Things just happened. So what. Some days there was no excitement. Some days there were no memories. So what. It was not something he paid attention to. He was not that type of person. He enjoyed things as they came—or tried to anyway. Yeah, he tried. For his fight was not against the world. Though he did not mind fighting it. His fight was not against his fate. Though he did not mind fighting it. His fight was against… against whom exactly… it was not like him to care. So what?

He fought. The sun rose. The ocean was blue. The birds were singing. And he was Damned to hell. And that's how things happened.

Maybe the sun wished to take a break, you know? Maybe the ocean wanted to be invisible sometimes, you know? Maybe the birds did not feel like singing at all, you know?

No. They didn't know. And it was okay. So what. They were lucky, and that was okay, because sometimes he hoped he was lucky as well. Yeah, he hoped.

He did not mind though, things just happened. It wasn't as if all of this had been planned… as if someone was enjoying this from far away, smirking, laughing, sarcastic, loud and echoing…

Had he been born to be laughed at? To be taunted and scorned?

No! Things just happened. He dealt with them as they came and moved on. Dealt with them quickly and rushed onto the next thing. Do and Forget. Yeah, he forgot. So what? He was that type of person. Never did pay much attention.

Small spark goes out in itself.

Simple and quick.

Like cup ramen.

Never did like the in-between. Those three minutes of hysteria—those three minutes of desperation. An absolute stretch of time. That which separated. Exile.

He was frightened.

Drip… Drip… drip…

Sand… flowing down... spiraling onto itself… pressing against each second... forming a crystal clear shape… filling that empty space.

Time measured in grains.

Maybe simple things needed complex stuff to make it work. It began simple, turned complicated and then… there was this. This space-filling void.

He just hoped the sand hurried. His heart raced. Anticipation.

Each moment was a memory. Simple, but not quite, because the mind forgot what was not important. What was important? Complex in three words.

To remember something was not his type of thing. Maybe he needed to have his definition of important re-checked. But the moment was done, the sand had reached the top, and he was already moving on. So what.

His ramen was waiting.

*

Exile

By Saori-Hime

Comments: That was pretty much the Prologue. So weird. I love it. O_o

Warning: This story will ultimately be SasuNaru, so please be aware of this. That means: YAOI. Also… ugh… I'm not a great author, and I'll never be organized… so I'm pretty much writing this story as I get the inspiration. I'll add things that stick to me as the story comes along. There will be other pairings in there as well! Hehehe *laughs darkly to herself* Erm… don't mind me… *cough*

Spoiler Warning: Lovely people, if you have not read the Naruto Manga, please do so, cuz it is entirely, extremely, super­calli­fragilistic—okay it just RULES. It's like alcohol… erm, it's like homework, you just can't get enough of it! *wink* _ If you aren't current with the Manga, please don't hate me for spoiling your fun!

Setting: This is after Sasuke's departure from the leaf village ^_^ (Happy face?? Wtf… I'm pissed, he should have never left! BASTARD.)

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me! I swear! I only stole Sasuke's shirt...don't kill me T_T …at least not yet!

Flashback

Chapter One – Distorted Perception

It had been a month since the Sandaime's death. Four weeks in which the entire leaf village had been put through extreme and laborious pressure. Twenty eight days full of anger, depression, betrayal, and sorrow, and at the end of each day, when the moon bathed the solitary and torn streets of Konoha, and its inhabitants had tucked their children in bed, kissed their foreheads goodnight, and folded their arms around those they loved to fall into a relaxing slumber…they experienced the same chilling nightmare. Intimidating and persuading, hell sprung possibly; he was a corpse with vivid eyes.

Orochimaru had always been a scary person, and the village was afraid. Anticipation was a nerve-wrecking feeling. Six hundred and seventy two hours had passed and they knew that he would be back. Any minute now. 

So they pushed against the ticking clock, pressed against the doubled duties, pulled everything together from scratch, and prayed for luck.

Maybe they would make it in time.

They had repeated that to themselves for over forty thousand minutes… but to no avail. The recent events only dampened their hope. The smell of dread lingered between each leaf. The tension was intensifying and they were on the edge.

A thunderstorm forming, reaching out, lighting the dark skies. 

One lonely figure stared outside as the rain poured down onto the window's slick surface. A black shadow gazing into space for no reason. A second figure appeared from behind and accompanied the lonesome statue. Their shadow melted together like the raindrops on the window.

