Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, its characters and/or ideas. All rights belong to Masashi Kishimoto.

Warnings: This is a dark subject fic with taboo subjects

-Teenage Prostitution

-Drugs/Alcohol

-Adult Language

-Possible Violence

-No Definite Pairings

-Implied Sexual Situations (if even that)

This is strictly a friendship fan fiction. If any of the warnings make you uncomfortable or offended, it would be best if you left now.


Independence.

It is a wondrous noun that states or qualifies one of independence; freedom from dependence; exemption from reliance on, or control by others.

The self-subsistence or maintenance with the direction of one's own affairs without interference is in itself a commanding chore when said person has learned the behavior on their own.

Various life experiences and situations may result in such an action; perhaps, it can be as simple as a strong minded person refusing the aide of others based on their own biases and feelings toward people and the outside world.

In the most severe cases, it starts out with a child whom has had to fend for themselves; whether it be from neglectful parents/guardians or the absence of a parental figure. What can result is a lost soul wandering the dangerous streets; resorting to desperate measures in order to survive. Circumstances such as these are saddening, but what can a single person do against these injustices?

Plenty.

One person can make a difference.

One hand can help...

...no matter how insignificant.


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Breathless

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Chapter 1

"You may not see me, you may not even hear me - but I'm right here." - Anonymous


What is so fascinating about the sun? Is it the concept of the brilliant brightness that so many, no matter how much is studied, cannot fully understand its worth? Or is it the sun itself? Some people may not want to admit that it entices them; that bright matter filled with light that draws us in like a moth to a flame. You may not understand it nor appreciate it, but you want to learn more. You must learn more.

These were the questions and philosophies of one mask wearing Kakashi Hatake as he had to reluctantly guide his middle school students into the mysteries of the world, at least as far as he was concerned. Most, if not all, of his colleagues deemed the man as an unappreciative educator whom could have cared less about the welfare and future of his students.

And to a certain extent – they were right in their assumptions. His students' lives were just that, their own lives. It wasn't up to him to chose their lives for them; his job was to teach them, aide them, and support them in whatever decisions they made.

Furthermore, the man was as lazy as sin. Three out of the five days during the week, he would be late to his own classes with such far-fetched excuses that everyone starting thinking that he just did it on purpose to annoy them.

Unbeknownst to a majority of people, those excuses were a façade to what he really was interested in. Besides his hentai paperback that he liked to read, the silver haired male also enjoyed the scenery of nature. In his mind, he couldn't quite grasp onto how things could be so complex yet so simple.

The idealism of those types of musings and others swarmed around his head as he waited outside his classroom window one autumn day, absentmindedly watching his students as they all piled in one by one.

The excitable adolescents began to talk amongst themselves in pairs. Moments later, the whispers and snickers became more vicious as several eyes took quick glances to a lone blonde teen resting his head and elbows on his desk. It looked as though he was asleep, but Kakashi knew better. A sliver of dark blue peeked out of golden lashes to his half-lidded eyes.

The teacher sighed inwardly as he viewed the boy. That kid was getting to become a lost clause fast. The blonde sometimes didn't show up at school, and when he did it was as though the rest of the world didn't exist. A glazed look would come over his azure orbs, and then he would just shut down and act so…apathetic.

It really didn't make any sense. If the teen wasn't ignored by his peers, he was taunted and ridiculed. They thought of him as the class freak, the outcast. But even with all that, not once had the silver headed man witness the retaliation of the other. To Kakashi, the boy seemed almost resigned or expected those cruel words and treatment. It also didn't help matters that the boy looked younger than he really was.

With that particular thought in mind, Kakashi couldn't help but be worried about that hooded look the kid had on his face. That was the sort of stare that allured the wrong type people. And even though there was nothing special about the boy, aside from the slightly revealing clothes and the whisker marks on his cheeks, the older man immediately began to think about his view on the sun.

Could this teen possibly be a symbolic medium to the interest of the sun?

Or maybe I'm just thinking too much, he thought bemusedly. A shout from one of his pupils startled the teacher as a brown haired teen with red triangle tattoos began teasing the said blonde teen with homophobic slurs, prompting the others to start laughing and pointing.

Surprisingly, the blonde's eyes opened wider at their harsh jeering and stood up in his seat. The same kid that started the whole affair gave the younger boy a look of smug triumph, as though he had completed the hardest task in history.

Kakashi looked on in wary anticipation in case he had to intervene. He silently urged the boy not to subject himself to a heated confrontation. Taking a step closer to his tormentors, the boy gave them all a blasé gaze before turning around, and leaping out the same window the man had been staring at a few feet away.

