A/N: Well, I truthfully have no idea where this plot came from. It was sitting in my folder with only a title and 16 words, then last night I looked at it and proceeded to type fourteen pages straight before going to bed at midnight, then finishing up this morning. The result; this massive one-shot full of angst. I skipped breakfast for this thing, yet I feel oddly satisfied with it. So, I will I shut up and let you read.
Warnings: Un-beta-ed (Akriu is currently beta-ing chapter two of Parasomnia and I didn't want to bother her with this). Angst, perhaps some mild language, and a small kiss.
Disclaimer: I own nothing
It started out as a simple strand of virus that was handled with the normal urgency in the hospital, but erupted into something far worse. The symptoms were flu like; fever, nauseous, and chills, but as the weeks passed, doctors and nurses noticed that the patients that came in everyday were getting worse. The patients weren't responding to the treatments like expected and to make matters worse, people were starting to die from the virus.
For three months, the government was able to keep control over the situation, never telling the public about the possible epidemic that was occurring in the nation. But as the fourth month drew on and hundreds were dying for unknown reasons, information was leaked. The leak was caught by the media and within hours, the news was all over the internet and television.
The area was quarantined while doctors worldwide began to study the virus more, hoping for a way to prevent the suffering that the strand was causing the victims. It wasn't until another outbreak accrued in the bordering state that fears were realized.
The virus was now airborne.
What had started as a small flu had now erupted into something more. People were quarantined to houses and hospitals started to overflow while government officials tried to restore order in the panicked nation. Officials finally stepped in with a new temporary law that was meant to restore some type of order for the time being. It stated that everyone with the virus was to be quarantined to a single area until doctors could find a cure.
But temporary turned into months, and the quarantine sites turned into mass graveyards.
A year into the outbreak, the virus was finally contained to three major sites but doctors still had no lead on the virus's patterns. Finally, a breakthrough was made when a strand was found to be affected by a new drug; dejectedly, the only way to test the drug was to try it on living people.
And subjects were hard to find.
The government instead turned to those who were already infected with the virus, but chose not to tell those infected that they were being used as lab rats. They simply thought that a cure had been found and they would be able to leave after a year or more in containment. But dreams were shattered when they were inserted with a drug that caused intense pain before slowly causing the patient to die.
Word was leaked back to the containment areas and riots broke out in the areas. Fires spread rampant and officials were killed as those infected tried to flee the area, and the government was once again forced to step in and confine the individuals. Once the riots were settled down, the testing continued as planned.
Not wanting to be part of testing at the pain and fear of death, many of those infected killed themselves before they could be taken to the labs. At this news, the government simply let those infected take their own life, stating that they would rid the virus themselves. Their plan would have worked if the virus hadn't reappeared again, thousands of miles away from the secure sites.
Now it is a race against time to find more who are infected to run test on them before it continues to spread worldwide, and the entire population dwindles down to only a few thousand. Most are now too sick to test and it's rare to find one at the right stage who hasn't killed themselves yet for fear of the mentioned pain.
The truck rambled along the bumpy dirt road, jarring the contents inside around. The clacking of metal and chains were subtle amidst the coughing, crying and yelling in the thick metal truck. Small, metal jail cells were packed from the front to the back of the vehicle, and several of the metal contraptions were stacked on the top of the others as well. The cells were small, holding only one person somewhat comfortably at a sitting position.
The figures in the cells were chained around the wrists and ankles, while metal chains connected the bracelets together. They sat, hunched over in their cells, some crying while others shouted profanities, which couldn't be heard over the loud muffler of the truck. They were stripped naked and searched thoroughly before being shoved into the cold containers and now they sat, naked still in the dark. Showing their naked bodies to each other was the least of their concerns at the moment though. They knew where they were heading and fear raced through their veins.
They were going to 'The Hospital,' in other words; they were heading towards their death.
Outside, the landscape was barren, all trees void of the green-age that should be prominent during this time of year. Another sign of the strain that this disease was taking on the Earth. Billions of dollars had been poured into this research while experts everywhere called it the Black Plague for the New Millennium. Thousands had died already and that was only within the first six months of the second outbreak. What started as a race to make the first cure for profit and power; had now turned into a race just to save humanity from becoming extinct.
Petty wars were set aside, and for the first time, nations everywhere joined together in order to find a cure. It seemed that despite the awful affects that the virus had on people, it had brought about some good to the world.
Wrought iron gates swung open slowly as the truck ambled up the hill and heavily armed guards stood on the tall stone gates and walls that surrounded the building. They wore white protective covering from head to toe and their weapons were covered in a thin material that didn't affect the weapons job. As the truck passed through the gates, they groaned and began to close again, shutting with a reverberating force that shook the walls slightly.
The ground slopped faintly as the truck drove through a stone tunnel into the building; lights let out a soft glow as the tunnel continued into the building and eventually leveled out. The driver jumped out of the cab; dressed similarly to the guards, he waved his hand over, and several bulky men rushed to help him open the metal doors. Light steamed through the open doors making the jailed captives turn their heads from the lights and squint their eyes shut.
The sound of a tractor was louder than the yelling of the inmates inside the truck and it wasn't long until a pronged forklift came into view, slightly shielding the light. The machine pulled the cages off the truck one by one and set them on a flat bed trailer. Guards stood on both sides of the truck, weapons armed at the things in the cages. The weapons wouldn't kill them, they would simply restrain them until they could be dealt with further; they didn't need anyone to die unnecessarily.
Once the truck was unloaded, the flatbed drove further into the depths of the building. The air was cold here, compared to the stifling heat in the other chamber where they were unloaded and they shivered against the cold bars, hugging their bodies for warmth. After passing softer, glowing lights, the flatbed came to a shuddering stop and another forklift waited for them. They were in a large, empty room with the only light coming from the high overhead lights above.
