A/N: Cover makes a return! It will take some time to upload all of the chapters already written, including the newly written one ^^

Warnings: Unbetaed, though I believe I've caught most errors. This is a SLASH story, if it ain't your cup of tea, just go the hell back to where you came from, without giving me any grief. I write slash, period. Other than that? No warnings whatsoever needed for now.

Disclaimer: All rights and characters © Masashi Kishimoto


By General16

Chapter One

Mask- a covering for all or part of the face, worn to conceal one's identity.

Not for the first time in his life Naruto wondered what kind of gods resided up in the infinite universe. Thoughts swirled around in his mind, a mix so confusing and filled with so many emotions it was impossible to get a clear answer.

He kinda hoped that someone else maybe had found it, but as no one had written it down or shouted it from any rooftops, he was fairly certain that he would have to keep looking for himself. It happened quite often that Naruto asked himself what deity, with even a sliver of goodness in them, would allow his life to turn out as shitty as it had. Maybe he'd been born under a really unlucky star, what with his mother dying giving birth to him and his father sealing an ancient demon, hell-bent on world destruction, inside of him.

Besides, it wasn't like he could begrudge the Fourth for doing it, not when it had stood between letting the Kyuubi level Konoha with the ground or sacrifice himself and his newborn son for the sake of the village's survival. It still didn't help Naruto feel better, however, when he'd been forced to withstand mental abuse, shunning, refusal of the most basic necessities and so on for the larger part of his life.

He'd been depressed, tipping on the edge of ending his misery for good, not really seeing the point in going on living when suddenly his whole existence had been turned topsy-turvy. Iruka had finally understood what it was like being Naruto, and like a shining beacon sent to guide his drifting soul back to safe harbor he took place in his life, determined to make Naruto see that he was not alone anymore.

He was the first person besides the Third to acknowledge him as a person; not as a demon like the rest of Konoha was so determined to believe. Iruka saved his life; both literally and figuratively speaking, having earned Naruto's eternal trust and love. After Iruka, his life had taken a turn for the better. More lights appeared, like an avalanche of people crashing over him. His team - however reluctantly Sasuke was - the rest of the rookie nine, Gaara and others.

They made his life worth living again. Around them he could relax a little, but not enough to drop the mask of the happy go-luck dobe he had cultivated over the years. The thing about masks is that they tend to crack eventually and reveal the real person beneath them, though it had yet to happen to him.

He had perfected the cover as a clumsy idiot from the tender age of five, to hide his real feelings and to protect himself. Hidden behind a wall consisting of stupidity and clumsiness the villagers had tended to be a little more lenient towards him. Naruto felt sad when he knew that not anyone, save Sasuke and Iruka, had been able to see behind the mask.

Many nights he congratulated himself of his success as an actor but at the same time, before Sasuke came back, it had saddened him. Was there no one out there who he could be himself with? He had assumed that it wasn't… until Sasuke came back. The raven was first a rival, a friend and almost as close to him as a brother. The feelings changed without Naruto noticing, as Sasuke was brought home when they were sixteen.

Naruto's heart had slowly opened up to the raven under said boy's attentions towards the blond to the point where it had bloomed into love. Now, Sasuke had thrown that love in his face with his actions. Staring at the scene before him, Naruto couldn't do more than to remained silent. Where was the loud, obnoxious knuckle-head now, the one who would shout in rage and charge into everything headfirst,without any regard for the consequences?

That Naruto wasn't real, not entirely so. He was just a mirage Naruto projected towards the world, a shield that hid his inner self. Sure, he existed somewhat, everybody knew him. He was blond, had piercing blue eyes, loved ramen, wore orange and was an idiot; it was a common fact in the hidden village of Leaf. His name was Uzumaki Naruto.

The whole blond and blue eyes yes, but the loudness, love for ramen - well that was partly true- the stupidity and orange? Come on, what kind of shinobi with only a hint of self-respect wore orange? No, that was not him, quite the opposite actually. And he wasn't really sure what he was supposed to do in that moment.

Naruto was standing in the doorway to his bedroom. The bedroom he usually shared with his lover. At least, he used to be the only one sharing it with Sasuke, though it looked like that wasn't the case anymore. Why? Well it could be the fact that his lover was on the bed, but certainly not alone and certainly not dressed either. Naruto was frozen, his heart still and blood had stopped flowing in his veins, and his brain had a hard time taking in the scene presented to him.

Two years. Two fucking years and this... this is what he got from those years of giving his love, his trust, his everything to Uchiha Sasuke? Betrayal and unfaithfulness... Well wasn't that just great. He was back from a two week long mission from the Grass country and came home to what?

His lover and best friend… in bed… with a woman. What a fucking cliché.

I didn't even know he was interested in women at all.

