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: ~2,800

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'm surprised I was able to finish this within the week. Please don't expect an update so soon in the future. Thank you so much for reading Chapter 1! Onwards with the story and please try and read the final note at the bottom.

Chapter 2 – Beginning of the Rain

Sasuke was running as fast as his legs could carry him. Thousands of questions bombarded his mind as he raced towards the designated meeting place. Was he ok? Of course he's not, or else the seal wouldn't have gone off. Damn it Naruto! Why didn't you activate it sooner?! There was a flash of white to his left as Neji shunshin beside him, his newly received Konoha Hitai-ate glinting in the moonlight. Eyes activated and narrow in concentration. A dark shadow to his right and Shikamaru appeared, darkness dancing at his feet as he barely controlled his chakra. They gave each other small nods in recognition and continued to make their way to their destination.

As Naruto's apartment came within the 100-meter range of Neji's Byakugan, footsteps hastened as they ran towards his door.

"Naruto's apartment is undisturbed, they must have taken him when he was heading home." Deduced Neji.

Having gotten over the initial shock of having the fail-safe seal activated, was able to regain a semblance of control. However, no matter how calm he seemed in that moment, Sasuke and Shikamaru could feel Neji's barely restrained killer intent leaking through his facade. His chakra in turmoil as emotion raged through him. The cutting edge to his words was unmistakable.

The bond he shared with Naruto was unique and the usually stoic Hyuga found a true friend who understood better than anyone what he had gone through. To him Naruto was his hope, his chance for freedom. Naruto was the strength that pushed his hands through the bars of his cage. The person that took his hand and dragged him from the walls of his prison and taught his grieving, bitter soul how to laugh again. Naruto was the wind that his trapped wings had been unable to reach for so long.

Naruto was his freedom.

Naruto was his leader.

Naruto was his Hokage.

He would do anything to make his best friends dream come true. Because no matter what Naruto did, the joy and radiated off him when he was laughed made all stand still. In those moments, the idea of him becoming a nation's hope was not at all so impossible. Because even if a part of him was still stuck in that cage, Naruto was helping him, bit by bit and never letting him go. Naruto was more important than words. Neji's growing hope for freedom would shatter if he ever let Naruto die. He would never forgive himself if he let Naruto die.

Shikamaru could feel the darkness closing in on his mind. He could feel the cold creeping in around his heart and the uncertainty returning. His hands had stopped shaking and only twitched now and then in frustration and fear. Fear that he had managed to keep at bay long enough so not to overwhelm him.

Being smart had its strengths but it was also his biggest weakness.

His mind now working overtime was he ran through all the hundreds of possible situations Naruto could be in. He felt that darkness from all those years ago at the edges of his awareness when the seal went off. His mind shut down, his panic took over. He didn't want to go back to that place. That cold, empty, colourless place. That place where the darkness was just wrong.

A Nara thrives in the shadows, in the night, where the light is only second in power. Their skills grow and their danger increases. Fight a Nara with full reign over the area and your dead. But that darkness was wrong. It was cold, so cold and the world was either too bright or too dark.

The world was black and white.

But then he met Naruto. A ray of gold and blue in the piercing contrast of the black and white world he lived in. Blue like the sky he has come to love. Blue like the ocean, endless and deep. Gold like the sun through the leaves. Gold that gave off warmth. Warmth to that cold darkness.

So when the seal went off and Naruto's life was in danger Shikamaru felt his vision crack. Because Naruto showed him a world full of colour, a world where smiles weren't two faced and deception didn't lie around every word. Where laughter was real and happy, a bubbling mirth that lit up the air like twinkling bells. Where pure joy wasn't just a wistful dream. Naruto was both his sunlight and moonlight. A star that lit up the day and gave light to the night.

Naruto was the warmth and colour to his cold black and white world. Naruto was the sun that melted his stone cold heart.

Naruto was his leader.