The cages were set on the ground and like before, guards surrounded them cautiously. One by one, the doors were opened and the restraints loosened so the captive could walk better, they were then led to a white, steel door. Once inside, a doctor covered in a protective covering quickly reviewed them, wrote something down, and then sent them on their way through the hallway. The hot showers offered to them did little to warm their bodies or spirits. They knew that this place was going to be the cause of their death.
They were shoved into small, individual rooms that were completely void of anything. One at a time, a doctor and an armed guard entered their rooms to explain the time blocks that indicated when the patients would be able to eat and go to the bathroom. Outside of that, they were confined to their rooms.
All throughout the day and the rest of the night, the cells were never quiet. Screams and profanities once again echoed throughout the hallways and the heavy, thick bracelets around their wrist and ankles were the least of their worries.
A thick paned glass was the only thing that separated him from the ones that were infected below. Cold air rushed over his skin, raising small goose bumps and he turned away from the glass. Overhead, the air vent worked to circulate, clean, fresh air to the room; working through six filters that were changed three times a week. The old ones were burnt in the back with the corpses of the dead, infected bodies.
The coffee maker bubbled next to him and he heard footsteps come up to the machine. The person poured himself a cup of the dark liquid and went to stand by the window, taking a sip of the coffee before muttering softly.
Black eyes shifted towards the other figure but stayed silent.
"How's your family holding up Itachi? They must be worried about you, working here and all."
The man held up his hands in defense, "Hey, I'm just trying to be nice and civil here."
"I some how doubt that."
The male chuckled, "Still as cold as ever I see." He spared a glance out the window again, "Come on, first shift is starting up."
They didn't know what time it was; there was no light or clocks to tell the time. Not that they minded, clocks would be a constant reminder of the time spent here and the time that they had left. Still, they knew that it was time for the first shift as the first group of doctors and guards walked down the hallways. The guards opened the first twenty doors and led the captives down the hall towards the testing area.
This was where the first of the testing would start.
Everyday or every few days, the doctors would inject them with some type of new drug, hopping to find one that would work against the virus in their bodies. Then they would be allowed to go eat as a reward for helping, before they were able to spend time in their cells again, finding random ways to entertain themselves.
In the few days that the new group had arrived, five had already died from the drugs given to them; one had died from resisting, taking the beating directly to the head before the guard could realize what he was doing. Six of the original fifty were already gone.
When they first started administering the drugs, the cells were always loud with yelling; now they alternated between quiet and loud. Quiet when they panted for breath and gasped at the pain that raced through their body. Loud when the pain twisted its way through their veins and nerves; torturing them in ways, they never knew possible.
These days where the ones he hated the most.
Sometimes he hated the quiet ones just as much though. At least with the loud days, you knew the others were still alive, but when everyone was quiet, you had to strain your ears to hear the soft panting of breath to see if anyone was still alive. He didn't like to hear them suffer, he disliked it when his body was racked with pain as well, but he gritted his teeth and bore it anyway. Yelling only planted seeds of fear in the others and they were scared enough as it was.
They couldn't see each other since their rooms had no windows; the only light that came through was from the crack in the doors. It was impossible to talk to anyone or comfort them as well; they were alone to face their fears. Fears of pain and death.
Footsteps echoed throughout the quiet hallways and stopped in front of his cell door. The key turned and the heavy door opened, revealing a covered guard and a doctor.
"What's going on?" He asked.
"Nothing that concerns you." The guard answered.
The doctor looked at his clipboard, "Patient number ten." A soft voice said, seemingly unaffected by the breathing apparatus, "You're scheduled for a shot today."
"Of course." He answered and held out his arm slowly so he didn't startle the guard.
The doctor walked forward with a long needle holding a red liquid. He pressed the end into the skin, meeting little resistance along the way, and pushed the liquid into the vein. Ebony eyes glanced up to see how the young boy was handling the injection and found that his blue eyes were locked with his own. He pulled the needle away and discarded it in a metal trashcan outside the room.
"We're done here, give him something to eat."
There was shuffling outside the door before the guard reappeared with a tray of mushy food. He thrust the tray into the boys' stomach and was getting ready to leave when a shout outside in the hall drew their attention. The doctor glanced in the hall and waved his hand, "Go ahead, I'll watch him."
The guard nodded and darted down the hallway, leaving silence to settle between the two males.
Itachi leaned against the cell wall, watching the boy eat carefully. Like others, he was naked to prevent possible attempts at suicide, and his metal bracelet hung loosely around his wrists. His heart clenched tightly and he looked away from the blond haired boy; he was probably younger than Sasuke and wouldn't live to see his next birthday.
"So, what's going on?" The boy asked after a while.
Itachi glanced back at him, "There was an accident this morning during the first testing. To make sure the others aren't affected, we're doing individual rounds for the time being."
"Oh." Came the soft reply, "Was, was it a person?"
Silence settled between them again and they both strained their ears to catch any noise coming from the fight down the hall. Itachi eyes flickered towards the boy and watched as the blue eyes scanned the row of cell doors in front of him. They had large, black X's on the front of the doors and his eyes lowered to the ground.
"I hate quiet days." He said softly, and then looked up at Itachi, "What made you decide to be a doctor? They have to study so much."
The raven-haired male was silent for a moment, thinking about his answer, "I wanted to help people, stop them from dying."
"Everyone dies eventually, yet everyone still fears it." The blond said.
"This is true. Nine out of ten people say they're scared of death."
