Summary: Sometimes, one doesn't know what they have… until it's gone.
Warning(s): Very slight Yaoi implications… it's almost non-existent. Plus, OOC characters.
Note(s): Now it's the second chapter! Sorry for the delay… I was supposed to put this out Monday… but I was too lazy… So… as an apology, this one will be much longer than the first one, and a bit more… angsty? But, as I added more to the chapter… I got lazy again… and I never got to finish it yesterday, so today, I added more and I finished it!!! So HAH! Enjoy
Disclaimer: I forgot to put this last chapter. Naruto is not mine… If it was… it would no longer be suitable for homophobes or children under the age of 21… (It would be too graphic for those 18-20 as well… )
Lost Yet Never Found
Chapter 1: Aftermath
There was a noise... a soft noise... In his dream... it was lulling him... alerting him... Was it real? Was he dead? He wasn't supposed to be dead... But everything was dark... It was just as dark as it was when he closed his eyes so he couldn't see his father writhe and moan in pain. This was the same. His body moved on its own accord, and his vision was automatically filled with blinding light and pure white walls. Heaven? No it couldn't be. His eyes shut reflexively, the light burning his eyes. The noise... It was still there... So it wasn't a dream? There was a soft beeping, a soft steady beeping. Soon it started to speed up, and he didn't know why. All he knew is that he was in a foreign place, vulnerable, scared?
He flew up, causing a stabbing pain in his chest, head and stomach. He jumped off the bed, feeling very uncharacteristic. He felt a couple of needles pull out of him, and heard the sound of things unsticking from his skin. The soft beeping turned into an annoying screech that didn't seem ready to end anytime soon. His lavender eyes darted around, taking a while to take in his surroundings. A hospital? He automatically calmed, sitting back on the bed. He looked down at his once pure white robe. It was now drenched in blood from his reopened wound. He sighed, reaching up to his chest, flinching. He coughed a bit, feeling blood spur from his lips. He doubled over, coughing harder, blood filling his hands.
It seemed his heightened fear was sensed by the ANBU in the hospital. His vision was flooded with black as a couple of dark figure loomed over him, no expression on their faces. Well... their masks... but masks don't have expressions... they ARE masks after all. A woman was pushing her way through the ANBU crowed, yet he couldn't make out who it was as another wave of cough washed over him. The woman pulled his body up, staring into his eyes. He tried to stop his coughing but it couldn't. He was soon coughing; blood splattering on her hand, while a couple drops hit her face.
The blonde woman, the Hokage he noted, sighed, holding his neck, putting another hand on his stomach, right under his rib cage. A light emitted from her hands, instantly calming the pain caused from his wounds, and his erratic heart beats. She then looked at his dazed, almost confused look with a small smile. She let him go; only placing a hand on his forehead. He looked at it, confused. A light showed again, a different color this time. He felt sleepy. So sleepy. It wasn't long, before darkness over took him again. He was barely able to catch her last words before he was engulfed in peaceful slumber.
"Sleep Well Neji."
There was a sigh from the lips of the tanned skinned boy standing next to the stand. The boy looked down the street at a group of men who were staring at him hatefully. He could see the hate intensify in their eyes when they made eye contact. He looked away from them, his heart clenching. Why must he get those looks? All the years... everything he worked for... 6 years... 6 long years of slaving away. 6 years of trying to change... All his efforts...
Everything was in vain. All the pressure he endured... Was it all for nothing? Just when he thought he would have succeeded... It fell. It crashed right before his eyes... taking his heart and a large chunk of his sanity with him. "You try to protect yourself... locking your heart and soul away in a little bubble." He whispered to himself, closing his eyes. "As you strive for your goal, that bubble raises high in to the air... making you feel as if you've won..." He could feel his nose begin to burn along with heavy eyelids. "And then... you float to high..." Small droplets of water fell from his eyelids, relieving them of the weight. "And then your bubble pops..." He opened his cerulean blue eyes that reflected the purity of his soul. "And then you descent... in a long free fall that lasts a life time..."
He wiped away his tears, walking in to the ramen stand that he stood next to. He smiled at the owners who smiled back at him. They were the only ones that didn't seem to hate him... yet. He ordered two bowls of pork ramen. He folded his arms on the table resting his head in them. "And then as you fall..." he continued, not really knowing where he was getting this from. "Boulders seem to pile on top of you, making you fall faster." He just felt the urge... coming from his heart and exiting his mouth without his consent. "Every boulder is a new problem you have to deal with. Then you have two choices..." He looked up, seeing Ayame place the two bowls of ramen in front of him. He smiled at her kindly, breaking apart his chop sticks, whispering Itadakimasu. "Your first choice..." He slurred up a bit of ramen, not eating as fast as he used to. "You could try to climb over the boulders, solving each problem. When you finally hit the ground, the boulders will take the impact and you can live on with your life."
He finished his first bowl, pulling the next one over to him. "Your second choice…" He began his second bowl, feeling his heart clench with every word. Why was he hurting himself by saying this? "You let more boulders... more problems... pile on top of you." He finished his last bowl, sighing. He rested his head back on his arms, hiding his face. His arms muffled his last words. "And when you hit land... You'll die the most painful death imaginable."
Naruto sat silently on the warm ground below, his deep blue eyes looking around. He was the only one there. Sasuke was still in the hospital so he couldn't be there to train with the soon-to-be-whole Squad 7. Sakura hadn't arrived yet. He was curious as to why she wasn't here, or why he hasn't seen her in the seven days he's been back. He was waiting for her, in the hospital. He wanted to tell her that he kept his promise. Yet, after the third day, he realized that she wasn't coming… and he didn't know why. He was discharged from the hospital the next day, and he still hasn't seen her. For three more days, the pink haired Kunoichi was no where to be found.
