The original plot of this story was created by Mattwilson83, who gave my friend Knight-Bishop permission to turn it into an actual story. At his request, I will be posting it and writing it with him.

Warning, this is meant to be a dark and mature story, so expect violence, cruel situations, sexual themes, and maybe a lot of OOCness in cases. I cannot physically stop anyone from reading this, but don't say I didn't warn you.

The reports had been coming in for the past two weeks now. In the outskirts of the Fire Country people had been disappearing. Men, women, children, all suddenly vanishing, as if pulled right out of existence.

It had started off slowly at first, just one or two would vanish every few weeks from a small town or trading post. Not exactly an unheard of phenomenon. But then more and more started to go, and the numbers slowly began to mount up and rise. People began to suspect someone or something was behind it all, so they stayed in at night while those who traveled made sure to take the main roads.

In two months nearly a hundred and fifty people had gone missing. When word reached the Fire Daimyo, he quickly called upon Konoha to solve this mystery.

Now, under normal circumstances, a team of three would have been sent out to investigate and deal with these matters. However at the moment, the Hidden Leaf Village did not have a team to spare. All of their teams were either already out on missions, or those available did not have the training or experience necessary to go out just yet.

So the Hokage, Tsunade came up with a solution. An old friend and annoyance had just returned home.

"Damn Baa-chan." Naruto grumbled as he moved through the forest.

Uzumaki Naruto had just returned from his three year training mission with 'Ero-sennin' Jiraiya and from saving Gaara from the Akatsuki. He had been back for not even one day and had to go back out. All he wanted to do was say hi to some friends, visit his favorite ramen shop, and just relax for a bit in his home. Maybe if he could, he'd even play some sort of prank on Tsunade; maybe pour hot sauce into her sake bottle. But instead he was sent on some lousy C-rank mission to find out what he can on a few missing people. He wasn't even sent with back-up; he was simply told to scout out the area and find out if anyone talked about anyone missing.

This was exactly the dull type of mission he hated doing. Almost as much as he and many others hated chasing down Tora. However, Tsunade told him to suck it up, her words, and do it anyway because if he really wanted to be Hokage he had to learn how to observe and plan rather than just fight and react.

"I'm sixteen and yet I still get treated like a kid." The blonde said as he halted on the branch of a tall tree to survey the area.

While he tried not to care about such things, he was a bit jealous of the fact that all of his friends were now chūnin's and he was still a genin. Heck, Neji was a jounin and Naruto was certain he could still beat the Hyuuga prodigy in a fight. He worked hard and had done a lot for the village, including but not limited to taking down Gaara and fighting Orochimaru and surviving. And yet…

Naruto shook his head, chasing away the bad thoughts. "Ah who cares? A ninja is a ninja, and rank means nothing compared to skill and experience." He said proudly as he began to move again.

After a four hour search he had found nothing. This was his third and final day of the search before he would have to head back home and make his report, but he intended to make his final search a thorough one.

He had sent out a good hundred of his shadow clones to cover more ground. Focusing in the reported areas where most of the people had gone missing. And yet they continued to find nothing. And when they had found nothing, they expanded their search outward, checking every place, both suspicious and peculiar to just plain stupid, like literally looking under large rocks or sticking a head in a rabbit hole. And still nothing.

The blonde Uzumaki groaned and finally sat down on the ground leaning against the trunk of a huge tree. He opened up his bag and pulled out a sealed thermos, opening it and inhaling the aroma of delicious beef ramen.

"Can't expect to find missing people on an empty stomach." Naruto reasoned as he began to eat his lunch.

He sat there for a bit of leisure time. It was a pretty beautiful day, the weather was warm, the sun was shining, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

Naruto had just finished his lunch and emptied his bladder when he suddenly felt a sharp pain in the side of his neck. He slapped it quickly, pulling back his hand to find a patch of blood and some mashed black thing. "Ewww, fucking mosquito." Naruto said as he whipped his hand on the ground.

He packed his thermos back into his bag, and he got up off the ground ready to restart his search.

But the moment he took a step forward he suddenly felt woozy. Naruto shook his head a few times, but that only seemed to make it worse. His vision started to become blurred and he felt lightheaded.

