Summary: Naruto swears he's being followed by a boy that no one else sees. Enter stumped classmates, a psychologist, and many one-sided conversations. NaruGaa-ish. Dark. AU. Oneshot.
Warning(s): I want to say none…So why do I hesitate?
Author's Note: This is absolute randomness. I merely ask that you give it a chance. Every once in a while, I need a weird story, you know? Title/lyrics from My Chemical Romance – "The Ghost of You." ((7/26/10: Line breaks fixed. Why oh why do they keep disappearing?))
"I never said I'd lie and wait forever."
the ghost of you
Combing his hair, Naruto tries his best to focus on his own reflection. He simply has to follow the outline of gold strands, the soft traces of tanned flesh. The lines on his face. His face. Not the other face. What face? Maybe there isn't really another face. Maybe his friends are right.
The bathroom is warm and damp from his shower. Perhaps the brilliant red hair and pale face is simply a trick of the eyes, a trick of the condensation on the mirror. Naruto wipes at it with his hand, but the two faces remain. The eyes in that pale face, the eyes. Naruto has dreams about those eyes. Always, they are there, following him.
But when Naruto turns toward the space beside him, there is no one there.
"Is he still here?" Kiba asks, pinning Naruto with a skeptical glance.
Naruto looks up from his lunch tray. "Yep," he says.
"That's so flippin' creepy."
Naruto shrugs and Shikamaru glances at the empty chair beside the blond. "As long as it's not my problem," he says, scratching the back of his head and sending his ponytail back and forth.
"A dead kid…You're trying to tell me that there's a dead kid sitting beside you?" Kiba eyes the chair disbelievingly. "There's a dead kid right there right now?"
Naruto takes a sip of pop and proceeds to pull the tab off. "Yeah. Well, I don't know if he's dead. Maybe he's a spirit? Or maybe he's an inter-dimensional being?"
"What the hell are you going on about?" Ino all but shouts, ponytail tripping over her shoulder as she leans toward the center of the table, further down.
"The ghost," Shino says, succinctly.
"Jesus Christ, not that again. Naruto, you are so full of it."
"Why me?" Naruto asks, staring at the teenage boy who stands beside him, the boy who stares back at him dully from the window.
On the sidewalk, Naruto is alone. "Well?"
At first, everyone thinks Naruto is joking. He is always joking around. Even as a sophomore, he lacks a steady maturity. But after a while, the joke gets old, stale. The joke sort of falls apart. Everyone finally realizes that maybe he isn't joking, that maybe Naruto is serious. Even if many of them are now 16-year-olds, they are still young enough to believe in at least the possibility of such things. Some of them even want to believe it.
But with the whirlwind whispers of "ghost," it is only a matter of time before the wrong person hears the news and does something about it.
"Naruto, we're…worried about you."
"Worried? Why? I'm fine."
"Fine? But you're…you're seeing things."
"Well, yeah, I'm seeing things, Sakura. That's the problem."
"How can you laugh? You're seeing things that aren't there."
It does him no good to try and defend himself, to try and convince the others that yes, there is actually another presence that constantly accompanies his own. No one believes him; at least, that's what they say. But no one ever sits in the seat beside Naruto either. That seat is always kept open.
Toying with another pop tab, Naruto glances shortly at the space beside him. Sometimes the boy looks at him. Not today. Today, he stares blankly down at the table.
"You're creeping me out, man," Kiba says. He leeches onto Neji's arm, ignoring the other boy's irritated stare. "Do you see him? Neji, he is seriously creeping me out."
"Off," Neji says, yanking his arm free. "Naruto…"
Naruto turns back to them with an amicable smile on his face. "Seriously, guys," he says and laughs. "I swear to you, he's right here."
Naruto is late to yet another game. He voices numerous apologies, and his teammates try to stay mad at him, but they can't. Naruto's happy-go-lucky smile is infectious. It makes them start to laugh, too.
He takes his place in the center of the field. The referee blows his whistle. Suddenly, everyone is running, trying to get their feet on the ball. In the distance, the whine of a car's old brakes can be heard. Naruto stops and listens.
