Silent Break

A Naruto Fanfiction

By The Phiraris Sarari

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

Summary:

Naruto is about to die. At least, that's what he thinks. Instead, he finds himself waking up in a mental hospital surrounded by doctors all telling him the same thing: his whole life, everything that happened, was just a hallucination…

Some Credits:

- My muse, whom I've now decided to call Esteban

- The Buffy episode Normal Again and the Charmed episode Brain Drain, which both have plots in many ways like this, though they will not play out the same

- The reviewers, who were my inspiration for this chapter

A/N:

I now present the second installment of Silent Break. I'd like to first give all my thanks to all those who read Chapter One. A special thanks to all those who added Silent Break either on favorites or alerts. An extra special thanks to all those who reviewed. As to whether or not there will be pairings: Not really. Note that this isn't a romance story. There will be some minor background pairings that won't be focused on in any significant detail, but, as for now, there aren't any pairings involving Naruto himself, though I'm not entirely sure whether I will fit one in or not. If I do, it won't effect the main plot of the story.

Disclaimer:

Just like I told the lawyers, I don't own Naruto.

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

Chapter Two:

Broken Barriers

Iruka went to take care of his other duties, leaving a pensive Naruto behind.

He knew Gaara. He did. He'd met him, spoken to him, fought against him as enemies and alongside him as allies. They were friends, drawn to each other by their similar lives and pain and kept together by their recovery from the past and the promise of a better future. Gaara's death struck Naruto like an electroshock wave: it hit with a sudden onslaught of pain and the aftermath left him emotionally numb. He felt genuine grief for his friend. There was no way he couldn't know him.

But he shouldn't. Not by any realistic standards. They'd never actually met before. Not in this world. How could he know someone he'd never met? How could he be in his hallucination without being in his life outside of it? How did any of this make any sense?

Before he left, Iruka told him that Gaara, like he, had thought himself a ninja. He thought he'd been born in Suna. He and Naruto had essentially shared the hallucinatory world. 'Because that isn't impossible at all.' No psychiatrist knew of anything like this ever happening, not to such a dramatic degree. This kind of thing only appeared in the more implausible branches of fringe psychology. It was like buying a five hundred piece puzzle set, going home, then realizing, while there are indeed five hundred pieces, they are from nine different puzzles. Sure, they make sense on their own, but they simply do not fit together. But they have to, don't they?

There were too many questions without answers. Too much uncertainty as to whether there even were answers at all. Or, if they did exist, whether he could ever find them. He didn't know how to face situations like this. He was never a genjutsu-type ninja, and for good reason. He never had much skill at mind games. He picked an idea and stuck with it; leave the puzzles and strategies for Shikamaru. Unfortunately, he was on his own for now.

Naruto summoned all he knew of the other jinchuuriki. When they first met, during the Chuunin Exams, he'd been, in a word, unbalanced. He was treated like something worse than dirt by his village, feared by his siblings, seen as an experiment-gone-wrong by his father, and to top it all off he was forced into insomnia by his unwelcome demonic guest. He couldn't blame the poor kid; if anyone had a reason to be a bloodthirsty psychotic, he certainly did. After their battle, however, he changed. He was by no means the picture of virtue, but he'd toned down the insanity substantially and had even gained favor among his fellow shinobi. When Shukaku was removed, he had become so different everyone wondered what had happened during his temporary death. He even seemed more compassionate, and had even gone so far as to shed tears over Sasuke's fate. He was the same, but different. It was like an entirely different version of Gaara.

It began to make Naruto wonder. He had snapped out of it when he died, and it seemed Gaara had as well. In his world, the Kazekage died a week ago. In this world, he recovered a week ago. It appeared death was the cure, as paradoxical as it sounded. Gaara, before he recovered his body from Deidara, had been dead. Naruto wondered if he came back here. Had he recovered temporarily? Chiyo and he… they brought him back, but what if not from the dead? What if they brought him back from recovery? He could've been free and all they did was cage him again.

He couldn't stand the biting suspense; he had to know.

He had to talk to Gaara.

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

The laboratory's aesthetics were eerily similar to that of a nightmare prison cell. The walls were made of rough stone that had the miraculous ability to be damp twenty-four/seven. The floor was cement and stained unnatural colors of sickly green, bile yellow, and disturbing red-brown. It was always cold, even in the middle of summer. Not the kind of cold one would find in low temperatures and winter weather, but instead the cold that came from the absence of anything truly good or right. Cold that sent shivers of fear down everyone's spine.

