And It's Blowing Through the Hall
beta'd by Word Salad
It was like he had it in the back of his head. Missions were alright; then he didn't have to take his brain further than kill, kill, kill. But now, at times like these, he couldn't forget it. Couldn't forget the fact that all that time had passed by right before his eyes, and he had done nothing good to prevent it.
Four years and three days. Or four years and four days. He never knew if he would count his birthday or not. But he guessed he didn't count it. If he didn't, it was four years and three days. And even though it was only October, snow already lay on the ground. The small flakes didn't fall from the sky, but it had covered the ground like a thick, white blanket of snow. The few trees that were placed around him were naked and white. He felt himself move further down in the snow, disappearing from the world. It was almost cozy. Something hugging you, embracing you tightly. Even though it was cold, it was solid. Like his bed at home, when he curled down under the blanket and let himself drift away in the warm world of nightmares. He didn't miss home. Just for now, he was fine laying right here. Even though it was cold, and even though he would have to get up soon. But not yet. Let the enemy believe he was dead, for a little while longer.
He heard movements around him. Shuffling movements and sounds from groaning and dying people. The snow was deep. Naruto lay there. Inside it. Thinking. Remembering. Missions always made him forget. Too bad his mission was over.
A dark shadow towered over him, and he smiled knowing he would have to stop thinking and get to work. His eyes were closed when he moved his body, and when he opened them again, he had a dead man at his feet, almost covered by snow which rolled over him as he had fallen deep into the snow on the ground. Naruto didn't look at him. He couldn't feel heartbeat through the ground into his legs; the man was dead. Naruto walked away from the scene, walking on top of the deep snow. Snow covered in blood. Stains that destroyed the beautiful white. Killing that disturbed his thinking mind.
As many times before, he tried to forget where everything had gone wrong. It hadn't been when Sasuke left. No. It was before. It hadn't been during the chuunin-exams either. Later. When everything had been okay, for a little while. When everything had been good. Before everything else happened. Of course things always happened then. He should've known. But of course. He had only been twelve at the time. Or thirteen. Again, he didn't know from which day he would count. He didn't care. It had been his birthday, and that was enough. Always his fault. Always would be. Because it was, wasn't it? It had been his idea. His stupid idea. Why had they listened to him? They had been good. Everything had been alright. But no. Naruto had to open his mouth. 'Way to go, Naruto.' He could almost hear the great demon inside him snicker. Could imagine. Way to go, Naruto.
'Let's do something on the 10th, everyone!'
They had all nodded, with smiles and almost-smiles gracing their lips. Why had they done that? Why had they nodded, and looked happy about it? Iruka had known what he had been up to, but he had played along. Why, Iruka? Why did he nod and smile together with the others? Why hadn't Iruka stopped Naruto before it was too late? But he knew it was no use blaming Iruka. He had always wanted Naruto's best, and he wasn't to know this would happen. Naruto could only blame himself.
It had been the best day of his life; everyone gathered around the table in his apartment. He had made new curtains that framed the window, bought a carpet to make the apartment look more like a home. He had used his last money on food and sweets, lighted candles around the room, cooked an easy but delicious meal. It had been perfect. And in the living room he had placed the kitchen table and borrowed chairs from a neighbor that didn't hate him all too much. And everyone had come. Tsunade at the end of the table, and Jiraiya next to her at the long side. Small Sakura next to big Jiraiya, looking rather scared every time he had told a perverted joke of his, adding his big arms to make it more alive. Next to Sakura, Sasuke; and at the opposite side himself. Next to him, Iruka had been sitting, and between Iruka and Tsunade Kakashi had been placed. It had been perfect. Food had been placed on the table before them. Even Sasuke had been having a good time. Jiraiya and Naruto had fought over the last piece of meat until Tsunade took it from both of them and eaten it before their eyes. Sakura had been nice to him the whole evening, and Sasuke had complimented the food. It had been warm. Iruka had smiled at him when no one saw, and Kakashi had almost looked scared, sitting close to both the Hokage and her old team mate. They had been a family. Naruto had been warm and happy; everybody had been warm and happy. And they had belonged there; he had belonged there. Outside the window the village celebrated the death of the Kyuubi, but for once Naruto was not sitting in the dark alone, forcing himself not to cry.
