of Love: Ai no Koto
“Naruto! It’s eight
in the morning.” the voice cut through the dull fuzz of slumber. It was enough to register in the sleeping teenager’s
brain, but not enough to move him. Naruto mumbled something into the makura under his head, as he tried to smother
himself in the warmth of his blankets. He was far too comfortable to move, and seriously in no mood to deal with the demons
of wakefulness. The white-shuttered windows let in little direct sunlight, but it lit the room enough.
Instinctively, Naruto knew
that if he didn’t say something in reply, his well-meaning guardian would come in and wake him forcefully, so Naruto
opened his mouth with every intention to relieve any misguided worries. “Mmmf. . .” came out, and he rolled over.
Thankfully, no inquisitive footsteps came, and Naruto relaxed a little. Five minutes. . .he thought to himself.
The heavy cloud of
dreams enveloped his mind. It was a strong lull that could hardly be ignored. An innocent Naruto deserved one morning of peaceful
rest considering the cruel joke that was his life. So he surrendered completely into oblivion. His futon was a cloud in the
breeze, and it rocked gently in the warm sky. In that doze of complete bliss he saw images of smiling faces, kind eyes, and
hand on his shoulder. He was at ease, and he wanted to stay amid such pleasant company for as long as possible. So he delayed
all thought of a possible world outside quiet paradise.
But it wasn’t
to last. Quickly, almost instantaneous, the ephemeral visions of happiness faded. The light dreams were swallowed by a deep
black-blue ocean that rolled uneasily. From cloud to murky water, the transition was complete and utterly perfect. The waves
stirred around him, washed over his head, stung his eyes and filled his mouth with the acrid, salty foam of the Sea. There
was nothing beneath his feet. No sand between his toes and no soft wisps of kelp existed. Nothing. The weight of the water
around him was enough to wake a panic too ancient to think around, and he lashed out against the waves as though his life
depended on it. Naruto felt himself sink, felt the pressure close around his face, and saw with clouded eyes.
His eyes opened, and
he gasped quietly as fear paralyzed his vocal cords. He struggled for a lucid thought. There was water. . .but what
he’d seen between the world of dreams and this one was something more important than that. . .the eye of sorrow,
pain, and. . .
Meanwhile, two very angry eyes
stared down at him beneath a mass of silver hair. Or rather, one angry eye, and a creepy shadow where the other should
be. Naruto squeaked, and remembered the real world. “Uh,” he mumbled, and hesitantly laughed. His voice was a
little shaken up. “Morning.”
Kakashi’s normally bored,
lazy expression had undergone a transformation Naruto never wanted to see again. He was furious beyond anything his young
charge had seen so far, and not, by the looks of it, reasonable. Most likely he was not in a good mood, and Naruto had pushed
one button too many. “Naruto,” the normally expressive, easily readable face was swathed mysteriously in shadows,
leaving only the one eye visible. It was as if someone had pulled a mask over the tall man’s mouth and nose for that
express reason, but he got the idea that a mask wouldn’t be any more effective. His guardian’s thoughts were unreadable.
“Why are you trying to kill me?” he demanded. That certainly wasn’t what Naruto had expected, and
in response he blinked a few times before managing to process.
Finally, he realized his covers
were strewn a little more than usual, and his legs were entangled in the mess of fabric. The makura was nowhere to
be found, and a quick glance around the room told him it had been flung in the direction of the shrine. If he’d been
aiming for the ornate decorations, he could consider it a very nice shot, but for some reason he doubted Kakashi had seen
it that way. The guy had pictures of family and friends, and regularly offered incense, water, and a small bowl of
rice. Not to mention whatever candy they had yet to open. He took the honorary shrine very seriously. “I’m sorry—”
he apologized. He feared his guardian’s response. “It was an accident—”
Amused laughter met Naruto’s
startled ears, and he gaped stupidly at Kakashi. “I know. Just don’t hit the next person who wakes you from a
nightmare, all right?” he smiled, and the creepy shadows faded from his face. The lean, well-humored expression spoke
of a degree of fatigue Naruto hadn‘t seen in a while from the company man, and a little more worry than he’d seen
from anyone. “Here. Eat this later,” he handed him an obento—boxed lunch—a large bottle of
green tea, and several onigiri for snacks. Naruto blinked, and nodded vaguely. “Breakfast’s on the table.
Get dressed, and I’ll talk to you about your punishment for oversleeping when you get home from work.” he grinned,
a little too perky to Naruto.