Naruto's stunned mind whispered, when he continued to look at the two on the bed, as they had yet to discover his presence. Naruto felt a sharp stab of fury, and decided that he didn't want to stick around long enough for it to erupt. Silently, like the shinobi he was, the blond turned on his heel and slipped out from the apartment, leaving his broken heart on the floor just outside the bedroom.

Two years wasted, he thought as he wandered the streets of Konoha, tuning out the glares and hate filled words directed towards him. He was so used to them, he hardly took notice at all.

What the hell am I going to do now?

Naruto continued to muse, feeling unnervingly calm. He thought it could be shock, as the betrayal weighed heavy on his heart. The rest of his feeling besides the simmering anger seemed to have disappeared for the moment.

He'd been under the impression that he and Sasuke loved each other, where the hell had he wrongly assumed that? Naruto loved Sasuke, but the feeling had apparently not been mutual. Even if the last Uchiha had never said that he loved him outright it had never bothered Naruto until now.

Why did he choose to be with me in the first place then? Why move in, live, sleep and make love to someone you didn't have any deeper feelings for?

And while it felt like he'd just had his heart ripped out, he knew he couldn't go back. While he loved the raven with his whole, aching heart, Naruto was no push-over. He would never accept infidelity.

The afternoon turned into early night and Naruto continued walking. In the end he'd found his way up to the Hokage mountain, and took a seat on top of the Fourth's head. It was his favorite spot, a place where he wasn't subjected to the glares and hurting words, a place where he could just sit in peace and survey the village he loved so much.

Despite that they could straighten up and start to treat him better, it was still a village with people who loved, hated, cried and laughed; a city filled with life. The thing about Konoha was that they were far too narrow-minded. They couldn't widen their horizons and look at the future without dragging the past along with them, like a snuggle-blanket to hold on to even in good times. The past would always be there, but wasn't it better to let by goners be by goners and open up for some changes?

The sun was setting and left him in the dark with only the full moon and twinkling stars as company, but Naruto wasn't about to complain. They had kept him company on more than one occasion when he didn't have anyone; they weren't so bad. They always kept their silent watch over the world, witnessing time turning and the ever changing nature; unruffled of foolish humans and their petty problems.

Spurred on by Sasuke's actions and his own, pensive mood, Naruto's mind turned to his own past, mulling it over with a feeling of accomplishment despite his many failures on the way.

He'd graduated from the Academy – after two failures, but who's counting? - got a dysfunctional team that developed strong bonds despite that. They'd been shattered and, after much grief and anxiety, reunited three years later. He'd reached chunin at the age of fifteen and had acquired his jounin rank a year ago, just after turning seventeen.

Naruto was one step closer to his ultimate goal: The Hokage seat. However much this village hated him he still loved it and would protect it with all his might, just like the Hokages before him had. Until people understood that, he would work hard for them to open their eyes and see that he was only a man, just like them and he loved his birth village as much as they did.

The biggest roadblock, as it happened, was the council. They kept him from proving himself, from showing that he was capable to protect them all. It annoyed him, yes, but only because he knew that they didn't hate him; they were just scared of the entity prisoned inside of him, and what it could do.

So what then? How can I ever make them see? How can I…?

A forgotten conversation with Tsunade suddenly elbowed its way to the forefront of his mind, words echoing as he stared wide eyed out into the empty air.

"Only the Second Hokage refused to enter ANBU, the rest of them joined. It's not the only way, but it certainly paved the road for them."

A small smile curved his lips, and he rose with a renewed sense of determination. Other methods may have been out there, it would most likely change him and his view on the world, but it just seemed right. He'd never thought he would take a path like that, had avoided it because while he admired them and what they did, it had seemed so… wrong.

Naruto didn't think badly of them, on the contrary. What they did was something astounding and admirable, he couldn't even begin to try and understand their world. But if the way to the seat of power was faster through them, so be it. His smile grew wider as he started to walk down the mountain, he needed to see Tsunade and talk to her about this.

What about Sasuke?

Naruto stopped, his smile fading and fists clenched at his sides as his broken heart throbbed painfully in his chest. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He couldn't be with Sasuke anymore. He couldn't be with someone who never said he loved him, someone who was unfaithful and refused to share his thoughts.

Naruto's trust was broken, his perceives of Sasuke shattered and the blond's eyes were finally open. He had to do this without Sasuke, for his own sake. If things had been different… Naruto shook his head, firming his resolve.

No… we're over.

Not giving himself more time to think it over, Naruto resumed his walk down the mountainside. He would talk to Sasuke later, to let him know, but right in that moment he had to speak with Tsunade first. After all, he was about to recruit himself into the toughest group in the whole village; the silent protectors of Konoha, the ones lurking in the shadows, never seen, heard or noticed.



A/N: Please leave me a comment on your thoughts before you go! ^^