Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto

There was once a boy, an outcast and sorrowed, a demon's jailer.

---

A choked sob was bitten back with angry teeth as a blonde boy watched the dying sunlight, alone, afraid. His fox whiskers tickled his skin, the closest he'd come to a mother's caress as he allowed one small tear to cross his face.

His sharper than normal canines bit down on his lip until the tart, sharply metallic taste of blood filled his mouth and he spat it out, a mixture of crystal tears and crimson blood.

He was alone. And that, my friends, is the worst thing that could happen to a child.

---

There once was a girl, awkward and shy, a flower unbloomed.

---

Tears spattered across the broken petals as a girl with bright pink hair as she crushed the flowers unknowingly, cradling her head in her hands softly, gentle in a way that no one else would be with her.

The wind drifted her hair, swishing it back and forth slowly across her brow, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Her hair was messy and unkempt and covered her face, a vain attempt to hide the forehead that shone proudly despite of her resentment of it.

And then... and then wonderment and hope.

"I'm Yamanaka Ino. What about you?"

She made a friend. And that is one of the greatest things life can offer any of us.

---

There was once a boy, alone in the crowd, vengeance cradled in his breast.

---

"And though tragedy is part of a ninja's life, let us never forget the sacrifices that the Uchiha's have made for this village. Keep them in your hearts, always." The Sandaime Hokage's words fell upon deaf ears.

The black haired boy watched as his family was immolated in flames and sent into the heavens as smoky darkness.

The advice was unnecessary and even an insult to the youngest son of the clan. His family would forever be in his heart, each of them, some shadowing others, but all of them within, to serve a purpose.

Keeping them in his heart, the fuel for the fires of hatred, the spark, his brother.

Slaughtered parents, slain relatives, and the murderer he knew as his brother, all of them would forever be etched in his heart, written in blood and nightmares.

He was a murder orphan, a living, breathing tragedy and a sleeping demon of vengeance.

Plus, a walking nut job.

---

There were once a trio of mismatched children, outcasts, bookworms, and loners, and the man who couldn't really care for any of them.

---

Kakashi knows the story. The story, after all, he's lived, his mentor's lived, Hell, the fucking Hidden Leaf's power and weakness is centered on the story.

A boy. A girl. A boy.

A genius. An unblossomed. A loser.

At least the Sannin never had love mixed up between them- at least, Kakashi hopes so.

He figures he can't do better than the Yondaime or the Sandaime, even if he is the Copy Ninja Kakashi and he's the best jounin in the village, he's not the best human being in the Hidden Leaf.

He also figures he can't do much worse.

So he knows this can turn out the way either story has- someone dies or someone betrays. Either way, the team is broken and someone has to pick up the pieces, sweep it up and try to hold the village together again.

Obito wants to shed tears, but Kakashi doesn't have any to shed anymore.

The tear ducts in his left eye had atrophied, and the right one is empty.

---

And so the snake crept into the forest, and tempted the mortals with the Tree of Knowledge.

---

The boy's blood was sweet on his tongue, delicious and making him drunk with potential and darkness. He would have moaned but he kept drinking, drinking down stolen innocence and drained humanity.

It was better than anything, better than killing, better than sex, better than power.

Corruption, slithering into the hearts of his victims and becoming them. That was power, beyond any sort of jutsu and any sort of ninja skill that could be developed. Corruption, power. Hand in hand, they were his right and left hands.

They were weak, after all. Chains that held back Sasuke, just like his ex-teammates (and perhaps, once upon a time, friends) choked him and tried to impose ideas like friendship and kindness into his soul.

Orochimaru was a connoisseur of the truest pleasures in life, and innocence taken was the best.

---

Sakura wonders what really happened. She's not quite sure, since for some reason Naruto hasn't shown up and Sasuke hasn't spoken. So instead she waits, slicing apples with a sharp kitchen knife.

The Uchiha genius sits there against the bed, his eyes hollow and dulled, but there's a whisper of something behind them, a whisper that frightens her more than anything.

She wishes the Godaime had healed more than just his body when she returned.

No one, not even Naruto has told her why Sasuke's like this now. But that's fair, Sakura thinks, since she hasn't told Naruto why Sasuke was strange before.

She ventures, she tries. "Are you okay?" the rhythm of the cutting has become almost soothing to her now.

His eyes look outward, to where they found him, screaming and unconscious, victim of some unknown specter.

Then they drift downward, towards his defeated shell of a hand, unadorned by the blood of his brother.

"No." He says, surprising her enough that the knife nicks the tip of her finger.

The blood wells up, like tears.

---

Sasuke winces as he feels his body aching and tell him to stop because he's half dead and he's going away, away from all he's known.

The Naruto inflicted injuries are just like him- annoying, persistent, and always with him, even if he doesn't want them around and just wants them gone.

They hurt like Hell, but he keeps going, farther and farther away from the light.

"It must have stopped raining by now." He says to himself, or else he might go mad.

Maybe it had. Maybe it hadn't.

Maybe Naruto was dead.

His fist clenches ever so slightly, and for a split of a second, his foot wavers on the shadowed path.

"I don't care." Sasuke assures himself, the tiny hint of a waver visible only to him and him alone.

Maybe he didn't.

Maybe he did.

---

The last bandage ties over his body, gently bending the tips of his gold hair, unnecessary, really, but Tsunade finds comfort in old habits, and medical treatment is tried and true.

He should be worse, should probably be dead, but he's not and that's all she really cares about.

Slowly, timidly, as though she weren't an experienced middle aged woman but a timid teenage virgin, the Godaime gently strokes his hair, feeling the coarse tips brush the edges of her blunted fingernails.

Her hands trace a path down and brush the edges of the necklace, still around his neck and secure, shining despite the deep, dark bloodstains that tracks the vibrant orange vest.

His face is uneasy now in sleep, as though the Sword of Damocles hung over his head, inch by inch descending, held by the boy's best-friend-turned-traitor.

"Idiot." She mutters, and she's not sure who she's speaking to, herself, him, or the Uchiha.

---

Jiraiya decides to treat Naruto to ramen, because, even if it'll kill his funds, its worth it because losers, after all, should stick together.

That's all he is, really. Strong, famous, and a fan of the ladies, but still the same loser to those snake-like golden eyes looked disdainfully upon.

"Did you ever go after that snake bastard?" Naruto asks, out of the blue but not really, the bandages on his face shrinking away from the piping hot bowl of ramen, the smell filling his nostrils.

Jiraiya pauses and looks at him. "Yeah." He replies slowly, no ramen on his table as he stares at the blonde unflinchingly.

"Oh." Naruto says, and nothing more.

---

Kakashi stands at the memorial out of habit some of the time, because otherwise he might never know what to do with his time now.

The Sharingan pulses beneath the protector, and his normal eye strains to catch a glimpse of the names once again.

Uchiha Obito, he reads silently. And then, on a whim, the letters twist and become Uchiha Sasuke and a shiver goes down his spine.

The Copy Ninja flinches as Rin's name becomes Sakura.

The name emblazoned next to the words Yondaime Hokage, of course, become Naruto.

And of course, he's still here, standing in front of the memorial, because he doesn't have any place except with the dead.

The Sharingan pulses again, and no tears come out in a futile gesture for that which is lost.