AN: Hi everyone! This is an AU fic, OC's will be introduced, and the coupling is undecided for now. Please enjoy reading! (By the way, this is AncientHistory's cousin. I'm posting for her since ffnet doesn't acknowledge her internet service. ^^;)

Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me and I am in no means making a profit from this piece of writing.


Friend or Foe?


Naruto stared at Sasuke, his eyes stinging with restrained tears. To think God should punish him like this: plagued with the inability to forgive, but now having obtained it, unable to forget? Would Sasuke ever fully understand this? Best that he remained ignorant of the truth forever. Naruto cast his eyes down, unwillingly to meet the haunting black eyes that faced him and threatened to search the deepest recesses of his mind. The truth must remain forever his secret, locked within him like the nine-tails demon fox. He would carry it to his grave.

"That's none of your concern," he finally answered.

"I have as much right as you do to know what happened in that cave!" demanded Sasuke.

"But I'm the one who remembers and I don't feel like sharing my memories." Naruto retorted, concealing his hurt behind his aloofness. He saw Sasuke's fists clenched, but chose to ignore them. He would live normally even if it killed him and Sasuke, despite his good intentions, wasn't going to drag his past forward to ruin it.

"I'm only going to ask you one more time, Naruto. What happened?"

Naruto's eyes darkened with recollection and his stance slackened. Sasuke took the opportunity and use his Mamoon No Jutsu to transport himself behind Naruto where he grasped his left arm and twisted it backwards. Applying force between Naruto's shoulder blades with his other hand, he forced the unsuspecting Naruto downwards. But Naruto, having recovered from Sasuke's amazing speed, managed to concentrate chakra to his feet, making them hard as steel and incredibly resilient to Sasuke's force. Feeling Naruto's growing strength, Sasuke thrusted the heel of his left foot onto Naruto's calf, forcing his left leg to yield beneath the intense pressure; even then it was a struggle to bring Naruto down to one knee. As Naruto knee made contact with the ground, it gave a terrible crack.

But the pain was not strong enough to wipe away a wicked memory of a similar incident. It came sharply to his mind now, the same force to his back and the overwhelming pain almost equivalent to this one, but as he hadn't resisted then, it had only lasted for an instant. Was history repeating itself? Would he have to suffer the same ordeal all over again? A more daunting question: would he be able to forgive if it should? Surprisingly he found himself thinking 'yes'. He would, even if this was the hundredth or thousandth time that he were to be punished. He would forgive Sasuke now having learned how. But he didn't think he could endure the pain, the feeling of being held captive, unable to counter the assaults that came one right after the other, ceaselessly, until he believed with a half-crazed mind that they would never stop. No, he couldn't go through that.anything but that. With this fear raging through his mind, Naruto failed to hear Sasuke's pleading words.

"Listen to me, Naruto. I don't want to hurt you, but I can't afford to let you run away again, do you hear me? I only want to know what happened. I want to know what I did that hurt you so much. So please, please, Naruto, tell me."

But by now Naruto was swinging his free arm wildly, fear making his punches although unguided amazingly strong. One of his swings actually struck Sasuke heavily on the face. The metal grasp on Naruto's hand guards caught in Sasuke's chin and as the punch left his face it hooked into the skin and torn a hideous gash across Sasuke's right cheek. The stinging pain brought froth an agonizing scream from Sasuke, but did nothing to slacken his grip, if anything it was made firmer. Naruto feeling the blood on his fist turned his head sharply around, only to have more of it drip onto his face from Sasuke's opened wound. Tears were flowing freely from Sasuke's eyes, either from the pain or the misery Naruto had unintentionally caused. Intermingling with his blood it stung the ragged edges of his cut hotly, but Sasuke was oblivious to the pain.

"Naruto," he whispered and released him. His own body, seemingly without any strength left, collapsed forward. He had nearly depleted all of his chakra trying to restrain the power of the nine-tails demon fox that resided within Naruto and fed on his intensified emotions, growing ever stronger. Was this what Naruto had to combat in that cave? Was this how he had felt: completely helpless as he faced his own twisted demon channeling its energy through Sasuke, who was equally incapable of controlling it?

These fleeting thoughts danced through Sasuke's head as the world began to disappear in front of him. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the sight of the ground greeting him at an alarming speed.

