Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

The start of a new fic! Honestly, I don't understand why I seem to have serious ADD and can't seem to finish a story before starting a new one. Oh well at least school's out and it's finally summertime which means more updates…hopefully!

Prologue: Goodbye

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Naruto wiped sweat from his brow nervously. The race hadn't even begun and he was already sweating. That was never a good sign.

Stretching his legs one last time, he glanced at the small crowd that was cheering with excitement, seeking one pair of eyes most. Finally, he found them; dark orbs that pierced his blue ones. He saw Sasuke give him a warm smile and a thumbs-up, which he returned shyly.

When he heard the whistle for the runners to take their place, Naruto skipped happily to his line and crouched down. He could feel adrenaline rush through his veins. This was it. This was the yearly relay race in his class and he had wanted to participate more than anything. He wanted to prove himself, not only to his fellow classmates, but to Sasuke as well.

BANG.

He took off, sprinting as fast and as hard as his legs could carry him. He was keeping a good, slow pace so far, but as he saw others whiz by him, Naruto felt it was necessary to boost up his speed. Kicking it up several notches, he felt his legs begin to burn as he pushed himself harder and harder. He needed to complete this race…he needed to complete this race…

With every step he took though, his breathing suddenly became more increasingly difficult. He could feel his chest tightening and his throat constricting. His breathing was ragged and heavy. His heartbeat pounded in his ears, loud and erratic.

He needed to keep running.

Naruto blinked his eyes rapidly to try and clear his head. He only had a little distance left to run. If he could just reach the finish line…

His vision was becoming fuzzier by the second. The only thing he could clearly see now were black spots floating around in his head. His mind felt dizzy. But Naruto wasn't ready to give up. He had to keep running…

With a sharp gasp of pain, the baton dropped from the blonde's hand.

Sasuke watched at the sidelines as his best friend went down. He had started frowning ever since Naruto had started to look a little pale during the middle of the race. His eyes widened with surprise as he saw two teachers race over to the little blonde boy lying on the ground, gasping for air. Sasuke felt himself move automatically and, the next thing he knew, he was right next to his best friend.

"Naruto!"

"S-Sas…" Naruto tried choking out before his vision faded completely.

---

Iruka was wracked with worry. This was all his fault. There was no way he should've even considered allowing Naruto to participate in that stupid relay. He knew there would've been consequences, and now he would have to pay them.

He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see a nurse standing next to him.

"The doctor will see you now." Iruka nodded and followed her into the patient's room.

There was Naruto, propped up in bed with tubes running through his body. The doctor was standing next to him, writing notes down on a clipboard. His eyes swiveled to the door when he heard it open.

"Umino Iruka?"

Iruka nodded as he sat down next to Naruto and clasped his hand gently.

"You are the boy's adopted father correct? And his closest relative?"

Again, Iruka nodded.

"Then I assume you are well aware of his condition." It wasn't a question. It was more of a statement. Naruto felt his father's grip on his hand tighten just the slightest at this comment.

"Yes," Iruka stated, "I'm aware of his condition."

The doctor closed his clipboard with a snap. "Well, the good news is that he'll still be able to walk." He let those words sink in as Iruka sighed with relief. "The bad news is that he won't be allowed to do anymore running or any sort of physical activity." The doctor saw Naruto's expression drop with those words and tears fill his eyes. He saw Iruka rush to comfort the boy and felt it was his time to leave.

"I think it's best if Naruto stays in the hospital overnight, but he should be free to leave tomorrow." The doctor added as a side note before getting up to the door. He opened it and was surprised to see a little raven-haired boy waiting patiently there.

"Can I see Naruto now?" The boy asked quietly.

The doctor nodded and stepped aside to allow him to enter. Sasuke ran over to the bed and hugged Naruto hard. He didn't know why the blonde was crying, but he knew better than to ask questions at the time.

"Shh Naruto…don't cry."

And Iruka watched, amazed, as Naruto's tears dried almost instantly as he clung to Sasuke like a lifeline.

---

"Oiy. Naruto."

The blonde looked up from the drawing he had been coloring in the classroom to see two girls standing next to him. He barely recognized them. He knew they were from his class, but they never really spoke to him. He wondered what they could want.

A letter was thrust in his face.

"Give this to Sasuke for us."

Naruto blinked in response.

"Why me?" The little boy asked.

Both girls rolled their eyes, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Because you're Sasuke's best friend! All he does is hang out with you…"It seemed as if they were going to add "Although we don't know why" to the end of their sentence, but they thought against it.

"Uchiha Sasuke…he's the cutest guy in the class!"

Naruto only nodded before taking the letter and tucking it away in his pocket.

---

"How are you feeling?"

Naruto smiled. "Fine."

It had been two weeks since the relay race incident. Now, almost every day, Sasuke made sure to ask him how he was feeling. Naruto was truly glad Sasuke cared about him so much.

"Not feeling dizzy?"

"Nope."

"Throat hurting?"

