Author: Inaho
Disclaimer: Gods, as if I could own something as good as Naruto. But it's okay. I'd probably screw it over anyway. ^^; Masashi Kishimoto is a god.

Yeah, if you can't tell, I -adore- Naruto. Shonen Jump is my savior. Anyway, I'd wanted to do something with Naruto for the longest time, and actually had this idea for a while. Not actually yaoi or shonen-ai, which is surprising (go SasuNaru and KakaIru!), but I'm pretty satisfied with how it turned out. Almost completely one-shot, 'cept for going back to fill in skipped words, which tends to happen when I write when I'm tired. -.-; Anyway, I hope someone likes it. It was fun, especially the style. ^^

Of Swings and Headbands

There were so many people, so many smiling faces. And why shouldn't they smile? It was a day of great joy, great celebration. It was a day where another handful of the village's children became adults.

From his lone seat on the swing, shadowed by the grand branches, lush with green leaves, sat a boy. A little boy with sun golden hair. A sigh escaped him, whether in awe or longing, it was undetermined.

Naruto watched the new hitai-ate leaf bands flash and wink under the afternoon sun, the light dancing as if sharing the happiness of its bearer, showing off the pride of the family. He watched the glowing faces of the fathers, the smiling eyes of the mothers. He watched them promise big dinners, new cloths, bigger allowances.

Soon. He promised himself. Soon, -he- will also be able to enter the ninja school. And soon, -he- will become the greatest ninja of this village…Hokage!

Perhaps then, he thought, then…they will finally see him. They will turn around and finally see how alone his is, and they will tell their children to go play with him and they will call his name. They'll tell him what a good boy his is when he masters his first skill and how they're going to make his favorite dish for dinner. They'll tell him not to be scared at night when the thunder roars and the windows shake. And they'll tell him how troublesome his is when he makes a mess and he'll just smile because they can –see- him.

I want someone to notice me…I don't want to be invisible…

"Are you going to use that swing?"

Bright blue eyes snapped to the side, where a boy his age stood not more than a few feet away. Endless black eyes matching a shock of obsidian hair atop a fair and rounded face stared at him, -through- him. He almost thought the other was looking at someone behind him; they always were. But he knew from sitting there time and time again that there was nothing behind him but bushes and squirrels.

"Hey, can you hear me?"

"You can…see me?"

The other boy frowned slightly, as if confused by such a strange question.

"Of course I can, dobe."

"I am not a dobe."

"Of course you are. Otherwise…" He disappeared behind him, and Naruto had to twist around to see a flash of the boy's charcoal hair. "…you'd be swinging!"

Naruto nearly fell off from the sudden force, and only his grip on the two ropes kept his balance from the surprise push. And it was then he realized the wind was blowing through his hair and the trees were passing by in a slow pendulum movement and he was actually –swinging-! A great exhilarating feeling overcame him as he continued to travel up, his grip on the rope no longer of fear, but of hope of going higher! The sun peeked over the edge of the treetop above him as he reached the peak, and he felt an unexplainable sadness spread through him as the sun disappeared once again behind the thick blanket of leaves and he was once again falling back towards the ground. He didn't think he'll ever be able to experience this feeling again; his legs were too short to touch the ground and the swing would eventually stop and all he'd be able to do was sit there again and—

—and a pair of small hands were on his back, warm and soft and –touching- him, and again they pushed, but this time he was ready for it and –that- feeling returned as he sailed towards the sky, towards the sun.

"Sasuke! Time to go! Mom wants to get home to make dinner!"

"Coming aniki!" The little boy named Sasuke ran towards his beloved brother, who was freshly graduated with a new leaf band tied so proudly around his head. Before running too far, he turned around and faced Naruto, who was already coming to a stop.

"I had wanted a chance to swing, but maybe next time."

And then he smiled.

Naruto watched, speechless, as his first friend…could he be considered a friend? … hurried towards an elder boy with similar, sharper features. This boy was looking at Naruto, even as he took his younger brother's hand. His eyes held neither the warmth that the other parents direct towards their children, nor that hated look that they always directed at him. There was…nothing.

"Aniki, you said Mom was waiting."

He finally turned away to look at his little brother, who tugged so intently on his hand.

"Ah. That I did."

Naruto watched the two of them disappear beyond the horizon, neither one looking back once. And it was only until they were gone that he realized he was alone. Everyone had gone home except for him, the little boy on the swing.

Sliding forward, his feet touched the ground with a soft crunch, one hand still grasping the rope to guide him. There he stood, staring down at the worn piece of wood, his mind replaying what could not have been a few minutes, a few blissful minutes, from that whole day. And he let go of the rope.

Tomorrow, he told himself. Perhaps tomorrow…he'll be able to swing again.

He smiled.

— Owari —

Author's Note: Now, before I get notes on how OOC Sasuke is, I want you to think about it. He was a normal boy before his brother went off and killed their family. I don't know much 'bout Itachi, 'cause Jump hasn't gotten there yet, but I imagine Sasuke would be pretty happy as a child and would have a good relationship with his brother. I think that's why it would hurt him so much that his brother betrayed them and why it would make him cry and become the cold reserved shinobi we all love. ^^ Does that explain everything? Oh, and I added the dobe for fun. Heh heh...hey, it had to start somewhere. ^^ Fufu.

— Inaho