Shiver

The Kite- Finding Neverland OST

Werewolf- Catpower

Morgasmo- Lustmord Remix of Tool's 'Parabola' Minutes start-3:52

The Shed not to be Used – The Village OST

Wolves (Act I and II)- Bon Iver

Jack Nimble- Lady of the Sunshine (Spotify, not youtube! That version is cut slightly)

Remember: Start each song when there is a word in boldunderlineditalics. Enjoy!

Chapter Seventeen: The branches where he has gone

5.

The morning smelt warm, bitter, hot. Like toast, with an edge of burnt. Dad always got distracted by the cartoon section in the newspaper and ended up neglecting the bread and the bacon. Mum always smiled and said that she liked things crispy anyway.

The table was round and scuffed and we sat around it in our pyjamas, so uncaring. There were ducks on mine, which made me dream of lakes and sailing boats. When Dad spilt the coffee, Mum laughed.

Things were so soft on Sundays.

10.

The world around me was white. Harsh, blinding. Everywhere I looked left afterimages in my eyes. There was snow under my fingernails. The blood in my hands coagulated so that the skin was left red in patches. My knuckles cracked and bled as I stretched my hand.

I was in a ghost world. My warmth was slow. It sat alongside a hooded figure which rows with patient strokes.

"Naruto? Hey, little buddy. You have to come along with us. Here, why don't you take my hand?" I heard this but the noises echoed, and somewhere between my ears and my mind it became distorted. There was only the sterile walls and the gaping mouths filled with slush. The cracked egg heads and the terrible, terrible silence.

Where is my mummy and daddy? I tried to say, but my tongue was broken; cracked in places that did not exist before that day.

The music is gone, I realised.

I am alone.

12.

I opened my eyes slowly. For a moment everything was trembling around me. I held my breath until my lips were shivering violins and then let it out. Slowly. Slowly.

On the other side of the window the night was so bright that the trees threw shadows against the fields we passed on the tremulous bus. The land was not silver, but green and cold. It felt damp like the condensation on the glass. Looked like the poetry the orphanage English teacher read to us sometimes. The kind that made her voice low, intimate, saddened.

Like honey (six jars of it)- Slowly-

"This is the room I have never been in

This is the room I could never breathe in.

The black bunched in there like a bat,

No light

But the torch and its faint..."

That made her close her eyes at the end and take a deep gulp of air. As if she had run through every word breathlessly, when in reality she uttered them brokenly, slowing down and savouring the sounds that hurt her the most.

(For those are the most beautiful.)

We had spent the day at the beach, one of the few outings since my arrival at the orphanage, two years previous. The sun had been blinding, peeling all of our excess layers off to leave the core to salt and roast and sandcrumb. The bottom of my feet were still red and sore and happy from the run, updown updown like tides.

The moon was full now, though, and around me lay the exhausted bodies of children who had been burnt out by the energy of excessive happiness. But I couldn't sleep. I could still smell the sea on the skin around me. My tongue flicked out and tasted salt.

From the radio shivered the string of a cello. Softly, softly, it wound between the silence and the darkness. The guitar that strummed were footsteps (mine, or his, it is the same.) The voice that sung was also a short sort of literature.

It was also sad and

frac

ture

d.

Making sounds and half howls.

My happiness in that moment was complete, though not content. It was almost melancholic. This is me, I thought. With the strings and the moonlight and the werewolves. I was a modern mythical creature. Music my moonlight sonata.

For the werewolf, for the werewolf has sympathy
For the werewolf, somebody like

you and me.

I cry out, but it never listened.

I shifted against the frayed material of my seat and try to dink the moment in. Beside me, one of my friends shifts and lays her head on my shoulder, an odd puzzle piece which is perfect for not fitting. I felt rested in my exhaustion. Tried breathing the sunshine and moonlight air.

The bus rolled on (time and dust), and I closed my eyes. My lips were trembling like violins, but inside I was still. Calm. Even through the odd crescendo of instrument yowls.

My smile was wide and cold against the window pane.

And a little older than it should be.

13.

Kyuubi's house was large and cream and beautiful. Its back yard unraveled into a forest which would become a terror and an escape in only a few months. My shyness, which is always a brief visitor, abated quickly and as Kyuubi completed the tour of the house ("Down there is the basement. It is filled with rubbish. You will get hurt if you go down there so don't try it. You understand?") I ran out of the back door and in between the tall trees. Deeper, they filtered the sunlight into something cool and emerald. I sat there quietly and smiled because a family had found me (finally, finally). I was looking at the mushroom heads and leaves on the floor when, in my stillness, a fox approached. Sleek, with the autumn-brown coloured coat lighting up in patches. It was beautiful. Its cautious gracefulness made it seem much more formidable than when seen in pictures and photographs. I made a movement and startlingly it looked up. Its black eyes met mine, electrifying. They were the rustle of bells and something darker- the deep groan of a trombone. My breath caught, held, but the noise broke the spell. The fox darted off into the darkness, leaving me oddly unsettled.

From afar, Kyuubi called my name. The branches broke the word and when it reached me, it sounded like the call of a wild animal.

OoO

The mud splattered on the back of my trousers as I ran into the house.

"Uncle Kyuubi! Uncle Kyuubi!" My voice was eager and breathless as I skidded into the kitchen. It was a month after arriving and I had finally gotten round to trekking through Kyuubi's side of Whirlpool City and, to my amazement, found a shop called Spiller's. It claimed to be the oldest record shop in the world. The walls had been covered by old, tattered photographs, concert tickets and the posters of obscure bands. I had been amazed by the variety of CDs on sale; groups that lived off the radar of mass-marketing and generic love lyrics. I had spent most of the afternoon tucked away in a corner of the shop, trying out the CDs with the experimental earphones pressed against me until my ears were sore. I had been so enthusiastic that the owner had laughed and given me a few demo CDs to check out. If my parents were alive they would have been amazed and gutted they had never found the little gem before.

"Look! Look what I-"

"Naruto." My voice died out at once. His voice was flat, emotionless. Frightening. He was sitting by the dinner table, paperwork strewn over its surface. As he looked up from a calculator, his expression frozen, eyes dark like the fox's had been. "Look behind you," he ordered. I obeyed him at once, looking at the path of muddy footsteps that followed me from the front door to where my feet shifted nervously.

"S-sorry, I-" my voice stuttered to a stop once again as he got up. There was something unsettling about his presence. I had caused my fair share of trouble in the past, and therefore gathered a large itinerary of different retributions. The burst of screaming anger, the quiet disappointment, the reasoning, the punishment, even the occasional spanking. But this...this lethal silence was more frightening than any of them.

"You know I am working at this time of the day. Do you think I appreciate you running in here and dirtying the floors of my house like this?" That was the first time he said 'my house' instead of 'our house'.

"No. No, sorry, I didn't mean- I just wanted-"

"Am I asking what you wanted? I'm telling you what you did," he interrupted coldly. Grabbing my arm he pulled me towards the hall and thrust me towards the mud.

"See? See?" he said, as if I were a dog being house trained. "Naruto," he said lowly, squeezing my arm painfully, "I'm asking you a question."

"Y-yes. Yes, sorry, sorry, I'll clean it up I won't do it again," I said, wincing. He let go from me suddenly and I shrunk away from him as he straightened up.

I had never quite noticed how tall he was.

"Good!" he said. "The mop is over there. Have a biscuit from the pantry when you're done." The change of attitude chilled my blood. I didn't move, my childish senses confused. He turned, smiling suddenly, before sitting down again.

I had never quite noticed how fake that expression was.

OoO

I had known there was something terrible in that strange new world for a while, but it was confirmed a week after the social worker announced she would not be back until needed.

She was mistaken. She wasn't back despite that.