A grin stretched across the boys' face and his blue eyes sparkled with mischief, "Then I must be the different one."
Coal eyes widened at the statement and he found his lips curling into a small smile. This boy was still so optimistic, despite knowing what was happening and what could happen to him.
"What's your name?" Itachi asked.
"Naruto, Uzumaki Naruto." He said proudly, "And when I get out of here, I'm going to travel the world."
He said it with such determination that Itachi found himself almost believing him, but stopped himself before his thoughts became too out of control. No one ever made it out of The Hospital alive.
Down the hall, the fight was broken up peacefully and the fighter was being led back to her cell. Itachi pushed himself off the wall and picked up the tray from Naruto. He discarded it into the trash bag as well and turned to leave when a voice made him hesitate.
"Wait…what's your name?"
Despite every nerve in his body and mind telling him to ignore the little blond, Itachi found himself answering anyway, "It's Itachi."
He didn't hear Naruto's answer as the door shut with a loud clang, blocking out any answer the blond would have given.
Two weeks later
"We're running out of patients again. Their bodies aren't handling the drugs like we thought they would." Itachi's supervisor stated, "We're going to need to bring in more."
"What about the patient in cell ten?" someone asked, "He seems to be fighting off most of the effects better than the others.
Itachi blinked at the mentioned patient and his body tensed ever so slightly, but other than that, he showed no emotions. He knew that patient ten; Uzumaki Naruto, was fairing better than everyone else and he had hoped that with him, they would find a cure this time.
However, the more time he spent giving the boy his shots and watching him eat, the more he found himself drawn into the boys' charismatic manner. Despite the pain that wracked through his body, he never once blamed Itachi for the pain, nor did he ever once stop acting cheerful. He had learned that Naruto was actually older than he looked, only a few months younger than Sasuke and that before he had come down with the virus, he was on a team intended to win a national title.
He kept telling himself that he wasn't getting attached, that he was just another patient who could and probably would die, but he found himself falling deeper and deeper every day. The whole ordeal scared him and he wasn't too sure how he was supposed to handle everything. He had locked his emotions away when he first started working here, telling himself it was for the greater good, but this one boy; Naruto, had shattered everything.
"Perhaps we should focus on what's in his bloodstream now and see if we can't work off of that." His superior stated, "Uchiha, you're in charge on this patients shift, correct?"
"Take him to the lab, do full tests and run a blood and urine sample on him. No injections today."
"Yes sir." He answered and rose to his feet.
This news at least put his mind to ease; he was starting to detest giving Naruto the daily injections.
Naruto lay on his back, staring at the ceiling while trying to list the numbers alphabetically in his head. Not the best game to play, but it was keeping his mind occupied until the next time he saw Itachi.
Even though he cursed the pain that wracked his body during the daily injections, he never once blamed Itachi for doing his job. Itachi had become a daily distraction from the silence and boredom that had taken hold of his life. Not only that, Itachi was always gentle when he administered the drugs and put him at ease, compared to the other doctors. The doctor had taken to giving him his shots in his cell and staying to watch him eat. Sometimes they would talk about their past while other times they would just stay silent, enjoying the company of each other.
His thoughts were interrupted when the door opened and he rolled his eyes back to see who was standing in the doorway. A grin stretched across his face when he heard the soft, baritone voice call his name.
He sat up and held out his arm, waiting for the gloved hand to grab his arm, but no move was made. He glanced at the doctor and cocked his head, "What's up?"
"You're not getting any treatments today, Naruto." Itachi said and bent down to pull the blond up to his feet, "You're going to be examined today in the lab, you'll need to follow me."
"Are you examining me, Itachi?" He asked softly.
Relief swam in the azure eyes and he followed the doctor, glad to stretch his legs again. Itachi led him to the showers and turned the water on hot, before grabbing a bottle of disinfectant. They were rarely given a chance to wash themselves, and when they did get the opportunity, it was just a quick run through the water, if that. He stood still as Itachi worked the thick jell through his hair, removing all the dirt and bacteria that had accumulated on him, before moving to scrub his body.
Naruto yelped when he felt Itachi squeeze his arm slightly, "You've been working out?"
The blond pouted, "I have to do something in my cell to keep myself occupied." He stated, "So sue me if I do a few hundred push ups and sit ups every now and then.
Itachi didn't answer and instead, shoved him under the hard spray to rinse him off once last time. Once he was deemed clean, he turned the water off and tossed the blond a towel, "I trust your strong muscles can dry yourself off."
Naruto stuck his tongue out at him but proceeded to dry his body off and then wrapped the towel around his waist when he was finished. After he was fitted with a hospital gown, he was led to a bright, white room and was told to sit on the table until Itachi returned. He did as he was told and squirmed slightly while he waited; after going so long without clothes, he felt weird being in them again.
Itachi returned back quickly in a dry suit and told Naruto to remove the clothing and lay down.
"It's funny, you know," the blond stated as he shed the robe, "Clothing feels weird now."
The raven looked over the younger boy as he lay back on the table. He found himself once again drawn into the boys' cheerful voice and his eyes swept over the males body, noting that despite the two weeks in the darkened room, his skin was still held a healthy tan and no bones showed through the skin.
He realized the blond was still talking and he looked him the eyes, "Naruto, be quiet."
Naruto instantly clamped his mouth shut after sending a glare to the raven haired doctor, and let him begin his work. Azure eyes tracked every movement that was made around the room, from the time his blood was drawn and placed in a machine, to the way Itachi jotted notes down on a clipboard. Normally he was uncomfortable with doctors poking at him, and he'd had his fair share from school physicals, but Itachi put him at ease, making everything seem effortless.