They had been a family.
And just like the last time, Kakashi told everybody they had to take a picture. Together, in Naruto's small apartment. The last time he had got that splendid idea had been some weeks after they had became a team.
'Gather around,' Kakashi had told the three young ninjas. They had looked dumbfounded for a second, and when realization struck them, Naruto had complained loudly, Sakura had fixed her hair, and Sasuke had been beginning to walk away. But after an hour Kakashi had got the photograph. Together, all of them. That picture stood next to Naruto's bed.
And just like that time, Kakashi wanted a picture.
'Go get the camera, Naruto-kun.'
Naruto had done it. Walked into the small hallway. He could still see them sitting inside the living room, laughing and drinking. He had poked about inside Kakashi's jounin vest and at last found the camera. And he had turned back to the scene. In the dark room, candles had lit up their faces along with a lamp in the window. The most important people in the world gathered around one table, all because of him. A better gift than this he could never wish for. This had been the best day of his life.
A faint breeze had hit his back and he had shuddered. Something had coiled inside the pit of his stomach, but he had tried to ignore it. 'After today, everything will be alright. After today, I'll be happy and never be sad again', he had thought.
And a hard wind had blew from behind, almost making him loose his foothold and drop the camera. His hair had blown around his face, and he had gasped. No one inside the living room had noticed. He had thrown a look on the jackets hanging on the hooks. None of them had been moving. It stopped almost as fast as it started. But something else had started. Inside his heart and inside his body something had begun to move. Kyuubi? No. It had been something else.
A machine. A clock.
He had gone back to his family and trembling hold up the camera and taken a picture. Everyone protested after the flash gone off.
'You have to be in it, baka!'
Kakashi had set it one the timer. Everyone had looked inside the camera and smiled.
The flash had gone off, a second time.
Inside Naruto's small apartment.
Naruto still kept the photograph inside his vest. But it was not the second one, no. That one was hidden in a scroll at home, one he never opened or read. The one he had in his vest was the one without him in it. The real one. The one that told the truth.
Now, when he was making his way through the deep snow, he knew that the wind had been a warning. He placed his foot in the snow and suddenly the ground underneath him was gone. He blinked a few times when he found himself waist deep in the snow, almost stuck. Those memories were distracting him. He didn't want to thing about them; he wanted to black his mind and forget, forget forever. Beginning to dig himself up, flashing lights flew before his mind.
The next year, the 10th, Sasuke had not been there. Sasuke had left them months and months ago, and Naruto had failed to bring him back.
'Let's do something on the 10th, Sakura-chan!'
'No, not this year, Naruto. I don't feel like it.'
Of course. Sakura mourned Sasuke's leaving as Naruto. But Naruto tried to forget. Tried to make everything alright again.
'Let's do something on the 10th, Kakashi-sensei!'
'I'm sorry, Naruto-kun. I have a mission that date.'
Of course. Kakashi too tried to forget. He had lost his favorite student. Naruto understood him. Naruto only wondered if it were right of Kakashi to forget him too? He never asked.
'Let's do something on the 10th, Iruka-sensei!'
'Sorry Naruto. I already promised Konohamaru I would take him for ramen. He hasn't been himself since his grandfather died, and I thought this would cheer him up, just like it always cheered you up.'
Or course. Iruka had better stuff to do. Cheer another student up. Naruto understood. Iruka had moved on. Naruto were no longer his student. That was a lost time. Naruto was turning fourteen. He didn't need ramen to be happy.
But the truth was, Naruto never had. He had only needed Iruka.
Naruto wondered idly why Iruka just had to pick that day to promise Konohamaru.
'Let's do something on the 10th, Ero-sennin!'.
'I told you not to call me that, punk! And for your information, I have no time. I have to gather information about the sound, so I will be gone for a while. Seeya in a few months!'
Of course. A great Sannin had no time for a boy like Naruto.
'Let's do something on the 10th, Baa-chan!'.
'Don't call me that brat! And can't you see I'm busy? I'm the Hokage for god's sake! I can't run around having fun! Not in a time like this!'