Since I was five

(death does things to you)

there had been a part of me that looked for trouble. It ignored the constant threat of authority, even the frightful one Kyuubi posed. So when I stepped to the section cut off before the basement and smelt that rancid, peculiar smell, I didn't think twice to approach the door with mischievous steps. Rubbish, he had said. But one man's scraps are another man's meal.

As it turned out, however, Kyuubi's sins were my own downfall.

Have you ever had a nightmare in which you are afraid before anything happens? You step into a place as you close your eyes and in the air lives a terror which creeps into your mouth, between the marrow of your bones, the thickness in arteries. Well, that was how I felt as soon as I opened the door. I could see nothing as the steps dipped forward and to the left, but the noises and the smell were enough. The scents crawled over me; a chilling, petrifying attack. It was putrid, terrible. Dirty. Like neglected skin, or waste left to fester for weeks.

But it was the noises that were the worst. Animals whining and moaning and sobbing and hushing. A low, low, creature-like sound. It was a murdered, filled silence. The kind made when you desperately need to cry (the panic attacks in the slowest part of the night) and you try to cover the tracks the tears make by pressing the palms of your hands against your lips.

"Well, well, well," Kyuubi's disembodied voice drifts up from nowhere, "the boy finally shows up. Come down, Naruto." Violins start trembling in the distance, like creatures scuttling over my skin.

No. No. I think, but it is too late. I have past the point of no return.

My legs are shaking and knees almost buckle with the subdued panic that assaults me. I reach out a hand to steady me.

The walls are moist.

The ghost of a sound circles me. It is the remains of something, of some old, old terror. I feel sick. It distorts my thoughts like static, like madness.

I round the corner and the feeble, artificial light throws more shadows than anything else unto the scene, but it is enough for me to realise what is going on. As I look, I do not believe it is happening. I close my eyes for a moment but the dark is almost worse. I open them to look at he things that line the walls; cruel, twisted machines.

Blades teeth claws whips stretchers chains. Torturetorturetorture.

For a moment, as if tensing up for something worse, the noises in my mind get louder, louder. Deadlier. They are taking over me.

There was a young man tied to a chair. I couldn't determine his features, for they had been ripped, mauled off his face. The nails on his fingers had been shredded off and I could see the skin was live and dripping even in the semi darkness. His feet were facing backwards, the ankles having ruptured the skin and sticking out of his legs like skeleton fingers.

I was still. Wake up. Please, please- I'll do anything anything anything just wake up please just-

There are whispers around me everywhere. There is something with us; open, pointed tongues.

Wake, Wake u-

"I told you, Naruto, didn't I? Didn't I? You chose this." Kyuubi was standing to one side in a suit with his arms crossed across his chest. It was someone else who had the weapon in his hand, but it was the same. Worse.

Drip. Drip goes the metal, and each hit is an explosion. It rumbles off the walls and into my skin and across my tongue and teeth which are chattering from the horror,

Oh God,

For the desperation to keep still.

"How about we show Naruto the family business, hmm? What he has been sleeping on, eating from?"

Inside my head there is a breath of sound, crying out. Sounds ripping, killing over each other.

One, another, another.

I couldn't look away. There was a man in the middle of the room and no amount of movies, of violent video games, could prepare anybody for the sight of him. I wanted to pass out. To throw up. I was shaking, shaking, and in odd intervals the world would go blurry as tears swelled and dropped.

It couldn't be happening. Not here, not to real people. This happens only in books and distant, semi-fictional strangers on the news in places like Guantanamo Bay.

What happened next my mind cannot recall chronologically. Only in details that slip through the barriers of displacement and denial. The noise of the footsteps and the whining. The screaming and the shredding sound as the eye is dug and ripped out. My whole body

flinches.

Blood splutters; a hot, heavy breath as a drop hits my hand. The moment when I notice the people chained to the walls, huddled like shadows, watching, watching, as I am watching.

Worse.

The gravelly voice of the man, even through the screams, as he pushed the eye to the mouth of the audience and says "eat, you bitch."

This isn't real.

This isn't real.

This is-

The world lets out a low breath and it ends with an explosion.

OoO

When I threw up it was on the grass a few streets from the house. Every cell of me was trembling. The neurons in my head were defective, oscillating, and I couldn't think. Bile lined my throat. My breath was clogged in my nose and I was trying to stop crying but couldn't, couldn't.

"Oh God. Oh God no. No. God, God, no. No." That's all I could say. These broken down words that cracked off lips.

They hadn't tried to stop me. I had shot out of the room, crashing up the stairs to the sound of Kyuubi's low, cruel laughter. Had kept running until my knees burnt and buckled. Lactic acid replaced blood.

I had seen terror on TV. And it never looked as if it would feel as bad as this. The panic attacks after my parents died

Feeling as if I were drowning, impossible to breath and thisisnevergoingtoend and the carpet burns where the feet race trying to hide and running from nothing.

had nothing on this. On the animal sounds and the smell of the nails on the floor and the chains on the wall.

I kept running, shaking, even when it felt that I had to stop or die. I tensed at every corner, expecting to hear Kyuubi's laugh and the eyes that had looked so much darker in the basement. How could he be the same man that had held my hand as he walked me from the orphanage to the car? It was unfathomable.

A few people tried to stop me, obviously concerned to see such a distraught kid pelting down the streets, but I ignored them in favour of my goal. I burst through the police department doors and tried to stop weeping and grab hold of my breath at the same time.

"Hey- no running in...hey honey, what's the problem? Hey Mike, we've got a kid here who's taking advice from Ella Fitzgerald. Get him a Soda or something. Hey hun, come 'ere, sit down. Deep breaths, come on. You hurt?" Her voice had a heavy accent but was pleasant, comforting, like an old aunt that's been stitching cuts for years.

"I-I, the, the man, I-I didn't, I couldn't do anything and, and-" my throat closed up again and I choked, spluttering. The police woman's rosy face froze into seriousness.

"A man? Ok, it's ok, tell me when you're ready." And maybe if I had tried harder to get the words out- if I had managed to stop crying long enough in those first few seconds...

Suddenly, a hand was on my shoulder.

"Ok, Ella, I'll take over from here," a man's voice said and I looked up to green eyes before I was carted away. I was taken to a sterile room and thought nothing of it. I wasn't familiar with police proceedings. Yet.

Once I had calmed down, can of Ice Tea untouched beside me, I told him everything I could. I told him about Kyuubi, about the damp steps, about the smells and the sounds. About the creatures chained to walls, the animal at the middle being tortured slowly for a purpose I couldn't define. The Police officer took everything in gravely, writing what I said down and asking for details I struggled to give. At the end he smiled kindly, ruffling my hair in an awkward attempt at comfort.

"Ok, little guy. I need you to go back to-"

"Go back?" I couldn't keep the panic from my voice. Back to the orphanage, please, back to the safety of numbers. "No. No, I can't..."

"Calm down. It'll be ok; we just can't risk him bolting, you understand? You want to help us catch him, don't you?"

I thought about the people staring at me in the darkness. Thin eyes, thin lips, cracked bones and souls.

"Yes. Y-yes..."

"Then listen carefully. I want you to go back. Talk to no one about this; make sure he doesn't know where you've been. You have to make him believe you don't mind what he has done."

Impossible. "Ok."

"You have to pretend everything is ok. Can you do that for us, Naruto?"

No. No. Don't make me go back there. Don't, don't- "Yes," I whispered.

"Good boy."

And that, as they say....was that.

OoO

I was so scared as I walked back to the house that I almost threw up. The door didn't creak as it opened, but the silence was almost worse.

"H-h-hell..." the word died out in my throat. My breaths whined out of the pit of my lungs.

"Come in, Naruto." The voice was void of emotion, despite lacking coldness. The sides of my knees were bruised from knocking into each other. My breath turned into a sob before I pushed it down.

