Three Sides To A Story

Promise Made In The Shadows

{*XOXOX*}

Shikamaru's POV

Have you ever had a secret you can't tell anyone?
I'm still hanging on to the edge of my sanity. I don't think anyone else in the whole village believes me. Except perhaps him.

But he always believed me.

He even believed the lie I told him when the truth was staring him right in the face. I really wished he of all people would just stop believing me. It hurts me to manipulate the trust his blue orb eyes spew in all directions. I wish my dad wouldn't make me. I wish the entire Village would just go back to being in a state of fragile peace, even if the peace was perhaps dangerously unstable. At least then we hadn't had to lie to each other.

I miss him now. When my blood is no longer warm around me, I understand that the rain is moving quicker than my rescue party. I understand that I will die here. Admittedly, my dad had not betted on my straying from the plan this way.

I was meant to track down Neji Hyuuga. How the violent feud between our two clans had elevated. He hadn't been where they told me to look, though. And I had wound up retreating blindly, following Naruto's advice when I should have looked inside myself for a course of action. I was much smarter than Naruto, after all, as my dad would often remind me.

But something about that simple outlook of his just made sense to me. More sense than this war. More sense than my dying in my own blood did.

I can see the faint light of the rest of my clan's torches blossoming in the far distance. It's too late though, I think in depletion. They'll never find me. I've gone too far from what the Nara Clan could ever comprehend, I think. Why on earth would one of their own have run so stupidly into the line of fire?

Except to save himself, I muse over internally. Except because a certain blue eyed, fox boy had told him hours earlier that "If you ever need out of something, get into the heart of it. And finish it."

That's what I thought I'd do with you too, Naruto.

Naruto POV

I've never run this fast before. I can feel my heart exploding against my chest with every stride.

The chase has not exhausted me, despite my lack of oxygen and the screaming throb in my thighs. The chase to Shikamaru has invigorated me. When I'd heard they'd lost him on the field, all other parts of my living had faded into second priority.

And there had just been the sound of my clumsy take off and Shikaku's irritated voice thrown up behind me brought together.

I run in quick steps now, skipping landings I don't need to make and breaths I can survive without breathing.

Cos I know the real reason I'm alive is not in my chest or in my lungs or anywhere else inside my body.

It's out there, dying on the battlefield.

I'm not gonna die this way.

Neji's POV

"Neji," they're calling from everywhere. From all directions.

"Neji Hyuuga, have you gotten him yet?"

"Where is the Kyuubi?"

"What are you doing over there?"

"Enough," I yell instantly, drown by the sheer volume of their demands. "I am doing the best I can here."

The truth resonates, I can tell, but it has fallen on deaf ears.

Hinata's father is to hell with me. I can see it. His eyes sketch me over with revulsion that screams his disappointment.

I can only be so much, and I remind myself of that even though the thought of failure sinks me, as he projects his steady voice into the quiet. "Naruto is no longer with you anymore, is he Neji? You let him wander back to the Naras."

"A week ago already," I confess, dismissing the shocked gasps of my clan with extra effort. "I can't help who he chooses between us. I can't change myself."

"You will change and become whatever the Kyuubi will trust and let into his life," Hinata's dad booms, his raised pitch startling my already nervous stance. "You will be anything, Hyuuga, that I or your clan mates need you to be in order to progress in war. Bring Naruto back here and do whatever it takes to get it done."

"I'm trying," I reply in honesty, re-envisioning our last kiss on the hillside. The way he'd drawn away from me, muttering apologies. The heated rush of wishing myself anywhere but next to him. "I just don't think it's possible."

Nothing I say makes a difference. Hinata's dad flicks his hand towards the door and four of our best depart on order.

I know they're going to find and finish Shikamaru now. I'd heard about what happened to him down in the centre of battle, even though he'd managed to kill most of the Hyuugas there for that cost of his own life.

Why'd he gone in there, I wonder.

And if he was there, where was Naruto?

"Neji," Hinata's dad addresses me suddenly. "That's the squad I dispatched to go and keep the Naras from gaining on you. So you better not fail this time."

"Fail what?" I ask in surprise, blinking from my daydreaming. "What am I doing?"

"You're going to kill Shikamaru."

"I thought the squad was…"

"Go. Now."

I stand fixated by my aversion. Kill Shikamaru? The teammate I'd played chess with in school? The friend I'd borrowed lunch money from? The same Shikamaru who was loved by everyone, just because he was easy to love? Just because we'd all been young and sweet and oblivious to the growing hatred of the adults lurking around us?

"You want me to kill my friend?" I ask on a soft breath, unable to process it in time to believe the order.

He stares at me without faltering. "No. I want you to kill your enemy."

Shikamaru's POV

I feel their footsteps in the ground beneath me. The impact of footfalls striking the earth hurts every wound across my body.

