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He picked up his forehead protector and tied it on. Once he was happy with the reflection he saw in the mirror he headed downstairs for breakfast. About two rooms away from Naruto's destination his pace slowed a bit. She's gonna be waiting for an answer, he thought with dread. He sat down on a bench in the hallway and sighed heavily.
"Not sure of what you're going to tell Tsunade-sama yet, huh?"
Naruto looked up at Shizune. "No," he said dejectedly.
Shizune smiled and sat down next to Naruto. She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry. Whatever you decide, she'll respect that."
"I know," Naruto replied, scratching the poison ivy rash on the back of his left hand. "I just don't wanna hurt her feelings."
"Do you know how much you look like her brother; how much you act like him?" Naruto shook his head. "You even have the same dream. He wanted to be Hokage too before..." Tears began to prick at the corners of her eyes and she took a moment to compose herself. "For her, having you here is almost like having her brother back."
"So I'm his replacement..." Naruto said with a frown.
"No! She cares about you, Naruto. But, it's because you remind her so much of Nawaki that she's terrified of you dying like he did."
Naruto's face showed his shock. "She's...afraid of me dying?"
"Very much, Naruto-kun," Shizune answered with a somewhat worried expression.
Naruto looked down. "Thank you, Shizune nee-san. I know what to do now."
Shizune looked surprised. "You do?"
"Uhn," Naruto replied.
"Okay then. I'll see you in the dining room," Shizune said as she rose and walked away.
Tsunade looked up as Naruto entered the room. Izumi was already serving Shizune a plate of pork rice balls. "Morning, Brat," Tsunade said with a smile.
Naruto sat down at the table, an oddly serious look on his face. "I've decided to go back to my apartment," he said as Izumi set a bowl of miso ramen on the table in front of him.
Shizune dropped her chopsticks and looked at Tsunade, who had a downtrodden expression. "I see. Well, if that is your decision..."
"It's not that I don't like it here. And it's not that I don't like you and Shizune nee-san. I just...don't want to be protected," Naruto said with an odd tone to his voice.
Tsunade threw on a fake "brave face". "Well, then. We'll have your things moved back after breakfast."
"Tsunade-sama?" Shizune questioned.
Tsunade noted the concerned look on her friend's face. "I'm okay, Shizune," she said with a nonchalant wave of her hand and a smile. She took the last bite of her food and stood. "I have some work to finish. Naruto, come say goodbye before you leave, okay?"
"Okay," Naruto said with a gentle expression. He watched Tsunade go with a sick feeling in his stomach. He knew he had hurt her.
The blond-haired thirteen-year-old turned to look at Shizune. "Hm?"
Naruto let out a sigh. "If she's always trying to keep me safe it'll get in the way of her job. Trust me, I'm doing everyone a favor."
"Naruto. It may not seem like it sometimes, but she takes her job as Hokage very seriously. Her duties wouldn't be in danger of lapse if you stayed."
"I've made up my mind," Naruto said with conviction.
"I see." She rose from her seat. "I'll get the staff to start packing your things."
Naruto stood. "It's okay. I can do it," said with a small smile. With that, he left the room.
Shizune watched him go, then turned her gaze to the door of Tsunade's home office. She walked through the short hallway and knocked on the door. "Tsunade-sama. May I come in?"
"Yeah," came the muffled reply from behind the closed door.
Shizune walked into the room to see Tsunade sitting at her desk, head and folded arms resting on it. She wasn't surprised that there were tears in the eyes of the Fifth, but she was surprised that she had been allowed to see them. "Tsunade-sama..." she began.
Tsunade sniffled and wiped her eyes. "I'm alright. I guess, I just really thought he would choose to stay."
"You never know. He could change his mind," Shizune offered.
Tsunade sighed and stood up. "No. I'm not going to push this," she said heavily. A knock sounded on the door. "Yes?"
"It's me, Tsunade...sama," came Naruto's muffled voice from behind the door.
"Come in, Naruto," Tsunade answered.
"I'm ready," Naruto answered with a somewhat downcast look. He had his backpack, which was once again packed to the gills, slung over his right shoulder.
Tsunade stood and walked over to Naruto. "Let's go then." With that, she turned and walked out of the room.
Naruto finished stuffing the last of his shirts into the dresser in his room. He looked at the digital clock on the tiny nightstand next to his bed. It read ten fifteen. It would be nearly two hours until he had to go to the meeting hall to get his mission assignments for the week. He decided to check out his newest manga. He pulled a storage box from under his bed and lifted off the cover. He took one of the manga from the top, flopped onto his bed and began to read.