Naruto sighed in defeat, and
dumped the food into his backpack along with school supplies. The half-finished homework and the textbooks he’d need
for today, a pencil and plenty of paper followed the food into the sack. He’d meant to get around to the math homework,
but after last night’s ordeal, he’d been too tired and angry to do anything more than lazily take a bath and finish
English. He’d barely looked at the chapter the history’s test would be over. . .test. . .Naruto blinked.
. .school. He finished folding his bed in record time, and managed to shove
everything into the closet. The doors were closed, shutters drawn, window open and—
. . .oh no. . .
The morning bell rung cheerfully
down the street to say, ‘school’s started,’ and to warn students that they were officially tardy. And
Naruto wasn’t dressed yet. He scrambled out of his pajamas. He threw his sleep-clothes into the laundry room as quickly
as he dared. Hastily, he danced into the black pants and tried to find a white shirt that wasn’t wrinkly. Why me.
. .whymewhymewhyme. . .?! The belt would have to stay behind; he had no time to waste. He grabbed a handful of toast,
and opened his mouth to shout goodbye when he nearly ran into Kakashi. “I’m late—” he protested, blue
eyes wide with what might be fear.
Kakashi shook his head. “You’re
eating breakfast.” he stated quietly, and smiled with a gesture to the neatly prepared eggs. They were rolled into short,
fat little cylinders made especially for the day’s lunches, and placed alongside yesterday’s fish, a small salad,
and a bowl of yogurt.
For the second time that morning,
Kakashi narrowed his eyes. The playful, if strict, ‘parent expression’ was replaced with what Naruto called the
‘I’m-so-in-trouble mask of doom.’ Naruto sat down at the low-rise table, folded his legs beneath his body
with good posture, and parted his legs slightly for balance. He was ready to eat. He put the toast back where he found it,
and waited for his guardian to sit opposite him. They both began the meal with a quiet, “Itadakimasu,”
thank you for this meal, and Kakashi proceeded to fill him in on the daily news. Naruto barely listened, as usual.
But he paid attention when his name was mentioned.
“—and some other
boy made a spectacle of your school float. I expect that’s why you stayed after to help with the trash pick-up?”
he smiled, amusement marked clearly in the one dark eye. Naruto nodded. “Next time, try and behave yourself. Or at least
don’t get caught.
“In a month or so, there’s
going to be a calligraphy contest going on between the high schools, I heard, so—”
That Kakashi heard the
school news before Naruto did had never ceased to amaze the boy. But the silver haired businessman had ears everywhere,
and moved around more swiftly and silently than anyone. Naruto thought it was creepy and secretly thought that his adopted
father of two years was some kind of government spy. He’d stolen enough competitor companies’ programs to be capable
of it. Then all the programs he ‘borrowed’ rarely resembled the original idea. He copied, reworked, and used everything
that came into his hands thanks to a genius the world seldom saw. That shoulda landed him a better job. . .
“—you can go now,”
Kakashi finished, and pressed his hands together in an expression of gratitude. “Gochisousamadeshita,”
thank you again, they murmured together, and Kakashi started to pile dishes. Naruto grinned and ran his to the sink.
Scraped the uneaten vegetables into the garbage bag in the sink, and left the dishes to be washed later in the plastic tub
“See you,” Naruto
yelled as he grabbed his jacket and school bag. Softly, he padded across the wooden floors. He slipped into his school shoes,
and tore out the door without a glance at his bike. It’d be faster to run, he knew, when there were teachers around.
There was no time to react on a bike in oncoming traffic, and he needed to be able to move with conscious decision
if he was going to be on time.
The scenery was a mixture
of small houses like the one he shared with Kakashi. A drug store a few streets down. Aa few scattered restaurants and a place
to get hair cut were there, too. Naruto paid no attention as he ran to school. His feet loudly pounded against the sidewalk,
and he barely heard the cars honk noisily at him as he darted across their path. He saw ‘don’t walk’ sign
flashing. I just don’t care. He figured, okay I scared the crap ouda a few drivers, and one motorcyclist
who came flyin’ outta nowhere—but to Naruto’s panicked brain, he had an excuse. If I’m
late to first hour—
about that. Naruto warned himself, and quickly ran up the bicycle ramp. There were no students out, and the rows of bikes
glinted dully in the morning sun as Naruto fastened the gold buttons on his coat. He was glad for once it was the typical
dull, black uniform that showed no stains and was so resilient to wrinkles. The student’s entrance was deserted, and
Naruto was free to shrug off his shoes and shuffle onto the supposedly-clean, wooden platforms beneath the shoe-cubbies. He
pulled out the indoor tennis shoes as quickly as he could and shoved the black ones into the smelly hole. Quietly, he shut the cubby-door. As he toed on the red and white patterned shoes, he fumed. Naruto snuck
by the administrator’s office as unobtrusively as possible, and avoided the old principal with practiced ease.
