Full Summary: When Naruto and Sakura and Sai and Yamato finally found Sasuke, they almost managed to convince him to come home. But in a moment's hesitation he sided with Orochimaru, only to have his 'master' torture Naruto for three long days in a genjutsu 'alternate dimension'. In this alternate dimension, Naruto was relentlessly tortured with excruiating pain, and shown images of Sasuke beaten, killed, all because of him. Occasionally during his stay he would be given a brief moment of peace where he 'wakes up' in a world where Sasuke never left, and they're the best of friends, only to take him back to the hellish nightmare he started in. Due to all of this Naruto pushed everything and everyone he knew away in his mind and regressed the mental state of a seven year old. When this was discovered upon his awakening in the hospital after the failure of their mission he was placed in the sanatorium.
The story starts with the successful capture of Sasuke, which is AU and takes place two years later...
Um, I lied. It is being revamped. :) This is the original version of this story, unedited, unchanged. If you would like to read a newer improved version, go read my newest story 'Sweet Parody', same storyline, just better.
Chapter 1 - Flower Girl
Naruto was quite happy that day. After all, it was spaghetti day in the cafeteria, he got to go to his art group and color, and flower girl was coming to see him. He liked flower girl. He sat down at his favorite table in the cafeteria and dug into his spaghetti with enthusiasm. The cafeteria was slightly chilled, because the air conditioning didn't work the right way, so it was overly cool instead of just right. But Naruto didn't care. He was quite used to the chill as his art group took place in the basement art room. The high ceiling loomed over him as he looked up through the pretty skylights. The room was long and rectangular, with smooth white wash walls. There were no windows except for the ones in the ceiling, and they let in minimal light. Mostly the place was illuminated by narrow track lighting covered in plastic. Flies flitted about, stuck within their new prison, much like those humans below them. At the wall farthest from the door was the lunch line, where behind a thick pane of glass the cooks worked. A small hole in the glass at the bottom near the counter was where the food was passed through and placed on the patient's plate. Large metal picnic like tables were arranged in uniform rows, children and adults alike dotting them, sprinkled throughout the room in either small groups, or remaining alone. Naruto had sat down at his favorite table which was closer to the door, his back to the entry way. The sun shone through the skylights down onto his face, and Naruto liked to think that the sunshine warmed him a little.
"Hello Naruto, how are you today?" A familiar voice greeted.
Naruto spun around, a look of absolute glee spreading across his face, "Flower girl!"
There she was, standing before him smiling as usual. Her short pink hair was held back by her funny headband she liked to wear, and her green eyes were gleaming. She was in her plain white work outfit, so he guessed she'd just left the hospital for her daily lunch with him. But she had the afternoon off today, so that meant she got to come to art group with him. Naruto clambered off of the bench he sat on and threw his arms around flower girl excitedly. When she didn't hug him back, Naruto pulled away feeling confused and slightly hurt.
"Guess what I brought for you today Naruto?" Flower girl smiled even more brightly.
"A coloring book?!" He gasped, getting anxious to head to art group at the thought of having a new coloring book. His feelings of hurt were immediately washed away.
Flower girl nodded and handed it over. This one had all different kinds of animals in it; unlike the last one she gave him which only had kittens and puppies. He eagerly flipped through the pages as he sat down in his original spot, already deciding which ones he was going to color first. Naruto lifted a leg back over the bench so he could continue eating his spaghetti while he looked at all the different animals. Flower girl sat down on the other side of the table, facing him. When she didn't start telling him about her day at the hospital like she usually did, Naruto glanced up at her in confusion. They had a very clearly defined routine. Naruto like routines, they were the same. He liked things that stayed the same.
"Why so quiet flower girl?" Naruto asked.
"Naruto, there's a very important friend of mine that came home a few days ago from a very long trip."
"So you won't be able to stay after lunch?" He frowned expectantly.
"No, that's not it. It's just that I've told him so much about you that he'd very much like to meet you."
"Oh, well sure! I like flower girl's friends!" Naruto nodded.
"Would you mind if after lunch I went and got him? So he could come with me to your art group today?" Flower girl looked anxious, as though Naruto would say no. Naruto thought this was silly of Flower girl; he'd met all of her friends and liked them very much. She had nice friends. Why would this one be any different?
"Of course! I would love to meet him." Naruto smiled at her and took another big bite of spaghetti.