Sasuke awoke to the sound of Naruto's choked up voice, which was raving senselessly. It finally sunk into Sasuke's head that Naruto was pleading for him to open his eyes. The words, although incoherent, were saturated with anguish and fear. He things I'm dying Sasuke realized with humour and another emotion that he could not identify. But the feeling was awkward and uncomfortable, so Sasuke chose not to dwell on it any longer. Instead he concentrated on opening his eyes, which he found took almost all the strength he had left. The world hazily remerged and presented to him the same surrounding and the equally as taunting full moon, now only slightly a little higher than when he had last seen it. He must have been unconscious for only a few minutes. But he didn't dare to think that he was strong enough to recover that quickly after such an intensive energy drain. The insidious pounding in his head from such thinking, however, quickly put an end to that wondering thought.

Instead, his brain turned to a more challenging problem. There was rhythmic dripping on his forehead that, with every hit, seemed to cause his entire skull to vibrate. What was making that irritating drip and why wasn't Naruto stopping it? He didn't think he could take another minute of the pain. Sasuke's gaze traced the drip to its evident source and found, to his amazement, that they were Naruto's tears, or rather his uncontrollable river of tears. Naruto's eyes were closed and he was oblivious to everything, but his own suffering. He was rocking back and froth on his knees, despite the fact that one of them was surely broken and, as he cradled Sasuke's head in his arms, this meant that Sasuke was rocking just as violently. In fact, the insistent jerks were straining his neck and bringing on a rush of unwanted nausea.

"Naruto. Naruto, stop, please," he managed to get out. The jerking stopped abruptly and Sasuke found himself looking into deep blue eyes that revealed both shock and joy.

Naruto eased Sasuke into a sitting position and only when he was positive that Sasuke could remain steadily sitting did he back off to the side. But even then he held his arms behind Sasuke, so as to catch him if he should fall. He saw Sasuke rest his forehead against one knee and, seeing that he was supporting himself, reluctantly let his arms fall to his side.

"How do you feel?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm fine, but." Sasuke stopped in mid-sentence. Naruto watched with an aching heart as Sasuke reached cautiously upwards and touched his scarred face. Being known as the handsomest boy in the Hidden Leaf Village, Naruto could only imagine what Sasuke was going through. He saw Sasuke's eyes closed and the muscle in his temples throb. Naruto watched with horror as Sasuke raised his other knee to his head and buried his face in them. His arms circled around his head and concealed his face, but Naruto knew that he was crying. Wishing he could ease Sasuke's pain, but not knowing how to do it gracefully, Naruto gave into his impulses and reached out, embracing Sasuke in a suffocating hug.

"Please, please don't cry, Sasuke. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." Naruto cried as he held Sasuke and rocked him gently, except this time Sasuke did not tell him to stop. It was a long time before Sasuke drew away from him and sat with his back turned. Finally he spoke.

"I'm the one who's sorry, Naruto. Because even now, even after this.I know it's not enough. Nothing is ever enough to repay what I've done to you."

Naruto swallowed a huge lump in his throat and spat out angrily: "You didn't do anything!"

"Didn't I?" Sasuke asked slowly turning around to face Naruto. "If I didn't, then why are you so angry?"

"Because you think you're so special!" cried Naruto as he grabbed Sasuke's collar and shook him. "You think you have the power to hurt people? Make them hate you? Do you think you have the right to make me remember what I don't want to remember? Who do you think you are??!!"

Fueled by his flaring anger, Naruto gave Sasuke's uncut cheek an explosive slap, the sound of which echoed into the still night. Sasuke fell backwards under the force of the blow, shock dilating his pupils. Naruto's face was covered with the same emotion. He stared at the palm that made contact with Sasuke's face and which still stung from the smack. Closing it into a fist he thrusted it behind his back.


"So, this was how much I've hurt you," murmured Sasuke, his lips trembling.

"Sasuke, no.don't.I." Naruto crawled towards Sasuke and tugged on the hem of his shirt, feeling undeserving of any other contact.

"Sasuke, please forgive me. I didn't mean to.I didn't mean it. I'll do anything to make you better. I'll get the village doctors. They'll heal your face. I promise there won't be any scars. I swear you'll be handsome again. I'll do anything to have you forgive me. I'll even give up being Hokage," he sobbed, his head lowered.

"But what does it take for you to forgive me, Naruto?" Sasuke's quivering voice asked.

