A/N: I had a dream right after watching Episode 178 a few weeks ago. The idea of it was worthy enough alone to break me back into writing fanfiction. I had to get this story out.
I take great pride in keeping Naruto and Sasuke as canon as possible, and set in their canon universe. No Mary Sues, no BSing around. This is a pure Narutoverse fanfiction, and very well could have potentially happened in Naruto's backstory. Perhaps that's why I wanted to write it down so badly.
Naruto is © Weekly Shounen Jump and created/authored by Masashi Kishimoto
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Naruto entered the classroom looking a bit sour to even be there. He sat in his seat grudgingly and sighed. The other students in the classroom didn't care to notice him as they chatted amongst themselves, droning the classroom in a loud white noise. He looked around the room, frowning a little as he saw all the children smiling as they chatted with each other, acknowledging each other, gossiping about the latest whatever, and a few of them glancing toward a boy named Sasuke Uchiha, who also just happened to be the one person whom he hated.
Following the example of a few students in the classroom, Naruto unzipped his backpack and took out a piece of paper to doodle a bit before class started. He wasn't sure what exactly to draw, so he drew the first thing that came to mind. His face suddenly brightened, and he licked his lips with a mischievous grin as his creativity flowed onto the page.
As the clock ticked closer to class-time, some students began unzipping their bags and taking out their textbooks. The classroom suddenly had sounds of rustling paper as the kids took out more pieces of paper. Naruto looked around and suddenly realized that he was missing a key ingredient to the start of the class.
"!" Naruto cursed slightly and fumbled around in his backpack for his textbook. He quickly slammed it to his desk and began to fumble through the book, flipping through dozens of doodles to find the latest page that had no stick figures on it. He quickly skimmed the contents of the page and flipped his drawing over to write down a series of numbers. He cursed again when he realized that the answers to the problems were going to take actual calculations.
The girl who sat beside him looked to him and to his page of scribbles. She scoffed slightly, narrowing her eyes and huffed nonchalantly, "You're not just starting the homework now, are you?"
At that moment, the school bell chimed, and their teacher entered the room carrying a bundle of papers. "Good morning, class!"
The class responded in a monotonous chime, "Good morning, Iruka-sensei."
Iruka loudly dropped the pile of papers on the desk and and gestured to them, "I have the results of yesterday's test and I want to congratulate you. Almost everyone got a perfect score." He then proceeded to talk about the test and the results, as he began to write something on the board.
Naruto took the time to try to answer as many questions as he could on the homework, but only got so far as the first equation. He couldn't remember what else to do after the first step, and the chapter was impossible to simply skim. Ever since he tried teaching himself to read, everything had always appeared either upside down or backwards, and it was even more impossible to try to calculate things with math. He felt a bit of a pang when he realized he'd once again just have to brush it off and pretend he didn't care about his grades, when really, he was frustrated because it meant he'd fall even farther behind. All of the class lectures were hard enough as it was, and the less he understood, the more bored he got in class, and the less he was inclined to listen.
Iruka-sensei spoke up again, "Please pass your homework to the front while I hand back the tests." He began to then walk through the aisles, sorting through a pile of paperwork in his hands to hand forms back to the students.
Naruto made an indignant huff, and muttered, "Screw it."
He put his left hand on the homework page, and drew a line to quickly trace it. He then put a pair of googly eyes, a beak, and a pair of what looked like testicles under the beak, and labeled it "HOMEWORK TURKEY."
He then passed it to the front along with the rest of the homework that the classmates were turning in. After he surrendered it, however, he realized he had completely forgotten to put his name on it, and wondered for a brief moment if he'd still be eligible for partial credit for the assignment.
One of the kids sitting at the front suddenly burst out laughing when he had gathered all the homework pages. He showed the classmate sitting next to him one of the homework pages, and the other started cracking up, too.
Naruto grinned proudly, knowing exactly what the kid in front was looking at. He realized, since long before now, that the one thing he was good at was pulling pranks on people. At least, it was one of the only things he really could do at all. No one ever tried to nurture his skills in anything else, and there was only so much his attention span could handle that would inspire him to learn anything on his own.
