Neither AppleCoreCandyBox nor I claim to own any of the characters portrayed in this story. We only write the awesome stories about them :3. Hi there, readers of angst everywhere! We proudly present to you our collaborated fic. We're very excited to be doing this, so please point out anything that you think we should work on.
Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Nothing Gold Can Stay By Robert Frost
How many people do you know? How many people have you ever met who change your life in so many ways, that at some blurred point, it loses its logic? Someone who can look past his own troubles and grief, and flash a smile in your direction? Someone special that only comes along once, maybe twice, in an entire lifetime. How many times have you met a person who seemed so…
I'm lucky enough to have met one.
It's incredibly funny, how one can just turn his head to look behind his shoulder and see that immortal person. How that one person becomes a daily part of life, that he's become nothing special to you, he's just become another normal part of your everyday life. You and your perfect, no-regrets life.
And with ignorance comes consequences…ones that I will never be able to fully explain to you.
The consequence of such ignorance is that the Immortal being you once knew is now spiraling down into whirlpools of grim future; he's slowly disappearing from the everyday, the normal. You begin to realize again how big of a hole would be left in your life if he were not there to fill it with his smile, his mere presence.
He is no longer that Immortal you thought he was. He's dying. And with this, you find yourself thinking, practically wracking every cell in your brain to fully comprehend the concept…the concept of four, simple months.
Four months. How can someone who was fine a week ago now only have four months left? I would have never thought that something as simple and horrible as cancer would leave him with only four months. Four months.
How dare he? How dare he let something like cancer be the end of him; how dare he not fight that stupid disease away! How dare he accept death like it was some kind of…person! Some kind of living breathing thing…looking at it as if it had a mind and course of its own, looking at it as if it had life!
He doesn't deserve this…
He doesn't deserve this…
He doesn't deserve this…
Why? Why would a loving God be so cruel as to let this thing happen to someone who doesn't deserve it?
That one little gene…that one little nucleotide sequence put out of order! So what if Adenine decided to pair with Cytosine! Adenine can do whatever it fucking well pleases, it's a building block of DNA, damn it! Its such a tiny thing that it shouldn't even have any say in whether he gets to live or die!
I don't get it! How can he be immortal one week, then spiraling towards his doom the next?
It's just…not…logical. That's right…there's no logic in this situation. That's it, there has to be a mistake! There's no way that he can turn from healthy to sick in just a few days. There has to be a mistake. He can't be dying! He can't!
He isn't dying. I'll find a way to prove it. I…I have to.
I looked up from the chessboard. I won…against myself. As a lazy grimace began to tug on the corners of my lips, I aroused myself from my trance of denial. I kicked the small chair away from the chess table and rolled out of it. Shoving my hands into my pockets, I shuffled over to the bathroom and snatched at a hair-tie, sticking my black hair up into the usual pineapple ponytail. I glanced into the mirror.
A tired, hungry, stressed-out young man stood in front of me. The small stubble of a five o'clock shadow coated my cheeks and chin, and I ran my hands along it, a deep sigh escaping me as I did. Glancing at the razor sitting in the little glass cup sparked neither desire nor patience enough to use it. Instead, I slipped out a breath strip from a package on the counter and placed it on my tongue. Rubbing my stubble once more, I turned to trudge down the stairs of my small living space.
The day was a fresh, foggy, November morning. I glared up at the sky, a light, gray overcast replacing the clouds I would look to in deep thought, and growled in the back of my throat in irritation. I kicked a pebble sporting the misfortune of being within my foot range and felt around my pockets. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes, I yanked a small white stick out and lit it with my nearly dead lighter. Sucking in and blowing out its sweet poison, I watched the gray smoke dissolve into the thick fog.
Asuma-sensei's cigarettes had stuck to me since he died. I had become a chain smoker; nearly as bad as he was. I sniffed in a bored-like manner and began sprinting through the crisp air, my white death stick still clamped tightly in my mouth. The smell of smoke would have used to make my eyes water, but I'd gotten use to its wonderfully acidic smell.
