Disclaimer: I make no claims of ownership of Naruto….it belongs to Masashi Kishimoto

"Talking"

'Thoughts'

[Kyuubi Taalking]

"Attack Names"

Technique Names

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Chapter 1: The Fallen Angel

Naruto was fuming as he entered a clearing in the forest of the Wave country.

His team had set upon this country for their first C-Rank mission. They were tasked with guarding the drunken bride builder Tazuna. It was supposed to be a cut and dry mission to protect the client from unsavoury bandits but it seemed that the client was not entirely truthful about the mission details. A few hours into the mission Team 7 encountered a team of Chuunin level missing-nin known as the Demon Brothers. Although he would never say it out loud, Naruto froze upon the grizzly scene of his sensei being ripped to shreds. And while he did eventually come to, it made him upset with himself. After dealing with the duo it was revealed that his sensei, Kakashi, wasn't really injured and instead used the Kawarimi no Jutsu along with a minor Genjutsu to make it seem like he was taken down. This was done with the purpose of testing his team's mettle as well as determining the target of the missing-nin, which turned out to be the bridge builder. Not that it was much of a surprise as Team 7 were fresh Genin out of the academy and were not even on the radar to be a target for someone and no self-respecting Chuunin would ever take their chance with the infamous Sharingan no Kakashi. According to Tazuna, a shipping mogul by the name of Gato has a stranglehold on the Wave country in terms of imports/exports as well as the economy. He also is a lot shadier that he projects himself as he uses mercenaries and hired thugs to oppress the people of the Wave country and is slowly bleeding it dry. Tazuna's bridge represents the hope of the Wave country to connect them to the mainland and open up a new trade route which is why Gato wants Tazuna dead. After much debate and a bit of guilt tripping it was decided that Team 7 would carry on the mission despite the high risks it now presented. The reality of their choice was brought to the fore when, as they neared Tazuna's house, they encountered The Demon of the Bloody Mist Momoichi Zabuza, one of the notorious Seven Swordsman of the Mist. Unfortunately for the Genin he was an A-Rank missing-nin and someone they had no hope against. After a prolonged struggle Kakashi was able to overcome him, with some help from Naruto and Sasuke, and was about to deal the killing blow when a Kiri Hunter-nin swooped in and did the job. After Kakashi collapsed from exhaustion the team made their way to Tazuna's house were they met his lovely daughter, Tsunami. Unfortunately, they received bad news from Kakashi when he revealed that Zabuza is probably still alive. With that in mind, the next day he set his team the task of learning the tree-walking exercise by climbing a tree by channelling the appropriate amount of charka to their feet to allow them to stick to the surface and climb all the way to the top.

It was after one of these training sessions that Inari, the son of Tsunami ranted at the leaf-nin for trying so hard and stated that they would die fighting Gato and that they had no idea what it was like to live a hard life. This set Naruto of fiercely. His usual reaction would have been to shout and rant about it but what Inari said brought forth memories and emotions that he tried so hard to bury. So with an intense glare toward the boy, that almost made said boy piss himself, Naruto tersely excused himself from the table and made his way to the forest that we find him in now, currently tearing up parts of the forest with a small army of clones in an attempt to quell his rage.

'How dare that little brat! He has a mother and a grandfather who love him and he dares preach about suffering! AARGH!' These were the furious thoughts of Naruto as he put even more effort into his little demolition derby of the surrounding trees.