Flower girl smiled back, but not with her usual enthusiasm. Naruto frowned at her and reached for her hand. She offered it hesitantly. As he held her hand, Naruto watched her face, examining her expressions as they changed fluidly from one to the other. She looked sad, anxious, excited, and afraid. Naruto decided that she looked like a whole bunch of grown up emotions, but mostly sad.
"Flower girl, what's wrong? You look sad."
"I'm not sad, just tired. I've been working hard at the hospital lately." Flower girl offered him another grin, this one even less happy than the one before it. Naruto nodded, to appease her, but he really didn't believe a word she'd said.
Abruptly the bell rung that signaled the end of lunch, and Naruto stood up, gathering his lunch mess and his new coloring book. He threw away his mess and went around the table to hug Flower girl who had yet to stand up. She hugged him back, and before letting him go she gave him an extra squeeze. He then hurried back to his room; he just remembered that it was a bit messy. He'd left his pajamas all over the floor, and he didn't want his counselor to become angry with him. It was one of the things he was now required to do as a part of his daily tasks, keeping his room clean. It was a way to show responsibility, his counselor had said.
Once in his room, Naruto set down his coloring book and set about arranging his room so it was neat and tidy. It was sort of odd having his room clean all the time, but at the same time it was nice to have another 'task' to do. It meant he had another opportunity to earn a star during the day. All of the other kids like him had a points system they followed. Depending on the number of tasks they had to do a day, they had a matching number of stars they could earn. If saved up, stars could be used for things like (if allowed, certain rewards varied depending on the kid and their restrictions) going out into the village or extra desert at dinner. Naruto always saved his stars; he never could quite choose what he wanted to use them for. If you acted out though, you lost stars, and sometimes you got a red dot which was very bad and meant that certain privileges were taken away. Naruto was proud to say that he had never gotten a red dot though he had lost a few stars, but only for little things like not cleaning his room or talking back to his counselor. Finally, having glanced at the clock, it was time for his art group. Naruto picked up his coloring book and hurried out of the room towards the basement.
"Are you sure you want to do this Sasuke?" Sakura asked. It was almost like she was trying to persuade him to change his mind.
It had been only a week since the controlling spell Orochimaru had put on him had been dispelled. For the first three years he'd been gone, Sasuke had been willingly serving under Orochimaru. But then, two years ago when Sakura and Naruto had managed to find him, they'd nearly convinced im to come home. Then, it was like he was asleep, watching someone else act for him. He had been under Orochimaru's control for the next two years, and suddenly Sakura came in with two anbu members he didn't know and banished the spell. In a whirl of chaos, Orochimaru had been killed. And now here he was back in Konoha, on probation and in a village very different than the one he'd left behind. Naruto was in the sanatorium on the outskirts of town, had been there for two years. Orochimaru had been the cause of his placement there. At first, when Sakura had told him about Naruto's location, and the cause for it, Sasuke had simply scoffed. She had to be joking. This was some kind of sick joke they were pulling on him, like a prank. Naruto was the village prankster after all. But no, all of his old friends...(well, they were never really his friends, more his peers) confirmed the situation. They all visited Naruto in the sanatorium on a regular basis, and were known to him as Sakura's friends.
Sasuke wasn't sure he liked being 'home'. It was extremely awkward. He was welcomed by no one. In fact, Sakura had been the one he'd woken up to, but to her alone. At first, it was like deja vu, like he'd just been knocked out during training, and been sent to the hospital to get a simple check up. Of course, Sakura, his most faithful stalker, was the one to be in his room when he'd woken up. It made perfect sense. It had all been a bad dream. He had even looked around the room for Kakashi, who was ultimately not there. It was Sakura's hair that had somehow clued him in. It was so much shorter, and her face was more serious. Sasuke would dare to say that the expression on her face was one of regret. As though she sincerely wished she'd never gone after him. Well fine, he wished she hadn't either. She'd explained all of what had happened to him, how when they'd tried again to come after him they'd first encountered Orochimaru's dead body. Sasuke had been sitting nearby, bloody and bruised with his sword in his shaking hand. He'd been a confusing, if not pitiful sight, knees pulled to his chest and his arms wrapped around them. The controlling jutsu had just worn off. He'd been partially under when he'd killed Orochimaru. The spell had been fading, and Sasuke took advantage of it to kill the sod.