After what he guessed was an hour, Itachi told him that he was done and could go back. He noticed how the doctor had refrained from saying the word cell and for that he was grateful; he may put up with the daily injections, but that didn't mean that he liked everything about being here; starting with the small cell.
They walked back in silence and Naruto pretended not to notice that his hallway was completely X-ed out, with the exception of his own door. Itachi opened his unmarked door and let him settle onto the cold floor before the doctor handed him a tray of the normal food. He ate it slowly, saving the taste and once again trying to push the thought that this could be his last meal, from his mind.
"Will you tell me what you find?" He asked after a while.
"Why would you like to know?"
Naruto shrugged, "The same reason I don't put up fights everyday." He said simply.
Itachi arched an unseen eyebrow, but the blond didn't continue. He sighed softly, "I'll tell you if we find anything, but believe me, if we do, you'll know whether you wanted to or nor."
The blond grinned up at Itachi, "Thank you."
'Don't thank me just yet, Naruto.'
It was later during the day that Itachi finally was able to sit down and look at the blood work under the microscope. He had been reviewing physical differences all day with his colleagues and only now was he able to sit down and look at the differences on the microscopic level. He brought the sample into focus and peered down at it, jotting several notes down. To his left was a raw sample of the virus, extracted from a new group brought in three days ago.
He squirted a small drop into the red blood and watched the virus go to work. They had seen it attack the cells hundreds of times, injecting them with the deadly strain causing the cell to multiple nine times before moving to the next cell, and then process would continue.
They had named the virus, Kyuubi, because of its behavior.
Itachi pushed away from the microscope and moved to the second one, the one that contained Naruto's blood. He could already see the deformed, damaged cells and some virus floating within the blood and reached for the first sample of a long line of drugs. It was going to be a long night.
Eleven needles later, Itachi had gotten nowhere. The blonds' blood was still rejecting every one of the drugs that was injected and he couldn't figure out why. He reached for the next one a squirted a small sample on the blood droplets. He cursed when he realized that he grabbed a needle with the raw virus instead of the drug. He went to discard the plate when something caught his eye and he bent over the microscope again.
The newly injected virus was trying to find undamaged cells to attach to but couldn't find any. Instead, it turned its attention to the existing virus floating in the blood and injected the strand into the otherwise empty and old virus strand. The new strand struggled to duplicate but collapsed on itself while the strand was still attached to the old one, destroying them both. He watched in amazement as the other virus stands mimicked the first one, ending with the same results.
In the end, the only thing left were deformed and broken cells, all traces of the virus were gone.
The next few days were a flurry of test for Itachi and his coworkers. They had pulled blood from several patients in the newest group and tried to mix a new virus with the old virus, but the results weren't effective. If anything, it made the virus duplicate faster, resulting in the cells overloading and practically bursting apart. The one live test that they did offered gruesome results, in which the patient barely lasted fifteen minutes before the broken cells caused the organs to fail simultaneously.
It wasn't until recently, that Itachi had suggested that they try injecting some of Naruto's blood into already infected blood. The results then were much more satisfying, and the virus ended up destroying itself once again.
Now though, they were at a standstill.
"In order to create a vaccine, we would have to mix enough raw viruses with the patients' blood. You can only do that by injecting it into the person." The supervisor said.
"We saw how that went last time." Itachi stated, "We'll have to find another way."
Someone chuckled, "It never bothered us to test someone before, I say we go ahead; we have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
"If we lose Na- the patient, then we'll be forced back to where we started." Itachi snapped.
"We have enough of his blood to work with should anything happen." His supervisor said, "Tomorrow I want you to administer the virus into him, use the same amount we used on the first subject."
Itachi narrowed his eyes but didn't anything before sweeping out of the room.
His thoughts were in turmoil as he made his way through the building and unknown emotions threatened to ride up and overtake him in a single sweep. One the one hand, this could be the breakthrough that they needed, providing the cure that the world needed. But the test could turn horribly wrong for the boy; killing him in at least fifteen minutes if the two viruses didn't cancel out, and plunging him into extreme agony during the time.
His footsteps were heavy as he walked through the empty hallways, were several hundred doors had large black X's marked into them. Outside, he could faintly hear the rumbling of the backhoes and dump trucks working to clean the grounds from the corpses. Somewhere out there, there was a large hole lined with plastic and lime to prevent the virus from staying dormant, and the hole was filled with pale, emaciated, dead bodies.
Naruto could be the next one.
The thought made him stop in his tracks as the realization finally settled over him. His job as a doctor was to work for the better good, even at the cost of one life compared to a million. But he was still human, and his morality was screaming at him that this was wrong, this whole thing was a death house and torture chamber for everyone brought through the thick metal gates. How many lives had he taken, tortured, in the name of medicine?
Bile rose to his mouth and he forced it down, grimacing at the taste. For a year, he had worked here, watching emotionless as trucks full of infected people passed through the gates; none of which ever made it out of these walls alive. In a sense, he was no worse than the virus itself. Taking control of peoples lives against their will; torturing their bodies before eventually causing their death sooner than expected.
He couldn't ask for redemption after the acts he had committed, but he could start working to make the situation better.
Starting with Naruto.
The footsteps that padded throughout the building were soft and barley audible, but after staying in the dark for a month, Naruto's ears could pick up the smallest noises now. He could tell they were headed towards his cell and were slightly rushed and he wondered if something was wrong. He pushed himself into a sitting position and leaned against the wall, waiting for the door to swing open.
When it did, his eyes quickly adjusted to the light in the hallway and recognized the white figure as Itachi. The door shut behind the doctor before Itachi made his way over to him.
"More tests?" He asked.
"No, I'm getting you out of here tonight."
