Heart of Darkness

Prologue


One week had passed since Naruto and the others had brought back Sasuke. Naruto stared at the comatose boy resting in the bed with an unusually unreadable expression. Sakura and Naruto had taken it upon themselves to take turns watching Sasuke throughout the week, though the distraught girl was incredibly relunctant to let Naruto even get within five feet of Sasuke. He thought back to the day after they returned and Sakura's hateful glare...

"WHAT DID YOU DO TO SASUKE-KUN NARUTO!" Sakura screamed.

"Wh-what?" Naruto took a step back, surprised at his teammate.

"The doctors say that Sasuke-kun could be in a coma for weeks, months, or even..." Sakura hesitated, fearing her own words. "...or even years! What did you do to him!"

Naruto gulped and took a deep breath. "I-I was just keeping our promise...I had to do it, to bring him back..."

"You promised me you'd bring him back...BUT I DIDN'T ASK YOU TO KILL HIM IN THE PROCESS!"

"I...I..." Naruto was confused. What was he supposed to say or do? What should have done? Sasuke nearly became a missing-nin. It had taken all Naruto had to bring Sasuke back alive. Naruto clenched his fist silently. 'Why couldn't she see that I wanted to bring back Sasuke alive just as much as she did? Why...'

"Get out of here Naruto..."

"B-But..."

"JUST GET OUT!" She screamed, glaring at Naruto. Turning away, she murmured, "Please...I don't want to see your face right now."

The next day he came to see Sasuke, Sakura was there. She greeted him with a sad smile, but Naruto could easily see behind the mask. She still blamed him. She still hated him. She never did apologize. Naruto's eyes became sad as he stared at the floor. "Why...? What did I ever do? I tried my best...Why can't I ever please them...?"

The villagers of Konoha had been less the receptive of Naruto's return. Not that he expected any thanks from them in the first place, but it seemed to him that they hated him even more, as if it was his fault for Sasuke, Neji, and Choji's conditions. That it was his fault for Sasuke turning to Orochimaru in the first place. His fault that Kyuubi killed their friends and family. He remembered one of his birthdays...the day of his birth and the day of Kyuubi's attack.

"Look at that monster, smiling as if he doesn't have a care in the world!"

"Doesn't he care that today is the day of rememberance for the lives that were lost in that fateful battle?"

"Ha! Of course not! Afterall, HE was the one that KILLED them!"

"That demon brat...he should just die and rott in hell..."

"Shh, he's coming over here! Let's pretend we don't see him."

How could they be so cruel to a boy of only six years old? Did they truly expect him to know all that? No. They didn't expect anything of him except to continue being the demon they all believed he was. The Sasuke incident was simply yet another thing to blame him for. Naruto raised his gaze to Sasuke, hatred clearly in eyes.

'I hate you Sasuke,' Naruto thought. 'I hate you for what you have, what you did, and what you have become. I hate you because you're everything that I'm not.' His fist clenched tighter as he felt tears well up in his eyes. 'I hate you because...because...we're friends you bastard. Why did you betray us? Why did you turn your back on me us?'

"Why..."

He heard footsteps coming. Quickly, Naruto composed himself.

"Hi Sakura...chan," he said, trying to hide the depression in his voice. Naruto hesitated on adding the suffix. He no longer had a crush on Sakura. He would have given anything to have things the way they were before Sasuke left. They were at least friends then. Now it seemed Sakura simply tolerating his presence.

"How is he?" the girl immediately asked.

Naruto shook his head.

"Ugh..."

Sakura and Naruto's eyes widened. That moan had come from Sasuke.

"Sasuke-kun? Sasuke-kun, are you alright!" Sakura asked, hope in her eyes. She had her hands gently on his shoulders.

After a few more moans, Sasuke slowly sat up from his resting position. After one week of being in a coma, it appeared Sasuke was finally out of it.

Sakura was barely holding in her tears. "Oh thank goodness you're alright!"

A smile slowly made its way onto Naruto's face. "Sasuke..."

Instantly, Sasuke tensed. Naruto could feel the temperature drop rapidly. Sasuke turned his eyes to Naruto with an emotionless expression.

"Naruto..."

Sakura nodded with a smile, oblivious. "That's right, that's Naruto. He saved you from Orochimaru, just like he promised me he would! I'm so glad your safe!"

"Naruto..." Color gradually came back to Sasuke's eyes. The color of red. The fight. He remembered the fight. And Naruto.

Naruto.

"NARUTOOOO!" In a ferocious motion, Sasuke lunged from his bed and gripped onto Naruto's throat, squeezing as hard as he could.

Naruto had panicked look as he stared Sasuke back in the eyes, half fearful, half sad. "S-Sasuke..."

"SASUKE STOP IT!" Sakura cried out. She hugged him from behind and tried to pull him back. "It's alright now! You don't have to fight anymore! You're back with us! At Konoha!"

The grip on Naruto's throat slowly eased up until he dropped Naruto on the floor, letting the boy gasp for breath, coughing.

Sakura, still holding onto Sasuke, told Naruto, "You'd better leave until Sasuke comes to his senses."

Naruto merely nodded and heading for the door until three words froze him in place.

"I hate you."

...Why?

WHY?

Naruto gritted his teeth and ran from the hospital as fast as he could, Sasuke's voice still fresh in his mind.

I hate you.