Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
This story is dedicated to Black-Panther Lover, since she's having surgery today... nothing serious, it's just that she's nervous and she's my friend. Get well soon!
He was drunk, that much was certain. The woozy feeling in his head and the lack of feeling in his extremities let him assume he had been drinking for some time. Otherwise, all he knew was that he had ended up sprawled on a patch of grass, gazing at the sky. He wasn't even sure how - Hell, he was screwed. But, thankfully, his befuddled mind didn't let him dwell on these things for long. His attention was drawn to the stars, twinkling through his haze of drunkenness. They looked pretty, like diamonds, or, or... fireflies. Yes, that was it. Fireflies. As he gazed at them, he felt the prodding of a memory - somehow, this seemed familiar.
"And what's that one, nii-san?" the blonde child asked, pointing to a group of stars shaped almost like a square.
"That's Gemini." the white-haired teenager replied, his far-off gaze reflecting the tiny pinpricks of light.
"Gemini..." the child repeated slowly, enunciating each syllable carefully. "Does it have a story too?"
His companion gave a slight laugh. "Actually, I think it does."
The boy's blue eyes widened with curiosity. "Tell it to me, please?"
"If I remember it right..." The teenager paused, forehead creased with concentration. "Let's see... Gemini is a constellation that's also called 'the twins'. It's named after two famous brothers in Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux. Castor was a mortal, but Pollux was the son of Zeus, the chief Greek god. Even though they were from different fathers, they were best friends and never wanted to be apart. One day, Castor was killed in a battle, and his soul descended into the underworld. Pollux was so sad that he wanted to die, and nothing could make him happy again unless his brother was returned to him. Finally, he went to his father Zeus, to ask that they could be together once again. Zeus felt bad for them, so he decided that he would take Castor and Pollux and put them in the sky together, so they could remain with each other and look down on the world below."
The child looked at the constellation once more. "Wow..." he said, softly. Then, a glowing light nearer to his nose distracted him. "Look!" he cried, jumping up excitedly. "Fireflies!"
The pale teenager smiled at the antics of his friend. "If you catch them in a jar and take them home, you can use them as a nightlight."
"Really?" The blonde boy looked awed at the prospect, his eyes already dancing about, trying to find the elusive flickers in the long grass.
"Uh-huh. Just make sure they have air, and let them go in the morning."
"Help me catch 'em, Kakashi!" The boy was already jumping around in the grass, stalking the small bugs and trying to pounce on them. Several had already escaped his clutches, and hovered just out of reach, seemingly taunting him with their proximity.
The teenager laughed to himself slightly, and got up to his feet, his lanky body seeming to stretch and unbend. "Sure, Naru-chan."
The blonde child stopped his activities for a moment, and turned to stare at the white-haired boy reproachfully. "I told you, don't call me that! It makes me sound like a girl or somethin'."
At this, Kakashi had to smile. "Fine, fine... Look! There's a bunch over there!" He ran to grab some of the glowing insects, the boy following close behind him.
Half an hour later, the duo slumped on the grass, panting. The blonde boy was clasping a jar full of fireflies close to his chest. "That was fun." he said happily, leaning his head against the teenager's shoulder and curling up close to his friend.
"Mm..." the white-haired teen replied, gazing up at the stars again pensively.
The child followed his gaze. "Hey, Kakashi?"
"We're like Castor and Pollux, right?" His blue eyes turned to meet the teenager's onyx gaze. "I mean, we're kind of like brothers..."
"...I guess so." replied his comrade hesitantly, not sure exactly what the boy was trying to say.
"So we'll never be apart, right? Even if one of us dies, the other will find him... okay?" The child gazed up trustingly at him, cerulean eyes wide with innocence.
At this, Kakashi smiled, feeling the prickling sensation of tears in the backs of his eyes. "Of... course." he said thickly, a lump forming in his throat.
"Good." the blonde replied simply, lying his head on the teenager's lap and closing his eyes. He dozed off quietly, not realizing how much his simple words had touched his companion.
Oh yeah, it was that little kid he used to be friends with, back when he was young. The man shifted to get into a more comfortable position, turning on his side and curling up into a little ball. He was going to have one hell of a hangover - his life must suck right now, if he drank so much. Right now, the loss of memory was a bliss - tomorrow it would mean one fuck of a time. He sighed slightly, the familiar grey muddle of drunkenness taking over his mind again and rendering his thoughts into useless gray clouds. His eyes closed involuntarily and he slept, wandering the fog of intoxication in an oblivious dream.