Control. Control. Big brother was watching.

(You Are The Dead)

I ed softly towards his voice. I knew my eyes were ringed red, and tried not to think about the lump in my throat. Tried not to think of the noise that is like an open hand against the hind of a horse. Abuse of skin on skin on skin. It makes me want to press my fingers against my ears until my fingerprints are imbedded into my temples. My steps made the sound in my mind grow louder. The door of the kitchen is white, I think. Before the edge of its glowing, chipped brightness, I pause.

I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't-

He is sitting at the dining table in the kitchen, facing me with a placid smile. For a single second I wondered if I had fallen asleep in the hall, and the last few, trembling hours had been simply a nightmare that would decay from memory with time.

"Sit down, Naruto." I stood too long in place, afraid, until the request was turned into an order. As I folded into a chair I noticed the box at Kyuubi's feet, which rattled slightly. Something was inside it, yapping every now and then. I clenched my right hand over my left wrist.

"Did you have fun at the police?" he asked casually after a moment of cold staring. My eyes widened. I was caught in the headlights of his voice. I wanted to run but couldn't.

"Fox got your tongue?" he laughed cruelly, as if at a personal joke on someone else's expense. "Ah, Naruto, you have so much to learn." I stared at his hands, which were folded on the table. "Let me start with telling you that, my dear boy, you cannot escape."

The feeling of drowning on land was sweeping over me.

Kyuubi settled back, crossing his hands on the table. Preparing himself for dipping me fully into the world he had so amusingly created.

"Let me explain."

So the story began.

"Everything needs certain components to survive. A plant needs sunlight and water. Humans need food and warmth, and so on. Society, though not a single being, is composed by such things, and so follows the same rule through extension. For as long as history has established people as being part of 'society' and not 'the wild', and throughout cultures as well as eras, power has fed society. There are many types of power, and not all as cliché as money or land or love. In modern society, fame, connections, and even beauty plays a part, but that is another topic entirely. What I am trying to explain, boy, is that power is a necessity. From being influenced by people on the tabloids, to war antics on the news, to the subtle powers of who is most sacrificing in a relationship, we could not live without it. And that, dear boy, is what I have made my business.

"Oh, it might sound quite common. Who does not want power, after all, in one way or another? But you see, I am not one to go after things half-heartedly. I have mastered power in all its most prominent forms, and what you will realise as time goes on, is that the folly of humans in the past has been to, firstly, fall enamoured with one type of power. Be it power over the minds and ideals of people, or the power over one sole body. I, on the other hand, do not find that quite sufficient. I do not see the point of obsessing over one thing, when it is achievable- with the right means and methods- to arrive at so much more.

Secondly, I am openly admitting my goal. Power. Control. Of course, I do not expect you to understand what I am saying...But you must realise that what you saw today in the basement was not cruelty for cruelty's sake. It was cruelty for power's sake. And that is quite different. Though," and here he laughed darkly again, "not any better, I'm sure, to your fragile morals."

I sat, shaking and confused, through the onslaught of information. I was caught in some sort of morbid confessionary. But where was God in all of this? Does he not listen, or does he not care? The triangular problem of evil or the escape of free will?

"Now, all this I say so you realised how powerful I indeed am. The police you talked to today? Green eyes, told you to come back?" he grinned, and I trembled harder, chilled by the thought that he had known that the only thing I had noticed about the police man was the leaves in his eyes. "Under my control. You have nowhere to go.

"And now, I am going to show you how easily I can gain power over you."

He turned and bent over to the side. The sudden movement made me jump and whimper, but Kyuubi didn't spare me a glace. I stared, transfixed by horror, as he slowly lifted something from within the box I had noticed earlier. A child's head, a man's heart? What would he rob Pandora from? To my surprise, a struggling fox was pulled out. It was small and young. Its paws were bound in pairs and then tied as one. The nails has been sawed off clumsily and the muzzle was just lose enough to let escape the whining yaps I had heard as I entered the kitchen. Kyuubi looked at me before, with complete calculation and frigidity, he grabbed a metal pole from under the table and, with unexpected strength, speared the fox to the table.

A noise ripped away from the air. Some sort of uncontrolled scream, so raw I knew it was coming from me as well as the animal.

"No!" I wailed, reaching out and no knowing what to touch. The fox was not smart enough to know that its jolting was only ripping it further and it struggled, helplessly, on the wooden surface.

"Learn two things from this, boy," Kyuubi said through the shrieks and the complete panic in my head. "Firstly, this is the state you are in." Kyuubi slammed a first down and a leg snapped easily. A piece of bone protruded from the forest of fur, and Kyuubi's hand turned slowly purple from the impact. He didn't seem to notice. I whimpered and bent over, throwing up on the kitchen floor. The bile dribbled down my chin as the blood spread, dripping from the table.

"You are captured, and the more you struggle, the more you will be hurt. Secondly- this is what I am capable of. You try to confess, or escape, or disobey, and it won't be only you who pays a price. It will be something else. And the next time it won't be an animal. I have plenty of people to kill in front of you."

My mind had gone blank. I stared at the twitching fox. This reality couldn't be processed. I was lost. Detached. Gone. Caught. Suspended.

"Clean this up," he said, and was gone. Magic, or trickery.

I sat there for a long while, unmoving, staring at the animal die slowly. It seems to take years for the blood to drip away fully.

I watch until the red is gone, and all that is left is grey.

OoO

I learnt the rules of the trade quickly, mainly because I didn't have another choice. Things went a little like this;

Kyuubi was part of a nine lynch-pin organization called the Bijuu. Arrogantly, they stole their identities from old and powerful myths, robbing the statuses of the demons of legend which had supposedly broken the world at one point in time. Through chaos, fear and magic they had ruled the lands- let wars deplete them of sources until what was left was enough desperation for the demons to be captured by the humans they had terrorised for so long. Some say, however, that they were never really defeated. All the humans who fought them managed to accomplish was transfer the cruel energy into people, tipping the balance of human nature into favouring malignancy. I had never really considered that pessimistic conclusion, until Kyuubi.

Each Bijuu controlled a certain type of market, which fed them power. Land, drugs, debt, the black market, weapons, Infiltration (From the police force to the media), Fraud and what Kyuubi was in charge of; humans. From organs to sex to slaves, I witnessed it all.

From these nine pillars they created a web of power. They controlled so many aspects of the dark side of life that slowly I realised what Kyuubi had been talking about, the day of the fox. It was terrifying. He could get anything he wanted, in any way he pleasured. Make or break anyone. I was constantly afraid that one day he would pull out an army and truly take over the world, but he seemed content, for the time being, with the almost crueller alternative of controlling things from back stage with his puppeteer fingers.

So I watched, and participated (breaking slowly, slowly) as Kyuubi weaved and weaved his web. People don't realise the opportunities they have until they have lost them. To travel, to speak freely, to push what seem like obligations away. I could do not of that. I was not bound by duty or by complacency. I was bound by someone else's power.

And as Kyuubi had taught me, that was the strongest force on earth.

14.

Understandably, I was hated by many people. It was a suspicious, defensive fear, but its passive aggressiveness meant no less harm to me. Everybody knew about Kyuubi, even though he couldn't be directly pinned for anything. Whoever remained faithful to justice in the police force couldn't gather enough evidence to conjure up a search warrant. I thought it was pathetic, and promptly removed any hope I had left in the law system. Everybody I came across who knew who I was resented me. Until Haku, that is.

The Christmas I met Haku changed my life in more ways than the introduction to his presence. It changed the course of everything; of so many people's lives that it was mind numbing to ponder.

