Disclaimer: I don't, nor have I ever, owned Naruto. Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-sensei.

Prolouge

Naruto sank down on his ugly, worn, faded, orange, mostly cotton couch. It was comfortable and long enough for him to lay on. He'd had it in his one room apartment and refused to give it up. He still had the same bed and nightstand, but now they had their own room. He'd bought a reasonable dresser, a new one since he'd broken his to pieces in anger . . . He sighed, and looked around his apartment.

It had a small living area, he'd bought a small, makeshift entertainment center with a small t.v. sitting on it. He had movies here and there, but mostly piles of books and scrolls. They weren't in any particular order, since he never bothered to organize them and was never home long enough to care to do so. He had beige carpet, white walls with posters of actors and movies he liked. He had his feet propped up on the table, crossed at his ankles over some of his discarded scrolls he'd left sitting there.

His kitchenette luckily didn't have any dirty dishes in the sink, Sakura had done those for him the last time she arrived to see if he'd been home. Of course he hadn't, he had to go out on a mission for three weeks. He sighed again and sat up, he couldn't believe how fast time had gone by.

He'd kept himself busy with missions to keep his mind off of 'him.' The one he'd found out through something he didn't regret doing, but regretted leading the one he'd discovered his sexuality with. Gaara, Gaara had been in love with him, but it was through their time together that Naruto fully came to see that he couldn't let Sasuke go, he was in love with him.

Naruto hung his head, "Now I just had to think of him," he stood up abruptly.

"Damn it," he stalked over to his kitchen and went through his fridge and cabinets and then his pantry searching for something to eat. He resided on making Miso Ramen, something he'd had Sakura show him how to make. It was something to avoid his thoughts once again, he didn't want to think about him, it hurt too much to do so.

But after he finished cooking and then eating and washing the dishes, just for something else to do, his mind went to thinking about Sasuke again. No matter what he did, he never really could get him off his mind. He sunk down onto his couch and turned on the t.v., but naturally nothing caught his eye so he turned it off. He sat there in silence for a few minutes trying to figure out something to do.

'It's been five years now, and he still hasn't returned. He had given us those scrolls when we, by chance, met up with him during the war. Orochimaru, Itachi, Kabuto, and the Akatsuki are dead. Hell, Sasuke had killed three out of the seven of them.'

He'd killed Orochimaru first, then Itachi, and then he'd taken down Madara Uchiha. The rest were left to the rookie nine and their allies.

There had been war, something that the Akatsuki, Sasuke taking a jinchuriki for them, and the fact that the jinchuriki had been Raikage's brother had started. But during the war, the Raikage had made enemies with Konoha and thus they held no actual hate towards him personally. Naruto thought he was a complete ass and an idiot. The war had involved every hidden ninja village and Konoha and Suna had come out in the best shape, considering. The war had lasted for four years, and all of the rookie nine had been involved. They were all at the least Jonin's now because of their efforts during the war.

Naruto scoffed, 'Yeah, it was because we killed so many during the war.' He closed his eyes as the memories from the war tried to catch up to him. He shoved them down and started to think about the rookie nine, his comrades and friends.

Suna and Konoha had become allies, and it would remain that way until Gaara was no longer the Kazekage. He laughed when he recalled how everyone had paired up. As of right now, the pairing seemed to be long term, they were all changed after the war. They'd acquired a strength that only experiences could grant, but tried to keep to their true personalities.

It wasn't surprising that Hinata and Kiba were together, or that Shikamaru and Temari were. He had seen that coming, despite how oblivious everyone thought he was. He may be slow to pick up on things at times, but he wasn't a complete idiot. Ino and Chouji being together had been a suprise, but Ino had changed for the better mostly after the war.

They all had their scars, their own nightmares, their own shadows looming over them. But together, with one another, and with their strengthened bonds they had managed to move forward and not let it control them.

Sakura and Neji was what was the most surprising to tell the truth, but Sakura had somehow caught Neji's attention during the war. Tenten had started dating Shino, another surprise. Lee, no surprise here, was now going very steady with Gaara. Naruto chuckled, Lee had asked him for his permission to date Gaara. They'd been a secret at the time, but after wards all hell had broken loose. Gaara had wanted to kill Naruto, it was a really long three months.