Like all dreams, like all wonders, it didn't last long. A few months after Kakashi made his pact with Naruto, his family had moved away, into the 'big city.' The teenager was too busy with a new school, new friends, and new interests to pay much attention to his one-time best friend. After all, Naruto was really young, and he could be really annoying sometimes.
"But mom..." he had whined to his mother when she admonished him for breaking contact, "He's so boring! And he probably doesn't even remember me any more. He's just a stupid little kid."
His mother had just sighed and shaken her head. "Kakashi..." she said in that tone of voice he always resented. "You have to realize that some friends are worth more than others. Some are just people you hang out with - how long do you think you'll stay in touch with your 'buddies' at high school? Others, though... they're the ones you want to have to talk to when something goes wrong, or when you need a shoulder to cry on. You can tell them anything and they'll stay with you. Those are the kinds of friends you need to keep. Little Naruto was one of those friends, Kakashi."
The teenager yawned widely and rolled his eyes, letting out an exasperated huff of breath. "Who cares?" he muttered sullenly under his breath before he turned and stalked away.
"Oh fuck..." he muttered, squinting his eyes against the extremely bright sun. The man slowly uncurled his aching body, wet and chilled with fresh morning dew. His head felt as though it was being pounded under a ten-ton sledgehammer, and he was stiff and cramped from sleeping on the bumpy, rocky ground. He wondered where he had been and how he had gotten here - it involved alcohol, that much was obvious. His clothes reeked of the stuff. As he got to his feet, he could feel his stomach sloshing and prayed he wouldn't vomit. Looking around, the man saw he lay hidden behind a shrub next to a bar. Well, that explained where he had gotten drunk... and why the police hadn't dragged him off while he slept. He set off down the street, shaking out his wrinkled clothes and praying no one was out this early - his appearance was that of a vagrant drunkard. Once he reached an intersection, the man looked up at the street sign to figure out where he was. It's name seemed slightly familiar: 'Stafford Lane'.
Over the years they had been apart, Kakashi had morphed into the stereotypical 'emo.' His eyes were always accented thickly with eyeliner, and his jeans were definitely purchased from the girls' side of the store. His ears were adorned with silver piercings, and his tight shirt was black with red writing - "Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream?" His white hair was styled carefully so that it flopped artistically over one eye, and seemed to even defy gravity. The teenager's dark eyes had a dull, jaded cast to them, as though he had seen too much and had not liked any of it. He shuffled down the street with headphones in his ears, oblivious to the stares of passerby.
The stranger he was approaching seemed to be his exact opposite. The blonde was wearing a vibrant orange shirt and seemed to absolutely exude life. His blue eyes were bright and happy, and the whisker marks tattooed onto his cheeks only added to his jaunty appearance.
Kakashi felt the slightest flicker of recognition as the boy passed, but dismissed it quickly. It was only until after the blonde had passed until he realized. The white-haired teen turned back quickly, searching the sidewalk for the cheerful apparition, but he had disappeared. "Naruto?" the teen asked quietly.
He spent the next few days at the high school searching for his childhood friend. His patience was finally rewarded on the third day, when he spied a familiar mop of blonde hair bouncing down the hallway. "Naruto!" he called, running to catch up.
"Huh?" Blue eyes widened in confusion as the taller, older teenager hailed him. "Who're you?"
Kakashi was panting from his sprint through the halls. "So you finally moved to the city, eh?"
"What? I don't even know- Kakashi?" Naruto's eyes suddenly filled with tears as he flung himself at his childhood friend. "I missed you so much! You never called me!" His eyes were angry now, and Kakashi had to work hard to keep out of range of his flying fists. "Why didn't you talk to me? What happened to all our promises?" the boy cried loudly.
"Look, I'm sorry!" the white-haired teenager cried. "I- ah!" He ducked a punch aimed at his head, then valiantly tried to continue. "I just didn't... didn't have time." His voice dropped down to a murmur as he realized how lame his excuse really sounded. He even stopped trying to dodge, and got clipped on his cheek by a fist before Naruto regained control of himself.