"What the…?" He said, his voice sounded disoriented. Suddenly, his limbs began to feel very heavy, his arms felt like lead and he could not lift his legs.

"Whaz gaen ayn?" Naruto said, his tongue going numb as the world began to spin. All of his strength left him and he fell forward onto the ground, unable to support himself any longer.

Before his vision completely left him, Naruto saw several men, dressed in camouflaged uniforms step out into the open. One of them was carrying a blowgun.

'That… was… not… a… mosquito.' Naruto thought before he went blind then lost the ability to tell which direction was up.

It was cold and dark when Naruto came to.

His head was throbbing horribly. It felt like someone was hammering the inside of his skull. His entire body was numb, enough that when he wiggled his toes and moved his fingers, he could barely feel them.

"Oh Kami... what... hit me?" Naruto asked himself as he tried to sit up, only to discover that he could not.

It was then the room became flooded with bright intense light, so bright Naruto had to close his eyes tightly.

There were the sounds of footsteps which ceased after a moment, and then started talking. "Come now boy, if you keep your eyes shut, your retinas won't have a chance to adjust to the light." It was the voice of a man.

Naruto, although he didn't want to listen to the words of his possible captors, opened his eyes very slowly and slightly. He had to blink a few times, but after a moment his eyes adjusted and he was able to see. And the first thing he saw was the face of a short-haired old man wearing black shades staring at him, smiling a wide toothy smile. His front right tooth was missing, but that appeared to be his most unique characteristic.

"Ah, now see, that wasn't so hard was it?" He asked with a small yet sinister chuckle.

Naruto tried to lift his head, but he quickly found out that it had been strapped down to a long table. Not only that but he could see that he had been stripped down to his black boxer shorts, and that black cords were strapped across his chest, his wrists, and his legs. He could not move at all. He also saw that there was an IV stand next to him, with tubes going down and pumping some fluid into him.

"Do forgive the straps. There are quite the necessity as I have discovered that ninja are pretty much useless so long as they can't use their hands to perform any ninjutsu." The man said as he fixed his shades.

Naruto's eyes suddenly darted back towards the man, trying to see if he could recognize him. The man looked like he was in his late thirties or early forties. He had light brownish hair with a few bits of grey in it, and he wore a spotless white lab coat.

The blonde opened his mouth to shout questions at the man but he discovered that no sound passed his dry, parched lips.

The lab coat man laughed a bit as he clapped his hands together. "Oh dear. Well, the drug we used to knock you out does cause a bit of dehydration, which is why we have liquid being fed into you." He pointed to the IV next to Naruto.

Naruto stared at the man coldly with his dark eyes, his mind screaming. 'When I get out of this old man I am going to beat you senseless, and then I am gonna find out who the hell you are.'

Almost as if he could read the blonde's mind, the lab coat man laughed loudly, his voice echoing around the room. "I am afraid my boy, that you will not be getting out of this any time soon. I suppose that you are wondering who I am though." The lab-coat man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small remote and pressed a button.

The table gave a shake and Naruto felt it tilting forward to a standing position. He was now able to get a better look at the room around him. It was a bleach white room. It had a sterile clean smell that reminded Naruto of a hospital or dentist's office. All along the walls of the room were cabinets, and in front of him there was a single door. Standing in front of the door was the only other person in the room, Naruto's captor.

The labcoat man rubbed his hands together. "My name is Doctor Okaru. I am a scientist of various fields of research."

Naruto, licking his dry lips, was finally able to get some words out, "You... kidnapped… all those… people?" He gasped out.

Okaru smiled. "Yes."

"B-Bastard!" Naruto coughed out, what he would give for some water…or to be free so he could kick this jerk's ass.

"Sticks and stones my boy. You see my benefactor, the man who funds all my research, he demands certain results. Results which require a number of human subjects."

A single name suddenly flashed in Naruto's mind. "Orochimaru." He said hoarsely.

"Oh ho, you're more clever than I gave you credit for. And here I thought you were just another dumb blonde." Okaru said as his smile became even wider. "Yes, Lord Orochimaru does indeed finance all my research."

"He… is a… monster." Naruto muttered, his throat was still so dry, it hurt to talk.

