Disclaimer: I do not nor will I ever own Naruto.

A/N: Second chapter of a multi-chapter I started over a year ago. I have it up everywhere but here, heh. I do not have any plans for the third chapter as of yet, the ones I had got completely changed. So please no pressuring for a third chapter. I'll do it when I get the inspiration.

Inspired from a book i chose to read for Eng AND the song "Life is Beautiful" by Sixx AM...mostly from the book though. PLUS i wanted to write something from my own region's point of view, yes? instead of somewhere I've NEVER personally been. So welcome, y'all, to Mississippi. :B If the accents bother you, I'm sorry, it's a part of the culture.

Warning for violent scenes. Also there will be yaoi-themes later in this story. Not so much in the first two chapters though.


A series of dings signaled the opening of the twin metal doors. The young man exited the metal box, sliding his hands into his jacket pockets. Dulled blue tennis shoes made light, plush noises on the dark, worn carpet as the owner of said shoes, made his way down the hallway.

Blonde locks trembled with each step. Blue eyes slid down to lock onto the carpet save for glancing at the golden numbers on the doors that passed. The dim bulbs and the aged, yellowing wallpaper gave the hall a fitting gloomy appearance.

His hands stayed in the pockets of his black, light jacket that the slightly chilled air had been just cold enough to make him want to wear. Glinting keys jingled alongside the gun holster keeping his 9mm Glock secured at his hip. The blonde's stroll was at a normal pace, yet it seemed strained like he was forcing himself to keep going.

Azure irises framed by purpled-lids lifted to the tarnished golden numbers on the door he was now stopped at.

'346'

He slowly turned his head to the opposing side. There, the door to 347 stood open and the sounds of bustling inside told him he'd found the right room.

As if the blood tingeing the carpet didn't make it obvious enough.

With a light sigh, the blonde entered the room and was instantly approached by a brunette. "Hey, Kiba," came the short greeting from the blonde. He gave a small smile one would call grave, but that'd be a sad pun. "What've we got exactly?"

Kiba wore a similar expression as he replied, "This one's particularly nasty, bud." A light pause. "Are you ready?"

"You're just a deputy...you forget that I've seen way worse even before you joined us." The blonde returned, shifting his hands from his pockets to take the notepad his deputy was holding. He perused it as he followed the other into the bedroom.

"Nah, Naruto, not like this..." Kiba said. As soon as he had, the blonde had read over it, scrawled in his deputy's handwriting..

'Victim(s): 26-year old Mother, 5-year old daughter, and 4-month? newborn son'

Naruto's eyes widened a fraction and he was reluctant to raise them to the scene on the bed. He wrenched them from the notepad and a light gasp escaped his parted lips.

"The light was smashed.....from a struggle we're guessing, so it may be hard to see."

A blood-soaked hotel bed was what first registered in the viewer's mind, but then as startled eyes became used to the dim light, three shapes appeared. The bodies were so mangled and covered in so much of their own former life-source; it was hard to tell them apart from the sheets around them.

A tanned hand lifted to cover the blonde's trembling mouth. He turned his gaze, swallowing hard before taking his bag off his shoulder and setting it on the ground.

Kiba kneeled alongside his companion, pulling out the things from his own bag. The police officers in the room were slowly investigating the rooms, all wearing grim expressions. Some had to pause to swallow their emotions before continuing to work. The whole hotel room was so thick with this air, it was like drowning.

Keeping his eyes on the hands emptying his bag, Naruto asked in a low voice. "Has the guy been caught?"

The brunette looked up, then back down to his own bag. "Yeah...thankfully he spent too much time in here. These guys caught him before he could even leave the hall."

"Good," Came the short, bitten-off reply. The blonde popped each of his gloves as he slipped them on. Standing up, he took his few tools with him to the bed.

Coroners were given the advice that it wasn't wise to get too close to the victims they were examining. Treat them as more than a corpse, but don't get so attached that either the examiner is forced into an asylum or...even worse...is to be the next case on their fellow medical examiners' hands.

Naruto Uzumaki never took advice well. Every one of his patients was treated as though they had just been laughing over dinner with him the night before. Every one of their deaths could have been prevented by him. Every one of their lives was his own.

This felt better to him though, he wouldn't have it any other way. To him, he had to give them the final respect and care they deserved, or else, no one would.

So, as he gave each one of the mangled bodies on the bed a thorough look-over, the woman was his sister, the children were his niece and nephew; he had been standing in this room as they died. He could see it all play out in his head.

The more coagulated wounds on the woman were on her arms, meaning she put up a fight. She probably died saving her babies. The stab-wounds in her chest were most likely the cause of death. He also noticed there were multiple wounds that had not bled as much. Postmortem wounds....the bastard. He gestured for Kiba and together, they placed her in the body bag and handed her to two officers.