He grinned as he turned
the corner from the staircase. Lucky! No one could catch
him in this school except for one teacher, and it looked like they weren’t there. Good! he smirked, and nearly
took off at a run when he ran straight into Iruka. Great. . .just when I think he’s gone. Naruto winced.
flustered teacher yelled a little too loudly for Naruto’s pleasure. “You missed homeroom and the first twenty
minutes of class—” he started, clearly more annoyed than anything else. The teacher’s eyes were stern as
he fumed. “You’re late with your school fees—” another thing he forgot to mention to Kakashi. Damn.
“—you missed the morning test, and what’s all this I heard about you terrorizing the girls?!”
“Uh, Sensei?” Naruto
interjected and attempted to look innocent. “I overslept and Kakashi wouldn’t let me leave ‘till I ate—”
Eyes closed patiently, the
teacher shook his head and smiled a little. “If you actually cared about what your guardian said, then you would have
woken up the first time he called on you,” Iruka chided. He knew Naruto a little too well for the young student’s
In trouble and fully aware
of time, Naruto shrunk before his homeroom teacher. The man was technically responsible
for any punishment he was to receive. Not that normal kids were given any. “Can we talk about it later? I’ve
got a test today, and if I’m any later I won’t have time—” not entirely the way it sounded, but he
did have a test. Just not first hour. “I’ll still be here when school ends,” he assured the
parent-like teacher, and before he could protest, Naruto ran down the hall. He soon passed the other classrooms on his way
to 2C, an extra room where their math class was held. As soon as he got close, Naruto flailed his arms wildly to avoid collision
with another person—standing where I can’t see—
For the second time that day,
Naruto nearly ran into a hapless stranger who meandered along the same path. “Sorry,” he murmured, and smiled
apologetically at the somewhat taller youth. The boy turned around to regard him. There was a slight smile of forgiveness
on his face until black eyes met blue. Frozen in shock, the two remained at the half-open door for a few seconds before either
realized exactly what had happened.
“Uzumaki! Uchiha! Get
in and shut the door; you’re disturbing the class.” Asuma grumbled as he turned from the blackboard to regard
the two students. The board was half covered in Asuma’s particular scrawl, Naruto noted. There were different sizes
and lengths of cramped numbers or kanji, and a mysteriously egg-shaped circle drawn to the left. Under it were the words,
‘perfect circle’ and an arrow that pointed up. “You finally decided to show up at eleven pi over six,”
the tall, bearded teacher continued, and smiled slightly. A few students in class chuckled, among them Yamanaka. The blonde
from yesterday. Naruto felt himself frown in irritation. He very nearly threw something at the taller girl, but two thoughts
kept him from doing so. She was a girl, and fights weren’t permitted in school. Hmm. . .that and Asuma’s still
here. . .
“What are you
talking about?” Naruto grumbled as he and Sasuke moved forwards. Regrettably, there wasn’t that much room
to squeeze through and their shoulders jarred in an uncomfortable fashion. Naruto felt his face grow hot, and he snapped at
the boy in an irritated fashion, “Oi, Sasuke what’re you doing?! Get outta my way.”
The girls in the class raised a vehement outcry against his ‘uncalled for’ behavior.
Why is it always my
“Just sit down,”
Asuma demanded. His large hands covered most of his eyes in an utterly exasperated show of character. Naruto wasn’t
surprised. The tall, easy-going teacher could only handle so much disruption, and if Naruto said anything, it was usually
too much. “Now.” he tried again, and his lips twitched in amusement. They formed a smile Naruto could only think
of as a gently-mocking smirk. “Who’d like to explain what the hell we’re talking about to our late
peers?” his grin never seemed more wolfish. Without another glance at Sasuke, Naruto slid into the seat closet to Shikamaru.
Not surprisingly, the other boy didn’t even open his eyes to acknowledge him. He can sleep through anything,
Naruto thought disgustedly.
The sound of a chair being
moved awoke Naruot’s senses a little more as a girl near the front stood up. “I’ll do it, sensei,”
the sharp, confident tone had been masked with feminine shyness, but Naruto recognized the voice almost immediately. Pink-haired
and lovely Haruno Sakura had offered to teach him Math. Yes! Asuma nodded
gravely, as though he’d suspected her, or her rival Yamanaka, to explain. Since the beginning of middle school they’d
been locked in fierce competition. Neither wanted to lose in any way. And do I know who they both want? Naruto
“Listen carefully, Sasuke-kun.”