Our friendship seemed to solidify as quickly and strangely as it began. We met up on boxing day on one of the cold, hushed beaches that framed Whirlpool. I would never quite forget that scene. The heavy scent of salt and seaweed. The way Haku's hair was lifted against his face and stuck to his lips when he smiled. He really was beautiful. Too slim, and pale like the sand under our shoes. It wasn't a popular or traditional beauty. Too easily breakable. But framed by the stormy sky and the noise of the rolling waves, Haku was the kind of song that makes hairs rise from every point of the body.

He was a happy boy, overall, if there is no distinction between happiness and positivity. He made point of tracing silver linings. Of not looking for greener grasses, but instead for brighter sides. It may have been obnoxious in others, but Haku was nothing if not soft. I think he had more problems than he let on; it was a long time before I realised about the bullying at his school. Somehow it hadn't quite clicked that teenagers are not the most understanding creatures when it comes to cross dressing. But his features were brave throughout all ordeals and it taught me to fare the same way; there was no point in crying when you could smile instead. It wasn't as unhealthy as it sounded, however. The smiles on my face were not bottle caps. It wasn't an act of repression; I cried, if not often, then enough (as far as habituation permitted me). But I smiled more- found reasons to, throughout the dark age that was my time with Kyuubi.

Haku was a big part of that. You, at least, know I have survived; I had no such guarantee. Maybe is Haku hadn't been there....it is useless to ponder the alternatives, but I can't help but be grateful of that fact.

The day my relationship with Haku dipped into something deeper was in the end of spring. The breeze was edgeless and pleasant, fluttering the curtains hanging by Haku's open window. He rented a room from a man called Zabuza, which I hadn't yet met. I didn't find the fact strange, or ever thought to ask who or where Haku's real legal guardian was. By then I had no interest in the lives of adults; they were the worst parts of life.

Haku and I had saved up for months doing odd jobs here and there and finally bought a gaming platform and some games from a second-hand shop. We compromised and bought a girly fashion game for Haku (though he later teased me when I fashioned an obnoxiously orange dress-thing and spent promoting it on catwalks) and a death-and-gore fighting game for me, which Haku sometimes winced at but never failed to play doubles in. We were playing said game that day, getting unusually into it as the fight got closer and closer to the end with no clear winner in sight. With a final roundhouse to the face Haku K.O.d my character. I wailed in defeat as he laughed, throwing his arms in the air, game controller still clutched in his left hand.

"Yes! Tee-hee, I totally beat your butt to the ground, 'Ruto!" he giggled. I glared at him.

"Cheat," I grumbled jokingly.

"Oh, what a sore loser. Don't worry, maybe you'll win next time....not!" He laughed.

"Hey! Whatever- it's just a game! In real life I would totally kick your ass!"

"Oh yeah right. Even a 2-week-old-puppy could win you in a fight."

"Oh, yeah? You wanna bet?"

"Wouldn't be much of a gamble if I know I'm gonna win, would it?"

"Oh, it's like that, is it?" I lunged towards him, and we shouted out in laughter as we scrambled on the floor, pulling and pushing and hitting teasingly. Despite his big talk I pinned him to the floor easily. With the muscles I had acquired from manual labour and Haku's feminine frame it wasn't even a challenge.

"What were you saying, then?" I smirked.

"Ah, but this wasn't a fight, was it?" Haku said softly. His cheeks were rosy and from the edge of my eye I could see his chest move in tempo of his breathing. His eyes were glittering from the exercise. But that didn't matter. It was his voice that captured me; so low it seemed to shrink the world around us. We were alone- no, together, intimate, close. I could hear the air rushing past his lips as if it were the blood in my ears. Roaring.

I leaned down and kissed him.

Looking back, I still can't see anything else that I could have done. That was Rome; the inevitable end all roads so far had lead to. It was strange, I guess, that a kiss meant so much. Teenagers do it all the time; unthinkingly, desperately, coolly. It is part of their standard lives that comes in little packages. Sometimes with a side dish of divorce or death, but nothing like the meal we had been dealt. I didn't think about kisses. Body parts were not divided into terms of lips and nipples and pulse points. They were not made for pleasure. They were used against a person; cracked, bent, twisted, severed. How many nights had I spent cleaning up blood and bone fragments from the basement floor with the hollow, watching eyes of the fellow prisoners? How many times had my bile joined other liquid? I could not be desensitized from the action. I had only to watch a trembling girl in the corner, so thin that her skin was a mere decoration on her skeleton, for tears and anguish to submerge me completely. Kissing was just not part of that world. How could it be?

But there I was. My lips were chapped but his were soft and when I pulled back and darted my tongue out nervously I could taste the faint sweetness of lip gloss.

"I-I-I, I didn't mean to. I'm sorry, I'm-"

"For what?"

I didn't know how to answer that. There was a vague sense of wrongness. As if it were forbidden. Because he was a boy, or because it was something I had enjoyed, I did not know.

"I...I...we shouldn't be doing this," was all that came out. At once, Haku looked deeply disappointed. A frown pulled his features down.

"I would have thought that with all the evil you have seen, you could tell what is good and bad by now. That two boys kiss; are we harming someone? Why is this bad?" he implored. I had never seen him so angrily animated. I stared at him. It clicked suddenly. That I should only judge something bad if it harmed, and good if it had no intention of being malicious.

"Go," said Haku. He looked to the side. For a few seconds I was utterly confused; I had never seen Haku be hurtful or harsh except when protecting something loved. But then I realised, stupidly, that I had hurt him. As if he had not wanted the kiss, had not put himself on the line by kissing back, had not be made vulnerable. As if I had just not rejected him and added insult to injury. I lowered my lips against his ear.

"I-I'm sorry. But not about this. Not about you, no, no. I'm just scared. I didn't mean it. I..." I pressed a kiss against his ear. I saw him close his eyes and breathe.

14. 3

I howled in pain as I was flung down the basement stairs and my elbow cracked against the floor. There was a slow, humming, high sound creeping over the walls.

"I have things to do. Clean this up. And get them ready; they're being shipped tomorrow." The door echoed closed, the force making the light bulb swing and whine in complaint. The shadows around me moved slowly.

Back into the den of demons I went.

I moved with sluggish movements, though with care. The creaking, bell sound of a piano that is almost out of tune. Sat still, cradling my bruising elbow, until my eyes were accustomed to the darkness and the shadows turned into people. Their eyes were black and stared from sunken holes. I couldn't hear them at all, they were so motionless. I tried to breathe shallowly as to not fill my lungs with the remains of blood and muscle that hung thickly everywhere.

"Ok...ok. Ok," I whispered to myself. Blankness of the mind, just long notes that extended, dragging from under the skin. I followed the sinister tune religiously, every dip and turn and tremble as the foreign blood seeped under my nails. The pieces of bone scraping against the lines on my palm. Bile that still made me want to gag, so that my teeth had to clench painfully together in order to stop myself.

The puddles of liquid lapped against my knees. I closed my eyes, but I could still hear the movement.

I turned to face the heart of darkness. The quiet creatures of madness made of mud and thin, breakable twigs. Constructed out of the low whines and shrill screams of animals. I approach each one of them, cleaning them up wordlessly as their frightened, hateful eyes stared at me. Did they understand I was there against my will? I never asked. Couldn't. Because I still felt the choking guilt of being part of something like that.

I almost missed the girl completely, so shrunken and hidden she was. I crouched down beside her trembling form. Tried not to flinch as she stared at me with her empty, bottomless eyes.

I remember her voice exactly. Rough (as if abused or unused). Like nails over skin.

Desperate.

"Why?" she had whispered. I remembered how she curled into herself and slowly stopped moving completely.

I had seen many deaths, but none quite like that.

OoO

"Hey there, kid."

The bike wheels screeched slightly at the sudden stop. Dust raised and settled as I swerved and planted by feet on the ground in a desperate attempt not to run over the man who had stepped suddenly in front of me.

