Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, or any characters associated with Naruto. If I did, I would be rich and famous and I would actually be making money off of this story right now. (Sigh)… oh well.

This story takes place after chapter 233, the culmination of Sasukes' and Narutos' battle at the Valley of the End. The events beyond this point of my design, a look at some darker possibilities for the aftermath of this battle. Possible pairings include Naru/Kyuubi x Sakura and Naru/Kyuubi x Hinata. For those who have a preference, please let me know in the review section. Also, if people have alternative preferences (no YAOI or YURI), feel free to let me know, and if any strike me as interesting I will most certainly consider it.

"Speech"

'Thoughts'

"Kyuubi Speech"

'Kyuubi's Thoughts'

Through Crimson Eyes

Chapter 1: Broken Bonds

Kakashi could feel the massive explosion of chakra even from this distance as he raced through the wilderness. There was no doubt about it, they had both pulled out their most powerful jutsus. But who would prove the stronger, who would triumph? He channeled more energy into his legs and feet, accelerating himself to his maximum. 'I only hope I'm not too late. . .'

The massive explosion of chakra began to die down after the collision of the two rival shinobi. When it cleared, a young boy, dressed in a black shirt, stood over the other, a boy with blond hair, bright orange jumpsuit and odd whisker marks on his cheeks. A small crimson puddle was steadily growing beneath his inert form, a large hole blasted through the right side of his chest.

The dark haired boy stood over him, his eyes softening with regret for a brief instant. His headband, the symbol of his status as a shinobi of the Hidden Leaf, now scarred, fell to the ground next to the broken form lying below him, the blood beginning to soak into the fabric.

"Naruto…"

"I…"

He seemed ready to say more, when it suddenly began to rain. He gazed upward at the sky, allowing the rain to wash away the blood and memories. He suddenly clutched at his left arm, the stinging pain shooting through him.

'Damn… I used the Chidori too many times…' He grit his teeth against the pain, his arm throbbing painfully as the overtaxed muscles desperately sought to hold together. After one last look at his fallen opponent, he stumbled away into the driving rain, his form disappearing into the mist.

This had been his final obstacle, now there was nothing in his way. He could finally devote himself fully to his chosen path. Why, then, did he feel so uncertain . . .?

Kakashi and his summoned dog continued through the woods as the rain began to fall. The masked ninja looked up briefly, concerned.

"Rain!"

If it continued to rain like this, then there was the possibility that the trail might grow cold. He looked over to Pakkun.

"Have you lost their scent?"

"It's alright, I still have it… they're here" Pakkun said as they burst out from the trees into the valley. The rain continued to pour, the river running through the valley overflowing, as if the heavens themselves wept.

Kakashi quickly began to look around for any sign of the two young Chuunin, and quickly spotted Narutos' body several feet away. He was not moving, and judging by the size of the growing red puddle beneath him, he might never move again.

"Am I too late…?"

He stood sorrowfully over the young boys battered body for a moment, his one visible eye sorrowfully gazing down at him. He clutched the now scarred headband that lay at the boys' side, the cloth sticky from the blood that had begun to seep into it.

"Naruto…why…like this?"

He then bent to pick him up, noting with some distress the red fluid running down his arms as he held him. He cast one last spiteful glance back over shoulder, then leapt off back into the woods. If he could just get him back to Tsunade-sama in time, there might be hope.

Somewhere, suspended in an infinite void, stood what appeared to be a large gateway, with two gargantuan bared double doors. The sheer size of this prison was obviously constructed to hold and contain something extremely large, and extremely dangerous. Or… at least it used to…

The two double doors were now thrown wide open, the bars bent beyond all recognition, and a small piece of burnt paper lay at the bottom of the now open door way, what appeared to have once been a seal now laying useless on the shifting plane of nothingness…

It had been nearly a day since Naruto and the rest of Shikimarus' group had left Konoha in pursuit of Sasuke, and Sakura was beginning to grow restless. She stood upon the bridge in the center of the village, gazing out despondently over the water, her mind flashing back to her last encounter with the Uchiha prodigy and not-so-secret love interest, Sasuke and to the other boy as well, Konoha's beloved #1 loudest ninja, Naruto.

'What was happening?'

'Were they doing alright?'

'Was he hurt, or…?

These were the thoughts that continued to pound through her head ever since they had left. Her thoughts also continued to shift back and forth between the two young men who had become so important in her life. On the one hand, there was Uchiha Sasuke, the greatest crush of her life and focus of her romantic obsession. She had adored him for as long as she could remember, an adoration that had, looking back on it now, cost her more than she was beginning to believe it was worth. The feelings were still there, she suspected that they would remain for a long time, but they had begun to feel stifling and restricting, like a dead weight within her, rather than the sparkling euphoria, the weightlessness she had once experienced. The memory of his departure still shook her to the core, leaving a cold feeling within her, like a lump of iron in her heart.

"I was not able to stop him, was not able to convince him that a life here with me, with all of us, was better than his quest for vengeance. My love for him meant nothing, my feelings were useless…"

Her thoughts then turned to the other boy, Uzumaki Naruto, the biggest pain in the ass and all round trouble maker that she had ever had the pleasure to have met. Ever since she had known him in the academy, he had been a constant source of irritation and occasionally anger, his frequent antics to draw her attention away from Sasuke a perpetual source of aggravation.

Yet despite all that, he alone had stood by her, through everything, and despite the pain that it brought him now, he went out to look for the boy who bore her now trampled heart, to bring him back to her safely. Her heart warmed slightly at the memory of him before they had left on the mission. He had told her, in the 'Good Guy Pose' as Lee put it, that he would bring him back to her. She had not noticed at the time, the pain hidden in his eyes as he made that promise, she had been too wrapped up in her own misery to even see it.