"Didn't have time? Oh, that's totally okay!" Tears were streaming from the blonde's eyes now. "Well then, I don't have time to talk to you right now!" He fled through the halls, and Kakashi could have sworn he heard a sob before the blonde left his sight.
The man groaned and shook his head. Wherever he went seemed to hold some kind of memory - it seemed like his past was haunting him. And to top it all off, his brain still felt like tenderized meat. At this point, he just wanted to get home to a cold shower and warm bed. The walk to his run-down apartment, which normally took no more than five minutes, seemed to drag on forever. The sun was almost fully up when he finally reached the door. The man fumbled in his pockets for the keys, and was greeted with a bright jangling noise. He fished the silver implements out from one of his many pockets, and inserted them into the lock with trembling hands. Turning the knob seemed to sap the rest of his strength, and it was nearly all he could do just to stagger to the couch and flop down. The man lay there for a while, staring dully at the shoddy card table in front of the sofa and the newspaper thrown atop it.
Graduation came and went. No big deal. College applications were secured, and Kakashi found himself attending the university in the same city he had gone to high school in. Naruto hadn't talked to him since that day in the halls, and seemed to be actively avoiding the white-haired teen. So it was a surprise to Kakashi when the blonde approached him when he was visiting one of his old teachers.
"Kakashi." His blue eyes seemed unusually dull, and even the tattooed whiskers on his cheeks seemed to droop.
The white-haired man turned around, a disbelieving look in his dark eyes. "Naruto? What's wrong?" He felt almost gratified that his childhood friend was speaking to him after such a long silence.
"I just came to say goodbye." Naruto's voice was a dull, world-weary monotone that did not suit his sunny complexion or his bright outfit.
"What?" Kakashi was confused - it showed in his voice and the way his eyes had widened at this statement. "Where are you going?"
At this, the teenager gave him a bittersweet smile. "I'm going where we all go, eventually." he replied enigmatically. "Don't bother finding me." He turned and walked away, shoulders held stiffly upright, as though he was holding back tears.
"Naruto! Wait!" Kakashi called after him desperately, running to catch up. But by the time he got through the crowd of students, the blonde was gone.
He tossed and turned on the couch, having just woken from a particularly troubling dream. "Ah, forget it." the man grumbled, flopping off the couch and shuffling to the shower. He stripped quickly, feeling a blissful sense of relief as the alcohol-smelling clothes were tossed in the hamper. The shower wouldn't work on the first two tries, but after he had kicked the pipes a bit, it started with a spurting of ice cold water. He bit back an urge to yell as the freezing spray cascaded down his back in glacial rivulets. Finally, the temperature became nearly bearable, and he began lathering his frame with clean-smelling soap. He felt the dirt and beer of last night's 'outing' being washed away, and he felt much lighter. The man's head, however, was still muzzy and he wasn't thinking clearly yet. He leaned against the shower's tile-wall, closing his eyes and letting the water batter his body until he fell asleep again.
A small article in the newspaper confirmed his worst fears. The mundane heading read 'Teenage Boy Attempts Suicide', and the article itself was just as drab. 'Uzumaki Naruto, age 17, attended high school here since his freshman year. He attempted suicide last night, in a move that was "completely unexpected", according to the principal. "He was a really happy kid." Inuzuka Kiba, a fellow student, remarked. "We had no idea he was so bummed about his life." Apparently, Naruto was having troubles at home and at his school, but still managed to tell friends he was "perfectly fine". Haruno Sakura, another fellow student, says, "I think I speak for all of us when I say that Naruto's suicide attempt is a total shock." Naruto is currently being treated for blood loss and various injuries in the district hospital.'
Kakashi stared at the newspaper in shock for what seemed like an eternity. Then he suddenly threw down the newspaper, stood up, and ran for his car.
The drive to the hospital felt like it took a lifetime. Traffic was horrendous, and Kakashi found himself honking and shouting obscenities more than once. Finally, his battered old sedan pulled up into the parking lot of the new, twenty-story building erected downtown. He hurried inside to the receptionist's desk. "I'm here to visit Uzumaki Naruto." he told the nurse on duty.
"I'm sorry." she replied, blinking her placid, doe-like brown eyes at him slowly. "Uzumaki Naruto is currently recovering from serious blood loss. He's sleeping and we don't want him to have any visitors at the moment. You can come back tomorrow."