The other team scores.
"Thank you for seeing me," Iruka says, looking up from the mound of papers on his desk. "Frankly, Naruto, I'm concerned. Do you know what people are saying?"
"About the ghost?" Naruto answers, a little too quickly.
"…Yes. About the…ghost."
"Well, yeah, of course I know what they're saying."
Iruka bites his lip, unsure of how to handle the situation. Naruto is one of his favorite students. He works hard. He tries hard. But still. "What is it you think they're saying?"
"Oh, something along of the lines of me being haunted I guess." Naruto shrugs casually and tilts his head. "Why?"
"Well…" Iruka pauses. "Naruto…do you…are you serious? It's just a rumor, right?"
"No," Naruto says, clearly confused. "I'm serious, Iruka-sensei. It's not a rumor at all."
"It's…not," Iruka says slowly.
Naruto doesn't like the look Iruka gives him.
"Today was crazy," Naruto says into the mirror as he brushes his teeth. "All because of you."
"Don't you feel bad at all?"
Naruto dreams of the boy with red hair. In the dream, the boy is younger—eleven or twelve. When Naruto approaches him, the boy turns into a pile of sand.
Naruto wakes up screaming.
Kakashi is an interesting man who always keeps one eye closed. Naruto looks to and fro, eyes bouncing between the golden plaques and framed certificates on the walls. With his open eye, Kakashi stares, unblinking, at him.
"Do you know why you're here?"
"Yeah," Naruto replies. "Everyone thinks I'm crazy." With a flick of his wrist, Kakashi flips through a bright red folder. The color makes the hairs on Naruto's arm raise. "You can't help me," he says.
Again, Kakashi's eye is one him. "We'll see."
Naruto threads a plastic basket through his arm, walking over to the wooden bins of apples. He does not pick up any red ones. Even the heads of broccoli hover dangerously between green and blue. He decides on oranges and eggplants. Oranges and eggplants are safe.
He has shopped entirely without incident until he approaches the deli. The curved glass does not immediately stick out as something he should be wary of, and at first Naruto is able to glance freely between the meat and cheese. When a hovering shadow catches his eye, Naruto finds himself staring into blue-green irises. A chill goes up his spine. There is something eerie about the way both reflections are curved and twisted in the glass.
"Excuse me, are you going to order?"
Naruto does not hear her at first. Only when someone taps his arm does he look up, jumping and struggling with an apologetic smile.
The woman who tapped his arm asks, "Are you all right?"
Naruto stares at her.
Ino tries to maintain an angry face—one that does not reveal the worry she is also feeling.
"You keep missing practice, Naruto."
"Oh, yeah—that. Sorry."
"Where have you been? I mean, come on…You're the captain of the team."
"I've been meeting with a psychologist."
Naruto laughs, and the furrow between Ino's pale eyebrows deepens. "Yes, a shrink. He's weird. I like him."
"Naruto…we're here for you, you know?" There is a caring tone, a cautious tone. "If you ever need to talk to any of us…"
"I'm talking to you now."
"What do you want?" Naruto asks.
Turquoise eyes stare back at him.
There is no reply.
Three rings are followed by a beep. Naruto slouches on the sofa, his legs draped out carelessly and one arm dangling over the side. He listens to the voice coming from the machine.
Hi, Naruto. It's Iruka. I was just calling to check in. You've missed a few days of class, and I was—well, to be honest, I'm quite worried. Please check in with me, or feel free to stop by. You know the address.
Naruto stares at the box of crayons Kakashi pushes across the table.
"Draw him," says the silver-haired man.
"I can't draw."
This is the first time Naruto appears visibly disturbed. He grimaces and rubs his arm as if in pain. The psychologist watches as the blond eyes the box before hesitantly picking it up and spilling the crayons across the table. Many of them start rolling. Some fall off, break. Naruto picks up three and ignores the rest.