Itachi sighed, "We injected some of the blood we took from you with a raw form of the virus, and the two viruses's canceled each other out. But when we tried it on another patient, it didn't work out the way the test did in the lab. My superior thinks we should try it on you."
"Would this make a cure?"
"If you don't die from the test, it is highly possible."
Naruto grabbed his arm, "So why are we leaving?"
"Naruto, this test could kill you within fifteen minutes if the new virus doesn't work the way it did earlier." He paused and his hand made a gesture that showed he wanted to run his hand through his hair, but remembered the hazard suit he wore. "Do you know how many trucks have passed through these gates, filled with people? People, Naruto; not just test subject, not infected animals, but people. Hundreds have, and do you know how many people have left these walls?"
"None." The blond answered softly.
"Except you." Itachi responded, "I'm getting you out of here. You don't need to suffer and die for the sake of this inhumane testing."
The grip on Itachi's arm tightened and Itachi glanced into Naruto's eyes. They widened when they saw the raw determination, "Itachi, I told you before; I'm not scared of death. If this test works, you can find a cure, you'll be famous."
"Don't try and play the hero Naruto." Itachi snapped, "And I don't care about the fame or money, I joined this to help save people from dying but I've only done the opposite."
Naruto's answer was soft, "You can still save people; like you always wanted."
"At the possible cost of your life." Itachi choked out, "Please don't go through with this Naruto."
The blond shook his head, "If you don't do it, someone else will." He turned his head to the side and released his grip on Itachi's arm, "And I would rather have you there, giving me the injection than another doctor. Please Itachi, we both know that even if I escaped these walls, I couldn't do anything. I still hold the virus, and as dormant as it is, it can still be contagious on my person. Anywhere I'd go could start another outbreak."
Itachi bit his lip as he slowly shook his head in understanding. It amazed him at how brave the young blond could be and he wondered if he would be able to face death the way Naruto did. With difficulty, he stood up and helped Naruto to his feet. He was nervous and scared for the first time in his doctor career, but the determination of the blond helped to quell his fears as he led the boy to the showers again.
They were silent as Itachi washed him, carefully checking his body for any changes that might have accrued in the past few days, but the raven found none. Naruto still seemed healthy on the outside, but he knew that inside, his body was a war zone.
When they finished, Itachi directed him towards another lab where he could safely inject the raw virus into Naruto. He rubbed the alcohol pad on the skin before grabbing the needle that was filled with red liquid and brought it close to the skin.
"Will you stay here with me?" Naruto asked softly and Itachi almost missed it.
He raised his head and their eyes met briefly before he nodded, "No matter what."
The needle pushed through the skin with a small pop, and Naruto's eyes squinted shut a small fraction, but otherwise showed no pain. He watched as the red liquid was pushed into his blood until the vial was empty and the needle was removed. Itachi took a step back to discard the needle; his eyes cautiously flickered towards the clock that sat innocently on the wall, and suddenly; the ticking of the second hand was very loud.
1: 05 A.M. blinked on the computer screens across the room and the machines soft noise was comforting.
Naruto sat on the bench, swing his legs casually and eyes darting to the multiple instruments that were in the room. He had never seen so many and wondered what they all did. He couldn't feel any pain, but his mind was already starting to pull back, preparing for the on slot that could come. The doctor was silent as he watched him, occasionally writing down notes and it wasn't until he felt his body start to shake that Itachi finally stepped closer.
"How are you doing?"
"It tingles slightly." He answered and winced as the first wave of pain rushed through his body.
Itachi moved away for a second, dragging a large, metal trashcan over to the metal bench and set it near Naruto's feet. Neither mentioned it; they both knew what it was for.
Naruto followed the multiple wires that were attached to his body and tried to connect them to the multiple machines to keep him mind off the pain that was now coursing through his veins. Itachi seemed to have noticed that he was trying to distract himself and he tilted the boys head towards him.
"Earlier, you told me that you didn't put up fights for a reason. Tell me why." He said, watching the pain swim in the blonds' eyes.
"I was quarantined to the second area when the second outbreak started. I remember watching the news during the first outbreak and I felt scared that it could happen to everyone. When the doctor said that I showing early symptoms, I was shipped off to the second area. Have you ever seen the secure sites Itachi?"
The raven shook his head, "No, but I heard about them."
Naruto nodded, "They're actually not as bad as we made them out to be. It was just like a large town, we had schools, stores, and housing. Everyday the trucks would come in to deliver food and another truck would leave with a bunch of people, rumored to be heading to The Hospital. If information hadn't leaked back to us, the death rate wouldn't have been so high in the secure sites. Everyone started to kill themselves, claiming that they were going to die anyway at the hands of the government. They had lost all faith by now."
The blond paused as his body was wracked with pain and Itachi reached forward to wrap his arms around the smaller male. He could feel the small frame shaking even through his suit and he made Naruto relax his neck and rest his head on his shoulder. They waited silently for the spasms to pass and when he seemed to get a hold of himself, Naruto continued.
"We stayed together in age groups and just tried to enjoy ourselves as best we could. We never knew when the truck would come for us and who they would choose. I think that's why we held out on killing ourselves. What if they did find a cure and we destroyed ourselves in fear. No, instead they would wait until they were being corralled into the cells." He paused for breath and continued, "I remember watching from my room as they loaded up a truck; it was the sixteenth one since I had arrived."
"The guards were wrestling with a teenager that refused to get in the cell. She took out like three guards before finally breaking free and, well, you know. I had a roommate at that time, because you really didn't want to be alone. He was quiet and didn't sleep a lot, but he always watched over me and made sure that I was safe. He watched the fight with me and said the one sentence that I will never forget; 'She's going to die sooner or later, best to go in a dignified way then a childish and scared way.'"
