OK, soooo please don't hit me... I know I haven't posted in a VERY VERY VERY long time... but real-life has finally calmed down. Everything's starting to speed up... last year of university. :-O NOOOOOO! Hee hee. So I might not get ton update very quickly (2 study abroads this semester... Iceland and Spain. :-D ). So if I don't update for awhile... sorry... Anyways, I think this chapter was a little rushed towards the end; It's basically been sitting unfinished on my computer since September...*please don't hit*. But now I'm snowed it so I have plenty of time to work on it... even though I should be writing my Spanish composition... Procrastination... :-)


CHAPTER FOUR


Obito kept running. The others had fanned out, all hoping to cut the escapee off somehow. Up ahead he could just glimpse the golden skinned Iruka.

'Kakashi will be super pissed if he gets away'. He told himself as if the thought of an angry Kakashi would make him run faster. It did.

Iruka was closer now. A few more feet and the chase would be over. Obito pushed himself to speed up. He was gaining on Iruka. He ran so fast it felt like gliding. At least until his feet went through something mushy.

Suddenly he was up to his knees in a mixture of sand and water. Lifting his foot made the mixture pull harder, sinking deeper. The more he struggled, the more the sand squelched around him, pulling deeper until he was almost waist deep.

Panic started to roll in. His mind fought as furiously as his body, but to no avail.

"HELP!" He yelled. He struggled harder, but sank further.

A soft rustling caught his attention.

There just a few feet away Iruka stood watching his struggles.


His struggles got more violent as Obito sank deeper. It didn't take long for the sand to reach his neck. He tried kicking his legs as if to swim but his body below the sand would not move from the sand's concrete grip. All that remained free was his head and a single arm. Panic thumped frantically in his chest, his heart pushing at the ribs. 'Someone help me'.

"Help." The hopeless word escaped his mouth. No one came to help. His eyes stared pleadingly at the one figure that could aid him.

Iruka stood staring down at the struggling Obito. He had not moved a muscle since Obito had called for help. The only sign that he acknowledged the struggling man's predicament was the frown that donned his lips.

The panic pounded even faster in Obito's chest. It unnerved him that someone could stand aside, watching another die. After all, Obito had treated the captive kindly, and he'd even spoke on his behalf and this is how he's repaid? He looked around him, hoping to find some miracle. A vine or something, anything! Taking a breath was getting harder with the quicksand pulling him down; it packed around his chest, prohibiting the movements needed to draw breath.

Waving his arm, he attempted to swim up. It did nothing. "I'm going to die." He whispered.

"Oh shut up and stop struggling." Came a voice from above him.

Grinning down from a tree branch overhead was not other than Iruka. Obito glanced back to where Iruka used to be on the ground.

"How—"

"I climbed up here. Now grab on."

A vine dangled down from Iruka's hands, and Obito immediately grabbed it. The panic receded from his chest; he wasn't going to die after all.


Iruka lowered the vine slowly, taking great care to put it within the struggling man's reach. Inch by inch he lowered it. Below him the waving arm grasped its salvation.

A glitter of relieved tears shone in Obito's eyes, which made a sense of guilt flutter through the little native. Though he had no intentions of letting Obito die, his spiteful mind thought to let the man suffer a little. So he had stood, simply watching the man's struggles. Obito had sunk faster than he expected due to all the movement.

Iruka mentally hit himself over the head. 'How could I be so cruel? He did nothing to me except injure my pride a little. And it wasn't actually him that did the deed! How could I have thought to leave this man to die when the person I'm truly angry at is not around? The frown upon his face deepened. I was truly cruel'.

Placing his feet steadily on the trunk of the tree, the little man braced himself, tugging on the vine with all his might. To no avail. He didn't have enough weight behind him in order to lift Obito's muscled mass from the quicksand. However, Obito was no longer sinking as the taunt vine kept the man just above the quicksand's surface.

'Should I try harder? I need to get away while I still can, but… I can't just leave him here. He'll sink. If I tie the vine to the tree, Obito would stay afloat until his companions rescue him and still make my getaway'.

Iruka pulled harder on the vine, looking around for something to tie it to.

"OBITO!" Kakashi burst through the underbrush, hurrying to his friend's side.