With a quick glance to my left, I halted my crazy sprint as I recognized the curtains of a familiar shop rustling in the morning wind. I stared in silent wonder, for only a moment, at how many people passed the restaurant that I had more than once heard being called "The best ramen shop I've ever eaten at!".
Wrapping the gray scarf more tightly around my neck, I let the butt of my dead fag fall to the ground, pulling another out of my concealed packet and lighting it. Puffing it on a few times, I made my mind up. And pushing aside the flaps of cloth, I sat on a stool, spinning myself to face the cook of the ramen shop.
"Miso with pork please." I drawled, clenching the cigarette between my teeth as I talked.
The man looked up, as if surprised to see me sitting there. He blinked once, twice, eyes gleaming in near confusion. As if a sudden realization struck him, he turned to the ingredients for my order and began slicing them up.
A girl with a white bandana tied in her hair pushed the curtains aside and looked at me. She began edging closer, as if expecting I didn't notice, and then frowned in a sort of disappointed way.
"The cigarette, does it offend you? How troublesome. Hold on." I crunched the still flaming end of the half used cigarette between my teeth and turned to spit it onto the concrete ground.
"No no, that's not it." the girl squeaked quietly. I raised an eyebrow, and then quietly sloshed the cigarette remains in my mouth. "It's just… well, you're Naruto-san' s friend, right?"
I swallowed the bitter contents of my mouth and blinked. "Yeah…" I deadpanned, not sure of anything else to say.
The ramen I had asked for was carefully laid on the counter in front of me and I broke apart the wooden chopsticks, rolling them against each other in my hands to rid them of any lose splinters. With a half-hearted "Itadakimasu", I began to eat the contents of the warm, steaming bowel.
"...Do you know how he is doing?" She mumbled, looking at her feet. I gulped too hard at this and coughed in pain, looking at the tears that were shining brightly in her eyes as my own welled up from the coughing.
The girl looked up at me, the tears in her eyes rivaling my own that dripped down my face as I continued to clear my throat of whatever had gone down the wrong tube to begin with.
"Without Naruto-san, the ramen shop seems so empty without him. Father and I have had little to no business since he stopped coming…and we're both really, really worried about him." She choked on a sob. "Nara-san, is he okay? Can you please tell me he's ok?" Her voice became panicked. "He has to be okay! He has to! He-!" Cutting herself off, she hid her face and tears behind her hands and ran out of the shop.
I blinked, slightly stunned at her reaction.
"You'll have to forgive Ayame." the ramen cook said, sliding open a cupboard and pulling a large Styrofoam cup out of it. He plunked it on the table. "I had a feeling that this would be a little too much her to handle without breaking down at some point. You wanna take that to go?"
I nodded numbly, still shocked. Soon, this shock turned into bitter amusement. I scooped soup, noodles, pork, and ironically, little star-shaped and pink swirled covered narutos fish cakes into the cup and sighed.
That kid…he has an amazing gift. Ayame, with whom he could not have had conversed more than a few times, was already mourning his death. How extensive was Naruto's logic-defying hand capable of reaching? I shoved another cigarette in my mouth and pulled the bills required to pay from my pocket.
I moved through the streets, the warm cup boiling in my hands, careful to not bump into others. The cigarette I had lit before I left began mixing with the smell of the ramen, so I covered the top of it with my hands. The streets were busy and crowded like they would normally be; men hauling tools like bags of cement, boards, and hammers into and out of stores, women whispering to each other and pointing at random people, and children running about, playing tag and all those other, children games.
I heard a rustle.
My eyes snapping to the left, I saw a grungy, crippled old cat stumble out of a trashcan with a fish carcass hanging from its mouth. It hissed at me, raised its hackles, and darted into the darkness. I blinked at the alleyway, then leaned against a wall. I tipped my head back and closed my eyes, a memory that had taken place quite close to this spot washing over me.