"It all really depends on the perspective. In your perspective he is a monster, but in mine he is a genius. And it is an honor and privilege to work for him." Okaru said as he walked over to one of the cabinets. From it he withdrew a syringe and a small vial of amber liquid.

Naruto watched the man, but he kept struggling with his restraints, thinking that if he could just get one of his hands loose he would be able to get out of here.

Okaru, sticking the needle of the syringe into the vial, talked as he drew some of the liquid. "It's no use struggling. There is no getting out of those bonds unless I release you." He said as he flicked the needle once, getting any excess air out.

"What… are… you doing?" Naruto demanded.

"Oh well, you see, I need to run a few tests on you my boy. It's necessary for the experiment, but don't you worry, I will be personally surveying all of those tests. So at least you will have a familiar face to watch over you. It is rather a shame that you will be doing it alone, I am afraid all of those subjects weren't quite up to snuff." Okura sighed heavily. "They all had to be disposed of, a real shame. I had such high hopes."

Naruto's eyes widened all of those people. Men, women, and even children, they were all dead and he talked about them like they were groceries gone bad.

Okaru continued to talk. "Yes, it seemed that none of them had the necessary endurance or strength to survive. I was about to give up hope, I had letter all ready to be sent to Lord Orochimaru. But then you, my fine young man, you showed up. And from that headband I can see that you are a ninja. It was then that I realized, all I had ever used before were civilians. Maybe a ninja would have the required attributes to survive the experiment." The mad doctor laughed. "You cheered up my entire day."

The blonde, suddenly struggled even harder with his bonds. He strained his wrists, trying to get the straps to snap and break. But no such luck.

Okaru's smile never faded. "Oh don't worry, I am sure you will do fine. If not, well better luck next time I guess. Like they say, try try again." He said as he jabbed the needle into Naruto's arm and injected him. And the world vanished into the oblivion of darkness.

Days went by; at least he thought it was days. Naruto had lost all sense of time. They kept filling him with drugs. Drugs that made everything blur together, drugs that took away his sight for hours making him rely on his other senses. Some of the drugs caused him to forget his name, other drugs made him sleep and have nothing but terrible nightmares in which he screamed to wake up. But some of the drugs were good, some of them took the pain away.

The pain caused by the experiments.

One after another the experiments came, some of them seemed more designed for torture then science.

He had been strapped to a chair and then dunked into ice water, and held under there until it felt as if his lungs were going to explode from lack of air. And then they would raise him up and check his vitals and temperature.

They had placed wires into, not onto him, into him. And then send electric shocks throughout his body, causing his muscles to spasm uncontrollably.

They always kept taking samples from him, blood and skin samples. They had even held him down and stuck a needle into his back, taking out spinal fluid.

One of the worst experiments, though, was when they stripped him naked of his clothing and chained him into a pure white room that was so bright it he had to shut his eyes. They asked him questions, so many questions. His name, how old he was, where he had been born.

If he refused to answer, the room would make a horrible noise. It was long, screeching, and painful. Even if he covered his ears, the noise still hurt him worse than a kunai through the ribs.

Sometimes they often asked the same question over and over again even after he had answered.

He was fed, as they gave him some kind of bland white mush that had an aftertaste that reminded him of mushrooms, and that was all they gave him. At one point he had eaten so much of it he felt as if would start coming out of his nose.

Sleep was rare, and when it came it had been induced by the drugs. And even when he did sleep he would awaken feeling more tired than he had before.

Another experiment was when they put a collar around his neck and chained it to a pole that came out of the wall. The wall was designed to spin around, and Naruto had to run along with the pole, or he would be dragged across the rough and bumpy floor. For every lap he did, the wall and pole would move faster and faster, and by the time the experiment had ended he had fallen down to the ground several times. His front and back were badly bruised, his neck was stiff and there was a red mark where the chain collar had been around it, and he could no longer feel his legs, although he was pretty sure they were still moving.

They had taken back to room, which was actually just a small tiny cell. It was completely bare and there was just enough room for him to sit down if he did it in the fetal position.

It was utterly humiliating.

Naruto, although he had resisted and fought them tooth and nail in the beginning, was now being to feel the toll of their work. He felt so weak, his arms and legs felt like lead. Every bone in his body ached. It even hurt to breath.

