Hey again everyone! I'm back! Hopefully I keep this kick, anyways, onwards we trudge! Through the (I'm sure) horribly written filler. I know what you're probably all thinking – OH NO NOT THE FILLER AGAIN….! *DOOM* *DOOM* *DOOM* *DOOM* *DOOM* and it's probably PRETTY bad, but it's a transitioning chapter into Shippuden story… Soooo, uhm…. Yeah, ONWARD HO! *Suddenly has an emotional breakdown* (Ambur: She still can't believe she killed Shino… It was her first actual character death.)

Also, not too good with angst… XD We'll see how I do…

Chapter 18

Intermission 1

(Part 1 – Home)

Shikamaru sat on his bed, tired but for once not wanting to sleep. The mission had taken place, and then been terminated just six days ago, and he was – to be quite honest with himself, depressed. Multiple reasons added onto his depression one by one to form a full on bout that simply wouldn't leave him, and not only that but he was alone since Choji and basically everyone else was in the hospital still. The only other people from the mission that weren't in hospital beds were Tenten, Temari, Kankuro, Garra, Kakashi and the med team, which included Shizune. He had been told the story by Kakashi, apparently by the time they had made it to the Valley of the End Jiraiya, and Choji had been found unconscious, while Garra only had a few scratches; however those scratches had filtered enough extremely potent poison into his body to stop him.

Tsunade had later done some digging around in Garra's mind and managed to finish help him literally shut up the voice in his head, the job she had started before when he was in the village but had never had a chance to finish, hence the reason the boy was far more sane than the last time they had met. The sand siblings had left the day before. But the fact all his friends were hurt wasn't his only reason for depression, not by far. Shino was dead. The funeral had been three days ago and Shikamaru hadn't been able to nap since then, and he hadn't been getting much sleep in the nighttime either. He was a chunnin for goodness sake; he had been the one who had actually been in charge of the mission despite the few elder and higher ranked ninja that had accompanied them. It had been his job to make sure everyone was safe, and his ultimate conclusion no matter how he played the circumstances in his mind, was that it was his fault that Shino was dead. It was all on his head and he knew it. How could he have been so stupid and inattentive? He had sent Shino to go and follow Naruto. He had never expected for his comrade to get blown up and die.

Stupid, stupid, stupid… I was so, so stupid. He thought angrily, berating himself.

He hadn't even taken the time to think about the mission status itself. No, Shikamaru hadn't managed to think that far yet, nor did he think far enough ahead to wonder if he should give up on recovering Naruto and leave him be… Well at least leave the idea of taking him back, he was certain that if he came across one of his few childhood friends again he would have a hard time giving up, and he certainly wouldn't be willing to leave him alone, he was way too dangerous to leave roaming about doing whatever he pleased.

Shikamaru shook off his thoughts for a second as he tried to relax. He was being irrational, simply berating himself wasn't going to do anything. He began to think a little forward on his plans to carry onwards. He certainly wasn't going to quit being a shinobi. Doing that would simply disappoint Shino. While Shikamaru hadn't know the other ninja well, he certainly knew him well enough to grieve. He changed his thoughts again… Stronger… He had to get stronger, if nothing else than to find Naruto and remove him from activity. He still held a small trace of hope to bring him back, but at this point that hope was slowly being smothered by his emotions, and recent events.

There was one set of good things his mind was unable to ignore - the fact that they had managed to complete the mission partway, Hinata Hyuuga had been recovered and was in the hospital recovering from her still healing sliced muscles (From her fight with Kabuto), A strong sedative, and some memory loss, the last of which was suspected to be from the sedative, and a slight concussion. Hinata didn't manage cheer him up as much as the fact that everyone else on the mission came out ok, admittedly most of them were in the hospital - bruised, broken, scraped, stabbed – both physically and for some mentally – tired, sad, and overall for a lot of them, hurt. But they were alive, and the doctors said they would all recover. Physically at least… He didn't think it would be easy for especially Kiba and Hinata to move on after the death of their teammate.

