Summary: Naruto has been living under a mask for as long as he can remember. Hiding behind a smile to protect the cracks in his broken mind. But when the villagers take it too far, three people come to his aid and try pull him from the darkness. Seeing past his façade, they are determined to help Naruto like he helped them all those years ago. Graduation is the least of their worries now, not when Naruto might not make it past the week before breaking down.

Italics = thinking or emphasis on certain words to stress importance

Rating: K

Word Count: ~3,000

Warnings: cliffie, gets more angsty in future chapters, not much else to report.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto... maybe I'll be more creative with this disclaimer in the future XD

Notes: Warnings plus ratings will change each chapter. I think that's it... On with the story! :D


Chapter 1 – The Calm before a Storm

It was another night. A calm and peaceful night. As peaceful as it can get in a shinobi village. But there's always a calm before the storm and this tempest had been brewing for quite some time. It was only a matter of moments before the dam holding in the flood broke down and let all hell break loose.

"SHIKAMARU! Wake up and stop sleeping you lazy bum!" Ino yelled, or more like screamed, at the skinny creature with spiky, black hair that was curled up on the couch.

Said creature didn't flinch or make any perceivable signs that it had heard the ear-splitting noise. Long since having become accustomed to the shrieking of his childhood friend, the 11-year-old Nara continued to doze. A rosy cheeked boy with round features and brown hair sat next to Shikamaru, eating from a bag of chips, content to just keep his friend company. By the shoji that faced the garden three men were out on the landing, watching their children interact with a half amused half wince on their faces.

"She's just like you Inoichi." Chuckled Shikaku, an amazing gossip network, definitely inherited his attitude, and that glass shattering scream… yep she's definitely like Inoichi.

The girl suddenly stopped yelling making Choji who was originally sitting calmly jump is fear as her eyes gained a predatory glint. Pocking his friend franticly he whispered in an urgent voice, "Shikamaru… Ino's going into mum mode… Shikamaru! Wake up!"

She may be Inoichi's daughter but she definitely got Airi's fear tactics in her blood. Shikaku sweatdropped.

Inoichi seeing this, looked sympathetically at his best friend and teammate's son. When Shikamaru finally sensed the incoming danger, it was nearly too late but instead of jumping out of the line of fire like Choji, the pineapple boy rolled himself off the sofa and curled up on the patterned carpet in an excruciatingly slow manner.

"I'm starting to think that Shikamaru has a problem with his thyroid function. His ability to sleep anywhere is… ah never mind. Shikaku your laziness seems to have amplified in your son. How is that even possible?" Inoichi wondered for a moment, is he fearless or that lazy? He didn't even try to dodge Ino's attack and then went back to sleep. If he wasn't Shikaku's son, I'd be worried.

"I have absolutely no idea. With Yoshino as his mother, I don't know how that turned out." He looked genuinely puzzled and it's not every day a Nara couldn't solve a problem, but then again he didn't seem too bothered.

Choza barked out a laugh at his friends antics, "Well if they really are that similar to us then we have nothing to worry about. They'll make a good team."

Shikaku and Inoichi smiled in agreement. A few minutes later Chiharu called from the kitchen.

Choji got up and poked Shikamaru. "Come on Shikamaru, Kaa-chan cooked for us." The boy shifted off the floor and pushed himself up reluctantly.

"Troublesome" he said groggily.

"Ugh! I wonder why I even try!" Ino yelled in exasperation again, this time Shikamaru winced at the sound.

They all made their way to the dining room and found Airi and Yoshino chatting together, a positively evil glint entered their eyes when they saw their husbands enter.

"Shikaku." Yoshino said sweetly. Shikaku gulped and Inoichi sweat-dropped in sympathy as he looked to his friend.

"Yes dear?" His voice wavered as he felt all his instincts scream RUN! RUN IF YOU WANT TO LIVE!

Yoshino smiled and continued, "Airi and I have discovered a great way to get you motivated and make everything less troublesome." Oh, kami spare my soul!

"I pity you." Choza murmured so that the two ladies couldn't hear him. The last time they came up with something, Shikaku couldn't touch sake for nearly three weeks.