He was jerked out of his thoughts when a hand slammed a paper down in front of him, face-down. He looked up to see Iruka-sensei briefly glance at him before turning his eyes to other students in the class to hand back their tests, and moving to the next row of seats.
Naruto looked down to test, and clenched his jaw a little bit, already knowing what it would say. Every time, it always said the same thing, just reworded slightly. Telling himself that he really didn't care what it said, he turned it over and looked at his grade. The number "10%" was written in a bold red ink at the top of the page, followed by the teacher's written comment: "Try Harder."
He glanced up when he heard a loud giggle, and watched as the prettiest girl in the class, Sakura-chan, was holding up her perfect score and gesturing across the room to the holier-than-thou Uchiha kid, "Look Sasuke-kun. I did just as good as you!"
Naruto made a low "hmph!" and squinted his eyes a bit, glancing, and ultimately glaring, at Sasuke Uchiha from across the room. Not only did he make the impossible tests look easy, but he won girls' hearts just by getting good grades. He could not, for the life of him, see what the girls saw in him otherwise. He not only was a self-absorbed prick, but he didn't even care that he was stealing the girls' hearts. He didn't care for the attention, and most of the time, he claimed he didn't even want the attention.
Naruto fumed a little inside, because he would have died a hundred times over just for the chance to have a fraction of the attention that Sasuke Uchiha had. He mentally chanted to himself that one day he'd show Sasuke what it was like to be left in the dust. One day he'd be Hokage, and have ten hundred million times the attention that Sasuke had. One day, Sakura-chan would croon to him, the Great Hokage Naruto Uzumaki, with her test score, and everyone in his class would look at the monument with his face on it, and wish they had their faces carved into the mountain, too.
He watched as Iruka-sensei walked down the steps to his desk again to organize the homework into a pile, and stopped when he came to one in particular. He sighed, as he was obligated to ask this even though he already knew the answer, "Who drew the turkey?" He then proceeded to hold up the page as he looked directly to Naruto.
What he failed to realize, however, was that there was another (highly-inappropriate) drawing on the other side of the page, which he was directly showing to the class.
There was a collective gasp from several students, and then the entire room erupted in a mixed fit of laughter. Iruka-sensei quickly caught on, and turned beet red, before he started shouting his frustrations at Naruto, quickly tearing up the homework page, and threatening to send Naruto directly to the Hokage because of this.
Naruto beamed at the attention, as all eyes were on him, and he surely would be the one of topics of everyone's conversations during lunch period. He made a quick glance to see The-Almighty-Uchiha's reaction, and felt his pride dampen ever so slightly when he realized Sasuke wasn't even bothering to look at him.
The moment of amusement quickly died down as Iruka turned to the board and curtly started his class lecture. What followed was a long drawn-out period of boredom for Naruto as the entire lecture went above his head. Naruto spent most of the school day with his left elbow on the table, his head lazily in his palm, and doodling more pictures of naked women, and the occasional stick figure of Sasuke Uchiha lying defeated on the ground with a few kunai in his head.
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As the school year progressed, and Naruto found himself getting more lost in the class work, there came a point when he stopped trying. It wasn't that he didn't care to succeed, but rather, he decided that the best way for himself to succeed was to train his brawn and become a rough tough soldier ninja that could outdo any one of the Uchihas out there. After school, after all the kids were picked up by their parents from the school yard, Naruto would meander over to the training grounds and practice his shuriken and kunai throws for hours upon hours each day. Every once in a while he'd run into some other dedicated ninja trainees like this one guy who wore green spandex and had the most awful bowl cut and the biggest, most fuzzy eyebrows that Naruto had ever seen.
What pissed him off, though, is that every once in a while, that Sasuke Uchiha kid would try to up skills in the trainings grounds too. The worst part was that whenever the Uchiha would practice with the targets, he got his throws more and more perfect every time. The bastard made it all look easy,and that all of Naruto's hard work was barely a step up from slacking.
It made Naruto try all the harder to improve himself, so he could outdo him. He would be better than Sasuke Uchiha. Because, if he couldn't beat Sasuke Uchiha, then he would never be worthy of becoming Hokage. And, when he finally proved his skills, he would be popular just like Sasuke; he would be respected just like Sasuke; he would get good grades and be acknowledged for his talent just like Sasuke. …. … Alright, maybe not the good grades, but at least he'd have developed his skills well enough to make up for them.