"Hey! What are you doing!? I almost mauled you over, man," I complained as I looked him over. The man looked young, with a naturally smirking mouth between the pallor of his skin, so his white hair surprised me. He seemed to be a clash of classy and punk; suit pants with an open-collared white shirt which showed the glint of a strange pendant. I squinted and saw that his eyes were slightly lined by black kohl.

"Sorry. I was just wondering if I could talk to you for a second," the man said, smiling, though the expression came out arrogant. I raised my eyebrows and stared, extremely weary. If this was another of Kyuubi's friends assuming they could ask me for a favour then I didn't want to hear it.

"Hey, brat, no need to look like that. Just wanna ask you something."

"Shoot," I said reluctantly. The guy's eye twitched slightly.

"Do you know who Kyuubi is?" I blinked at him slowly. Of all the questions, that was the one I least expected. Not only did everybody know who Kyuubi was, (be it his true nature or facade of rich bachelor), they were also aware of my relation to him. The sky is blue, blood is red, I live with Kyuubi. It was a given fact of life.

"Er...Why? Did he send you?" I asked, nervously trying to recall if Kyuubi had asked me to do any 'errands' today, but came up blank.

"No, he didn't. You know him, then?" the man said, almost impatiently, even though his face seemed calm.

"Yeah. Yeah, I know him. He's my...uncle. Why? Who are you?" I back pedalled slightly, but the man just grunted slightly before laughing.

"Calm down, kid. Look, I gotta go. But I'm gonna be around. If you need any....help, just call me," he said, extending a business card with only a number on it in my direction. Slowly, I reached out and grasped it. The ink was stark and stared at me boldly.

"...What? I don't...I don't understand," I said, still frowning down at the card, but when I looked up the man was already walking away. There was another man waiting for him, leaning against what looked like a police car and tapping his wrist impatiently. They interacted for a moment in what looked like practiced animosity before getting into the vehicle and rolling away.

OoO

"What do you mean, police? I though you said that Kyuubi was controlling all of them. Why would one just approach you?"

"I don't know, Haku. I just- I'm just telling you what I saw."

"....I don't know, Naruto. I...do you think some of them are rebelling? Had you ever seen that guy around here somewhere? Cause maybe they're from another department. Zabuza told me there is something going on in Whirlpool, and their department is connected to ours."

I lay back on Haku's bed, pressed against him as we tried to make sense to what had happened to me the previous day. I could feel the shape of the hard paper of the business card press against my thigh from where I shoved it in my pocket. I was terrified that Kyuubi would find it and think I was contacting the police (the keening sounds of the fox as it opened its hollow mouth and howled), and yet I could not throw the little card away, or even risk trying to memorize it and burning it only to forget the number when I truly needed it.

"No, I hadn't seen them before....They didn't even really look like policemen. I dunno how to explain it...I don't know. I don't know what to think, or do. Haku..." I turned towards him with eager eyes. "This..." this could be my way out. Our way out. This could be it.

"I know," he said, turning towards me also. I pressed our foreheads together and my lips to the side of his mouth so that I could feel him smile against my skin. His freckles tasted slightly salty from the beach and the sun, almost invisible in his relentlessly pale skin.

"Haku..." the world had opened up so suddenly I was trembling. I felt Haku's shy fingers on my hair and pressed even closer, opening my mouth against his.

"I know, I know, I know," his tongue traced and I immersed myself in the hope that this life wouldn't last forever.

OoO

For weeks Haku and I watched the men that stealthily observed Kyuubi. Even though I was used to keeping a wary eye on my surroundings, and to always be on guard, I wouldn't have noticed them if I hadn't been aware of their presence in the first place. But there they were, invisible if you didn't look twice.

It was the day after I had seen Kyuubi and his accomplices kill several children to gain the obedience of a few adults. My mind was drawing blanks; spaces of time and information diseased by too much dirty blood in my system. I was desperate, desperate, and even though Haku had told me to be careful, that we shouldn't contact the mysterious men until we knew for sure they were good guys, I couldn't sit and watch and help Kyuubi any longer.

I can't remember how the conversation went. The memory of it is drowned by all that happened after. All that is recalled is his pleased voice against my defeated one. The time. The place. The tone that sounded as he hung up before I did.

OoO

"You did what? Naruto!"

"I know, I know, I just...Haku, I couldn't- I can't. I can't stand it anymore. I just can't."

Haku watched me, silent, before he sighed, shaking his head.

"I'm going with you, then," he said with the voice of finality.

"Haku-"

"Naruto, I'm going with you or you're not going at all."

"You can't-"

"Yes I can. I'll tie you to the bed."

I raised my eyebrows and smirked.

"Oh, shush," he said, blushing. I laughed and took his hand.

"Thanks, Haku. Really."

His smile was sad, but sincere.

OoO

Even all these years later, I'm not really sure what exactly happened. I remember the deserted area, the common red sand. The smell of desert and the sound of it, hushing, hushing, almost howling through the cactus needles. And there was the man with grey hair, and what I had guessed was his partner, which was also in a suit but had most of his face covered by some kind of silk bandana.

"You're late," was the first thing the partner said, even though we weren't really. The other man just rolled his eyes and smirked at us.

"Ignore him. Didn't think you would call me, kid, you waited so long. And who is this?" he asked, turning to Haku.

"Just a friend," I said, pushing our shoulders closing together. One of us was trembling slightly. I was pretty sure it was me.

"Fair enough. Come with us," he said, and signalled us to follow. Haku and I looked at each other.

"Er...why? Wait. Wait. Are you a police man?" The two men stopped, and suddenly the white-haired man burst out laughing.

"What did I tell you? You owe men ten bucks, Kakuzu, you shit. That police car was worth stealing, wasn't it? Fuck yes," he crowed. My blood turned cold and my hand grasped Haku's wrist.

"Fuck off, Hidan" grumbled Kakuzu. "You fucking idiot, you just blew our cover. I'm going to kill you, I hope you know that."

"Whatever, Kakuzu, what would you do with my body? Sell it on ebay? Piss off. And it doesn't matter- he's here. We'll just torture it out of him. I have a few toys I wanna try out."

The next few minutes were thoughtless. My heart started beating again in doublespeed. Without thinking about it I turned on my heel and yanked Haku after me, bolting. The sound of my dry mouth in the air made ripping, sobbing sounds. But the men were on us, throwing us on the ground. Our palms split and the red earth mixed with skin.

"Naruto!" Haku exclaimed, but I was already on my feet, teeth bared and arms spread in an attempt to protect him.

"You a fighter then, eh, you fuckin' brat? I like that," Hidan said arrogantly. I was fascinated by the change he had undergone; his eyes seemed smaller, crueller, and his voice had adapted a nasty edge that was only heightened by the constant cussing.

"Who the hell are you!? What do you want!?" I screamed at them. Hidan chuckled and I clenched my teeth in rage. There was such a clash of desperate sounds in my head that for a moment I had to shut my eyes against it.

What had I dragged Haku into?

"What do we want? Isn't it obvious? We want the nine tails," he snorted. I frowned in confusion.

"The nine what?"

"Oh, don't act stupid. We've heard the rumours. We know you've been informed about- oof!" he grunted as I lifted myself on my hands and kicked him squarely in the gut. If these losers thought I was gonna lie on the ground whilst they babbled on like baddies in a TV show, they were sorely mistaken.

"Go!" I shouted at Haku, pushing him forward. We ran like we had never ran before, with a force that made us feel as if our legs would rip for our bodies and keep going whilst our bodies were left to the mercy of the men.

"Those fuckers!" Hidan shouted. My breath whistled and panted in the air. I just had to get Haku out of there; I was used to torture, it was part of me, but him- he couldn't be part of this.

