A/N: I'll be keeping these notes out of the story as much as possible to avoid clogging up the chapters. This is just a screw-around side story, but I hope you like it. This idea has been cooking in my head for a while. Enjoy.

This disclaimer applies to the entirety of this story. I do not own Naruto, the characters, the scenarios... I don't own the franchise. I'm just playing with them for my own fun, with no intention of making profit.

Tenketsu: Day 1

The sun peeked over the Hokage mountain like a child over a fence. Or, like Konohamaru, over those crappy fence disguises he always used to use. Naruto wrinkled her nose.

'In memory of Uchiha Sasuke'

Her fingers traced the script. She hated this memorial stone more than anything.

No, that wasn't strictly true. Naurto definitely hated things more than some stupid stone-

"G-Good morning, Naruto-san."

She turned around, and smiled brightly, hand still resting on the fresh engravings. "Hinata!" Naruto grinned. "What's up?"

The girl shuffled on her feet, cheeks dusted a light pink, but her gaze remained steady and level with Naruto's. Hinata's nervousness was rapidly becoming less prominent, and as she'd told Naruto, she had even mustered the strength to speak out against the Branch family policies.

It was an unwelcome sensation, the feeling of ageing. They weren't even that old – but it made her feel uneasy. Everything was slipping through her fingers like thin, old sand.

"Hokage-sama wants to see you. I-I came because I thought I might have found you here."

Naruto's smile faltered. 'Because I'm here everyday?' "I see. I'll be there soon." She turned back to the stone, smile now twisted into a wistful curl. "Thanks, Hinata."

She heard Hinata step forward. "Ah... Naruto-san, I..."

Naruto turned her head curiously to the girl, and Hinata faltered in her steps.

"I'm..." Hinata took a deep breath. "Naruto-san, I was the... I've been seeing... something up with your ch-chakra system recently. So I informed Hokage-sama... I-I think this is what this is about."

The Uzumaki felt her heart sink slightly. "What looks, uh- wrong with it?"

Hinata looked down for a moment, closing her eyes. "I'm..." she began, taking a deep breath. "It's... strange. Really, really, strange..."

Personally, Naruto found it stranger that even beneath those closed eyes, Hinata could still see her. Through her own eyelids, and through Naruto's muscle, flesh and bones – to something else beneath.

Hinata wound her hands up behind her back nervously, before opening her eyes. Her expression was smiling, but the uncertainty was obvious. "I'm sure it'll be f-fine, Naruto-san."

'Comforting.' Naruto nodded, smiling widely. "Thanks, Hinata. I'll be there soon, I've just got some-"

"Where the fuck is he!? Everyone's- and he-!"

Naruto coughed, the noise strained and choked. Her smile resumed quickly. "-some stuff to do. I'll see Obaa-chan in a minute."

Hinata nodded politely, her smile genuine but rushed and her polite, hands-folded motions forced. Sometimes Naruto wanted to tell her that she could "loosen up, you know?", but it was a half-hearted thought. Those kind of mannerisms were essential to being in a stuck-up clan like the Hyuugas. The girl bade Naruto goodbye, and Naruto was left staring at engraved black marble.

The Uchiha compound was gone, with Pain's destruction of Konoha. Naruto had no idea how Sasuke would have felt about the affair, but Tsunade had taken the land and turned it into a huge and wondrous meadow. Little saplings they had planted had blossomed into little trees over the past year; Sakura had insisted on trees that produced berries, and Naruto couldn't fault her. The meadow was filled with tiny birds, and an array of colour. No one trimmed the grass, and it had grown admirably unruly and free.

The Uzumaki loved that, and she had insisted on a small cobble footpath, and a bench.

Naruto had not, however, known about the memorial they had been building, and as soon as she'd found out, she'd ran into the fields and demanded the builders stop. They did, without question, but the large black marble engraved stone remained, along with the half built walls around it. It was huge and cut into a strange, gem like shape.

It gave the memorial a rugged look; like it was a thousand years old, and the walls had crumbled. But the architecture was fresh, and dust still lingered in the crooks of the stone from the engraving.

Everyday she came here, but it was not because she was remembering Sasuke; like she needed to. It was all such a joke, and Naruto wished that more people would come into the meadows. They were so beautiful, wild and free, fenced off only for the sake of preventing ivy encroaching onto the pavement. Some people came; Sakura often did, and even Kakashi occasionally came in and sat on the lone bench to read. He and Naruto had come together, once.

But no one but them visited. Not a soul, because it was disrespectful, in memory of a man they'd not known. She hated it, Naruto hated every single thing about this shitty memorial, this stone that had been engraved and placed without her permission at all. Naruto knew why they'd done it without her, because they knew that she wasn't as stupid as them.

She hated this stone, and she hated these half-built walls that made it seem as though the Uchihas were falling apart once again. The Uchiha compound had fallen into disuse, and now it appeared just the same. Naruto hated the walls, and Naruto hated this stupid memorial that everyone but her seemed to love. They were all ridiculous, and no matter what, Naruto would not stop hating it.

She hated this memorial, because Sasuke was not dead.

"Tsunade-obaa-chan!" Naruto busted the door open with her right foot, hands still in her pockets. No one was stood guard by Tsunade, and it irked her. Not Shizune, nor an ANBU guard. That fact took residence in the pit of her stomach, in the form of a dead weight, pulling at her stomach lining and heart and dragging her down to the floor feelings-first.

"Brat. Sit down." Tsunade's expression was odd, and made Naruto awkwardly shift from one foot to the other. It made her nervous, and that was rare.

Naruto didn't like the idea of 'sitting down', either.

"I think I'll just stand up, thanks!" Naruto grinned, taking her hands out of her pockets to hook them behind her head. Her smile was making her cheeks hurt, but she didn't stop.

The Hokage gave her a once over with an expression that was exasperated and conflicted. Tsunade looked stranger when she was conflicted, smooth skin wound into tiny knots and lips purse. Everything about her became colder, tighter. It was as though the buxom woman were facing down a formidable enemy.

Very suddenly, and very strongly, Naruto suddenly wanted to run.

"If you say so, kid."

Ten minutes later, Naruto left the room, steady walking, smiling brightly, unfaltering and happy. Because that was all she wanted to be, all that she'd ever be, and if she even let herself care - just for one second -


'361 tenketsu. 361 days.'

-at long last, Naruto broke into a run.