Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. It belongs to its rightful owner.
I don't generally go for the angsty stuff, but for some reason I couldn't resist this idea. Maybe I've been watching Oz too much or something (yes, I watch Oz and find it amusing, wanna fight about it?). That or I've always wondered if this would ever happen. It's probably both. Sakura may be a tad OOC, but then her obsession with Sasuke could make her do something like this eventually. Anyway, read on and see what happens.
Warning: This first chapter is MEAN.
"What's the score Kakashi-sensei?"
Kakashi sighed. "For the last time Sakura, stop focusing on those two and just focus on your own training for the day."
The entire day, she had been pestering him with this question. There had been no missions to carry out today, so Kakashi had decided Team 7 would undergo training exercises for the day. It had initially been peaceful until Naruto had gone into his usual speech about how he would eventually become Hokage.
Up to this point, people had said nothing about Naruto's constant reminder of his destiny as Hokage, but today somebody had. Sasuke had told Naruto that the chance of somebody such as him becoming Hokage were virtually nil. Sasuke had not stopped there. He had explained that besides being a loudmouth and all around nuisance, Naruto was too much of a hothead, far too impulsive, never used his head in dangerous situations, possessed no useful abilities other than the Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (he did not yet know of Naruto's Rasengan technique), and further pointed out that bunshin doppelgangers were useless if you couldn't make them do anything besides gang up on your opponent or throw shuriken and kunai from multiple angles. So how in the Seven Hells could Naruto become Hokage? Sasuke added that he sometimes wondered if Naruto was even fit to be called a ninja at all.
Generally when faced with such insults, Naruto's face would turn crimson with fury and he would go into a screaming tantrum about how he would become Hokage, he would prove Sasuke wrong, he would show them all how wrong they had been at him. After that, Sasuke would smirk and say something cool that would turn Sakura on and make Naruto even angrier.
But that had not happened this time.
Naruto's face had not turned red with the typical childish anger it normally did.
It had turned… pale.
All of the color had slowly gone out of Naruto's face and he became very still. He began to tremble and a very dark look passed over his face, causing Sakura to get very nervous. She had never seen Naruto look that way. He had not just been angry then. He looked absolutely furious.
Naruto had taken two staggering steps toward Sasuke and Sasuke had actually stepped away from him. His eyes, always so warm and optimistic, were now sharp blue animals glaring out of caves of ice. Naruto spoke only three words to Sasuke, and when he did, his voice was a barely audible whisper.
"I challenge you."
Sasuke, always in the mood to prove he was better than Naruto, accepted.
Naruto had explained the rules of the competition. It was quite simple, really. He and Sasuke would compete against each other in every training exercise that Kakashi threw at them. The one who did better in each exercise was awarded one point. The one who had more points at the end of the day won.
And so it had gone on for the entire day. Sakura had barely been able to concentrate on her own training she had been watching them so intently, particularly her beloved Sasuke. Both he and Naruto had been going at it like cats and dogs and neither showed any sign of slowing down. She was in fact, quite nervous, but not over their wellbeing.
She was nervous because of Naruto's performance.
Naruto hadn't been performing badly. He had been performing quite well. Excellently in fact! Now that generally would have put a smile on her face-she did not exactly hate him-but what made her feel so nervous was that he was performing on the same level as Sasuke.
The first training exercise, which had lasted for an hour, had been target practice with a row of straw dummies. Kakashi's orders had been particularly grueling as the three young comrades had to strike the finger tips of the dummies with their shuriken! Even Sakura, who was generally skilled with shuriken and the like, had had difficulty doing this. Sasuke, being a natural, had had no trouble whatsoever and Sakura had cheered him on. But then to her surprise, Naruto managed to do the same! And instead of jumping about and cheering like he normally did, he simply stood there, that same look of cold determination on his face, and said quietly: "I'm done."
The next training exercise had been even harsher. Kakashi had instructed them to deflect kunai he had thrown at them with their own kunai. Sakura considered asking why Kakashi was using more dangerous methods to train them, but decided against it. He was, after all, their sensei. Sakura and Sasuke had no trouble knocking away Kakashi's well aimed tosses, but neither did Naruto. And all the while, that cold look was set on his face like his face had been a stone wall and it had been carved into it.
The third training exercise had been the hardest yet. Kakashi had made them stick a kunai into the ground, then use it to balance their bodies in the air using one arm for the duration of an hour, using their chakra to ease the pain in their muscles if they felt the urge to let go as well as to stay aloft in the air. Sakura's body had cried out in agony through the whole ordeal, but the thought of impressing Sasuke gave her the strength to go on. Surely Naruto's newfound determination couldn't get through this!