'What the hell is this guy trying to accomplish?' The blonde leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes, not to sleep though, but to remember. 'And why isn't that stupid fox helping me here? Why can't I use any of his chakra?'

The memories of his village were his only source of relief. Of his apartment, his favorite ramen shop (his mouth still drooled at that part), the academy. And of his friends, all his friends, who he hoped he would see again, whenever he got out of this hellhole.

It was then that Naruto's walk down memory lane was interrupted, by a sudden sharp pain in his neck and rough hands grabbing and slamming him down onto a hard surface. He wanted to open his eyes, but they felt so heavy.

After what felt like hours, cold water was suddenly splashed onto his face. His eyes suddenly snapped open and he looked around, seeing he was back in the room he had been in when he first woke when… whenever he had first awoken here.

He had been strapped to what he guessed was the same gurney, facing upward so he could look in front of him. But in front of him was the last person he wanted to see.

Sitting at a table, eating food, real food, consisting of grilled fish, tea, and a loaf of what seemed to be freshly baked bread, was Okaru, who was smiling happily at Naruto as he took a sip from his cup.

"Why hello my boy, and how are you today?" He asked.

Naruto glared at the man. He had come to hate that damned doctor with every atom of his body and soul. The way he kept looking and smiling at Naruto like he was some prized cattle, ready to be shipped off to the slaughterhouse. If Naruto was able to use any chakra, his own or Kyuubi's, this man and everyone here would be less than compost by now.

One of the burly guards, who was dressed in black like a classic bodyguard unlike the workers who all dressed in white, smacked Naruto hard across the face.

"The doctor asked you a question brat. Answer him."

Okaru continued to smile. "It's quite alright, I'm sure the boy simply did not hear me. So let's try again, how are you feeling Naruto? And don't worry, you can tell me, I am a doctor."

Naruto gritted his teeth, he hated to give this man the satisfaction, but he did speak. His voice though, was broken and without emotion. "Pretty crappy doc."

Okaru frowned. "Oh dear, well I am sorry to hear that. But I think I know something that will make you much happier."

'You are a disease and are going to die a slow painful death.' Naruto thought with a vengeance.

"You passed all of the experiments, with flying colors actually. Just as I knew you would. I must say that I am very proud of you Naruto."

"Can I have a lollipop then?" Naruto asked with a dry sarcastic laugh.

The black-dressed guard was about to smack Naruto again when Okaru held up his hand, stopping him. "So sorry, but I am fresh out of lollipops. But I do have something else for you, something very special."

He rose up from his table and withdrew from his lab coat pocket was a syringe.

Naruto stared at it, this one looked different from all of the others that had been used on him. The disposable plastic ones, no, this one was made out of glass and metal, and it actually looked old-fashioned.

And in that syringe was some type of purple black liquid, almost like ink.

"One final injection my golden boy. You are the only one to ever make it this far in the experiment. If you complete this final stage… then well let's just say that Lord Orochimaru will be immeasurably happy with me." He said with total glee as he walked towards the shinobi.

It might have seemed like just another injection, one of the seemingly hundreds he had received during his time here, but Naruto knew that there was something different about this one, something that was definitely not good.

Using the remainder of his strength Naruto struggled and twisted around, trying to break free of his bonds. He even craned his neck downward and tried to chew through them like an animal.

He had to escape. He would escape.

Okaru tutted. "Now now, I thought we were past this stage, but I suppose that it really does not matter anymore."

He nodded to the guard who grabbed Naruto's head and turned it, exposing his neck completely.

And Okaru drove the needle into Naruto's skin, and emptied the contents of the syringe into his blood stream.

Naruto felt two things. First was a sudden icy chill run through his entire body. Every limb and muscle went completely numb. It was even worse than before when he had woken up. However this did not last long. The second thing he felt was a deep burning sensation. It started off small at first, but then he felt as if his entire body was on fire. He felt his blood boil and sweat forming on his face.

Suddenly all his senses tripled. The light was now blinding, as if he was staring directly into the sun. He could now hear not only his heartbeat, but that of Okaru's. He could also hear the footsteps of the other researchers in the building. He could smell them, he could smell the sterile ammonia, the chemicals burned his nostrils so badly he felt as if the skin inside his nose was being peeled off.