Yep. Met ‘im yesterday. “We’ve got to move on in a few minutes.” she giggled shyly as she turned
to face Naruto. His heart quickened, and eyes widened hopefully. She smiled that
sweet, innocent little grin that’d won his admiration years ago. She’s looking at me. . .Naruto thought
gleefully. He grinned back, only to notice her eyes were locked on the desk next to him.
Uchiha Sasuke was his
new neighbor. His elbows were neatly on the desktop as he rested his head on intertwined fingers. The young Uchiha looked
impassively at the chalkboard. His dark hair fell into his eyes just a tiny bit, but it was enough to obscure his expression.
And enough to heighten his mysterious, undeniably intriguing demeanor. Why do you have to always act so cool? Naruto’s
eyes narrowed slightly, and his ecstasy from Sakura’s acknowledgement lowered dramatically. The glee faded into deep
resentment for the boy he’d only been marginally aware of. Untill yesterday.
about circles, you know? Normally when talking about the distances from one point to another, the arc of the circle, we refer
to it in degrees.” she let her voice carry. It was strong and unbroken over the scratch of pencils as the others skimmed
their notes to add things Asuma had left unclear. Sakura was certainly smart, but more than that, she had the unique ability
to make things easily understood. “So degrees are just one method of measurement. When talking about circles, though,
especially a unit circle, the preferred unit is called a radian, and they’re measured in terms of pi.” Asuma looked
as if he would have mentioned something, but he kept his opinion to himself as Sakura checked her notes. “Oh, a unit
circle has a radius of one. The points on the unit circle you need to know correspond with zero degrees, which is zero or
two pi, and the next point is at thirty degrees. It’s pi over six. Forty-five degrees is pi over four. Sixty degrees
is pi over three, and ninety is one-half pi.” she continued to list off the other points around the circle, and backtracked
to explain that the unit circle was set on a grid with the origin at zero-zero and so on. Naruto felt his head begin to fall
as she repeated the same thing over and over. She recites fractions like they actually matter.
Bored, Naruto glanced
at the desk next to him as he wondered if he should write down any of what Sakura said. Uchiha had taken notes in his small
notebook and his neat, calligraphic handwriting was in a stark contrast to Asuma’s messy scrawl. By the looks of it,
Uchiha hadn’t really absorbed any of what the pink-haired girl taught. The same with Sakura. They had all recited
numbers and words like they meant something, but it would take a bit more thought for almost everyone to completely
grasp the alien concept. Naruto rolled his eyes. Why bother?
As Sakura sat back in
her seat, Asuma straightened, and looked briefly back at the board. Slowly, he moved forward, and took the eraser in his hand.
“Everyone close your notebooks, and turn to page fifty three in your practice books.” he commanded, and erased
the notes from the board as everyone sorted through their stacks, and flipped through pages in search for the assignment.
Naruto froze a second. His heart almost stopped as he ran through the mental list of materials he’d grabbed minutes
before breakfast. He looked slowly through his bag. No book. Crap.
“So, with your knowledge
of the unit circle so far, what can you tell me about seven pi over three? What quadrant is it in?” Asuma began, now
directly behind the podium as he looked over the class. His eyes focused almost immediately on Naruto it seemed, and his eyes
widened marginally in surprise. Normally, Naruto was asleep after ten minutes. “Uzumaki?” he asked in a
somewhat confused tone. “Where’s your book?”
Naruto tried a smile to lighten
the blow, and chuckled nervously. His eyes twitched as he attempted to maintain the expression, but closed in efforts to block
out the annoyed teacher. “It’s kinda funny actually, but I left it at home. . .grabbed my cook book instead.”
he laughed again, and opened his eyes experimentally. Asuma glowered at him. Naruto’s eyes snapped shut.
“So, not only are you
late by twenty minutes, but you’re unprepared.” he shook his head, and nodded to the blond’s right a little.
“Share with Sasuke and don’t bother him.” he demanded, and smiled a little. Naruto’s eyes were open
in a flash, and his mouth dropped open.
As he glared at his neighbor
through slits, Naruto squished their desks together as loudly as possible, and plopped down in the seat. “Can’t
I borrow Shikamaru’s notebook?” he asked, frustrated and more than a little upset. Their teacher returned the
question with another grimace, and Naruto dropped the subject. Instead, he glowered in Uchiha’s direction. The pale
boy ignored him as easily as anything. He doesn’t even look at me, to Naruto’s further irritation. He grumbled
loudly to himself. He knew he was the perfect image of a sulking toddler. Why Sasuke? Why?