This trend carried on for another hour or so till Naruto was physically and emotionally drained. As he suck down with his back against a tree that was still standing, his thoughts went to his life so far. He tried to avoid this subject as much as possible. It hurt him all the time to think about it. His life in Konoha left many scars on him, fortunately, or unfortunately depending on who you ask, none of them were physical. His abnormal physiology coupled with his tenant gave him an inhuman healing factor. So while he looked perfectly normal to a spectator, Naruto was a boy who was deeply troubled. While he wasn't physically abused in his village, except the occasional drunks and on his birthday when people got a little bolder, he was verbally and emotionally abused. For a young boy, full of innocence and life, to grow up in an environment that denied your very existence and even went as far as to encourage suicide, it was enough to break most people. The glares and whispers of hatred and derision that seemed to have bled over into the younger generation was sometimes unbearable to him. He was kicked out of the orphanage at a young age and lived on the streets for a large part of his childhood. Being forced to sleep in dark alley and digging through trash just to find something to eat took its toll on him but Naruto, for the most part stayed as strong as he could. It didn't mean that he was unaffected though. Those experiences stick with people even when they don't acknowledge it. He has been fighting since the day he was born. Fighting for attention, for recognition of his existence and most importantly, for survival.

One would never be able to tell he suffered though, from his outward appearance. From his infectiously boisterous personality to his unfounded confidence, he seems to be a pretty normal if not annoyingly loud teen. But what lurks beneath the surface is a cacophony of negative emotions that he doesn't even realise he has. Through all the abuse that he has suffered, he suppressed his feeling, his wants and his desires to make himself seem harmless in an attempt to gain acceptance from the villagers so much so that he convinced himself that he is happy and that if he becomes Hokage all his problems would be solved. He had been doing it for so long that he honestly started to believe it. Unfortunately for our young hero, life is never that simple and his actions taken in an attempt to appease the villagers have him sitting on a hair-trigger in terms of snapping. For the most part he can ignore what people say about him and keep smiling but sometimes those feelings that he supressed seep through the cracks and force him to face them…like now.

Naruto looked out at the sky, a feeling of dissonance swept over him. He wondered, not for the first time, whether he could ever truly find happiness. From his perspective, he seemed to be a punching bag to whatever sick twisted deity controlled the universe and decided to single him out. He remembers the Hokage always telling him that things would get better and that he needs to be patient and understanding….but why should he? Why does he, a 13 year-old abused orphan have to be the one to be doing that and not the adults? Why should he always have to suffer and everyone else can just make excuses for their disgusting behaviour? He just felt like giving up on some days but he knew that to do so would be a win for the villagers. So he powered on, hoping to one day find some meaning in his life. With those thoughts, Naruto allowed unconsciousness to claim him.

(Scene Change)

It was a beautiful morning as a young girl made her way into the forest. The sun was shining brightly with a cool breeze blowing through the air. The dew on the green grass along with the numerous sounds of the woodland critters truly created a peaceful and serene ambiance. The girl moves swiftly and elegantly through the woods with the basket in her hand, keeping her eye out for anything of use to her. As he went deeper into the forest, she came upon a section that looked like a war zone. Trees were slashed and chunks of the earth were overturned. It looked like a battle took place but upon closer inspection she spotted a blonde clad in bright orange, sleeping peacefully among the debris. The young girl started as she recognised him immediately.

'He is the loud one from the team of Konoha-nin that Zabuza-sama encountered'. Thought the girl now identified to be the accomplice of Zabuza. She paused as she carefully weighed her options.

'It would be so simple to kill him right now in his sleep' were the thoughts running through her mind as she approached Naruto. She crouched down beside him and reached out her slender hand towards his neck in a motion that looked like a choke before diverting at the last second and gently shaking the boy awake.

"Hey if you sleep out here you'll catch a cold you know." Spoke the girl in a soft voice. This was what Naruto heard as he groggily regained consciousness. As his bleary eyes took in his surroundings, he focused on the person whose touch he could feel. From the sweet scent wafting from the person he could tell it was a girl. He focused on her face and a huge blush covered his face as he took in her porcelain skin, long brown hair that framed her beautiful face and her chocolate brown eyes that gazed at him with concern. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest and could only find one appropriate word to describe her.

"Tenshi." Was whispered out by Naruto as he gazed almost drunkenly at the girl. The girl for her part had a light blush from being called an angel coupled with the intense gaze of the young boy. She just smiled beautifully at him instead, increasing his blush. He quickly snapped out of his funk and sheepishly rubbed the back of his head as he spoke to her.