And then all of that left him. As quickly as this overbearing discomfort had come, it vanished just as quickly. He felt completely drained, like all of his energy was disappearing and his entire body became like lead, to where even his eyelids felt heavy. His last images were of Okaru, still smiling with sadistic excitement, and then he saw… nothing.

Twelve days had passed since Naruto had gone on his mission, and no one had heard a single word from him. No message, no signal, nothing. It was like he had simply fallen off the earth. Like all the other victims.

On the second day after the day he was supposed to report back, Tsunade immediately sent out two of the best hunter nin that Konoha had. Both of whom had just walked back through the gates, returning from their last mission, to track him down.

But they both soon discovered that Naruto's trail suddenly went dead in the middle of the forest. He, like the others who had been kidnapped before him, had vanished without a trace.

Word was then sent out to nearby villages that Naruto might have passed, however it was the same thing from each of them. No matter how far they seemed to expand their search, no one had seen the young Uzumaki.

At the start of the second week, with still no word, Tsunade broke the news to Kakashi and the Rookies, in hopes they could succeed where others had not.

Kakashi had decided not to take either the Hokages or the Hunters report, and had gone out looking for Naruto himself. Most of the Rookies had joined him. But in the end, their results were all the same, nothing.

They each were upset to various degrees, but Hinata predictably took it the hardest, refusing to give up hope. Whenever faced with the possibility she would begin to cry and refuse to believe it, before running away to be alone.

At one point, she was sitting alone in the forest outside of Konoha. She had long since stopped crying, but she was still feeling drained, crushed, and upset from it all, only able to feel pain. Her heart was breaking a little more each day Naruto was missing, which now numbered fourteen. This wasn't like when he left to train for years, he was missing.

Her solitary thoughts were then interrupted by the sound of movement. She wiped her eyes, making sure there were no tears, as she stood up, to see who it was. But there was no sign of anyone.

"Hello?" She called out.

Then out of the shadows, dressed in a torn and dirty orange jacket, was a pale and exhausted Naruto. "GET AWAY FROM ME YOU BASTARDS!" He yelled, his voice was hoarse and dry as he swung at the air. He looked wildly around. "SHUT UP, SHUT THE HELL UP! STOP TALKING TO ME!" He screamed at the trees.

"NARUTO-KUN?" Hinata shouted as she jumped up from the ground and ran over to the Uzumaki. He did not appear to have heard her, he was still shouting at imaginary enemies or something else. She reached out slowly and placed her hand on his shoulder.

Naruto spun around, as if ready to attack Hinata, who grew stiff when she saw the utter rage and anger in his eyes. It must have been the light because they looked red.


When Naruto saw her face, his expressions softened and his hands fell to his side. His delusional rage must have been the only thing that had kept him going, because his legs suddenly gave way and he fell forward

The Hyuuga heiress caught Naruto, though she struggled because his entire body was limp, but she lowered him to the ground as she held onto him. He looked horrible. His skin was extremely pale and there were heavy black lines under his eyes as if he had been denied sleep for days. His hair was matted thick with dirt and sweat. And he smelled like bleach or ammonia. Overall, he looked like a combination of Orochimaru and Gaara who had his ass kicked and dumped in sewage. But what terrified Hinata the most was the blood. There was large amounts of blood on his arms, his hands, and his clothing.

Was it his own blood or…?

"Oh Kami-sama, Naruto-kun what happened to you?" She asked, touching his forehead and immediately withdrawing her hand. He was burning up.

"Hi… Hinata… I… don't feel… so good." Naruto said weakly before passing out.

Hinata had dragged Naruto back to the gates of Konoha, where he was immediately rushed to a hospital. Tsunade, Shizune, Kakashi, and Sakura were instantly informed of Naruto's return and from them the others close to him were as well. However Tsunade had forbidden anyone from seeing him until it was determined that his condition was stable. Everyone except for Hinata, who was at the moment being questioned.

"Anything you can tell me about him that might help?" Tsuande asked.