Chiharu started to bring out the food and the delicious smells hit all present full force. It was a feast fit for a king, not to mention that it was Akimichi cooking. And the Akimichi were the best at cooking. Choza would have originally been the one in the kitchen but she insisted that he spent some time with his friends. After everyone was seated, they all dug in; Ino eating politely, Choji already half way through his third helping and Shikamaru surprisingly not falling asleep at the table.

It was another night. A calm and peaceful night. But it's always a calm before the storm and the dam holding back the flood was about to break.

Neji sat quietly on his zabuton cushion which was situated by a small table to side of the main house seats. The meal something of a rarity. It wasn't often that Hiashi-dono organised a meal in which he was invited to. The meal was meant to be a private matter with just Hinata-sama and Hanabi-sama as the other members. However, Neji could sense a few elders loitering in the surrounding corridors. No doubt Hiashi could sense them as well and this thought was confirmed when he sent a flair of his chakra in warning to not listen in. After a few tense minutes he spoke.

"Neji, how is your new genin team? Are your studies progressing? It has been a few months since you graduated from the academy." Hiashi queried but his tone made the question seem more like an order.

"My studies are progressing smoothly Hiashi-dono; my accuracy has greatly improved and my knowledge of the Gentle Fist technique is being refined steadily. I do not however believe that Sensei will nominate us for the upcoming Chunin exams. I assume he'll wait until next year."

"Gai-sensei is energetic as usual, his Taijutsu prowess in formidable however his personality is quite… eccentric. Lee-san is very strong with his Taijutsu however I fear that his handicap will prove detrimental in the future."

"Tenten-san's accuracy has only improved and is studying Kenjutsu. Though I also believe that Tenten-san's Ninjutsu repertoire is pitifully small, leaving a very large weakness in her combat style." Answered Neji, his face a perfect image of an emotionless shinobi, not a crack in his façade that revealed his true feelings on that matter.

Hiashi nodded approvingly and then addressed Hinata.

"How are your studies progressing at the academy?" His voice was stern and her meek demeanour caused his eyes to harden with disapproval, the only indication that he was disappointed.

"Otou-sama," She started quietly, her hands shifting in her lap, "M-m-my studies at the academy are improving h-however I am not high enough to reach Kunoichi of the year." Her voice dwindled away as she felt her father's displeasure pierce into her eyes so she looked away from his gaze.

"Hanabi. You have been doing adequately with the gentle fist. Be sure not to disappoint me." The little girl only nodded and seemed to straighten her posture even though it was already quite stiff.

The meal continued in a formal silence after a few more words were spoken.

The air suddenly shifted and grew noticeably colder. Neji's eyes widened and he seemed to falter. Body frozen and his cutlery clattering on to the low table. His body shook ever so slightly that if Neji had not caused Hiashi to intently look at him, it would have been missed.

He felt his nephew's chakra rise in turmoil, panic and fear, twisting in his core. A small frown broke onto his face as the boy seemed to helplessly pull himself together.

"Neji." A question, said sternly with authority however his thoughts were not so harsh. What is wrong? Are you ok? Why are you so disturbed that you cannot even hide your swirling emotions? Words that would never be voiced out loud and nor would he let them.

"I must leave." He seemed to murmur to himself, shock wearing off, "Yes I must leave. I need to go."

"Neji." Hiashi spoke again.

His head snapped up to face the Clan Head as if he had forgotten where he was. Standing up quite quickly, Neji bowed towards the Clan Head, his voice clear had it not been thick with emotion.

"Hiashi-dono, I must take my leave. Forgive me for disturbing your meal."

Was Neji really that scared? If so, he must not leave until I know it is safe.

"Stop." The boy froze mid turn. Eyes widening. Was that… betrayal in his eyes? Dark hair turning slightly as his body went rigid.

"What could be more important than your current obligations to the Hyuga Clan?" His voice was icy and his gaze pierced the prodigy with needle like precision.

"Forgive me for my haste to leave," Bowing quickly at his superior but not nearly low or long enough to be considered an apology, "But something of great importance has come up and I will be unable to stay any longer."