"Tomorrow the sun will shine." Said the taller figure and the smaller one glanced up, eyes slightly narrowed in tired hopelessness. A silent scream on his lips, an encaged feeling bleeding with regret.

"Hn," Sasuke replied nonchalantly, "I like the rain."  

***

"…Section 2A has been repaired, but there is still work to be done at section 4D and lets not put off the reconstruction of the east wall any longer." A voice resounded off the walls and quick hands worked with some papers, "Those who aren't called in and shipped off to a mission should report to these constructions sites immediately." Brown eyes looked up from white, rough paper, "And I do plan to keep close tabs on everyone." Well trained-legs rose from their sitting position, and the aforementioned eyes surveyed the crowd in a businesslike manner, "Any questions?"

Even though most of the Shinobis present in this meeting were highly trained Chuunins, ready to take on the Jounin exams, sensitive endurance could hear the forbidden question that rested on their lips.

"Very well," Anko said rather grimly, "Meeting's over."

Shinobis dispersed, and Anko sat back down. She propped one elbow on the desk and rested her head on her hand. Half-closed eyes looked at the empty room in subtle scorn. With the Godaime's arrival a great deal of people had been able to take a breath, but they only got that far. They were probably suffocating—too afraid to exhale.

"If the fourth was still alive…" Anko mumbled, her eyes resting in an empty spot, her mind in a far away place. She closed her eyes with a simple smirk on her face, "Bah," She gathered her papers and decided to acknowledge the figure perched at the door's frame. "Are you going to stand there all day?" Her head turned slightly, dark hazel sparkling with the light from outside, "Jiraiya?"

"You had a pretty darned sexy look just a moment ago."

"You haven't changed at all." Anko said, a slight smile tugging at her lips. She walked up to him carrying a folder in one arm, "I will tell you this before you get your hopes up, I was not thinking about you. Pervert." She walked past him and squinted her eyes a little. Konoha looked beautiful today; too bad she had to leave the country right away…

"I know who you were thinking about."

Lips parted into a pause, a surprised reaction to his tone of voice. Anko was glad she had her back turned to Jiraiya. Eyes traveled to their edge in distaste, a small feeling growing strong. "Why are you here?"

"Always right to the point," Jiraiya said, his humorous tone back in place, but hiding certain seriousness as he observed the tension growing thick. Mind games. "Guess you haven't changed either." He walked towards the edge of the building and rested his hands on the reel bar casually.

Anko watched him walk by, eyes following his movements sternly, as if trying to figure out his purpose in one glance. Distrust. She looked away, delicate melancholy getting the better of her, "Maybe I have changed a little." Jiraiya was silent.

"…Go on with it," Anko accused, both eyebrows folded into a frown, "Or are you also afraid to ask."

"Afraid?" Jiraiya said comically insulted and turned his head towards Anko, "The great Toad Sennin afraid to—"

"Orochimaru will never give up. Sooner or later, he'll get what he wants." A direct answer to an indirect question… or was that backwards? "It's a matter of time, and that is my honest opinion." She smiled with both eyes closed. "And I am being optimistic." Cynical.

"Now that we are on this topic…" Clown. Anko's eyes opened, maliciously slow. Wrong move. "Seriously speaking," Easy, "You know I came here to tell you something important," He sort of sighed, "Actually, Tsunade forced me to…After what happened, she thought it would be good to come and chat with you—"

"Hokage-sama should not worry." Eyes dull in expectance, warm with unwanted emotion. "I am not that vain…" Abrupt cut, "She has far more important things to attend to, and so do I." Running away? His eyes narrowed.

"Not everyone is like him, you know. Actually, it'd be pretty hideous to try and imitate him." Break the mask. Push her into a corner. "I'm trying to help you," Her head lowers and he finds a weakness. "You have to stop identifying with Orochimaru."

"I know that." Hit a nerve, maybe a lot of them.

Jiraiya looked straight at her, "Orochimaru will never change, you said it yourself." His eyes relaxed a little, "That's why everyone is upset, but taking rash decisions, or thinking too much about one thing can be dangerous. They are nervous… and after the Uchiha incident, they are tipping off the boarder." He let go of the reel bar, "Tsunade only wants to help you, too… if you trust them, they will trust you."

He walked up to her and put a hand on her shoulder, "This village needs all the help it can get…you and him might have been close once, but you are still on our side—Lets keep it that way." Half a warning. Another wrong move. Game over.  

