Now up as The Sound of Silence on AO3. Name is RokiRiot.
Chapter Three: Killer- Kali Uchis
"Are you listening to me," asked Kushina again when Naruto stomped to his room. He unplugged his television and tied up the cord. He separated his game system from the wall, and removed his portable one from under his bed. He took his music player from his backpack. He put it all in his rucksack, just as his mother stopped outside his door, her anger flaring again.
Naruto had not said one word of affirmation the whole trip home from school. He was unusually reticent too, kneeling in front of her and shoving his things into his rucksack unscrupulously. When he looked up at her, his eyes were shining. Kushina's mothering instincts flared up. Her anger quickly faded.
She asked, "Hey, hey... What's wrong? You can't be that upset about getting into trouble..?"
He shook his head at her. Without looking, he lifted up is bag of electronics to her like an offering. She was shocked. Whenever Naruto got into trouble, it was like pulling teeth trying to take away his things. She was almost tempted not to take them, but then she remembered the state of that other child's face.
Naruto removed his overshirt and belt and crawled into bed without saying anything else. Kushina felt the urge to press him for answers, but she knew what outcome pushing would have.
"Your father will be talking to you when he gets home," she sighed, and closed the door softly behind her.
s i n g
It was hard to breathe.
It was so hard but he just had to make it, because Marsha knew what to do. She had to; she had known what to say the night before. Gaara wasn't even really sure how he knew where he was going. Fuck, he could barely see, his cheek was so swollen.
He just wanted to see Marsha. He couldn't breathe.
He didn't know how long he ran. He only knew relief, settling like cold water over his skin upon seeing the warped maroon glass and a short church spire. Or maybe he was losing feeling in his limbs. When he burst through the doors, a man who had not yet entered spun around to face him. His eyes were wide when looking at Gaara.
"Please, Marsha... San," he gasped. His narrow vision spotted, and he tripped. His knees hit the floor, and the world tilted.
He didn't want to die alone.
"Marsha-san," he gasped again. Before his vision could completely fade, the dark oak doors before him swung open, and he saw small feet rushing towards him. Billowing white robes took his vision to black.
s i n g
Kushina could see her husband's messy parking from the kitchen window. He was upset. Usually Naruto's nonsense would make Minato sigh in disappointment, or give him forceful looks that his son would not dare disobey. Today was very different.
"Where is he," Minato said with more force than he probably should have. He had barely stepped through the kitchen door. His wife's usual immediate direction was not forthcoming. Instead, she looked at him with concerned eyes and gestured for him to take a seat.
"Is he hurt," the police officer immediately switched tactics, feeling too on edge to sit down.
"No," Kushina said, sliding into a seat opposite him, "but I think something happened. He wasn't acting like he usually does. He didn't talk back when I reprimanded him on the train, he gave up all his electronics without a fight."
Minato raised his eyebrows. Naruto had grown up to be a kind young man. He thanked Kushina's unerring ability to be kind to others, and his own words about justice. But over the course of his final two years of secondary school, Naruto had become... irritable. He didn't listen, curfew was beyond him. He was attaining things that both his parents knew didn't belong to him.
Minato had been honoring any gods that might keep his son from drinking and drugs. While he didn't point fingers, hoping that his son was independent enough to make his own decisions, he and Kushina had talked plenty of times about Sasuke Uchiha's influence over Naruto.
"He didn't say anything," Minato asked, looking through the kitchen door in concern. They had been working to get Naruto to express himself in some form other than acting out.
"He apologized while we were still at the school, but," Kushina shook her head, "I thought you might have a better chance talking to him. He's always been a daddy's boy."
She gave him a look of concerned encouragement and patted his hand. Minato sighed heavily. Leaving her with a kiss on the cheek, he made his way up the stairs. Iruka had relayed the situation to him this afternoon. Part of him wanted to be really angry. That other kid didn't deserve to be hurt like that, no matter the situation.
But what had he done, if Naruto fought back so viciously, if he was so morose afterwards? Minato made his way up to the top of the steps and turned to the right. His middle son's door seemed like an impending barrier.
The Uzumaki head of household paused, wondering if he should knock or if he should just enter. He had a habit of not knocking when his sons were in trouble. This time it didn't seem appropriate. He debated for another moment, then at last, he knocked.
There was a muffled sound like a gasp, then Naruto's voice warbled, "Come in."
Naruto was curled up on his bed, back to the door. Usually, when he knew he was in trouble, he would sulk defiantly at the edge of the bed. Minato paused. Looking around the room, it seemed bare in it's cleanliness, and without his son's game systems or CDs, like a ghost town of a room.