In the lab were two long metal tables set with numerous odd devices, bottles and bottles of unnamed liquids, papers filled with notes and sketches, abandoned gloves and goggles, and numerous other things. In addition there was a desk towards the far back of the room. On it was a solitary lamp, an ancient computer, and a large mess of newspaper clippings, photographs, and old letters.

Behind this desk sat a man. He was clearly aging, but despite this his long hair remained stubbornly black. His eyes were unnervingly snakelike and his skin was horrifically pale. He was currently holding a single photo in his hands. On it a group of people were pictured, all wearing extravagant black cloaks with red cloud prints. The man stared at this photo with both dislike and nostalgic longing in his eyes. When he heard the soft clutter of footsteps, he set the photograph down and looked up expectantly.

"Orochimaru-sama!"

A young man, no older than twenty-two, entered the room. Just as the old man's hair was still black, the young man's hair was prematurely gray and worn in a ponytail at the back of his head. His eyes were decked with black-rimmed glasses that often slipped down the bridge of his nose. He was pulling behind him a man not much older than himself who looked immensely terrified.

"What is it, Kabuto?" The older man asked, his words twisting oddly to give him an even more snake-like aura. "Have the subjects been making more trouble?"

"Not exactly," came the reply. "However, one of the employees would like to tell you something." He roughly shoved the frightened man forward.

The man gulped, glancing back at Kabuto in worry. The boy glared at him, signaling with his eyes to hurry it up. Shivering, the man closed his eyes and turned toward the snake-like figure. "O-Orochimaru-sama, s-sir…" he swallowed. "I've lost… I've lost the connection." He flinched back as the words left his mouth, expecting retaliation. When he got none, he hesitantly opened his eyes.

Orochimaru did not seem upset by the news. He simply nodded to himself. "That is all very well. It's about time, too." He slowly stood up, causing the man to cower in fear. "I suspect the boy's come to, then?"

"He has," Kabuto verified, ignoring the trembling figure between him and his boss. "I had one of my contacts at the hospital verify it this morning."

"Good, good," he muttered offhandedly. "I suppose you'll be taking care of this one then, hm?"

The man shook violently. "N-no! Please, sir, please…!"

"Oh, calm down, Number Nine," Orochimaru hissed in his snake-like tone. "What do you think I'm going to do? I'm simply having Kabuto escort you out, as your work here is no longer necessary. There will be, of course, a handsome reward in your bank accounts for your valuable service."

The man's trembling subsided somewhat. "O-oh…"

Orochimaru jerked his head to signal Kabuto. "Do show him to the door, will you? The halls are confusing, and we can't have him getting lost."

The gray-haired boy nodded, and held the door open for the man who gladly hurried out. Kabuto started to follow, looking back at Orochimaru one last time. With a nod, he wrapped his hand around the gun at his belt and hurried after the man known only to him as Number Nine.

Orochimaru turned, coming face to face with a man who had not been there before. He was of Orochimaru's age, or perhaps older, and had the same stubborn black hair and a set of dark, aloof eyes. "Madara," the snake-man said simply in greeting to the new arrival. There was only one entrance to the room, which he had been watching all this time, but no questions were asked as to how the visitor got in. For two men as cunning and deceptive as they such things were trivial. Orochimaru went over to one of his tables where an old bottle of wine sat. He poured two glasses and offered one to his guest, which was accepted readily.

Sampling the drink, Madara cast his eyes to the door. "Is that the last of them, then?"

Orochimaru smirked. "It was. Kabuto's taking care of him now." Just as he said this, the boy returned, wiping the blood off his hands with a cloth. When he noticed Madara, he instantly turned around and walked away, knowing not to interrupt at these meetings.

Madara turned to the snake-like man. "So are you now done with these experiments? I have to say these last couple of years have been painfully redundant. For people with so much power, the Akatsuki manage to lead relatively boring lives. Keeping track of them like this is positively irksome."

The other chuckled. "Everything seems boring to us, Madara. Such is the curse of living in a much more interesting way."

Madara huffed. "No doubt you've kept yourself entertained these past few years. You got the more exciting part of the plan. All I've been doing is looking over financial records and hunting through tabloids." He frowned in distaste. "How is it people read such things for nothing more than their own entertainment? I honestly do not understand how the lives of people you've never met before, and in all likelihood never willmeet, is appealing news to anyone. Worse, the entire thing was pointless. Our special friends have kept the scandals down to a minimum as of late. No doubt they are rather anxious in light of current circumstances."