He moved to the children, his breath hitching in his throat. The newborn was inches away from his older sister. Her hands were thrown out ahead of her and she was the only one face-down. She died protecting her baby brother. A tear slid down a scarred cheek. Her wounds were mostly on her back, as expected. Her brother had one slash going down the length of his tiny abdomen. At least it was quick. He gestured again and the two were put into the smaller body bags.

Child-sized.

Why did they even have to make that size?

Naruto picked up his few, scattered tools and cleaned up his things, leaving the rest to the officers. Kiba would drive the bodies to the morgue and Naruto would have to do the autopsies tomorrow. This was how it usually went. The only things that changed were the victims and how they died. He rolled down the sleeves to his jacket and straightened out his polo.

He gave a slow, somber wave to the officers as he lifted his bag to his shoulder and turned to leave. Kiba gave a slow pat to his back.

"You need to join us to decompress at the Waffle Hizzle?" The deputy asked with upturned brows.

The blonde turned to him, a sad grin on his face. "Nah, I think I'll turn to my therapist tonight."

"Decompressing" is a term common to most people working in this field. A group of team members gather to talk to each other as a way of lifting spirits. It worked well in making sure everyone returned to their job the next day. The blonde and brunette pair's favorite was the Waffle House that they lovingly deemed the "Waffle Hizzle" with homage to the great Snoop Dogg that neither listened to.

It came in even greater use during the disaster known as Katrina.

When you've seen decaying and bloated bodies floating around in their former homes, you need some place to swallow the experiences. The Waffle House settled in Gulfport became especially endearing.

Naruto had been called down after it was clear that the amount of deaths couldn't be taken care of effectively with the few crew members they had. The young man found himself volunteering for DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team) before he had even had a year to settle into his newly appointed Coroner position back in Rankin County.

That bitch of a storm had taken out most of the Gulf Coastline and left nothing but loss in her wake. Even people as far North as Tupelo, Mississippi had felt some of her wrath. Naruto's own apartment had lost half of its shingles and a few trees from the lawn outside.

The people on the coast that had been working on it, were hauling bodies out by the truckloads, and that's being literal. Everyone was bogged down not only from recovering bodies, but with all the missing persons' reports that were filed by the hundreds daily.

Each day for weeks on end consisted of Naruto ignoring the searing wet-heat of Southern Mississippi and mosquitoes the size of small birds to muck around the stagnant water and look for the corpses it hid. Many times, he'd fight the lurching of his stomach as his team opened a car door to find the festering bodies of a former family.

He would also have to deal with mourning families that insisted on riding with him when he went in search of their loved-ones. There wails and sobs hit him harder than they let him see. Not to mention avoiding being arrested for assaulting the many lazy politicians that only showed up to get their face on TV as 'fighting to salvage the Coast.'

Horrible smells, sights, feelings, people... it was all wearing and possibly the roughest time the blonde would ever have the pain of going through.

"Naruto...oh my god...are you okay?" A young woman gasped as she answered her cell phone to the sound of a strangled, "Sakura, I need your help."

The man on the other side shifted in his seat, nudging his shoes of with his toes. His hand rubbed slowly against his forehead. "I'll be fine...I just need to talk to my unlicensed therapist." He replied with a dry laugh, though his voice had snagged on the sentence.

Sakura listened on with a focused ear, as she always did. They had been best friends since middle school and were even dating for a time. It had of course, ended, but Sakura stayed close. She knew she was the only one keeping her friend in some sort of stable state.

Naruto explained in vivid detail the knowledge of the crime he had, with little gasps slipping from her side at random intervals.

"Why're there people like that in the world, Sakura? I feel horrible when I realize I'm too used to most of my patients being victims of a petty robbery or gang fight. ....But..." He paused, pulling in a slow breath. "I'd rather get used to it then have harsh reminders like this around that not all my crimes'll... b-be petty." A shuddering sigh rattled through his chest before he took a long gulp from his Jose Cuervo bottle, the warm liquid helping to steady his breathing.

"....I really don't know, Naruto. It ain't gonna stop any time soon though. ...I do know that. ...There's nothing we can do to stop this sort of thing." She replied, nervously running her fingers through pink-dyed strands. She jerked in her seat from the sudden, loud sound she heard through the receiver.

Naruto pulled his hand back from the crumbling wall and took another swig from the bottle, "But I want to... I really do." He set the bottle down harder than he meant to. "Ever since I learned how precious life can be..." He ran a hand over his face as if trying to wipe away the painful memories that were threatening to surface. He slouched forward with a soft sigh in the plush, back chair.

"I know...I know...Naruto...Just calm down. Go lie down in your bed. I'll talk you to sleep like I always do." She said with a slight laugh.

