"People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict."
- Lemony Snicket, The Grim Grotto
A loud slam echoed around the emptying hall; the sound of a rather angry student shutting his ugly green locker door with more force than truly necessary caused a few students to jump and stare for a moment, before simply shaking their heads and continuing to walk by. The blond male glared at the metal beast as if it were the cause of all of his problems. After losing the glaring match, he turned away and searched the thinning crowd for the only pink head in the school. As the crowd became smaller and smaller, Naruto sighed and turned to leave the building. She'd clearly already left for detention.
Iruka hadn't allowed for any extra-credit work to be done in place of detention. He said it was to improve "character" but Naruto was pretty sure he just wanted to see everyone suffering. Scowling, he continued out of the main building, and made his way toward another building, following the sidewalk.
The layout of the school frustrated the young blond quite a lot – more so today than usual. There was the main building, which held all of the four core classes for each grade level; then there was a spacious yard area where the archery class practiced; then a gym; and lastly, there was an entire building dedicated to detention. For reasons Naruto didn't even want to begin to fathom, they expected one room to be too small. And while they were sometimes correct, all three rooms were typically empty. What really irritated the teenager was in order to get to the detention building, one had to make the obnoxious trek around the archery yard. It was like they were trying to get their students pierced with an arrow or something.
At least you were never down-range. The sidewalk curved around the bench area, where parents could sometimes watch their kids shoot arrows at bullseyes.
As the blond came to the archery yard, his deep blue eyes found something of interest; Sasuke. Naruto cocked his head, his brows knitting in confusion. The raven-haired teen was standing very still, beneath a shaded covering. There was a bow in his hands, the string stretched out and tight. Sasuke had removed his school shirt, and Naruto could see the muscles of his back, arms, and shoulders straining underneath his surprisingly pale skin. Slowly, the muscles in the blond's face loosened, his face changing into a look of awe.
And then Sasuke released the arrow, sending it flying through the air. Naruto's eagle-sharp eyes followed it as it whistled its way to the bullseye. His body tensed when the pointed metal stuck the target, landing close to the center. From where Naruto stood, it looked only a couple centimeters off.
"Shit," Sasuke hissed, drawing Naruto's attention. As he positioned another arrow on the bow, his dark eyes shifted to Naruto. "If you don't need anything, leave," the words were spoken crisp and smooth, leaving very little room to argue. Satisfied that his tone of voice would most certainly send the Naruto off, Sasuke pulled the string and arrow back and readied himself to fire again.
Naruto had different ideas. He glowered at the other, his face contorted in an almost comical way. "Where do you get off telling me to leave? As far as I know, this is America, a free country. I have every right in the world to stand here," he finished with a nod and crossed his arms.
Snorting, Sasuke turned to look at Naruto with annoyance. "I don't enjoy being harassed by an incompetent loser who can't even be bothered to look outside his car window before opening the damn door," he growled.
Being reminded of his earlier mistake caused Naruto to wince and look down. He allowed the insults to fly in favor of apologizing. "Look, about that," he started, "I wasn't really thinking-"
"Obviously," Sasuke cut in.
"-and," Naruto growled, glaring slightly, "I was just having an overall off-day. Not that it's any of your business, my dad and I got into an argument and I just wanted to get out of the car," he finished quickly, only adding in a half-truth. Someone he'd just met didn't need to know all of Naruto's dirty little secrets.
If the older of the two teenage boys hadn't been watching the blond's face carefully, he'd have missed the way Naruto's face twitched as though he were recalling a horrible memory. If he were not an Uchiha, Sasuke might have doubted he'd even seen the barely-there look of fear and despair. But he knew he'd seen it, and it caused a spark of curiosity that he had to fight down. Sasuke was not a curious person by nature. There weren't many things that interested him, and even fewer of those things had to do with other people. Of course, he shouldn't have been surprised. Naruto was an interesting being; from his shock of humorously wild, yellow hair, to the strange marks that adorned his tanned cheeks. Certainly, upon first meeting, Sasuke knew Naruto was unique, and interesting, and one of the few humans to make Sasuke want to laugh.