Naruto trained himself to always have positive thoughts. Often, his daydreams were the only things he had going for him. He survived off of a modest welfare budget, which he splurged mostly on paints, brushes, and naughty magazines (when he could get his hands on them). And, although the Hokage had made an effort to send private tutors to Naruto's home to help him get his grades up, the tutors either simply stopped coming or stopped trying (though it also may have had to do with the fact that he spent the entire session either doodling or trying to make the world's longest fart).
The biggest, and most detrimental issue that Naruto had to deal with, however, was that he had a hard time making friends. No matter how many children he tried to play with, there was not one single kid out there whom he could relate to. And, the more any kid liked him enough to mention him to his or her parents, more distant they acted toward him the next day. The worst part of it was that his teacher had grown colder to him, and started to ignore his pranks. Even his classmates had decided that he was not a subject worth talking about anymore.
The only way to really deal with his situation was to keep his chin up, and try even harder to achieve their acknowledgment. He had to, because if he didn't…
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Sometimes when Naruto lay in bed, he wondered what the village would be like without him. He didn't like thinking thoughts like that, because they would often lead him to think other, darker thoughts, but as long as they were imaginative, he allowed himself to daydream.
He often wondered if his parents would still be alive if he were never born. Sometimes, when he willed himself to have a more positive outlook, he'd wonder if his parents were still alive out there and searching for him. Often, that thought would reinforce his dream to become Hokage, so they would not only find him, but also feel proud of him, and want make up for lost time with him.
Most of the time, he wondered what it would take to be properly acknowledged. He wondered what Sasuke Uchiha did to earn all that attention without even trying. He wondered if there would ever come a day when he'd be given a chance to prove himself against the snotty Uchiha. He imagined it would be a bit like a video game. One win against Sasuke Uchiha, and suddenly all the girls would acknowledge him as the most popular boy of the class. Especially Sakura-chan. And Sasuke would be quickly forgotten. And Naruto would be crowned Hokage.
He liked those daydreams. They gave him a good reason to look forward to waking up in the morning. Because, if he didn't have those daydreams…
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It was one of those bad nights. The more Naruto tried to lift himself up from the darkness of his thoughts, the harder it was to convince himself of anything positive in his life.
One day, he'd be Hokage, and all of this wouldn't matter. But… he'd never be Hokage.
One day he'd have friends to tell him it'd all be okay, and to just ignore the bullies, but at this rate, he would never have any friends.
He was tired of hearing people calling him "that thing", and "that monster". He didn't know what he did do deserve treatment like that. Sure, he did graffiti on the monument and the village walls every now and then, but was it really worth people saying under their breath that they wished he were dead?
No matter how hard he tried to get peoples' attention, they only hated him more. The more he wanted people to acknowledge him, the more they wished for him to go away. And he figured it out, too, that the kids were talking about him behind his back, saying horrible things… things their parents were telling them about him.
All of the kids' parents were telling them to not play with him. And the kids themselves thought it'd be a good idea to turn their backs to him.
He had still held his chin up, though. He thought that there might be at least one kid who would like him for being him… and not care about what his or her parents said about him. He had been a bit hopeful lately, because recently that Shikamaru kid and his best friend Chouji stopped ignoring him during detentions, and even invited him to sneak out of the classroom with them sometimes.
All of his hopes changed, however, just earlier that morning. Three kids from his class told him that they'd acknowledge him as a friend if he retrieved a kunai from the back woods. And, Naruto believed them. He finally would be able to prove his skills to the kids. Finally, he'd be able to show them that he could do a task like that just as good as (and better than) Sasuke Uchiha. Finally, all his waiting and his patience would have paid off.
But what did it get him?
Naruto closed his eyes on his bed and turned to his side, trying not to think about it. He had to be saved, by TWO teachers. And, on top of all of that, he got lectured and sent straight to detention after school. The worst part of it all is that everyone in the class knew that the kids had simply played a prank on him. The kids had no intention of befriending him, after all the crap that he had gone through. He felt humiliated.
Sasuke Uchiha would never have needed two teachers to save him. And even if he did, Naruto bet that the kids would all think Sasuke was some sort of hero for living through that. And Naruto? He bet that there were some villagers out there who wished he had died earlier that day.