"What is this trivial matter that you must attend to that would disturb you enough to refuse my formal invitation?" Anger suddenly spiked in Neji's chakra.

"It is personal. There is no time for me to continue in this pointless argument. I. Must. Leave." The smallest amount of killing intent lacked out from under the quickly cracking facade that he had constructed.

"Watch you tone with me Neji. Your insolence will not be tolerated."


Neji's face twisted into a visage of fury and resentment. A scowl marring his usually blank expression. "I don't have time for this Hiashi-dono and I will not repeat myself again. Your orders hold nothing on this matter in which I must attend. Not even The God of Shinobi holds enough authority to prevent me from attending to this matter." This voice raised to a shout as his restraint dissipated into thin air.

"Silence!" Hiashi stood up abruptly, "Your behaviour is unacceptable. You will not leave this compound until the night is through. You must speak for your actions. Do I make myself clear?"

"I am afraid not."

Otouto where did I go wrong? I have failed you and your son but missing the warnings of an outburst such as this. It would be a lie to say that Hiashi did not care for his nephew. The resentment Neji felt towards the main-house was clear enough by their frosty interactions. A small part of his mind felt it was punishment that his last remaining link to his brother hated him so.

His shoulders dropped slightly and in that moment he felt far too old.

"You will disobey my orders?" The warning was clear, but the tone it was provided in caught Neji slightly off guard.

"Goodbye. You may expect me to return quite late."

"I expect an answer to my questions when you return. Your punishment will however not be forgotten."

Neji flickered away. It seems that he has also learned a Chunin level technique.

Hinata and Hanabi sat in shock as they witnessed Neji's outburst. Calm, cool, collected Neji. It took awhile for them to fully process what just happened.

"Otou-sama," Hinata started, she was too surprised to even remember her nervousness, "That was the most emotion I've seen Neji-nii-san express in forever. Is he ok?"

"What's going to happen?" Hanabi murmured as if to herself.

Hiashi's resumed eating as if nothing had happened, pushing all his feelings to the back of his mind. Neji will come back, and when he does I will receive the answers to my questions.

The sound of chopsticks falling and clattering against a porcelain bowl, brought silence to the table. All eyes turned to the source of the noise. Shikamaru sat frozen on his seat, his hand in midair where they had been originally holding his cutlery.

"Shikamaru, what's wrong?" Yoshino asked, her usual strictness faded at the sudden and unusual behaviour her son was showing.

Shikaku looked at his son with a concerned expression, his lazy slouch gone, eyes sharp and calculating as if looking hard enough would find the answer to said question. Shikamaru didn't respond and just sat there for another second before his hands started to shake, a look of pure dread entered his face. His eyes widened and he seemed to falter as he tried to pull himself together.

"Shikamaru! What wrong? Talk to me sweety." Yoshino persisted, her voice now filled with an anxious urgency.

Ino and Choji both looked at their friend with alarm, they had never seen him like this before. The other adults at the table looked on helplessly as there was nothing they could do. They didn't know what was wrong and the sheer amount of fear on his face was enough to make unease pool in their stomachs.

Shikaku noticed it first, "Shikamaru breathe." He instructed. There were signs of panic on Shikamaru's face and he knew his son couldn't answer if he wasn't calm enough for rational thought. What could have shaken him so badly? His eyes narrowed. A flashback?

Shikamaru could feel the seal under his clothes send out flairs onto his skin, alerting him that he was in danger. All thoughts came to a complete stop as his mind went blank. He could faintly hear his mum calling him anxiously but he couldn't think. He just about grasped his father telling him to breathe, his voice familiar and calming. He took in a shaking breath. He needed to go, to help him. His friend was in danger. He was in danger. The one who helped me. Panic coursed through his veins.

The seal had gone off before; it had different levels of intensity, different patterns of flairs which alerted him that his friend needed help and how bad the situation was. But this level was something he had never felt before. It was the fail-safe level. Usually his friend would have to send chakra into the seal when he needed help. More often than not, he usually didn't to avoid worrying his friends. The fail-safe level was a high alert flair that activated itself when the primary user was close to death.

Close to death.