Of course. Tsunade was the Hokage. What had Naruto thought? That she would give him her precious time?
He tried to ignore the fact that Tsunade hadn't cared about stuff like that before.
No one. No one in four years and three days. Today was the 14th. Three days before Naruto had hung up the old curtains he had made. He had rolled the carpet over the floor and placed the table from the kitchen in the living room. The old neighbor that didn't hate him that much was no longer living next to him, but he had bought enough chairs two years ago. He had spent his last money on food and sweets, and made a delicious dinner. He had lit candles in his apartment, and he had sat down at his chair, next to and empty one and opposite of an empty one. And he had placed the picture of his family in front of him, seeing their different kinds of expressions. Everyone could see that they hadn't been ready for a picture. Tsunade sat with cake halfway to her mouth. Jiraiya drank beer directly from the bottle. Kakashi looked into the camera; he was the only one. Iruka was looking down on his plate, smiling softly, and Sakura looked at Sasuke. Sasuke looked into the wall munching on a strawberry, not caring or listening on anyone.
And Naruto had watched the picture. It was over now. Three years ago, no one had wanted to come. Two years ago Jiraiya had asked if he wanted to get drunk with him. Naruto had told him no, then got drunk all by himself and bought five chairs. Last year, Iruka had asked if he wanted to eat ramen.
'You don't have to, Iruka. I'm not your student anymore,' he had answered. And after a thought, he had continued. 'And actually, I have a mission that day. You should know that, Iruka'
Iruka hadn't answered him, and Naruto had walked away. He knew it was weird, having a mission that day. Ninjas never had missions on their birthdays, and that was because ninjas didn't have long lives. They always had the day off to celebrate another year alive. But not Naruto. He had asked, and got permission.
He was only the Kyuubi, after all.
This year, he had been alone in his apartment, looking at the picture of his family. Everyone was gone. No one has asked him to do something this year. Sakura didn't speak to him since he never brought Sasuke back as he had promised. He never visited Tsunade, and Jiraiya had probably already forgotten about him. Kakashi had a new team now, and Iruka…he hadn't seen Iruka for a while now. He didn't want to, and he didn't care to.
One day later he went off on a B-rank mission, which in the end turned out to be an A-rank.
Now, three days later, he was walking in the deep snow. He felt like sleeping. He didn't want to go home. He didn't want to go anywhere.
He felt his legs give out underneath him, and he sunk down. Here, the snow was only white and not stained. Here he could probably rest for a while. Next to this lonely tree. In the deep snow. He fell forward and embraced it. He rolled over on his back and breathed in and out with his mouth. He didn't care to brush away the snow that had stuck on his face. Feeling it melting on his warm face, ice water trickling down his cheek. He would only need to rest for a few seconds, then he would get up again. Then he would continue. Continue where? He didn't know. Home, perhaps. Further into the forest, probably.
Suddenly he felt something press through his stomach. Down, down and through before making a hole in his back and entering the snow and hard ground underneath him. He tried to open his eyes, once, twice before succeeding. A sword. Right through him. And Sasuke. Sitting on a branch in the tree next to him.
"What are you doing here?" Sasuke asked. Naruto couldn't answer. Could only feel Kyuubi's healing chakra kick in, healing him slowly but surely. "Why are you here alone?"
He could feel blood running down his cheek as he turned his head upwards slightly and looked at Sasuke. Sasuke who also had been happy that night. His brother.
"You never do give up, do you?" Sasuke continued, lost in his own thoughts with his eyes set on the forest at the side of the big snow covered meadow. "Kyuubi is healing you now. I know you will survive. But this will hold you still for a moment, won't it?" Sasuke said, referring to the sword stuck through his body and not waiting for Naruto to answer his question.
"I always wondered why you always tried to get me back. It can't be just because Sakura told you, wasn't it? It has to be something else." Sakura. His sister. Sasuke. His brother. His family. Had to get them together. Had to. In the end. "You won't tell me?" Naruto just watched him with dull eyes. "Didn't think so either."
Naruto felt his insides getting together again and wound closing. He reached one hand up and grabbed the sword, taking help from it to raise himself from the ground. He felt it slide through his stomach, but everything was healed, so nothing more than an uncomfortable feeling was left inside him. He forced more power in his hand to pull the sword out, when Sasuke spoke again.
