Naruto's grip was unbelievably strong, and despite Bee's assistance, who was far more physically robust than any of us, we struggled to pry Naruto away from me.

Once we had finally succeeded in that endeavor, Naruto bombarded me with sea questions. However, I was either too overwhelmed to answer all of them, but also I simply couldn't be bothered to answer them, as many were irrelevant. Moreover, he seemed to ignore the fact that we were in the company of others and in the middle of the street. A very public space.

Thankfully, Yugito, in her considerate manner, whisked Bee away to engage in some other activity, affording us the chance to be alone.

"Bye, Mr. Nine, it's your time to shine! Yeah!" Bee shouted as he was dragged away, making me cringe once again because I truly despised hearing that poor rap.

I turned back to Naruto. "Before we start, do you know of a better place than being out in the open?" I gestured toward our exposed surroundings. Besides, I still have that group of Kumo shinobi looking for me. They followed that clone, and I don't want them annoying us or eavesdropping on our conversation.

Naruto looked surprised for a moment before giving me a reassuring nod and a small smile. "Yes, follow me."

He quickly spun around and ran towards the mountainside.

I raised an eyebrow and caught up with him.

The blonde idiot, just as he reached a house, leaped onto the roof before taking another jump, landing on the mountain cliff. He waved me over, beckoning me.

I rolled my eyes and followed his lead, jumping onto the roof and then propelling myself to the mountain, landing beside him.

I took a brief glance over my shoulder, allowing a moment of genuine appreciation for the stunning view below from my new vantage point. If it weren't for my lingering altitude sickness, I might have indulged in the beauty of the village more.

However, my presence here had a purpose, a purpose that quickly resurfaced as Naruto walked ahead and made a turn around the rugged terrain of the mountain.

I followed his steps and soon reached another location, characterized by a much rockier terrain that didn't appear suitable for climbing or easy navigation.

"This should be private enough." Naruto remarked with a faint but confident smile.

I surveyed the surroundings once more, and while it wasn't perfect, it did offer a reasonable level of privacy. Yet those who wished to eavesdrop could still do so but after a considerable effort.

I walked up to a substantial boulder and took a seat atop it, while Naruto found a rock nearby, slightly larger than mine, and settled down.

We sat there staring at each other in silence for an uncomfortably long seconds,

"Do you want to start?" I asked first, attempting to break the ice.

"Ummm, yeah... I mean..."

I furrowed my brow for a moment. The idiot had been so talkative just moments ago; why was he struggling now?

However, after watching him stumble through a few sentences, repeatedly starting and stopping, I raised a hand to stop him and let out a sigh. It seemed I would have to start this long-awaited conversation.

But where should I begin?

"I didn't want to go to Konoha because I felt nostalgic or felt compelled to return, it was the only safe place after Tsunade's big fuck up."

Naruto stared at me with wide eyes. "You went to Konoha? When?"

"About a month ago, give or take a couple of days." I replied with a nonchalant shrug. "Haven't been keeping track of time with everything that's been going on."

The intense memory of the Kisame fight remained vivid, both physically and in my mind, the phantom pain on my back from Samehada's scales impaling me.

Naruto's face contorted into a frown. "But why didn't Baachan tell me anything?"

I turned to him, studying his expression closely. "Think about it, idiot. You're on a critical mission. What would YOU have done if she had told you I was back in Konoha?"

Without hesitation, Naruto declared, "I would've run back to meet with you!" His determination was written all over his face.

"There's your answer." I deadpanned in response, gesturing towards him.

"Oh…" Naruto's shoulders slumped in realization. At least he understood the point I was trying to make.

I couldn't help but feel relief that Tsunade and Jiraiya had kept their mouths shut about my stay in the village. If they had disclosed it, Naruto would have run back and potentially confront Kisame by himself, risking capture and potentially derailing everything.

Shaking my head, I shifted my focus to the landscape below us, letting the mountains and districts be swallowed by a sea of clouds. Only the tips of the buildings pierced through, thanks to the same cloud cover.

This was enough of a distraction, and I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath before finally addressing my past teammate.