After hours of grueling training sessions, Sakura was beginning to see that something new had bubbled up in Naruto, some sort of burning resolve that she had not seen since his match against Neji during the Chunin exams. It was new and it was… frightening. But it was still nothing compared to Sasuke! Of course it wasn't! Nothing was.
And now here was the last exercise for the day: Taijutsu training. In other words: a spar between Naruto and Sasuke. Kakashi would have chosen Sakura, but she wasn't exactly what one would call skilled when it came to hand to hand combat.
The score was completely equal. This last exercise would determine the winner. Surely they couldn't tie in a Taijutsu match. But then even that was possible, right?
"Are you both ready?" Kakashi asked, eyeing both combatants. They were both staring each other down.
"Hai." they both said in unison.
"Alright then, both fighters get ready… hajime!"
In Naruto's book of Taijutsu, the direct approach was the best approach, so he rushed at Sasuke and threw a left hook aimed directly at his jaw. Of course in all other ninja books of Taijutsu, the best approach was any approach but the direct approach, as Sasuke caught Naruto's fist in his left hand and kneed Naruto in the stomach, causing the blonde haired boy to collapse on the ground.
"Go Sasuke-kun! You're the best!" Sakura cheered from the sidelines.
"Sakura, try not to interrupt their match." Kakashi said. "They need their concentration you know."
Sakura blushed a little in embarrassment from Kakashi's reprimand. "Oh, I'm sorry Kakashi-sensei." she said. "It's just kind of exciting to watch them, especially Sasuke-kun!"
Kakashi sighed, wondering how long Sakura was going to keep focusing on Sasuke instead of focusing on her work as a kunoichi. He sometimes wondered if it was even important to her, given how much she doted on him. Rather than say anything, he simply turned his eyes back to Naruto and Sasuke.
In the short time that he taken to sigh at Sakura's obsession with Sasuke, he had apparently missed a good deal. Naruto had gotten back to his feet and he and Sasuke were now trading punches and kicks with each other with neither one of them landing a blow on each other. Kakashi's instincts, honed to a much finer point than his students from years of training, could tell that Sasuke was actually having trouble keeping up with Naruto. Very interesting indeed, considering Sasuke already possessed fairly natural skills in Taijutsu and he had given him a month long crash course before he had fought Gaara. Naruto was really working overtime today!
Suddenly, just as Naruto landed a powerful jab into Sasuke's ribcage, Sasuke changed tactics. He grappled with Naruto, wrapped his arms around Naruto's waist, and arched himself backwards, driving Naruto headfirst into the ground. Naruto's head disappeared into the earth, the way a body would had Kakashi used his Headhunter Technique.
Sasuke stood up and dusted himself off. "Sorry dobe. It was fun while it lasted, but this it how it ends. I have to admit that was pretty good though." he said in his usual tone of nonchalance.
Naruto suddenly planted his hands onto the earth, thrust downward and pushed himself out of the ground. His face was dirty and there was dirt in his blonde hair. That look of determination was still there, now colder then ever.
"I'm not done yet Sasuke-teme." Naruto rasped. "This match isn't over."
Sasuke smirked. "Oh really, dobe? Then show me what you're made of."
Naruto charged at Sasuke and threw another left hook. Once again Sasuke caught it, but this time Naruto used his right hand to block the knee strike. However, Sasuke still had enough range to lean forward and head-butt Naruto in the face. Naruto gave shouted and stumbled backward, clutching his face, and Sasuke used that time to step forward and deliver a thrust kick to his stomach, driving Naruto back to the ground.
Sasuke walked to where Naruto was and smirked down at him. "I told you dobe, it was fun while it lasted, but this is where it ends. You did well, but I win. Now just give it up."
"I… am… going to be… Hokage." Naruto whispered as he tried to regain his wind. "I won't give up… ever!"
"And stop with that stupid 'I'm going to be Hokage' crap. It's getting on my nerves."
Naruto's eyes shot open and he held his right hand out to one side. A mass of blue chakra began to gather in it, beginning to form into a swirling blue ball. Sasuke's eyes widened in shock. What sort of technique was this? Naruto gave an inarticulate snarl as he thrust out his palm…
…only to have it arrested by Kakashi Hatake.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto exclaimed. "What are you-?"
"The match is over." Kakashi said dully as the chakra in Naruto's hand dissipated. "Winner: Sasuke."
"Alright, way to go Sasuke-kun! I knew you could do it!" Sakura cheered, waving at the raven haired boy. She had never doubted him for a minute.