"As well they should be," his companion added with a smirk.

The Uchiha nodded. "Certainly they've recognized the patterns by now. Not that it will do them any good, of course. They'll have a little time to squirm – which will no doubt be amusing – but they will be nothing more than our puppets before they have the good sense to try and stop us." He raised his now barely-filled glass in a toast to which the other replied eagerly.

"Indeed," Orochimaru replied. "And my apologies if gossip was not to your liking. But it is clear that of the two of us, I am the man of science. It's best we stick to what we're good at, no?"

"It seems, my friend, you are under the impression that my only skill is acting like a teenage girl."

"Hardly. I'm merely saying that if we ever need support from the political world, I will be leaving that in your hands. But in matters such as this, is it not best I be the one to take the lead?"

Madara finished his glass and set it down on the table. "Never mind all that. Just please tell me you've finished your research."

Orochimaru grinned, this time looking more like the Cheshire cat then a snake. "Indeed I have. I'm quite pleased, too. The results are better than I hoped for."

"Is that so?"

The snake-like man's eyes glowed. "Oh yes. 'AU:113' is a success."

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

Naruto growled under his breath. He was sure he hadn't been walking all that long, but it felt like hours had passed. It was far too easy to get lost in the labyrinth that was the hallways of the mental hospital. The bland white paint, the metal carts filled with the unidentified and sometimes semi-frightening objects, the occasional nurse or doctor… it was the same everywhere. It made Naruto wonder if the hospital, with this kind of migraine-inducing setup, could really make people better or instead just make them more crazy. The complete lack of anything to differentiate one hallway from another was so incredibly disconcerting he was certain it would only stunt recovery if anything.

He'd snuck out of him room earlier, despite Iruka's firm forbidding against it. He'd intended to find Gaara to, hopefully, make some sense of what had recently happened. The idea, it seemed, worked better in theory. He could no longer remember the way to get back. He also didn't particularly want to ask for directions, and not just because he was a man. If his doctors found out he left his room without permission they would probably keep a much closer eye on him. He'd never be able to get out again.

When Iruka first told him he would be staying at the institution for a little while longer, he didn't understand why he couldn't just leave now. He was recovered, wasn't he? Iruka said it was because they wanted to monitor him to make sure he didn't relapse. At first that sounded stupid, but then he remembered that, if his hypothesis was correct, that would've been exactly what happened to Gaara when Chiyo and he 'rescued him.' It didn't seem like an unreasonable precaution when he thought of it that way. Therefore, he was certain his doctors, and his apparent father as well, wouldn't be too happy if they found him disobeying their orders.

"What does it matter now anyway?" He grumbled to himself, trudging through the endless sea of white. "Someone must've noticed I'm gone by now."

Naruto walked up to a door and pushed it open, stepping inside. Or perhaps the better term would be outside. The moment the heavy obstacle moved aside he was suddenly greeted with the image of a sparsely filled parking lot underneath an open, black sky speckled with stars. Naruto halted his footsteps. 'Is this the exit?'

With a heavy thunk, the door shut behind him. He tried to open it again, but it had locked upon closing. "Come on," he said, pulling and pulling. "If the point of a mental hospital is to keep people in, why is it only locked from the outside?"

"Perhaps there are people they are trying to keep out as well."

Naruto nearly jumped out of his skin at the sudden appearance of a new voice. He was so used to being a ninja, and consequently being able to sense the presence (that is to say, chakra) of others, that being snuck up on had long since become a foreign occurrence. Once his heart calmed down from the surprise, it was suddenly stuck again my the now familiar jolt of recognition: he knew that voice.

The boy spun around rapidly and was greeted by the sight of the person he had gotten lost looking for.

"Gaara!" Momentarily forgetting all the rules of personal space, he gave his now living friend a hug. "You're here!"

"Evidently," came the cool reply as the blonde's captive broke free of the dreaded display of friendship. He had the same shockingly bright red hair that Naruto remembered as well as the same green eyes that were framed with dark circles. "I heard you woke up."

Naruto nodded. "Only this morning." He stopped. "Or was it yesterday…?" He looked up at the stars that shone lightly down at him. "I guess I don't know how long its been, really. I don't even know what day it is."

"Understandable," Gaara replied. "Time has a way of slipping out of consciousness without our realizing it."