Now, Naruto was certain that he'd see her. Kakashi had called a small training session between the three of them. Sasuke would join them in about another week or whenever he was fit to move around. Naruto had noticed the hostility towards him from the villagers. He couldn't understand what he did wrong. Wasn't it him who risked his life to bring back the Uchiha prodigy? Wasn't it him who never gave up to assure the fact that he would bring the Uchiha back? Naruto sighed a bit, fidgeting from his place on the ground.
It wasn't long before Naruto sensed the familiar chakra signature of the pink haired girl of his thoughts. Naruto looked up, seeing the girl walk towards their normal meeting spot, her green eyes focused on the ground beneath her. Naruto smiled brightly.
"Sakura-chan!" He called to her, waving his arms enthusiastically. The Kunoichi looked up in shock. Her eyes hardened automatically, sending a deadly glare towards Naruto. His arms stopped moving as he looked towards her. "Sa…Sakura-chan?" Her glare hardened but she turned away, looking in the other direction.
Naruto blinked. Did he do something wrong? He scrambled to his feet, jogging over to his friend. He opened his mouth to speak but it she beat him to it, and Naruto wasn't prepared for what came out of her mouth.
"Why do you always have to screw up my life?" she yelled at him, whirling around to meet his shocked face.
"Wha-… What do you mean?"
"It's your entire fault! Because of you, Sasuke-kun is in the hospital! He was nearly killed by you!" She screamed, her eyes widening almost menacingly. Naruto looked at her strangely. Sasuke was nearly killed? Sasuke barely had any life threaten injuries. His use of the Cursed Mark, second level, was reacting with his body, leaving him weak. The wound on his arm was due to the power clash of his Chidori and Naruto's Rasengan…He opened his mouth to speak but Sakura wasn't done yet.
"Because of you, Sasuke-kun has been unconscious for a week! Because of you, everyone almost lost their lives!" Naruto's eyes widened. How was it his fault? She wasn't thinking clearly… That's it… She was just… angry… "I can't believe that you're the only one out of the hospital already! I heard you were only there because of chakra exhaustion! What were you doing all that time? Huh? Just sitting by and letting everyone die?! I hate you so much!"
Naruto could feel his heart cracking under the pressure.
"Sakura-chan…" He choked out, his voice low. "You don't mean that…"
Sakura's face reddened in anger. She grabbed him by the collar and slammed the shocked blond into the tree behind him. "Don't tell me what I mean!" She screamed at him. Tears were forming in her eyes. "You may be able to control the lives of others, but not mine! Not mine!" Sakura's tears fell in a stream down her face as she stared into the almost lifeless blue eyes of the boy before her. She growled and shook him, slamming his back against the rough tree bark. She got no response from him, just a blank stare. "Say something! Damn you Naruto!" The angered girl drew back her fist, aiming directly at his face. She sent her fist forward, hearing skin connecting with skin, though it wasn't the result she wanted.
Sakura turned around to see a rather angry Kakashi behind her, holding her small fist in his large hand. He looked at her coolly, though one could see the mild glare in his lone eye. "That's. Enough." He repeated sternly. She let go of Naruto's collar as Kakashi let go of her fist. She looked away and walked off, refusing to meet her sensei's gaze. Once the girl was out of range, Kakashi looked towards Naruto. Before he could even speak, Naruto was talking.
"I wonder…" he whispered, lowering his head so that his bangs shadowed his eyes. Kakashi raised an eyebrow, looking down to his normally cheerful student. Naruto looked up to him with a sad smile that broke Kakashi's heart. The look in Naruto's eyes made Kakashi's fatherly instinct, in which he never knew he had, want to kick in. He resisted the strong urge to take the blond in his arms to show him he wasn't alone as Kakashi stared into such emotion filled eyes.
Naruto turned away from him, walking back towards his apartment. Naruto looked up to the sky, saying something softly that was carried by the wind to Kakashi's curious ears. The words that filtered in his mind seemed to crush his already broken heart.
"Maybe the world would be better without me…"
It had been two days since that incident, and it was tearing Naruto apart.
Sakura looked down to Sasuke's sleeping form, her green eyes wandering over his body. He seemed so peaceful in his sleep. She couldn't help but wander what he was dreaming about. She reached over to her face, running her fingers through his silky black bangs. Sasuke-kun…
He may have still been in the hospital but he was improving. The nurse said that he was waking up though he seemed highly confused. He would fall asleep immediately after. It has been nine days. Nine long days of rest for the Uchiha. Maybe he'd wake up soon? The nurses said he should be up and about in the next day or two. She smiled at his face before she stood, looking at the wilting rose next to his bed. That was her rose… The one from two days ago before she went to meet up with Naruto… She was so upset after that… She wouldn't leave her room for two days.
She walked over to her old plant, replacing it with a fresher rose. She ran her fingers over the velvety petals, savoring the feel of it between her fingers. A single rose… her only love… Sasuke still held her between his grasp. She still loved him and she'd never stop.
She smiled at him one more time before she looked out the window. The ray of light that shinned through the window left a bright glow on her pale skin. The life outside her window seemed so pure, so beautiful, and so full of joy and purity. Except her.
Sakura looked down, remembering what she did to Naruto two days ago. Was it really right to say that? She was thinking irrationally. There was no way all of this could have been Naruto's fault. Naruto wasn't going to ruin everyone's life like this. If it was anyone to blame, it was her. She was the one who begged him to bring Sasuke back. She was the one who failed to stop Sasuke the night before. She was the biggest one to blame… And she let all her frustrations out on an innocent boy who simply wanted to make her happy.
Sakura looked back to Sasuke, her eyes softening immediately. All her previous thoughts were lost as she walked to the Uchiha, running her fingers through his hair once again, leaning closer to his body. Her cheeks flushed as she stood over his body, their faces inches apart. She could feel his breath against her face, soothing her tense muscles. She slowly closed the gap between their lips, placing a feathery kiss on Sasuke's soft lips. She was a thief. She stole a kiss from him but what did it matter? She loved him.