Kakashi released his grip on Naruto's wrist and began to walk back toward Sakura with Sasuke, who bore his trademark "I don't care about anything" look. Naruto didn't understand. Why did Kakashi stop the match? It was supposed to be until one of them was incapacitated.
"Oi! Oi! Kakashi-sensei! Why did you stop our match?" Naruto asked, running to catch up with them.
"You really don't know Naruto?" Kakashi asked. It came in the form of a question, but anyone with half a brain could see he was being rhetorical.
"I could've beaten Sasuke if you hadn't stopped me!" Naruto pouted.
Kakashi sighed. "The moment you activated the Rasengan, you lost the match. This was a Taijutsu match, in case you forgot. If I had wanted you to use Ninjutsu, I would have told you to do so. Because you broke that rule, you were disqualified and lost the match." he explained.
Naruto looked sadder then ever. Kakashi was expecting Naruto to argue with him, to protest, or complain or something like he normally did, but Naruto did not. He simply nodded his head and said "I guess you're right."
Naruto didn't say a word the rest of the way to the Ichiraku Ramen Shop.
He hadn't eaten his ramen yet. He just sat there staring at it, stirring it with his chopsticks, watching it give off steam until it had grown cold. Kakashi, Sasuke, and Sakura were long gone. It was just him and his bowl of ramen.
Naruto still couldn't believe it, all that effort, all that hard work, and Sasuke had still come out the victor. This wasn't the first time this had happened. Every single mission, every single assignment, Sasuke had to rescue him and Sakura, handsome, perfect Sasuke, with his natural talent and good looks, every, single, fucking time.
He reflected on the few victories he had had in the past. His fight with Haku hadn't been a victory. The damn fox had taken over and he had tried to help Haku when Kyuubi was gone, but the poor guy had been too dedicated to Zabuza and look what it had cost him! Well, to each his own, but still…
His fight with Kiba during the preliminaries? Okay, that was a victory of sorts, but he had only had time to set up the Naruto Rendan because he had farted in Kiba's face. What kind of ninja did that? What was next, pissing on the floor to make your opponent slip and fall? It just didn't seem proper, even if he had won.
His fight with Neji now: now there was the closest thing he could come up with to a true victory. He had fought Neji tooth and nail with Neji anticipating and destroying all of his attacks, even shutting off all of his chakra points at one point in the fight. But then Naruto had managed to summon Kyuubi's chakra and…
Yes, he had summoned Kyuubi's chakra.
He had done the same thing in his fight with Gaara. And in his brief run-in with Itachi and Kisame.
So in an indirect way, even though he had been fighting, it had been Kyuubi which enabled him to achieve victory.
All of these revelations combined with his unhappy childhood did not make Naruto a happy camper.
"Hey kid!" the shopkeeper said, making Naruto jump slightly. "You just gonna sit there all day or are you gonna eat? I can't have loitering!"
With a dejected sigh, Naruto began to eat his ramen. He didn't wolf it down like he usually did. He slowly and methodically, not caring that it was stone cold by now. What was the point? In the end, the ramen turned cold, his efforts did not bear fruit, Sakura ignored him, he would screw up on missions, and the Kyuubi would remain inside of him to the day he died.
Naruto left the money on the counter and left the Ichiraku Ramen Shop to see if he could find Sakura and Sasuke. Maybe they would like to do something-anything-with him.
"…I mean, I totally knew you could win Sasuke-kun, Naruto never had a chance against you, but nobody does, you're the best in the whole village, I bet not even Kakashi-sensei could beat you if you really tried-"
She had been rambling on and on like this for some time and had not gotten off of his back, literally. Ever since they had left Ichiraku Ramen and Kakashi had disappeared to do his own thing (it had something to do with Gai and one of his countless "spirited challenges of youth"), Sakura had been clinging to him and professing to him how great he was and how she knew he would defeat Naruto in their wager. Initially he had been able to tolerate it, but after it had gone on for a half hour, it had gotten annoying. Kami-sama, couldn't a guy get some peace and quiet?
"Sakura, if you don't mind, would you get off of me?" Sasuke said. His voice was muffled as Sakura's arms had wrapped around his head and were covering his mouth.
"Oh, sorry Sasuke-kun!" Sakura giggled. She promptly let go of Sasuke and stood in front of him. "I'm just happy for you, that's all! I figured you'd be happy too!"
Sasuke didn't say anything. He just uttered a brief "Hmph." and turned to leave. Sakura began to walk after him, but Sasuke looked over his shoulder and shot her a glance that told her not to follow him. Sakura was disappointed, but she did not want to displease him, so she stayed behind and watched Sasuke walk away.