Minato walked up and sat down next to his son. He didn't touch him, didn't try to look around his hands that he was using to cover his face. For a long moment be just sat there, debating what he would say to the boy.
"I don't know what's gotten into you," he said softly, the disappointment sinking in, "Your mom and I try to do the best we can. Are we not giving you enough attention? We know we haven't had much time to care for you, since Kurama started hiding away. We... Does it feel like we're neglecting you?"
Naruto's shoulders trembled. He took sharp breaths through his teeth that sounded wet and full of sadness. He shook his head, hiding his eyes behind his hands.
"What... what made you think that you could do something like that to another kid? Is... that how you think you should resolve things? By beating someone else's child up," ask Minato, knowing now that Naruto was crying from his ragged breaths. Naruto shook his head harder.
"No," his tumultuous voice cried, "I shouldn't have done it. He didn't deserve that and I was wrong and I'm sorry!"
Minato was shocked.
"Naruto, Naruto," Minato grabbed his shoulder, "Explain it to me so I can understand? What happened?"
"I messed up," Naruto cried, "I messed up so bad. I'm so soh-sorry."
s i n g
As Gaara regained consciousness, his hearing shifted focus on different things. Soft sniffling, beeping, the sound of a man grumbling in another room. There was something covering his face; a hot cup suctioned to his face that got hotter with every breath.
His inner arm was uncomfortable. He winced. His head felt dizzy. It was so dark out, he thought the window had been taped up with black tarp.
"Hey," said the nurse, checking his IV, "Don't try to move too much. We just sewed you up, so we don't want any internal bleeding."
He was alive? Alive. He sighed and gasped, and something poked him in the lungs. He choked out a short breath.
"Take it easy," said the nurse, smiling behind his thick glasses. He had ratty white hair, and cat-like eyes. Behind him, Marsha peeked over his shoulder, eyes red, hands clasped tightly together.
"Hey," she gasped happily when she saw him.
"Sorry," he finally said, as his vision faded to black.
When he next woke up, Marsha sat in the chair beside him. The thing on his face had been removed, and it was substantially harder to breath. He could feel the rubber tickling his chin, but couldn't muster the strength to move it back onto his face. He looked around. The lights of the hospital room were both bright and dim. Gaara thought absently that they needed a better electrician.
"Gaara-kun," Marsha gasped loudly. She pressed a button and leaned in closely. Her eyes were bright once more with the threat of tears. Her hand shifted over his. He felt too sluggish to flinch, but stared down at their conjoined hands.
"What... What happ-"
Her question was cut off by the loud clacking of heels, and a sharp knock on the door jamb.
"You had us scared there for a moment, Sabaku-san," said the busty blonde doctor. She had a stack of papers in one hand and a slim tablet in the other. She sat in the tall rolling chair next to Marsha and stared at Gaara.
"It's just Gaara," he wheezed, staring down at where Marsha still held his hand. The doctor glanced down too, and then turned to the other woman with a smile.
"You must be his...," she left the question open ended for Marsha to answer. The brunette tried to catch Gaara's eye but he wouldn't say anything. He felt uncomfortable. He hated hospitals.
"I've... been looking after Gaara-kun since yesterday," she said, "I drove him here today."
"Are you his next of kin," the doctor asked kindly. Marsha shifted uncomfortably.
"I don't have any relatives," lied Gaara quickly. The doctor paused, probably passing a look to Marsha once again.
"I noticed from your uniform that you go to the Academy. I have a grandson that also attends that school. You might know him... Uzumaki, Naruto?"
Gaara looked up at her quickly. Of course, why hadn't he realized? Soft golden hair, a smile that showed off all her teeth, and kind eyes as blue as a sea's horizon. Naruto looked so much like her...
Oh why did he have to punch him of all people? Of all the ways Gaara thought he might meet his potential in laws, this was not one of them. He frowned softly.
"I heard that he was in a fight today... You wouldn't happen to know anything about that," the doctor said, raising her eyebrows. Something in her kind eyes grew austere.
"No... I... We got into a fight, but he didn't do this," he mumbled, "That was my fault."
Gaara looked back at Marsha's hand again. She had not let him go. Contrarily, she gave him a reassuring squeeze. His frown deepened.
"Well, I'm not here to interrogate you," said the doctor, "You may call me Tsunade, I will be seeing to you for the next two days. Came in with broken ribs bordering on a collapsed lung. Marsha-san took good care bringing you over, or things could have been much worse."