“So, Naruto. What’s
the answer?” Asuma smiled wickedly—or so Naruto thought—and amusement showed all too readily in those dark
Naruto continued to pout, and
as he bored holes in the wooden desk with his eyes, he sighed. “Seven pi over three.” he repeated, and Asuma nodded.
“Well. . .” he began, and everyone in the class snickered. “First quadrant.”
Annoyed all over again, Naruto
switched his glare from the defenseless wood to the all-too capable Asuma. “Because.”
“Because I said so!”
Naruto yelled, and as if on cue, the class erupted into laughter. With a furious glance at Uchiha, Naruto waited to see some
form of amusement on his neighbor’s face, but there was nothing. There was only cold detachment that told Naruto, ‘I
care less about you than this thing beneath my hands.’ “Seven
divided by three is two, with a remander of one. One pi over three is the same as what Sakura said earlier; pi over three,
so it’s sixty degrees and in the first quadrant.” he snapped, his words slurred together. He spoke them
as quickly as possible in efforts to get it over with. “Damn, you guys are slow,” he muttered, and put his head
into his hands. He continued to scowl.
For a second, no one said anything,
and Asuma registered what Naruto had said. “Sakura?” he asked simply, and the pink haired girl frowned as she
bit her lip in concentration. She drew a small circle around the number in the book, and tried to remember what she’d
“I don’t think
you can simplify it,” she started slowly, and blushed into her text book. “Because pi is there, and. . .the seven
pi is like two pi, and it goes around seven times, and a third through that quadrant.” she shifted her gaze from the
notebook to Asuma, and smiled a little hesitantly. “So it’s in the third quadrant, right?” she asked quietly.
Expression unchanged, Asuma
looked from Sakura to Naruto, and finally smiled a little bit. “Who agrees with Sakura?” she was known to be intelligent.
Known as a brain who was good at anything she tried, and one of the six second years in the third years’ class. Not
only that, but she had the best grade of all of them, and never failed to get top scores on every test. Two thirds of their
number raised their hands tentatively, and the rest looked a little uncomfortable.
“Who agrees with Naruto?”
he continued, and Naruto fought the impulse to kick his indoor shoes at the still sleeping Shikamaru. Hinata lifted her wrist
from the desk a fraction, and bit her lip as she contemplated whether or not to agree. Naruto rolled his eyes. “So the
rest of you don’t know,” he concluded, and smiled a little. “You suck at fractions, then, don’t you?”
he asked with a smile as half the class tried to figure out what he meant.
“You can simplify expressions
with pi in them; it’s not a trig function like sine or cosine like we’ve been working with; it’s a number.
And numbers can be looked at in several different fashions,” he went on to explain the problem, and Naruto snuck a glance
at Sakura. She blushed furiously, and bowed her head . Her mouth pursed into a tight frown. . . .as if to hold back tears.
. .He sighed and glanced at his neighbor. Amazingly, Uchiha’s eyes flickered to meet Naruto’s, surprise written
clearly on his fine, delicate features.
“Hmf. Not so dumb,
am I?” Naruto gloated quietly, and shut up as he remembered Sakura’s upset face. Stupid Asuma. . .he thought,
and squirmed in his seat. Now Sakura’s gonna hate me more than ever, and all ‘cause of stupid, stupid
A smirk crossed Uchiha’s
expression, and his black eyes sparkled momentarily. “So you actually understand this?” he challenged, and tapped
his pencil absently on the problem Asuma had read aloud.
Naruto rolled his eyes and
returned the sneer. His pointy teeth contrasted sharply against tanned skin. “More than you do,” he laughed, and
winked. “Ask if you need help.” he teased, and dropped his head into his arms as if to catch up on sleep lost.
The dream from earlier was far from forgotten, however. In the back of his mind, he argued that it was to see how Uchiha reacted
to defeat by a lower-ranked student, but other reasons existed. Those were reasons he’d much rather refute, reasons
he didn’t want to think about.
For the remainder of the class
period, Asuma left him alone, and Sasuke wrote down the answers to the problems, and tried to write explanations on the side
of each. ‘How to’ notes. He missed several important connections though, and the little notes would serve as little
help against that night’s homework if he didn’t get help. Naruto snickered.
“Uchiha, it’s just
fractions. Look at it this way,” he began, five minutes before class ended, and just after Asuma assigned their work.