"I won't apologize," I began with a resolute voice. "My clan has always been my top priority. I did what I had to do, and I kept you in the dark because I knew you'd try to intervene in my plans one way or another. And there are still pending issues to deal with." I declared, not turning to look at him.

"What?" His voice carried confusion.

I stole a quick glance out of the corner of my eye, and Naruto looked thoroughly baffled. Hadn't that inebriated idiot explained things to him, just as I'd requested? At the very least, a brief summary?

With a drawn-out sigh, I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Didn't Jiraiya fill you in on the situation, the whole damn mess that everyone's been pulled into?"

To my relief, Naruto nodded, sparing me the need to recount everything from the beginning.

"You could've asked for help; we were your team," he continued after a moment's pause. "Your friends."

Friends…

"Help me how, exactly?" I snorted with a hint of sarcasm. "Follow me all the way to Otogakure, demand Orochimaru to answer for his countless crimes, and use 'teamwork' to defeat him?" I made sure to emphasize the absurdity of the idea.

Naruto, forever the optimistic fool, clenched his fist and locked eyes with me. "Together, we could..."

I raised my hand to stop him.

"Could what, exactly?" I glared at him, frustration in my voice. "Die together like fools? Become lab rats? Reason with him? No, Naruto. Sometimes, you have to let people go."

"I made a promise to Sakura-chan." His reply was fast.

"Well..." I tilted my head to the side and gestured to myself. "Your promise is now fulfilled."

"You spoke with Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, disbelief evident in his tone, as I slowly nodded to confirm.

Sakura had taken the news rather well, although Fu pointed out that she might have been putting on a facade until she was alone at home. Either way, I'd had a long-overdue conversation with her and closed that chapter.

My response left Naruto wide-eyed, as he probably hadn't expected me to provide any sort of closure to our old teammate.

I briefly closed my eyes, shifting my attention to the city below, before reopening them, a smirk forming on my lips. "You're an idiot, Naruto, but that's what makes you special."

"OI!"

I chuckled.

"It's not funny, you bastard!" he shouted in frustration.

I couldn't help but laugh at his outburst. "Well, that's where you're wrong, Naruto. It's hilarious how you can still believe in people like me after everything."

He crossed his arms, his expression a mix of annoyance and determination. "Sasuke, you're my friend. I won't give up on you."

I sighed, my smirk fading as I met his unwavering gaze. "You've always been like this, haven't you? Stubborn to a fault."

Naruto's response was a simple grin. "Because I never go back on my word, believe it!"

"Believe it, huh?" I said, a faint smile tugging at the corners of my lips. "You're impossible, Naruto," I added, shaking my head in amusement.

I shouldn't have expected something different from him.

"Are they your new team?" Naruto suddenly asked, making me turn to look at him with slight surprise. He had met them months ago, after all.

"Yes, they will help me in finding my brother." I answered truthfully.

Naruto leaped out of his seat, his determination lighting up his eyes. "Let me help!"

"Didn't I just told you to not put your nose in other people's business?" I growled. "Naruto, I will say it right now. This fight is mine and mine alone."

Though the prospect of confronting Itachi was uncertain, my initial plan was to have a conversation with him. But in the case that the conversation took a darker turn, I would be prepared to fight.

"I hear what you're saying, Sasuke, but you're my friend," Naruto insisted, his voice filled with the same unwavering determination. "I can't let you go alone, not again. I want to help in any way I can."

I released an exasperated sigh. Convincing him to stand down might prove to be a more challenging task than it was worth. The unwavering loyalty of a friend was both a blessing and a curse. In Naruto's case it was mostly a curse.

However, an idea sparked in my mind, and I knew exactly what to say to him. "Naruto, this is something deeply personal, and as… your friend, I'm asking you to let me handle it. Unlike..." I paused, carefully choosing my next words. "Unlike what I did years ago, I'm being completely transparent with you about my plans. I will be fine."

His eyes widened, and he sank back into his rocky seat, deep in thought.

I said no more and allowed him the space to contemplate my words and whatever was churning inside his head.