"Oh lord," Marsha sniffled. The doctor patted her shoulder.
"You broke a total of four ribs. We've had to put pins in three, which suffered complete fractures, but we opted no to put any pins or screws in the last rib on the good faith that you won't be moving around much for the next few weeks."
Gaara mumbled discordant sounds, but didn't say anything worth saying.
"Marsha-San? Would you be so kind as to step out with me for a moment," asked Tsunade-sensei. The brown skinned woman tried to catch Gaara's eye again. When she couldn't, she gave his hand a squeeze, and followed after the doctor.
With them gone, Gaara went over the day's events. A poignant melancholy his him right in his heart, making it feel like he was sinking. He had started a fight with Uzumaki Naruto. For the love of Christ, what was wrong with him? He had punched the only person he'd ever liked in that way in the face! Nevermind that Uzumaki punched back, confirming to Gaara the things he feared the most without ever acknowledging them as fears. Uzumaki didn't like him back, and he never would.
And what about Marsha? He had wanted to be there with her, if his father finally... Well, he was alive, but what did she think of him now? All the hand holding was because she took pity on him, wasn't it? Now that she knew that he had gotten into trouble at school, she wouldn't want anything to do with him.
How would he get home? Would the bill be sent to his house? He hadn't had his student id, so they couldn't know. If his father found out-...
A warm hand startled him by covering his own. He was acutely aware of his unusually cold fingers. He didn't look up at Marsha. He was waiting for her to tell him she would send him away.
"I'm not taking you back there."
Gaara looked at her in surprise. He felt her fingers tremble over his.
"I don' know what you're running from, but I won't take you back to it," she said, trying to give him a reassuring smile; it came out weak, "I'd have a better chance of protecting you if I knew what I was up against, though."
Gaara didn't say anything. Mostly because he was astonished. Mostly because he was-... Marsha could get hurt.
"Why don'tcha tell me what happened at school today?"
Gaara frowned. He could at least do that.
s i n g
Minato stood moodily preparing dinner with his wife. Naruto had cried himself to sleep without telling Minato anything more about what happened that day. He debated going to the school and harassing Kushina's granduncle for answers, but he decided against it.
"Another heavy sigh like that and your spirit will get away," said his wife, grating cloves of garlic into a small mound. He paused in his stirring and leaned his head on her shoulder. She was much shorter than him, forcing him to practically lean across the kitchen. She laughed.
"I wonder what really happened," Minato said, "Was he acting strange when you went to pick him up?"
Kushina rubbed her cheek against his hair.
"Hm, I don't really recall. He looked like he'd talk back, but when we left Ojii-San's office, he was quiet. Maybe he realized something there," she asked. Minato left her another kiss on the cheek.
"Well if we can't get it out of him, then maybe Mom will be able to," Minato said. Kushina stiffened slightly.
Dinner was finished just as the doorbell rang.
"I'll get the kids," Kushina said as they both removed their aprons. Minato went to open the door.
"Where's the kid," Tsunade said as soon as he opened the door. Minato stepped out of her way before she could shove passed him. She stepped inside quickly, putting the large bottle of wine she brought in on the side table.
"Hello to you too, Mom," said Minato. His father stepped in and wrapped him in a one armed hug.
"She had a hard day at work. Don't mind her too much," Jiraiya laughed. Minato nodded, but knew that his father was aware of the trouble Naruto had gotten into today. Tsunade turned so quickly that had he not been holding on to the door, Minato would have fallen over. As it were, his father stopped from where he had been trying to give her a hug. She stared at Minato with a calm and speculative stare. Then, she smiled.
Minato broke out into a cold sweat.
"I had a kid come in from the Academy today," she said, pulling her gloves off and unwrapping her scarf methodically. Minato felt his stomach drop.
"Has the gall to tell me he and Naruto got into it, but that it wasn't my grandson's fault. Had him in the ICU. Can you believe that," she asked, rolling up her scarf and shoving it along with her gloves into the sleeve of her jacket.
"Hospital," Minato stuttered, "Kushina didn't tell me the paramedics came to the Academy..."
"Because they didn't," said Kushina, stepping into the living room with Konohamaru in toe.
A young brunette flung himself into the elderly man's strong arms. The old fool lifted him (though he was far too old to be carried), and said, "C'mon kiddo, let's go set the table for dinner. Mom and Dad are having an important discussion."
"I know what I operated on. So someone is goddamn lying to me," said Tsunade, staring Minato down.