Naruto's head snapped up and he stared into Sasuke's midnight eyes now also red and overflowing with yet more tears. Naruto realized with some pain that Sasuke forgave him, that despite everything he's forgiven him. Although he also wanted to reply that he'd long since forgiven Sasuke and, thereby, ease his repenting heart, he felt that the moment called for some light humour. They've both cried enough.

"Will you let me take back the comment on not being Hokage?" he asked.

Sasuke groaned with mock exasperation, but his lips curved into an involuntary smile. That was all the encouragement Naruto needed. With one leap he was sitting on Sasuke's legs, his arms wrapped around his left calf.

"Oh, and when you broke my knee back then, I think I want to return the favor," Naruto said with a wicked grin, as his hands slid down to Sasuke's ankle and gave it a good twist. The woods echoed with Sasuke's scream.

Sasuke cried out and wrestled the still laughing Naruto off.

"Why did you do that for?!" he screamed and attempted to give Naruto a kick with his good leg, but Naruto, having expected something of the sort, jumped out of the way and only received a slight knick to the shin.

"Geez, and to think I just did you a favor," he kidded good-naturedly.

"You call this a favor?!" hollered Sasuke.

"Well, doesn't your ankle feel better?" asked a grinning Naruto.

Sasuke was in the process of making a venomous remark, when he realized that Naruto was right. His ankle did feel amazingly better. Although he hadn't realized it all this time, he'd twisted his ankle. It must have happened when he fell down earlier after fighting Naruto. Now that he was thinking about it, his head was hurting a lot too. He rubbed it absentmindedly and then it came to him.

"You didn't catch me!" he said, pointing an accusing finger at Naruto. Naruto sheepishly grinned.

"Not that I didn't try. By the time I turned around you were already face down on the ground," he added apologetically, all the while with that ridiculous grin still plastered on his face. This made Sasuke greatly doubt the credibility of his claim.

"Argh, don't be mad, Sasuke. I thought you forgave me," Naruto said as he returned to where Sasuke was and helped him to his feet. Sasuke swayed on his legs as the world spun crazily about. He felt Naruto's arms stabilizing him and leaned heavily against him, until the world came back into focus.

"Are you all right?" Naruto asked in a gruff voice that did not hide his concern.

"I'm all right. Just a bit dizzy." Sasuke stared at Naruto and saw that a muscle in his cheek was pulsing. Not only that, Naruto was incredibly pale. Trailing his eyes downwards, he realized that Naruto's left knee was shaking furiously. Naruto was supporting Sasuke's entire weight with his left side, and the strain it put on his damaged knee was evidently showing, although he had never revealed any signs of pain there before. His knee must have been hurting for a while now. He must have concealed it for me Sasuke realized. Naruto eased Sasuke gently onto the ground before he, himself, painfully sat down.

"I think we'd best wait here for them to find us."

Sasuke could only nod. "We'll call it a truce for now."

The night seemed to stretch on forever as they waited on the damp grass, shivering with cold and hunger. Their only comfort came from the glaring rays of the moon, which hung in the sky like a vigilant soldier. Although neither of them spoke a word of complaint, the sound of their grumbling stomachs, Naruto's especially, broke the night's silence. Naruto began rummaging in the many pockets of his orange suit, pulling out bits of strings, a deck of card and some other crazy odds and ends.

"I know it's here somewhere," he mumbled and finally, after what seemed like hours of rummaging, he brought forth a pack of gum. As he popped one into his mouth, Naruto handed Sasuke a stick. Sasuke eagerly opened the wrapping only to find that all found corners of the gum had turned a sickly green. He turned to warn Naruto, but saw that he was happily chewing away, as if the mold did nothing to deter his appetite. He must eat food in this condition all the time Sasuke thought. Although he desperately wanted to throw this stick away, the rumbling of his stomach came back ever more loudly, reminding him of his hunger. So, Sasuke reluctantly broke off the moldy edges and chewed his gum cautiously.

It was only half an hour later that he began to feel the violent effects it had on his stomach. In agony, Sasuke grabbed his pained sides and rolled convulsively on the ground. Naruto cried out his concerns, but after realizing that Sasuke was only suffering from an upset stomach, gave up trying to hold him still. Instead he sat back to blow the largest bubble ever.