As Sasuke disappeared from view, Naruto came up to her. "Hey Sakura-chan. You wanna go see a movie or something?" His voice was happy, but it lacked that spark of energy that was his trademark. It was softer, more subdued.
Sakura raised an eyebrow. "Why would I want to see a movie with you?" she asked, the last word dripping with sarcasm.
"I just thought that maybe we could, you know, spend some time together now that Kakashi-sensei is done training us for the day. I mean, we don't have anything better to do, right?"
"Naruto, you're a complete nuisance!" Sakura said. "Why would I want to hang out with somebody who only wants to humiliate other people?"
Naruto recoiled as if struck. "H-humiliate people? Sakura-chan, what are you saying?"
Sakura took a step toward him, her eyes blazing. "I know why you were trying so hard today in training Naruto! The only reason you performed so well was because you wanted to surpass and humiliate Sasuke! Well guess what? It didn't work! You lost, fair and square!"
"But… but Sakura-chan-"
Sakura didn't let him finish. "Did you think you even had a chance, Naruto? The only reason you were able to keep up with him for as long as you did was because you were in a rage and was thus able to push yourself beyond your regular limit of functioning! But when you finally calmed down, you reverted back to your normal clumsy self and Sasuke was able to beat you! If it wasn't for that, you wouldn't have lasted so long against him!"
Naruto was speechless. He didn't know what to say. All he could come up with was: "Sakura-chan…"
"It's pathetic, Naruto."
Naruto's head shot up.
Sakura nodded at him, a look of sick triumph on her face. "You made that dumb wager with Sasuke just to make him look weak, but you just made yourself look weak. You made yourself look even weaker by trying to use Ninjutsu on him instead of Taijutsu when you weren't supposed to. I mean really, trying to make another person feel weak. That's like what Neji did to Hinata during the preliminaries of the Chunin exam!"
Like what Neji did to Hinata… Like what Neji did to Hinata… Like what Neji did to Hinata…
Those cruel words echoed in his mind as if being played on a tape recorder. He had seen Sakura angry before, but never like this. She had never gotten so… so… low before… And it was terrible. He had never felt so degraded in all his life. All the cold shoulders the villagers had given him, the missions he had screwed up, the failed exams, all of his shortcomings, none of it seemed to compare to this vicious volley of insults.
"Face it Naruto. It doesn't matter how strong you become. You'll still be a loser compared to Sasuke and the others. It's pathetic. You're pathetic." Sakura sneered.
Naruto looked at the ground. His depression had returned and he just wanted to be left alone. He considered going back to Ichiraku Ramen, but he didn't feel hungry right now. Sakura had done enough to him. She had made her point.
As Sakura turned around to leave, she said: "Sasuke was right Naruto. What chance do you even have of becoming Hokage? Everything he said was right about you. You can barely be called a ninja." Noticing the whisker like markings on his face, she threw in one last insult: "Given those whisker-like markings, you can barely be called human!"
"See you later Hinata!" Ino called from her family's flower shop.
Hinata did not say a word. She simply waved at Ino and walked to the road curb where her cousin Neji was waiting, his trademark scowl marking his face as if it had been branded on him.
"I don't see why you want to buy a flower when you can just pick one Hinata-sama. There are flowers all over Konoha and the forest." Neji said, his tone as impatient as ever.
Hinata's head jerked up from the red rose she was admiring in her hands. "N-Neji-niisan, I was j-just b-buying this f-for… f-for… um…"
Neji narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "For whom, Hinata-sama? Is there something I should be aware of? Or someone?"
Hinata did not answer. Today was going to be the day she told Naruto how she felt about him. She had finally mustered up the courage to tell him face to face, but she couldn't she just go up and talk to him. She needed to present him with something that described her feelings for him. She couldn't give him something from the Hyuga manor. The elders would not approve of it. So she had simply settled on a red rose from the Yamanaka flower shop. She could have just picked any flower, but roses did not grow in Konoha. Ino's father on the other hand, got shipments of flowers from all over the world, so she had gone there instead.
Hinata had to admit, she was a tad embarrassed about presenting Naruto with a red rose. It was very clichéd and old fashioned, like something out of an old romance novel or movie, but it was the only thing she could think of. And besides, flowers could still send powerful messages, so it was probably the safest choice.
Before she could answer Neji's question, Hinata heard the sound of rapid footsteps approaching. She and Neji turned to see Naruto running toward them. No, scratch that, he wasn't just running. He was sprinting toward them. But why would Naruto be in such a hurry? Was he running as a form of exercise? That was like something Lee would do, but Naruto?