"Are you going to talk or just stare at me for an hour?" Naruto's voice held obvious irritation, but the slight tint of pink on his dark cheeks showed that he was embarrassed.
Sasuke opened his mouth, then shut it again when he saw another figure rounding the corner. He wasn't at all surprised when light pink hair came into view.
"There you are!" Sakura exclaimed, exasperated as she jogged to Naruto's side. The blond male turned to his friend with confusion on his face, but the girl wouldn't allow him to speak. "I've been looking everywhere! You weren't at your locker, you weren't in any classrooms, and you weren't in detention," her green eyes were flamed with her annoyance. "Just what was so damn important that you're willing to risk another detention, Uzumaki?" Sakura huffed, placing her fists on her hips as she spoke.
Normally, the whole scene would have annoyed Sasuke. However, the name that Sakura used caused curiosity to – once again – spark up in him. Pushing aside the annoyance he felt at himself, the raven-haired teen spoke, interrupting whatever excuse Naruto was giving Sakura, "Uzumaki?" his deep voice held confusion, although his face remained blank. Sasuke loosened the string on his bow, removing the arrow and holding both in his right hand as he turned to fully face the two. Moving from the shaded area of the range, he walked closer to the two, stopping when he was a few feet. His dark eyes were on Naruto. "I thought your last name was Namikaze?" He distinctly recalled their teacher, Kakashi, using the name.
Naruto's blue eyes blinked in confusion for several seconds, before he remembered that Sakura was the only one who knew exactly why he preferred to be called Naruto Uzumaki. "Oh!" He opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head, laughing nervously. "My… my parents gave me a middle name, um, Uzumaki!" The blond shrugged. "They're weird, I know!" He gave another nervous laugh, folding his hands behind his head in an attempt to make it seem like no big deal. His blue eyes looked to Sakura for some assistance.
However, Sakura was quiet, a blush across her cheeks and the bridge of her nose as her eyes scanned over Sasuke's naked torso. Once the initial shock of seeing the attractive man's body up close was over, she noticed there were scars that ran along his body. Oblivious to Naruto's struggles, the girl gasped in shock when she finally noticed a particularly dark mark on Sasuke's side. "Oh, my gosh! Sasuke, what happened?"
Before Sasuke could respond to Sakura, Naruto was also looking, his blue eyes wide. "Jesus Christ! Did you get into a fight with a goddamn shovel?" His voice raised an octave, squeaking slightly, like a boy going through puberty. If Sasuke wasn't irritated by their sudden crowding, he would have brought that little fact up to the younger teen. As it was, however, the raven was ready to punch the two of them.
"No, I didn't get into a fight with a shovel," he drawled in a voice that clearly said just how stupid the idea was. Covering the wound with his free hand, Sasuke took a step back. "It doesn't matter what happened; it's healed and taken care of," he continued. Turning away from the two, Sasuke made his way back into the range, picking up his shirt and putting it on, buttoning it partially. He turned to the two again, looking at Sakura this time. "You said something about detention, did you not? Unless you really do want another, you two might find it in your best interest to hurry," Sasuke said, his voice ringing in finality, ending the conversation. He picked the bow and arrow back up, and quickly walked past Naruto and Sakura, the arrow in the bullseye completely forgotten.
Realizing that he was right, Naruto and Sakura quickly ran to the detention building. Thankfully, the detention teacher for the day was a timid, quiet blonde woman who wore glasses. Naruto was fairly certain she was a librarian, but he couldn't remember her name. The woman was willing to overlook their lateness, so long as the two sat near her desk. The compromise was very easy for both teens to make, considering what the consequences would be if they were each given another detention.
When detention had finally been let out, Naruto went home with Sakura, where he called his mother to request he spend the rest of the week with his best friend. He wasn't at all surprised when his mother told him yes. He was, however, shocked when she continued.
"Your teacher called to inform me that you had detention today," when Naruto confirmed, Kushina spoke again in a quieter voice, "Because this is your first detention in a very long time, I'll keep it between you and I, alright? Have fun at Sakura's," and hung up before Naruto could respond.