If Sakura's disappointment and frustration and pity wasn't enough, it was the cold shoulder of everyone in the , look at that pathetic Uchiha the traitor of Konoha. Of all of the insults jeered at him, Sasuke despised 'Orochimaru's groupie' the most. He was an Uchiha, he deserved more respect than this. But apparently Itachi and him had obliterated any last bit of respect they'd had by their actions over the past few years. His name no longer meant anything. Sasuke's property had been sold, but Tsunade had generously decided to give him back his estate and that new furniture would be put in soon. The only reason he was still alive, and on probation was because he killed Orochimaru. Apparently this death was satisfactory as payment for his crimes and he was allowed to live. However he would be on probation for several months before he would be allowed to work as a ninja for Konoha again. In all of this madness, Sasuke had noticed an overwhelming silence. Yes, fine, there was noise. As you would expect in a bustling village. But there was a gap. The one Naruto had left when he'd been put into the Sanatorium. This strange desire to see the dobe after all these years, this was what led him here today with Sakura. Sasuke didn't understand it at all. Really. What was he doing?
"He won't remember you, Sasuke. He doesn't remember anyone, not even Iruka or Kakashi." Sakura warned him as she had already. But hearing it again, as they walked through the sanatorium's front doors made it hit him even harder.
"And because of his regression he has the mind of a seven year old. He doesn't realize how old he is physically, and he acts very childish."
"Sakura!" Sasuke snapped. She winced, and stared at the ground, "I'm sorry…it's just…I know. You've told me all of this. And I…I want to see him."
Sakura gave him that withering, pitying look that she had been for the past few days since she'd revealed to him Naruto's condition. He chose to ignore it and allowed her to lead him to the sign in desk. He accepted his badge, and wrote his name neatly on the sign in sheet. From there Sakura led him through the halls towards the basement, where she said that Naruto was with his 'Art Group' at the moment. Sasuke inquired as to why he attended such things and Sakura explained easily, making Sasuke feel extremely awkward.
"They do it for all of the patients, it's a part of their enrichment program. It's a way for them to express themselves, and to relax while being part of a group." Sakura told him, "They have groups for the children, Naruto and other adults like him who have regressed mentally into childhood accompany them, and the other adults with different problems."
"Here we are." Sakura put on a big smile and opened the door in front of them. Sasuke shivered involuntarily. It was quite cold in the basement. I should have worn a coat.
"Flower girl!" A familiar voice cried. It was deeper, but with a childish tone to it. Sasuke looked across the room and felt his heart leap into his throat.
Naruto was sitting on the floor on the far side of the round room room with a bucket of crayons sitting next to room was entirely made of cement, and everything made an echo off the smooth walls. There were rugs, and book shelves, and cushions and chairs to make it seem more comfortable. But the chill that lurked in the space was overpowering and in the end made the room seem wrong somehow. Naruto had a coloring book on his lap and an eager grin on his face at the sight of Sakura. His eyes then flitted over to Sasuke with a friendly look but no apparent recognition. Sasuke again wondered why he was here. The dobe wouldn't even recognize him. What was the point if there was going to be no annoying the brat? It wouldn't be like old times. It would be awkward and strange. Sakura grabbed him by the arm and forced him over to Naruto where they sat down on the floor with him.
"Hi Naruto, this is my friend Sasuke." Sakura introduced him as though Naruto and he had never met before. A strange creeping feeling made it's way through Sasuke's body at this thought and he put a friendly smile on his face that was thoroughly fake and unfelt.
"Hi Sasuke, Flower girl told me about you at lunch today." He set down the crayon he was holding and offered Sasuke his hand.
Sasuke shook it politely and gave Sakura a strange look, "Flower girl?"
"Yes, it's what Naruto calls me. It's because-"
"I wanna tell the story!" Naruto blurted loudly. Just like a child would…Sasuke thought grimly, and he barely contained a roll of his eyes.
"Okay." Sakura chuckled.
"When I first met Flower girl, she came to visit me when I woke up in the hospital. I was really hurt; I guess I was in a accident. But I don't remember it." Naruto explained happily.
Sasuke forced himself to smile patiently while he listened to Naruto regale him with this story. He told Sasuke how Sakura had introduced herself by her first name, but that he decided to call her flower girl because her name meant a type of flower. Oh and because her hair was pink. This was a vital detail in his epic tale. When Naruto wasn't gesturing wildly with his arms as he told them a story, he was intent on coloring in the new book that Sakura had given him at lunch. He really was like a little kid again. Sasuke felt his chest tighten nearly every time Naruto opened his mouth to speak. It was like he expected every time for Naruto to start talking like normal, for this all to be some big joke. That his best friend, his rival, his team mate would suddenly come back to him. But it never happened. Instead he was thinking of Naruto younger, when Sasuke barely even paid attention to his existance. Oh, it was the loud kid that everyone hated, who didn't have any parents. Big deal. Back then Sasuke had always wondered why he'd never cried, always putting a grin on his face. He secretly wanted to see him cry, which sounded horrible, but it was what he'd wanted. No one could be happy all the time, especially in those conditions. Now however, Sasuke wanted Naruto to laugh and fight with him, and call him a jerk. Hell, he'd even rather the dobe take a swing at him than sit there and color and call Sakura 'Flower Girl'.