For me, it was difficult to figure out what else to discuss with him. Naruto probably had more questions or thoughts to share, but he was so engrossed in his internal dialogue that silence prevailed.

As time passed, I maintained my silence, waiting for him to speak or respond in some way. Yet, after a while, there was still no change. Naruto remained lost in his thoughts, perhaps in a conversation with the Nine-Tails within him.

I knew Naruto had improved significantly in his control of the Kyuubi's chakra, but I wasn't certain to what extent or if he had established any kind of working relationship with Kurama.

As more time passed, the sun began its descent on the horizon, and my patience was running thin. There were other matters I wished to attend to rather than waiting in that place, doing nothing. Frustrated, I rose from my rocky seat and dusted off my clothes.

"I suppose there isn't much to discuss right now. We can talk later, perhaps back in Konoha," I stated, my words almost an afterthought. I didn't really expect we'd have another conversation any time soon. "Maybe even have one last Team 7 meeting."

With that said, I made an attempt to leave.

However, I was halted by Naruto's sudden shout.

"Wait!"

His call stopped me in my tracks, and while I had every intention of leaving after hearing him out, I turned around, letting out a tired, drawn-out sigh. "What is it?"

However, Naruto remained silent, instead pulling out a necklace from around his neck. It wasn't Tsunade's necklace; it was a much simpler piece, featuring a poorly carved leaf on a piece of wood.

I couldn't fathom the message or meaning behind this seemingly ordinary accessory, and my brow furrowed in confusion. "A necklace?"

"Just take it, please," he insisted, practically shoving the necklace into my hands.

I brought it closer, examining the crude craftsmanship. My initial assessment was correct; it appeared to be a poorly made trinket, something one might find at a random street stall for spare change. Perhaps even a child could create something better.

I couldn't discern any special significance in this shabby item. My confusion deepened.

What was the meaning behind it, or had I forgotten something crucial?

"I don't understand, Naruto. What is this supposed to be?" I asked, handing the necklace back to him. He seemed disappointed, clearly anticipating that I would recall something significant about it, which left me puzzled.

Naruto's blue eyes remained fixed on the trinket, and they carried a distinct sadness. "I always wanted to show you this necklace, but I never got the chance. After the chunin exams, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity, but then you left."

Exasperation welled up within me as I grew increasingly annoyed with the cryptic nature of our conversation. "What is this supposed to mean, Naruto? I genuinely can't remember anything related to what you're talking about. You're only confusing me."

He moved closer and urged, "Try to remember! A tree next to a pond back in the village."

"A tree next to a pond?" I raised an eyebrow, but decided to humor him. I leaned back, resting my hand on my chin in deep thought.

There was only one place in Konoha that matched his description, an isolated park where people rarely ventured. My memory took me back to my early years, likely when I was a child and had visited that place during my time at the Academy.

But those memories are a mess, barely able to remember anything from that time.

A tree…

I went there to do something and wasn't alone…

A sharp, searing pain invaded my brain as a blurry image flashed across my eyes, causing me to groan in agony. The relentless headaches that I thought were long gone had returned, much to my dismay.

Another image flashed before me—a memory of my hand passing the necklace to another hand, a hand as small as mine.

The pain became unbearable, causing my legs to lose their strength, and I staggered backward until I found myself sitting on the rock, clutching my head, which felt like it was being torn apart.

"Are you alright?!" Naruto rushed to my side, his hands gripping my shoulders as he frantically shook me.

Yet, in a moment of sudden clarity, I pushed him away, breaking free from his grip. "Leave me alone."

Without giving him a chance to respond, I activated my Shunshin technique, vanishing from the scene in an instant. I landed on the rooftop of a nearby building before breaking into a run, heading straight for my apartment. I tried to maintain a steady pace, but the recurring headaches caused me to falter with each step, eventually forcing me to walk the rest of the way.

My thoughts were a tumultuous mess, a jumble of memories and pain that I couldn't make sense of.

Practically limping the entire way to my apartment, I paid no mind to the odd looks people gave me along the path. I cared even less about the guards who had noticed and raised a fuss, pathetically watching me.