Hinata smiled shyly. "K-konichiwa Naruto-kun! I-I brought you s-somethi-"
She did not finish as Naruto bolted past her without even stopping to say hello. He did not even look up at her. He just kept on dashing past her into the distance until he was out of sight.
Hinata held up her hand as if to stop him, even though he was gone. "N-Naruto-kun, wait! I-"
Neji gently took hold of her hand. "It's time to go home Hinata-sama. Don't concern yourself with him."
"It's time to go home." Neji repeated.
With a sigh, Hinata submitted. So much for telling Naruto how she felt…
Can barely be called human… can barely be called human… can barely be called human… can barely be called human…
Freak… Monster… Don't go near him! You don't deserve to live! He's evil… Demon child… Fox child… You should be fucking crucified… Demonic scum…
Throughout his life, he had listened to these thoughts in his head, but after what Sakura had said to him, they had turned into voices, actual voices. They came in a never ending stream, a dreadful cacophony of taunts, cold words, and jibes, all aimed at him without the slightest bit of regret. And no matter how fast he ran, no matter how hard he pressed his hands against his ears, he could still hear them.
Naruto rushed through the streets of Konoha, eyes partially shut, head pounding, and above all else, his heart and spirit broken. He had had his feelings hurt before countless times by the villagers, his classmates, and even his friends, but this was different. Sakura, the girl he had had a crush on, had not just insulted or hurt him, but had torn into him and destroyed him, and intentionally at that. She had ripped out his soul, cut it in half, watched it writhe, and spat on both halves.
Naruto finally reached the building to his apartment. He yanked open the door and sprinted up the stairs, reaching the door to his apartment. He yanked that open as well, rushed inside and slammed the door shut, locking it. He felt weary and miserable. He couldn't take it anymore. All the pain in his heart and soul had reached their breaking point.
Naruto's lips began to quiver and his blue eyes began to water. Before the tsunami could come, Naruto ran to his window and slammed it shut so nobody could hear him. Unable to restrain himself any further, Naruto hurled himself onto his bed, buried his face into his pillow and began to weep.
Perhaps weep was not the correct term for what Naruto did. Sobbing was not, even wailing was not. He was flat out bawling. Horrible, unearthly sounds of misery and agony issued forth from his throat, the sounds of the utterly damned. Every so often, Naruto would hiccup or cough, but mostly all he would do was cry. Tears streamed down his concealed face. All that could be heard in the apartment of the famous knuckleheaded ninja was a muffled waaaahh waaahh sound.
Naruto was utterly broken. It was over, everything. It wasn't just that Sakura had said such horrible things to him. It wasn't just that it had been Sakura who had said such horrible things to him. It was that what she had said was true. What were the chances of him becoming Hokage? And even if he did, would they even allow him to be Hokage, given he had the most vicious demon in existence sealed inside of his body? No wonder the villagers always looked at him with such scorn. He truly was a freak. A monster…
What then? What was there left for him? A lifetime as a regular ninja? A lifetime living in the shadow of people like Sasuke and Neji who would be regarded as geniuses while people like him would be looked down on simply for what they were? Even Lee and Hinata were regarded as successful ninja now because they had persevered over their personal problems-Hinata's shyness in combat, Lee's inability mold chakra correctly-and had become strong! But Naruto could never change what he was. Even if he became strong, he would always be a monster to the villagers because of Kyuubi. Always a monster…
Finally gaining control of himself, Naruto sat up on his bed, his face tear stained, his nose running, his face a mask of misery and depression. He looked at his hands. The hands that had formed the Rasengan, the hands that had kneaded chakra to create bunshin doppelgangers, the hands that had done all sorts of wonderful things.
The hands with nails which had become dangerous fox claws.
"It's not fair." Naruto sobbed. "How is this my fault? I didn't choose to have it sealed within me! So wh-wh-w-whaaaaaaaaiiiiiIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"
The word turned into a long wail and Naruto started bawling again. He buried his face in his hands and bawled uncontrollably, not caring if anybody heard him. He wanted somebody to love him, to care for him, to shelter him, but that would never happen. Iruka had been there for him, but a boy needed more then just a teacher to get through life. He wanted his mother and father, even though they were dead. He wanted somebody-anybody-to hold him, hug him, and sing to him until he fell asleep.
In that moment, Naruto Uzumaki wished he were dead.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Yeah, that was pretty mean, I know, and perhaps a tad long too. If this is an inconvenience to you, I apologize, but I had a lot of fun writing it. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Read and review at your leisure!