He sighed and decided that for once he wanted to train; he wanted to beat something up – most likely a log – and by any chance it would make him feel a little better… Maybe…

Four Days Ago…

Naruto, Sasuke, and Zabuza headed for the main room of this base. Unlike in some of the others, there was no grand throne room in this base; instead there was a rather large office that looked suspiciously like the Hokage's office. It even contained insane amounts of paperwork.

"Geeze, are you trying to imitate the Kages?"

A hand extended secretly around the room and found Naruto's head, before whacking it and retreating to its owner. The snake like man muttered something along the lines of 'cheeky smart mouth' and 'oversized ego' before he left his current paper and decided to take a look at Sasuke. He stood up and carefully inspected the genin. Sasuke looked a little unnerved by Orochimaru's close proximity but waited. Finally the inspection was over and he went back to his desk.

"Naruto take our friend to the spare room beside yours and then find Haku, Aurea, Inagu, and the sound four and come back to report on the mission – have Kabuto raise the power of the seal to level two in the meantime."

"Kay dad, come on princess." Naruto said, turning and doing his best to drag Sasuke out in the most undignified way possible, he was currently failing as the Uchiha kept him from doing so. They didn't have to go far there was a group of doors at a dead end hallway (Which wasn't actually a dead end and in fact had at least ten escape routes). Naruto carefully looked through the doors and finally opened one. "Alright princess this is your room. You met Kabuto right? Yeah, anyways, he's going to come in here later, and the he'll explain a bunch of stuff you know. But I've got to go so stay here."

"Why should I take orders from you?"

"Because, I'm more powerful than you, and if you get lost in this place I'm not going to go on a wild Sasuke Hunt. I'm going to report on the mission and go to bed." The blonde said, giving Sasuke a scowl that was fiercer than usual due to his ever rising temper – most of said temper being due to a headache, which was created by sleep deprivation.

Sasuke seemed to weigh his options for a second before finally nodding and shutting the door. Satisfied that Sasuke was going to stay put Naruto headed to his room and dropped off a few things – his mask, and cloak leaving him in his long sleeve shirt, black pants, legwarmers, and boots. Next he went through his stuff to make sure all of his things had been grabbed during the last two moves, since he hadn't had the chance, they'd moved just before the exams and then again while he was gone – between that there had been missions and he simply hadn't had time. The blonde carefully checked and double checked his mental checklist as he realized that something was missing… My bracelet… He thought with dismay, he had no idea where he had gotten it, but whenever he saw or touched the little metal item with five charms – a leaf, a kunai, a bird, a shuriken, and a frog – (through his traveling and learning he had determined that all of the charms had been made in different countries) it comforted him and gave him a warm feeling inside. It was extremely special to him and the fact that it was lost didn't just irk him, it annoyed him to no end, and maybe even made him feel a little sad.

"But I guess I can't do anything about it now… I'll maybe go look later…" He muttered. Naruto exited his room and wandered a little looking for his silver haired teammate, finally he found the boy sitting in a lounge area writing out some complicated looking seal. "Hey Kabuto!"

The silver haired boy hastily rolled up the scroll and turned around with a grin. "Ah, Naruto! I'm glad to see you made it back safely." He said.

"Do you really have so little faith in me?"

"Of course not, but as I'm sure you well know, those of Konoha can be rather vicious."

"Yeah…" Naruto agreed, but quickly ignored the thoughts, "anyways, Sasuke is in the room next to mine, and dad wants you to go and raise the level on his curse seal. Also, have you seen, Haku, Aurea, and Inagu lately?"

"I haven't seen them… However I'll go and do as was asked of me. If I should meet any of them though, where do they need to go?"

"Dad's office, he wants to go over the mission."

"Alright then, I'll see you later Naruto."

"See you Kabuto!"

Naruto growled as he stopped at another dead end. This was the thing he really hated about switching bases, there were only three normalcies, the office was in the back of the base, his room, his dad's room and his sister's rooms were always close together and near that office and the underground forest was always on the wall behind his dad's office. Other than that, anything he knew about new bases was from exploration. At the moment he was attempting to find the infirmary and see if at least one of the requested ninja might actually be somewhere obvious. Honestly, thirty minutes and he STILL hadn't found anyone!