"Nope."

"Not feeling like you're going to pass out?"

"Sasuke!" The blonde sighed, exasperated.

The raven only grinned and continued to push his bike along the dirt path. Sasuke rode his bike to school every day and Naruto walked and it ended up being that Sasuke, ever the courteous gentleman that he was, picked Naruto up and walked him home, so pushing his bike along was the only way Naruto could keep up with him. The blonde had told him countless times that it really wasn't a big deal and that Sasuke could go ahead without him, but the raven refused.

"I still can't believe you didn't eat anything before you ran! That isn't healthy, dobe. That was the reason you fainted, right?" Sasuke asked, a tinge of worry in his voice, calling Naruto his pet name for him that he had developed a while ago.

"Yeah," Naruto said lamely, hoping it wasn't obvious he was lying. "I know it was stupid of me, I won't do it again, I promise Sasuke."

The other seemed satisfied with that answer and the walk home was once again, silent. Naruto then remembered what had happened that morning and reached into his pocket, pulling out the crumpled envelope. He held it out to Sasuke.

"What's this?" The Uchiha wrinkled his nose in distaste as he saw 'Sasuke' written in big, bubbly letters and a heart next to his name.

"Kari and Mina wanted me to give this to you."

Naruto saw Sasuke's eyes flash with anger for a moment. He snatched the letter from the blonde's hand and tore it into pieces. Naruto's eyes widened at what Sasuke had done.

"Why did you do that?!"

Sasuke almost snarled in return. "Because they shouldn't be using you like that! Naruto, those two girls ask me every single day if I'll like them and it's annoying! I've never seen them talk to you once! But just because you're my best friend, they think they can use you to pass their stupid love letters onto me? I don't even care what they wrote. It's not worth my time to read." Naruto flinched as he heard Sasuke's words. In all honesty, he had knew that had been true all along, but when he heard Sasuke's harsh tone, it made him accept the reality of those words.

Sasuke's tone softened when he saw how upset he had made Naruto. He didn't mean to get so angry, he just hated it when he had to be the one every one knew and adored, while Naruto was only the "best friend" that no one bothered to care about.

"I'm sorry, dobe. Please don't be upset with me. But I don't want you to be passing on any more notes to me, ok? You know I won't read them."

Naruto shook his head and smiled slightly. He knew, in his heart, Sasuke was trying to protect him. "I'm not upset with you."

Sasuke smiled back with relief.

The walk was silent once again.

---

Naruto looked down at the mess that he had made. He had wanted to finish his painting and only succeeded in getting paint all over himself. Going to the bathroom to wash up, he cried out in pain as he felt himself being shoved into one of the stalls. Eyes shooting open in confusion, he looked up to see Kari and Mina hovering over him, both with mean, angry looks on their faces.

"W-what?" He asked them, mad at himself for having his voice quiver.

"You idiot! How can you screw up delivering a simple letter?! You're so stupid!" Fragments of paper showered down upon him. "We found this outside yesterday. You tore up our letter!"

Naruto felt the urge of defiance so strongly wanting to erupt. "I delivered it! Sasuke was the one who tore it up!"

The door to his stall slammed shut and Naruto tried opening it, only to find it was somehow jammed on the other side and it wouldn't open.

"Yeah right, you little liar!" You just want Sasuke all to yourself!"

"That's not true!" The blonde cried frantically, banging desperately on the door. "Let me out, let me out!"

Cold water suddenly doused over his head and he let out a yelp. He looked up to see two buckets retract quickly and footsteps leave the bathroom. Naruto ceased his banging. He was now cold and wet. He hated the way he let people step all over him. Shivering, he sat on the hard, tile floor and hugged himself, letting the water seep through him, and wishing more than anything he could be a stronger person.

---

"Uzumaki Naruto?" The blonde stood in front of all his classmates as his teacher took in his appearance. His eyes were probably bloodshot from crying and his clothes were damp and wrinkly.

"Why are you all wet?" Naruto refused to respond. He simply curled his hands into fists at his sides and hung his head down, staring at the floor. The teacher sighed as she realized the little boy wasn't going to tell her what had happened.

"Well, we might as well get you changed," she said as she went off to find a spare pair of clothes in the classroom. Naruto knew that now, everyone was whispering about him and he definitely knew someone was burning a hole in his back with their eyes.

Looking up, Naruto saw Sasuke, glaring hard at him.

---

The blonde leaned back against the raven's chest. Sasuke had pulled him away after class to tell them they needed to "talk." Naruto had nodded, going to his cubby to find his outdoor shoes, only to see they were missing. When he told Sasuke this, he had only sighed before telling Naruto to get on his bike. Now, the little raven was peddling both of them, not giving Naruto even a second to argue.

It took Naruto a while to process the fact that they weren't going home, once he saw the route they were taking. No, they were going to the beach instead.

