Chapter 01

Afterboom


I don't remember last night but they took my picture
There was a car in the ocean off of Suicide Bridge
The heart collector had his hands on me

At the edge of the world looking up

Running through a thousand lives
Hoping there's one on the other side

At the edge of the world looking up

I don't know when I came to and remembered your fingers
I went back to the house but itwas a vacant lot
This matchbook you wrote on is all I've got

I'm not falling going down
Dreaming and singing without a sound

At the edge of the world looking up
At the edge of the world looking up
At the edge of the world looking up


Nearly twenty years he had now lived and still he couldn't remember ever having to endure such a massive headache. And what on earth was making all that noise. Damn, the good thing about Oto had always been the quiet - funny really, how a village by the name of Sound could actually be filled with such complete and utter silence. Or maybe he'd just gotten too good at blocking it all out…

But he had just woken up and his head was throbbing and there were so many different sounds in so many different pitches and frequencies that it was nigh on impossible to block any of it. There were beeping sounds, high pitched, shrill even, and very close to his head, coming from the left - from where he could also feel sunlight warming his body. So he wasn't in his dark, little chamber in Orochimaro's lair. Somehow, that thought comforted him in his rather weakened state, although the dark would have been preferable for his headache. But as long as he kept his eyes closed it was manageable…

And then there were birds - kami, he hadn't heard the chirping of birds in a long time. There weren't many animals in Oto, mostly snakes and summons, but no birds. Or if there were, they were probably mute…

From his right he could hear various muffled sounds - voices, footsteps, the clapping of doors and the squeaking of rubber wheels on tiled floors. But his brain was still fuzzy from sleep and pain and something else he couldn't quite pinpoint, so they all muddled together to a low toned buzz that vibrated through his mind and painted pictures of crowded marketplaces and playgrounds filled with children and hallways rife with students; projected in a kaleidoscope of colours – green pink blue silver gold red yellow - that had been missing from his live for so long and that were still paler than they should have been.

And then there was the loudest of all, a peculiar sawing sound that could have been snoring, if it weren't for the weird pattern it was following and the low murmur (that could have come from a human mouth) interrupting it at almost frequent intervals. He tried for a while to find actual words in the murmur, trying to make sure he was alone before he would give any indication of his consciousness. There it was, a little louder than before, a distinct word, two syllables, spoken clear as day.

Damn, why did it have to be the dobe? He'd prefer Kakashi, hell, even Sakura - at least those two didn't dream of ramen…

Slowly opening his eyes, Uchiha Sasuke tried to adjust them to the sunlight streaming through the large windows on his left. It took a while - he must have been unconscious for quite some time - before he could make out sterile white walls and appliances, interrupted only by the large orange blob slumming in a chair next to his bed. The reason for the odd snoring the dobe was emitting became clear, when he discovered a large band aid, fixated across his nose. It was probably broken. And the freak wasn't only snoring, he was drooling, too. He turned away, disgusted.

So he was in Konoha hospital… again.

Couldn't they just leave him be, until he came back on his own? He hadn't even finished the thought, before his memory came back to live and informed him that it was indeed he, who'd come to Konoha, not the other way around. The memories were blurry and at times big parts seemed to be eluding him, but he did remember coming to the Hidden Leaf, after spying on two lower ranked Akatsuki, who were discussing plans for an all out attack to catch the Kyubi. He'd hoped to find his brother among the attackers and hadn't been disappointed. But before he could even make his presence known to that bakemono, he'd been ambushed by Orochimaru himself, with his little lapdog Kabuto crouching at his feet. Apparently the snake's trust in his new vessel had expired some time ago, without said vessel noticing, and he'd seen his chance to finally possess the Sharingan slipping away with the siblings impending confrontation.

There was a gap in his recollection, but he could remember fighting the snake (he'd always refused to call him sensei, because deep down in his mind that title was reserved for the silver-haired copy-nin, and only for him - not that he'd ever admit that to the pervert…). And then the snake was lying on the ground, mangled and deformed, and the memory nearly made him retch. He couldn't remember actually killing the sannin or why the body had been barely recognizable in the end or what had happened to Kabuto, but it mattered little. The snake was dead and gone, period.

So much for Immortality…

After that fight was over, he'd gone to find Itachi, only to have the ground rush up to meet him and then the world had turned black. And now he was here and Konoha had miraculously survived the attack and even the dobe had gotten away with minor injuries, seemingly.