Confused, he hung up the phone and looked at Sakura, one blond eyebrow cocked. "Um, she's not telling Dad," he said, chewing on his bottom lip, his eyes looking away, "which is odd," he shrugged, "but whatever! Good for us, right?" Naruto looked up with a grin.
Sakura giggled and nodded enthusiastically. "Yes! Now, let's go upstairs and talk about boys!" She winked and hurried to the stairs from the living room. Sakura's house was built almost completely identical to Naruto's; though that wasn't a huge surprise, as they lived in the same neighborhood.
"Are you going to start calling me gay, too?" Naruto groaned, referring to when Ino questioned him about it.
"Well, you never did answer her," Sakura pointed out with a mischievous smirk as she reached the landing and turned to face him.
"That's because Iruka came and gave us detention slips!" Naruto replied, throwing his arms up as he walked past Sakura and opened the door to her room.
"Sure, you keep telling yourself that, Naru," she giggled, walking into her room. When Naruto followed, she shut the door. As her blond friend made his way to her bed, Sakura's face took on a more serious look. "But seriously," she began, causing Naruto to turn and look at her curiously when he noticed that her tone was serious, "did you see all those cuts on Sasuke's body?" She followed Naruto to the bed, sitting down. Naruto looked at her, nodded, and sat beside her.
"Yeah. I wonder what could have done that?" He bit his bottom lip as he thought.
Sakura nodded, scooting back and bringing her legs up so she cross them Indian style. "And he's so mysterious, too. I mean, a quiet and sort of dark guy is hot, but Sasuke kind of gives me the creeps. He feels so… dark and twisted, you know? Like," she shook her head, "like something we really shouldn't mess with," she paused, pursed her lips, "like something Ino shouldn't mess with," she finished quietly.
"I know what you mean," Naruto nodded in agreement, "but I think you're overreacting. He seems more… alone. Like he wants to be alone, but doesn't want to be alone," he shrugged. "I don't know. I don't think he seems dangerous, though," Naruto laughed. "I think you're just jealous that Ino's going out with him."
Sakura blushed. "I am not! Besides," her blush deepened, "I got to see him shirtless," she haughtily flipped her hair, though the short locks wouldn't flip over her shoulder.
"Lucky you," Naruto laughed and rolled his eyes. "Do you have anything to eat?" He asked, mostly to change the subject. He didn't want to admit that something about Sasuke freaked him out, too. There was something else about the dark-haired man, something that drew Naruto in more than the dark aura pushed him away. Sasuke, as Sakura had said, was mysterious, and dark, and twisted; Naruto didn't know how, he just knew that that was the feeling he got. But there was something else. Something that made it impossible for him to simply ignore Sasuke's existence, as he knew Sakura was going to suggest before Naruto had changed the subject.
"You're always hungry," Sakura rolled her bright green eyes, but led Naruto into the kitchen so they could raid the cupboards and fridge.
The rest of the night, Naruto surprisingly cleverly avoided the topic of boys and Sasuke.
The next morning, Sakura had contracted a stomach bug, and was in the bathroom vomiting before anyone was even awake. Naturally, her mother allowed Sakura to stay home, but because Naruto hadn't shown any signs of illness, the elder Haruno woman drove him to school, earlier than necessary, and told him to give her a call if he did end up sick. He waved goodbye to the woman who was like a second mom to him, before walking up to the school and sitting on the steps. After only a few minutes, Naruto remembered that Sasuke had left an arrow in the bullseye the day before. This thought led him to remember the scars on Sasuke's pale torso, and then the conversation between himself and Sakura the previous night. He thought about the possibility that Sakura was right, and Sasuke was one who should be ignored, forgotten about, and left alone. Whatever happened to him was his business, and his business alone.
Even before Naruto stood up, however, he already knew what he was going to do. The young blond jogged around the school building to the archery range. Making sure there was no one else there, he quickly jogged down-range and was surprised to find the arrow still there. Just as he'd thought the day before, the arrow was only a few centimeters off its mark. Either way, it would be painful to be hit with that. His thoughts were again on the possibility of Sasuke being dangerous. He thought of the raven-haired man shooting him with the arrow. With now shaking hands, Naruto carefully pulled the arrow from the bullseye and examined the point.