"I love you, Sasuke-kun…" She whispered into his ear, pulling away from him. She sighed and threw away the old rose that she held in her hand without her noticing. She walked to the door, opening it. "Get well soon." With that, the Cherry Blossom shut the door behind her with a soft click.
"Are you alright, Lee?"
"Are you sure?"
"I'm so glad to be able to see you again!"
Gaara rolled his eyes in annoyance. It was way too early in the morning to go through with this drama. He could never understand how those two could wake up so feisty. They had returned from the mission nine days ago. Lee was healed in less than an hour. He was fit to leave the hospital in about four days (Tsunade wasn't going to let him roam free until she was sure he was good to go). Gaara could have left… Yea… He could have gone back to the sand and saved himself the trouble of going through with this, day after day, after day. They never seemed to lose any ounce of energy!
Being the patient boy he was, Gaara was able to deal with it. But seriously… there is only so much he can take!
Gaara stayed with Lee as a way to apologies for all the hardships he caused the boy. He heard of the life-threatening surgery he would have to perform to be able to save himself and be a ninja once again. It was all Gaara's fault. Even though he saved Lee from Kimimaro, he couldn't help but feel that it wasn't enough. Lee told him personally, that he held no grudges against the sand ninja, but Gaara wouldn't take it. He had to prove that he was sorry.
But at the moment, he felt that Lee was getting revenge…
In a cruel way…
Gaara let his blue-green (1) eyes wander to the two green, spandex clad males. They seemed to have calmed down. Lee was sitting on the bench outside of the hospital, his large dark eyes focused on the sky above him. Gai was standing up, leaning against a tree lazily, his eyes closed. They looked so serene and calm… so unnatural. Gaara didn't think they could ever be calm. It wasn't supposed to be in their system… yet it was. Whatever they were thinking about allowed them to calm down and truly take in the quieter side of life.
Lee smiled up at the sky, looking at the white puffy clouds that floated past. He truly thanked many people for getting him this far to be able to see the sight. Never in his life has he ever sat down and truly admired nature. He did at times but it was nothing to this extent. Usually, he was always wandering around, making goals for himself while smiling at a cute animal or plant. Now, he could sit here and really see what life had to offer.
Even though Lee was particularly happy today, his mind was elsewhere, one of the reasons why he was so quiet. He was no longer worried for Neji (since he was a nervous wreck for about three days until they could prove to him that Neji was stable). He was now worried for Tenten.
The girl had lost her shine. Her normal happy sparkle in her eye was gone. She couldn't seem to smile easily. Ever since she heard that Neji was back and near dead, the girl seemed to have died herself. No matter how much they told her that he would be okay, she didn't seem to be able to cope with the fact that she nearly lost a precious person.
Lee smiled sadly, knowing fully well what she must have been going through… He felt the exact same way… Neji was important to him, just as much as Gai, Tenten, and surprisingly, Naruto. He coped with Neji's current state much better than her due to the fact that liked to keep an optimistic outlook on life. Neji was strong and he wasn't going to let that kill him. He may have been hurt but he wasn't going to die.
Gai looked at his student and the red-headed sand ninja. He had to admit, he was very weary of the boy at first, even when the sand formed another treaty with the leaf. He was shocked to see Lee being carried to the hospital by the same ninja who had caused him so much trouble in the first place. Gai trusted his pupil's judgment, however. If Lee trusted him, then he would too.
For the past month and a half, Gai couldn't help but feel that there was a huge gash in his team. All his little ones lost in the Chuunin Exams, while his precious Lee almost died. After that, his little Neji almost died trying to get back another Genin in which he barely knew. Now, his normally bubbly Tenten lost her shine. He team was dieing and falling apart. He had to bring them back, no matter what it took. Lee would have to start fights with Neji, who'd win easily, and then Tenten would defend Neji, telling Lee he couldn't win…
Yes… Gai missed those days.
No matter how wounded his team may be, he knew it didn't compare to Kakashi's own Team 7. That team took the blow the hardest. The war, the exams, the betrayal, everything was normally revolving around them. Orochimaru targeted Sasuke, who fell into the trap, slowly at first. Then, Itachi, Sasuke's older brother, seems to be targeting Naruto, causing Sasuke to want to leave more than before to get his revenge. Yeah… Gai knew these things… He wasn't stupid. He heard of the Akatsuki and their plans to get the tailed beasts from inside of their host. Their main target at the moment was the nine tailed fox inside of Naruto.
Everything was falling apart in the leaf… but it would all be better soon.
All they had to do now…
The dark brown eyes of the lazy Chuunin followed the trail of the liquid in his cup slowly, examining its rhythm. There was a natural balance to everything, and he just upset it. The ripples in the juice screwed up his reflection, distorting his frowning face. Every flow could be disturbed. No flow was perfect or invincible. The calm flow of life could be disturbed, causing a ripple effect throughout the nation. Even though this ripple effect will cause chaos and misfortune, they will move on. Society will rebuild, people would repopulate.
Life itself would move on as if nothing happened in the fir-.
"You shouldn't frown so much." A voice chimed in, breaking his line of thoughts. He looked up to the blond girl sitting across from him. "It could get stuck like that." She sent him a smug look, smirking at his annoyed face.
"I don't need your beauty advice, Woman."
"How many times have I told you not to call me that? I have a name and it's Temari. Get it right."
"'Che, how troublesome."
Shikamaru placed the cup to his head, taking a sip of the cold liquid sliding down his throat. Temari smirked at him, placing the stray of her own beverage between her small, pale lips. She knew the boy had been through a lot, and had no motivation at all to help him. He was the only Genin to become a Chuunin, and was sent on his very first mission almost immediately after. He led all of his friends down the safest to get a successful mission. He constantly blamed himself for their injuries, saying that if he was a better squad leader he would have been able to bring them all back, with every piece of their body present. Temari wanted to tell him that he should look on the bright side, considering the fact that any other leader would have probably gotten them killed in the beginning of the mission. Somehow, she couldn't bring herself to talk to him.
