Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto nor any of the characters created by them.
Living a Lie
Sasuke sighed as he started his normal walk from his house to the bridge where his team always met. He paused to relish in the smells, sounds and sights of autumn, breathing deep of the crisp cool air. He glanced over at the festival in the distance and let out another sigh, starting towards the bridge again. He hated the festivals Konoha threw, all it brought him was annoying girls and stupid presents, but this festival he hated all the more. This festival he was being forced to attend and he cursed Kakashi for doing this to him.
"I want you three to meet me here at nine two days from now. You have tomorrow off because I have some recon duty for the Hokage, but I expect to see you three here the day after." He announced, staring at Sasuke and Naruto in particular. He knew the prodigy had planned to train all day instead of attending the festival like everyone else was and he knew Naruto wanted to avoid any and all contact with people that day.
"Whatever." Sasuke shrugged, his emotionless mask in place, but he was mad. He already knew why Kakashi was doing this. Their teamwork was wonderful, but their tolerance outside of missions was little to none.
Naruto didn't even respond, instead he just stared out over the stream, lost in thought.
"But Kakashi-sensei, there's no missions on that day!" Sakura said once Naruto didn't speak up, her plans of spending the day alone with Sasuke ruined.
The silver haired jounin grinned through his mask, "Let's say I want to treat you three to a day of fun for doing so well lately."
Sasuke snorted, "How will going to a stupid festival be fun? I'd rather train."
His grin reached his eyes, "Ah, but if you want to learn from me and advance to the Jounin Exams, you'll be here Sasuke. Remember, you need me to nominate you. Oh, and meet me here tomorrow, I'll have something for you three to do…" With that, he disappeared, leaving the three of them alone on the bridge.
Sakura immediately latched onto Sasuke's arm and smiled up at him, "Won't this be fun Sasuke-kun? We get to spend the whole day together!"
He tore his arm away from her, already at the end of his tolerance, and turned to leave. "No, it won't." He tensed, waiting for the normal 'you cold hearted bastard! How dare you treat Sakura-chan like that!', but it never came. Sasuke paused, covering his surprise and concern, and glanced over his shoulder at his blonde haired teammate. "Naruto?"
Blue eyes snapped to attention, "Huh?" He looked around, confused and then settled on Sasuke and Sakura. "Oh, ah…I-I'll see you guys tomorrow….bye." He said, hesitantly waving before running back to his apartment.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes at the retreating blonde's distracted behavior and how he made sure to avoid people as much as possible. "What's wrong with dobe?" He muttered before turning away.
—End of Flashback—
Sasuke frowned; Naruto had been acting odd the last couple days. Oh, he was still loud, obnoxious and a dobe, but there was something different. He didn't pull pranks, he didn't rise to Sasuke's taunts and he even turned down ramen. Though what worried him the most was that Naruto didn't smile anymore, Naruto not smiling meant there was a major problem. Even Kakashi buried in his book noticed the subtle change in his nature. Amazing how everything that defined Naruto could change without anyone noticing for days. Sakura still hadn't noticed, though she did find his quiet behavior a blessing. He thought back and noticed that he never saw the blonde yesterday, not once and he had spent most of the day walking around the village looking for him, under Kakashi's orders of course. He couldn't understand how such a loud, obnoxious and downright annoying ninja could just disappear without a trace for the entire day. He would've continued his search had Sakura and Ino not spotted him and drag him off to spend the day with them.
Sasuke closed his eyes briefly as he leaned against the bridge as usual, images of the blonde flashing in his mind. He accepted that he worried about that idiot, he was the only person he worried about, and he even accepted that the blonde had a larger affect on his life that he'd like to admit, not that he'd ever voice either truth. He opened his eyes, silently wondering where the blonde headed boy was, and watched curiously as a lone boy walked past the bridge. He was certain he had never seen that shinobi before, though his head protector was tied to his right arm showing he was from the Leaf. Sasuke visibly startled when he recognized the blonde haired boy clad in black as Naruto, never had he seen him wear such dark colors or carry such an impending aura of sorrow around him. Only his bright blue eyes had given away his identity, no one had eyes like that except Naruto.