“The first half of the pie,” he put one hand over the bottom one hundred and eighty degrees. The two of them stared
at the top half circle, “is really one pi.” he wrote that done. “And thirty degrees is really one sixth
of that pie.” he took Sasuke’s highlighter from the pencil pouch, and divided the pi into six thick slices. “One
sixth pi.” he repeated, and moved to the next point. “So, by that way of thinking, this is one fourth of the pie,
okay?” he began, and slowly went over the entire circle as he let the other boy follow his every move. At the end of
the explanation, he looked a little confused still, but ‘wheels turned’ in his brain and that was close enough
for day one. “You really are stupid,” Naruto laughed, and the grin stretched across his face.
Uchiha scowled, but said nothing.
“Come on, we’ve
been learning fractions since grade school,” Naruto went on, and allowed his voice to carry a little as he took the
only revenge he could for yesterday’s prank. Oh no, don’t think I’ve forgotten how you humiliated me
. . . “Or are you just slow for a genius? Too far behind to ever catch up, and not nearly good enough to—”
Naruto never finished the sentence.
Sasuke shoved him, desk and chair hard enough to upset the smaller blond’s balance. His pencil, papers and school bag
flew into Shikamaru as Naruto struggled to stand. “Don’t.” Sasuke murmured. Eyes half closed as he resituated
his things. He returned the notebook, pencil and papers to his bag. That done, he calmly returned his earlier position, with
his head rested calmly on two entwined hands as he looked at the board in unbroken silence.
No one said anything for a
moment, and Asuma cleared his throat. “Uzumaki, if you do anything like that again—” he began, and Naruto’s
eyes flew open.
I didn’t do anything!” he protested, and his voice squeaked a little with emotion. “He pushed me—”
returned coldly. His eyes narrowed and his face tightened with annoyance.
Naruto shut up, and moved his
desk back into position as the dismissal bell rang. Asuma nodded in Neji’s direction, and his voice was heard clearly
over the quiet murmurs of their fellow students. A sharp “Stand,” followed by the nearly unison sound of bodies
as they pushed themselves out of their chairs, and stood shakily. “Thank you very much,” he continued, and the
entire class bowed together as they repeated the same words. Naruto’s mouth was dry, and his timing was a little slow,
but he went through the motions just as everyone else did by force of habit and stubbornness alone. Finally, they could leave.
Shikamaru stared at Naruto
in bewilderment as he glanced from Sasuke to his only friend in that class. Naruto ignored him and headed for the door without
looking away. As he neared the door, he stopped, looked back at Sasuke, and grinned. Sasuke’s eyes narrowed and Naruto
stuck out his tongue in defiance. As if to say, ‘I won’t lose.’ Still smirking, he turned around to exit
the room. And plowed straight into the sliding door.
“Owww. . .” he
moaned, and ignored the quiet laughter from everyone behind him as he tried to decide between consoling his nose and opening
Quiet, rich laughter met his
ears, and Naruto didn’t have to turn around to know the voice as Sasuke’s. “Keep your eyes where they belong,
Naruto grabbed the door, pulled,
and left at a quick walk that bordered on a run.
I am not an
idiot. . .
He slept, and he knew neither
place nor time. He realized it existed but not where or when it was.
In his dream, he hurt.
In and out of his head the music played incessantly; it was a haunting tune that sang of unspeakable pain. Music was the language
for things words could not express, and this was in harmony with his heart as nothing else could be. His heart. . .hurt to
think of it, and his soul cringed, moved away from the fate his mind could not accept. I will die. . .if I don’t
turn back, he knew, and somehow, he could not. There was too much for him there, too much to ignore. He shook his head,
and tried to keep the tears back as the melody swelled in his heart and broke on the chords that would leave him breathless.
His heartbeat took
the rhythm and held it fast as it echoed in his ears. The world spun and was still. It was a blur of color without tone, and
it filled with shadow and it was cast in full light. The contradiction was there and it was not. It existed in his mind and
it played out in reality like some kind of dream. It was unmistakably real, false, and something not even he could name.
Where had the past
gone, with its simplicity that shone throughout the endless night? How long had it been, since the caress of the moon was
less to him than lights on the street? Everything hurt and everything was broken. His life had become more than seconds
strewn together in a chain of events with little meaning; it had come to mean everything and nothing at all. A sweet and ironic
ache that filled his mind with thoughts of obsidian eyes. The feel of a friend’s hand that clasped his shoulder in comradeship
bled into the sensation of a knife made of cool metal. The knife that pressed into his chest. His eyes saw the truth, saw
no blade until the hilt began.