It wasn't fair. Nothing was fair. Sasuke Uchiha had it so good, and Naruto's life was a shitty hellhole of loneliness and isolation.
It was on days like this when he wondered why he was never adopted. What was wrong with him? Why did nobody want him? What did he do, when he was born, that ever warranted people to hate him so much? Why was it always he who got the short end of the stick? Why wasn't he smart enough? Why did Sasuke always get rewarded with everything?
He wished that Sasuke Uchiha knew what it felt like to not have anything… for even just one day of feeling lonely, and to understand what it was like to be in Naruto's shoes.
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The next day, when Naruto came to class, he overheard something that made his heart drop like a lead weight.
Sasuke Uchiha's entire family was murdered.
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Naruto spent the first however many days feeling like he was responsible for the murder of an entire clan. He stopped coming to class, unable to face the world. After a few days of shutting himself in, Iruka-sensei began to drag Naruto out of bed in the morning and supervise his walk to school, just to make sure Naruto didn't fall any farther behind.
At school, Naruto stole careful glances at Sasuke, feeling both shy and guilty about everything that happened to him. However, Sasuke continued to act the same. The Uchiha was never one to really talk much, and it was usual for him to act a bit like a loner, but this time, Naruto took the time to try to read into Sasuke's body language. As the days went on, Naruto found himself wanting to talk to Sasuke, but never finding any words to say. He wouldn't know what to say, anyway. He was guilty for wishing loneliness upon Sasuke, and in many ways he felt like it was just as much his fault for what happened as it was for whoever murdered the Uchiha clan.
He had no idea how to approach Sasuke about his guilt. He had no way, and he had no right, to ever wish any sort of friendship between them. He finally knew someone who understood his pain, and all he could feel now was depression and self-blame. He could barely sleep anymore, and when he overheard the villagers wish death upon him, he could only agree. Maybe things would be better without him.
What made everything worse for him, though, more than anything in the entire world… what cut into him deeper than the guilt in his heart for wanting someone else to suffer like him, is that even after Sasuke Uchiha lost everything in the world, people only seemed to love him and adore him even more. Naruto knew Sasuke was angry from all the pity affection he received, and the consolation gifts that arrived on his doorstep every day, but it just drove the wound even deeper into Naruto that he, himself, would never receive that sort of pity. He would never receive those consolation gifts.
He was never worthy of them to begin with. He was just a thorn in the village's heel. Who was he to believe he could relate to Sasuke Uchiha of all people? What could he possibly offer to Sasuke that could better his life in any way?
It was only several weeks before Naruto realized that the village was right. The entire world would be better off without him. He was a monster.
It was on the night of the full moon, one month after Sasuke's family was murdered, when Naruto cleaned and packed his entire studio apartment and threw out the contents of his refrigerator. He didn't own very much, but he did what he could so that the whole process would be easier on people this way.
The one thing that he took with him, as he left his apartment key on his table, was the kunai that the children from his class dared him to take that day he was tricked to go into the back woods. Before he walked out his door, he left a short note on his table, weighed down by his goggles. The note didn't say much, but it said enough. No one would really care for his reasons. At this point in his life, and in the village's opinions of him, it was all obvious enough.
He spent a long time standing on his deck, looking up at the moon-lit monument. He wondered what kind of people the First, Second, and Fourth Hokage used to be. What would it have taken him to achieve that title? What could he have done differently, since the day he was born, that would have one day merited his own carved head on the monument? And, for the briefest of moments, he wondered if he'd get the chance to meet any of them tonight.
But first… he had something he needed to do. He couldn't fulfill his task without at least trying, at least giving a shot at one last attempt to rectify things.
He walked alone in the darkness, almost meditatively. For some reason, he felt at peace with himself. He felt happy, that this was the way things were meant to be. Parents had dreams and goals, and ideals for their children. They always talked about what they hoped their children could achieve. In a way, he'd be living up to the dreams of the village. He would make them proud this way… No one would even miss him. No one would even care.