Gasps and surprise disbelief could be heard from the aforementioned room, but both teacher and student disregarded the murmurs of the other students to give each other a once over. With a hazy sheen settling in the younger boy's eyes in seconds, the blonde began to walk away, seemingly dismissing his teacher as unimportant.

For some reason, that attitude angered the silver haired man. He spun around; an expression of utter annoyance plastered on the exposed half of his face.

"Hey," he shouted to the boy as the other got farther away from him, "where did you think you're going?"

The blue eyed boy continued to saunter, ultimately shocking the man momentarily until his irritation reached a new high. He stomped in the direction of the youth and gripped onto the back of the boy's orange low sleeveless shirt.

The older male then rotated the blonde to face him. "I asked you a question. You are not just going to ignore me and ditch my class, young man."

A lazy look overcame the whisker marked teen's face as he intently gaped at his teacher. The wind unexpectedly appeared to pick up around them as the air soothed through their stiff bodies. Kakashi thought for sure that the blonde was going to answer him with a retort.

Instead, the fourteen year old stated bluntly. "Why do you wear a mask?"

The silver haired teacher was so shocked by the innocent question that he released the boy's shirt from his grasp. "Excuse me?"

"The mask – why do you wear it?" The teen tilted his head curiously. "What are you trying to hide, sensei?"

Kakashi smirked, despite himself. Not that any could tell. "That's an ironic question coming from you. I can't help but think that you're the one that's hiding."

The blonde stuffed his hands in his ripped jean pockets. "I got nothing to hide."

"Is that so?" The masked man lifted an eyebrow. "Do you think that has to do with how everyone reacts to you? You shouldn't let others treat you like–"

"I don't give a shit about them, or what they think about me." The blonde held his teacher's mismatched gaze in a solemn expression. "Nobody can hurt you when you're numb inside."

Normally, Kakashi would have reprimanded a student for such language; yet, he felt a pang come to his heart at the in depth words. He was almost tempted to rub on his chest to sooth the ache. Observing the blonde quietly, the teacher gave the other a genuine smile behind the mask.

"I see your point," he concluded, mostly to himself, "but regardless, you can't just jump out of windows and leave the school premises without permission. I don't want to have to take this up with Principal Sarutobi."

The blue eyed teen came adorned with a thoughtful look before giving a curt nod. Smiling even wider, which one could tell from the moon crescent shape of his eyes, Kakashi followed his enigmatic student back to the classroom that had started way over ten minutes before.

The two came into the school's structure through the back doors. The younger male was grateful that classes had already begun; he didn't feel like dealing with a parade of students at the moment. He was hyper aware enough as it was, and he could feel his teacher eying him considerably.

Right before they entered into the room, the kid said. "Hey, Hatake-sensei?"

"Yeah."

"You never did answer my question about the mask."


The last bell of the school day rang loudly throughout the heart of the influential middle school building. Teenagers from right and left emerged from their respected classrooms like colonial ants working steadily for a common purpose.

Naruto Uzumaki wasn't like the other students. He didn't belong to any common social group, he didn't have plenty of friends to gossip with about trivial things twenty-four seven, and he certainly wasn't involved in any extracurricular activities. He was just his own person. And he liked it that way.

Yes, he liked it quite a lot.

Overlooking everything around him to the point of resembling a blonde blur, Naruto rudely pushed his way through the crowds. Indignant squawks were heard from his peers as he moved even those bigger than him to the side.

He didn't care. He carried on his trek to the outside world, where he truly felt he belonged. The fall freshness of the season settled comfortably on his tanned face. The rustling of the overgrown trees brought an unintentional smile from the blonde.

Taking a pause to adjust his backpack, the teen saw a group of his classmates studying him before whispering to one another. Naruto rolled his eyes at them. Seriously, didn't these morons have anything better to do with themselves?

To aggravate them, he turned to the others and gave the biggest grin he could muster. Their looks of astonishment brought a knowing smirk from his mouth; this was one of the few times he had actually responded to his harassers.

Wiping away any evident of amusement from his face to transform into a stoic expression, the blonde trudged forward and made his way to downtown, the more lively part of the city. The heightened skyscrapers and earthy scent pouring from the skies thrilled the blue-eyed teen.

It took him more than twenty minutes to infiltrate through the worst and dangerous part of downtown – the slums. This was the section of the city notorious for its collection of drug dealers, mental patients, homeless people, and prostitutes.

The dirt and grime expanding from the many apartment complexes and shops didn't deter the blonde. This was his home, and he embraced it. From some of the people he had encountered, once they had learned about his living conditions, they had told him that they would rather be dead.