She felt bad for him, when he was crying after they came back. She wanted to reach out to him and comfort him. The urge was frowned upon by the girl who didn't understand what she was feeling. She just called the feelings remorse and nothing else. She looked towards his hand, seeing the splint used to keep his broken finger in place. It was healing rather quickly. He came out of the mission with the least amount of physical injuries, but his mental health was what worried her.
…Wait… No. Not worried. She wasn't worried about him… Not at all. Temari coughed a bit, looking away from his hand with a slight agitated blush on her face. That caught Shikamaru's attention. He raised an eyebrow at her change in demeanor, wondering what the blonde could have been thinking about. Temari shot him a glare that screamed 'Mind your own business'. Shikamaru simply shrugged and looked out of the window, sighing deeply. He was glad that Choji was stable and out of the hospital, along with Neji (but he was only stable physically, not mentally so he was still in the hospital). Kiba had already been released from the hospital, after a good four days of rest (plus one day of healing which made five days in the hospital total). Akamaru was as good as new. Even with all the good news, he still blamed himself for getting them into this position.
When they finally got out of that chakra-stealing dome thing, Shikamaru shouldn't have left Choji behind. He should have stayed. They could have defeated the man together, and quickly. After that, with the spider man, he should have declined Neji's wish to fight him alone. If they were all together, their skills could have prevailed. With Kiba, it seems that his opponent would have held them back, but they would have been able to get away, with their bodies' intact, and a defeated enemy. Then there was that girl. With Naruto and himself, they were able to steal the Uchiha in the barrel from the red headed girl. That's when the other male popped up out of no where. If all five of them were together, they could have gotten away with Sasuke. They would have had a successful mission with non fetal injuries.
Shikamaru was happy for the successful mission, he just didn't like the fact that they could have all died. If Temari didn't come into the battle, he wasn't sure if he could beat that red headed girl. He was getting the upper hand, yet her chakra was to powerful, and he had no powerful attacks that could have killed her. Neji's wounds were just barely off, just narrowly missing his vital spots. If they had moved just an inch in the other direction, Neji would have died instantly. Kiba's lone wound also barely missed a vital organ. Though they may think it wasn't as dangerous to his life, Shikamaru could see just how close Kiba was to dieing. Choji didn't have life threatening wounds. It was the fact that he ate the red pill, the one that always assured death to the one who ate it. Choji was doing pretty good, and skinny. That was a new thing to see on the boy. Though he could see the weight he was gaining once again. Tsunade had restricted him from eating too much, but he ate as much as he could, slowly adding pounds to his skinny form.
He sighed, figuring that there was no point dwelling on it now. Their mission was a success. Everyone was still alive as well. They were healing perfectly and doing fine. Nothing to worry about…
"Hey, Crybaby… ready to go?"
"Che… Troublesome woman." Shikamaru stood, placing a tip on the table, shoving his hands in his pocket as he headed towards the door, Temari at his heels.
"Don't call me troublesome!"
"Thank you! Come again!" she said with fake enthusiasm which was now programmed into her body. She was always able to mask her feelings with happiness thanks to her business at the shop which needed her to be loving and welcoming to the customers. As soon as the elderly man walked out from the shop, Ino's grin feel immediately, a small frown taking its place. She wasn't sure what to do anymore. She was stuck here, working, while she really wanted to be outside, comforting everyone who needed her. Like Shikamaru.
She knew her lazy teammate was with the blonde from the sand, but that didn't mean she couldn't comfort him either. He was under a lot of pressure for the last couple days. She knew it was a big blow to his soul when he was told they weren't sure Neji or Choji would live. He may not have shown much motivation in the ninja field, but he always proved to her that he was a better ninja than anyone could have been. She wanted to be there for him like a true friend but she was confined by work.
She also wanted to be there for Choji. She remembered when she saw him just after he got out of intensive care. He was so thin and almost attractive. Key word: almost. She wouldn't admit to anyone, not even herself, that Choji could look attractive to her. But getting off that topic, she still wanted to show him that she did love him as a teammate and a partner. He was there for her at times, with his chips of course, and he proved that he knew more about Shikamaru than she did. Their friendship was a strong one, and she was in it, and she wanted them to see that. They weren't allowed to forget her presence!
For the first time in her life, Sasuke wasn't the first person on her mind. Normally, Sasuke would be the only thing she worried about. Now, it wasn't the case. Yes she was worried for him as well but if she had to choose, her teammates came first. Sasuke was the cause of all this, and she felt a minute amount of resentment towards him. She couldn't stop herself, nor could she care since she never really had a reason to like him anyways. She only justified her "love" with his grades, looks and the dark nature. That's it. She knew nothing about him. She didn't know why he was the way he is. She didn't know why he betrayed the leaf. She didn't know him.
There was one important person that she really wanted to be with at the moment. That person was her best friend and rival, Haruno Sakura. She knew the pink haired girl was taking this hard. Ino heard of what happened to Sakura and Sasuke the night before he left. Sakura was the last to see him in the village. She was also the last to see the five boys leave. She was there at the gate when she begged Naruto to bring Sasuke back. When Sasuke was brought back, Sakura didn't know until the next day. Sakura hadn't left the Uchiha's side until the nurses had to literally kick her out.
Sakura would ask Ino from time to time, how Shikamaru and Choji were doing. Ino would also ask her how Naruto and Sasuke were doing. When she heard Naruto's name, Sakura's face would darken, and she'd promptly ignore the question, blowing it off with a simple "Why should I care?" That made Ino wonder what Naruto could have done to make Sakura hate him. She couldn't find a logical answer no matter how hard she raked her mind. She didn't pursue it however, feeling it was unnecessary to dwell on it. Everything would be fine after a while. Sakura would calm down later.