It was that very thought that had sent Shikamaru's mind to a standstill.

Shikamaru suddenly stood up. His chair loudly pushed backwards. He looked at his father and then his mother, eyes still wide with fright.

"I-I'm fine." He just about managed to shake out, his hands still trembling and his body filled with nervous energy.

"No. You're. Not." Shikaku stated firmly. "Just breathe Shikamaru and tell us what's wrong."

"Tou-san," He took another halting breath, "I need to go. I…I can't tell you." He started getting frantic, "I need to go. I'm sorry."

"Shikamaru…" Yoshino started.

"I'll explain later. I need to go. Trust me. Please," Interrupted Shikamaru, he was already moving for the door. Shikaku stood up and made for his son, motioning to his wife that he would handle this, however his boy turned to face him halfway into the garden.

"Please," he almost pleaded, "don't follow."

The desperate look on his face was enough to stop his father in his tracks. Shikaku took on a resigned look,

"Fine, I trust you. But I expect answers when you get back. Just come home ok?"

And with that Shikamaru flickered away. When did he learn that? Thought Shikaku.

The Nara Clan Head walked back into his teammates house and slowly sat down at the table. His shoulders were unusually tense and he did not regain his usual slouch. A heavy sigh escaped his lips, crossed his arms and stared at nothing in particular.

"Shikaku. Where's Shika-chan?" Yoshino looked at her husband, "Shikaku!" she barked, her worry was clear when he didn't answer.

"Shikamaru will comeback. He'll come back and answer our questions."

Yoshino stuttered in disbelief, "You let him leave?! Shikaku it's late and something just happened. You saw his face! Shikaku I've never seen him like..."

"Yoshino! Calm down. He'll come home, ok."

There was a stressed silence at the table. Choji's plate was left untouched and he shared uneasy looks with Ino.

Chiharu broke the silence, "Ino-chan, Choji-kun," she said looking between the two eleven-year old's, "Do you think you can go and sit in the living room? Take your food with you, ok?"

"It's fine mum, I'm not hungry anymore." Choji muttered, standing up and leaving the adults.

"Same." Ino concurred hastily and followed suit.

After they had left the room Yoshino started to shake, her hand on her mouth trying not to sob. She may be a battle-hardened shinobi who could shut off her emotions but she was a mother first and it had been many years since she had seen her child look so terrified. Her mind kept wandering back to that incident. The one she failed to stop until it was too late. Their friends tried to start a conversation but it came short and the Nara's both excused themselves and went home.

Ino and Choji were in the living room thinking about the person who had been their friend for as long as they could remember.

"Hey Cho… Have you ever seen Shikamaru-kun like that before?" Ino asked, still in faint shock.

"No… Shikamaru will be fine. I'm sure." All words spoken came off feeling wrong, all they said came off as awkward and halting.

They didn't know what to do let alone say.

It was another night. A calm and peaceful night. But it's always a calm before the storm and the dam holding back the flood had just started to crack.

So, Neji graduated for the academy less than four months ago so 9 of the Konoha 12 will be still around a year from graduation. I don't own any rights to the images.

Hello! SilverDragon1218 here! This is my first Fanfiction, I hope you like it! I gladly except any and all criticisms and pointers. Any typos or spelling mistakes found, please report so they can be fixed. I am not a regular updater and I post when inspiration strikes! I have already planned the next few chapters and am working on another story idea. This is a very angsty story and Naruto will have a very depressing role. Don't like, don't read.

Kaa/Okaa = mother

Tou/Otou = father

Otouto = little brother

Aniki/Nii/Onii= older brother

Also, dono is more formal than sama so that's why Hiashi has dono while his daughters have sama. However, I'm not sure which is more or less respectful.

05/08/18 - I just re-read this chapter and I strongly think that this could use a rewrite. The same stuff will be in the chapter, just written with a higher quality. I'll probably do this after Naruto's POV.

-/-/2018 – Finally I have re-written this chapter! I know I said I would do it after Naruto's POV but I realised it would be at least three more updates before that happened and I needed some things to be more detailed so Chapter 6 made sense.

Bye for now! Have a nice day or night :D