"Did you wake me up Tenshi-chan. By the way, what are you doing here?" He questioned bashfully as he scratched his cheek. The girl felt a little embarrassed once again at the nickname but soldiered through with her response.

"Picking herbs." Was her reply.

"Herbs?" Questioned Naruto quizzically.

"That's right. It's to cure injuries and illnesses." She said and Naruto noticed how soft and gentle her voice sounded. So free of the usual hatred or contempt that he's become accustomed to. It gave him a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. Being the emotionally stunted boy that he is, he had no way of identifying what these sensations were. All he knew was that he liked the fuzzy feelings it gave him and he didn't want it to end. With that in mind he offered to help the pretty girl to pick the herbs that she wanted. As they got to picking, Naruto would occasionally steal glances at her, if she noticed she never made it known. He decided that he wanted to hear more of her lovely voice.

"Tenshi-chan, why are you doing a tedious job like this in the morning?" He asked. Again a little dusting of pink made its way to her cheeks from constantly being called an angel.

"Please don't call me that. My name is Haku." Stated the girl. Naruto's smile just widened at hearing her name but caught himself as it was only polite to introduce himself.

"Nice to meet you Haku-chan, I'm Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage of Konoha!" He exclaimed boisterously, pumping his fist to the air, causing the girl to honestly giggle at his goofiness. Naruto was struck one more by the overwhelming feeling of warmth from the incredible sound of her giggles. It was delicate, like the sound of tinkling bell. He didn't understand why but he desperately wanted to hear more of that sound.

"It's nice to meet you too Naruto-kun." She responded with a dazzling smile turning the poor boy into a blushing and stuttering mess. Haku just giggled a little in her mind. She honestly thought the boy was cute. He seemed so full of life and innocence. His smile was infectious and she found herself being drawn in by him. She knew that Zabuza-sama would not approve but she wanted to know more of this strange boy.

"What are you doing here so early in the morning Naruto-kun?" She questioned. He finally got his wits about him and answered with a big grin on his face that made his eyes squint, making him look like a mischievous fox. She thought it was quite cute.

"Training!" Was the emphatic reply to her question causing her to blink at him.

"Are you a ninja or something?" She enquired even though she knew he was. She felt a little guilty about deceiving him but she didn't want to give herself away as yet. She didn't understand why though as he was technically the enemy but something deep inside her was calling out to this boy. It was almost primal. She needed desperately to know what it was. "That hitai-ate is..."

"Do I look like one? Do I look like one?" He questioned excitedly happy that someone was able to recognise him as such. Haku once again giggled at his energetic personality. "That's right, I'm a ninja." He finished pointing his thumb to his chest.

"Wow, you're amazing." She commented causing him to blush and puff out his chest at the compliment. She could honestly say she found him endearing with all his little quirks. But she need to know something important first. "But why are you training?" She asked.

"I want to become stronger." Was his honest reply.

"But you look strong enough already." Replied Haku.

"NO, I want to become stronger and stronger." Countered Naruto. Haku looked a little pensive.

"For what reason?" She questioned.

"To become the number one shinobi in my village. I'm going to make everyone acknowledge my power." He stated boldly. Haku didn't reply immediately instead took a little time to gather herself.

"Are you doing that for someone else…? Or for yourself?" She inquired. His response would let her know the kind of person he truly is.

Naruto honestly looked a little lost at that point. For him he never thought about that. He just powered on with his belief that if he became strong he would become Hokage and then everyone will acknowledge and respect him. Haku just giggled at the cute confused expression on his face. Although Naruto loved the sound of her giggle he was a little put out that she was laughing at him.

"What's so funny?" He demanded with a pout on his face that made her giggle even more. After she finally gathered herself she put on a gentle smile that made his insides turn to goo.

"Do you have someone important to you?" Asked Haku. The question honestly made him freeze up, something that her sharp senses spotted immediately. Naruto for his part was having flashback of his life that were entirely unwelcomed. He felt his stomach turn at the thought racing through his mind and force himself to ignore it. He just did what he did best and asked a stupid question.