But they were too fast- trained adults much stronger than us.

"Dispose of the spare one, we don't need him."

That's all it took. I heard Haku scream and desperately looked over from where Kakuzu was trying to hold me down as I, with my street fighting, scrappy way, fought him off.

"No!" I screamed as all I saw was Haku on the ground and red blooming on his shirt. "No! Haku, Haku, NO!" I screamed. Rage and fear fed my strength and I punched Kakuzu as hard as I could, cutting my knuckle with his teeth. He howled in anger and pain as I scrambling toward Haku. I jumped back, landing on all fours like a mutt at the swipe of the knife from Hidan.

"Let. Him. Go," I growled deeply, a rumble of bass and danger. "I won't say a word, I don't care what you do to me, if you don't let him go right now." Haku was whining lowly on the ground. Terrified tears made his shape blurry, but seemed to only heighten the red.

"I think torturing your little friend will make you talk faster, don't you think, Kakuzu?" Hidan sneered.

"No!" I screamed, but the sound was drowned by the scrape of wheels against red rubble. We all looked up so see a faded blue Nissan roar towards us and stop suddenly.

"What the-" But Hidan was cut off as a tall, muscled man with incredibly broad shoulders stepped out of the vehicle furiously. His black hair was, though short, in a mad disarray. His eyes were in a similar state; crazed, as if caught in some kind of animal rage. I shrank away instinctually but the anger wasn't focused on me.

"What's going....Haku!" He roared.

"Shit, time to split," Hidan said as it became obvious the man was diving into the car in search for a weapon. Kakuzu tried to grab me but I was more than used to men bigger than me trying to catch me and I squirmed and fought him off with tooth and nail, using his weight and size against me. They gave up quickly, however, as a glint of a massive gun was caught from inside the newly arrived man's car and they scampered off into a sleek black car, tires rumbling away. I ignored them, even phasing out the shocking gunshots as I ran to Haku's side.

"Haku! Haku, I'm so sorry oh God Haku, say something Haku please, please don't die please don't die not you, not you," I babbled desperately, trying to lift his shirt to find the wound but I was shoved away roughly as the man barked "Get out of the way!". I was knocked to the ground, scraping my arm and leg on the dirt.

"Za-Zabuza?" I heard Haku's sliver of a voice say. I sat up, looking on helplessly as Zabuza propped Haku on his legs and took his own shirt off, ripping it savagely into strips.

"Shut it, kid. Don't talk. And don't you dare die on me."

Trombones, cellos, drums, symbols; or silence, I didn't know, didn't know what was going on anymore. It was a rare moment of insight, as Haku opened his eyes for an instant and a ghost of a smile flickered on his face, when I realised these two men loved each other in a way different than how Haku and I did.

The red was tied and contained and Haku's cries were like violin bows cutting into skin. Without preamble, Zabuza picked Haku with a carefulness his arms, at first sight, didn't seem to be able to achieve. In two massive strides he reached the car and strapped Haku to the back seat with the three seat belts. He threw himself in the driver's seat and almost left without me, car already growling into life, but I jumped into the vehicle, folding on the floor beside Haku. I grasped his hand, whispering odd, raw notes into his cheek as I tried to believe it would be all right. I can't remember exactly what happened afterward. Zabuza taking Haku away, then the doctors. I remember the white, though. The same shade as the music that soundtracked the death of my parents.

Sitting in the waiting room with Zabuza, who only didn't get thrown out because everybody knew he could (and would) beat up anybody who tried. And then the end. God, I remember the end.

It had reached a point where the doctors refused to tell us anything and Zabuza had worked himself up in such a way that breaking point had to be delivered to the nearest target. Me.

"What the fuck were you thinking, taking him along? Trying to make the kid fight your battles, you little shit!?" I was slammed against a wall, my legs dangling uselessly. I didn't even think about protecting myself.

"No," I said simply. But what excuse could I use, despite the truth? In that whitewashed, terribly silent world, did I have another option but to follow the rules of consequentiality? In the face of what had happened to Haku, the means had to be judged by the end.

"E-excuse me," someone said through the swarm of nurses trying to calm Zabuza down. We both turned to look at him, and Zabuza let me go instantly. I staggered onto my feet and stared at the haggard, worried face of the doctor.

"Well, then? Can we see him?" Zabuza demanded. The doctor's face fell further , and so did my stomach.

"I'm....I'm sorry. We did everything we could, but-"

"No."

Everything took on a hushed, muted feel. Like listening to a conversation and then suddenly submerging yourself underwater, so that time and space and sound seems to slow down. The low strums of killed guitars.

"I'm sorry. You can-"

"No. No, no, no. Please," I said, taking a step forward and grabbing his coat. "Please, you can do something else. Use the paddles- Haku's strong. He's so strong. Please, please, don't let him die. Don't let him die," I pleaded. The tears were so hot against my cold cold cheeks.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Out of all the outcomes, this wasn't the one that was supposed to happen.

How, I thought, how can life be like this?

"I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do." The silence was blunt and heavy and painful. It filled everything, everything; every desperate attempt to make something work. And then Zabuza roared, slamming his fist against the hospital wall. It sounded like things cracking beyond the surface, like the gasp of odd strangers. The nurses trembled. The patients watched. The families cried. They could be part of this, soon.

I watched as the fist was removed and left a puzzle of pieces behind, stained in crumbling pink.

What a perfect piece of abstract art for this moment.

With the wild wolves around you...

...in the morning I'll call you

I fled. Left the bellows of Zabuza

"I'll fucking kill them!"

and the shouts of staff behind.

Kept running, racing away from Haku's body (Oh God).

"Hey Naruto, look." The sky was the deepest blue, sinking into the horizon as stars winked awake slowly, darkening by slow degrees as the earth moved. But there, in a corner of the world, the clouds were a shocking pink, red, orange. My mouth opened and for a moment I couldn't quite breathe. Those soundless colours, beings in their own right, hung, humongous, above us. Their great sighs were the wind that swept Haku's eyelashes, that whispered the softest notes against bared skin. In the mess that we were in, that moment stood alone and apart and beautiful (a word so freely used, but when really, truly meant, so powerful.) And his face, then, with the glow of the sunset in his hair as he looked at me and

Smiled....

And the story's all over, you

In the morning I'll call, you...

I had killed him. Not by hand or intention, but by stupidity. By weakness,

(I can't

take this

anymore)

and selfishness. He had told me to wait and one single decision, one whim, had killed my best friend, my first love. No, no, not that. Not my anything. It had killed Haku. Haku and his petal laughs. Haku and his fashion games. Haku and his peach lip balm, and his open eyes and the way he would hold my hand, even when people were watching, when he knew I needed it. Haku and those days in winter, painting dragons and faces on condensed windows as we pretended to be blankets for each other. Haku and the beach, and the way his tongue tasted like wave as we lay on bare, rough sand in summer. Haku and the way he had danced, that twilight, to some strange music that was bells and chimes like him. Haku and his dreams. He could have done something. Something more.

I had killed Haku, Haku, Haku and his everything.

And Zabuza's face, when he realised, realised, what had happened

(fight your battles, you little-)

What might have been lost

(don't

bother

me)

My knees were dirt as they hit the ground and I cradled my head in my hands, trying so hard to breathe that I ended up screaming instead. My head was splitting with a million hollow voices, ripping apart, ripping sounds in my throat-

Stop, stop,

I couldn't do anything. Nowhere I could run or hide, to escape from this. I couldn't fix this, couldn't, couldn't do anything.

And the panic, the panic attacks

Monsters, monsters,

The panic drowns.

"Please, please, someone,"

Louder, louder-

Apocalypses, whimpers, bangs; casualties, tragedies of personal wars.

You Have Never Felt This Alone

Nothing. Could compare to this.