Ino sighed, twirling a dying flower between her fingers. She had so much to do, and no time to do it. She twitched. Her body started to shake randomly before she threw the flower towards a window, watching it connect and slip to the floor harmlessly. Ino yanked her hair and began screaming, an unknown wind blowing her hair around her face.
"AAAGGHH! Why do I always have to work when I have more important things to do?!" She screamed to the air behind her, a river of tears pouring from her eyes.
"Um… Miss? Should I … come back later?"
Ino whirled around, her hair floating through the hair due to the power of her aura. There was a dark, look on her face and it scared the crap out of the male who interrupted her overly dramatic moment.
"Hello… Sir… May I help you?"
The man sweat dropped. Man… what's eating her today?
Well… Ino does get let off early today. So she wouldn't be working for much longer.
"Well, after I escaped down the river, I lured the twin freaks into my trap. Then, when they popped up, Puppet-man here jumped in to "save" me but only ended up getting his butt kicked, so I had to save him!"
"…" was the man's only reply.
"What? Don't believe me?"
"Why would they?"
"Because they know I'm always the hero!"
There was a sigh. "Sure… You tell yourself that kid."
"Kid?! I'll let you know that you are only 1 year older than me mister and I-!"
Kankuro promptly tuned Kiba's complaints as he looked over to the other two with them. He shifted the puppet on his back as his gaze shifted from the stoic Aburame to the fidgeting Hyuuga.
"Um… Kiba-kun…" She started timidly, twirling her fingers. "I'm sure you did very well… but…"
"Are you doubting me too, Hinata?!" Kiba asked, his eyes bulging from his head. Hinata looked away, her face heating up. Kiba sighed dejectedly. "Great."
"Ha-ha. I knew they were smart enough to know you were lying." Kankuro said with a smirk. His smirk widened when Kiba pointed at him, sending him every threat he could think of. "Save your energy dog-boy. You have training to do and I want to be entertained." That didn't work against Kiba who continued to rant. Unknown to the Inuzuka, his words fell on deaf ears.
Kankuro shoved his hands into his pocket, kicking the dirt beneath his feet. This village was so peaceful, and held so many good hearted people. He couldn't believe that not to long ago, he was a part of the mission to destroy this village. He never thought that there were so many valuable and talented ninja in this village. The Uzumaki kid… He saved Gaara's sanity. Or better yet, he gave it back to him. The Aburame boy behind him was able to defeat him and his puppet, and Kankuro didn't like being beat but he couldn't complain… Shino was talented. The Hyuuga boy and Sasuke were also able to get the attention of his younger brother. If that happened then Kankuro automatically knew that they were something special.
He didn't know what the Hyuuga girl behind him was capable of, but he did know that he didn't want to get on her bad side in fear that she may actually be a worthy opponent. Regardless of her almost talent-less nature, she was a Hyuuga and they excelled at their own taijutsu. Kankuro couldn't go up against a baby Hyuuga! Okay… that was exaggerating the point but… At least now he would finally be able to see what she could do in their training today. Kankuro was a special guest.
The four walked in silence, heading towards the training grounds where Kurenai should be waiting for them. Kiba had finally settle down and decided to walk with a pout over his face. Shino walked with his eyes ahead… or wherever. No one could tell with those glasses of his, but we can safely assume he was looking forward or he wouldn't know where he was going. Hinata smiled at Kiba nervously, a drop of sweat rolling down the back of her head. She was happy that her teammate was okay. It wasn't normal without him around. She and Shino would visit him everyday, watching his quick recover. He was let out the day after Naruto. Choji was let out the day after that. Sasuke and Neji were still in the hospital.
Hinata would see Naruto on occasions but she never gathered the courage to speak to him for more than thirty seconds. She always managed to ask him how he was, get his reply and retreat in two seconds flat. She used to get the same reply each time. It was always a cheerful "I'm fine Hinata-chan!" followed by that oh-so-adorable grin. But yesterday, when she saw him, it wasn't the same. Her normally hyper crush was so depressed. She when over to him and asked him the same question she normally did. She was shocked to finally see his eyes. They no longer held that sparkle that it did. They were so dull… almost dead.
When he looked at her, a small hint of happiness reflected in his eyes. It was pathetic. It was almost as if he was begging for her to care for him. It was as if he was fearing her rejection, though he didn't ask her out or anything along those lines. He was scared of something and his look proved it. He gave her a strained smile, saying he was fine, but Hinata couldn't believe it. She just looked at him, reading his movements. Their eyes locked and all was revealed to her. They stayed there, staring at each other before Naruto broke away saying he was hungry.
Hinata never thought her crush could be so easily read. He was always hiding his emotions behind that smile. That encounter opened her eyes to who Naruto really was and what he held in him. He was a lonely and sad boy who decided to look on the bright side of his life other than the dark, though there were times when the dark side over powered him. Whatever happened to him, his mask was falling off, and he didn't seem to notice. Hinata wanted to be there. She wanted to be able to catch Naruto's mask once it fell, and prevent it from shattering. She wanted to put it back in place. She would face whatever was behind the mask and save Naruto from himself. Yet, she didn't know if she could.
Hinata looked to the ground, her eyes dropping in her spaced out trance. Would Naruto even let her in? Sure he let his mask slip near her, and sure, his eyes looked as if they were begging for a miracle, but did he truly want her to help? Naruto always thought of others before himself. Did that mean that he would rather face his demons alone and not let anyone into his life in fear of hurting them? Matter of fact, would Naruto even admit that he needed help? Did anyone else notice? He was so open right now anyone could read him like an open book. He was like a Dr. Seuss (2) book at the moment. So simple and easy to comprehend. There was only one thing that could prevent someone from reading him right now.
One simple fact.
No one cared.
Tenten's small fingers twitched nervously as she walked down the hall towards Neji's room. She was back again. She wondered if this would be the day she would be able to talk to him. Neji was stable but he hasn't been awake long enough to talk to anyone. Every time he wakes up he go ballistic, only to be put back to sleep where he forgot his previous actions. The overreactions were slowing down. They used to happen many times in one day as soon as he was stable. Now, it was limited to once a day. Maybe today would be the day when he would wake up and be well? She knew she was asking for to much but what choice did she have? She surely wasn't going to be pessimistic about it… She had to have hope.
