Fifteen years. He held the pieces together. No one was with him as he let them fall apart. No one was beside him as the blood fell with the pieces.
"God! Where is that idiot? He's so unreliable! Don't you think Sasuke-kun?"
"We need him with us today if we want to get some missions done. The Godaime won't give us any of the ones planned without a full team. We'll just have to detour to his flat on the way to the hokage's office."
The village was unnaturally quiet as they walked through it. They too were silent. None thought anything of it. It seemed a relaxing peace, free from the usual jittery-ness of normal life. In fact it was unnatural, the stillness, and the people subconsciously noticed it, as if the life was gone.
Neither of the genin had visited their "team-mate's" apartment before. They had no need to. They saw him enough through training to put them off seeing him for the rest of that day. The walls of the corridor were scarred, windows shattered and foundations cracked. And the closer they got to their comrade's residence the worse it got. None would visit this sort of place of their free will. The door was beaten, showing the years of trials it had suffered through, yet they didn't soften their assault.
Their calls echoed grimly down the hall yet none complained about the noise. No one lived near the demon.
Several minutes later – each second passing slowly in their head, the sound of a clock from down the hall sounding like the knelling of bells – they passed judgement and pushed the door. It gave easily, not being able to take pressure anymore.
The apartment inside was disturbing. Who would have thought he would have kept everything so clean. A quick glance around the apartment showed there was no movement and they all proceeded further in.
The kitchen was cleared, with the bin emptied and bin bag replaced. Upon closer inspection the cupboards were also found empty and cleaned. The shelves were tidied, the books on each even arranged alphabetically. The only sign of life was a fresh, healthy green plant in the corner, obviously well looked-after.
Moving on into Naruto's room further emphasised the orderliness. The bed was made, ready for the next use. Scrolls were stacked neatly by the wall of his room and no clothes scattered the floor. It was stark clean.
And that's when they started to worry.
Opening his closet revealed a hollow space, devoid of any clothes, empty of its purpose. The walls were blank whereas Kakashi could remember posters of ramen once covering them as best as possible. The team picture that had sat beside his bed was missing.
Naruto was missing.
Cursing loudly, Kakashi punches the wall, an empty sound reverberating through the room, displaying his emotions at that split second before they flared up inside him.
"Damn stupid brat! Where the hell does he think he's run off too! He never thinks anything through! Running out on his own! He might as well die! God knows that I have to be there to save him too often! He should be able to look after himself by now!!!"
Sasuke stares at Kakashi for a second in disbelief as his anger begins to rise, "Teme! How dare you lecture me on being brothers! How dare you force me to return here so that you can run away! You're not my brother Naruto! You're a failure! I never want to see you again! I hope you die so I don't have to see you again!"
And as they quieten from their attempts to wake the dead, the final member of the team begins.
"Naruto! You always were worse than anyone! You think we'll come after you like we did for Sasuke? You're not worth the effort! I hate you! You're a freak Naruto! A monster!!!"
She pants heavily, watching the other two in similar condition, each drained of their anger. Slowly they pull themselves together again and, after several minutes silence Kakashi starts giving orders.
"we have to report to Tsunade about it's disappearance. When was the last time someone saw it?"
Sasuke and Sakura don't rectify the jounin's wording as they think.
"Yesterday" Sasuke says gruffly and Sakura nods.
"Alright, hurry up and get out of this place."
Sasuke and Kakashi both leave immediately while Sakura takes one last glance around.
"I can't believe I even wasted my time on him!"
Turning swiftly her eyes pick up the flash of red that's out of place by the bathroom door and, a second later her brain also detects it.
Pausing she turns back to look at it, curious, before strolling over to it. Placing one finger in it and sniffing she quickly stumbles back, falling onto her backside in alarm.
"Sakura! Hurry up!"
She turns to the door shakily, "Sensei… Sensei!"
Loud footsteps unusual for a ninja head to the door and into the room.
Both stare at her on the floor, before at the spot in front of her, beholding the small amount of red liquid creeping under the door.
"Sakura… move away from the door."
She scrambles to get up and behind him as he steps forward, the edge of his black sandals soaking up the blood.
Throwing the door open and jumping to the other side his eyes – both revealed ready for combat – quickly take in the sight, his sharingan committing it to his memory forever. As soon as his brain catches up with his eyes he gives a sharp yell and attempts to leap back, only managing to slip and fall backwards into the blood covering the floor.
Both students move forwards at the noise from his yell and fall and come into view just as he yells for them not to enter.
Before he can block the view from them their eyes lock on the body. Curved round, his left arm extended and shining with blood from the origin, his right arm curved towards his chest whilst holding something closer to him and his head bowed, a smile of happiness covering his face.
And, as Kakashi steps forwards to confirm the inevitable, he identifies the object cradled to his chest, and understands the contented smile. There, with not a speck of blood poisoning the image, was the team photo they had taken together.
And finally Kakashi realised. Naruto hadn't been able to look after himself, yet he had been forced to. He had been looking after himself, holding everything inside, waiting for the day that someone might come to look after him, when he could let it all out. Waiting for the day someone would be there to pick up the pieces.
And suddenly Sasuke realised he had just lost another brother. That he had been a worse older brother than his own. That he had relied on Naruto to hold him up, bring him back, push up his self-esteem. And not once had he ever given back to Naruto what he had received freely.
And at last Sakura realised, Naruto had done more for her than anyone she had ever met. He never really wanted a date, she could see that now, but he knew someone needed to be there for her to belittle, to compare her failures to and know she was still doing alright, to be able to hate, detest and torment someone else to eradicate the resentment she felt for herself. And he had been there to solve her problems, bring home Sasuke for her, restore team seven to what it once was. To a three person family. And to accept his place separated from them, by them.
And they wept. For they had brought this upon the final member of their team, who had loved them as the family he dreamed of, and whom they had never once cared for in return.
Scars on his left arm, from the elbow to the wrist, each one fresher than the last. The first thirteen years old, the last fresh, bleeding still, even after life had departed. Thirteen scars, one for every year.
And the words on the opposing walls told them his entire life, as he lay in a red puddle between.
okay, that was kinda depressing and not as good as what I had planned but never mind.
I don't own Naruto. Credit for the characters goes to Masashi Kishimoto.
Also credit goes to Seamus Heaney for his poem, 'Mid-term Break' which gave me the 'thirteen scars' idea from his 'four-foot'.
Thanks for reading, all reviews are much appreciated.
I'll try to make the next story happier!