The white-haired man growled slightly in frustration. "I need to see him now!" he replied vehemently, slamming a hand down onto her desk.
The brunette squeaked slightly in fear, but managed to hold her ground. "I already told you that he is not accepting visitors."
"And I already told you that I need to see him!" Kakashi hissed angrily, hands itching to wrap around her neck.
"Shizune." a doctor called from the entryway. "Let him see Naruto. It can't hurt."
The nurse sighed in exasperation. "Fine, go on through." she said grudgingly. "He's in Room 304. It's on the third floor."
Kakashi was already sprinting out of the room. He took the steps two at a time, not even thinking to go on the elevator. At last, he reached the door labeled '304'. Kakashi opened it apprehensively, afraid of what he might find on the other side.
The room was tranquil and calm. Sunlight streamed through the small window, casting abstract shadows on the walls. The bed was placed in the center of the room, and there Naruto slept. His blonde hair flopped messily over his closed eyes, and the worry was smoothed from his face. One of his wrists lay on top of the covers, heavily bandaged. An tube was stuck in his upper arm, giving him a steady supply of fresh blood.
The white-haired man stood silently at the door, almost reverently, gazing at the teenager's deathly pale face. Finally, Naruto stirred and seemed to break some sort of spell. Kakashi walked forward slowly and kneeled at the blonde's bedside. His dark eyes were soft as he picked up Naruto's exposed hand and pressed it to his face, trying to avoid looking at the white wrappings around his wrist.
The tears came then, for the first time in years. He wept for all the lost opportunities and a friendship that he had let die. As he cried, he felt a great weight settling on his heart. "I will find you, Naruto." he promised. "Just like Pollux found Castor. And then... we'll go up into the stars." At this, he gave a sad smile, and let Naruto's hand drop. Standing, Kakashi took one more look at the peaceful sleeping face, and turned to leave the room."
For the second time that morning, the man woke up completely disoriented. He was dripping wet, and water was still pounding down onto his body. "...the hell?" he muttered, picking himself up from off the shower floor and shutting off the water. He pushed open the door and grabbed a towel, wrapping it firmly around his body. He padded down the hall into his room, leaving wet footprints in the carpet, and dug out some clothes from his dresser to wear for the day. Once his hair was combed in his preferred style, he slouched over to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. The man sipped slowly, reminding himself to get an asprin as soon as he had the chance. For now, he let his eyes glaze over in another memory.
Over the next five days, Naruto's hospital room became as familiar to Kakashi as his own apartment. The white haired man would visit whenever he had a chance, and try to get the blonde to wake up, to want to live again.
On the first day, he told Naruto all the stories he had of them together when they were kids. The doctors grew accustomed to his presence over the day - he only left to get food and then to go home to sleep.
On the second day, he gave the blonde his true reasons for ending their contact, and everything that had happened in their long separation. Naruto's attendants were worried that day, and told him that if the blonde didn't wake up soon, he could have suffered brain trauma from loss of blood and be stuck in a 'permanent vegetative state.'
On the third day, Kakashi reminded Naruto of all there was to come back for - ice cream, fireflies, happiness, the sun, trees, walks in the park, games, friends... the list went on and on. The doctors had stopped the blood transfusion, but had little to no hope of the teenager's complete recovery.
On the fourth day, he prayed. He cried. He begged the blonde to come back to him. The physicians decided that Naruto was most likely in a vegetative state, and had decided to treat him as a permanent patient.
On the fifth day, he sat dully, watching the lifeless teenager. He had left after fifteen minutes - he couldn't take it anymore. The doctors had nothing to say.
The man suddenly threw his cup down in a fit of rage. It shattered on the floor, sending droplets of water splattering all over his kitchen. Ignoring the mess of wet spots and glass shards, he stormed out of his apartment, desperate to find something to do. He ended up walking almost halfway around the city, not bothering to look at anything but the sidewalk. He didn't want to do anything but walk - no visiting hospital rooms, no eating, no driving, no drinking... nothing but walking. The man realized he was running away from his problems, but didn't care. He felt that he was past caring about anything now. His phone vibrated annoyingly against his thigh. "Damn." he muttered, not bothering to pick it up. He strolled onwards, through quiet suburban neighborhoods and packed urban slums, past the fancy shopping district and the car dealerships, away from the freeway and the financial buildings. Finally, the man found himself at a park. It was miraculously quiet there, and he felt stable enough to stop and rest there for a while to watch the sun set. Absently, he fished out his phone and opened it. The screen read "You have one new message." Sighing, he pressed the cell phone to his ear, and listened.