They were in Naruto's room. He had been stripped of his dirty torn clothing, given a sponge bath to clean the muck and filth from his body, and given clean clothing. He did not wake up through the whole thing, and was still sleeping soundly. An IV drip had been attached to him, and a monitor had been set up to watch his steady yet low heart rate.

"He... was delirious. He kept shouting and screaming at things that weren't there. Things like 'get away from me' or 'shut up' and he also seemed to be fighting with some… invisible enemy. But… but he was coherent enough to recognize me, and when he saw my face he just seemed to snap out of it. He said 'Hinata, I don't feel so good' and passed out."

Tsunade didn't like the sound of that as she glanced back at Naruto, a worried look on her face. "What the hell happened to him? He vanishes without a trace for nearly two weeks, and then he comes back looking like he dug his way out of the ground after an oni beat him down into it."

When she had arrived at the hospital, before they had cleaned him up, she had gasped at the sorry shape Naruto was in. She had seen cadavers that had been in better shape than he was. The Slug Sannin had immediately ordered a set of blood tests, X-Rays, anything that would help her learn what had happened to Naruto. At the moment the tests were still being run, but she would know soon enough.

"Do… do you think that… the same p-person who had been kidnapping all those people did this to Naruto-kun? But he was able to escape?" Hinata asked.

Tsunade turned her attention back to the Hyuuga heiress. "Hinata, I am not sure. Only Naruto knows the truth and he is in no condition to answer questions. So I want you to be the one to watch over him from now on. I know you don't have actual medic nin training compared to Sakura and Ino, but I think you'll have a gentler touch regarding him than they will, and your eyes will be able to pick up anything if something changes. Plus, Naruto might be more reassured to see you first thing when he regains consciousness."

Hinata blushed. "Y-you... you r-really th-think so Hokage-sama?"

"Do I have to explain myself again?"

Hinata shook her head. "No Hokage-sama, I will do it."

"Good. Let me know when he regains consciousnesses." Tsunade said with a small smile as she walked out of the room. Although she did not know who did this to Naruto, she knew one thing, when she did found out they would die screaming for mercy.

Hinata stood there alone for a moment, and then she walked over to a chair in the corner and sat down. She kept her eyes focused on Naruto. 'I will look after you Naruto-kun, and I will never let anything bad happen to you.' She thought to herself, as she ran her hand gently across his forehead. 'I promise.'

In his dreams Naruto was surrounded by utter darkness and his body was immobilized. His whole body was stiff, but it felt like he was floating in zero gravity. And while there was no one else in this black void, he could hear voices around him. These voices were dark, cold, and filled with bitter cruel feelings.

'They hate you.'

'They will never trust you.'

'They call you Monster.'

'Demon child.'

'Hate them back.'

'Make them suffer.'


Suddenly Naruto's eyes snapped open, only to immediately close again.

'Ugh... my head hurts. This place is too bright.' Naruto thought as he regained consciousness. 'Where am I? What's the smell? Hmm... smells like lavender.'

He slowly opened his eyes, and saw he was in a hospital room. 'Oh crap! Am I still in that torture chamber?' He asked himself, looking around his surroundings. 'No, this place is differ-' He stopped when he saw a vase with lavender flowers beside his bed with a note attached.

Get well soon Naruto-kun. I miss your smile. Hinata.

Underneath the flowers, there were lots of other get well items, cards and small presents, all signed to him. But what Naruto really focused on was Hinata's gift.

'Hinata left me flowers? I must be back in Konoha. But how did I get away from that Okaru bastatd?' Trying his damnedest, he found he could not remember anything past his last meeting with the monstrous mad scientist. 'Why can't I remember?'

He then thought that this might all be just another drug induced dream, a dream that as pleasant and peaceful as it was…

He pinched himself hard on the leg, and closed his eyes for a minute. When he reopened them and saw that he was still in the comfortable hospital room and not the cold small cell, he let out a sigh of relief.

The sound of the door opening caught his attention, and he turned to see Hinata walk in. "Na-Naruto-kun?" She said, nearly jumping upon realizing he was awake.

"Hinata?" He asked, sounding happier than he had been in a while. "How did I get here?"

"You don't remember?" She asked.

He shook his head. "No, I don't remember a thing. My mind's a blank at the moment."