Reaching my apartment, I practically kicked the door open, rushed inside, and shut the door behind me without a second thought. I fell to my knees, panting heavily, my heart pounding against my chest.

What the fuck was that?!

What had that idiot done to me? Or why did that necklace seem to have such a powerful effect on me?

None of it made sense, and the flashes of memories were even more confounding.

I forced myself to take deep breaths.

Inhale and exhale.

Over and over again until I could regain my composure.

I was panicking over nothing. Or, at least, I hoped it was nothing.

I couldn't shake the feeling that Naruto would pester me with questions later. He clearly knew something I didn't, and that thought only fueled my frustration to a level it shouldn't have.

I had no idea how much time had passed in that position, but eventually, I managed to calm myself. I stood up from the floor, brushing the dust from my knees. It was fortunate that I was inside, where nobody could see my pathetic state.

But it didn't change the fact that I had run away—run away from that knucklehead. The very thought made my stomach churn and boil.

Instead of lingering near the entrance, I proceeded to my room with the intent of seeking solace in a long sleep, hoping it would allow me to forget the recent events. I found myself missing the antics of my former team; they could have at least offered me a momentary distraction from my problems.

However, as I approached the door to my bedroom, I heard noises coming from inside, causing me to frown and adopt a cautious stance. My hand reached for the hilt of my blade as I prepared for whatever was behind the door.

I didn't believe there was any immediate danger awaiting me, but one couldn't be too cautious, especially in a village with an uneasy relationship with Konoha. I highly doubted that Kumo would be foolish enough to orchestrate something against me of all people.

Slowly, I opened the door and peered through the crack, but my limited vision didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary. This encouraged me to open the door further, ensuring that nothing dangerous lay in ambush. Yet, the noise persisted.

I soon identified the source—it was emanating from my bathroom, accompanied by billowing steam.

My grip relaxed as my wariness was replaced by frustration. Someone had broken into my apartment and decided to take a shower in my bathroom. The concept itself was absurd.

And then, a suspicion of who the intruder might be formed in my mind, further souring my already foul mood.

I stood in front of the bathroom door and extended my hand, ready to knock, but my knuckles stopped inches away from the door, suspended in mid-air. I couldn't find a valid reason to be polite in this situation.

My hand grabbed the doorknob, and I twisted it, finding it unlocked because, of course it was. Why would it be locked?

Pushing the door open, I was immediately engulfed by the billowing steam, which clung to my skin uncomfortably. However, what grabbed my attention even more was the fact that the shower curtain did a poor job of concealing the intruder. She hadn't even bothered to slide it properly, leaving the entire bathroom soaked.

"Why are you in my bathroom?" I asked, my frustration evident as I pinched the bridge of my nose. "But here's a better question—how the fuck did you even get in?"

Tayuya paused from washing her hair, slowly turning to face me with an annoyed expression. She grabbed the shower curtain, attempting to cover herself, as if she were the victim in all of this. "At least knock, you damn creep."

My eyes narrowed dangerously as my hand instinctively moved to the hilt of my blade. "Do you want me to get serious and do what I should do?"

"Think I care?" I sneered, though my grip on my blade had relaxed somewhat. "Or, here's a better question; shouldn't you be in bed recovering?"

Her arm had been a complete mess. Without the miracles of healing jutsu, her arm would have likely been amputated or permanently paralyzed given the extent of the damage. Jiraiya had mentioned that it would take some time for her to fully recover.

Yet here she was, naked and as prickly as ever.

A wicked grin spread across her face as she dropped any pretense and let the curtain fall, shamelessly revealing her naked body. "You caught me! You also get extra points for not being a braindead idiot who follows every sexy ass." She playfully slapped her own ass to emphasize her point, which only caused me to raise an eyebrow. "But I healed days ago, thanks to the hag's slugs. The toads kept me trapped in their land for some reason."

I wondered if Tsunade's involvement had been at Jiraiya's request or of her own volition, but that didn't seem relevant to the current matter.

"Get out."