Anko looked up at him with a smirk. Taunting. Jiraiya wondered for a second if she had been smirking the whole time. Sometimes she acted too much like Orochimaru.

She broke free from his grasp, "I will trust those I see fit. This is a Shinobi village after all." Her eyes were mockingly bright, "If this village needs help then does that mean you will stick around Jiraiya? Last time you didn't." Ouch.

She never stopped smirking and spoke in the same warning tone. "Don't preach at me." She turned to leave, but her head cocked back slightly, "I suppose I'll see you around." A candid chuckle eaten away by a strong breeze, and then she was gone. 

Jiraiya's face turned somber. That did not go well. He pouted silently—this was all Tsunade's fault, he was only good at courting women, not persuading sense into them. His eyes darkened…the entire conversation had disturbed him a little though.

But then again, Anko was always a little disturbing.

***

"Lee, slow down!" Tenten sighed as she saw the Beautiful Green Beast of Konoha stuff his face with those horrible dumplings Gai-sensei had brought him. "Really… at least chew them properly…" Lee was gagging and crying at the same time, and yet he was able to force his face to smile in joy. Tenten looked at him with an expression split between shock and disgust, but he continued to stick more dumplings in his mouth without ever noticing Tenten's discomfort, "Thank… you…Gai-sensei!" He squeaked out while another stream of tears made its way down his face. 

"That's the spirit Lee! Don't ever give up! You'll be back to training in no time!"

Lee struggled to gulp down the bitter food, "R-Roger!!! I'll eat the whole basket you brought me Gai-sensei! That's a promise!" He shuddered, his tongue curling up in his mouth.

"And if you don't, you will have to run 500 laps around Konoha! Oh but you may not train until Godaime-sama approves, so instead you will have to eat two baskets!"

That encouraged Lee to continue stuffing his face at an even faster pace, "Oi…oi…." Tenten admonished, "You'll seriously die if you don't slow down, Lee…" She didn't blame him for hurrying though. Guess it was time to leave, "Gai-sensei, don't you think it would be better to let Lee rest?" She tried persuading Lee's older replica.

"You are very right, Tenten!" He turned his attention to his injured student, "Lee! Your body needs to recover thoroughly, the more rest, the faster the healing! I will come back with Godaime-sama as soon as possible, and she will let us know if your body is apt for training then!"

Gai said his passionate goodbye and went out the room, Tenten following behind. She paused at the doorway, "Oh and Lee—" He turned his attention to her, and Tenten stared at him—his full mouth, his red eyes, his tear-streaked cheeks, and his bushy eyebrows. Tenten couldn't help but smile, "Don't over do it okay?"

Farther down the hall sat a pink-haired girl holding two flowers in her hand. She was looking out the window, eyes slightly closed. It was very peaceful inside the hospital, the only noise coming from the echoing clip-clap of nurses' shoes, or the rustle of trees outside. The cool breeze in the air reminded her that winter was almost over. Everything would return to life, and the cold would go away. With spring everything changed. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again. She was falling asleep. Her eyes caught sight of something, and she gazed at it with little enthusiasm.

Vibrant white swinging back and forth, redundantly and carelessly. Two fragile cloud-like wings following an invisible path of loops and curved lines.

Sakura's eyelashes lowered, and she stretched her right arm, gazing tiredly at the flowers she was holding. Her eyes widened as the butterfly she had been looking at came to rest on the petals of her flowers. Green eyes trembled with surprise and a delicate smile played on her lips. She giggled and the butterfly took off again. Her pink hair swung to the side as she watched the butterfly make its way across the bridge.

The noise coming from down the hall made her turn away from the window, and she watched Gai-san and Tenten exit Lee's room. She got up from her spot, and walked towards the room. She had come to visit two people… and Lee was the first one in her list. She did not want to bother him while he was being visited, though, so this was her chance.

***

Naruto opened his eyes, and the piercing white light tore at his pupils. He grunted, and closed his eyes again, one hand reaching up to cover the intruder of his sleep. He squinted and his vision adjusted to his bright surroundings slowly and grumpily.

It was a stoic white room, nothing special about it. Just that it was not his room. If his mind was fast enough, or tried a little harder, he could classify it as a hospital room. His mind refused. Funny.

"What the…" He mumbled, sitting up finally, his hand dropping down by his side. He blinked. The room was ugly empty; hell, there was even a dried up flower next to him. His eyes trailed up to the curtains, which were tied to let the sunshine in. He scratched his head in stupidity.

