Title: House of Leaves

Rating: PG-R (-ish. Always with the 'ish,' what is it with me?)

Disclaimer: Nothing, nothing; I have nothing.

Warnings: Spoilers upto chapter 244, only with differences. The prologue is styled after the opening in the wonderful Fall on your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald so keep that in mind while reading and going, what the hell? Um, also, while this part doesn't get into it, there will be creepiness and violence in abundance later on.

Foreword: Also appears on my LiveJournal, and much prettier because FFdotNET hates me.

Summary: The mission to retrieve Sasuke goes horribly, horribly right.


Preface: May Michael Be at My Right Hand (1)


You want to hear a story, the story. It's not so surprising, really, because you were part of it and you deserve to know.

You deserve to know what happened to them, what happened to the restless golden-haired boy and the surly fucked-up prodigy and the relentless green-eyed girl. You want to find out if the little green man got his happy ending. You want to find out about the one-eyed man, because you never really knew enough about him. You want to learn about all of them; every person that was involved.

You want to find out where they all ended up, and if it was everything that they'd thought it would be because you know that expectations are made to be broken.

Well, they are dead now. All of them; dead and buried and rotting in the ground.


This is the woman. She doesn't feel the death blow. It slides into her skin with the soundlessness and intimacy of a kiss, and in the midst of her fight she does not feel it.

Yet.

Minutes later, she feels something press on the inside of her skull, and then there is nothing. She doesn't feel the floor rise up to catch her. And she doesn't hear her companion's furious roar. She certainly doesn't feel the kunai sliding between her second and third vertebra, just to make sure.

She is the last of them, and with her dies the last person to know the story first hand.


Naruto is face up on the ground with a gapping hole in his belly. His innards spill pinkly on the ground while his face is twists with a snarl of disbelief and his hands poise to reach—though what he is reaching for is anyone's guess. His eyes are blue and wide, still, and his hair is a golden mess. Blood pools around him, ruby and visceral, and he is dead. Dead, dead, dead. But don't worry; he isn't left behind. At the last minute, as he is known to do, Kakashi comes to get him. He picks him up like a bundle of sticks and carries him back to the town he was born in. In many ways, this second death is harder, the hardest. Naruto is buried next to the Fourth Hokage and the city weeps.


This is the picture of Sasuke that she will carry to her death.

Black haired and black eyed he leaps from the hospital window like a bird flying its cage. In her mind's eye he is caught forever in the tangerine glow of the dying sun with his arms out-stretched. His hair is long and it floats as he falls.

His sharp descent plasters the thin, green hospital shirt to his lean chest, tenting out behind him like crippled wings.


In the shadows of the city wall Lee stands and waits. He is taller now than any of his peers, and he still dresses in green; homage to the man that inspired him. He stands for a moment, waiting for the call.

There; a whistle.

He shoots into the woods like an arrow from a bow, swift and sure and does not miss his mark.


(The baby doesn't live long enough to get a name you see, but they were planning on calling him Naruto. She wanted to call him that because she would have loved him—she would have loved him so much. But there was a problem and there was bleeding and Naruto never really got a chance. She doesn't think it's fitting for a shinobi to cry, but in this case she damns them all to hell and weeps the tears that she wouldn't before.)


Here is the man. He sits in the northwest corner of the room, dusty and unused, as if to hide without actually hiding. His right shoulder hangs loose by his chest, and his tunic stained with blood and darker matter. Shhhh. He is quiet, despite labored breath, and despite the agony of his arm. He thinks: I must be quiet, the way some people think, I must breathe. Not really because he wants to be quiet (at this point he knows that he will almost certainly welcome discovery no matter by whom) but because it is an ingrained behavior. The woman in his lap would have understood if she was still alive.

Shhhh.

He thinks that he might be dying. Pain shoots through his chest as he attempts to shift his arm, rebuffing the thought. Or not; he isn't a doctor, but he can tell that he's in bad shape at best. So he clutches the woman in his lap with his left hand because he can't move his right (when she is undressed, for autopsy, there will be bruises on her shoulder from the strength with which he held her). She is cold and already starting to stiffen and he can't hear the fighting any more. He wonders briefly who won, but he can't bring himself to care. The room is old, and there are rusty stains leading to where he sits. He thinks he might be bleeding out. While he is old enough to understand that he may be dying, he is still young enough to want to live.

He holds the woman close to his chest because that is how he held her while they slept. Because this is something that he doesn't want to give up doing yet. Because she is dead, and he is not and maybe by holding her death in his arms, he can take it back.

He cannot.

He leans his head back and looks at the small rectangle of window near the ceiling; the light that streams through is the color of butter, and forms a narrow slit on the opposite wall.

Dawn is coming.

Shhhh. He waits for inevitable discovery.


Notes:

(1) 'May Michael be at my right hand and Gabriel my left, before me Uriel and Raphael and above my head the divine presence of God' –Jewish Prayer.

I felt that this was an appropriate heading for the Preface, because it gives a bit of structure to the themes of the story for me. Traditionally, Michael is the highest ranking archangel and the one closest to God; he commands the celestial army. And he was the Patron Saint of knights, of Law, and justice (sense a bit of a theme here?).

On the other hand, Gabriel is the archangel commonly associated with spiritual enlightenment and good tidings. His name means 'Hero of God.' Raphael is the usually referred to as the angel of healing, and appears to people in times of spiritual/physical crisis. Uriel is the angel of retribution and divine punishment, as well as the angel of knowledge. He is said to inspire artist, poets, and musicians