do it kat. write that narukono time travel fix-it. drag us farther into hell.
*dumps this in front of you as a distraction/tribute*
Naruto is pretty sure he has a crush.
It is absolutely, definitely not on any of the many assorted women Jiraiya has dragged him to meet in the name of information gathering, even though he’s sure they’re perfectly nice ladies. But he’s seen Jiraiya disappear into their brothels a few too many times for comfort, and even when the pervert tries to hint that he should take one of them up on their offers to make him a man Naruto just plays dumb.
It’s kind of insulting that Jiraiya always buys it. Naruto might think at things differently, but that doesn’t make him stupid.
He’s also not a perv like Jiraiya, so there’s that, too.
But, the last few times Jiraiya has been otherwise occupied for the night—which usually means Naruto will actually be left to his own devices for the next week or so, until Jiraiya has burned through all of his cash and whatever he can bum off of Naruto—he’s ended up talking to the same stranger. Never at the same place twice, but—randomly. By the river washing clothes, or in the market buying dinner, or at a ramen stand that’s almost as good as old man Teuchi’s, or at the best camping spot along the road.
After the third time, Naruto thinks about being suspicious. He and Jiraiya are hardly falling a set path, after all, and to keep bumping into the same stranger—that probably means something. But—
But he’s nice.
It probably says a lot, that Naruto is still so unused to people showing him any sort of kindness at all.
“You must have been training pretty hard,” the man says, the first time they talk. He’s eyeing Naruto’s scorched, battered clothes with something that might even be respect, and he meets Naruto’s startled look with a smile as he tugs the blue scarf from around his neck.
“Uh, I try my best!” Naruto says, offering him a smile in return even as he rubs the back of his head a bit sheepishly. His clothes are in a pretty horrible state; Naruto isn’t sure he’s going to be able to patch them enough to wear, though Jiraiya probably won’t notice either way. He might even start campaigning for Naruto to switch to being a girl again so they can travel that way. It’s not that Naruto minds being a girl, but he doesn’t want to play eye-candy for his perv of a godfather. That’s just creepy.
“I could use some practice, if you want to spar,” the man offers. He grins, and adds, “I’m Kono—uh. I’m Konomaru!”
Well, that was…suspicious. Naruto eyes him for a second, but when he doesn’t sprout tentacles and fangs or start monologuing, he figures the guy is probably okay. He’s not getting any weird vibes off of him, at least, and Naruto even gets those off Jiraiya, as fond as he is of the pervert.
“Nice to meet you!” he answers cheerfully. “I’m Naruto!” Jiraiya’s drilled him on not offering a last name—or his status as a jinchuuriki, but Naruto would hardly tell anyone that willingly under pain of death—while they’re nominally laying low, so he doesn’t immediately announce his dream, either. No need to connect all the pieces for him if this guy is an enemy.
But, when he glances up, there’s no sign of villainous posturing about to start. Instead Konomaru is smiling, gentle and almost fond as he looks at Naruto, and—
It’s really not a way anyone has ever looked at Naruto before. Not even Iruka looks at him quite like that.
A little flustered, he ducks his head, pulling his black t-shirt off and dumping it with the rest of his things to be washed.
Konomaru promptly makes a noise like he’s choking on his tongue.
“You okay?” Naruto asks cautiously, watching him cough and turn red.
“Yep!” the man squeaks, in a pitch way higher than any Naruto has heard since Kiba hit puberty. He fans his red face with one hand, still coughing. “Sorry, uh, water. Went down the wrong way.”
Naruto’s fairly certain he wasn’t drinking, but he just shrugs and goes back to his clothes, debating whether to get his needle and thread first or just wash them. Probably better to see if they can be salvaged at all first.
“Are you a ninja too, then?” he asks, digging through his pack. He’s getting low on thread, but given how ripped his jacket is from the last time he experimented with the Rasengan, it’s not going to matter.
“I am!” Konomaru sounds a lot cheerier. “I even made jounin at seventeen!”
He’s probably a bit over that now, Naruto thinks. Nineteen, maybe? “That’s awesome,” he agrees, grinning up at the man. “I’m going to make jounin soon too, believe it!”
“I’m absolutely sure you will,” Konomaru says, giving him that smile again.
They never get that spar, since Jiraiya ends up getting kicked out of town for propositioning the headman’s wife while drunk, but they talk the next few times they run into each other. Each meeting is a few weeks apart, in different villages, but it’s clear they’re both traveling and Konomaru is delighted to see him every time.
It makes something warm twist in Naruto’s stomach, and…it’s not the loud-bright pay attention to me that Naruto felt about Sakura. It’s a little quieter, a little sharper, and sometimes when it’s dark he lies awake in his bedroll and just…thinks about Konomaru.
It’s probably definitely a crush.
“You know,” Konomaru says one night as they’re setting up camp together, Jiraiya back in the town and water for ramen waiting to be boiled. (It’s Konomaru’s favorite food too, and Naruto thinks that just makes him even more awesome.) “You said you’re training with a master, but…I haven’t seen him around.”
“He’s busy,” Naruto says, and keeps it cheerful through long practice lying about things like that. It’s not precisely a lie, because Jiraiya is busy, and he’s definitely doing important work, but—
Naruto just wishes that sometimes their training was more than just being told what to do before Jiraiya disappears again.
When he glances up, Konomaru is looking away, scratching at his cheek with a slightly uncertain expression. He swallows nervously, glancing at Naruto and then away again, and says abruptly, “My—my name’s actually Konohamaru. Sarutobi Konohamaru.”
Naruto blinks. He takes in the familiar blue scarf, the faint flush, the face stripped of its baby fat, and—
“Like—like my Konohamaru?” Naruto asks disbelievingly.
Konohamaru flushes further, ducking down to hide the bottom of his face in his scarf. “I time-traveled to save you,” he blurts. “And—and I’m going to help you save the world and then I’m going to save you because—because you’re Boss and you’re my rival and definitely have to make it to Hokage again so I can beat you…” He trails off, his face as red as the Hokage’s robes, and makes a noise of despair. “Oh gods, I screwed it up, that was supposed to sound cool and I totally failed, Boss, I’m so sorry but you’re so cute like this!”
Naruto is still kind of stuck on the time-travel and save the world parts.
And the cute part. Definitely that.
But that’s definitely Konohamaru, loudly berating himself for being so uncool, and Naruto can’t help but laugh. Konohamaru glances up at him warily, like he’s just waiting for Naruto to take off running, but Naruto just offers him a smile.
“So where do we start?” he asks cheerfully.
Konohamaru’s face screws up like he’s about to cry, jounin or not, and he throws himself across the space between them to slam into Naruto’s chest, wrapping his arms around his waist and wailing, “Boss is still definitely the coolest!”
There’s heat creeping up Naruto’s cheeks, but he just swallows and ignores it, patting Konohamaru on the head. “Saving the world?” he prompts.
Konohamaru brightens. “I have a list!” he says proudly.
He does indeed have a list. And it starts with tracking down another jinchuuriki and learning how to make friends with the Kyuubi.
Naruto definitely gets the feeling that he’s not going to be bored again for a very long time.
(They leave Jiraiya a note. Naruto almost feels bad for that. But definitely not enough to change his mind.)