"Naruto won't tell me what happened," said Minato, "You're welcome to try and ask him, but he was too upset to say anything to me. I want to know just as much as you do."
"What is with kids these days? Thinking they know everything. Keeping secrets," she grumbled, "I'm gonna find out what's going on tonight."
With that, she shoved her coat onto the rack and stalked into the dining room. As they heard her tell Konohamaru to go get his brothers, Kushina passed Minato another look.
Naruto finally came downstairs when everyone was already seated. Kurama still hadn't exited his bedroom, but Konohamaru had set a place for him, at Kushina's behest.
Her middle son looked terrible. His eyes were red and dry. His shoulders were slumped and his hair was a mess. It was obvious he'd barely changed from his school uniform. When he stepped into the room, he didn't look anyone in the eyes, and just said a very sad, "'Ullo."
The dinner would have gone on in tense silence if Konohamaru hadn't been chattering on about his day. Kushina talked business with Jiraiya, and Minato and Tsunade had a battle with their eyes.
Finally, Tsunade trained her gaze on Naruto and said, "So, brat... What did you get up to in school today?"
Naruto was poking at his food. He said, "I got a seventy five on a math exam today. Kakashi-Sensei said I should keep it up, because it's not too late to get into my choice of university."
Minato blinked. Well, that was good, he supposed, but not exactly-...
"How did you get into trouble today," his mother rephrased. Naruto sunk down lower and shrugged.
"Naruto," sighed Tsunade.
"You're being too soft on him," Jiraiya grumbled, "If I were-..."
"I'm not you," said Minato waspishly, just as his mother gave her husband a look to silence him.
"I got into a fight," Naruto said quickly into the heated air, "It was my fault and I won't put my hands on anyone else again."
Minato was both proud and concerned. However, that answer didn't sit well with Tsunade, "That's all well and good, Naruto. But that other kid? He almost died getting to me, Naruto."
For the first time since his grandparents arrived, Naruto looked up. Shock was buried under big eyes riddled with fear. For the first time, Tsunade felt confused. Naruto's eyes fluttered and he tried to look away.
The first few tears glanced off his cheeks. He pressed his lips together as the next few came pouring down.
He quickly put his arm up to his face to hide it, but everyone had seen. Konohamaru, who had been waiting for his brother to get into trouble, suddenly felt terrible. He dropped his fork and reached over to give his brother a hug.
"He said he was sorry," said Konohamaru, now feeling as though he would cry, "Sometimes we do bad stuff. Can't he just... make amends to the other guy?"
"Wait," said Kushina after a pause, "What do you mean he almost died?"
"The kid was wheezing for his life," Tsunade said, "I left him on an aspirator."
"It wasn't me," Naruto cried, "I got into a fight with him but I didn't know that would happen!"
"Wait, wait, wait," Kushina said again, "The kid who walked out of the office didn't have any broken ribs! He was walking out just fine! Are we sure it's the same child?"
"Sabaku no Gaara ring any bells," asked Tsunade. Minato paled.
"Sabaku? That Sabaku? You mean the city's current mayor, who is running for a seat on the cabinet?"
The table fell silent save for Naruto's soft sobbing. Kushina said breathlessly, "I... knew I had seen his face before. I thought both of his children were already grown?"
"He has three," said Jiraiya matter of factly, "But I heard his youngest always got into trouble..."
They all stared at Naruto. His head was still in his arms. Konohamaru looked to be on the verge of tears as well.
"Naruto," said Tsunade again, this time with a trembling voice. She was not sure what she was about to hear. She was not sure she was ready.
"I shouldn't have... I shouldn't have," he cried, "I didn't mean to get him in trouble..."
"Naruto," said Minato, now standing at his discomfort rose, "What did you see?"
His son looked up again, his face a wet mess, and looked into his eyes. What he saw there was the answer he feared.
"He... he," Naruto gasped, and clenched his teeth around a feeling of sickness, "I don't want to get him into any more trouble..."
"Naruto, if you tell us what you saw you could save his life," Minato said, clenching his hands. Kushina pushed a glass of cold water into his hands. He cried and huffed while he drank it, probably swallowing some of his own tears.
Through stuttering and forced swallows, Naruto told them what he saw.
"Oh my god," said Kushina.
"How come he beat him up," said Konohamaru, "We get into trouble all the time and we don't get beat up! That's messed up!"
Naruto only wished he knew, and would never know.
Is it believable to have Naruto blubbering like a baby? Maybe not. But who knows how one reacts to these situations. I cried writing this, and then again reading it back.