"Hey... what the hell, how did I get here."

He couldn't remember anything. Maybe if he tried hard to remember—somehow, it seemed that he was trying hard, but not to remember. Funny. Bah. Why bother with remembering if he could just very well scamper out of this unpleasant place and search for food—go out for ramen even! Sounded like a plan to him. But…

His hands slammed onto his head suddenly, a gripping pain seizing him by complete surprise. He could not even remember how to breathe, let alone speak. His pupils dilated, and his hands held his shocked visage in place. 

The room was still.

***

"Inuzuka Kiba is not taking any visitors right now, but if you wait an hour you can catch him during his lunch time." The nurse said gently, "Do you want to visit anybody else in the mid-time?"

The blue-haired girl blushed, "A-actually…" She stammered, "There is… someone I'd like to visit." She pressed her index fingers together and there was a long pause. The nurse blinked, curiosity making her wonder. It finally came, "I-is Naruto-kun receiving visitors?"

The nurse stared at the Hyuga kid with wide eyes, and tried to blink back her shock, half expecting the girl to say she was kidding. She checked her list nonetheless, "Ah—Yes, but he has been in a coma for the last three days."

Hinata's eyes filled with worry immediately and her hands wrapped together in depression. The nurse watched her, and an apologetic look soon rushed to her face. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to surprise you. It just that I didn't think someone could actually feel so concerned about that—that kid…" The nurse drifted off.

Hinata's gaze fell on the floor, eyes frankly honest. The nurse looked a bit taken aback, disbelief getting the better of her. How could such infatuation be displayed for that monster? Her head reeled for a couple of antagonizing seconds.

The nurse turned to investigate her list one more time, a gentle smile forming on her lips as she reached a conclusion, "Well, I knew I could make up for my bluntness," Both of her eyes closed momentarily in genuine kindness and Hinata allowed herself to hope— "Hyuga Neji is in his visitation hours, come I'll take you there,"

Hinata's eyes widened, and her voice ran out the door. The nurse noticed her sudden shyness, and finding the small girl entirely adorable, she took her by the hand and led her towards Neji's room.

"Now I understand… you were too shy to ask for your own relatives! Visiting other patients instead, how noble! What a cute girl you are… so polite too… you don't have to be shy, I am here to help…"

The nurse droned on and Hinata's mouth refused to open up. She was finally turned towards a door.  "H-he… I… can't—" Hinata's tiny voice shuddered in alarm, but the nurse had already opened the door, "Neji-kun, you have a visitor!"

The nurse blinked.

Hinata stared.

Neji was sleeping peacefully against a propped up bed, a vase of flippant flowers to his side. The bed sheets covered him up to his waist and thick bandages wrapped his chest painfully, yet his face looked content.

"Aws, it seems we are a bit too late." The nurse whispered, "Gai-san came in earlier with another of his students, they probably exhausted him." Hinata stood shyly by the door, feeling relieved. The nurse lowered Neji's bed to a resting position, and pulled up the sheets to his torso to let him sleep more comfortably. She motioned Hinata to one of the chairs and Hinata's eyes trembled. She shook her head weakly.

 "It's okay, you won't disturb him." The nurse prompted, and Hinata looked down, flustered. She took the sit, however, unable to refuse the good-natured nurse a second time. The nurse moved about the room, cleaning and so forth, "There are a couple of magazines in that table there," The nurse said as she opened the window at the end of the room, "What a nice morning," She smiled gently and turned to Hinata, "Well I leave you in charge of him, if you need anything don't hesitate to call me." Hinata watched in growing anguish as the nurse got closer to the door, "W-wait," Hinata called and the nurse paused at the doorway, "Do not worry, I'm sure Neji-kun will wake up soon enough." The nurse crossed the door with a smile.

Hinata sat there, looking at the now shut door in dismay.

Her face turned slowly towards Neji…and her eyes followed the same pattern. She could not help but feel afraid. Her eyes lowered instantly when they fell on his face. She clutched her hands on her lap.

A soft breeze came in, ruffling the curtains, and carrying the quiet murmur of outside activities to her ears. The scent of the flowers touched her nose tenderly and she lifted her hands closer to her chest. She started fidgeting.

Time passed by slowly.

