then began to smile. "So you're paying, bastard? I thought only people on a date let one person order for the both of them."

Sasuke gave Naruto a withering look. "You're the one that suggested we come here, idiot." He pointed out. "Isn't it the date that chooses where to go?" He raised an eyebrow. "And I said nothing about paying for your meal. I just know that you don't have the sense to order something reasonably healthy for yourself, so I have to take care of you like the moron you are."

"Gee, Sasuke-didn't know you cared." Naruto rolled his eyes. "I have been taking care of myself for awhile now." he said dryly. He would have said more but the waitress came over at that moment, smiling politely at the two of them. She knew them of course-word did get around in a small village like Konoha.

"So what will it be?" She asked brightly, eyes flicking from Sasuke to Naruto, as if she didn't know where to rest her gaze. Sasuke spoke up first, so to prevent Naruto from ordering ramen, even without the menu. "He'll have the Yaki-Soba, and I will have the salmon." He handed the waitress the menu, but Naruto was the one who smiled at her. She gave him a nervous one back, hurrying off to the kitchen.

Naruto rolled his eyes. "Ordering for me, and then scaring the waitress. It wouldn't hurt for you to actually smile every once in awhile. You don't always have to be a stoic bastard, ya know."

"But I like being one." Sasuke said agreeably. "It keeps the girls away from me." His voice was completely bland and Naruto blinked for a moment.

"I think you just tried to make a joke." he said, voice tinged with disbelief. "I didn't think you were capable of making an actual joke that wasn't a derogatory comment about everyone around you."

"Stop acting so stupid, Naruto." Sasuke muttered irritably. His gaze moved around to the people in the restaurant, the ingrained training of watching everyone, analyzing the situation, taking over. There were a few of the Konoha nin here, but this restaurant was frequented mostly by the civilians. It was one of the reasons why he wanted to come here.

"Yeah, yeah-I knew your sense of humor was a fluke." Naruto snorted and waved it off. A few minutes later, their meal was set in front of them and they ignored the finer points of conversation to eat.

~

"I won't be around for the next couple of days." Naruto said into the sudden silence. They had finished some basic training for the night and were relaxing in their old team area, next to the monument. "I have a mission that takes me out of Konoha."

Sasuke frowned at that-he wasn't allowed any missions outside out the town gates yet, he wasn't trusted enough with that level of responsibility. It didn't matter that Itachi was dead, or Otogakure didn't exist anymore. While Sasuke only played a role with the destruction of Otogakure, he alone killed Itachi. The fact that he worked with those that were against Konoha was enough. He wondered if he'd ever be allowed outside the town gates again.

Naruto realized the reason for Sasuke's uncomfortable silence and quickly tried to fill it, hurriedly explaining. "It's just a quick mission-you know, go into the neighboring country, deliver a scroll-the usual." He made a face, trying to convey to Sasuke that even though it was 'outside' it was still as boring as cleaning out someone's junk. "I just have to make sure no one sees and all that stupid bullshit." Normally missions weren't supposed to be spoken of, but it wasn't as if Sasuke was allowed outside of the gates and he hardly spoke with anyone inside of them.

Sasuke smirked at that. "So just playing at being a messenger boy?" he asked, amused at the notion. "Soon you'll be recruited by everyone that wants to deliver a message."

Naruto stiffened slightly. "It's not just a message." He pouted. "It's something that the Godaime says is highly sensitive and that's why I have to be careful when I deliver it. If it wasn't important, we'd just have a genin deliver it."

"Isn't that the level of your skill, dobe?" Sasuke asked.

"Isn't that the level of tasks you're doing, bastard?" Naruto shot back. "I don't see you doing much beyond feeding cats and delivering junk."

Sasuke snorted. "At least there is a reason for me doing genin tasks. You're eighteen now, Naruto-you would think that they'd allow you to do something more exciting."

"I am." Naruto said softly. "Watching over one of the more ...dangerous... nin is something that is entrusted only to the ANBU and to me."

Another pause and Sasuke shook his head. "Whatever." He muttered. "I'm tired of talking about this stupid shit, Naruto. Let's stop for the night so that you can be all rested for your... important mission tomorrow." The mocking tone hadn't left his voice and it was clear what he thought of the importance of Naruto's mission.

Naruto just rolled his eyes. "Yeah, bastard." He jumped up and started walking toward his house. "I'm sure the ANBU will make sure you get home safely." He snickered. "I'll see you in a few days."

As Sasuke was about to make his own way home, he spotted something laying where Naruto had been sitting. As he bent to pick it up, he recognized it as part of the old orange outfit Naruto had worn when they were genin. Funny.. it never looked so much like a whistle before.

Giving a mental shrug, he pocketed the item, planning to give it back to Naruto when he saw him next.

He didn't realize that Naruto was watching him the entire time.

~
tbc...
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