I woke up to a dull glow of light a little ways away, and after shaking off the initial sense of grogginess, my first thought was to run and hide myself as quickly as possible. Minato-sensei had taught me take precaution in these sort of situations: when you don't know where something is coming from, or where you are, retreat, and find out before jumping in again. Kakashi and Rin always scolded me for being too hot-headed, but even I know the importance of heeding this particular lesson. It's war, after all, and just as any other shinobi—I value my life.
When the light went out, however, I quickly dismissed the idea of it's source being dangerous. A girl had shrieked once our surroundings went dark; and following her voice was that of a boy's hurriedly trying to reassure her, to no avail. They couldn't be any older than I was. They sounded like kids—civilian kids, at that, judging from the way they were stomping all over the place now like panicked elephants.
I gave a sigh of relief from behind the boulder I'd chosen, then leaned against it as my legs gave out. The rock was gargantuan and probably about 2/3 of my height standing up, so I was confident that I was well-hidden. But, the brief sense of relief that I felt soon gave way to uneasiness, because it was then that I realized that I don't remember what's happened to me.
What's going on?
For the life of me, I couldn't recall. No matter how hard I concentrated, no matter how much I tried, I just couldn't pull anything out of my memory that could possibly explain why I'm here. And it scares me. It scares me a lot—because I don't know how I got here or who these people are or why I'm all alone or why I can't feel anything or why is it still so dark? I...hate the dark. I'm so much more on-edge in the dark.
You can't see.
And that's something that is seriously scary for an Uchiha. We depend on our eyesight, you know? It doesn't matter that my sharingan hasn't awakened yet, 'cos I've been taught to covet sight since birth. And everyday, I wait, I anticipate, for the day in which I can finally see the world through the same three-tomoed eyes as Fugaku...
But that obviously ain't today, so I won't dwell on it any longer. My sharingan will come when they come. Right now, there are more important issues... like why I can't remember what's happened.
"Takeshi, please! Let's get out of here...stop messing with those bones!"
Bones? What bones?
"Oh, calm down, Miki! He...or she is dead anyway!"
Well, wherever we were, whoever was in here with us—they were dead. They died...and disintegrated to bone. The thought of it all chilled me to my own. I mean sure, I've killed my own fair share of people before (it's killed or be killed out on the battlefield, after all—what else can I do?) but that doesn't mean I take any delight in staring at dead bodies... unlike that sicko sannin, Orochimaru.
There is seriously something wrong with that guy. I think he's a pervert. He looks at me kind of funny sometimes, and I wanna smack him, or at least kick him in the shin, but I know if I did Minato-sensei would flip his lid. No one ever believes me...
The kids lit another match. A small circumference of light illuminated their faces once again, and at last I was able to take a good glimpse of what kind of people they were. Takashi—the boy—was blond and freckled, and wearing a plain white T-shirt and blue shorts. Miki—the girl—was cute and had brown eyes and brown hair. She wore a yellow sundress and mary janes... further evidence that she was definitely not a kunoichi.
"Let's go." she urged tearfully.
She seemed so scared, but Takeshi looked merely apathetic.
"C'mon, Miki...don't you wanna stick around and explore more? Find out who this person was? Maybe..." he lowered his voice here, and his tone turned mischievous. "...maybe, he's a dead ninja!"
I snorted. Civilian as well.
Miki shook her head stubbornly.
"No!" she cried, with great gusto. "I don't care! Takeshi, I'm scared! Let's just go back to Iwagakure, please! My mom—my mom will worry..."
Wait a minute...
My blood froze. Oh, damn it... as soon as the appropriate moment arose, I had been planning to come out, introduce myself, and propose that maybe we could all make our way out of this cave together. Now, that was impossible. These two might have been just civilians, but they were enemy civilians. In the worst case scenario: they could find out I was here, run away and report me, and thus forth I would have to run after them and kill them. No. No way. I don't like to kill unless necessary. Hell, I don't even like to kill when it is.
I don't like to kill, period.
So I sat there, quietly, and waited for the two of them to leave on their own. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait very long until their voices (and their footsteps) faded out.