"Important? What are you getting at?" He asked quizzically. There was silence in the clearing after that. Haku for her part noticed his inner turmoil and decided to ignore it for now. Instead she lost herself to her own memories of living on the street and digging through garbage so she wouldn't starve. It was a painful time for her to think about. They were both unaware of the parallels of their lives and the similar conditions that they grew up in. Naruto for his part would never claim to be a genius but he was perceptive enough to pick up the sombre expression on her face and the change in the atmosphere of their conversation.

As Haku continued to reminisce, Naruto looked on at her with worry in his eyes. Even though they didn't know each other long, he felt a connection with the girl that he never felt with anyone before. He wanted desperately to see her beautiful smile again. Just as he was about to say something, she finally looked up at him and straight into his eyes. Her gorgeous chocolate brown eyes bore into him and made him feel as though his soul was being bared to her. When her pretty pink lips moved, her sweet voice spoke the words that would be forever engraved into his soul and change not only his life but the course of the world as well.

"A person is able to become truly strong when they wish to protect someone they cherish."

It was like the loud gong of a bell going off in him. The words, spoken by the angel that deigned to grace a commoner like him with her presence, reverberated through him and resonated with something deep inside him. His soul, his very essence screamed out at him for attention.

He racked his mind thinking of anyone that would fit the mould of the person that she described. While he had people he considered precious, he always had doubts about it. The Hokage, who he affectionately calls jiji, was someone he considered as such. But he was the Hokage, he once said that the entire village was his family. Naruto never heard of him taking a special interest in any other orphans, so what made him special. He got his answer when Mizuki-teme revealed that the Kyuubi-no-Yoko was sealed inside of him. It was like a punch to the gut to hear that. He remembered asking his jiji for years why the villagers treated him the way they do and he always said that they feared what they didn't understand and that he should be patient with them. It never made much sense to him then but after Mizuki revealed his circumstances it all made sense to him. It made him angry that the Hokage had been lying to him all those years. It hurt him to think of it so he buried it deep within himself and got on with his life. But now he couldn't help but question, if he didn't have the Kyuubi sealed within him would the Hokage even care about him. Was it all done to make him loyal to the village? If he lied about that what else could he have lied about? The numerous times he asked about his parents immediately came to mind. The same with Iruka-sensei. He treated Naruto with the same scorn and contempt as the rest of the village in the beginning and even though he came around in the end and became someone precious to Naruto, it's hard to forget first impressions and he could still see the sneering face of Iruka-sensei in his mind. And while he love the Hokage and his teacher and would protect them with his life, he can't help but be unsure and untrusting of their motives. The less said about his team the better. Sakura-chan constantly abused him, physically and verbally. Sasuke wasn't any better and treated Naruto like he was something to be scraped off the bottom of his shoe. Kakashi-sensei seemed detached and unapproachable and seemed more concerned with Sasuke and igniting the flames of rivalry between the two boys to, what seemed like Naruto, push the last Uchiha further. He wasn't really sure what to think of the guy. The only people he can honestly say care about him and his well-being were the father-daughter duo that owned his favourite ramen stand that always fed him when he went hungry, Ichiraku Ramen, Teuchi-jiji and Ayame-neechan. While it was a sad state of affairs he was OK with it for now. This past through his mind in a few seconds as he finally looked up at Haku.

Said girl had to hold back a gasp at the look in his eyes. She would know, she sees those eyes in the mirror every time she looks.

Naruto didn't know why but he trusted this girl in a way that he hasn't anyone else. He felt as though he could bare his soul to her and she would embrace it and help to mend it. He decided to take a chance and told her about his life and the struggles he has been through. It was the first time that he has ever spoken to anyone about the demons that plague him. Haku for her part was shocked at the similarities between them. She now understood why he seemed to call out to her. He was a kindred spirit. She could tell that it took a lot for him to open up to her, which is testament to how wounded he is that he trusted a complete stranger with his emotions instead of anyone in his village. She decided to return the favour and tell him about her life, minus her role as Zabuza-sama's accomplice. He was shocked as well at how comparable their lives were.