"Hinata-chan that was so good!" A blond boy said loudly as he stretched, throwing his arm around a petite girl. "I guess there are better foods than ramen that you can eat!"
"So troublesome. You need to get out more you know." A boy in a fishnet shirt and dark green vest grumbled.
"Aw, Shikamaru, don't be so mean!" The blond boy pouted. A pink-haired girl nearby giggled.
"Naruto, you should chose well when you decided to date Hinata. Just look how well she treats you! I know that I wouldn't be so nice." She smirked at the bright blush the petite Hinata displayed and decided to show mercy. "But really, that was nice, Hinata-san. Thank you for treating us."
"Yeah! Thanks, Hinata-chan!" Naruto repeated loudly. He moved to put clasp her hand in his.
"Stouuup rite thir, yo deeyyyymun!" a slurred a voice. The old rookie nine turned briskly to see a man stumble out of an alley. He staggered back and forth until he ran into a dumpster, and leaned heavily against it. In his right hand he held a half-drunk bottle of heavy sake, and he raised it and flailed it in the air like a madman.
"Youuuu get awy frum thaaacch luvly yung lhedyyy yu besssssthurd!" He hiccupped.
"Is he talking to you, Naruto?" Shikamaru followed the direction of the pointed whiskey bottle and found the number one, hyperactive, knuckleheaded ninja as the suspect.
Naruto didn't respond. His face was coated in a layer of cold sweat, and he took a step back, his face suddenly much paler than before.
"Naruto?" It was Sakura who prodded.
"I didn't do anything! I swear I didn't!" Naruto pleaded, which greatly confused his friends.
Without anyone else knowing, he silently recognized this villager as one of his worst tormentors, one who had followed him around since he was only five years old.
"Yu wuz abut to clauw tha luvly yung ledy do deth." he slurred again.
Naruto wouldn't do a thing like that!" A feral boy thrust his finger out towards the man and snarled. "What's your problem? You should go home and waste your life away with that whiskey there instead of wrongly accusing people of things, you old fart!" A white dog growled on top of his head.
"That' s not a very nice thing to say." Shino said, sporting shades and a huge collar that extended halfway up his face. He appeared indifferent, but was obviously slightly miffed."Apologize before you make an utter fool of yourself."
"Whys yu gangyn up on me? Tht deeemyn is th one yu shud be angry at!" The man waved his bottle in the air madly, hopping up and down and pointing at Naruto.
Sakura ignored the senile old fart and took to shaking Naruto's shoulder.
"Naruto! What's wrong? Answer me! Hey! Are you-can you see me! Hello!? NARUTO!" she yelled his name in attempt to draw the boy out of the ravine he had placed himself in.
Crouched near the ground and his hands near his face, if you where close enough, you could hear the soft whimpers and whispers spilling from the young man's mouth.
"I didn't do anything! Leave me alone! Don't tell them…please don't tell them!"
And as the seconds passed and slowly became a minute the words grew louder, the crouched position slowly became a fetal position of lying on the ground and the whimpering became harsh sobbing. He gasped in between sobs, trying desperately to form words.
"Don't tell them! Please! I'll drink your stupid fucking whiskey! I'll let you smash the bottle over my head! I'll buy anything, a hammer, a saw, a whip, just for you, so you can do whatever you want to do with them, and I'll stay perfectly still! JUST DON'T TELL THEM! Please…please…"
Suddenly, the whole area became quiet, except for Naruto's sobbing.
"You. Did. What?" An enraged voice called from the group. Everyone knew that it was suddenly going to get very, very ugly.
The man chuckled darkly, a sense of twisted pride emitting from his form.
"Wht? Nut lik I evr fuckd him or nufin. The Kyuubi can die for all I care!" His words became surprisingly sober as his anger rose to a crescendo. "That little bastard can die fucking twelve times over, for all I fucking care! He's the Kyuubi! KYUUBI! YOU DAMN KIDS GET AWAY FROM HIM NOW!"