"Oh. Well, I d-don't know where you came from, but I found you in the forest outside Konoha. You were... acting like a crazy person and yelling at things that weren't there, so I brought you here and have been watching over you."

"Thanks Hinata. You're a good friend." He said, and remembering her note, smiled for her.

The pale-eyed girl blushed deeply and smiled warmly. "Th-th-thank you Na-Naruto-kun. H-how are you feeling now?"

"Headache, empty stomach, and upset I can't remember anything, and stiff in my arms and legs, but other than that I'm fine. How long have I been asleep?" He asked

"Two days, but you were missing for fourteen."

Naruto's jaw dropped. "Fourteen days! I've been gone for fourteen days?" He fell back against his pillow, trying to make sense of it all. He had been held prisoner for two weeks. He ran his hand through his hair, his head was still pounding horribly.

"Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked, worried. "Do you need me to get the doctor?"

The blonde shook his head. "No, I'm just trying to make some sense of all of this. The past two weeks were kind of a blur, and I don't even remember part of it." He then smiled at the Hyuuga. "But it's nice that you are here Hinata. It feels good to have someone I can talk to."

Hinata blushed heavily and muttered something inaudible into her chest for a moment before speaking to Naruto again. "That's good. But I need to draw some blood to see if anything was put in you."

Naruto panicked upon seeing the needle, remembering all the various drugs he had been pumped and shot up with. "Please Hinata, there is no need to do that."

Hinata gently put her hand on his. "I'm sorry Naruto-kun, but if I don't then someone else will have to. I promise I'll have it painless for you. I can't do much, but let me care for you."

'She talks like caring for me is something she enjoys.' Naruto told himself, confused. 'She's a nice person so I guess she likes helping people.' He then gulped. "Okay Hinata, if you can make it not hurt then sure, I trust you."

'He trusts me!' Hinata happily said, pleased for this small recognition from her admired one.

Hinata prepared for this by putting on some latex gloves then taking a sterilized needle and a glass bottle out of the nearby medical supplies cabinet kept there for unexpected immediate needs. "Naruto-kun, just look the other way and think about something comforting. That will take your mind off of this."

"Can't you just use some kind of numbing jutsu to stop me from feeling pain?" The whiskered blonde asked.

"I would if I could, but I don't know any. I could hit a few points to do the same thing, but it would affect circulation and risk compromising the results." Hinata confessed, sounding empathetic for him. "It'll be ok Naruto-kun, I would never ever hurt you or take pleasure in you being unhappy."

'I wish Sakura-chan had the same attitude.' Naruto thought without realizing it. He felt the needle go in and it freaked him out to know that. He could barely move except for clenching his eyes and teeth, trying his hardest to think of anything else.

"There, all done Naruto-kun." Hinata told him, whispering into his ear in an effort to soothe him.

It worked. Naruto opened his eyes and saw she was now injecting his withdrawn blood from the needle into the glass vial for future diagnosis. 'That... wasn't so bad. Most of the time doctors tell me as a ninja I shouldn't be worried over a simple needle. But she understood that I just don't like needles. Weird or not, she's one of the most helpful people I know.'

Without realizing it, Naruto spoke. "Thanks Hinata. You're a good person. And you're really pretty too." Without realizing what he had said until after it had slipped out of his mouth.

Caught completely by surprise from the compliment, Hinata gasped and accidentally dropped the glass bottle to the floor, shattering and spilling all of Naruto's blood. "Uh oh." She bent down to gather up the pieces.

"I'm sorry Hinata. I didn't mean to make you drop it." The blonde apologized.

Hinata blushed but avoided eye contact. "I-it's o-okay Naruto-kun. Tha-thank you, and th-this was my fault, not ours. The ba-Ouch!"

"What's wrong?" Naruto asked, worried and trying to sit up.

Hinata was gripping her fingers. "I'm okay. I j-just cut my finger on one of these pieces." She showed the tip of her right index finger had a cut right through the latex and was bleeding a bit.

"Does it hurt?" Naruto asked.

"It just stings a bit. I'll be fine." Hinata reassured him. "The only problem is someone will have to take some more blood later."

Naruto groaned. "Great, more needles."

Neither of them knew it or had any way to know it, but this marked the beginning of a turning point for them both.