He would often shrug at their responses. He knew the way he was living was often hazardous and unsafe; but, aside from the various perverts that he met, he thought his life wasn't so bad. After all, he lived the way that he wanted to live. The blonde never had to worry about overbearing mothers or insensitive fathers. And as far as he could tell, just because you were a parent didn't mean you were that much less of an asshole.

Rounding a corner and stepping into a filthy puddle, Naruto smiled as he saw his friend Gaara not too far, leaning against a concrete wall. The redhead was smoking a joint, and he eyed the younger teen with a smirk as the other came to face him.

Two young girls ran past the duo; Gaara watched the soiled giggling preteens sprint with bread in their hands before bringing his attention to the blonde.

"Where have you been?" The smoking teen asked.

Naruto strayed on the boy's right side to rest on the wall as well. "I went to school."

Gaara looked incredulous. "You still go to school?"

The whiskered boy wanted to laugh at his friend. Any time he mentioned that he went to school with the redhead, Gaara would automatically get contemptuous. Naruto wasn't exactly sure why, but he figured some of it had to do with how people viewed the older teen.

Naruto would always tell him to say 'the hell with them', but the older boy just wouldn't bridge. Gaara had been betrayed too many times in his life to change his mind; because of that, he hated most people.

"Don't give me that look. Unlike you, I actually want an education. That way, people can take me seriously.

Amused aqua colored eyes held sapphire ones. "Who can take you seriously with all that fucking orange you be wearing?"

Naruto scowled. "Shut up, Gaara."

The redhead chuckled soberly, and closed his eyes as he took in another drag to his parted lips. Naruto remained quiet, taking in the surroundings with an unyielding eye. Pulsing music could be heard in the distant; laughter sounded as one of the shop owners a block away yelled about the hooligans that vandalized his precious store.

Naruto distractedly glanced down to see that the sidewalk was crammed with black aged bubblegum and badly drawn chalked caricatures. With one of his shoes, he swabbed a smiling face until it was distorted and untidy. Gaara's voice staggered him, as it seemed too decisive.

"You working tonight?"

The whiskered teen pushed off the wall with a stretch, his shirt riding upward to reveal a swirl tattoo. "A few weeks ago, a new client offered me 52,000 yen. I'm supposed to meet with them tonight."

"Male or female?"

"Don't know. Jiraiya's the one that made the deal."

"Why do you even listen to that pervert?" The older boy growled, his now open eyes giving the blonde a glare.

"He's my Master," Stated Naruto, disapproving of Gaara bad mouthing the older man, "…and he's the only family I have."

"Hmm," the jade eyed redhead voiced, "yet, you can't deny that the fat ass doesn't treat you like a godfather should."

Naruto ignored the last statement, and asked a question of his own. "Are you working?"

"No."

"No?"

Releasing his joint to the ground before crushing it with the heel of his shoes, Gaara gave the younger teen a smirk. "That's right. I decided to take a vacation. I'm my own master."

The blonde frowned. "He doesn't tell me what to do, you know." His blue eyes narrowed. "I still have my own rules."

"Whatever."

The redheaded teen came off the same mentioned wall, making his way to the other side of the slums without another word. Naruto clenched his fists to his sides. He absolutely hated when Gaara acted that way. Who was that jerk to tell him how he handled things, then to subtly judge him in the process?

Taking a deep breath to calm himself down, the blue eyed blonde went in the opposite direction. He passed several trinket shops and a small lake prior to coming to stand into a steel built warehouse, almost in the outskirts of downtown.

He then opened the massive sliding door; he blew out a sigh of relief when he found that no one else was around. It was really difficult to change in the place when some junkie was right next to you shooting needles.

Removing his clothes quickly, Naruto strode to the far left corner where his more comfortable attire was hidden in a wooden box. He expertly unclasped the top of the container to retrieve a light blue T-shirt, black sweats, and socks. He still had a couple of hours to kill before he had to meet with Jiraiya anyway.

Once he was redressed, the teen grabbed his previous wear to substitute into the box. After tonight, he would have to go down to the lake to bathe and wash his clothes. But Kami-sama knows I'm too tired to even do that. Maybe I can ask Jiraiya if I can crash at his place for awhile.

Nodding his head at the thought, the teen was mildly aware as his body moved on his own accord, and he slide down one of the staircases inside to lie against his side. His body deceived him as he felt his eyelids grow heavier.

Blinking repeatedly, Naruto finally surrendered to the bliss of sleep. He curled into himself to provide more warmth, a last conscious thought gliding through his psyche.

I'll just rest some, and then…show time.


First chapter complete. Hope you enjoy.