Tears ran down Hinata's face as she watched her dear boyfriend give out a pitiful wail. Pushing the hair away from her face, she gently tried to coax the scared boy to calm down. The others wore a look of shock and anger, the anger almost instantly killing whatever shock had been there before. But the most irate one took a step forward, and as she did, the ground shook and her companions instantly knew that the man's fate had been sealed.
Her lips were curled up in a slightly insane smile, and her eyes were narrowed. The drunkard turned several shades paler as he practically felt the rage roll off of her in waves.
"What did he say you've done to him?" Sakura said, her eyes hidden behind pink locks and a sharp and dangerous edge to her voice. Without waiting for a reply, she continued. "I am going to beat your ass so hard. You won't be able to feel it until the next Ice Age. Really."
"Uh…I…" was all the man was able to reply with before Sakura promptly beat the living shit out of him.
Boy, did Sakura have a good time that night. And the way the information spread like wildfire among us, his friends, we were all finally able to connect the dots that had been there before.
The hatful glares, the whispers and pointing, going out with us and sporting a bruise or two in odd places…
Why the village was so eager to accuse him of the betrayal and eventual death of the one and only Uchiha Sasuke.
Why they would think that he is the actual Kyuubi, I would never know. To them, he was nothing more than a scapegoat, something to take their anger out on. And that's why we've supported him in everything he's done.
Like only a little over a year ago when he finally became a jounin, like when Sasuke died in his arms a few days later…like when he was forced to resign from ninja duties for "top secret" reasons.
I lit another cigarette and continued down the path.
A very sore and very beaten man was left with whiskey bottle fragments shoved in rather uncomfortable places that night. And when we finally managed to get Naruto to his feet, he was still sobbing, still muttering quietly that what the man said wasn't true, it was all a lie, that he wasn't Kyuubi.
And honestly, it irks me that he didn't tell us sooner.
What burden, what disgusting, filthy burden should be carried by a child for eighteen years? What burden should allow a child to be drugged, beaten, and taken advantage of for something he did not do?
If it were logically possible, I'd rip out that demon from Naruto's stomach and let them have fun with a towering ten-story beast.
Playtime for Kyuu-chan, sleazebags.
I found my foot scuffing against grass, and I realized that for the past five minutes I hadn't been aware of where I was going. I looked up at the sky.
The fog and overcast had settled and the clouds I loved so much began to bunch together in the sky. I limply fell backwards, not bothering to cushion my fall with anything but grass, and stared up at the sky, the now cold ramen spilling into the dead and browning grass.
The blue of the sky felt and looked grayer than I'd seen it for…it looked exactly as it did a week ago, when he let one of the last puzzle piece fall into place.
It had been a nice enough day; clouds, and a warm breeze had made up for the grayness that had replaced the normal blueness of the sky. I had gotten the note in this exact spot, looking up at the same and yet ever changing clouds.
I had snapped my eyes open and whirled a kunai instinctively into my hand. The sound of metal hitting metal and a quick pressure against the blade of my kunai had woken up whatever of me wasn't before, and I had sprung to my feet, whirling around to face what I had thought was an enemy.
The kunai that had been thrown at me was lying harmlessly on the ground. Attached to the handle was a note of paper. Raising a brow, I snapped the string against the blade of it and held it up to my face.
Dear Rookie Nine (and Team Gai of course):
Please meet me in the café near the hospital today…the one with the little cherries on the window. There's something I really need to tell all of you. I don't want you all to be sad or worried, but if I don't tell you this now, you'll be very angry and annoyed with me later. It's just…please know that I feel if I can't say 'Hello' now, then I'm afraid that I might not be able to say 'Goodbye' later.
The one and only: Uzumaki Naruto.
I don't remember when the fact that something serious was about to happen hit me; but when it did, it had hit me pretty hard. So hard in fact, I had arrived forty-five minutes before anyone else did at the very much empty café, drinking at least five cups of coffee and two glasses of water (and taking three bathroom breaks) before everyone had finally showed up.