Without your help, it rang through his mind and he couldn't help but feel a little gloomy.

How? The question nagged at him. They couldn't have beaten the Akatsuki and, more importantly, his brother, could they? No, he decided, even Kakashi, who was one of Konoha's strongest fighters (again, not something he'd ever tell the pervert) and also possessed the Sharingan, was no match for his brother. Been there, done that.

So how did they all come out of this unscathed? Or, well, largely unscathed anyway. He had no knowledge of any casualties yet, so it was hard to tell for sure. But Konoha was still standing and from his window he couldn't make out any major damages on the buildings nearby…

Preoccupied with the questions running around in his head, he started unconsciously plucking at the bandage adorning his left arm, resulting in a sharp pain. He looked down to discover a catheter, which he'd nearly pulled of, connected to a blood bag. So they'd most likely pumped him up with painkillers, too. No wonder everything was fuzzy.

He decided he had time to figure everything out, after all, Oto and the snake, dead as he was, were no longer useful for his revenge, so there was no reason for him to leave right away. Besides, there were most likely ANBU stationed to guard him and he was in no condition for such a fight. Once he'd found out what had happened to Itachi and recovered a little he'd make a break for it, before they put him on trial. After that he wasn't sure what the best course of action would be…

A loud, almost painful sounding snore interrupted his train of thought and he looked back to the dobe, finding him still in blissful slumber. Enough was enough - he grabbed a pillow from under him and whacked Sleeping Ugly over the head as hard as possible from this awkward angle. It worked - Naruto came awake, blinking and disoriented.

"Wha?"

"You snore, dobe," he told him tonelessly.

"I do? …Huh."

Sasuke just glared at him. There was a reason no one wanted to share a tent with the dobe on missions and the idiot still hadn't figured it out?

The dobe blinked again and suddenly jumped up, pointing at him, finally having realized that waking up next to an ex-team mate he'd been chasing for years was not a normal occasion.

"You're awake, teme!"

No shit, Sherlock!

"Finally! You've been asleep for days!"

Did everything coming out of the dobe's mouth have to be a scream?

"How many days?" And couldn't he at least be a little more specific?

"Uh, three, I think. I got knocked out for a while, too."

"Hn." Three days, damn, the snake must have hurt him worse then he'd thought. He could feel several bandages on his chest, arms and legs, but he wasn't in much pain, most likely due to the analgesics they'd slipped him, so he had no real indication how bad it actually was. Except for that damn headache - why wouldn't that go away?

"For a while there, you had Tsunade-baa-chan pretty worried, but she wouldn't tell me what was wrong."

"Hn." She probably knew you wouldn't understand it anyway.

"Yeah, and Sakura-chan, too. She's been pretty stressed since the attack, what with all that's been happening…" Naruto trailed off and stuffed his hands into his pockets, for once at a loss for words. He had no idea, how much he was allowed to tell the teme and could only hope that that damn pervert would get here before Sasuke started asking questions about Itachi. He looked to the door, expectantly. Please, open up, please…

Ah, who was he kidding, Kakashi would never get here in time; he'd have to manage this one alone. But how could he explain something he didn't even understand himself? Maybe he could get Sakura; after all, she was the one with all the answers, especially in this case. But he hadn't been kidding, when he'd called her stressed – just this morning she'd screamed at him for distracting her and he'd only wanted to bring her some breakfast to her office, by order of the Hokage no less. Come to think of it, it had looked as if she'd slept in there, too. But Sasuke's voice called him back to the present, before he could ponder on this.

"What happened?" Again, tonelessly. Sasuke had noticed the badly concealed, hopeful looks Naruto was throwing in the doors direction - who wouldn't, the dobe probably couldn't even spell the word 'stealth' – and knew that he had an easy target for his questions. Still, he didn't need the dobe to know, just how interested he really was.

But Naruto already had a pretty good idea how many questions were really on the teme's mind, after all, there was no doubt that Itachi's presence had brought him here in the first place and then he'd fallen unconscious before he even met his brother. And the Kyubi vessel knew the Uchiha good enough to look beyond the tough act and realized that the other man had to be bursting with questions. Now, if only he had all the answers…

"Uh, you see, the Akatsuki attacked," …to catch me, he finished in his mind, unable to actually say it out loud. They'd attacked Konoha to get to him and he felt guilty. His friends, his teacher and even innocent citizens had been injured because of him and he had a hard time dealing with the amount of guilt cursing through his body, no matter how often they assured him that it wasn't his fault.