A shiver ran down his spine. The metallic end was sharp; it had obviously been sharpened to a point for the soul reason of piercing something other than the bullseye material.
Sakura was certainly right. Sasuke was dangerous. Dangerous, and very possibly dark and twisted and cruel and… Naruto couldn't bring himself to think of someone he hardly knew as being evil but Sasuke was beginning to feel that way. Evil or psychotic.
He shook his head. "Stop it, Naruto. Just… Just give him his arrow back, and you can be finished, just as Sakura wants," he mumbled to himself, turning away from the bullseye and jogging back around the school to the steps. Panting, he once again sat down, surprising to find that only a few minutes had passed, and there were only a few students other than himself around.
Slowly, though, the schoolyard became more and more filled as students arrived.
Naruto watched as the students clung in groups, laughing about something they were talking about. He watched as those groups squeezed out of tiny sports cars made specifically or rich brats to flaunt their cash. There were others who were just as alone as he; most of them owned more normal vehicles. There were a few clusters of avid high school hunters – not so politely called 'rednecks' – climbing from muddy pickup trucks. And of course there were those that hung at the bottom of the food chain, sitting around after their mothers had dropped them off early, doing some sort of studying that Naruto didn't care enough to look into. The majority of the school's inhabitants, however, were those that one would not picture at a private school. While sitting in their beat up, vintage cars, Naruto watched with little interest as pipes were lit up, the stoners ready for a quick fix before the annoyances of school began. The smoke drifted into the air, before being pushed away by the wind. The blond noticed a few others pause and sniff the air, before breaking out in knowing smiles, chuckling amongst themselves.
Blue eyes rolled, before looking away from the scene, landing on what was quickly becoming a familiar hairstyle. Scenes from the day before, as well as the conversation with Sakura flickered through his mind and pushed his body up. The blond quickly trotted after the raven walking along the sidewalk. "Sasuke," he called, but the other teen didn't stop. Sasuke didn't even seem to notice he was being called. "Sasuke!" Naruto called again, louder this time. Still, the raven continued on, rounding the corner of a building – some type of storage unit for the school, Naruto had always assumed. As soon as the blond stepped around the building, he jumped right back behind it, pressing his back against the brick. Hesitantly, he peeked around the corner, trying to appear invisible.
Sasuke's back was to him, but that wasn't what caused Naruto to jump back. In front of the raven, three others stood. On the left, a red-haired girl stared at the raven-haired teen through her glasses, and Naruto wasn't quite sure if she looked angry or hungry; maybe a bit of both. To her right, standing in the center, a man that might have been Sasuke's age stood with all the confidence and arrogance that the raven held in his onyx eyes. He had platinum hair with blue coloring the ends, and his eyes had to be contacts; no one could have purple eyes, could they? On that man's right, standing taller than the others, a man was looking at Sasuke with a blank expression that Naruto couldn't read. This man had unruly orange hair, brown eyes, and looked like he could easily wipe out an entire football team. The blond wasn't sure why he didn't just come out, but something told him to remain hidden; he didn't even breathe as he listened.
"… trouble, Sasuke," the man with the purple contacts sneered at the raven. "We have to pick up for your slack. You know you can't hide forever. Why do you even try?" his eyes narrowed, and his lips pulled into a sickening grin as he prodded Sasuke's chest and said, "Besides, you know he'll kill you if you keep this up. Wouldn't that just be a shame?" his voice dripped in sarcasm, "The wondrous, amazing, oh-so-powerful Sasuke Uchiha dead at the hands of his master," he snickered.
"Don't touch me," Sasuke growled, slapping the other's hand away. "Move, Suigetsu. I don't have time to waste on you," he continued. Though Naruto couldn't see his face, he could imagine those dark eyes just as cold and hateful as his voice.
"Sasuke," it was the girl who spoke this time, "just come back. This is becoming tiring."
"Then quit following me. It's none of your business, Karin," the raven turned his glare to her.