Naruto's eyes went wide and he pushed away from Itachi. His chest heaved as he threw up into the trashcan a couple times before pulling back up for air. Itachi handed him a glass of water, telling him to rinse his mouth but not to drink any of the water. The raven-haired doctor stood up behind Naruto, and let the blond lean back against his chest while he panted for breath.
"I spent four nights thinking about that one sentence." He said with a little difficulty, "And when I asked him about it, he told me that those who were killing themselves were just wasting their lives even more than the doctors who were killing the others here."
Itachi flinched at the statement and let Naruto lean forward to hit the trashcan again, carefully holding the hair back from his face. The blond gently took the cup, rinsed his mouth out, and continued again.
"He said that he didn't understand why everyone was so scared of death. Either we were going to die here, or die trying to help find a cure. I thought about it for days and realized that this virus had torn apart everyone in the world. Everyone had been affected in some way or form; everyone knew at least one person who had died or had the virus. I remembered my friend, whose sister died because of the virus during the first outbreak and how devastated he was."
"I guess that helped to bring into perspective how much my life did mean to others. If I had killed myself, how many other people could have died because of my selfishness. My best friends were out there still and I didn't want them or their families to suffer either. I figured my roommate was right, we were going to die sooner or later, why not try to help instead of being selfish?"
"What happened to your roommate?" Itachi asked.
Naruto's body tensed up for a brief second before it started to convulse violently, and Itachi quickly wrapped his arms around the blonds' body. He held Naruto's head carefully as the body twitched against his and he wasn't sure whose heart was racing faster. The blonds' eyelids started to flutter and his blue eyes rolled up into his head as the convulsing continued.
Itachi's slowly lowered them to the ground so he could grasp the body easier and his fingers threaded through Naruto's clenched hands. "Relax Naruto," he said after the blond gave a strong buck, "I want you to tell me about your roommate." He was surprised his voice sounded so calm to his ears and he felt Naruto trying to relax his hands and took the time to grip his hands, giving them a reassuring squeeze. "I'm still here." He whispered into his ear, "Don't leave me, you understand. Now tell me about your roommate."
"He-he was al-always silent." He said, gasping for breath and hissed in pain when he bit his tongue, but continued anyway, "He was the fi-first one to be-befriend me."
"What happened to him?"
Tears leaked out of Naruto's eyes from the pain and he gritted his teeth for a moment, "He pass-passed away a week be-before I came he-he-here. I ne-never knew his name."
The convulses started to slow down and Itachi watched in horror as Naruto's eyelids started to drop shut before they snapped open again. The blond pushed himself from Itachi's chest and threw his head over the edge of the trashcan. The sound of him retching made the doctor wince as it continued without stop for almost a minute. Finally, Naruto pulled back and leaned back heavily against Itachi, gasping for breath. His eyes were closed and Itachi felt for his heartbeat and found it beating strongly under his palm.
1: 55 A.M flashed brightly on the computer screens above them.
He didn't mean to fall asleep, he just had. When he woke up, he found bright lights shinning down at him and he squinted at them before rolling onto his side.
"So you're finally awake."
His head turned in the direction of the voice and a tired smile flickered across his face, "Yeah, and I'm guessing I'm not dead?"
Itachi chuckled, "No, come here."
The blond jumped off the metal table and padded over to the doctor. He gestured to the microscope and blue eyes peered through the lens, "What am I looking at?"
"That's a sample of the raw virus." Itachi answered, and pushed him to the next one, "This one, is your blood."
"There's nothing there."
Azure eyes blinked up in surprise, "It worked, it really worked?" He jumped up, "Does this mean you can create a cure?"
Itachi nodded, "Yes, I'll present my findings this afternoon and we'll start to work on a vaccine for everyone." He hesitated, "You still won't be able to leave until we make sure that it works."
Naruto was silent but nodded his head in understanding. He jumped when Itachi leaned forward and pulled him close, "I wish I could thank your roommate for giving you your unwavering bravery, and for leading you here."
It would take at least five days for Itachi and his co-workers to work out a vaccine. It was a stressful time because the doctors were worried that the virus would show up again in Naruto's blood but after daily testing, the virus was still absent. The first few tests on the infected patients didn't work out in eliminating the virus and the patients ended up dying a few days later. With this news, the doctors were forced to rewrite their theories and came up with a second vaccine.
This one worked, and the vaccine itself came from Naruto's own blood.
The vaccine was put into production with promises that it would hit hospitals and pharmacies within a week or so. The staff worked constantly to manufacture the drug and within the week, they had sent out the first round to the secure sites.
Itachi made his way down the empty hallways again, noting how this was become a regular ordeal for him. Everyday he made this trip to the secure room and everyday he left feeling sicker than the last. He unlocked the door and stepped into the sterile room, eyes quickly locating the figure reclining on the stuffed examining table.
Multiple wires extruded from his body and connected to various machines, yet despite all the wiring, the figure still flashed him a smile.
"Good morning Naruto. How are you today?"
Itachi chuckled and handed him the tray of food before starting to check the machines. Everything was reading fine and he turned away from the machines to look at the blond who was munching happily on an apple.
It had been a week since the first rounds had made their way into the secure sites and doctors were watching them carefully for any signs of relapse. So far, none had experienced anything, with the exception of the fever and vomiting that the vaccine produced. It was now two weeks since they had combined Naruto's blood with the raw virus and in Itachi's opinion, they had more than enough vaccine to let the blond go.
But his supervisor still stated that the blond stay in case they needed him; and his blood.