And a lot of it.
Tenten looked up when she heard a door click in front of her. She saw the Godaime Hokage, Tsunade, exit the room she was heading too. The older woman looked down to her, their eyes making contact. Tenten saw the woman's face. It had a bit of blood on it. Tsunade was currently in the process of wiping some of it off but her hand froze when she saw Tenten before her. There was a moment of silence between them. They were speaking with their eyes, communicating without words. After another moment, a sigh came from the pink lips of the Hokage. The blonde woman moved away from the door, nodding faintly. Tenten nodded back, and walked to the door, opening it slowly.
When she looked inside, she saw a couple ANBU members in the room. Their heads turned to look at her before the wordlessly left the room. She moved out of the way to let them get pass, and closed the door behind her. She could still tell that they were still outside the door, waiting for her to be done. She heard a faint beeping sound of the heart monitor next to Neji's bed. There was an oxygen mask over his mouth, fogging up slightly with every breath he took. As Tenten got closer, she was able to see the blood stains on his clothes. At least she knew why the Hokage had blood on her.
Tenten went by Neji's side, sitting in the chair next to his bed. Her gaze softened as she stared at her teammate's face. He looked so calm and innocent. It was so different from that normally stoic face he normally had on. That mask… He always wore that mask of indifference. The same mask that put up a façade of strength and power… when deep down… Neji was weak. Tenten saw through that mask. After all that happened between them under the same team, she began to find the flaw behind his mask. Neji couldn't hide his pain from her. He was always so careful with his words and the emotions he let show. There was only one other person to make him drop his mask. That person was Uzumaki Naruto.
At the finals of the Chuunin exams, during their fight, Tenten was too far to be able to see the pain on Neji's face, but his voice revealed all. She wasn't sure if Naruto could tell, but she knew that Neji was breaking down. He was angry, but when he finally told Naruto that the blond couldn't understand what it was like to have a seal that you can't get rid of, Tenten knew that he lost it. If Naruto hadn't shocked him by saying he understood, Neji would have started to cry. It would have been a blow to his pride but Tenten knew it was going to happen. She's seen it happen before…
Tenten smiled brightly, looking at her partner, Hyuuga Neji, who was currently basking in his pride for mastering a new technique. They have been put on the same squad for about three months now, and it was wild. From the first day, she could tell that Lee had his eyes set on the Hyuuga. There was a rivalry going on between them that couldn't be stopped. No matter what she did, Neji would always beat Lee, and she would always side with Neji. She couldn't stop herself. She was taken with him.
"Wow Neji! You got it!" She said as she lifted her hands, moving her chakra strings a bit, watching her weapons move on the ground. She made a sharp jerk with her hand, making her arms cross over her chest. The weapons flew towards her, being pulled by the chakra strings on her fingers. She let her hands drop, along with the weapons which were now in a pile at her feet. She looked up to Neji, who smirked, wiping his forehead. "Now your Kaiten is perfect!"
She wasn't lying. At first, Neji's Kaiten wasn't as useful. At times, he would lose concentration, causing a hole to form, leaving him open. Since she was a weapon master, she was perfect to help him practice. She would summon her ninja tools and attack him on all sides. For the first week they did this, he would be left with multiple wounds. By the end of the second week, none of her weapons could get through to him… Perfect. That's when a question popped in her mind that she asked without thinking.
"Hey, isn't the Kaiten a Main house technique? How'd you learn it?" Yes, she knew that he was a branch member, but she never really pressed as to why. He also told her once that branch members don't learn much of anything (3). When she saw how his body tensed, she wished she could swallow her words. "N-Neji?"
"I had to teach myself… I discovered it on my own…" he admitted, not looking at her. She wasn't expecting an answer. Pushing her luck a little bit, she asked another question that was plaguing her mind.
"Why… Why doesn't the Main house teach anything to Branch members? I mean… Wouldn't it be better to have a completely strong clan, other than just half?"
Neji didn't say anything. He just stared at the ground, his eyes going in and out of focus. Tenten sighed. She knew she wasn't getting an answer. She shouldn't have asked. She sat down, taking out the two scrolls that she used to summon her weapons. She was still a bit inexperienced at fast sealing, so it took her some time to put the items back in their right place. She began to seal each item one by one, noticing that Neji still hadn't moved. She got a guilty feeling in the pit of her stomach, knowing it was her fault for ruining his mood.
"The Branch members are pawns…" Neji voice muttered out. It was so soft and filled with pain she could barely make out what he said.
"What…?" She looked up from her scroll, looking at Neji's back.
"We're only pawns… We were destined to die for them. We have no purpose in life than to serve them. Anything we might learn is either discovered on her own, or by watching them train… We hate it… but we can't do anything about it…"
Tenten bit her lips, listening to Neji speak. She never thought that she'd ever learn anything about him. "Why?" She asked, trying to see his face, but his bad was to her. "Why can't you protest?"
Neji was silent once again. He simply reached up to his head band, and pulled it off, letting his hand drop to his sides. She stared at his back in confusion. He turned around and looked at her, he face void of all emotions. She saw a weird mark on his forehead. She didn't understand what it was. She was about to ask but Neji spoke.
"This Cursed Mark… is why." He said, staring into her eyes. She didn't know why he was looking at her like that. They weren't his eyes. His eyes were normally smug, and filled with pride. Now, they were dead. There was nothing in them and it scared her. "If any of us are to disobey the Main family… they'd activate the seal…"
"…And what happens then? When the seal is activated that it."
A dry, forced out laugh came from his throat. "Many things could happen… We could all fall to the ground, writhing in pain as out brain turns to mush." He said bitterly, making her cringe. "Or we die."