"It's all of our business, and you know it is. Because of your selfish ass, our asses are paying the price!" Suigetsu hissed, moving so he stood closer to Sasuke. "You can't run, and you know that! Do you want all of us to die?" his voice was steadily getting louder.
Sasuke narrowed his eyes and rubbed his ear. "Shut up. Someone will hear you, dumbass."
Suigetsu grit his teeth and grabbed the raven-haired male by the collar of his shirt, bringing their faces close. "You think I care? Damn it, Sasuke, I'm really getting tired of you! If he weren't protecting you, I'd fucking smash your face in!" he spoke loudly.
"So you're afraid of him?" Sasuke taunted, one brow arching.
"Like hell I am!" the bleached-haired male yelled, bringing his fist back to punch the raven. As he swung, however, another hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Suigetsu turned his purple eyes to glare at the owner of the hand, following it up the arm and looking up into the brown eyes of the expressionless tall male. "Juugo, are you serious? Just let me hit him once and- ouch! That hurts!" he winced, trying to tug his wrist from the fist squeezing it.
"Sh. We have company," Juugo spoke softly, brown eyes looking up to meet blue.
Shit, Naruto thought. He turned quickly, only to stop again when he was met with yet another man. This man had grey hair, though he couldn't have been much older than Sasuke. His grey hair was pulled into a messy pony tail at the base of his neck, his bangs framing his face. He was leaning against the building. As Naruto looked him up and down, the grey-haired man smirked and pushed up his glasses.
"Quite the nosy one, I see," he spoke in a voice that sent shivers up and down the blond's spine.
"Kabuto? Why are you here?" Naruto turned around to see Suigetsu's irritated face, Sasuke's collar still in his fist. His purple eyes glanced to the blond, before looking back up at Kabuto. "Did you know who send you?"
Naruto blinked and tilted his head slightly, his brows furrowing in confusion. 'You know who?' Are they talking about some Harry Potter Voldemort shit? Blue eyes darted from person to person, completely confused.
"No, I came of my own accord. I just wanted to see how Sasuke was," his dark eyes looked at the raven, the smirk turning almost sadistic. "So, how are you, Sasuke?"
"I'd be a hell of a lot better if you'd disappear," the raven-haired teen replied instantly, his eyes narrowing at the bespeckled male in front of him. He slapped away Suigetsu's hand and stepped to the side, brushing out the wrinkles in his shirt.
"Sasuke, I'm hurt. Oro-" Kabuto was interrupted by a pale hand against his mouth. Dark grey eyes peered into wide purple orbs curiously.
"Shut up, you idiot! You can't just go throwing out his name in public!" Suigetsu hissed as he looked pointedly at Naruto. "This kid was the one spying, right? He could say something that would lead to some unfortunate events," he looked back to Kabuto.
The bespeckled man gently pushed away the other's hand. He sighed softly, pushing up his glasses. "You're too paranoid," he spoke in an amused voice, even as he pulled something that glinted in the sunlight from his pocket, "but I suppose you are correct."
Before Naruto was able to comprehend what was going on, he was pushed into the side of the building. The blond started wriggling and struggling to get free, but something cold pressing against his neck stopped him. He could hear his heart beating quickly in his ears as his eyes slowly opened – when had he closed them? – to look into the dark eyes of Kabuto. Naruto gulped, looking at the other man with wide, confused eyes.
The grey-haired man grinned maliciously; coupled with his murderous eyes, Naruto couldn't help but be reminded of a demon. His face was twisted in a terrifyingly evil – for that was truly the only word Naruto's mind could supply – way. "Maybe we should just go ahead and kill him, then?" his words were soft; his breath whispering over the blond's scarred cheeks.
"Kabuto," both Naruto and the aforementioned male turned to look at Sasuke. "I doubt he heard anything of importance. Besides, look around you. There are people everywhere. You'd only cause more trouble for him," the teen's tone was matter-of-fact, a slightly irritated look etching his face.