***

There was a knock on the door and Lee wondered if it was Gai-sensei coming back to check on his diet. He hurriedly stuck another dumpling in his mouth and forgot to say anything to the person waiting outside. The door opened slowly, and Lee stopped in mid-bite, curiosity getting the better of him. Gai-sensei never came in so quietly, so who…?

"Lee-san?" Sakura whispered, her head poking inside the room. Lee was mesmerized. "Sakura-san!" He blurted out before he could stop himself, the food in his hand completely forgotten.

Sakura smiled and entered the room, closing the door gently behind her, "Well I was nearby and I decided to come and say hi," Sakura said in a cheerful voice, something that made Lee's heart beat faster. He thought it was about to burst open. "Thank you Sakura-san, I'm glad you are here…" He felt his cheeks tinge red.

"I also brought you this," Sakura walked closer to him and handed him one of her flowers. Lee didn't move. He just sat there staring blankly at her.

"I'll put it in a vase if you want…?" She asked with her hand stretched out in an awkward pause. Sakura laughed a little nervously, "I should have asked you earlier," He shook his head suddenly, finally coming out of his daze. "The flower is beautiful Sakura-san!" He took it and smiled widely, "So it was you…" He felt tears coming to his eyes and Sakura blinked at his sudden reaction. "You were the one that left those flowers…after the second exam…" Sakura looked down, smiling a little, "Oh yeah, I'm glad you liked them. Ino was a pain to put up with, but it was worth it… I guess,"

Lee felt like he was in a dream… Sakura-san had come to visit him and she was talking to him so openly and amiably. She was smiling for him! He had never been happier in his life. He could not stop gazing at her beautiful face.

Sakura looked away, suddenly disturbed. "I… I'm supposed to say comforting things right now, aren't I…" She felt weary, "I can't figure out anything to say… sorry about that Lee-san," Lee shook his head, "Don't worry Sakura-san, I'm feeling a lot better already with your presence!" Lee felt something fall on the bed, and he looked down. A wet spot? He looked back up and saw Sakura crying.

"You…you are so kind to me Lee-san," She blinked quickly, her hand whipping away her tears, "I'm sorry," She smiled sadly, "…and I promised I wouldn't cry anymore…" Sakura chuckled a little sourly, and Lee looked at her helplessly, a knot in his stomach. He wanted to comfort her, but it didn't seem appropriate. He really cared for her… but…

"Don't apologize Sakura-san," Lee looked down, "Crying is not something bad, and you look very pretty with tears in your eyes…" Sakura looked at him in bewilderment—and then smiled softly…feeling very silly crying in front of him. They stood there in silence until Sakura spoke up, a blush spreading through her face.

"I'll be leaving now…" She whispered, "I'm glad your operation turned out alright Lee-san, I'm sure Naruto will be happy to hear that…" She was about to turn around when she saw the round food resting on his hand. Lee followed her eyes, "Gai-sensei brought me dumplings today, and these are a special type of dumpling that are supposed to make you heal faster." Sakura eyed them suspiciously and then grabbed one from the basket, "Wonder how they taste…?" Lee's eyes widened, "Sakura-san—" Sakura gave it a small bite and her face turned blue. Lee sweatdropped, "They don't taste real good…" Sakura coughed, new tears in her eyes, "Ugh…Lee-san, how many have you eaten??"

"Seventy one!" Sakura's eyes bulged and she looked at Lee like he was crazy. He only stared back proudly. Naruto's idiotic face surfaced in her mind and she remembered how hard they tried to do everything. 

A chuckle bubbled from her mouth and transformed into sincere laughter. Lee looked down nervously, feeling a bit embarrassed.

"Mind if I take one?" Sakura asked after catching her breath. Lee blinked, but nodded, "Sure Sakura-san," Sakura took one and smiled, "Thank you Lee-kun, please get well soon, okay?" She smiled and went out the door, leaving a flustered Lee behind. After that, there was only one thought in his head for the whole day.

She called him 'Lee-kun.'

***

Hinata's movements ceased, and her hands lowered to her lap.

Determination.

She dared herself to continue. Try again. She looked up; eyes settling on the slow rise and fall of Neji's chest. Then she forced herself to look on.

To his exposed neck…

His chin…

His lips…

His nose…

And--and a pair of friendly eyelashes.

Her eyes wavered to the wall and then back to his eyes. White eyes. 

"People cannot change themselves!"