From there on they spoke about more about themselves as they shared their hobbies, likes and dreams. Haku was happy to know that Naruto had quite the green thumb when it came to flowers and Naruto was ecstatic to learn that his new friend enjoyed ramen, though not to extent that he did. The conversation flowed on smoothly from there onward and Naruto felt as if a weight was lifted off his chest, a weight that he didn't even know was there. As he too in her beautiful features and the happiness that radiated off her, he felt his heart drum in his chest and he decided then and there that there was no sight more beautiful than this.

As it was getting late they both had to return to their respective places. They made a promise though to meet up again tomorrow and maybe the following days. Naruto left the clearing with a spring in his step, feeling lighter than he ever has.

(Scene Change)

Naruto was jerked away by the sound of a feminine scream and a crash. He immediately took in his surroundings and realised that he was in the guest house in Tazuna's house. It seemed like he slept in. He heard another scream and he recognised the voice as Tsunami. He kicked into action and made his way down the stairs. The scene before him made his blood boil. Tsunami was on her knees, being held by her hair by one of Gato's thugs, an area of her face was red indicating that she had been hit, while the other advanced towards a trembling Inari. He was about to make his way to them when he heard Inari.

"Let go of my mom you jerks!" He shouted whilst brandishing a kitchen knife. Naruto broke out into a little smile at the boy finally finding his resolve to stand up for himself and his mother. While the thugs laughed at him Naruto created two clones and quickly use the Kawarimi no Jutsu to replace Tsunami and Inari with them and proceeded to beat the thugs into unconsciousness while the two looked on in awe. After rounding them up with some ninja wire and asking his clones to take them out in the woods he turned to the residents of the house. He smiled at Inari.

"Good job protecting your mother Inari. I'm sure she's proud of you." He stated causing the boy to blush happily at the praise and his mother to beam happily at him. Naruto inquired as to his team's whereabouts and could help feel a bit of dread when he was told that they made their way to the bridge.

As he took off toward the bridge he couldn't help reminisce about the last few days of his life. Having met up with Haku for the last four days to talk about everything and anything that they could think of, he could honestly say it was the happiest time of his life. He didn't know what it was about the girl but she made him feel at peace. With the world and with himself. When he was with her all his problems seemed so insignificant in the face of her beautiful smile when he made her laugh or her adorable pout when he teased her. The feeling of contentment and belonging was one he was unfamiliar with and he honestly couldn't comprehend the strange new feeling she ignited within him. All he knew was that he wanted to protect her smile. He wanted to make her happy and he would go to any lengths to keep her safe. He would talk to her about these strange feelings when he sees her next time and hopefully she can tell him what to do. She was a smart girl, she would know how to help him.

The sounds of fighting and metal clashing reached his ears as he looked up and noticed the conflict taking place on the bridge. He saw Kakashi-sensei engaging Zabuza trough the mist on the bridge, he also spotted Sakura-chan guarding Tazuna although he did notice her trembling. The final he noticed and the strangest was a large dome-like structure that looked to be made of ice. It looked quite foreboding. By the process of elimination he realised that it was probably Sasuke who was fighting Zabuza's accomplice in there. He figured that Kakashi-sensei could take care of himself and that Sasuke would need a hand. He rushed towards the dome just in time to see Sasuke fall to the ground, his body riddled with what looked like senbon. He was still and unmoving. While Naruto didn't really like the guy he was still a fellow Konoha shinobi. He could feel his anger overcome him.

Haku noticed Naruto rush in just in time to see his teammate fall. She had conflicting feelings at this juncture. While she wanted to fulfil the mission that Zabuza-sama assigned her, she didn't want to hurt Naruto-kun. She wasn't ashamed to say that she had quite the soft spot for the blonde enigma. In the few days they have known each other he had somehow wormed his way into her heart. She knew that she would never be able to harden her heart enough to do what needs to be done.