Naruto looked toward his friend. "Actually, it's good I came across you out here. I've been looking for you, as it so happens. It's the reason I got stuck out here. I have some things I need to ask you."

"I knew you would have questions," the other replied. "Just as I know I do not have the answers for them."

Naruto frowned. "You can't know that. I haven't even said anything yet."

"Do you need to? I'm just as you are, Naruto. I was in our other world and in this one as well. What could I possibly know that you do not? I have only my memories of the false life I had in my mind. I remember meeting you, though we've never met. I'm no different."

"But when you died that first time," Naruto pressed on. "Did you come here? Did you get better? Did you… Did I… make a mistake when I helped resurrect you?"

Gaara sighed. "You made no mistake. I did come back here and I was here for a few hours. I remember." He looked toward Naruto. "And then suddenly I was there again, with you, Chiyo, and everyone else. But I do not believe it was you who brought me back.

Naruto looked at him questioningly. "What did, then?"

The redhead shrugged. "Whatever brought me there in the first place. Illness, insanity… I can only guess. Whatever it was didn't have anything to do with you. It couldn't have. That wouldn't make any sense."

"But none of this makes any sense! How can you be certain it wasn't my fault?"

Gaara frowned and thought about his answer for a few moments. "I'm not sure what it was exactly," he said eventually. "It felt like something was dragging me back. Not you, though. It wasn't you. It felt like something else… I don't know how to explain it. Like something… cold. Dark. Forceful. All I knew was that it wasn't the first time it dragged me into that strange world. I recognized it, like it had happened before."

Naruto listened quietly, and tried to remember. But as hard as he searched for any recollection of what happened before his world consumed him, he found nothing. Nothing but an empty void the meaningless, false memories of his other life tried in vain to fill.

"But it wasn't the same when I got back," his friend continued on. "When I awoke, Shukaku was gone. But that wasn't all. I had the distinct impression some things was different – off. I was confused, for one. I couldn't decide which was real: the shinobi world or this one. I couldn't tell if the brief span of time here was reality or just some kind of post-mortem vision. But I pushed all that aside. I couldn't find any answers so I stopped looking for them. Eventually, I was able to ignore it, push it away, pass it off as some strange one-time thing. But the absence of that distraction only alerted me to the second problem.

"It seemed like everything was so much more predictable. Like everything I thought would happen did happen. Things I hoped for came to be just as things I feared would happen always did somehow, someway. It was like the world suddenly decided to orient itself around my thoughts. It only made me suspect even more than none it was real. It felt like a simple, generic storybook. Suddenly I was able to understand and emphasize with everything because there were no longer any barriers between my emotions and someone else's. Between my story and another's. Between my memories and the memories of another person. When the demon, my demon, came, I wasn't afraid to die. I rushed out without a second thought to my mortality. To be honest, I figured that if I lived, all was well, and if I died, at least I would finally get the answer to the question that had been never once left me all of that time. Either way, it didn't matter. And then, just as it was the first time, I was here again. I was back."

Naruto stayed silent for some moments after Gaara finished, considering what he had said. "So exactly what are we to do now?"

"We try to readjust ourselves. We may not remember our old lives, but we did have them at some point. It won't be simple, but eventually things will have to gain some semblance of normalcy. After all, what else can we do?"

Naruto gave a small smile. "Iruka said we don't live anywhere near each other, but I don't want that to mean we can't be friends anymore."

Gaara rolled his eyes. "In our hallucination we hardly ever saw each other, and that never stopped us from being friends before."

Naruto couldn't help grinning, but that slid off his face when the door opened and a very unhappy looking Iruka stuck his head out.

"Naruto…"

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

"I said, and I quote, 'Do not let him leave this room.' Those were my exact words. Which part did you not understand?"

"I'm so sorry. My brother wanted some fresh air and I had the audacity to let him go outside. How will I ever live with myself?"

"Hey! Don't you get sarcastic with me, you good-for-nothing idiot!"

"Yeah, whatever."

"Whatever? Whatever? You know what, Kankuro? Just forget everything I've ever said to you. Never listen to me again. Don't mind me, anybody, I'm just trying to help my youngest brother out. Just pretend I'm not here!"

"Temari, calm down, will you?"

"Shut up, Kankuro!"