By the time he stopped and looked up, he was already there. He had never allowed himself to come this close to the compound before. Before now, he never really had a reason to. In all honesty, he felt a little uneasy inviting himself into the compound, and it was even more unsettling how it was so quiet here. It was almost as if the remnants of death still lingered here in the air, haunting the streets under the full moon.
The entire compound was lonely, cold, and isolated. And, in a sad way, Naruto felt he related to the place. It gave him even more resolve to at least try… Because if somehow… Because if maybe… Because maybe if someone… anyone… Then maybe he wouldn't have to. Then maybe…
He walked up the steps to Sasuke's house. A dim light shone through the rice paper walls, and Naruto hesitated only a brief moment before he brought his fist to the door and knocked lightly.
There was no response. Naruto wouldn't accept that. If no one responded, then… No, he had to get Sasuke to come out. He had to talk to Sasuke.
He knocked again, more loudly this time.
Upon his third knock, the door slid open, and Sasuke stood there silently watching him. His face betrayed nothing as he watched Naruto.
Naruto suddenly felt the spotlight on him, and his voice suddenly caught in his throat when he realized he had no idea what to say or do. He hadn't thought this far ahead. All he knew was that he had to talk to Sasuke, but after that was a giant mental blank. He was never good with strategy. Goddamnit, why did he have to be such an idiot!
Sasuke watched him, expectantly, and when Naruto said nothing, he asked curtly, "What."
Naruto just watched him now, not knowing how to phrase this, how to phrase his feelings, and what he was feeling. He knew it was his last time to say anything, but no matter what he would say, there was no way of poetically phrasing things. He sucked at euphemisms, and he never was really good at words.
Sasuke continued to watch him, and then his eyes narrowed a bit as he repeated, "What."
Naruto started breathing fast as he tried to force his feelings into words, "I–! I know what you're going through! I- "
"Shut up!" Sasuke's eyes fully narrowed now as he cut Naruto off. "I don't need your goddamn pity!"
Naruto blinked, taken aback by the hostility in Sasuke's voice. "What?"
"Just leave me alone." Sasuke began to close the door on Naruto.
Instinctively, Naruto's hand came up and stopped the door. "Wait."
"Go away." Sasuke shoved Naruto's hand away, and slammed the door shut.
There was silence on the other side of the door.
Naruto stood there a moment, swallowing at the closed door. He didn't even realize he was holding his breath, but the moment he exhaled, he suddenly had to fight a wave of depression from just taking him then and there. He never allowed himself to cry anymore, but if he could, he may have.
"Please…" Naruto said in a half whisper to the door.
The door didn't respond.
"Please…." Naruto tried to hold his breath again, just to fight back the uncontrolled breaths. When he couldn't hold his breath anymore, he breathed out and in sharply, "Please…"
There was only the cold wind that blew through the dark ghost town. And in that moment, the only light in Sasuke's house went out.
Naruto fought back his tears, as he hoped for things, just as strongly as he ever hoped dreams for himself. He hoped that Sasuke could get through this. He hoped that Sasuke would continue to have the strength and support that Naruto never got to have. Somewhere deep down, Naruto knew and trusted, and truly believed that Sasuke would become someone truly great, and that all of this pain would one day only serve to help him get stronger.
Naruto wished he could have told Sasuke what he wanted to say. Or rather, the things he felt. He wished that it would have been possible to have been closer to him, to have related with him… He wished that he could have been someone important to Sasuke, even if it was as a rival… just, someone to try to overcome, someone to beat. All his life, that was the only thing that really kept Naruto going. It was the only advice he could really give to Sasuke, anyway. The one thing Naruto was ever good at was pretending things would get better if he tried hard enough.
Naruto turned and slowly walked down Sasuke's steps, toward the exit of the Uchiha compound. It was only after he left the compound, when Sasuke's light came back on.
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Naruto was feeling ironically peaceful as he made his way up the monument. He had come this way so many times before, he thought very little of the path in the darkness. It seemed almost second nature for him to come here. He knew the area extremely well, and knew of the old secret passage out of the village that he discovered one day while trying to hide himself inside the nose of the Shodaime.
As he made his way out of the village, he ran memories by himself again, trying to find reasons to change his mind. Any reason, at all. He came up short with everything. The one thought that lingered in his mind that could have been the reason was a simple idea that Ichiraku's ramen stand would lose a customer. But then he saw Iruka-sensei eating ramen there once, and didn't feel as bad. At least they had someone to replace him. He briefly wondered if they'd notice he was gone.