"Stop!" Iruka called down to him. It wouldn't serve for Kakashi to fall into the quicksand with Obito. The silver-haired prince stopped just in time. His left boot began to sink in the perilous mixture, quickly snatched out before the quicksand could take a deadly grip. Blue-grey eyes flicked up to the figure in the tree. They took in the whole situation coolly, the mind behind them racing to solutions.

"Hand me the end of the vine." He called up to the native. "I'll help you pull him out."

Hesitant, Iruka looked down at him and finally relented. The silver-haired prince caught the vine thrown to him, instantly wrapping it around his hand for a better grip. The visible ripple of taut muscles in his arms signaled for Iruka to start pulling as well. Even with both their strength combined, pulling Obito out of the quicksand was no easy task.

The mixture still pulled at his feet, but slowly the rest of Obito's body cleared the quicksand pit. Tears welled in his eyes as relief poured into his heart and a shudder ran through him at how close he had come to drowning under the sand-water mix. Another shudder ran down his spine imagining his lungs filling with thick, gritty liquid. With a sickening squelch he popped out of the quicksand, swinging in the air as Iruka tried to manipulate the vine from above.

Between the two of them, the prince and the native managed to get the terrified man to solid ground. He gave a shuddering sob of relief and collapsed, hugging the ground; thankful it was solid and dry instead of slimy and wet. Kakashi's hands supported his friend, patting him in reassurance.

"You're alright. Stop crying, crybaby." He whispered amiably. The childhood nickname stifled the tears, leaving Obito to glare.

"I almost died you know!"

Kakashi shrugged, "Honestly, do you think I'd let you die here, so far away from home? If you died, I would have to learn some black magic in order to bring you back, crybaby." It wouldn't do to let Obito see how much the incident in the quicksand frightened him. Jokes made everything better; they hid everything behind a smile.

Honestly, he couldn't imagine a life without Obito. A life without a crybaby to keep him sane in this world of politics, double messages and death... What kind of a life would that be? Despite his faults (many as there are), Obito was the one person he could trust completely. Those crybaby tears were honest tears, and the sporadic emotions were all honest emotions, true reactions to the way of the world. No one in the world could replace the crybaby, then again who would want to?

A flash of tan glinted in the corner of Kakashi's eye. He sighed and jumped after the fleeing native. A white hand caught a golden ankle, sending both bodies falling. Iruka twisted in his captor's grasp. That pale hand had trapped him more effectively than any rope or quicksand ever could, its grip unwavering despite the gold flailing limbs.

"Where do you think you're going?" came that voice. That tight grip wouldn't budge; the skin underneath already began to bruise.

"Your friend is free. I no longer wish to be a prisoner."

Grey eyes blinked. "Prisoner? Why would I punish you for saving my friend?" Kakashi loosened his grip, allowing the golden man to pull away.

"Call it instinct." Light bruises bled through the handprint on his wrist. Iruka rubbed his hand over them, massaging the flesh. He avoided looking into the other man's eyes even as it became clear the prince wanted his full attention.

Kakashi bent his head every which-a-way trying to gain the little native's gaze. However their eyes did not meet. "Little Ireka, I owe you a debt of gratitude."

Suddenly, brown eyes flashed and the small mouth frowned. "Iruka."

"Huh?" Kakashi cocked his head. "What?"

"Iruka, my name is Iruka not Ireka. If you're going to attempt politeness, the least you can do is remember my name." Iruka's face frowned at him, the golden features almost pouting.

The prince nearly laughed at the little native's frowning face, but since that wouldn't have been very polite he quickly bowed his apology. "Then please forgive me, Iruka. But as I was saying, I owe you something for rescuing Obito."

'I'd gladly give the world for Obito, but let's just hope this little native is too modest to ask for that'. He watched as the brown frown turned into confusion. A glance to the side showed him that Obito had mostly recovered from his near death experience.

Doe-like eyes narrowed in thought. "Whatever I ask for…you will grant it to me?" The deal sounded too good to be true. So far his experiences with the newcomers left much to be desired. Was this a cruel joke?

He chewed his lip with indecision. But if it wasn't a joke what could he possibly ask for? Nothing they could give him would take away his problems… 'Wait, take away? Take away! That's it'.

Iruka raised his head, looking the prince directly in the eyes, almost startling him with the sudden intensity of his gaze. "Take me with you."

Grey eyes blinked. "Done."