Small talk, gossip, and catching up had filled the store with noise; a nervous giggle of one of the three girls had every now and then cracked through the air like soft thunder.
It had felt almost like everyone was ignoring the elephant in the room. What could Naruto possible have to tell them all that he would have them meet together…this was big, considering Naruto had never done something as such before.
The small talk and other things of unimportance vanished as the little bell to the store had rung, signaling the arrival of someone new.
It had been Naruto and Hinata with their hands clasped tightly together, the tan of his skin accentuating the paleness of her own. They appeared slightly embarrassed, as half of the coffee shop (being we, of course) turned just to see the two walk in.
I can still remember the little warm bubble that swelled in my chest. She had been one of the best things to have ever happened to him. They had been dating for over a year and a half (started six months before Naruto had been appointed a jounin, six months before Sasuke was killed in the Sound's last battle, all of which were a year in the past), and complemented each other perfectly.
Loudness to her quietness. Shyness to his outgoing nature. Kindness to kindness.
"Hello everyone." Hinata had said in her quiet voice, her hand never leaving Naruto's.
She had been just the same as the last time they had seen her. Long purple hair, cloudy eyes with their natural tenderness of a mother, normal white jacket and gray pants, hitai-ate tied around her neck as always.
But Naruto, no one had seen him around in over three months, either because they had been working or busy with other things. It was Naruto's appearance that had shaken us, if only slightly.
His eyes were dark and tired; light, purplish rings hung below his eyelids, which were half-closed. Mussed blond hair hung down, tangled and uncombed. He had been thinner than anyone could remember, especially with that tight black shirt he had worn framing his thinner than usual figure. Dark green shorts hung off his legs, which now that I look back on it, looked smaller and less muscular than before. He no longer adorned his hitai-ate or chuunin and/or jounin vest, for he had been stripped of both when he had been decommissioned as a shinobi. His once vibrant, blue eyes had looked very much tired, but had had a simple satisfaction lying within them.
Naruto had looked around and I remember his head nodding in silence as he had taken a head count. He let out a huge breath, as if just us all being here had lifted a huge weight off his shoulders.
"Hey, guys." He had drawled. His voice was deep and slow, and it was tired. "I wanted to tell you guys something that will explain a few things that that have happened in the last year or so."
We had all bitten our lips. There were only a few things that we knew he could be talking about…the biggest one being his resignation as a shinobi. We all had been wanting to know the reason why he resigned…and why our Hokage seemed to think it to be the best thing for him as well. But what had been the scary part was that Naruto had seemed so neutral about this, so fine with the fact that he wouldn't become Hokage if he resigned, he had seemed…
Naruto had leaned back into the chair and rested against the thick wires of his metal chair looked had turned his head up at the ceiling and had said, "I don't have an opening speech for you guys. I can't tell you all that what is happening will eventually straighten its self out and things will be okay again, because it's not. I feel sad, and even though I know it's not true, I feel like everything I ever did was a waste of time." He had paused to shake his head. "It's selfish, I know. And if I could, I'd continue to do what I've always done, and maybe help out a few more lives before…"
It was quiet for a moment as his words faded away and the sentence was left hanging...
"What's it? What's this thing you keep going on and on about?" It had been Kiba who asked, him being his usual impatient and gruff self.
Naruto had snorted with a smile, giving him the simple answer he knew was being asked of him.
"I have Cancer. Leukemia to be exact."
There had been a silence that racked the very core of each person there, had reached its cold fingers out and sent a chill throughout our very souls. I had felt a very heavy weight place its self comfortably in into my gut and heart, making me feel somehow much heavier than before.
"How? You have that demon inside of you…can't it stop that?" I don't remember who had said it (it could have been me for all I know), but it had been answered nonetheless.
