Yeah...timeskip! :D

This takes place a bit before the Chuunin exams. So yeah :3

~oOo~

I learned, when I was young, that flowers can wither if they aren't properly cared for. What I didn't know, however, was that no matter how well you take care of it, no matter if you give it plenty of sunlight and water, it may still grow ill, colors fading and petals drooping. But I learned-even the best-kept flowers can die, some much sooner than others.

Kimimaro…

I tried my best, for Orochimaru's sake. I spent long nights searching, reading medical books and going over what I already knew. I tried every medical jutsu I knew, every medicine. Despite my best efforts, however, I was helpless to do anything but watch as Kimimaro's health continued to deteriorate. My efforts only seemed to delay the inevitable conclusion.

It would have fascinated me, if it hadn't been so frustrating. The way it started in his bone, waiting, growing, spreading. It consumed him until his cancer left nothing untouched. Like a raging wildfire, it devoured him. (Again, fascinating, if it didn't annoy the living hell out of me.)

He hid his illness well, I have to admit- it takes a lot for me to not notice something. I just wish he hadn't- if he had told me, I just might have been able to stop it, to save him. By then, it had already consumed an entire lung and was working on the other, growing all the way down his heart, and it just kept spreading.

Now, to be quite honest, Kimimaro didn't even have a snowball's chance in Hell.

He was going to die. And that frustrated me to no end.

You see, as a medical ninja, I always held it as a point of pride that I could heal people. I could stop death right in its tracks and bring a person back from an early grave. It infuriated me that Kimimaro was the exception. As much as I disliked him (for being Orochimaru's favorite), I wanted to save him. If only to prove that I could.

But I COULDN'T.

(Sorry. I keep dwelling on the obvious, don't I?)

I slammed my book shut and set it aside, slamming it down more roughly than I had to.

Lord Orochimaru would forgive me for this failure. He could find a new vessel, a new body. But could I forgive myself for letting him down so badly? Could I let go of my greatest failure?

No. I was (and, in many ways, I still am) far too stubborn for that.

Kimimaro is asleep. I've finally succeeded in finding a painkiller that actually works for him. He looks so washed out, pale, hollow. His breath was horrible and raspy- the tumor made it nearly impossible for him to breathe. But I've got rid of his pain. And that is good enough for now.