I feel strangled by the realization that it's not my clan, because if it were they'd be quieter. I feel desolate when I acknowledge that the Hyuugas are coming for me.

But when I open my eyes, it's with a snap of disbelief. His voice prompts me to do it.

"Shikamaru!"

But there's only sky above me. And blood beneath me. And I can feel the stinging heat of losing consciousness bubble towards the surface of my mind. "Naruto?" The words are weak. I fight the fatigue and stay focused on his fading voice. "Naruto?" I don't have air to say his name again. My voice has gone so quiet, no one would hear it through all the rain anyway.

I think I'm hallucinating when suddenly, someone's in front of me. It's just one body and I can barely make them out through the haze of painful focus. When the person doesn't strike out at me, I figure it must be him.

"Naruto…"

The person drops to a crouch beside me. When they're this close, I suddenly discern their character properly.

The blank eyes of Nei Hyuuga cross paths with mine. I swallow my dread. I'm not going to be able to fight him in this condition. I'm never gonna see Naruto again, am I?

"I'm sorry," Neji admits, and I see that he means it by the way he shifts his eyes. The glint of a kunai catching moonlight is evident in his left hand. "This really is the way of a ninja, huh?"

I want to plead with him. For my life. It's the most pathetic thought that had ever crossed my mind, but for a moment, I want to beg Neji to spare my life and be my childhood friend again. I want to retreat back into my make believe world where we were all friends and no one minded what the adults thought of us.

Neji flicks the kunai into a better position for striking. I pierce my eyes tight in anticipation. It takes him long enough to ready himself that tears have dotted past my eyelids by the time I next open them.

Neji is tense, unmoving, and his eyes aren't on me. His worried expression darts between the tree leaves.

I hear Naruto's voice again, and it's really him this time. "Shikamaru!"

"Naruto," I manage as he materializes steps away.

Neji keeps his eyes on Naruto. He can see the rage of the demon fox borne in his gaze.

"Don't you even think about forgetting what you told me, Neji," Naruto tells him sternly, every inch of his body aching to attack something. He hasn't even looked towards me yet. "That's something you can never take back once you do it. He's Shikamaru."

Neji looks wounded, like his head hurts. He tries to counter Naruto, but the natural mildness of his tone doesn't help it prevail. "I'm trying to do what I'm supposed to."

"Which is doing what?"

"I'm…staying loyal to my side, Naruto." Neji found words hard when he faced that unforgiving glare.

"We were all on the same side once, you remember that don't you?" Naruto questioned him. "You remember what loyalty is, don't you? Leave duty out of this." Naruto spoke with the vague remnants of his love for all the kids of his generation still deep in his mind. "How did we get here?"

I watch them both argue like a spectator. Even though it's true, it doesn't clarify because I'm so close to losing conscious. In fact, his voice must be on the other side of the world by now, because I can't really hear it any—

Shikamaru's POV

Six Months Ago

I understood all the hard parts of battle well, I think. My dad seemed to have faith in me anyway.

When I got to Naruto's door, it was the same fluttering feeling of butterflies in my stomach that occurred when the hard parts of battle were sprung on me and I had to prepare myself. It was the same kind of nervous sensation.

"Hey Naruto," I offer as he opens the door. His tired eyes and overhanging white pajamas suggest I've woken him, but I'm desperate enough for a conversation starter that I ride the wave. "Did I wake you?"

His innocent smile practically reaches up and touches his blurry gaze. "No," he replies in obvious half truth. "I've been waiting for you."

He lets me inside. I like his house because it's always so relaxed looking. I feel like I can truly be lazy in here.

Naruto glances back at me suddenly, at the same time coming to an abrupt halt. I crash into him unavoidably.

"Wow, why're you stopping?" I always freak out a little when he does something I feel suggests he's on to me. Why-just why was my dad even putting me in this situation? "Something the matter? What's the matter?"

"Shikamaru, you feel the change that's happening in the Village right?"

"What change?"

"You know, between everybody," Naruto says, sliding into a seat at his kitchen table suddenly. He folds his arms on the table as though in thought and speaks quite sadly. "Nobody wants to be together anymore. I'm worried for us."

"You mean, for the village?"

"And for you and me."

I pause to process that statement. He keeps himself in the thought wave. "You said you loved me, remember? So don't ever change your story, alright?"

I laugh. It's all I can do. I have no idea what to respond with effectively. I try to think like my dad and play it evasive. "Huh, Naruto," I say playfully, " I'll try." The right words come to me at last. "But there's more than one side to a story."

{*XOXOX*}

Hey guys! I wonder if I should continue this? Just a random idea that sprung to mind based on my love for all things Naruto and Shikamaru and Neji and my inability to choose between them!

Let me know.~

MadeOfSunshine.

P.S. Of course my other fanfic is still going! ^^