I

Loved

you.

What Might Have Been Lost

Digging my nails into the grass, under my skin, further, further, digging for escapes. End, ends- take me and leave Haku behind

Zabuza's eyes Zabuza's fist

Leave him- want me instead

(don't I deserve it!?)

The blame and rank smell of death banged on the wooden insides of my head. The shimmer of symbols was the surface of water, a thousand leagues over me. The sounds were

What might have been lost

What was around me, pressing pressing down so that air turned into gaps and God, God when was this going to end?

The wails and screams were notes stretched past the point of strain and elongated, elongated so it was some kind of torture, of mess, of schizophrenia

Him and you, himandyou.

So high they broke, down, broke-

What might have been..

I tried to get on my feet again, stumbling and retching and trying to banish the sounds but then I would remember the way (had I really noticed that, had it really mean this much) he had hummed as he cooked me that badly done meal I had eaten all (his hands were soft) anyway.

The sounds rattled away, leaving empty space on one voice,

Someday my pain will

.....mark

you.....

behind.

I looked up. There were some stars, breathing heavily on me. They blurred and disappeared in my eyes.

Then, with the bare remains of a few strings, I was kidnapped.

OoO

I finally opened my eyes as I realised I wasn't being beaten up or even manhandled. I was lying on the floor of the spacious black van that someone had suddenly pulled me in. The inside were gun-barrel grey, lined with odd machinery on the walls. I blinked blearily. They were people around me, but they were silent, as if waiting for something to happen. I said nothing. I couldn't take any more.

"Hey, what did you do to him?"

"What-nothing! I just pulled him in like you said!"

"You should have been more careful, the kid looked totally spaced."

"I didn't do nothin'. Hey, kid, you alright?"

I closed my eyes again.

"Are you gonna kill me, or what?" I sighed. For a long moment, no one said anything. The only breathing I could hear was my own.

"What, kid, you wanna die?" A new voice said.

"Yeah. Sure," I said uncaringly. I knew the animal in me was frightened to the core

(murderrapetorture)

But my mind found a sort of relief in this opportunity. A sort of penance for what I had done.

"Get up," the same voice said, and I was hauled by the armpits onto my feet. I obeyed wordlessly. The man in front of me was tall, strong looking, with a mess of long white hair on his head and two red tattooed lines under his eyes.

"Hadn't pegged you for a coward, kid," he said. My eyes narrowed.

"You don't know me," I growled. No one, now.

"Been watching you for a while. You keep things tight; it's taken us this long to get enough proof to be able to approach you."

"Spying isn't knowing someone, Mr. Stalker," I sneered. Someone in the back laughed as Mr. Stalker raised his eyebrows.

"The name is Jiraiya, brat." I shrugged and looked at a tinted window.

"Fine then, Jiraiya. Why the fuck am I here?" I asked darkly. I assumed they were friends of Hidan and Kakuzu. At the sudden thought, all passiveness bled away from me.

These people. They were the ones responsible for Haku's (breathe, breathe) death.

"You fuckers," I howled and threw myself at Jiraiya. The scramble barely lasted a handful of seconds, but was brutal nonetheless. My mind was blank; I was something else, some other creature made of vengeance and fire and rage. I had to maim, tear, rip, kill. Hurt.

"What the- are you crazy!?" Jiraiya exclaimed as they pinned me easily to the ground.

My God, I was so, so tired.

"You! You, you killed him!"

"What- who?"

"Haku! Haku, you bastards- you I fucking killed him!" for a moment I managed to lift my upper half, swiping with my nails and nicking Jiraiya in the chin. A slice of blood welled up before I was slammed back down.

"Ok- calm down. Listen to me you brat, we haven't killed anyone," Jiraya was grinding out whilst a voice in the background said,

"Haku? Yeah, that's the kid that was always hanging with Uzumaki. Lived with Zabuza- you know, semi-informer, when he feels like it."

'That kid that was always hanging with Uzumaki.'

Maybe Freddie Mercury was right. We are just dust.

"Fuck you!" I screamed. I bent my hands and squeezed the veins on my captor's wrist, but they were stronger and professional and I was completely outnumbered.

"I said calm down!" Jiraiya ordered. I stilled sullenly, glaring at him.

"Who are you, then?"

"We're part of the Whirlpool police force, in the bureau of investigation," Jiraiya replied, pinning a level look in me. I laughed sarcastically.

"Yeah, right. Sure. And you're gonna take me away from here and over the rainbow, right? Piss off." Jiraiya narrowed his eyes and took out a badge. I looked at it impassively.

"So? How am I supposed to know if that's an authentic document? For all I know you got that at the nearest costume shop."

"Oh for fuck's sake."

"What? What? What, am I supposed to believe you just like that?" I growled. "After all your police department has so kindly done for me? Throwing me to the dogs so you don't have to deal with the shit that's going down? And then when I do trust someone, you," them, whoever, the point is- "kill Haku! God. Oh God. Let me go! What do you want!? I have nothing left to give you!" I roared, bucking and flailing. The rumbling vehicle shifted under me but nothing moved, really. I was still pinned to a cold metal floor with strangers around me.

"Sssh, ssh, calm down. Come on kid, we don't want anything. Just calm down. What the hell happened today? You were with Haku just yesterday."

I closed my eyes. What harm would it do to admit everything? If they were from Kyuubi or belonging to whatever group the strange men came from, then they would kill me for knowing about the murder, and that would be that. They would kill me anyway, really- I was too much of a liability. And if they really were from the police...I couldn't even go down that road. To be disappointed in that way one more time...

So I told them. I told them about Hidan and his pendant and about his face-covered partner and the promises and the knife and the hospital and the red hand and cracked plaster.

"...And then you kindly yanked me into your van. There. You all terribly h-h-happy now?" I ignored that my face was covered in tears, and that I had stopped a dozen times throughout the telling to re-learn how to b-breathe.

"Ok. Someone get the kid a drink of water." I was sitting down now, shaking. Someone gave me a glass and I alternated between gulping it down and spilling it over myself. And then Jiraiya took a step forward and put a large, warm hand on my shoulder. I looked up at his amber eyes.

"It's gonna be OK," he said. I closed my eyes.

"OK? I'm gonna be....what does that even mean," I whispered. There was a pause.

"It means things won't be like this."

I opened my eyes slowly.

That didn't sound so bad.

OoO

That night, I was explained a lot of things.

About the full going-ons of the Bijuu. The intricacy of their woven criminality. The depth, the full horror. And the part I played in it.

I remember staring at the wall of the ever-moving van as they revealed what Kyuubi had made me into. A vessel, of sorts, for the prolongation of his doings. Of his evil. It was almost simple, and all the more crueller because of it.

Even the Bijuu had to have a core through which all their system was based on. A set of information; of places, contacts and bank accounts which kept everything moving. The battery which, in anyone's malicious possession, would mean the continuation of their legacy. This core was stored, in a way, in me. In a coded fashion, Kyuubi had fed me all the information necessary so that if the Bijuu had to step down and let someone else lead, they could lead them to me and be done with it all. Kyuubi had been right; it was all about power. Even if it wasn't in their hands they wanted that power to exist. It was their life, their coal and tar souls stretched across the country. Puppet strings.

It made a lot of things make sense. Why Kyuubi had taken me in, in the first place: a person who wouldn't willingly give away the information, but who it could be tortured or fooled out of if necessary. It was what Hidan and Kakuzu had been after.

It was why Haku had died.

All because of me and the creature I now had inside.

"So what?" I whispered finally. "What do you want from me? I don't even know what this so-called information is. You said that the extractors of information were the only ones who knew exactly how to get it out of me. Do you?" And even if they did, why should I tell them? Trust them?

"No, we don't. Getting the information...let's not go there. Unfathomable things have to be done to get it. The only people we know have achieved it is the Akatsuki."