Naruto hadn't mentioned leaving The Hospital yet, but Itachi could tell it was sometimes on his mind. Like the times when he would glance out the small window at the top of the wall and watch, the clouds move along the blue skyline.
"We're going to need some more blood, Naruto." Itachi said when he had finished eating.
"How are the others in the secure sites?" Naruto asked as he held out his arm.
Itachi was silent as he inserted the needle and watched as the bag began to fill with the red liquid, "The doctors are monitoring their progress."
The doctor pulled the needle out and covered the hole with a small wrap. He put the warm packet in a cooled box and turned to look at Naruto. "I'm free today, would you like to play a board game later today?"
A grin lit up Naruto's face and he nodded ecstatically, "Yes, but not chess." His nose wrinkled, "It's boring."
Itachi nodded, "Very well, we'll play something besides chess."
Three weeks later
"Sir, if I may, why can't we let him go? We have more than enough blood from him and if we keep taking anymore like we have been; it's going to kill him."
"He's strong Itachi, and he told us he wants to help, so let him help."
Itachi ground his teeth together, "You've been pulling blood from him for almost a month and a half." He placed his hands on the table, "He's my patient and I'm letting him leave."
His supervisor stood up and they glared at each other, "I am your superior and I'm telling you that he stays. You can either abide by my rules and keep treating him, or leave and I'll assign someone else to patient ten."
Greed corrupts people's humanity and morality.
If he could, Itachi would strangle the man with his own hands; but now he was stuck in a tight position. If he said yes, he would have to continue to watch Naruto get drained like a vampire's victim, but if he said no and left, someone much harsher than him would take over.
"Come on Itachi, he's just test subject. So he dies, big deal. All the others died by your hands as well, what makes this one different?"
Itachi's eyes narrowed and he took a calming breath as he shoved his trembling hands into his jacket, "I pity you." He said and walked out of the room.
He cleared his schedule for the week and strode down the secure hallway. He showed his pass to the guards, they let him into the room. His stride faltered as he entered the room and his eyes widened in shock and disgust. He had been away from the room for two days for arguing with his supervisor and he was put on a slight probation. Now that he was back, he realized how badly the situation had spun out of control.
In a few quick strides, he crossed the room and quickly pulled the tubes away from the blond's body. He watched as eyelids flickered open tiredly, the action itself seeming to take a great deal of effort. Black eyes ran over Naruto's body, assessing the damage that had happened while he was gone.
He hadn't seen it well enough during the first week or so, but everyday he could see the signs of fatigue in the boy. It started with the fading of his tan and the skin started to became paler as the weeks progressed. Eventually, his hipbones started to show more predominately and the muscle that he had was slowly being eaten away as the body compensated for the strain.
But now, seeing him like this, Itachi cursed himself for letting it get so far out of control.
Naruto no longer resembled the boy he once was; he now looked like the corpses that were buried daily a few short weeks ago. The only thing that remained was the sparkle in his eyes when he saw Itachi again. He struggled to sit up but Itachi gently pushed him back in the bed, and Naruto flashed him a tired smile.
"How are you Naruto?"
"I'm tired, but I don't really feel any pain. It's sort of gone away."
Itachi shook his head, "I shouldn't have let this happen to you. You've been tortured enough and you've repaid the world with your bravery. You don't need to keep doing this."
Naruto laughed weakly, "It doesn't hurt Itachi, really." His fingers patted the bed, "Will you stay here with me?"
Itachi shifted onto the bed and pulled Naruto's body against his. It was light as expected and he let the blond rest his head against his chest.
"I'm too tired to play a game today, 'Tachi." He murmured as Itachi ran a hand through his hair.
"We can just sit here then." Itachi said. His chest tightened as he overlooked the boy again. Naruto couldn't leave the room in his condition, he wouldn't last without the help of the machines; even if Itachi wanted to take him away, he would still end up killing him.
"Can you tell me about your family? You told me you had a brother my age." Naruto asked softly.
And so Itachi told him. He told him how Sasuke was now in high school and learning to play another instrument. He told him how his mother called everyday to make sure he was doing alright and that he wasn't sick. He recalled his childhood; and how he would run around the large backyard with his dog, before his mother would call him in for dinner. The memories made him smile and he threaded his fingers into Naruto's limp fingers.
Silence settled over them and Itachi swallowed the lump in his throat before asking, "Does it still hurt?"
Naruto shook his head slowly, "It did at first, when I first came here. The pain that races through the body makes you want to tear your hair out while you scream in agony. Your hot one moment and the next, you can't get warm enough. You know that your hungry, but you can't eat anything because you can't keep it down." He paused, "But now, it's all gone. Every now and then, some small pain will flare up for a brief moment, but it dies away quickly."
Itachi ran his hands through the blond locks, wishing that he could feel them on his skin. Even though Naruto wasn't contagious anymore, the doctors didn't want anyone to get him sick and change his blood patterns.
"What about your family?" Itachi asked, "What are they like?"
"My parents both died during the first wave of the virus and I was placed in an orphanage. But before they died, my parents loved me so much. They would always support me in my sports and school, even when I performed badly. We would go out to eat at my favorite restaurant all the time, even though my parents were tired of it." A smile flickered across Naruto's face, "They loved each other too. They died together in the hospital in each other's arms. I think they knew they were going to die that night, because they held me really tightly and told me how much they loved me and how proud they were. My mother told me to be strong and brave and my father said that he was so proud of me."
Two small tears leaked out of the blonds' eyes and Itachi hugged him tighter, "They would be proud of you now, Naruto."
"Thank you." Naruto said softly after a while, "I don't think I would have made it if you hadn't been there with me the entire time."