Kabuto glared at Sasuke, but stepped away from Naruto, returning the object to his pocket. "Right as usual, Sasuke," he said in a sickeningly pleasant voice, the glare replaced with a smile. Brushing back his bangs with one hand, Kabuto looked down at the watch around his right hand. "It's nearly time for your useless classes, Sasuke," he chuckled. "We'll leave you alone now," Kabuto looked pointedly at Karin, Juugo, and Suigetsu, before walking around the storage building and disappearing from sight. Juugo followed quietly, followed by a hesitant Karin, who shot Sasuke a concerned look before she, too, disappeared.
Suigetsu glared at Sasuke. "I swear, Sasuke, if you cause too much trouble for us, I'll just kill you myself," he hissed, before his purple eyes were turned to Naruto, "and your friend, too," he finished as he turned and followed the other three.
When they were gone, Sasuke turned his attention to Naruto. He was staring in the direction the four had disappeared with a look of shock and fear on his face. As Sasuke's eyes moved south, he noticed the arrow in Naruto's trembling hand, which shocked him. "Where did you get that?"
The sudden voice jolted Naruto from his staring, and he turned to stare questioningly at Sasuke. "Huh?" He blinked, following Sasuke's eyes to his hand, where the arrow was. "Oh!" Naruto laughed and shut his eyes, pushing the troubling encounter from his thoughts for the moment. "Well, I remembered that you left it yesterday, so I wanted to make sure no one stole it or anything," he held out his hand so Sasuke could take back the object. When he didn't, Naruto opened his eyes again. Sasuke was staring at him with narrowed eyes, like he was trying to stare into Naruto's soul or something – at least, that's the way Naruto perceived it. Blinking, he took a step back. "Wh-what?" The blond stuttered slightly, confused.
"Why?" Sasuke questioned simply. When Naruto blinked dumbly at him, he rolled his eyes. "Why would you do that? What do you want in return? What's your ulterior motive?"
Now Naruto was really confused. "What? I don't have an ulterior motive. Can a guy just not be courteous?" He snorted, chuckling amusedly.
Sasuke stared at Naruto for a moment longer, before hesitantly taking the arrow from him. "… Thank you," he murmured, the words foreign and uncomfortable on his tongue.
Naruto laughed. "You're way too uptight," he shook his head with a grin.
"I'm not-" Sasuke was interrupted by the bell signaling the start of school. Oblivious to the fact that Sasuke was about to respond, Naruto groaned and dragged his feet as he walked away, toward the building. Still shocked by the blond's kindness, the Uchiha watched him quietly, until he finally followed him back to the schoolyard, and then into the building, where they parted to attend their respective classes.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Boom! WOW this chapter has taken soooo long! I'm pretty sure I already sent everyone a message explaining things, but if not, here's the gist of it: My computer broke, my grandmother was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, I lost all desire to write anything, I've been feeling very lost and depressed lately, and my dog and I are getting fat so I've been busy trying to shed the pounds. BUT! Look at this amazing chapter! Over 4500 words, guys! That's almost twice as long as the others, and like I said, I've been trying to increase the length. So yay! As promised, this chapter is a little darker than the previous one. Secrets about Sasuke shall unfold soon-ish. I don't want it to be too soon, but I don't want to have a bunch of filler chapters, haha! The next chapter will be the weekend, and I'll include information about Sasuke and Ino's date, and then the Sunday study group with River, Jake, Sasuke, and Naruto.
Speaking of River and Jake, I'm so happy that you guys liked them! I added them in because I felt the story needed some comic relief, especially when all the serious shit really starts.
By the way, I have two possible endings for this story, and I can't decide which one to use. I don't want to give too much away, but the first one will require a sequel, and the second one will not be able to have a sequel. Yes, that means that someone important dies. O: The first ending is DEFINITELY a happier ending, but if the story becomes too... light, then I might have to use the second ending... Plus, I'm kind of sadistic, and I kind of want to make y'all cry, hehe~ X3
Also, I want everyone to know that it was your reviews which helped fueled me into finishing this chapter, and beginning the next one. Seriously, y'all don't even know how thankful I am for all of the support. I didn't expect to get any reviews, and already I have seven. That makes me really, really happy! So thank you again, and please stick with me, even if my updates are erratic. I promise, it won't be like this forever!