"Was he a friend of yours? He fought well. He just wasn't strong enough. This is the way of the shinobi world." Said Haku solemnly. She knew he was still alive as she didn't aim for any vital points but she needed to keep up the charade.

While this was going on, Naruto was thinking about the words Haku spoke to him in the forest when they first met.

"A person is able to become truly strong when they wish to protect someone they cherish."

He would never consider Sasuke someone precious to him as long as he lived. But as his teammate and fellow Konoha-nin, he was the closest to fulfilling that description, even if it's just for a moment. He wanted to live by those words spoken by the angel who gave him newfound strength and determination. He pictured it was her lying there instead of Sasuke. When he did, something inside him snapped and a monstrous amount of chakra burst from his body, saturating the atmosphere of the bridge with an air of oppression and malevolence.

Haku was shocked at the power that her friend was radiating. It was palpable in the air. She never imagined he was this strong from their interactions. He was always so gentle and caring towards her. Thinking about it made her heart flutter. Looking at him now, she couldn't help but smile. While she only knew him for a few days, she can say with confidence that she knows him well enough to know what he is thinking right now. He is probably repeating the words she spoke to him and trying to live up to them. That brought a warm smile to her face knowing that her words brought out his inner strength. For a large part of her life, she viewed herself as a tool. A tool for Zabuza-sama to use. But even if it's for a few moments, she will be the tool that will give her new friend the strength to break his shackles.

With that in mind she directed her senbon at him, aiming for non-fatal spots. He didn't even move as the visible shroud of chakra around him deflected the senbon much to her shock. She decided to dart between her mirrors to get a better angle but she found herself momentarily frozen as Naruto followed her speed and intercepted her. That fraction of a second was all that he needed though as he delivered as thunderous haymaker right to her face sending her crashing out of the dome causing the entire structure to collapse.

Naruto felt the adrenaline pumping through his veins. He would admit that the power he was feeling was a bit addictive but then he pictured Haku's face and he promised himself that he would never lose himself to it. As his opponent groggily stood up, cracks could be seen showing of their mask. Naruto charged in once more to deliver a finishing blow. As his fist neared the face of his opponent, her mask shattered, revealing the face of the person he now held closest to his heart. Even covered in blood and wounds, she was the most beautiful person in his eyes. Her sad smile tugged painfully at his heartstrings. At this moment, he was lost and confused. All his power just ebbed away in her presence.

"Haku-chan..? Why?" He questioned with a hitch in his throat. She just looked at him sadly.

"I am Zabuza-sama's tool. I'm sorry Naruto-kun. I seem to have outlived my usefulness. Please finish me off. I can die happily knowing it was by your hands." She said sombrely. Naruto was having trouble comprehending the last few moments of his life. He was starting questioning his interactions with the girl. The fact that Haku was an enemy hurt him, but more than that, hearing her defeatist attitude and calling herself a tool pushed him over the edge.

"How can you say that?! You're my friend Haku and I would never hurt you! You're the one who made me see that I was worth something. You're the one that taught me to value my life no matter what I've been through so how can you think so little of yours! I won't allow you to think that way!" Countered Naruto emphatically bringing a bright smile to her face. His presence alone filled her with incredible warmth and security. He was like a gentle ray of sunlight in her dark world. She had no problem admitting to herself that what she felt for him was far deeper than she anticipated. Her reply was cut off though by the loud sounds of what sounded like chirping birds. She looked towards Zabuza-sama and saw that he was in trouble. Although what she was about to do filled her with sadness, she couldn't help it.

"I'm sorry Naruto-kun. It looks like this broken tool has one final purpose to fulfil." She spoke with deep regret as she gathered the final vestiges of her power and disappeared from the spot. Naruto screamed out her name in anguish and ran in the direction he knew he would find her and could only hope he wasn't too late.