"Wait, please." Naruto stated weakly and Itachi felt a prickling sensation behind his eyes along with his throat tightening; he didn't like the tone of the blonds' voice. "I know that you hate yourself right now for doing this, but if it helps any, I don't hate you. I used to hate this virus, cursing it for the pain it caused me when it took my parents away and the pain it caused me when it grabbed a hold of me. But they always say that a curse can be a blessing in disguise."
"How can you say that?"
"Because I would never have met you."
His heart beat painfully in his chest and he forced himself to swallow the lump in his throat, "I would have preferred to meet on better terms."
Naruto chuckled weakly, "I suppose." He raised his hand up that was still connected to Itachi's hand and kissed it gently, "I'm a selfish person."
"Why do you say that?" Itachi asked, slightly shocked.
"Because everyday I look outside that window, I wish I could leave. I want to live a normal life again; see you and keep you to myself, but I can't. And I find myself wishing that it was someone else in here instead of me." Tears leaked down his face, "Isn't that a selfish thought?"
Itachi felt something wet trickle down his check and he bit his lip to keep his voice steady. "No, it's not, and you're not selfish at all Naruto. Most people wouldn't even consider going through the pain that you went through. Yet you did, and you did it without ever complaining and staying fearless throughout the whole ordeal."
Naruto squeezed his fingers gently and Itachi could feel his heartbeat slowly down, barely fluttering against his chest. "I'm a little scared." He whispered softly. "I know I shouldn't be, but I am."
"It's alright to be scared Naruto."
"Were you ever scared Itachi?"
"I was scared the first day we tested you with the raw virus, and I'm scared right now." He admitted, "I don't want you to go and that makes me selfish as well."
"Perfect matches then." Naruto said softly. "Itachi, promise me that you'll forgive yourself for this. That you'll move on and became a famous doctor and save lots of people."
"I've already done that thanks to you." He responded.
"Promise me then that you'll forgive and move on. Hating yourself won't let you discard the pain." He paused, "That's what I did."
"How can you forgive me so easily for doing this to you?"
A smile stretched across his face and for the first time in weeks, his eyes shone brightly with emotion, "Because I love you."
The blond closed his eyes tiredly, but the small smile still stayed on his face, "I'm tired 'Tachi, I'm going to rest my eyes for a bit." He mumbled.
Silence reined over the room with the exception of the faint beeping of the heart monitors. Itachi unthreaded his fingers so he could remove his gloves and take off the bulky facemask. He dropped his unmasked face next to Naruto's and squeezed his hands gently. His warm breath ghosted across the shell of Naruto's ear and he felt the blond shiver slightly, as he murmured into his ears.
He felt his fingers being squeezed softly and he rested his other hand in the blond locks, running them through his fingers. He felt Naruto's body relax against his and all throughout the room the heart monitors screamed shrilly, but Itachi never heard them. Instead, he placed a soft kiss on the blonds' temple and let the limp body rest against his, his last words echoing in his mind.
'I love you too.'
A figure slowly shuffled through the house and onto the balcony. It glanced at the bright blue sky that was spotted with white clouds before settling down on the chair. Outside, the waves from the beach lapped against the sand and the wind blew through the palm trees.
This place was Itachi's hideaway.
Eleven years after the pandemic happened, he was still extremely wealthy; thanks to the creation of the Uzumaki drug that had cured and saved millions. The secure sites that once held the infected people were destroyed and life seemed to return to normal for most people, although the haunting affects were still seen worldwide.
In the eleven years that passed, Itachi had found the peace within him, like Naruto had begged him to find. He continued to be a doctor, working in pediatrics' because he could always see a small part of the blond in the many children he worked with.
Right now though, he was taking a few weeks off to just relax and remember. Work had been catching up with him and he was becoming easily fatigued, so his brother suggested that he stay at the beach house for a few weeks. He listened to his brother for once and now, here he was, watching the waves kiss the sand and the clouds dance across the sky. He realized that the bright blue color reminded him of Naruto's eyes, although, they could never match the intensity that once was Naruto's.
He wouldn't lie to himself and say that he didn't miss the blond. He did. And despite trying to move on, that was the one area where his mind wouldn't let him forget.
"I'm sorry I couldn't forget Naruto." He said into the wind as it brushed across his cheeks. "I still miss you."
The wind whipped around the small balcony, sending leaves and papers spiraling around in the corners. He closed his eyes and let the wind run over his body as he listened to it whisper to him. If he listened close enough, he could almost swear it was calling his name. The wind slowly died down, but he could still feel its traces on his face, like a soft caress on his cheek; almost like a hand cupping his face. He kept his eyes closed to savor the feeling and felt his body slowly drifting off.
'In other news, Dr. Uchiha Itachi, one of the founders of the Uzumaki drug was found dead this afternoon at his families beachside house. While the cause is still unknown, doctors say that it was painless and that he more than likely died in his sleep. Dr. Uchiha was a highly recognized doctor in his field and will be sorely missed by his department. Our thoughts and sympathies go to the Uchiha family for their lose. Services will take place on Thursday night and the funeral will be held early Friday morning. This is Channel Ten signing off; we wish you all peaceful night.
We fear the unknown, whether it is our future or unsolvable problems from the past. Is it because we aren't sure how to deal with what we find, that something we once believed to be true is now completely wrong and this new thing goes against everything we once knew? We turn our heads from the things we think are wrong or do not understand. We find ourselves walking faster as we pass by the beggar on the street or staring at the person in the wheelchair; until it happens to us. Only those who suffer and deal with the things we think can never happen to us; know no fear.
Ending note: I didn't put character death in the warning, because it would give away the ending. Hate me for it, love me for it, whatever you feel is right; I still stand by my statement :)