"How'd you know I wasn't in bed?" Naruto asked in a tone that sounded amused as he slowly stood and tilted his head to secure the phone against his shoulder. His hands quickly unbuckled his belt, letting his pants slide to the floor.

"You were sitting in that little black chair in your bedroom and you're drinking tequila. Just like you always do after a particularly rough case." She smirked as she placed her glass of water to her lips.

"It's creepy how you know me so well." He gave a light chuckle and tugged off his shirt. He crawled onto his bed, lying down on top of the sheets.

Sakura giggled gently in return, "Well after 11 years, you kinda get to know someone."

A smile spread across the tan features. "Thank you so much, Sakura. I really appreciate this."

"Oh! It's nothing! I was already up anyways." She shifted to fold her legs beneath her.

A bronze brow lifted, "At four-thirty in the morning?" He pulled a hand behind his head.

"Of course, I'm always up at this time."

"Sure..." The blonde paused before giving a sigh. "Thanks again, Sakura. I think I can get some sleep now."

"You do that. I'll talk to you later okay? Bye"

"Definitely will do, bye" He said and clasped his phone shut. He placed it on his nightstand and laid back, staring up at the ceiling. With another sigh, he allowed his lids to slide close. As always, he was plagued with the lurid images and feelings that refused to be buried with the past. He grunted and shoved them away until sleep claimed him peacefully.

--------------------------

It had been a rough day in the morgue as the blonde had expected. Cutting open children is never easy. He had gotten enough evidence to send that sad excuse for human flesh to prison though. That made a proud grin slide across his face as he washed the blood from his tools.

He grinned at the coolers in which he had placed the bodies after their examination. "You guys'll get your's... at least a little bit."

He shook his hands and walked to his locker, opening it up. He slid his jacket over his arms and put his gun holster back on. Ever since a run-in with a bitter relative of a victim, he'd made sure he had some protection on him at all times. Losing your life over a case wasn't going to get it done.

"Hey, Naruto." Came a low voice from behind the blonde.

Naruto turned, instantly recognizing the voice. "Hiya, Kakashi, I just finished up in there and I'll have the reports on your desk as soon as I straighten out the details."

"That's fine and all, but..." The grey-haired man scanned the tanned face. The deep, purple rings beneath the younger man's eyes were more prominent than usual. "I figured that after such a rough case, you'd like to go for a drink...maybe some dinner with a couple of friends?"

A grin slid over the blonde's features. "Actually, I think that ain't such a bad idea."

Both men turned and left the room, strolling through the clean, white hallways chatting away about random things going on in the building. They turned a corner and walked out the glass doors out to the front.

Naruto turned from locking the door. "Where're we goin'? The usual?"

Kakashi rolled his shoulders and replied, "Kiba wanted a change of scenery this time. McAllister's off of Lakeland good for you?"

"That's fine with me," Naruto said as he rolled his keys through his hand. "That's right in front of Dogwood, right?"

"Yeah, and right beside the Logan's, you can't miss it. You'll be sure to see the green lights."

"Alright." Naruto gave the man a parting wave as they both headed to their respective cars.

His feet crunched on the gravel as he made his way to his orange '70 Shelby. He unlocked the door and climbed in, closing the door to his side. The keys jingled as he pulled out the black-coated one and stuck it into the ignition. He pulled out of the parking lot and turned onto the road, making his way towards Grants Ferry.

He turned his radio up, Rock 93.9 blaring through his speakers. He snickered at the replay of the early-morning antics of Brad Stevens and Ginger G before it cut back to the music. He gave a small whoop as Red's 'Breathe into Me' came on, and he cranked his volume up. Music never failed to calm his nerves.

The sun had turned the clouds a cotton-candy pink and the sky lightly changed from yellow to purple, fading to blue in the middle. The tall pines became pitch-black silhouettes against the darkening sky. He glanced up to marvel at this and wished that he had brought his camera. He always seemed to lack it when the sky was beautiful like this.

Shortly after, he was turning into the parking lot of McAllister's and was stepping out of the car, the chilled wind nipping at his exposed skin. He locked it before trudging up to the door and stepping in.

The building was warm and seemed larger than it was thanks to the mirrors on the opposing walls. He looked around at the many Italian and French posters on the walls and the food replicas displayed on the shelves. He spotted Kiba's group during his survey and waved at them from the line he was soon in.

After ordering a McAllister's Club with a Coke, he walked with the drink to sit at the table with Kiba, Shikamaru, Kakashi, and Chouji.

Shikamaru and Chouji were police partners that commonly worked on scenes that Naruto and Kiba were assigned to. They became part of the group as they were just as much in need of 'decompression' as the actual medical examiners.