That Takashi kid was so obvious. For all of his teasing, he really cared about that brown-haired girl—I could tell. That soft look in his eyes whenever she started tugging on his arm... Rin gets the same way, whenever she's bandaging up Kakashi. I'm sure my eyes look the same towards her as well.
When they left, they took their matches with them, and again the cave was completely dark. I was still kind of scared, to be honest, but I had to get out of here as soon as possible, and I didn't feel particularly fatigued. Whatever had happened to me, I hadn't suffered physically at all. I mean, I felt great! Light... like I just woke up from a good night's sleep. Like I'm floating on clouds.
The only logical explanation, I thought, was that I must have fallen under some kind of genjutsu, lost consciousness, and then gotten separated from the rest of my team. Damn it. This was...really dangerous. To my knowledge, there aren't any caves near Konohagakure, and since those civilian children were all the way from Iwagakure, I must have been on some kind of mission before getting knocked out. This was bad. I needed to find my way back to my team as soon as possible. Who knows what kind of trouble they were in without me?
Haha. Just kidding. They can handle themselves just fine, I know it. Rin is the best med-nin of her age group and beyond and Minato-sensei—he's gonna become Hokage someday, I know it. 'Cos I mean, c'mon. Who would vouch for his sleazeball competition, Orochimaru? And Kakashi...Kakashi-teme... Well, he's a bastard, but a skilled one, at that. A higher ranking one too, since he just recently got promoted to Jōnin...
OH! Oh, crap... I forgot to buy him his congratulations present, didn't I...? Oh, man... he's gonna get so mad at me. He's not going to say anything and just glare at me before ignoring me altogether and nothing's really gonna happen because of it but damn it... Usually, Kakashi gets mad at me for stupid reasons but this time, it's actually gonna be my fault. The thought of it made my stomach churn. We were kicking and screaming at each other a lot less lately, so to mess it up like this, even with no "real" consequence...
Okay. I know where my priorities lie now. I gotta get back to Konohagakure—pray to god he doesn't remember that I forgot—and go out and buy a good present to surprise him. Now, what would that frigid bastard actually like...?
I pondered this question as I picked my way through the cave. I had been planning to use some sort of minor fire-justu to illuminate my way out, but that wasn't necessary 'cos for some reason... there was nothing in my way at all. I'd grope and nudge with my appendages for anything that could possibly be in my way, but my hands and feet came in contact with nothing but air.
That's a good thing, though, so I'm not about to complain. If only everything were this easy...
Soon—maybe about fifteen minutes or so; I guess I hadn't been all that deep in—I saw bright rays of sunshine streaming in from the end. When I came out, everything was even brighter, and above me, the sky was blue.
The landscape under me, however, was a bit grim. Cracked gray stone as far as the eye can see, with dying sprouts of tough weed here and there to break the aesthetic monotony.
Not knowing what else I could do, I started walking.
Later, on my journey home, l would come across a sign that read: "Kannabi Bridge Ahead—Reconstruction By Tazuna & Co."
Why in the world would Kannabi Bridge need ever to be reconstructed?
What had happened to it in the first place?
[Two weeks later]
"Fuck you, bastard!"
Sasuke ducked as the roll of bandages came flying towards him. The strip of white cloth hit the ground and unraveled, and the small puff of dust that arose clouded the shine of his brand-new sandals.
"Idiot, you're bleeding. Get back here, or you're gonna mess up the client's floorboards."
"Well it's your job to wax it up!" Naruto snapped.
"As it is yours." he gritted.
"FUCK YOU!" Naruto shouted again, stomping away before Sasuke had time to protest.
Kakashi watched the scene before him with Sakura by his side, sighing wearily. It had been a little over two weeks since the two had been discharged from the hospital, and things had been more tense than ever. To Jiraiya's suggestion, he had requested mission upon D-rank mission for them all in an attempt to salvage what little team spirit they had left—but at this point, it seemed impossible. To his and Sakura's and even Sasuke's surprise, it was Naruto being cold to his rival this time around...