Gaara sat quietly as his two siblings bickered about Kankuro letting him out of his room/makeshift prison cell. The entire situation reminded him eerily of the time he was locked in his room during the Chuunin Exams and he, getting rather fed up with it, left to go and kill Rock Lee. He knew it wasn't the same; his brother and sister were only trying to help him now. But it disturbed him nonetheless. Naruto and Iruka were standing in the room, watching the argument along with him. Naruto explained the situation to Iruka, and it seemed all was forgiven after his son (a surprising new twist the Gaara had only just learned about) gave him a good reason for disobeying him. Similarly, Temari didn't seem to be mad at Gaara at all, only at Kankuro, who was apparently completely at fault here.

"If you had just done as I asked…"

"Oh, lay off."

"What if something happened out there? He could have been hurt or kidnapped or killed or gotten frostbite or-"

"For God's sake, woman, get a grip!"

Naruto and Iruka looked at Gaara for instructions as for what they should do when Temari started hitting Kankuro over the head repeatedly with her purse. He just waved them off. The only sensible thing was to do nothing; she would only start hitting one of them if they interrupted, and what would be accomplished then?

"You stupid-!"

Whack, whack, whack!

"Ow! Stop that! Hey!"

Whack, whack, wh-!

"Give me back my purse!"

"Like hell!"

One of the hospital's doctors entered to room and for a few seconds stared, wide-eyed, at the scene before him. Shaking his head, he took a breath and hesitantly walked over. "I'm sorry to interrupt…" He paused when he was met with the dual glares of the elder Sabakus. "But seeing as how you don't seem to busy …" He stopped again as the glares intensified. "There are still some things that need to be discussed."

"What kind of things?" Temari asked, momentarily pushing away her anger at her brother. "We've already filled out all of the papers. Shouldn't we be able to take Gaara back home now?"

"Normally, we would allow your brother to be discharged after the condition has been enactive for this amount of time, as long as he routinely takes the prescribed pills and attends all his check-ups, but we're going to have to ask you to stay a little longer."

Kankuro frowned. "What? Why?"

"Well, sir, your benefactor… insisted… that we take some more tests and compare them to other cases, particularly Uzumaki's."

"You can't just make us-"

"No I cannot, but I think you may have to. Your benefactor will be the one to pay for all of your hospital bills, medicine, routine check-ups. You agreed to this when your brother first came here. He's made it clear he will not be paying for anything unless you consent to undergo these extra procedures."

Kankuro opened his mouth to argue more, but Temari cut him off. "Alright. I understand. We won't leave until they're finished."

The doctor nodded and left to go order the tests.

Kankuro turned to his sister with harsh eyes. "Why'd you agree to this?"

Temari glared right back. "What do you think, Kankuro? Didn't you hear what he said? He's not paying for anything unless we agree to this! We have to do as he asks, Kankuro. If we could've paid by ourselves, we wouldn't have agreed to let him in the first place."

Her brother swore and clenched his fist. "That man… one minute he's a saint the next he's the devil's spawn."

Temari frowned disapprovingly. "Don't say such things. He's not that bad. Sure, he's asking us to do something, but he had every right to. He's paying for everything, he's perfectly entitled to a few measly extra tests. Besides, he really cares for Gaara. I'm sure he's only doing this for his own good, in any case."

Kankuro just scoffed. Gaara took the opportunity to speak up.

"You're having financial problems because of me?" He asked quietly.

Instantly his sister rushed to reassure him. "No, no. It's just… it's hard to pay on our own. Kankuro and I don't have the best jobs. So when our uncle offered to pay, we thought we'd take him up on it…"

"Uncle?" Gaara tried to repress the rising memories. "Yashamaru…"

"Oh, no," Temari frowned. "He's dead, Gaara. He has been for a while. He…" She dropped the trail of thought. "I'm talking about Uncle Sasori."

Gaara's eyes widened and Naruto nearly choked on his own spit.

"Did you say Uncle Sasori!?"

~~~ - Silent Break - ~~~

End of Chapter Two

For all of you who made it to the end of this chapter, some more thanks. I certainly hope you liked this chapter. I debated whether or not to leave the Orochimaru scene in there, and eventually decided to do so. I hope he and Madara didn't come off as sounding like they were trying hard to sound fancy. I tried to make their speech sound more sophisticated, and I hope it turned out okay.

Again, if I make any technical mistakes (as I'm sure I will), or mistakes of any other kind, feel free to correct me. I only edited through this once (the first chapter I read over some five or six times) and therefore there might be mistakes that have eluded me.

Thanks very much for reading. All reviews are appreciated.

-The Phiraris Sarari