I would embrace you—who
I loved too much. What is the meaning of words, except what meaning we give them? How can something hurt so much that
it brings everything to a standstill? Fate was a cruel and callous creature to give him these things. To tell him of friendship
and take it away. Once, he’d known the love of a family, a friend, a lover. . .once, he would have died for them.
He caught the knife
with one hand and felt its weight against his palm. He found the balance. For the pain and for the tears that blocked his
vision, he could barely see. A cold hand. . .darkened eyes. . .nothing left. If he closed his eyes, he might ignore
the hurt that made his soul ache. He might pretend the whisper of wind against his cheek was the caress of a soft hand—meant
for him and him alone. If he closed his eyes, the blood might fade.
He ran from thoughts
as if there was no future, and to him it was just as well. The hard ground beneath his feet stank of spilled blood and of
life spent too soon and dreams that lay broken beneath life’s beginning. Life’s end. Nothing was as it had seemed
moments before, and all blurred into a single-minded hate that consumed all it touched. Everything, except the loneliness—the
pain that gnawed at him. That would be his destruction.
So fate had found
him after all and given him his due. He felt his lips curl in a cold smirk. It all disappeared. Like him, all expression,
all physical proof of pride—and what he felt for it—honor—and what he truly lived by—and faith—or
what he truly believed. Gone. There had been many to try and teach him that lesson—love kills all things—but none
had succeeded. . .the tears of the moon filled his eyes for a moment. Then there was a light that blinded the wits of all.
Caught the shreds of hope and tore it until nothing remained. Destiny comes in many shades, but in the end, it is all
Crimson blood beneath
his fingers. The light of his eyes dead, gone where he could never find it again. He twisted the knife lodged deep
in the chest, and willed his own pain to diminish.
The color of death. .
A hand on his shoulder shook
him out of the deep sleep, and brought him to his senses faster than the voice that rang loudly in his ears. Naruto felt his
muscles tighten and barely stopped his hand before it reached the intruder’s neck. Somehow, he got his brain to control
his body’s instincts and identified the stooped boy before him as Shikamaru. He opened his eyes slowly, and looked inquisitively
at his friend.
“Oi, Naruto! Wake up
a little,” an irritated Shikamaru demanded. “I’ve got something to say to you,” he grumbled, and scowled.
“?” Naruto wondered,
and groggily tried to remember where he was, and why he had slept standing up. The smooth counter beneath his folded arms
was not anywhere at home, and the faint sound of music in the background convinced him of the same. There were isles of goods
before him, a wall of warm foods behind him; the only place Naruto could be was the 7-11. Work. And he’d fallen
asleep behind the counter. “Crap.” he cringed, and looked guiltily towards the backroom as though his manager
stood there with her intolerable scowl.
Shikamaru smirked now, assured
that his friend was wide-awake. “She’s not here right now; I checked. You really shouldn’t work this much
if all you’re going to do is sleep, ya know,” he continued, and rolled his eyes. “Don’t know why you
bother at all,” he shoved his hands in his pockets as he starred intently at the blond, “when it’s that
much of a bother to stay awake for you.”
Naruto glared at Shikamaru
through eyes no larger than slits. “What’s that got to do with anything? I’m busy, and everything’s
too much trouble for you.” he glanced around the store to see how many customers were present, but it was only Shikamaru
at the time. Irritated, and unsure if he should be happy for a break or not, he scratched the back of his head.
Shikamaru sighed. “What
time are you off work today?” he prodded, and glanced meaningfully at the clock. It was already nine in the evening.
So why he bothers to ask about shift change, I have no idea. It’s not as if I’m new here anymore.
“Eleven thirty. And I
have homework.” he shook his head to try and wake up a little more, and then stretched as Shikamaru grumbled something
along the lines of, ‘a waste of time.’ Naruto growled, “Why?”?
Once he had Naruto’s
attention, Shikamaru smirked, and lazily put his hands behind his head. “What time’s Kakashi expect you back?”
he asked causally, and Naruto barely refrained from violence. “He’s not home ‘till late on Mondays, and
usually sleeps pretty soon, right?”
Curiosity heightened, Naruto
raised an eyebrow. “So? Your point is?” he prompted, and willed the black haired young man to give him a straight
Shikamaru stretched for a more
lengthy time, and leaned back a tad with his hands on the small of his back—as if to avoid an oncoming blow from above.
“I was thinking about seeing a movie.” he noted slowly, and pulled himself up with ease. A questionable expression.
Naruto blinked. He was
more than a little surprised. “A movie.” he repeated. His eyebrows twitched. For a moment, too stunned for words,
he stared at his friend. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” he demanded. That’s
so not a good idea. . .