"Kakashi, it's Naruto. I got out of the hospital today. I want you to meet me at that one park by Stafford Lane, on the hill. We need to talk about some stuff." The teenager's voice sounded weary and hopeful at the same time.
The man stared at his phone in amazement. "Naruto..." he muttered, eyes wide in disbelief. "But he was in a coma..." He sighed once more, and turned back to the horizon, dismissing the call as a cruel prank, or a figment of his drained and desperate imagination. The golden tones of the sunset highlighted his sharp cheekbones and white hair, giving his face a more lifelike color and causing his eyes to glow a warm orange. Idly, he wondered where Naruto was now. "He's somewhere in the sky... where I can't find him." he mused out loud, biting his lip. Suddenly, a voice hailed him from the other side of the grassy hill.
He turned and saw a figure that seemed to come from a dream - Naruto was there, giving him a slight smile. The sun lit up his blue eys, making them seem deeper than ever, and made his golden hair seem as though it was on fire. He was wearing a short-sleeve shirt that exposed his heavily bandaged arms, and was carrying a light blue backpack. The white-haired man had to stare in disbelief for a few moments until he was able to walk forward. "Naruto?" he asked softly, fearing this phantom would be too soon lost.
"I heard you came to visit me in the hospital." the apparition said. "I'm glad you had time." The bitterness in his tone was unmistakeable, but Kakashi also detected a hint of sincere gratitude.
"The doctors..." the white-haired man murmured weakly. "They said you were in a coma... that you'd never wake up."
Naruto's smile grew wider. "You can't always believe what doctors say, Kakashi." Noticing the still disbelieving look on his old friend's face, he stepped forward and held out his arms. "Touch me if you want. I'm perfectly real."
Kakashi made no move to walk forward. "But what...?"
The blonde's expression grew serious. "To tell you the truth, I honestly didn't want to live anymore. My life was hell, and I decided death couldn't be much worse. But I chickened out in the last second, after I had already made the cuts, and I called nine-one-one before I passed out." At this, his gaze dropped to the grass and he looked almost ashamed. "I'm a wimp, I know. So they took me to the hospital, and gave me blood transfusions and stuff. But I still didn't want to wake up because I had nothing to live for. It was all pointless." As he said this, the sun slipped further down, darkening the sky to a deep purple.
The white-haired man opened his mouth to make a reply, but Naruto silenced him with a gesture. "I know. It's not pointless anymore." He paused, gulping nervously. "What I wanted to say all along is that you were the one who made it worth waking up. You reminded me of all the fun times we had, and of all the good things in life. And... you wanted me to live." His blue eyes seemed to get a shade darker as they spilled with tears. "You found me." The sun was almost completely below the horizon, and the first stars began peeking out.
Surprise and gratitude mingled in Kakashi's eyes as he looked at Naruto. "Castor and Pollux, right?" He reached out a long-fingered hand.
"Forever." Naruto replied firmly, slipping his smaller, tanned fingers into Kakashi's.
They hand in hand, gazing at the stars silently. More and more twinkling diamonds came into view, sparkling amid the velvety blackness. Suddenly, Kakashi grinned. "Look, Naruto." he commanded, raising their joined hands to point at a certain constellation.
The teenager's cerulean eyes met his own onyx orbs as they both smiled, feeling full of hope for the future. "Gemini." they said simiultaneously. Kakashi squeezed Naruto's hand. "Well, I've found you." he said, stepping forward. "Let's go to the stars."
The two walked off into the night, guided by the constellations above, heading towards a future full of possibilities.
Reviews are greatly appreciated. Hoped you enjoyed it, Panther!
Just a note: I chose the name "Stafford Lane" after Thomas Patten Stafford, an American astronaut who flew in two of the Gemini space missions, Gemini 6 and Gemini 9. And I'm a Gemini; that's my astrological sign. I remembered that after this story was finished. Heh.