"I know that, already!" Sasuke snapped, slowly getting angry. "Why didn't they finish what they started?"

"Well, I think, when they saw how it happened, they decided to 'retreat and regroup'; at least that's what Tsunade-baa-chan called it. If you ask me, they were running for their lives." Naruto grinned to counter the patented Uchiha-glare directed at him, which he (correctly) interpreted as Sasuke's not so polite demand to elaborate.

"I don't know how to tell you this, teme," Naruto scratched the back of his head sheepishly, "but, you see, uh, something happened that pretty much crushed their plans, so they made a run for it."

"What something?" Fuck, this was getting nowhere, maybe he should have waited for Kakashi instead. And what the hell was wrong with the dobe, the guy could usually talk for hours and now that he actually wanted him to, he was getting tongue-tied?

"Okay, I'll better just say it; I doubt there's any good way to let you know, anyway." The Kyubi boy took a last deep breath, preparing himself for the worst. He knew Sasuke's reaction wouldn't be pretty. "The man who killed your parents is dead! There, I said it!"

Now, there was a sight rarely seen, the Uchiha Sasuke was surprised and, although his expression quickly turned to one of anger, it didn't go unnoticed by Naruto, who, sadly, didn't have time to ravel in it.

"How dare you take away my revenge?! He was mine to kill!" Although spoken in a low, controlled voice, the Uchiha's words were filled with malice and promises of a slow and painful death.

Yup, not pretty at all. But after years of braving the wrath of a PMS ridden Sakura, Naruto had become quite jaded where danger was concerned and took the anger and accusations radiating from his ex-team mate with ease. Seriously, an angry Sasuke had nothing on an angry Sakura…

"Wasn't me, teme." He replied rather casually, causing indignation to rise in the Avenger, who grabbed the Kyubi vessel by one of his lapels with his right hand and pulled him down, bringing them face to face.

"Who?"

"You'll have to thank Sakura-chan for that one. She saved our collective asses."

Stunned into (complete) silence, the Uchiha let go of his companion and stared at him, searching his eyes for deceit. However, there was none to be found, which he should've expected, as he'd already found out long ago that the Kyubi boy was much too innocent to be capable of lying in a grand scheme. And he could see no rational reason to lie about this.

But Sakura? That weak, little girl had done, what he'd been trying for twelve years to accomplish?

"How?" For probably the first time since the demise of his clan, the Sharingan wielder felt shocked. How, damn it, how could she manage to actually kill his brother? To do, what he himself had had so much trouble to achieve?

"Good question, teme! I have no idea…" Naruto let out a breath and slumped down in his chair again. Now came the really tricky part, as he had been asking himself (and Sakura) the same question for three days (whenever he'd been conscious, anyway…) and he still couldn't puzzle it out…


A/N: So, here it is, my first chapter of my first Naruto fic. Hope you liked it, and if you did (and especially if you didn't like it), please leave a review. I'm always open for constructive criticism and a bit encouragement has never hurt, either.

A few explanations to this chapter:

1. The Lyrics at the beginning are fragments of the song "Edge of the world" by Sam Phillips (some of you might know her from her involvement in the TV-show 'Gilmore Girls') from her album 'Fan Dance'.
2. If Sasuke appears to be OOC at the beginning of this chapter, what with the rambling thoughts and the pictures in his head and the looong sentences - this is deliberate! After all, the guy is just waking up and also on heavy pain killers, which are slowly fading off, so everything is blurry. And above all else he's got a headache the size of Hokage Mountain, which is kind of my way of payback for the idiot. (I see it as a karma thing, you know, every bad/wrong thing you do, somehow comes back to bite you in the ass! I think he deserves it, he probably gave a lot of people a lot of headaches over the years... So, yeah, it's staying around for a while.) With all these things added together it's practically impossible for him to put up all those walls he's so fond of building around himself. And besides, just because the guy doesn't say anything, doesn't mean, he's not thinking anything...
3. Italics are the character's thoughts (except for several single words, where it's just for emphasis), I hope I made it everywhere clear enough, who's thinking at the moment. And in Sasuke's case it also works as a kind of dictionary, you know 'Uchiha - English/English - Uchiha'...

So, that's all for now. I hope to have the second chapter up in a few days. Ja ne