Hinata got up suddenly and stepped towards the door, her hand gripping the handle in distress. She paused, her heart racing in her chest. Her eyelids trembled, and the air was trapped in her throat. She gulped inaudibly—and her fingers held onto the handle tightly.

Something to prove.

Don't run away.

She turned a little, her eyes looking back timidly, and whispered in his direction, "G-get well soon N-neji-nee-san." She opened the door quickly and closed it quietly and carefully behind her.

Inside the room, an awaking Neji looked at the closed door with half-open eyelids. Outside, Hinata was letting go of the handle. She took a deep breath once she was done.

"Hinata?"

Hinata's hands sprung close to herself in self-protection and she looked with nervous eyes at the pink haired girl approaching her down the hall. Sakura blinked at Hinata's reaction, but what caught her curiosity the most was that the room Hinata was standing in front of. It was no one else's then last year's rookie Hyuga Neji.

"S-sakura-san, ohayo…" Whispered the shy girl as she fidgeted in embarrassment.

"What are you doing here?" Hinata blushed even more, "Well…I-I came to visit…Kiba-kun, but he is…resting, a-and I heard t-that… Naruto-kun…" Her voice dropped lower and lower, until Sakura could only see her lips tremble. She took a breath, if only Hinata could speak more clearly, "So you wanted to visit Naruto?" Sakura summed up as she walked past her, "You got the wrong one. This one's Naruto's room." She motioned to the next room, "Lets go in together." The pink-haired girl smiled invitingly and opened the door to said room. She waited for Hinata to accept her offer before going in. The shy girl paused and then nodded, "A-arigatou, Sakura-san…"

Sakura stepped in and looked around.

The place was brightly lit and the sun rested warmly on the white sheets of the only bed inside the room. Naruto sat in the middle of this glow and the only thing more vivid than the light was his blonde hair, sticking up wildly and unarranged, challenging the solar rays.

He has awake!

"Naruto!" Sakura exclaimed, walking up towards the blonde quickly, "You are finally awake, I was seriously beginning to worry—" Naruto turned to look at her dully, almost as if he wasn't seeing her at all. Sakura's eyes widened.

Red.

"Naruto you are…" Naruto felt the sliding tickle on the side of his mouth and he used the back of his hand to wipe away the red trail. He swallowed uneasily, a heavy taste on his tongue. Blood.

"Call for the nurse Hinata," Hinata's white eyes left Naruto's side, and she nodded at Sakura, going out the door quickly. Naruto coughed, wincing and digging nails onto his stomach. Sakura's eyebrows slanted in worry, "Naruto…" She walked up to him and laid the dumpling she brought with her on the bed. Then did the unexpected. She hugged him.

"Naruto—" Sakura closed her eyes, "…you are always pushing yourself too hard," Naruto's eyes glazed, but he did not speak nor move. "This time I thought… but he is safe, Naruto. You brought him back, you really did…"

"Why do you persist? …He decided to leave your village. It was his choice. What makes you so sure that this isn't the path he wanted…? People hold dark secrets…you might not know him at all."   

"…I knew you'd keep your promise, thank you Naruto. Thank you—"

"You don't seem to understand…in my eyes, Orochimaru-sama's goals and wishes are ordinary…they are right. They represent my own…I am not a villain."

Sakura clutched his back, "—Hokage-sama spoke to him… and everyone, they are okay Naruto…but—" She started crying, "But you really scared me, I was scared… I'm so happy you are okay—"

"…We are not so different, you also have an obscure power within you… You must be able to understand our position. Power is not obtained without a prize. There are some necessary mistakes."

"It's been so hard." Sakura whispered, "I wish I could understand why… I wish I were more helpful! I've tried, but he doesn't—he just doesn't… I can't do it myself—I need you… to help me—" 

"A purpose… that is all a Shinobi seeks after nothing else is left. I have nothing left. This is my purpose. I cannot die without a purpose…I will accomplish it knowing that it will be the last thing I do."

He felt sick. Sick with everything. His head was whirling. He screwed his eyes shut, trying to clear the fuzziness, and buried his head deeper into the soft pink offered to him, what a sweet lulling smell…he felt a pang of deception hit him in the gut. He clenched his teeth as he felt warm dots rolling down his eyes. Fuck, fuck…

"We are fighting opposites, you for his life, and I for his death. There is no such thing as right or wrong. Do you understand why? Do you want to understand?"