He hesitated only for a second before following him up to the Hokage Tower. He watched silently as Naruto slowly climbed up the side of the cliff without any of the difficulty he usually showed during their missions and training. Sasuke followed just as before and reached the top of the Fourth Hokage's head ten minutes after Naruto. From his skill and ease at climbing up here, Sasuke guessed Naruto came up here often. He silently approached him and was once again surprised when he spoke.
"It's peaceful up here, eh Sasuke?" Naruto said quietly, his hands casually wrapped around his knees and his eyes trained on the village below them, yet Sasuke thought he saw the blonde shiver even though the day was warm.
Sasuke was certain he had walked silently and had stayed out of sight, yet Naruto knew who it was almost immediately. "How'd you know it was me?" He asked, just as quietly.
"I recognized your chakra signature."
"What are you doing up here dobe? We're supposed to meet Kakashi-sensei and Sakura today." He said coldly, sitting down next to the blonde.
Naruto looked at him, suppressing another shiver, and smiled, "I am a dobe, aren't I?"
Sasuke was taken back by the genuine smile that was overshadowed by sorrow. "What's wrong?" He asked, keeping his eyes trained on the blonde. "You've been acting differently these past couple days."
Surprise registered in his eyes, "You…you noticed?"
"Of course I noticed! How could I not?" He snapped, he didn't know why he was so angry or hurt by Naruto's expression, but he suddenly found himself angry. Didn't Naruto know he was his friend? Of course he'd notice when his best friend began acting differently. "You don't smile anymore…." He said, his tone softer and gentler.
"I didn't think anyone would notice….or care."
Sasuke almost didn't hear the last part it was whispered so quietly it was almost inaudible. Without thinking, he smacked him upside the head. "What do you mean no one would notice or care? You really are a dobe!"
That smile came again, but he didn't cry out or retort, he just smiled and looked back out over the village. "Yeah, that's me. The dobe, the idiot, the loudmouth of the village, the hated child who knows nothing about anything." Demon, he added silently, casting his eyes downward. Sasuke froze again, taken back once more, and Naruto continued. "But you know what Sasuke? I'm getting tired of this. Do you know how much energy it takes to act so full of energy and happiness when all you feel is emptiness and loneliness? I use so much energy acting like I'm so full of energy that I go home every night and collapse on my bed, too tired to do anything except sleep."
But he cut him off, not wanting the pity or the insult he was afraid of receiving. "It's not that I don't appreciate you here Sasuke, but…why are you here?" He looked up at him once more, "I'm just a dobe, no one of any importance and no one who actually deserves kindness."
Sasuke lifted his hand to hit him again, but stopped when Naruto cringed, "What are you saying now? Of course you deserve kindness and what do you mean you're no one of importance? You're my teammate, that in itself is of importance to me!"
"To…you?" He whispered, surprised.
"Oi dobe, sometimes your really are a dobe. Yes, you're important to me!" He said gruffly, not wanting to admit it.
The next thing he knew, he was being tackled to the ground by a black and blonde blur and gripped in a tight hug. "No one's…" Naruto paused, tears trailing down his cheeks, "No one's ever said that to me before. Only Iruka-sensei has said he cares about me, but never that I was important to him."
Sasuke couldn't help but smile, but he quickly pushed Naruto off of him, "Dobe."
Naruto at first was hurt, but then he saw the mirth in Sasuke's eyes and soon scratched the back of his head, laughing like he used to. "Yup! That's me!" But once more, his smile was full of sorrow and Sasuke didn't know why.
"Naruto, what is bothering you?"
The blonde almost immediately sobered, once more looking over Konoha, sitting down at the ledge once more. "Why do you care?"
He sighed, "Didn't we just go over this?"
"But why do you care, Sasuke? I can't see how anyone could care about me…"
"Why do you keep saying that?"