Tenten looked at him, shock written all over her face. She couldn't believe this. These branch members had to live everyday, fearing the fact that they could die at any given moment and they couldn't get help.
"When we die, our Byakugan will be sealed off, along with all of its secrets. It's a form of protection. Enemies wouldn't be able to get the secrets of the Byakugan."
Tenten couldn't believe this. Was the Hyuuga clan that stupid? "But then what about the Main house?! What if they die? Their secrets would be out there! Why is there a branch house when it doesn't give them 100 percent protection?"
"Do you think I don't ask the same thing?" He snapped. Tenten bit her lips, feeling a pang in her heart. "The Main house probably thinks they're too strong to be taken down. They believe in their abilities to much to think any one would be able to defeat them…"
"But why does that make the Branch family destined to die?" She asked, going back to what he said earlier.
"Because it's true."
"That's not being logical Neji! How can you just assume that you were all meant to die for them?!"
"I'm not assuming!" He snapped, glaring at her angrily.
"It sure sounds
like it!" Tenten yelled back, getting a bit frustrated with Neji.
"How should you know?! You're not even a Hyuuga!"
Tenten stood up defensively, placing her hands on her hips. "I may not be a Hyuuga, but anyone with brains would be able to see that you're just a bitter brat who wants to blame your misfortunes on the Main family!"
Bad choice of words. Neji promptly vanished from his spot. Tenten's eyes widened as she soon found herself on the ground, pain running through her spine and her head. Spots erupted in her eyes when her skull came in contact with a rather large rock on the ground. She could feel one of her weapons digging rather harshly into her back. She couldn't even gasp due to the fact that Neji was now straddling her waist, his hands squeezing her neck, cutting off any air she hoped to be getting. She looked into Neji's rage filled eyes, silently pleading with him to let go of her neck. It didn't work. It only seemed to make Neji's grip tighten.
"Bitter? Yes. I am bitter. Bitter at the fact that my father was killed for them!"
Tenten stopped struggling in his grip to look in to his eyes. Those pale, pearl colored eyes were filled with anguish. Her gaze moved in and out of focus due to the lack of oxygen getting to her lungs. Neji seemed to notice this, loosening his grip so she could breathe, but it was still firm and threatening. She was sorry for what she said. She should have known better than to jump to conclusions. She doesn't know anything about him, and she just assumed he had no reason to be bitter. She wanted to apologize to him, but he wouldn't let her speak. Every time she opened her mouth he'd squeeze her neck harder. Tears of fear were beginning to form in her eyes. Would she survive this? Was she really going to die by the hands of her teammate?
"I'm sure you heard about the treaty the Leaf made with the Cloud after the war right?" Tenten nodded numbly. "Well, that day, the Hyuuga clan wasn't there to participate in the festival, since that was the day Hinata-sama, my cousin, turned 3. Now, that really isn't important. What's important is the fact that the head ninja from the Cloud tried to kidnap her late one night. Hiashi-sama, my uncle, killed him before he could get too far. The Cloud didn't believe that their leader did this, and felt that Konoha betrayed their treaty. To avoid another war, the Cloud wanted my uncle's dead body." His eyes narrowed in anger, unconsciously squeezing her neck harder. Tenten chocked in fear, tears streaming down her face. Never once did she remember that she was a ninja and that she could have gotten him off. All rational thoughts left her mind as she looked at Neji's face.
"Yet, did Konoha comply with their wishes? No. They didn't give Hiashi-sama to them… He gave them my father." Tenten's eyes widened, her tears stopped flowing momentarily but they didn't dry up. Neji smirked at her shocked face, though his eyes didn't seem to match. "Yes, Tenten… They killed my father in place of Hiashi-sama, just because they were twins. So now, the Cursed Seal locked away the secrets of the Byakugan, and no one could tell the difference." Neji's grip slackened around her neck. His body was shaking, his head down. Tenten took a chance, wanting to apologies for what she said.
"…Ne... Neji… I."
"Shut up… Just shut up… I don't want your pity…" He murmured. His voice was so weak and soft. Even though he was so close to her, it was still hard to hear him. She tried to talk again, but he still wouldn't let her. "I said shut up!" He screamed in her face, making eye contact with her. Tenten's face paled when she saw his face once again. His eyes were glossy, holding back the tears that he wanted to let out. He was trying so hard. One of his hands left her throat, falling to the ground next to her head, fisting the dirt. His other hand no longer held her neck, but it was still there.
Tenten stared at him, her expression unreadable. She looked into Neji's eyes when she felt a lone tear hit her cheek. He was trying his hardest to stop. She could see the struggle he was going through, just to hide his tears. Tenten sat up; letting Neji's other hand fall to his sides. She didn't care what was going on around her any more. She didn't seem to notice the position they were in. They stayed there in silence, Neji sitting on her lap, his legs on either side of her. He wouldn't look at her so he kept his eyes focused on the ground. After what seemed like forever, Tenten placed a hesitant hand on his cheek, lifting his head to meet her gaze.
Neji stared at her with such a pained expression that broke her heart. He looked away, trying not to look at her but Tenten wouldn't have it. She raised her other hand, cupping his other cheek. "Neji, look at me." She said, but his eyes stayed focused on the ground where his hand was. "Neji please… Look at me." He reluctantly looked up to her, still holding back the tears that threatened to fall. "Let it out, Neji…" He looked at her as if she grew another head but it didn't faze her.
Without another word, Tenten placed one of her hands behind Neji's head, and forced his head onto her shoulder. His body tensed next to hers as he tried to push her away. His hands pushed against her chest. If it was any other situation, Tenten wouldn't like the fact that a boy was touching her chest but she knew Neji didn't mean anything by it. His struggles slowed down even though Neji kept muttered 'stop' for an unknown reason. She held him there for what seemed like forever, until his struggles stopped completely.