He promised himself that he would not think anymore of this. But, his mind was a bit attention-deficit. It was hard to keep a clear head as he made his way out of the village and into the back woods. He stumbled a bit in the darkness, stepping over bushes, and tripping over roots and branches. After a few minutes of making his way through the brush, he decided he didn't have to really go very far in order to get the job done. After all, he wanted to be discovered.
He sat down on the forest ground and looked up to whatever stars he was able to see through the canopy. He had a view of the perfectly full moon from where he sat, and for a long time he listened to the crickets and wondered if the moon ever felt lonely.
And then he felt for his pouch, and unbuttoned it. He drew the kunai, and studied it in the darkness. And then he brought it to his left wrist, and clenched his jaw a bit, as he cut.
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Only about half a minute after he was done and was waiting to die, he heard the bushes moving nearby and someone stumbling. Naruto felt a knot in his throat at the idea of being discovered, but he didn't move. No matter what they did, no matter how they'd try to stop him, it was too late. He simply closed his eyes and listened to the beating of his fading heart.
The person stopped right by him, and for a little while, stood there, just watching him. Naruto opened his eyes and could only see the person's faint silhouette against the dark forest. But he knew who it was.
The person sat down across from Naruto, just watching. Naruto didn't want him to talk. He was the last person Naruto wanted to show his weakness to, and Naruto just closed his eyes, waiting for the darkness to overcome him so he wouldn't have to live to see his face in the morning.
They were both silent for a long time. Naruto wondered when his end would come, but as the minutes ticked by, and the moon lowered below the canopy, he was getting pretty sure that it wasn't supposed to take this long.
Naruto shifted, frowning and opening his eyes. He no longer was meditating. Thoughts of confusion ran through his head ,but he still said nothing. He'd be damned if he lost to Sasuke in a silence contest.
He shifted again, uncomfortable now with the silence.
As if Sasuke could read his mind, he started, "You're supposed to cut down your wrist, not across."
"!" Naruto suddenly, out of nowhere, just wanted to punch the goddamned Uchiha. His anger flared, "Like you would know!"
There was lingering silence. For a while, the only sounds were the crickets. "… I would."
Naruto fell silent. Neither of the two moved. As the crickets chirped, neither of them had anything they really wanted to say.
They continued to sit there for a long time. Every once in a while, an owl hooted in the distance. And, at some point, the sky began to lighten.
Naruto watched Sasuke's silhouette slowly take form as the sky began to slowly brighten. He noticed how tired Sasuke looked, how strained.
Naruto said nothing as he thought of what Sasuke had to have gone through in this past month, and how much he needed Naruto. However much Naruto hated the bastard, Naruto was the only one who could understand him. The very least Naruto could ever do is at least be there, to exist in Sasuke's life as at least one person who could understand him and would never give up on him.
Naruto looked down to his wrist in the light, and realized that the wounds on his wrists were gone.
He didn't understand why, or how… But he knew this probably was a sign. This wasn't his time to go. Maybe he simply hadn't discovered his own destiny yet, but for some reason he got the feeling that Sasuke would play a major part in it.
When he looked up to Sasuke, this time he felt something different. He came to a realization at that moment. This moment, here, what they silently went through tonight, was something that was just between them. Naruto knew, deep down, that this was the beginning of some sort of bond between them.
When the first birds began to chirp, Sasuke looked at Naruto, and stood. Naruto watched him as Sasuke began to walk back toward the village. He felt his chest clench a bit, watching him go, and leaving him there.
After a few more steps, Sasuke stopped and turned back to Naruto. "Are you coming or not?"
Naruto smiled, and suddenly his chest heaved. All of his grief and guilt then poured out of him in an endless waterfall of relief and acceptance. He laughed, then, a hard laugh through his tears.
Sasuke said nothing and watched as Naruto both laughed and cried. The first rays of sunlight began to make their way through the trees, and one of the rays fell on Naruto as Sasuke waited in the shade.
Naruto sniffed and wiped away his tears with a smile as he started out, and began to follow in Sasuke's path.
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- 10/12/10 -