"—Just rest and things will be okay, Kakashi-sensei told me that everything will be back to normal. This is just a bad memory," A shuddered chuckle, "We'll be back to doing missions together—"

"Let me see you run!"

The nurse entered the room, and Sakura separated herself from Naruto, wiping away her tears and not noticing Naruto's own black hole. The nurse noticed the heavy frustration in the air, and asked for the young girls to leave. "I'll take care of this from here," She reassured them as she showed Sakura to the door. Hinata was waiting outside, her eyes concentrated on Naruto's facial expressions. She trembled—it looked as if he was dying. Murdered beliefs. To her own despair, she could do nothing but stare. Isolated suffering. She looked down, one closed hand resting on her trembling lips.

"Lets go…" Sakura mumbled, shaken with the whole situation. Empty hope. She shook her head, "I mean, I'll be going now…" She noticed the flower in her hand, and cursed herself mentally. She glanced at Hinata, who seemed to be distracted by something else. "Here," She handed her the flower, "I don't think I was able to cheer anyone up today, maybe you'll have more luck..." She smiled sadly, said goodbye and walked away.

Moments later, the nurse came out of the room and closed the door behind her with a shudder. "Come with me," She whispered hurriedly and grabbed her hand, almost yanking the bewildered Hinata away.

"I-is N-naruto-kun a-alright?"

"He just needs to rest… it's better to leave him alone, in case he is dange—he is just better be left alone, until Iruka-sensei arrives. I pray he knows how to… handle him," 

Inside the room, Naruto was left looking up at the ceiling, eyes unfocused and tears long gone. Tears eaten away by thought. Ideas.

***

Naruto's mouth was slightly open. Lips smeared in fresh and flowing blood. He fell on his knees. Red eyes fading blue, "…You are right," Naruto mumbled lost in delirium, "…I am fighting for a wrong." His head turned, and was almost surprised to see Kimimaro sprawled on the floor, bathed in blood, head resting on one side, eyes half-closed. "…But—you know what…some wrongs make people happy…" Naruto whispered, "Y-you should be happy too…"

Empathy.

"…Maybe there is a right and a wrong after all…didn't think you would risk your purpose… for this."

Grief.

"Happy? For happiness…t-that is so stupid…must be wrong."

Loneliness.

"I…this feeling…all along a…"

Sacrifice.

"…I comprehend… it was—worth it."

Naruto stared at him in a dazing blue twilight—waiting for Kimimaro to share his wisdom with him. Needing that wisdom desperately—like a newborn, frantically hoping to remember how to breathe in time. Or maybe newborns already knew how—they just needed to remember why.

Reassurance.

For everything that Naruto was worth.

Sasuke was a real bastard.

***

It was not a secret.

It was just too troublesome to describe… let alone explain it.

Shikamaru was Konoha's #1 lazy bum, but—he was also a genius.

"Hey… Ino…" The blonde-haired girl rose from her sit, "Shut up Chouji, you are not supposed to be talking!" She scowled and fretted in annoyance. Chouji lay on his bed with a comfortable smile on his lips.

It had been a close call. Everything had happened unnervingly close. From the moment Sakura awoke that morning, to the moment he caught sight of Naruto and Sasuke. Shikamaru didn't even feel like smirking at the precise time calculations. Someone up there just wanted to mess with his head.

"What are you trying to do? Don't even think about sitting up!" Chouji pouted, "I just need to stretch a—" Ino denied him vehemently, and yelled at Chouji in exasperation, then proceeded to sit back down on a chair, crossing her legs and her arms at the same time.

The truth is that it had been too close for everyone's own good. This had been his first mission, and even though he weighted every decision calmly, critically and detachedly, he still felt he had made too many mistakes. And these were the results.

"Can I just get a drink of water...?" Chouji ventured finally, and Ino shook her head, trying to remain calm through the thick and overwhelming urges of beating Chouji into unconsciousness. "…well maybe some wind could help," Ino's eyebrow twitched, but she got up and opened the window, very slowly…

They had completed the mission though, which at the end of every sacrifice his team had to endure, mattered the most in a situation like this. He knew that all of them agreed too. That's the way Konoha Shinobis worked. Surrender everything for a comrade. And that's where their little predicament developed…

Naruto was sure the one that got beat up the most.

"Maybe it's a little too chilly—" Chouji said in placid lavishness. Ino closed the window shut and started to yell the dam full of obscenities she had been accumulating.