This is ridiculous! Honestly, where the heck is everyone?! He thought to himself, throwing a few choice words around his head. Finally he saw a familiar face.

"Haku!" He called, jogging up to her.

"Naruto!" She said happily turning and instantly throwing her arms around him in a giant hug. She had been out of it for the time they had been traveling home and then been taken directly to her room by Kabuto to get fixed up. "You're alright!" She said stepping back and discretely looking at the small amounts of skin shown looking for injury. She then carefully slid her gaze along the black fabric covering the rest of him, and her eyes locked on a hole in the sweater, unnoticeable to most, but to her train eye (after years of working with Naruto) it was like a lit up sign.

"H-Haku…? What are you doing…?" Naruto asked, unable to find the heart to remove the still injured girl from her grip on his arm as she dragged his sleeve up. She narrowed her gaze at the wound she found, there was blood crusted over it, but it was obviously not healed yet.

"You should be more careful."

"Neh?" He asked unintelligently, looking at the wound. It was about three inches long and went about half an inch deep, however the pink lines running out farther said that it had been bigger. "When did that happen…?" He wondered, before shaking his head and hoping the fox's chakra had gotten enough free reign to heal the rest of his injuries. At least his ankle was alright. He knew there were limits as to what the fox could do though, Orochimaru and Kabuto had placed a second seal on top of the original – it was to slow the natural flow of demonic chakra into his system, which allowed for better chakra control, and also gave him the chance to adjust more thoroughly to the level of power contained within the fox's chakra. They had determined that eventually he was supposed to be able to be able to harness and wield the power of the Biju, but the flow rate had been set slightly too high for him to properly handle.

The second seal had done wonders, instantly he had learned to use the clone, or more had been able to do it. His theory and form had in fact been correct, he simply hadn't been able to stop the immense chakra flow that assaulted him, therefore causing his chakra to try and make a solid clone but not working because he wasn't giving it the commands needed to create one. He of course did know how to make solid clones as well though, and had put it to use for training since each time a clone dispersed it left him anything it learned, which meant that he could work on his taijutsu while three or four clones read through scrolls, he had used that to learn scraps, and sometimes entire subjects of information that he doubted would have been learned if he had been kept in Konoha. This mental learning of course had included reading lessons from Kabuto and Aurea.

Returning back to reality Naruto got back to his quest. "Hey Haku, you know your way around here right?"

"Yes, I know where most of the important places are."

"Alright, I'm looking for everyone else who got home with us, I already sent Kabuto off, but I'm missing Aurea, and Inagu."

"Well they're probably somewhere around the mess hall."

"Alright, lead the way Haku."


After they had found the mess hall, and Naruto had scared the crap out of Inagu (just because he felt like it), and then proceeded to poke fun at him, because as much as he did actually like Inagu, he didn't like that fact that he was going to practically kidnapping all of his sister's attention from him. Needless to say, he liked Inagu but had a personal streak to prod fun and scare the man as often as possible. Inagu took it in his own stride, either shrieking like a girl when the blonde snuck up on him, returning jabs, or setting pranks to catch Naruto when at all possible. They were pretty sure there was a betting circle of when the next prank string would be, and/or how often Naruto would scare Inagu in a day/week/month/year/ect., and things of that nature.

As they left the mess hall someone cursed and coughed up money to another ninja.

The group headed for Orochimaru's office and their briefing. When they entered Kabuto was just finishing his report about Sasuke's curse seal.

"… He's very strong and should wake up in a couple of days."

"Perfect…" Orochimaru purred, and then turned his attention to the ninja who had just entered. "So, how did the mission go…?"

Hey there everyone! Finally finished this, the chapter clocked in around 2500 words, which is just on par for this story so I'm happy! ^.^ I have finally lightly outlined about the next four chapters. There will be a total of five intermission chapters that cover what's going on before Shippuden, I won't be following the main storyline all that much now (I know you're probably wondering how I could possibly follow it less but I'm going too). I AM debating writing out through The Stone of Galel, what do you guys think, should I? If at least six people say yes then I'll pick up and re-watch the movie then get onto it, and add it into the timeline. If I'm going to take the effort to do the movie I seriously want you guys to want it! So please if you want me to do the movie say so!