"It's your birthday today, isn't it? Wasn't it the 14th?"
And Naruto slowed his movements to finally stop. His birthday? It was not his birthday. Today was the day three days after his birthday. How could Sasuke forget? How could he not know…?
Slowly leaning back onto the ground and letting go of the sword, still inside him. Breathing out and looking up, up into the white sky and black eyes.
Sasuke, his brother sitting in front of him. His father Iruka next to him, and uncle Kakashi on the other side. At the end of the table grandmother Tsunade sit, ruling everything like she always does, with grandfather Jiraiya next to her as always. And between his grandfather and brother his sister Sakura sits, looking cute as always.
But it never was, wasn't it? It was only for him. Only he who saw them as his family. That was why he never belonged in that photograph. That was why he always thought the first taken looked more real than the other. He never had a family, and would never have. Sasuke had his own; Itachi. Jiraiya and Tsunade had each other. Kakashi had his friends, Asuma, Kurenai and Gai. Iruka had his students. Sakura her mother and Ino. They had no room for Naruto. Naruto was too much, too loud, too Kyuubi, too nothing.
Sasuke, his best friend and brother was no longer his. Sasuke had probably a new best friend, and Naruto could never take his place as a brother. Sasuke didn't need him. He never had. Nowhere.
Naruto did not fit.
Naruto wasn't a part of the picture.
Naruto had destroyed it all.
He blinked twice and smiled at Sasuke. Sasuke who was sitting above this stranger, looking down at him. Sasuke who had grown and become a man. Naruto who missed it all, even his own growth. He smiled at Sasuke. Beautiful Sasuke. Sasuke who had a brother who was not Naruto. Sasuke who didn't have to care.
"Yes," he whispered. The last words he ever said. "It is."
And slowly he breathed out and closed his eyes.
Sasuke hadn't thought Naruto would die that easily. He had killed Naruto hundreds of times, well, perhaps not hundred, but it sure felt like it when the idiot came running for it all the time. No. Sasuke knew that Naruto didn't die that easily. He had already been healed. A sword through his stomach was as breaking a nail. A little uncomfortable, but nothing more.
Still, he sat there, looking at the lifeless body.
It had trashed for a long time. Red chakra oozing out from the thin body. Bleeding out in the snow, coloring it red. Blue had sipped out too. Purple snow. Bloody snow.
Then he had screamed.
And now he was lying dead underneath Sasuke.
He jumped down from the branch and knelt next to him. Held his hand over the pale lips. Checked the pulse. Brushing his bangs away from his closed eyes. He checked the stomach. Not a mark from his sword.
Could one just die like that?
Sasuke pushed his hands through the snow underneath his old teammate and lifted him. He was light. Had he always been this sickly light? Sasuke couldn't help but to smile. He would've never guessed it to end like this. Naruto would have died as a hero. And here he was, alone in the winter, dead, and no one who cared.
Knowing nothing better, Sasuke carried Naruto all the way to Konoha. Slipping past the guards, Tsunade took Naruto from Sasuke's arms inside her office. She looked tired, and tears formed in her eyes. Sasuke looked away. Didn't want to get emotional and cry too. Felt something in the back of his throat, but didn't let it out.
Tsunade asked, when he had died.
A couple of days ago.
On his birthday.
...I didn't do it.
She nodded and gave him a hug. Then she sent him away, saying the guards would have to help her with the taking care of the body. Sasuke nodded and slipped out. They never saw each other again.
Tsunade walked to her desk. The body was gone, and she sat down. Writing his death attest.
Date of death: 10/10
Later, bodies were found in the forest a couple of days from Konoha. Members of the Akatsuki. Itachi. Others. All dead. The snow was still red, any new snow hadn't fallen since. They had probably been on their way attacking Konoha. But now they were dead. No one knew who had killed them.
Sasuke was furious.
At least, they knew it hadn't been Naruto.
Yes, he had been found near the place.
But Naruto had died on his birthday, the 10th.
And the bodies laying in the snow...
...were not that old.
This is just weird really. I hope you liked it! Thank you for your time!