She was distracting. He couldn't even concentrate with her jabbering, her loud, piercing high-pitched voice, and constant nagging. He turned away, an upside-down smile on his face. 

"—Don't you agree Shikamaru?" Ino suddenly burst out, and to his growing terror, her baby blue eyes were now targeting him. He frowned silently, why were women so complicated?

"Shikamaru!" Ino all but screamed and ran up to him. He put his arms in front of him in terror, so now he was going to get beat up by her too. "Don't be stupid," She scowled as if she had read his mind, surprising him even more, "You are bleeding, why don't you two listen to what I tell you? Asuma-sensei should be putting up with you two, not me! Men are such idiots," Shikamaru couldn't help but stare at Ino in confusion as she removed the wet bandages covering his left shoulder.

She was being so… gentle?

"Hey Ino, you don't need to—" Shikamaru started, and Ino cut him off, "It's not like I enjoy being here, but I'm not going to let that no good Sakura get credit for everything. I'm going to show her just how much of a better nurse I am," By now she had already patched him up, a bit sloppily, but tenderly… which was the more unnerving. Of course not all good things lasted this long, specially when it came to Ino. "Aren't you feeling much better already Shika?" She said lovingly and slapped one hand on his injured hand. "Ah! Sorry Shika! I forgot…" Ino started as Shikamaru's face contorted into one of pain.

Chouji couldn't stop smiling from his side of the room. 

***

"He is out of it, I've tried everything… he is just not responding. But he is listening, it just doesn't seem important to him—like the sounds of a faraway bell. That's how his look seems, faraway! I can't reach him. I want Tsunade-sama to come look at him. I know she's busy… but she did tell me to call for her if anything happened… it's just isn't Naruto… he is too quiet, too…still. The nurse says he hasn't moved from that spot on the bed since she left the room."

"Has he answered to anything?"

"Nothing, nothing at all!"

"Iruka… calm down, you might be overreacting—"

"How can I be overreacting?!? He won't even eat, not even ramen, not even that!" A pause, "…I just can't stand watching him like that… but what nerves me the most is the little things he mumbles, as if he had a fever… you've heard him…"

"What does worry me is that he keeps throwing up blood. Maybe it's an internal wound that keeps reopening…"

"Do you think that it could be that simple? Or maybe it's more complicated…"

"The Hokage should know if this is some type of forbidden Ninjutsu—"

"Are you sure Sasuke doesn't know anything?"

"We could say… he is not cooperating much," A sigh

"…Shikamaru is not helping either…" Another pause, "…I'm sorry for disturbing you Kakashi-san, but I was hoping you knew something…"

"You better get going Iruka,"

"I do have class, but—"

"I'll watch over him for now, don't worry so much—Hokage-sama should be here soon."

"Thank you—Kakashi."

Silence…

The weariness was slowly fading out, the cringing fears subsiding. But…

Kakashi was about to close the door, when something caught his eye—Movement.

Naruto sat up…

Got out of bed slowly...

Stepped towards the window…

And watched as if he was hoping to see someone outside.

Kakashi's visible eye narrowed ever slightly in wonder.

The sun was setting and a rainbow of red, orange and pink rhymed the skies. No one outside. He was not disappointed. But…

Eyelashes lowered…

One hand reached up…

A pause.

He did pull.

The curtains fluttered down as he loosened the knot tying them and the room was flooded in heavy darkness. Naruto walked back to the bed and snuggled close to the pillow, pulling the sheets all the way up to his neck.

Kakashi stood there a bit longer. Without second thoughts, he retreated from the room completely. "Sleep tight," He said to his student and closed the door behind him.

Naruto nodded, the acknowledgement missed by his teacher.

Yeah… sleep, he was kind of tired. But…

"No." 

He closed his eyes.

Then opened them again. 

Was it him or was the darkness grinning wildly?

TBC…

Comments:

I KNOW I KNOW! *Everyone yells CONFUSING* But it'll get better, hopefully… _ lol… XD

I just realized something o_o it seems I like making Naruto suffer from mysterious diseases O_o lol

Oh and this is my second fanfic! I do have a plan on how to continue this one, though. Unlike my One-shot that was made completely from inspiration, this one has some actual thinking behind it! Please review and be nice to me u_u *hides in the corner*

I introduced most of the characters I plan to use in the story with this chapter! So you know what to expect when it comes down to relationships _ or so you think... mwahaha

Er, I've talked enough! Cya next chappie!

-Saori