Title: Defrost
Series: semi-sequel to Cold
Author: Ugly.Beautiful
Genre: General
Rating: T (?)
Pairing: Naruto-centric
Spoilers: None
Summary: He could hear them talking. He could hear all of them. Except the one he wanted to hear the most.
Word Count: 1,446
Warnings: An AU of my AU. Yes, confusing. I know. Lol.

Disclaimer: Nope. Not mine.

Dedication: For Dimly, who requested this months and months and months ago. And because I am horrible, I am only just know getting around to typing it. Shame on me.

At first, it was dark. Everywhere. Just dark. He couldn't hear anything. He couldn't see anything. He couldn't tell if he was alive or not.

But if this was death, he mused languidly to himself as he floated in that endless blackness, it wasn't so bad. It was quiet there. And peaceful. No Kyuubi. No Akatsuki. No Orochimaru. Just him.

Then the voices came.

The words were garbled at first, half-formed syllables that were mumbled and meaningless. Then, gradually clearer. Broken sentences, every few words. Nonsensical.

"Head trauma. Blood-loss. Internal damage."

He recognized the voice as Tsunade's. so he must be in the hospital. He must be alive then. Pity, he thought, it was nice in the void.

He wondered though, if he could hear them, why he couldn't see them. He tried to force his eyes open, but it was as though he wasn't connected to his body. He must be laying in a hospital bed, but he couldn't feel it. Couldn't feel the bandages or the IV he was sure would be hooked to him. It was just the voices.

"-ruto…? He-… me?"

He recognized that voice.

"Naruto… sorry… Didn't trai- you…Tr- Sasuke instead."

Kakashi-sensei… was… apologizing? He strained, trying to concentrate on the ill-formed formed sentence and almost started when it suddenly became clearer.

"I'm going to make it up to you."

Silence for a while. Then someone else came in, hours, days later, he didn't know.

A sigh. "Stupid boy." Ero-sennin. "Trying to stop that Uchiha." Another sigh. "I should have been there for you, boy." Naruto got the feeling the white-haired sannin ruffled his hair, but couldn't feel it. "I'll train you good when you wake up, kay? If you help me with my research."

Then he was gone.

People came and went, until it became a way for Naruto to tell time. Visiting hours at the hospital were between ten and five. The long hours of silence was night time.

The next person to visit was crying, sobbing so hard Naruto felt his heart clench.

"I'm sorry," they sobbed, and he was startled to realize it was Sakura. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I should have helped you. I should have done something." She sniffed and Naruto could imagine her wiping at her eyes. "If you don't get better soon I…" A pause. "I'll knock you out."

Naruto almost jerked when he felt a gentle hand touch his hand.

Other people came, with each person he grew more aware of himself, and progressively more shocked as people spoke to him.

Hinata stuttered and stammered, Naruto could imagine her blushing as she spoke in halting phrases. Sorry she wasn't brave. Hope he got well soon. But he felt the surprising brush of velvet lips upon his brow and didn't mind the stammering so much.

The group he had gone to retrieve Sasuke with came next, one at a time.

Chouji just wanted to wish him well, spoke of random things, the smell of barbeque chips heavy in the air.

Kiba was loud, even in the hospital, bragging about his fight and how Naruto'd better watch his back when he got better, because Kiba was stronger now.

"Sorry I wasn't there to help you though, man." The warm apology in counterpoint to the light punch on his shoulder. "Get better soon blondie." A long wet lick from Akamaru, and they were gone.

Shikamaru first mentioned how troublesome it was for him to be there, explained what had happened in each other their fights, then fell silent. After a few long moments where Naruto assumed he'd left, he heard the genius sigh.

"I'm sorry," the words were thick in his throat, like he was holding back a sob. "If I had planned it better… it wouldn't have happened like this…" Another pause. "It's troublesome, but I'll make it up to you when you wake up."

He left then and it was silent for so long, Naruto assumed it was night. And by the time the next person arrived, Naruto could feel the tight press of bandages around his torso, the pulling of a Band-Aid across his face.

"You owe me a rematch," came the quiet voice of Neji. "So get well soon. And," a pause, and Naruto felt a weight against the bed, and could imagine those pale eyes contemplating him, "I am sorry I could not assist you in your fight."

Sometime later came a person Naruto was not expecting. But after describing in great detail the bouquet she had brought him, Ino went on to tell him she was sorry she had ever been rude to him and to thank him for all he had done for Sasuke.

Then he felt her weight against the bed, her arms around him as she gave him a clumsy, but grateful, hug. When she pulled away, the IV in his arm yanked painfully and had he been able to move or speak he would have yelped in shock.

The next visitors were accompanied by the clatter of something falling and the boisterous exclamations of youth. The pair of them went on (loudly) about how Naruto was filled with the power of youth and how they should train together when Naruto was better.

"I want to thank you, Naruto-san," Lee said, uncharacteristically somber, "for inspiring me not to give up. I am proud to call you my friend."

The tender, friendship-filled moment was promptly ruined as Gai burst into a frenzy of loud tears , spouted something about how proud he was of Lee, and how he had a jumpsuit waiting for Naruto when he woke.

Naruto felt his brow twitch.

He was luckily saved as Team Gai's standard female member came in and sternly informed them they were too loud and needed to leave before they were all kicked out. To the rustling of spandex and the two green beast's simultaneously exclaimed, "YOSH!" Tenten shoved them out of the room.

He didn't realize she had stayed until she spoke.

"I know we don't know each other very well, but… I thought I'd thank-you while I was here… You are a very inspiring person Uzumaki Naruto. I should like to get to know you better when you're well. And…" A long pause, a deep breath. "I thought, if you can hear me, you'd like to know what happened to Sasuke… When Kakashi-sensei showed up…Sasuke was helping you, trying to save you." She paused. "I think he's afraid to come see you." Naruto felt her hesitant touch on his wrist. "He's sorry."

The next thing he heard was her startled yelp, and he yell for someone because something was wrong with the machines. His heart was beating too fast, his hand was twitching spasmodically under Tenten's as she called for Tsunade-sama to hurry up.

The person who came wasn't Tsunade.

"Dobe… I thought you were stronger than this."

Another jerky twitch, this time his arm, as he heard Sasuke's slightly wavering voice. In the background he heard the clatter of people clamoring into the room, someone hurriedly explaining that Tsunade was in surgery, and soft, clinical hands he recognized as Sakura's were suddenly holding his hand.

"Dobe, I…" The voice was closer now. Sasuke sniffed abruptly, a haughty, affronted sound. "Thanks, I suppose, for killing Itachi for me." Sakura's hand left his and he heard someone (probably Sasuke) get hit. "And thanks for bringing me back. And…"


Naruto clawed at the darkness. There was something… He needed something, so he could wake up. He could feel it, the pressure, closing in on him. What was it…?

"… I'm sorry."

And with a sigh, Naruto opened his eyes.

A/N: Oh. My. GOSH! I swear I've had this written for like a month and a half, but then I switched notebooks and it just kind of… disappeared into by drawers. And one day I was like, "Hey, what did I ever do with that?" Lol.

Well, let me know if this is what you had in mind. And if it was what you had in mind, I hoped I pulled it off in a non-crappy manner. Let me know what you think!