Then his mind caught up with
the rest of him, and he blinked again. Reason disregarded, he leapt over the counter and hit Shikamaru squarely over
the head. The other boy lost his balance, as he hadn’t expected Naruto to react in such a fashion, and fell. “Last
time you tried to sneak us into a ‘adult’ film we got grounded for a month, and forbidden to ever
set foot on that property again.” he snarled, and Shikamaru rubbed his neck as he pulled himself to his feet.
“Did I say adult?”
he grumbled, and frowned, eyes nearly closed in resigned disappointment. “And that was your idea.”
he continued, but before Naruto could say another word, his mouth had formed the next part of his sentence. “You never
have time on the weekends, right? So I figured we could drop by the theaters and catch something interesting—”
“You think anything’s
“—enough, but not
too crowded.” Shikamaru ignored the interruption, and smiled grimly at his friend.
Once again, good timing kept
Naruto from a response, and the door opened to admit a young couple. They were engaged in a conversation that had something
to do with ice cream. Naruto’s eyes widened with panic, and he leapt back over the counter, and bowed as deeply
as he could manage in the space of two seconds. “Welcome! How can I help you?” he grinned, and hoped to the gods
that they said nothing. They looked from Naruto to Shikamaru, and murmured something inconsequential. Probably scared.
. .Naruto thought maliciously.
“See you at twelve,”
Shikamaru muttered, and winked. “You can do your homework in the morning.” Unable to say anything for fear of
his manager’s wrath, Naruto only smiled as his eyes twitched. Shikamaru waved, and walked out the door without another
word to leave Naruto alone with the couple and another two hours of boredom.
Shikamaru. . .
I really don’t get
you. . .
- - - - - -
As he trudged along the side
of the rode, Naruto contemplated life. The day had gone from bad to worse as things progressed. After first hour, he was fairly
certain he failed the test in history, and he’d been completely lost in science notes from too much sleep in
previous classes. Unfortunately, Math was the only class he could nap through without a worry for his grades, so unlike
Shikamaru he couldn’t pass the final exams without help. Aside from a natural understanding for Math and related subjects,
Naruto found himself lacking in the academic field, and he barely comprehended anything that wasn’t spelled out for
him. Kakashi blamed it on lack of effort, but Naruto suspected he was born stupid.
So after the fight with Uchiha,
if it could be called a fight, he had been lectured by Iruka before and after school was out. The first lecture was
nearly an hour lecture during lunch, and that left him with ten minutes to eat. After school, when his teacher had calmed
down a little, he’d been officially sentenced to toilet cleaning for the next two weeks on top of trash-take-out, regardless
of his group’s job. If he finished early, he was to help whatever group that needed it, which meant at least one
group stalled their chores for an ungodly amount of time just to get him to do it. If Iruka had known about that part, maybe
he would have revised the sentence, but he didn’t. So Naruto hesitated to humiliate himself more to lessen the amount
So he had to run home, get
changed for work, and run back without time to fix up even a light meal for Kakashi or himself. All said and done, Naruto
really wasn’t in the mood to sneak into movies, despite Shikamaru’s so-called assurances they wouldn’t
need to. His stomach growled incessantly, and Naruto remembered why he liked to bring something for dinner besides onigiri.
Even the largest rice ball wasn’t enough to keep a kid up filled for more than an hour or two.
The theater was basically deserted
at midnight on a weekday, so Shikamaru was easy to spot even from across the street. He waved, but Shikamaru didn’t
notice, and Naruto made his way to the crosswalk and waited impatiently for the lights to change. Within a few minutes he
was close enough to see more clearly, and he finally noticed Shikamaru was talking. He couldn’t place the other two
from his vantage point. The only reason he’d recognized his friend was the tell-tale hair, and the fact that he, unlike
those two, stood in the light.
“Oi, Shikamaru, what
the hell’s up with the movie idea, huh? If I miss any more classes, Iruka-sensei will—” Naruto called by
way of greeting, but stopped short. No longer obscured by distance or lack of light, the two became visible. Both were taller
than Naruto himself, and both were unmistakably familiar.
Blue-black hair that covered
deep eyes from close observation, and a tiny smirk that spoke volumes. The slender boy met Naruto’s gaze and held it.
His pale skin seemed to glow faintly in the florescent light, and it hallowed every aspect of his features in a surreal, almost
mythical glow. The same light took every aspect of humanity from that sculpted face, and turned it to a distorted mirror of
death that breathed. A mask that spoke.