As Naruto finally begins to sketch, Kakashi looks down into the red folder. Several times, Naruto looks up at him, but Kakashi pays him little mind. It is only when the tip of the red crayon breaks and Naruto throws it violently across the room that the Kakashi looks up, his eye open wide.
"This is stupid!" Naruto yells, crumpling the paper up and throwing it in the trashcan near his feet. Kakashi can see a certain vulnerability in the boy's blue eyes. "How is this supposed to help me?"
Grabbing his jacket, Naruto leaves.
Naruto is dreaming again. He is standing in the middle of a small field. It looks a little like a soccer field. He tries to take a step forward, but he can't. Looking down, he notices that pale arms are wrapped tightly around his waist, hands clenched in a desperate grip. Naruto brings his own hands up to rest on those arms. They are cold.
He wakes himself up crying.
Sakura's voice comes out wiry over the phone.
Naruto…are you okay? We're worried. I'm worried. Please call me back, okay?
For the past week, Naruto has been having trouble sleeping. He lies in bed and wraps himself in warm covers, but he can't shake the feeling of being watched. Sometimes the boy is there. Other times he is absent.
His own reflection stares back at him, looking tired. There are dark circles under his eyes, and he is surprisingly pale. His skin is clammy. Once, he is able to take a nap, but he is woken up by the doorbell. The boy is sitting beside him, as if he has been watching Naruto sleep. Through the window, he can hear his friends conversing.
"He must not be in," Neji says.
"I guess not," says Kiba. He rings the doorbell again. "It's not good for him to be living all alone in this big house. All that space to himself—it's not good."
"Hey Neji," Kiba says, voice wary. "Do you think maybe he's telling the truth?"
"Tell me again about your parents."
Naruto sighs audibly. "I told you before. They met in high school and have been in love ever since. My dad is a successful businessman in Tokyo. My mom is a professor. She was trying to finish school when I was born, so my dad pretty much raised me. My mom does feel a little bit bad about that, but she makes up for it between the lectures she's always flying out to and the family trips she plans."
"Yep," Naruto smiles. "We're a pretty tight-knit group."
Kakashi looks into the red file. "And when was the accident?"
"The car accident?"
Naruto looks like he might get up and run. He is suddenly angry. "Who told you that?"
Kakashi's eye is almost piercing. "You're a compulsive liar, Naruto." He flips through the file. "Your parents died when you were twelve years old. You miraculously survived the accident. Since then, you've been the typical problem child. Age thirteen—petty theft; age fourteen—vandalism (nice drawing skills, by the way); age fifteen—breaking and entering. Pretty long rap sheet, if you ask me. Which brings us to age sixteen—conspiracy—"
"I'm not making it up," Naruto states firmly. He seems to be staring at the broken red crayon on the floor. "I've lied a lot before, but not about this."
"Naruto, how do you expect me to believe—"
"I don't expect you to believe me."
The dreams are more and more frequent.
In one, Naruto keeps opening doors in an empty house. The house looks like his house. In another, he is standing in a soccer field. He thinks he is alone until he turns and sees that boy, just a few feet away, standing and staring at him. The pale face is flawless, like porcelain, and when Naruto walks toward him and touches that face, a thin crack starts near his ear and his body suddenly collapses inward on itself. In yet another, Naruto is leaning over the red-haired boy who looks up at him with a pained expression. Darkness surrounds his eyes, making them that much more brilliant. His skin is so white that it almost glows.
Naruto wants to lean down, but he is afraid. At least in his dreams, he can touch the other boy. In his dreams, he is less afraid to reach out, to touch. He wants to touch. When awake, he does not like the idea of his hand passing through empty space. When awake, Naruto wishes he could sleep.
Naruto? Are you there?
"My god, Naruto, where have you been? Everyone's been worried sick about you!"
"I've been at home."
"Home? Haven't you gotten any of my calls? I've been leaving messages."
"I'm sorry. I've been busy."
"Naruto…you look…You don't look well, are you all right?"
"I'm all right. Don't worry, Sakura."
"Please—please come back to class. Please."
"Please don't cry."
"What's happening to you? Is it…is it him?"
"…Is he here now?"