"I promised myself…" he whispered, his breath tickling her neck. "After his death… I said I would no longer cry… It shows weakness… and it would give the Main house the satisfaction of seeing that they're getting to us…"
"I'm not a Hyuuga, Neji…" She whispered, resting her cheek on his head. "I could care less what emotions you show or hide… But right now, you need to let it out. You've been holding in this pain for too long. Even if it's once, just for now, let it out. Stop hurting yourself Neji."
Neji stayed silent. He didn't know what to say. Tenten didn't know if her words got through to him. It didn't take long for her to realize that they did. Neji's body started shaking again. She could feel a cool liquid against her neck. Neji's hands slowly slid up her back pausing momentarily before he wrapped his arms around her, holding on to her as if she was her life line. And then, right in the middle of the forest where they were training, Hyuuga Neji cried for the first time in many years, on the shoulder of a girl he went through the academy with. Said girl could only smile, happy that she was able to get through to him. Neji needed this right now. He needed comfort… and love.
That was their first fight… After that, they made a silent treaty. The next day, Neji returned to his normal behavior, and they never brought up the incident, but she knew he was grateful. She could see it in his eyes when he looked at her. She smiled and sighed, staring at his peaceful face. He would live. She knew he'd live. She was acting down for far too long. Neji would be fine and everything would be normal. She stood and placed her hands on her hips, smiling down at his body. "Get well soon, Neji. It's no fun without you. We need the drama of you and Lee fighting. I miss that. Who knows, he might actually be a threat to you now." She grinned, knowing that Lee and Neji's relationship was far beyond rivalry. Yes it was still there but those two were close. They were rivals, brothers, and best friends.
She was about to leave but something caught her eye. It was another eye. She blinked and looked at Neji closely, realizing that his eyes were open. She blinked in shock. If Tsunade just left then she must have put Neji to sleep. Why would he be awake so soon? "Neji?" She asked cautiously. The pale eyed boy smiled at her underneath his oxygen mask. He reached up to the mask, despite Tenten's protests.
"Thank you… Tenten."
She blinked, a blush crossing her cheeks. She didn't remember doing anything. "I… I didn't do anything…" She said. His eyes were filled with emotion. Amusement, fatigue, sadness, and another unidentified emotion were located in those light pearls.
"Yes you did… And I thank you for it." That unidentified emotion became stronger for a millisecond before Neji placed the mask back over his nose, lying down and falling back into a light sleep. Tenten stared at him in shock, not believing what she saw. She knew what it was. She knew what that unnamed emotion was and it made her smile.
The dark haired male stared at his hands, his eyes dead and void of emotion. His body was loose, his hand resting in his lap. The boy's mind was racing, wondering why he was here. He wasn't supposed to be here. He was supposed to be with the long haired snake Sannin. Konoha was supposed to be a thing of his past. But yet, here he is, sitting in the place he tried to leave behind. He was sitting here... alive... He would have rather been dead. He didn't want to come back here after the embarrassment of losing. He had left. Why did they insist on bringing him back? What right did they have to take him back? This was HIS life! He chose that past! He should be allowed to live HIS life the way HE wanted to live it. Yet they wanted to run his life. They sent people after him... He felt his hand clench in to a tight fist. They came after him, and one of them forced him to return. He felt blood fill his hands. The one who brought him back...
His mind strayed over to the blond who fought him. His muscles relaxed. The boy didn't give up. He remembered that feeling lesser than the blond dobe caused him to want to leave more. He opened his hands, looking at his bloody hands. His finger nails had pierced his skin. He didn't even seem to notice the pain in his hands as he continued thinking about the blond. Naruto... He was like the sun... always shinning, even if you couldn't see it. Naruto's heart was so pure, so free, so hot and influential. The blond was like a source of life for many. He always brought people out of their own darkness. He turned their nights into day. He forced them out of their own depression. Naruto always killed it... the darkness… The darkness in their own hearts... Sometimes he wondered if he was an angel... But he wasn't. Angels don't kill...
The dark eyed boy felt his heart clench. He nearly murdered that blond. He tried to. He put all his heart in to it. He let all his bottled up emotions come out in that fight. He wanted Naruto to die. He didn't think about what might have happened after if he did kill him. When Naruto was unconscious, he was so close. As he started down at the blond's face, he hesitated. He placed his fingers around the tanned boy's neck and began to squeeze. For some reason, he just couldn't finish. His grip on Naruto's neck weakened as darkness began to take over him. All he remembered was falling forward, and his body landing on top of a gently breathing blond before it all went black.
The Uchiha looked out the window, staring at the sun. He'd make it up to him. He'd change. He'd prove to Naruto just how much he cared for him. He'd protect the blond fro the rest of his life. He wouldn't allow his brother to take him... Nothing would harm Naruto again. Sasuke looked down to his hands. He stood, looking at his heart monitor. It was so annoying. He knew that if he disconnected it from his chest it would do that annoying long screeching sound but seriously... Shut up! He sighed and went over to the wall. He reached up to it, writing a message on it with his blood. 'Nothing will harm you dobe...' He thought, a small smile spreading on his face. He looked up to the wall. His blood dripped eerily down the wall, finished his thoughts... 'Nothing will harm you...'
1. Seriously… What is his eye color? One minute it's green and the next it's blue. I'm confused… So it'll be blue-green for my story so Hah!
2. Do they even have Dr. Seuss books? xD Well, they do now. Lol
3. Now, I'm not exactly sure if Branch members are taught anything or not, so I'm making it up so it sound logical.
Sorry if this chapter is crappy. I wrote it out of anger. My grandmother is trying to force a religion upon me in which I stopped believing… and I won't say what religion it is… but there you go. Maybe you noticed the ShikaTem implications and I hope you liked the NejiTen fluff. –smiles proudly- These are my first Het thoughts in a long time. Yaoi, get back! Het is coming back in my little perverted mind!
Another note for you guys. I start school tomorrow so my next update might be a little delayed okay? So please, bare with me!
I'd also like to thank my reviewers for taking the time to read my cra-… story…