The road was rough, full of small sharp prickly rocks that would make you cringe but then were lost and forgotten not even a moment later as the next footfall brought the next selection of bristly stones under a his bare feet.

It was an old road, not used frequently enough for paving but enough for the city to resurface so that the stones still remained sharp under his feet as he walked in a daze. The hot naked sun beat down above him overhead as he meandered almost drunkenly in the stifling shimmering air of the afternoon. A shape moved past his vision, undefined, lost as it drifted past him into the noise that filled the man's pounding head. Crunch, another footfall all to lonely as the noise from the city he was in faded away to quite whispering.

Crunch, the stones were growing smoother, a sure sign on more traffic. Closer to the cities center, was this the right way? Looking behind him, he noticed his trail, the large reddish embosses that followed him like a lost dog. Yes it seemed like it was the right path. Good. Turning around, nearly loosing focus as the world spun with him, he took another step, the smooth hot surface of the paving stones met it.

The clan district was one of few who had paving like this, yes, he was close. All those years of running from others, learning every feel of every road so much that even with his diminishing vision he knew exactly where he was. The murmurs of the horde following him was not of anger, but of hesitance, fear. Hinata's gasp joined the others as he and his shadows made their way to the itchy burning of the solid expanse that made up the central roads of the city. Poor Hinata, always chasing after him.

The wet splat of his footfalls upon the harsh concrete were much louder, how long had he been walking? It felt like days now. Maybe it had been. He couldn't remember. All he knew was the shade produced by the building he approached brought relief from the sun brilliance allowing a breath of much needed coolness. The guards for once allowed him up without a fight, the silence was deafening.

Creak, the eighth step always had that creak on the second floor, no matter how many the years, that one never changed and that fact brought a smile to his face. The act pulled as a dull ache he had been noticing along his hairline for some time. No matter, the forty-second and final step was upon him and soon his feet felt the thick carpet of the antechamber before the office that had plagued his dreams since he was a lad. He apologized to the secretary, unaware her silence was not of his rudeness, but of his condition.

As he pushed open the door, it's distinctive clink and groan joined his labored breathing. When did it get so hard to breath? The feel of the cool wood, still new from reconstruction felt raw as he approached the desk. Snapping to attention, holding in a groan he announced his presence to his leader, whose back was turned away.

"Uzumaki Naruto, reporting mission failed." He gasped out, only to find his body leaning, falling. Strong hands caught him, and it was at this moment the sound that had failed him came rushing back.

"NARUTO! What happened! Someone report, why was he not taken to the hospital immediately?"

"We tried, but he didn't listen! He didn't stop until he got here! Hinata had been calling out to him since he passed her clan residence."

"His head my god." A suddenly shaky hand rose up to touch a smooth slick surface. The attack had just missed his eye, so he reasoned that a good bit of his skull was showing. That explained the numbness…

"Someone get a stretcher NOW!" Tsunade demanded even as she worked her hands over the vital regions of his blood soaked body. As the crowd dispersed to get help and clear the way Tsunade noticed his dimming consciousness. "Naruto don't close your eyes, you can't go to sleep." He tried to obey… but it was getting so hard. "Dammit, tell me what happened, focus Naruto. Tell me, where is Sakura, what happened to Sakura?" Pink hair, flashing green eyes. A cry of his name. It was all so confusing. He was so tired… "Naruto! No! NARUTO!"

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Footsteps: A Hibiki Writing Challenge/Adoption allowed fiction.

By: Prologue Chapter - Hibiki & Following Chapters by: -whoever

Persons and Places listed in this story are fictional and the property of Masashi Kishimoto.

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Footsteps is, was, and will be, two writing challenges in one that were asked by two rather writer's blocked readers. Knowing that feeling well I went ahead and made one, even though the initial idea - A story with an emotional tone but describing something about feet or steps (dude you asked for a weird thing, you know who you are) and another about Naruto showing up before the Hokage (You didn't specify which one AJ) virtually dead with Sakura (and/or Sasuke but I absolutely hate Sasuke so that ain't happening) missing were two different and about a years time asked of me apart I put them together, looked at it and found myself writing about painful rocks that can annoy you as you walk upon them then about him beaten up.

Anyone may use this, just put a review or PM whatever's easier saying you are using it, because I'd like to see what others can get from this. It's pretty open, so anything, any paring, any action after this can happen. All I did is set the result of a mission.

Good luck, I'll hope to see some things soon. ~Hibiki