"Who?"

"The Akatsuki. A Criminal group which are after the Bijuu's information. In other words, after you."

"Hidan...."

"Yes."

"Right."

For a while, there was silence. And then,

"We need you to do something for us..."

Don't you always?

OoO

Somehow, this was a lot like the last time the 'police' had sent me into Kyuubi's claws. The raw panic. The animal sweat. The drumroll heartbeat.

OhGodOhGodOh-

"And where have you been?" God.

Low,warbling notes echoed as I entered the hall. They clashed inside my ribcage, pulling at my muscles like strings.

There goes my calm.

There goes my composure.

I was trying not to tremble but was shaking all over, all over. For years that house had contained my tiny existence, boxed into a nightmare that couldn't be alleviated by resuscitation. To think that one redred day could end all that-

h.o.r.r.o.r.

was impossible.

I can't do this. Not again, not-

The cries of the fox, of the girl-

Why?

I couldn't help take a sobbing breath of despair, of

WHY.

Fear because I, I couldn't- Breathe.

One. Two. Three.

The notes smoothed out into something constant and subdued. Fingers brushing against fingers. A fist, another fist, another. Everything in me was clenched. An animal's self-made armour, ready for battle. Made of muscle and teeth and nails. Of fox breath and whispered notes.

"Naruto."

I could. I could, I could, I would.

My teeth clenched. The voice inside my head was so low; a murmur but for its morbid drawl.

Jack be Nimble

Jack be Quick

I marched into the room. Soldier to win, soldier to die.

Did it even

Matter?

"Yes, Kyuubi?" I asked. The tone in my voice was gone, with Haku. Dead Dead Dead.

"Sit."

I sat.

His eyes were almost red in that light. Maybe the sun was setting, but I didn't look out of the window.

"Well, where have you been, then, boy?"

"Out." He raised his eyebrows and watched me for a while. Considering the change in me. Analysing it.

Pros. Cons. Liabilities.

"Is that so?" I didn't reply. Kept watching his bloody eyes stare me down. The guitars in my head tensed.

"I knew I should never have trusted you, boy," Kyuubi said, almost casually. Terrible weather we're having, isn't it?

Terrible, isn't it?

"You never trusted me," was all I could really think of saying. Kyuubi smirked in response. His fangs were sharp and clear in the expression, punctuated by the finality of a drum.

"I guess you're right. Never trust anybody, boy. It never does anybody any good."

Never trust anybody

Haku-

Never trust anybody, boy.

I tried to dig my fingers into the couch. For a moment I tried being somewhere else. Yesterday. The day before. Three years before that. Not here nothere.

"Hey Naruto, look."

The sky was-

It never does anybody any good.

But there were strings, strings. The beat of a drum against my tongue and then the apathetic, cruel voice,

So he got his gun,

And shot them down

I clenched tighter as Kyuubi moved. Slow, slow like the voice, slow like the savouring of piano notes.

Higher, higher, the blood in my thoughts went. The voice was crying now

Higher, Higher.

Stretching, curling, gripping, slitting. On the coarse material of the seat, my fingers were shivering again.

I was so cold. The windows were closed (the door, the hallway, the exit). All I could do was watch every one of Kyuubi's fluid movements; the shoulder, the elbow, the hand, the nails and then-

The moment was gathering force, a battalion of strings, one after the other, one after the other. Here they come now, the pure truth.

A note that stretched, stretched (Oh God Oh God let me breathe)

All,

Alone...

let me breathe.

Kyuubi pulled out a gun. There was a roaring of instruments in my ear. For a moment it clouded me. The creature was set down quietly on the table, its eye trained on me.

My own gun was cold against my thigh. The tape of the recording machine clammy on my chest.

I couldn't quite breathe because- this was it, this was it, then. He knew. Somehow, somehow, he always knew.

"Are you ready?"

And just like that, I could breathe again. Everything was clear and sharp. Knives.

I had never really imagined meeting my end face-to-face like this. A bullet to the back, at most. A rope to the neck. But these eyes were as cold as that; worse, worse, because I had to look.

Jack be

Nimble

Breathe.

Jack be

Quick

"No." Kyuubi's smirk widened into a smile. Into a baring of teeth. I could see the laughter at the back of his tongue. One two, three cries of a piano.

"No, I won't let you get away with this."

"Hah! Boy, who do you think you are? The first one who has tried to take us down? You think I won't kill you right now and I won't get away with faking your suicide? 'I killed Haku'. That's all I would have to put in your pathetic little suicide note. Don't you think its fitting?"

The breath in my chest stopped. How, how could this man, this thing, know me so well?

It happened suddenly, even though everything seemed to slow down. Like a great intake of breath that is held until bursting and then let out in a rush. The front door banged open, somewhere, and voices slammed against the walls.

We were-

For that split second Kyuubi looked towards the sound of the guitars and the voices and the drums, I took the opportunity to kick the table away, the gun clattering to the floor, sliding out of reach. His eyes shot towards me and he knew just us I did that,

The game was over. Then why, why-

I pulled out my gun, metal on skin, and let the bullets in it rip straight into his face. Three of them, one right after the other. The next second the living room door opened.

I was

screaming,

until everything started slow, slowing down, still screaming, screaming. There was blood, red always red, blood until it stopped, slowed down to three piano notes.

"Naruto!"

There was blood and then it stopped.

And someone was wailing-

Up,Up

Louder-----

The world was roaringroaring

We were young

I was picked up from the armpits and carried out. The strings were still roaring and the voice still mourning. There were voices all around

"it's gonna be, it's gonna be ok, ok, it's gonna be,"

I closed my eyes

-RedRed-

Again, up, up again and God, God

What had I done?

It was red and then-

There were voices screaming,

And opened them.

I could see the noise all around me.

Redblueredbluere-

Over, over, was it over?

There were cars around me. Kyuubi was dead and the police were not gingerbread men

(run, run, as fast as you can)

but real. Real.

Kyuubi was dead. I could see the twig and dirt people being carried out of the basement.

It was over. But-

Jiraiya had an arm around me, saying, it's gonna be ok. It gonna be-

but, but-

We were-

Once, once, it was taken away-

We were young.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOo

A/N

Heluh! I am here to ruin the mood of the chapter with my comments. Aren't you glad?

First, some chapter info: Poem in the Werewolf scene is Wintering, by Sylvia Plath. She is wonderful.

Also, there is a 1984 quote in there somewhere (my favourite line. I have a notebook with quotes from books I read haha :3). If you recognised it, I love you. That book is fucking scary though. The part about condensing the dictionary chilled my bones. But I recommend it.

Right, I don't think the chapter is too late (looks nervous), considering its size and the fact that its summer (a time for concerts and sunshine) and that I'm in the farm. And also all the life stuff that keeps happening.

Damn you life stuff!

What is inexcusable is me not replying to your reviews. It's just that I wait so that I can reply to all of them at once and then when I try they are so lovely I don't know what to say and I'm like- yargh! System Overload! And of course then so much time passes that I don't know how to excuse it and- well yeah.

I am a mess of a girl.

But this time I'll answer them one at a time! Apparently that can be done, heh.

Anyway, how did you find this chapter? All is revealed! I'm really eager for some feedback on this one because, I dunno, I really put something in it. It's quite mad, right? Was it too mad? Did you like the music? Was the info ok?

Do I talk too much? =P

Ah man, if only I wrote Shiver as fast as I write Authors notes!

Nevermind. How are your summers going? Been to any good concerts lately? Sun getting to you yet?

I hope so :D

Also I need so more Summer Music.

Feed me. XD

(8) Tonight, tonight, tonight tonight, I wanna be with you tonight

Nothing is gonna be alright, but thank you anyway (8)