(Scene Change)

Kakashi was exhausted after a gruelling fight with the infamous Demon of the Mist as powered up his only original justsu to finish the job. He was finally able to catch Zabuza off guard with his summons holding him in place for him to deliver the final blow. He ran forward with as much velocity as he could gather and thrust his hand towards the chest of his enemy.

"Raikiri"

SHLURK

The sound and sensation of his hand sinking into flesh greeted him but as he looked up and saw the face of a young girl, one that he realised from the way she dressed was Zabuza's accomplice.

This was the scene that Naruto walked into. The hand of his sensei stuck in the chest of his most precious person.

"HAKU-CHAN!" He screamed hysterically, snapping Kakashi out of his funk, making him withdraw his hand causing the girl to fall forward. As she was about to hit the ground, Naruto rushed forward and slid on his knees, skinning them in the process and gathered her in his arms.

As he gazed upon her dying visage, Naruto felt the dam break. Never once in his life has he ever given into the sadness that plagued him. He refused to shed tears. Throughout it all he stayed strong. But as he looked at the state Haku was in he felt all the tears he ever held back burst out of him. He held her close as he sobbed his heart out. As he cired though, he felt a soft dainty hand gently cup his cheek. He followed the hand to the face of his angel. The one who brought him salvation.

"You're always such a cry-baby Naruto-kun." She joked at his expense.

"Why Haku-chan?" He questioned weakly.

"I'm sorry Naruto-kun. My body just reacted on its own. But I don't regret it. I was able to protect my precious person." She answered with a happy smile.

"Was it all a lie? The time we spent together?" Questioned Naruto desperately. He needed to know.

"Of course not Naruto-kun...cough….I treasured every moment I spent with you. I told you I always thought of myself as a tool. But when I'm with you I feel like a can just be a regular girl. You made me feel human for the first time in my life. Every second spent with you is something I will forever hold in my heart. I know you….cough….have no reason to trust me Naruto-kun, but please believe me when I say you mean the world to me." Said Haku with a gentle smile on her face. Naruto felt his heart swell at that and even more tears came to his eyes.

"You mean the same to me. Before I met you I was so lost. I felt I had no purpose in my life. But you came along and filled me with this sense of warmth that I never felt with before. Your smile filled me with happiness that I've never known. Hearing you laugh made me feel as though I could spend the rest of my life listening to such a beautiful sound. I swore that I would protect you with my life if I had to just to preserve that smile. I know I'm a pretty dumb guy so I told myself the next time I see you I would ask you what those strange feelings meant because I just didn't understand them." Said Naruto in a bit of a rush. All he got in response was the same beautiful laugh that he became addicted to.

"Love Naruto-kun. That feeling is love." Answered Haku with the brightest most beautiful smile he has ever seen from her. Even near death, her radiance was unmatched in his eyes. "I know that because I feel the same way when I am with you. I love you too Naruto-kun." She said with a tears of happiness in her eyes.

Hearing those words broke through every psychological barrier he has ever set up in his life and pierced his very soul. The happiness he felt from that single statement made his entire life worth it. All the abuse was worth it if it meant hearing those magical words from this angel in his arms. It seemed as his entire life lead to this one moment. He never knew he could feel this at peace with himself. He felt as though he could topple mountains with a punch and take on the gods themselves if it was for her sake. As he was stuck on cloud nine, an unwelcome sound brought his happiness crashing down.

...cough…cough….

Was the sound of Haku coughing up blood. Her breathing was getting shallower. Naruto started panicking.

"Haku-chan! Hang in there please." He pleaded.

"I'm sorry Naruto-kun, but I'm not going to make it." She said with a sad smile.

"No! Don't say that! I know you can fight this. Please you have to!" He cried.

"Don't be sad Naruto-kun. I'm happy that if I'm going to die it would be in the arms of the man I love. There is no better way to go for me." Replied Haku with a content expression on her face.

