Author's Note: Shippuuden is just fricking awesome, y/n? I'm just extrapolating on the storyline differing somehow. Because I have too much free time.


The sword doesn't hurt until it twists; he doesn't hate Sasuke until he thinks about Sakura in the snow, Kurenai screaming without words; Kakashi cold and the Fourth Hokage without a nose. Naruto didn't hate Sasuke until he's lying underneath him, run through by a sword Sasuke never earned.

Naruto tastes metal in his mouth, welling up from his gut and this bleeding country, and he shouts to heaven; he doesn't stop shouting until the Rasengan has torn Sasuke's head into something less than a hateful memory and more like a mass of shredded paper flowers, dripping black ink.

----

Sakura is on her knees, like she always was for him, sobbing. She's pleading with the worlds beyond this one, trying to make right a decision that's blossomed like a mad lilly in the center of her brain. She's so afraid everyone else will see it, that the leaves will unfurl and explode from the top of her skull; will she be pretty or will she be happy, can the world go on without the sweet dream she has of him? It's all too frightening to think about, and her lungs are fit to burst from running from the reality.

But in spite of wanting to keep this all clandestine, she still asks the hoary sky if it would be better for Sasuke to die by her hand; and Naruto hears her, hiding in the distance behind a wise old chenar tree.

----

The predator's orange eyes are glazed with that unspeakable thing that there's too much of in this world, and Naruto can't stand it all. He's going to explode, from too much sage chakra or too much knowledge, he doesn't know; from too much desperation or too many images flashing through his brain. Kakashi is sprouting from the ground like some sort of sick daisy, his third eye replaced by the nail blown clear through his brain by Pein; there aren't any more flowers in Konoha, no ground to remember and nothing but a crater from here to kindgom come. The monument overlooking the village is crumbling from the shocks dealt the earth, and as Naruto pauses, half of the Fourth Hokage's face slides off the mountain's face as easily as the sweat beads peal down his own scratched cheeks.

There might be something beginning in Naruto, something the opposite of green; but he pours his brain into the task of saving what's left of his village, and whatever will be left of him by the time Pein is dead.

----

"They're for you," he says, pushing them dumbly against her chest. Sakura just blinks at him, in that way that makes him want to hold her hand and punch her face at the same time.

"Really. They're for you…" he repeats, and takes his dirty fox-hands off of her and the dirt-speckled flowers he ripped from the earth from her.

----

The kick he received was swift, but not wholly unexpected; clutching his back as pinpricks of light exploded across his vision, Naruto hit the alley floor and scraped his palms; Shikamaru is suddenly older than he ever was, and Kurenai is on her knees, rithing in a silent hell of uncertainty. He wishes she would yell, stab at her stomach or shout at him from this world, curse Asuma for leaving her. That's all he said, and Shikamaru brought him to the gritty concrete; Naruto is hurting for her, but it's hard to explain. So he said something else.

"Look," the enraged boy in a man's body says, bending into Naruto's face so there's no other option. "Get. The hell. Out of here. I cannot believe you would say something so rude to her!"

"What, man? Kurenai-sensei knows I didn't mean-"

"Shut up! You could never understand how we feel!"

Those latter words hurt more than the reproving glance that follows, burns swifter than the nightmares he carried of red cloaks against a velvet-black sky. Naruto sits there for a long while after Kurenai and Shikamaru have gone, staring at his bleeding hands and wondering.

Wondering why he wasn't meant to understand.

----

The earth and the row of porno stores; the ramen shop and the Hokages watching stonily overhead; sage mode and Iruka's pride. He's all of this and maybe more, but in the end he's is all that he was meant to be; he is the child of foxes and Hokages, a saucy red-head from the Whirlpool Village. He's the jinchuuriki they all hated, the one they're lining up to worship because he's saved them again: Naruto, defending this sleeping village from all the things that try to eat them in their lax.

There's a whole lot inside of one boy- but staring at Sasuke as he lies, faceless, on the ground, there's a tinge of something that's going to make him into one hell of a Shinobi. Something with black petals, blossoming in the stony center of his chest.


AN: ... Green button. See it? -points- Yeah. Click it. You know you want to...