When they got there, Sasuke pulled Naruto off the bike and grabbed his hand, leading him all the way until the blonde felt sand between his toes. Due to the time, there was no one there besides the two of them. Walking around a little, Sasuke picked a random patch of sand close to the water and sat down, taking Naruto with him.

There was a moment of silence between the two. And then…

"Naruto." Said boy looked up to see his friend, who had cast his gaze to the sea, with an almost sort of far-off look.

"It was Kari and Mina, wasn't it?"

Naruto shook his head rapidly. "No! I—I was in the bathroom and I just slipped was all! Really, it—"

"Since when have you started lying to me, dobe?"

Again, it was that same far-off voice, with the same far-off face.

Longer than you know, Sasuke. Naruto remained silent, not knowing exactly how to answer.

"I can't believe you let them do that to you! And it was because of me, wasn't it? It was because they wanted to get to me…so they hurt you."

"I wasn't hurt, just a little wet," Naruto tried to lighten the mood. Sasuke turned to stare at him and then looked away again.

"Naruto…I need to tell you something."

The blonde looked up at his friend. Somehow, he knew this wasn't going to be good news, just by the fact Sasuke was calling him by his real name, something he never did unless he was in a particularly serious mood. "What is it, Sasuke?"

"I…" The raven ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm moving."

Naruto felt his heart stop.

"W-what?" He asked, as if he hadn't heard right, though he had heard perfectly clear.

"To the states. Next week." Sasuke answered. "I—I wanted to tell you sooner…I just didn't know when would be a good time."

Naruto's mind was in shock, trying to process the information.

Sasuke was moving. To the states.

His best friend was moving away.

Taking a deep breath, Naruto swallowed deeply. "Well…are you excited?" He didn't want Sasuke to be excited. Not at all.

Sasuke nodded slightly. "Yes and no."

"Yes and no?"

"I'm excited because I like new experiences, you know that about me. But I'm also scared."

Naruto was surprised. Never in his life had he heard Sasuke admit he was scared. Not the time they got lost in the park, or the time he broke his ankle. Sasuke didn't get scared. At least, not that Naruto knew of.

"Scared?" He questioned.

Sasuke let out a painful smile. "Yeah. I'm scared. I'm scared for the person I care most about, that I'm leaving behind."

Naruto's surprise grew even greater. Who was this person that Sasuke cared most about? He had never talked about any girls that he had crushes on, although he could probably have gotten any one that he wanted. It was now Naruto's great interest to know whom Sasuke was referring to.

"Who is this person, Sasuke?" Naruto hoped to god it wasn't some girl.

"Well, let's see," the raven began. "The person I care about most is kinda shy and quiet on the outside, but I know that that's not the case if you get to know him."

"He doesn't have the best health. He doesn't like sticking up for himself. He doesn't have too many friends. But to me, he means so much. And I'm scared for him. I'm scared that when I leave, he won't have anyone to turn to; won't have anyone to protect him."

It was now clearly obvious who Sasuke was talking about and Naruto felt himself flush.

Sasuke…Sasuke cares most about me?

The two of them had been inseparable and best friends for the longest time. Naruto wasn't sure if he had ever really felt any attraction to Sasuke, other than the longing of having a best friend. He had always been the shy kid that no one ever talked to. Yet Sasuke had chosen him.

"Why…why me?"

Naruto felt an arm enclose around him and pull him close.

"Because, dobe, you see me…when no one else does."

Naruto allowed his head to rest on Sasuke's shoulder and closed his eyes. This was probably the happiest moment of his entire life. He wished it would never end. He wished he could always be sitting on sand in the beach, with Sasuke, the two of them together.

But…Sasuke was going to leave.

He was going to leave him all alone.

Naruto pulled at the arm around him and hugged it close.

"Don't leave," he whispered sadly.

Sasuke sighed and brushed a blonde lock away from the boy's head. He knew that this wasn't going to be easy. He didn't want to leave Naruto behind at all. But…it wasn't his choice.

Reaching into his pocket, Sasuke pulled out two bottles, each one containing some sand and a single lavender flower. He handed one to Naruto.

"I'll be back. In ten years, on your twentieth birthday, I'll come back. And I'll find you. I promise."

Naruto nodded and hugged the bottle close to him. This flower was most likely one from Sasuke's mother's garden. It was beautiful. Naruto swore he would always keep it safe and close to him.

The sun began to set.

Naruto felt his eyelids growing heavier and heavier. He wanted more than anything to fall asleep and to wake up to find Sasuke there. Unconsciously, as he fell asleep on Sasuke's shoulder, he clutched the bottle tighter.

He'll be back…ten years…

Sasuke let out a small smile as he saw the sleeping boy resting peacefully.

Wait for me, dobe. I'll come back for you. I promise.

---

Like it? Hate it?

Naruto's condition will be explained in later chapters. Anyone who wants to take a guess is welcome. Anyways, I think this fic will be sort of on the back burner for a while, at least until I can update my other stories (which should be soon! I'm in the process of writing another chapter for 'Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi' right now!)

Reviews motivate me :D