"No! Don't say that Haku-chan! I still need you! You're the only one that loves me! I can't go back to the way things were. I can't go on without you Haku-chan….please…please I'm begging you…please don't leave me…" Begged Naruto as he sobbed into her chest. It broke Haku's heart to see him like this. She too wished that she could spend the rest of her life with him. She could almost picture them living in a little house near the river with her taking care of their beautiful children while her Naruto-kun went out fishing to bring home food. She pictured him as a goofy and over-affectionate dad that clung to their children, annoying them to no end. She pictured the beautiful moments that they would share as lovers. But she knew that it would never happen and it broke her heart. Those images, no matter how fleeting, were ones she longed for and she knew her beloved was the same. It brought tears to her eyes knowing the pain he would be in because of this. That's why she needed him to know. She needed him to make peace with what was about to happen.

"Naruto-kun….I know. I know it hurts. I don't want to leave you either. I wanted to live with you. To start a family with you. To grow old with you. But I won't make it…sob…I know it will hurt but I also know that you are strong and that you will overcome this…..I know in my heart that you will be somebody great in this world Naruto-kun….I can feel it in my heart….that my Naruto-kun will change this cursed world we live in someday. So please….please be strong for me….don't close your heart off to others. I'm selfish in that I don't want you to ever forget me but I also don't want you to be alone for the rest of your life. Promise me Naruto-kun….as my dying wish…promise me that you will find love again...promise me…" Pleaded Haku. Naruto felt even more pain at the thought of forgetting his angel. He didn't know if he could do as she asked but there isn't anything in this world he wouldn't do for her. With a wry chuckle, he responded to her.

"You aren't fair Haku-chan. You know I would never deny you anything."

His response made her giggle. The giggle that he loved so much. He just took this time to gaze at her beautiful face. Engraving every feature of hers into his mind and his soul. Her hand weakly came up to cup his cheek as he looked into her gorgeous brown eyes that drew him in. She smiled softly.

"Can be selfish once more and ask for one more request." She asked weakly. The put his hand over the one that cupped his face and kissed it gently, feeling his emotions overwhelm him.

"Anything for you Haku-chan." He replied causing her eyes to shine with happiness.

"Can you please…take my first…and my last kiss?" Pleaded Haku causing his eyes to widen before he looked at her tenderly. Even though he could feel himself breaking, he needed to stay strong for her. He simply nodded his head causing her eyes to sparkle with happiness.

He gently cupped her face as she did the same to him. As they drew closer, they could feel theor hearts beating as one. Everything in the world seemed insignificant to them in this moment. Only the presence of the one they loved mattered in this moment. As her soulful eyes looked up at him with all the love she could muster. She said the words that set his heart aflame once more.

"I love you Naruto-kun." She said tenderly. Her face filled with love and contentment.

"I love you too Tenshi-chan." Replied Naruto with a smile as he felt her soft pink lips connect with his. His world exploded into colour from the simple act. The dull world that he lived in was suddenly filled with vibrant colours, brought forth from the angel that saved him from himself. It was a bittersweet moment to him knowing that he might never experience this happiness again. The happiness of sharing you heart fully with one who loves you just the same. As he the tears fell from his eyes and he lost himself in the sensations of his first kiss, he felt the hand Haku was cupping his face with fall limply. He could no longer feel her gentle breath on his lips and her body was completely still. As realisation finally sank in, the pain he felt in that moment was unbearable.

All that could be heard from the now silent bridge was the anguished wail of a heartbroken young boy.

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Author Note:

I can honestly say it was hard to write this as it really got to me, emotionally. I won't lie, I did shed a few tears whilst writing it. I hope I can garner the same reaction from my readers. Some of you might like it some of you might hate it. Leave a comment letting me know your thoughts.

I know it seemed a bit rushed but I needed to get this out of the way as 1. It was emotionally draining to write and 2. It sets the stage for a new Naruto to emerge from the ashes.

Give your thoughts, comments and suggestions on the story and any ideas you have that you think may enhance the story.

Thank for taking the time to read and look out for the next chapter…..Lionheart021 out…