"Because…" he looked away, burying his head in his knees, "I'm a monster, that's why."
Again, anger overcame him and clutched his hands in tights fists. "Who the hell said that to you? Is that why you've been acting like this Naruto? Because someone told you you're a monster?"
"Dobe!" He growled, "The Naruto I know wouldn't let that faze him because it's not true. He wouldn't care what others thought of him or anything else."
"But that's the Naruto you know." His voice quiet again. "Not me. I've been hiding, Sasuke, I've always been hiding. No one has ever seen me as you have now because I couldn't let them see me like this, the real me, because I am a monster."
"So…everything has been an act?"
"Everything." He laughed, "Who'd ever believe that I understand everything we talk about. That I have perfect chakra control, that I don't have any problem with the jutsus we've been taught and that I know more about the workings of this village than the Hokage herself. I'm not as stupid as I act, I know when I'm walking into those traps Kakashi-sensei sets up and I know I'm making a fool of myself being loud and rash… but that's the mask I put up and so I had to keep it, no matter how tired of it I got. I don't even like ramen, I just eat it because it's cheap and no one will notice my eyes if I have to eat with my head down." He sighed, setting his head on his hands, but turning his to look at Sasuke, "I've been living a lie Sasuke; my entire life has been a lie."
"Then are you saying, our fights were acts, Naruto? That everything we've done has been a lie to you?"
"No!" He jerked his head up, shaking it side to side, "No…the only truth in my life has been my rivalry with you and when I fight against you, though I have my stupid mask on, I'm fighting you with everything I have."
Sasuke sat down next to Naruto again, closer this time, but Naruto edged away from him. Sasuke let the gesture slide and sighed, "I'm glad to know that. I'd have to beat you into the ground if you said you were acting that out."
Naruto gaped, "Did you just…did you just make a joke?"
He growled and punched him lightly on the shoulder, "Do you want to push the subject?"
"N-no!" But the grin on his face mocked him. He just missed Sasuke's next punch and had to jump back before he was pinned down by him. Sasuke immediately flitted behind the blonde boy and kicked him the side, sending him flying across the ground, but Naruto quickly stopped his tumble and grinned at Sasuke before coming back at him.
After an hour, the battle was decided with Sasuke perched overtop of Naruto, smirking as normal, but there was no malice this time, nor the cold superiority he usually held over him. Naruto was trying to figure out what was behind that smirk when it suddenly became a grin and before he could ask why, Sasuke started tickling him. Bouts of laughter came from the blonde haired boy until tears were streaming down his face and he was begging Sasuke for mercy.
Only after Naruto was beginning to hyperventilate did Sasuke stop, but he didn't move from his perch atop Naruto. Instead he grinned and waited until Naruto could once more breathe and talk. "It's good to see you smile again, dobe."
"Sasuke…" Naruto whispered, his body tense beneath Sasuke.
"Yes?" He asked, leaning closer to hear him.
Sasuke sat back up, feeling the blush rising to his cheeks, "What for?"
Naruto also sat up and Sasuke moved off of him. "Because you're here Sasuke, you're the only one who ever thought to see if something was wrong…everyone else just ignored me and never cared enough to actually ask."
"Naruto…" He paused, looking uncertain with what he wanted to ask. The blonde was acting different again and he kept turning stiff beneath his touch.
"Yeah?" Naruto asked, cocking his head curiously. What was so hard that the great Sasuke was hesitating?
He gave an exasperated sigh, Naruto was back to his self now that he wasn't near him, and finally spoke, "I'm eighteen and you're seventeen now, I've known you for five years as a teammate, rival and a friend, but…" He paused again, looking at Naruto who continued to stare curiously, oblivious to Sasuke's discomfort. It bothered him that he didn't know anything about his teammate, not a single thing that really mattered. "But Naruto, I don't know anything about you." He finally said, staring right the blonde.