So, he was the only one still single, he sighed deeply and hunched over with his arms dangling over his knees and his head hung.

"This sucks, I try to think about something else and I end up depressing myself even more."

He stood up and resigned to take a shower, peeling off his Jonin vest, removing his headband and releasing his now shoulder length hair to fall about his face and shoulders. He pulled off the black t-shirt and the mesh shirt beneath that as he walked through his room. He stood toe to toe with Kakashi now, nineteen years old. He no longer had any of that baby fat from his youth, his features had sharpened and matured. His shoulders were broad, his back and chest strong, but he wasn't overly muscular like Kiba had come to be. His arms and legs were toned and he really didn't appear to be as strong as he truly was. His naturally bronze skin was faded in places, scars.

Over the whisker marks on the left side of his face was a single cut right through the middle of it. There was faded, jagged, but luckily thin, scar that ran from the crevace between his neck and shoulder and down across his collar bone to stop at the middle of his chest. A few centimeters below that was a dark, brownish scar, a burn from a special attack. It looked like he'd been shot there, and it'd felt like it at the time as well. On his back there were three, horizontal scars that started on his shoulder blades and his spin and went all the way down to his waist line.

He sat down on his small bed and removed his shoes and then pulled himself out of his pants before standing and walking to the bathroom. His toned legs had numerous cuts along his calves and thighs. But most were faded to a point where you had to know what you were looking for to see them at all. He glanced at his reflection as he walked past the mirror and set to setting the water to the right temperature.

"A nice hot shower is what I need," he rolled his shoulders the muscles flexing gracefully beneath his sun kissed skin. The small bathroom had white tile and walls, a mirror along the width of the white sink, and he had orange towels, rags, rugs, and even an orange soap. His bedroom was much the same, orange sheets, red pillows, and and double sided comforter that had red on one side and orange on the other.

Once the water was ready he removed his boxers and stepped into the shower closing his eyes at the soothing feeling of the hot water helping to relax, as well as point out, all his sore spots. Once he felt relaxed he opened his eyes and reached for his citrus shampoo and quickly lathered then rinsed his hair. He never did bother to get conditioner, 'Who really needs that stuff anyway? Well, besides chicks.'

He then quickly grabbed a rag hanging over the shower head and poured some of his soap onto the rag and scrubbed himself down briskly, having done this for nineteen years, it really didn't require any concentration. He rinsed off, turned the water off, stepped out, and grabbed a towel from the rack across from the toilet that was to his immediate left.

"This bathroom is really small," he shrugged and set off to his room after drying himself off and wrapping the towel around his waist. He jumped when someone tapped on his window just as he walked into his room. He looked across the room to see Sakura opening his window and letting herself in.

"Well of course you can come in Sakura-chan."

She glared at him momentarily and then she gave him a serious look.

"Naruto-kun, the Hokage has a lead as to where Sasuke-kun may be."

Naruto felt adrenaline seep through his exhausted, and once relaxed, body. He leapt across the room to his dresser sitting against the back wall next to the window that was across from the bathroom door located on the right side from the bedroom door. He pulled out a clean pair of red boxers, he'd worn all his orange ones. Then he let go of his towel and it pulled to the floor. He then walked briskly to his closet and took out a clean set of his Jonin uniform.

Sakura sighed and set to helping him get his ninja gear ready. In a matter of a few minutes he was ready to go, his hair still damp from his shower. Before he dashed out of his still open window Sakura grabbed his wrist, "Naruto, wait just a minute."

He turned to her impatient and eager to get going, "What is it Sakura-chan?"

"We have to go as a team."

Naruto nodded, "Fine, who is coming with us?"

"Kiba-kun and Neji."

Naruto sighed and then nodded, "Alright, is that all?"

She nodded, "Yes, from what I know, Neji and I just got back from a mission when we were summoned. The Hokage requested that I come and get you."

Naruto nodded and shifted on his feet, "Okay, well you got me, can we go now?"

She nodded and let go of his wrist and followed him out of his apartment. She did remember to close his window as she left. She understood his anxiety and eagerness, she wanted to bring Sasuke home as well. She may not love him like Naruto does, but he was still a friend, and a former teammate.