By dawn Sasuke's pain had lessen enough for him to sit up. Naruto lied by his side fast asleep with gum wads stuck in various places on his hair. He had apparently succeeded in blowing the largest bubble only to, ironically, have it pop all over himself seconds later. Now he slept soundly like an exhausted hero who'd just conquered the world. The arrogant bastard thought Sasuke and leaned over to pinch Naruto's nose, happy to realize that this stopped Naruto's loud snoring. Naruto came up with a start, sputtering for air. He turned to give Sasuke an evil glare only to find him awkwardly attempting to stand up. After much grunting Naruto joined him. Sasuke was intently staring off at a distant corner of the woods.

"What are we looking at?" whispered Naruto, afraid to break Sasuke's concentration. He must have sensed an enemy. Have those incompetent ninjas from the Sand Village returned to kill them? Now with both of them injured Naruto didn't think they stood a chance against a frontal attack. That was when he realized that they stood in a clearing, posing as obviously crippled targets. Naruto looked down at his outfit and disgust rose for the first time at his taste for such bright clothing. Not only was he an obvious target, he was an outrageously stupid one too. Placing a hand on Sasuke's shoulder, he whispered: "Let's get out of here, Sasuke. We're easy targets out in the open."

Sasuke shook his head. "No one's after us, Naruto," he responded reassuringly.

"What? But."

"Do you remember those sand hills over there behind those trees?" Sasuke asked pointing at the place he's been staring.

"Yes, but.Hey! They're gone!" cried Naruto.

"Exactly. The path we took into this place was between those hills. Apparently that must be gone as well."

"But how?"

"I noticed those hills were already on the verge of collapsing when I chased after you. Kakashi sensei had warned us for weeks on end that these woods were incredibly dangerous this time of year. Mud and rockslides have been frequently reported. The storm last night must have loosened them."

"But, but.that was our way back!"

"At least this explains why we waited all night, but no one came to get us."

"What are we going to do?!"

"We have three options: One: we wait until they dig through the collapsed hills."

"That could take ages!"

"Two: wait until the hills dry up a bit and climb our way out."

"But this is the start of the typhoon season! It could be weeks before the rain stops and perhaps even more before the hills dry!"

"Or three."

"Yes, what about three?"

"We attempt to climb that!" said Sasuke pointing at Mount Funda. It loomed above them like a formidable giant, casting an ominous shadow over their heads and spirits.

"This is the backside of the mountain. On the other side are the carvings of the four Hokages and the valley where our village lies. If we can get across, we're good as home. Come Naruto, let's try it!" said Sasuke as he turned to look at Naruto. But Naruto was in no mood for heroic feats.

"It's impossible! We can't climb that.that thing! We'll die before we reach the other side. Who knows what dangers we'll encounter." His voice rose as his imagination invoked insane obstacles that they might face. He had completely forgotten about his sore knee by now and was pacing back and forth, describing the dangerous animals that would tear them to pieces. Soon he was running amuck, over wroth with fear of potential dangers, tears flooding his face. Sasuke restrained a sigh and wished for a miracle that would silence Naruto's emotional ranting. At that very moment, Naruto's right leg gave way beneath him and he fell heavily. Sasuke laughed silently and limped towards him. I guessed God heard my prayers he thought to himself. Smiling inwardly he reached out to help Naruto up.

"Com'on, Naruto. Stop fooling around."

Sasuke hooked his arms under Naruto's and began to hoist him up. Only Naruto resisted his efforts and lagged on the ground.

"Naruto." Sasuke rasped with frustration. The arm he'd swung over his shoulder weighed heavily against him. Sasuke frowned and stared at Naruto. That was when he realized that Naruto's pupils had virtually disappeared from his eyes. Those watery, blue orbs were now looking about blankly. Naruto was attempting to say something, but the words slurred his mouth and his tongue flapped uselessly. Sasuke felt Naruto's hand tightened on his shoulder and the pain revealed to him the truth. Naruto was poisoned and whoever had done it was still somewhere out there. To be continued.


AN: (Still her cousin here) It didn't originally end with a cliff hanger, but I wanted to keep it suspenseful. XP Hope you guys liked it. Please review and make her happy!

I just realized that everything's spelt the American way (no offense. It's just that we're Canadian). Just 'o' instead of 'ou'. For example, 'favor' instead of 'favour'. I'm too lazy to go change it. Whatever, I just wanted to point that out.