Naruto set down his number and sat by Kiba. As the others continued their light conversation, he broke the seal of his straw after hitting it on the table and pulled the plastic out with his teeth. He poked it through the hole in the top of the cup and took a long sip.

"So, Naruto, how's it goin'?" Shikamaru asked with his usual dull gaze.

"S'alright... and you?" Naruto replied, leaning on an elbow.

"Ahh... pretty rough...but not as rough as your case last night."

"Yeah...." Cerulean irises dimmed and slid to stare at the carbonated bubbles rising in his drink. "But, that guy's gonna get some major time... so... in the end... the dead win again." He added with a brighter expression.

"Damn right!" Kiba chimed in, punching the blonde in the shoulder.

More chatter followed, Naruto joined in, already temporarily forgetting his ordeal. They discussed how their favorite teams were doing, what the plans were for the weekend, the food, anything that came to the table.

Naruto thanked the teen that had brought him his sandwich. He ate it quickly, having not had breakfast and forgetting to grab lunch.

"Shit, Naruto, how can you eat so much and not look like Chouji here?" Kiba grinned with a thumb jabbed towards their chubby friend.

"I guess I'm just a human garbage-disposal." Naruto replied as he took the leftovers from Shikamaru's plate, knowing the brunette wouldn't eat them.

After another hour of small talk, Naruto's phone buzzed.

His expression quickly darkened as he flipped open his phone and looked at the screen, "Hello? .... ...yeah... ...shit... ....alright... we'll be there." He clicked it shut and looked sternly at Kiba. "We got another case tonight."

"Ah, damn... what is it?" Kiba frowned slightly.

"A suicide."

"Wonderful." Kiba said sarcastically as he stood up, pulling his jacket on as Naruto did the same.

They exchanged quick goodbyes with everyone at the table before they quickly left the restaurant.

A heavy sigh left the blonde's mouth as he started up his car. He leaned forward and rested his forehead against the steering wheel. One tragic death after another... and it was a suicide... even better. The blonde sat back and rubbed his face with his hands.

The place was a resident's house in the Bay Park community, right off the Ross Barnett Reservoir. It didn't take him long to get there as it was just down Grants Ferry. He pulled up in the crowded driveway and turned his ignition off. He hesitated before getting out and pulling his bag from the trunk, slamming it closed. The lights from the police cars and ambulance bounced off the house and the few neighbors that were standing in their yards to inspect the scene.

He walked through the well-kept yard and into the equally well-kept house. Had this been any normal situation, Naruto would have admired how nice and neat everything looked. As it was, he kept walking to where the body was located, in the bathroom.

Kiba left the small room to give Naruto space to get in. "You didn't even give me time to make notes, jeez." The brunette gave a small sigh.

"Well pull out your notepad now and take these notes." Naruto said over his shoulder as he pulled on his gloves after having set his bag down near the toilet. He carefully pulled the shower curtain further back, not wanting to disturb anything too much. His knees popped quietly as he kneeled to get a better look at the victim.

"Male... dark-haired... possibly early to mid-twenties... suicide... deep, diagonal incisions on both forearms..." He leaned further forward as he gently grabbed the chin to tilt the face towards him, completely ignoring the rest of the naked body for now.

He froze as the long bangs fell away to expose the face. The man had creamy pale skin, even if it was clammier from blood-loss, which completely contrasted with the dark, inky-black hair. He was... beautiful.

"He hasn't reached rigor mortis... hasn't been dead long..." He let the head droop back to its original position, the dark bangs falling back to hide the young man's face. "Go get the bag, let's get him out of here."

As Kiba left, Naruto continued to look the other man over while shoving back the twinges of his own old, painful memories. He pulled out the small police report one of the officers had handed him as he had walked through the door. His eyes drifted over it, reading the young man's name.

"Uchiha... Sasuke... huh?" He mouthed the name again, enjoying how it felt on his tongue. The page flipped back to its original place as he released it to set the board on the sink before looking back at his most recent patient. "Shame someone as gorgeous as you had to do this to yourself." He spoke softly to the dark haired man as his gloved fingers wrapped around the pale, slender wrist, lifting it up to inspect it. The angry red lines screamed at him, telling him of the failure and isolation that the body they marred felt. The same familiar gashes that seemed so welcome years ago.

"Why'd you go and do something like this? ... ...Sasuke..." As he said this, the fingers of the hand in his grasp twitched and curled before a short raspy gulp of air shook the pale form.

Naruto dropped the wrist as he leaped back, eyes wide with shock. Bodies may jerk, but they didn't take gasps for air. His heart pounded wildly in his chest as he scrambled to his feet and shouted into the hallway. "He ain't dead!!"

The sound of many stomping feet met his ears as his gaze returned to the man who was supposed to be dead in the tub.

TBC!!