'Why did I never notice before?' She thought to herself, new tears beginning to well up before they slid down her cheeks. Her shoulders began to shake as the pain began to well up once more. Other memories flashed before her, of the time after the attack of the Sand and Sound. She had, as usual, gushed over Sasuke, thanking him profusely for saving her from Gaara of the Desert. His answer however had shocked her.

Flash Back

"No… The one who saved you was Naruto."

"No way, you're just being modest. Sure Naruto is getting stronger, but that sand guy…"

"It's the truth. To save you, that guy risked death. Up until now, you haven't really seen him, so you haven't seen his strength either."

End Flash Back

Her heart swelled as that memory came back to her, and she smiled into her arms. She remembered the shock, and the strange warmth that went through her as she watched him then, comically struggling with Kakashi-sensei's Chidori. Her smile faltered however. He had grown so much since she first knew him, but she had always been too caught up in Sasuke to ever pay any notice. He tried so hard, yet she still treated him as if he were still the same annoying troublemaker from the academy.

"I'm such an idiot"

"Why did I never see it, even after so much time together…?"

"Sakura!"

Sakura looked up despondently from her position at the bridge to see Ino, her former friend and constant rival for Sasuke running up to her.

"It looks like everyone is back!" Ino huffed, having obviously been running for a while to reach her. "Come on now, let's go meet them…!"

Sakura brightened considerably at that. Had they made it back safely, were they alright? Was he…? She quickly began to follow the blond kunoichi as they made their way to the front gates.

"Please Kami, let him be alright…"

In another part of the village, another young girl's thoughts were also on the blond haired shinobi. Hyuga Hinata, heiress to the Hyuga family, sat in silent contemplation in her bed.

"Naruto-kun…" she whispered into the darkened room, her voice thick with an emotion that she had been bottling up for so long.

It seemed as though her thoughts were always dominated by the spirited, blond haired Genin, the young boy who, by his very nature, had won her heart without ever even realizing it. Before, when she had seen him in the academy, and even before when she had secretly looked upon him as he struggled through his lonely existence, she had admired him, respected him for his unwavering determination. He was everything that she was not, and he was everything that she wished she could be.

But lately, she had begun to notice that her feelings were beginning to change. She still admired and respected him, even more than before, but these feelings were accompanied by another, much deeper feeling. She imagined how her heart raced at the mere sight of him, how it had stopped completely when he had grinned at her, that foxy grin that seemed to brighten the whole world around her. She had seen his pain, had learned to look beyond what she had discovered to be a mask of cheerfulness, and she saw his lonliness and misery which hung about him, how alone he looked as he gazed longingly at the other children as they lived their day-to-day lives with their parents, being hugged, scolded, praised. She had wanted nothing more than to go to him, hug him, and help to ease that pain. She wanted that so badly that it hurt, but she couldn't…

"Because I am such a coward, because I did not have strength and the courage to be there for him when he needed someone the most. He has already done so much for me, and yet I could never do anything to show him how much I appreciate that, and how much I appreciate him". She thought viciously to herself. Her self recriminations were a common inner battle within Hinata, a consequence of her harsh, unforgiving upbringing. She coughed once.

She had been sent home a day ago from the hospital after recovering from the internal damage that she had sustained while battling her cousin, Hyuga Neji, during the elimination rounds of the Chuunin exam. Even that she owed to Naruto, who had gone out to find the ledgendary Sennin and medical specialist Tsunade, who had healed her wounds. When she had awoken, her teammate, Shino, had filled her in on that information, as well as the outcome of the Naruto vs. Neji match.

Her pale face broke out into a brilliant scarlet blush as she recalled the feelings which had coursed through her at the news. Naruto, the boy who had been hailed as the 'Loser' and 'Dead-Last", had defeated Hyuga Neji, the genius of the Hyuga family, and he had done so for her! She had been nearly overwhelmed by the combined feelings of pride; pride in Naruto the boy nobody believed in (nobody but her at least), embarrassment; embarrassment that Naruto had gone through all that, had fought so hard against such a strong opponent, for the sake of avenging her and the defeat that had been so callously handed to her, as well as… She blushed even brighter as she abruptly cut off her train of thought at that point.

She had also discovered, to her dismay, that Naruto, the brash young ninja whom she had been deeply enamored with for so long, had left the village along with small group of Genin led by the newly promoted Shikimaru. They had, she had been told, been sent in pursuit of Sasuke, Narutos' former teammate and #1 rookie ninja. It was a dangerous mission, an A-Rank bordering on S-Rank according to Shino, and she could not help but feel a sense of dread in her heart at the possibilities which arose in regards to that scenario.

"No, I-I must have faith in Naruto-kun, just like he had faith in me when I fought against Neji-niisan. He will come back safe, I k-know he will, I have to believe that!"

"And when he comes back, maybe then I can find the courage to tell him…" She whispered to herself, her milky-white eyes staring off into space.

Her hands, normally fidgeting and unsure, tightened in resolve, a rare occurrence for the timid Hyuga heir, but a change that had slowly been developing since the day she had first seen the blond haired ninja she had come to care so intensely for.

Suddenly there was a knock on her door. A voice from the other side, Shinos', floated through.

"Oi, Hinata? They've returned." He said simply. He was gone a moment later.

Hinatas' heart began to beat furiously, in longing, in fear, or maybe a little of both. She said a quick prayer to Kami-sama as she dressed in her typical white coat and black pants, hoping that Naruto would be alright, and then dashed out the door as quickly as she could.

"Perhaps I can finally tell him how much I care for him…"


Well that is it for chapter 1. How was it? Like it? Hate it?

This is something of a pilot chapter, so feedback is not only appreciated, but vital to the continuation of this fic. Compliments are welcome, constructive criticisms are appreciated, and flamers… get a life.