"Don't be such a bitch. It's a rare occasion I can enjoy such luxuries, like a hot shower, in my line of work," Tayuya huffed, crossing her arms beneath her chest.

"I will drag you out by your hair if you keep making a fuss," I threatened, considering the long red hair would provide a convenient handle for such a task.

"Ugh, fine!" Tayuya threw her hands in the air in exasperation and stepped out of the shower. She grabbed a towel from the hanger, wrapping it around her body to finally cover herself.

"Do you realize that I could have killed you, right?" I reminded her, moving towards the door to indicate that she should leave. "This isn't Suna, if you haven't noticed."

Had I not taken a moment to think, I would have immediately gone after the intruder with the intent to harm. It was only because Suna and Konoha were allies that I had restrained myself and chosen to incapacitate them instead.

Tayuya calmly walked out of the bathroom, but stopped right next to me, her sly smirk aimed squarely in my direction. "Because I know you, Uchiha," she stated with certainty, causing my glare to harden.

"Well, at least I think I do," she quickly corrected herself, her confidence waning.

"Your point?" I crossed my arms, maintaining my unwavering focus on her.

She leaned closer, her finger touching my chest, and her smirk returned to her features. "My point is that you aren't exactly the short-tempered murderous psychopath that others have made you out to be. You're just an arrogant asshole with a functioning brain."

I rolled my eyes. "Coming from a foul-mouthed bitch like you, I'll take it as a compliment."

"Close, but no cigar." She slid her finger down, tracing a line on my chest before moving toward my bedroom. "Say, this place is all to yourself, isn't it?" She looked around the room.

"What kind of stupidity are you planning?" I asked, growing increasingly annoyed as I closed the bathroom door.

Tayuya simply shrugged and nonchalantly took a seat on my bed. "Dunno, but I like my things to not be seen by others."

"Fucking hypocrite," I snapped in response.

"Thanks, princess," she grinned and dropped onto my bed, her wet body leaving it damp, especially her hair, as she hadn't bothered to wrap a towel around it.

What a fucking bitch.

"Get the fuck out and dry my bed now."

And much to my growing frustration, the red-headed bitch grabbed the quilt and wrapped herself in a swift motion. "Try me, bitch."

I was nearing the end of my patience, and the last thing I needed was Tayuya making herself comfortable in my apartment, much less my bed where I was planning to rest. With a deep, simmering anger, I advanced toward her with the full intention of dragging her out and kick her out of my house.

Just as I grabbed the quilt and pulled, I felt something cold touch my throat.

"Thought I would be easy?" As the cold steel of the kunai pressed against my throat, Tayuya's mocking tone filled the room. She had moved faster than I had anticipated, and I couldn't deny her skill, or perhaps she had set up a trap that I had fallen into.

Despite the danger of the situation, I couldn't help but feel a hint of amusement. The threat to my life had become a familiar presence, and it had lost some of its weight.

"Never did."

She continued to apply pressure with the sharp edge of the kunai, her confidence and amusement growing with each passing second. "The kunai at your throat says otherwise."

Tayuya was right, and it seemed I was in a vulnerable position. However, she had made a critical oversight about me, and I was more than ready to help her refresh her memory.

Metal and water were good conductors, after all.

I unleashed a surge of chakra, channeling it through my body and into the kunai she was holding against my throat, causing her to yelp in pained surprise and dropping her weapon into the floor.

A chuckle escaped my lips as I stretched my neck and turned around to see Tayuya sitting on the floor, clutching her hand with a pained expression. "That was quite a... girly scream coming from you, Tayuya."

She shot me an ugly glare. "YOU SICK FUCK! WHO THE FUCK SHOCKS SOMEONE FOR A FUCKING JOKE?!"

I shrugged. "Me."

"You are a real piece of shit, you know that," she sighed in defeat, slowly getting up from the floor.

"I've been called worse," I replied with a nonchalant shrug, offering her a hand to help her up. She accepted it, though she quickly pulled away once she was on her feet. I couldn't deny that I had found a certain satisfaction in watching the consequences of her actions. She had brought it upon herself.