Naruto pours a glass of milk. The cup is cold, like that boy's face.
Turquoise eyes watch him, as they always do.
Glancing up, Naruto smiles.
The red numbers on the machine blink a constant "32."
Naruto, this is Tsunade-sensei, the principal. Listen, I really need you to come in and talk to me. You've missed so many days, and several of the teachers have expressed their concern. Quite frankly, I'm concerned as well. Please give me a call back, okay?
Kakashi stares at Naruto for a good five minutes, his open eye impassive.
"Are you sleeping?" he asks, to which Naruto only smirks. "I'll take that as a no. That's not good, Naruto. You need to rest."
"I'm going to issue you a prescription. Something that should help."
"Thanks, but I told you I'm fine."
Again, Kakashi stares. Something about the unbroken look begins to unnerve Naruto, who twitches and looks away. Kakashi glances in his folder, looks up yet again. There is a soft whishing sound as he pulls out a sheet of paper and slides it across the table. Naruto taps his finger on it, stopping it.
He suddenly can't breathe.
"What is—what is this?" He stands. His voice has a strange, high pitch. "What is this?"
"Naruto, calm down—sit down." Kakashi stands too, prepared to run after the blond if necessary.
Naruto is like a small rodent, breathing in and out at an alarming rate. His eyes are wide, like saucers.
"Isn't that him?" Kakashi asks.
When Naruto looks down, blue-green eyes are staring up at him aimlessly. This is the boy, this boy in the photograph, though he is younger, as he often is in Naruto's dreams. He is eleven, or maybe twelve, and he has blood-red hair.
Gently, Kakashi prods again: "Isn't it him?"
"…Yes," Naruto whispers.
"His name is Gaara."
Naruto? It's—it's Kiba. Please give me a call. I'm sorry for making fun of you, and—and for not believing you. Please, man, just…just give me a call. Please just give me a call.
Naruto sits on his couch and remembers. He lets himself remember, which is hard.
He remembers the boy named Gaara, the boy in his eighth grade math class. He remembers Gaara staring at him—always staring. Twelve-year-old Gaara—yes, he remembers him.
He remembers mustering up the courage to ask him about it, until one day, he does. They are standing on the boundary of the soccer field when he asks Gaara why, why is he always staring, why? And he remembers how Gaara still stares at him, something like pain in his expression. Still, Naruto pushes. Why? Tell me why?
The moment is literally a split second. Gaara leans before Naruto knows what is happening and suddenly their lips are touching. Because Naruto doesn't know what is happening—because he does not expect this to happen—his arms go out, palms flattening onto Gaara's chest. Naruto pushes Gaara away.
Both boys stare at one another, but this, too, is only a short moment. It is another short moment in which Naruto debates whether or not to run after Gaara, who is suddenly running away. He's fast. How did he get so far, so fast? Naruto cannot figure it out. It is another moment in which Naruto takes a step, (How on earth did he get so very far?) and yet another moment in which a car's brakes squeal, in which Naruto screams.
He can see Gaara on the ground, in the street.
Gaara is on the ground.
How did he get there?
Kakashi is trying to remain calm.
Naruto, you need to talk to someone. You need to talk things through. It doesn't have to be me, but it needs to be someone. Just…don't blame yourself. You have my number, don't you?
Naruto stares at the other boy—at Gaara. The redhead's eyes are slightly narrowed. Even now, there is pain in them.
"I'm so sorry," Naruto says. His voice is almost strained, as if he has been crying, as if he might, anytime, start to. "I'm so—Forgive me. I'm just...I'm just so tired, and I'm sorry...I'm so sorry."
The red number is now "87."
"Why? Tell me why? Please, just tell me why."
Naruto? You are there…
"And all the things that you never ever told me
And all the smiles that are ever ever...
Don't try to overanalyze this. Some things aren't meant to make sense, while other things you're meant to make your own sense of. I'd be interested to know what people think is going on. Makes me think of how my uncle says he sees people around his house out of the corner of his eyes all the time, but when he turns, there's no one there. Very curious.
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