"I've spoken with Kyuubi about this many times and for as long as I can remember. Even though a demon is powerful in many ways, she cannot manipulate and change nucleotides and all those other tiny things in a DNA segment. Microscopic factors are out of her boundaries of manipulation. My Adenine, Thiamine, Guanine, Cytosine… they're all paring with each other in the wrong ways. They're creating incorrect sequences, and my body can't produce the things needed to manage and repair its self. The sequence is always making too much of one thing, too little of another, and is even making cells I don't need. And worst yet, all of these mistakes are always being copied by each new cell made, so the problems have never had any hope of fixing themselves. She, Kyuubi, has been able to keep all of these appearing mutations under control most of my life, keeping me alive and even at a functional level of a normal person. Tsunade has been trying as hard as she possibly can these last few years to try and help me figure out how to maybe try and fix this whole mess. But before anything good happened…another, different mutation happened two years ago, when I was sixteen, and even worse cells began to develop. The result?" Naruto's hand had squeezed tightly onto Hinata's at this point. "Cancer."
When nobody reacted, Naruto had sighed deeply, and closed his eyes in a way to let all of this sink its way into our brains.
"Why did you wait for so long to tell us? Are you so ashamed of something that you couldn't help that you didn't tell your friends…or even your own girlfriend?" Surprisingly, it had been TenTen to speak this time, a stunned look still very much in her eyes.
"He did tell me though." This had been Hinata. "He told me right before the last battle between the Sound and Leaf. He told me everything; about the mutations, the Cancer…and even about how he decided he would retire early so he could try to focus on getting better." I remember she had said the last part with a hit of bitter sadness that I had never before heard in her voice.
"But-but aren't there ways to kill the cancer? Chemotherapy, radiation therapy…" Sakura had said, her hands visibly trembling.
"Tsunade has had me on several different types of different and newer medicines that are being developed to help slow and kill off Cancers. None of them have worked, and she wanted to save Chemo. and radiation as last resorts because she doesn't quite know how the other mutations will react to them…"
"What's she afraid it's going to do to you?" Ino asked.
"She's afraid it might make something else develop, she's afraid it might make me so weak that my body will collapse, she's afraid it might make me forget who I am and who you all are…"
It was silent for a long time. Then Sakura spoke.
"Well, if you won't recognize us, then can we have one last glance of your famous smile?"
Naruto laughed, but shook his head. He looked at the ground. "That smile was fake, Sakura-san. All of them were. But just for you guys, I'll show you the real one." He brought up his face. A simple, small, warm smile coated his face. His tired eyes sparkled against the midday sun that broke its way through the glass of the front window, a trick of the light making them look and odd color of purple.
"Is that all she's afraid of?" Shino had spoken, his collar hiding the actual movement of his mouth.
The smile had left his face again as he had spoken, "No…what she's most afraid of is that it's going to rob me of some of the little time I have left."
"Wait wait wait…what do you mean by 'time left'?" Lee finally had spoken at this point, a grim frown set upon his usually happy face.
Naruto had been quiet, his already tired eyes seeming to become even unhealthier as he gave an answer.
"Tsunade told me that the most time I have left is four months…she said that's how much longer I have to live."
It didn't make sense to me a week ago, and it still doesn't make sense now. Looking past the spiral of smoke from the dying fag in my mouth, the same thoughts that had been buzzing through my brain all week kicked back to life with renewed zeal.
Four months. How can someone who was fine a week ago now only have four months left? I would have never thought that something as simple and horrible as cancer would leave him with only four months. Four months.
Only four months…
Now come one come all to this tragic affair If you look in the mirror and don't like what you see
Wipe off that makeup, what's in is despair
So throw on the black dress, mix in with the lot
You might wake up and notice you're someone you're not
You can find out firsthand what it's like to be me
So gather 'round piggies and kiss this goodbye
I'd encourage your smiles I'll expect you won't cry
If you look in the mirror and don't like what you see
Excerpt from The End By My Chemical Romance