"Did you have fun on your trip, Sasuke?" Naruto suddenly asked him.
Sasuke jolted back to the present, as he hadn't noticed he'd been spacing out. Naruto was coloring, so the question wasn't really meant seriously but still it struck a nerve. His trip. Sasuke looked to Sakura for an answer. But apparently when his answer didn't come immediately Naruto felt like he hadn't phrased his question correctly.
"Your trip? Flower girl said that you just got home from a very long trip." As Naruto said this Sasuke widened his eyes pointedly at Sakura, "Where did you go? Did you go to visit one of the other villages? What kind of stuff did you do?"
"Ah, I wanted to see how some of the other villages did things, so I've been visiting a lot of them."
"That doesn't sound fun. That sounds like such a grown up thing to do!" Naruto proclaimed.
"It was." Sasuke agreed, looking back on the rash decisions he'd made.
Before Naruto could get a chance to ask more about this fabricated 'trip', something happened. He'd turned a page in his coloring book and came upon one with some snakes on it. They were cutesy, and not at all terrifying looking. Their little forked tongues were poking out and their eyes were small crescents to show that they were happy snakes. Upon seeing them Naruto screamed loudly; throwing the book across the room and curling up in the corner. Sakura cursed under her breath and gathered Naruto in her arms, apologizing for her mistake. He cried hysterically, sobbing and hiccupping against her shoulder. The other children, (some friends of Naruto's) gathered around trying to see what was wrong. Eventually, the counselor who was handling the group that day allowed Sakura and Sasuke to take Naruto back to his rooms while calming down the other children.
With the strength she obtained through training with Tsunade, Sakura was the one who carried Naruto in her arms. She spoke soft reassuring words to him, and quickly he fell asleep. Sasuke looked at Sakura and asked her what on earth had happened.
"Naruto doesn't like snakes. He says they remind him of the bad man in his nightmares he has almost every night." Sakura said sadly, "I should have checked before I got the book. I can't believe how stupid I was!"
When they reached Naruto's room she went inside and laid him down in his bed, covering him up and tucking him in. She sat on the edge of his bed while Sasuke chose to stand nearby. "Has he told you much about this bad man?"
"His descriptions are very vague, but he has drawn pictures, and they do look a lot like Orochimaru, but sometimes they look like your brother, Itachi." Sakura murmured quietly, her eyebrows knit together as she thought about it.
"Do you have any of these pictures?" Sasuke asked, intrigued by the thought of Naruto remembering anything from his old life, even if it was a nightmare.
"Yeah, back at my apartment. I'll find them for you when we go back there."
"What are his nightmares like?"
"For one, lower your voice, he's sleeping." Sakura scolded him and Sasuke rolled his eyes at her, "And two…they're also just as flat as the idea of the 'bad man'. Just like a little kid's nightmares."
"The bad man comes after him, with snakes. Sometimes, very rarely, he's hurting a boy Naruto thinks he knew before his 'accident'." Sakura trembled as she said this, "The pictures he's drawn of it…make me think, Sasuke…that boy is-"
"Me." He gulped.
Sasuke glared at the boy lying in the bed. Naruto's now peaceful sleeping face was turned towards him. Sasuke had always wondered why Naruto had cared so much, why he'd fought so hard to make Sasuke come home. Now, here Naruto was in the sanatorium with no memories of anyone. Still, even in this state, he was worried about Sasuke, though it might have been in nightmares, it was still something. Sasuke didn't miss the flash of jealousy across Sakura's face when she admitted this. For some reason Sasuke couldn't really explain, he felt a bit of pride swell in his chest. The dobe that Sakura had ignored for so long despite his obvious feelings for her didn't care enough about her to remember her. Yet Sasuke, the one who'd betrayed him, relentlessly teased him and left him...Naruto remembered him. It wasn't until Sakura left him alone in the room with Naruto, so she could go get his 'nightmare drawings' from her apartment that Sasuke truly thought on what he'd just discovered. Why was Naruto remembering him something to be proud of?