"Asshole," she spat, still clearly irritated.

I changed my tone, adopting a calmer one. "So, are you going to finally tell me why you came here?"

Tayuya crossed her arms and looked away, silently contemplating for a moment before responding. "Is it wrong to enjoy your company despite you acting like an edgy motherfucker?"

I blinked. Then I blinked again in deep silence because I wasn't expecting that kind of answer from her.

My eyebrows furrowed as I tried to process Tayuya's unexpected response. It was a stark departure from her usual abrasive demeanor. In fact, it was baffling. "You enjoy my company?"

She averted her eyes, her cheeks slightly flushed, and mumbled, "Well, I didn't say I 'enjoy' it. I just meant that it's... not terrible, even with all your faults."

I remained silent for a moment, trying to wrap my head around this revelation. After a while, I sighed and grabbed my forehead. "Despite your shortcomings, I guess I can say I do enjoy your company as well, at least to some degree."

"Are you calling me short?!" she snapped, her expression instantly turning angry.

"Yes," I replied, stepping closer. "But you're still tall enough for me to do this." I gently grabbed her chin and captured her lips, silencing all her complaints.

I could feel her initially tense up, then relax and allow me to deepen the kiss. It was me who eventually broke away, wearing a self-satisfied smirk as I noticed a deep blush forming on her cheeks.

Tayuya tried to look away, but my hand kept her head in place, so only her eyes shifted in another direction. "You are the biggest asshole I could've ever met."

"Perhaps." I chuckled, my hand dropping from her chin. "And you're the most foul-mouthed bitch I've met."

Suddenly, Tayuya lunged at me, trapping me in a tight hug. Her head buried into my chest, and it was clear there were more surprises waiting for me.

"I really thought I would die that day," she mumbled, her voice filled with vulnerability, before looking up at me with genuine gratitude. "Thank you, really."

I was caught off guard by her display of emotion and found myself momentarily at a loss for words. "Don't mention it," I finally replied.

She tightened her hug around me, her voice quivering. "Y-you have no idea how much it hurt me when you didn't come that day."

I furrowed my brow, struggling to recall the specific day she was referring to. It took me a moment, but the memory slowly returned, and I remembered a time when she had essentially asked me to go somewhere.

"You mean Suna?" I asked.

"I waited for days," she admitted bitterly, her grip on me not relenting.

I couldn't deny that her revelation shed new light on her behavior, particularly why she had become even more abrasive in our interactions. I had unwittingly given her a reason to resent me.

"I didn't trust you, and I honestly believed that it was Naruto or any of my old teammates who wanted to meet up with me," I admitted, my tone unapologetic. "I never imagined it was coming from you."

Tayuya responded by hitting my chest, though her blow lacked any real force. "Fuck you."

I gently grabbed her hand, our fingers intertwining, and her eyes met mine. "I will." I replied, before sealing her lips with another kiss.

My other hand moved behind her and my finger slowly undid the towel around her body and let it fall to the floor before slowly guiding her body towards the bed, where she let herself be pushed down.

Taking the chance to leave a trail of kisses as I went further down on her.

Soon becoming a sweet and tender night for both of us.


AN: It was far more difficult to write this stupid talk between Sasuke and Naruto so I brute-force my way in, and honestly not even satisfied 100% about it but at least I got rid of this scene and probably advance more with the plot that I genuinely speaking just want reach other scenes I have planned. Like Tayuya's, it has been in sketch form for probably a year, stored in my drive haha.

But honestly? I warned you all that I would make scenes like this, totally a tease for everyone expecting full blown smut but no, for this story I will keep it there as said years ago. I think it could be considered Lime?

And FFN is really bad lately, constantly fucks up and now I haven't been getting any alerts for a month or the dead traffic stats (a fucking month without any solution in sight) which was a main reason to keep using the site, to get a good read of statistics to see people response and stuff which was a big downer. I am already posting on another site QQ (Questionable Questing), which I like a lot more so far, but I was thinking I should also post in AO3 as well, mostly for this story.

Anyway, you can enjoy or not or leave your comments.