Naruto looked away, throwing a rock aimlessly, "Sure you do, I'm loud, I like ramen, I'm always wearing orange for some reason, I—"
"Dobe! Stop acting like a dobe and listen." Sasuke grabbed him by the shoulders and made Naruto face him. "I want to know you. Not Uzumaki Naruto or the dobe, but you. No lies, no masks and no hiding."
He flinched at the touch and took a shaky breath, "But…I can't do that."
That took Sasuke by surprise and he dropped his arms, "Why?"
"Because you'll hate me." He said, starting to cry again, "I don't want to lose my friend and if you know me, you'll hate me and leave me."
"Let me decide that." Sasuke said gently.
"But everyone else does! Everyone else hates me and would rather see me dead."
"Not everyone hates you, there's Sakura, Kakashi-sen—"
"They hate me." He whispered, "Sakura only sees you and thinks of me as some revolting thing and Kakashi-sensei only ever has eyes for you, he doesn't think twice about me. If he had to choose between the two of us, he'd choose you without a second thought…Even Iruka-sensei believes I'm a burden." The tears were coming freely now and he leaned forward until his forehead rested against Sasuke's chest, his body shaking with sobs.
"Naruto, I promise you, I won't hate you. I just want to know you."
"I said this dobe," he growled, but awkwardly pulled the blonde into a comforting hug. "You're important to me." Yet he was surprised when Naruto became tense in his arms and noticed his body wasn't trembling because of he was crying, but because he was so close to Sasuke. He was about to ask what was wrong, when Naruto spoke.
"I'm the fox demon, Kyuubi." He whispered after the long silence. "The Fourth sealed him within me at the cost of his life."
Sasuke oddly wasn't too surprised by the blonde's words, he knew there was a reason for all the hate shown towards the blonde, but he hadn't thought that. Yet still, he wasn't too surprised. "Naruto…I'm sorry." He whispered, pulling the smaller boy closer and ignoring Naruto's sudden stillness, "But I don't care, the demon may have been sealed within you, but that doesn't mean you are the demon."
Naruto pulled away, stepping back a couple feet, and stared curiously at Sasuke. "You mean you still want to be around me?"
He grinned, turning to look over Konoha once more. Sometimes the blonde could be so dense. "Yes dobe, I still want to be around you."
"Thank you Sasuke, no one has ever…" He stopped, sniffling and smiling as his tears dried.
Sasuke couldn't help but smile. Shoving his hands into his pockets, he turned to leave, glancing over his shoulder at his teammate. "Come on dobe, we're late."
Naruto laughed, scratching the back of his head. "Sorry!"
"Hn, it's about time Kakashi-sensei had to wait for us instead of the other way around, but if we don't hurry, they'll think we've disappeared." He then started back down the cliff with Naruto right behind him. Both walked in content silence and arrived at the bridge minutes later. As they approached the bridge, Sasuke glanced over to see Naruto smiling again, a real smile without any masks. Yet there was something he was hiding and Sasuke couldn't stop thinking about his odd behavior. Not just the new clothes and attitude, but the fear radiating off of him every time he came close. How when he touched the blonde, he'd tense and his eyes would dart around nervously and he hadn't missed the paler skin as they walked back either. Something was wrong, very wrong, and Naruto was hiding it from everyone.
"Oi, Sasuke!" He grinned, "What do you want to know about me?"
Ebony eyes looked into blue as Sasuke thought of a question. "Let's start with when's your birthday dobe?" He asked, smirking at the blonde twitching at the name. In truth, the question had been plaguing him for the last hour. He had known the blonde for five years and not once had his birthday came up. They didn't even celebrate it as they did on his, Sakura's and even Kakashi's birthday. Not once had the blonde ever mention his birthday in all these years and it bothered Sasuke, thinking back on how Naruto somehow afforded a present for everyone on their birthday and yet, no one ever thought about his.
Naruto smiled and whispered just loud enough for him alone to hear, "Today," before running to the bridge to greet a fuming Sakura and a curious, yet also irritated, Kakashi.
Dhampir Page 71/16/2005