Their rooftop spat had affected him more than he thought.
"Naruto! Come back here!" Sakura cried shrilly. "Sasuke!"
The raven-haired boy gave no response to his name. He stood there unnmovingly, the unrolled bandages sitting still at his feet.
"Sasuke, Sasuke please... go after him!" she pleaded.
"Shut up." The Uchiha murmured. "Just shut up..."
He picked up the strip of white at last and turned his back; rolling the bandage back into it's original form as he walked away.
"Just...just...fuck off, Sakura."
Kakashi heard her repress a sob. His lone eye up curved up cheerfully, and he bent down to her level before ruffling her bubblegum-pink head.
"Don't worry about them." Kakashi said soothingly. "You know how they are."
"B-but... things h-haven't been the same ever since—" Sakura hiccuped. "—K-Kakashi-sensei...I feel like...I feel like we're f-falling apart..."
Well, your feeling is right. He wanted to say, but didn't.
In the room ahead of them, Sasuke sat down at the client's kitchen table, and used the bandages that he had previously offered to Naruto to wrap his own wounds.
Naruto slammed the backdoor angrily, continuing to stomp down the street and ignoring all the mean looks various villagers shot his way.
Screw them, screw the client, screw the mission, screw his team, and most of all—screw Sasuke. That bastard had never even apologized to him, nor even even told him what was wrong...what was going on.
'No matter how much I try, that stupid..."
Sasuke never opened up to him. Sure, there was that one time at Wave when he...when he had protected him, but that was so long ago, and that was too good to be true—
He rounded the corner of a building and stopped in a alleyway, then let his frustrations out for the world to hear:
"STUPID...HE'S SO STUPID!"
Naruto tugged at his wild locks of blonde hair in frustration. He hated him so much sometimes. He didn't deserve to be talked to like he was some kind of pest. Sasuke was just so...
'Stupid! All this time, I've been trying to be your friend...and yet, you still aren't mine!"
A light chuckle interrupted his tantrum then, and at last, Naruto came to attention to his surroundings once more.
Sitting on a fence at the end of the narrow alley he had landed in, a boy his age had his coal-black eyes crinkled in amusement. He was dressed in a dark blue uniform with orange trimmings and metal cuffs; his pants held up by a crisp white belt. Finishing his cool retro-looking outfit were ordinary shinobi sandals and orange-tinted goggles that covered his eyes, protected his ears, and also held his spikey black hair from his face.
"Bitchy teammate, or something?" the boy asked playfully, swinging his legs.
Naruto deflated. Whoever this guy was, he wasn't out there to belittle him like the other kids. It had actually been an honest question.
It took him off-guard for a moment and he didn't answer. The boy continued:
"I know how you feel..." the boy said wistfully. "...I've got a teammate like that myself who drives me crazy. Seriously. But, he's still my teammate, you know? So right now, I'm trying to find a good gift for him since he just got promoted to Jōnin, and I'm proud."
He hopped off the fence,
"...not that I'd ever admit it to his face, of course. By the way, the name's Obito. What's your name? I like your jumpsuit." he held his hand out, then used the other one to form a cheerful thumbs-up. "Anyone who appreciates orange is a friend to me!" he grinned.
Naruto stood there, stunned, staring at first his face and then his outstretched hand.
He opened his mouth, then closed it again.
Well...this was certainly unexpected, though not totally unwelcome.
Once he shook off the initial shock of having someone else initiate the first greeting, the demon container felt a slow smile tugging at the corner of his lips before it blossomed into a full-fledged grin. Naruto grabbed onto Obito's hand—which was cold as a corpse; though warm in feeling—and shook it happily.
"Naruto." he chirped cheerily. "Naruto Uzumaki: Future Hokage, dattebayo!"
"Hokage, huh...? That's a great dream. So, Mr. Hokage, you wanna help me find a nice gift for my bitchy teammate? For some reason, I can't find a decent store around here..."
'It's like...it's like, the layout of the whole village's changed while I was gone.' the young Uchiha thought, millions of unspoken questions on his lips as he looked at the one person all day who had actually spoken back to him...