Naruto was his Hokage.

And the loyalty he felt towards the boy was greater then that he had to the hidden leaf. All three of them could never lie to that fact.

Sasuke felt his heart in his chest, thundering against his ribs, boiling his blood till rage threatened to take over. When the seal went off he felt his body burn in anger and his protective instinct took over. Because Uchiha don't feel emotions like others. Uchiha feel emotions with a fierce strength that consumes their bodies and fills their soul. That is the curse of the Uchiha. Because when you lose something that you love so dearly, it drives you to madness. A madness that lurks around every Uchiha child. Just waiting for you to lose someone and let the bitter grief take over.

To Sasuke, Naruto was one of those precious people. Naruto was his family when he lost all of his own. Naruto was the voice of reason that broke through the terrible inferno that was his heart. Naruto was the clear chime of a little bell that echoed throughout his mind. Cutting through his defences with only a single action, a single phrase. Breaking down the fortress that he built around his heart to stop himself from loving ever again. To stop himself from hurting ever again. Because when he lost his family, his mind shattered, his heart stopped, his brother vanished.

Itachi was his brother. His precious person. Itachi was the one who sent the black flames of revenge straight into his heart. When everyone just threw more wood into the fire, when everyone clouded his mind with empty praise, Naruto punched him in the face. Funny right? Naruto knocked some sense into his revenge obsessed head and told him to get a grip.

Naruto was always constant. Naruto was always there. Naruto was the truth when the world was filled with lies.

At first, he was afraid. Afraid of the person he now called brother to turn out like his last one. It took time but now Sasuke can believe that Naruto won't be another Itachi. He won't leave him with a broken psyche. He won't break his fragile sanity and drown his hope.

Because Naruto is an ocean, endless and deep.

Naruto is the water to calm his fire. Naruto is the wind to free Neji's wings. Naruto is the light to Shikamaru's cold, empty darkness.

Naruto is his brother.

Naruto is their leader.

Naruto is their Hokage.

Entering his apartment, they got to work immediately. They had plans for these situations. They had Shikamaru's plans and they wouldn't fail them now, not when they had worked in the past. Neji opened a hidden compartment in the wall using his Byakugan to see the activation seal after confirming that there were no ANBU nearby. Shikamaru took the scrolls from the compartment and Sasuke had already summoned his Hawks to patrol the skies and search for Naruto on the streets of Konoha. If Naruto were close to death then high-level Shinobi with a serious grudge would be involved.

They all knew that Naruto could take on any Genin and middle-chunin easily. A high-chunin to very low-Jonin with quite a bit difficulty. But it wasn't impossible for him to win. He was stronger than what he displayed at school. He knew how to defend himself. But there was only so much he could do until he graduated from the academy and came under Shinobi law. The Hokage had banned early graduation after the Uchiha massacre so Naruto had to put up with the attacks until he was legally an adult. If he dared fight back against the villagers or any attacking shinobi, the council would put heavy sanctions on him and the village would grow to hate him even more the they already did. So now all Naruto could do was dodge and hope they don't catch him. Yes, he could take on high-chunin to very low-jonin, but that was with fighting back and there are only so many injuries you can avoid by just dodging.

Reverse summoning was an idea Shikamaru wanted to work with however only high-level summons could do so and since Naruto is the only one out of the four with a signature on the scroll, they couldn't summon a fox. The idea of leaving a summon in his apartment for these situations was quickly disregarded, keeping a giant fox in Naruto's visible vicinity was a terrible idea. The village would go into chaos and start calling for blood. So Shikamaru had to explore other options. Naruto had yet to develop a tracking seal as he was a near master at fuinjutsu, however the danger of putting such a thing on himself was if the receiving seal was intercepted, anyone, friend or foe would be able to find him. This would be extremely risky with his ever-growing multitude of enemies.

Sasuke, having his hawks search from the skies, was usually able to find Naruto by having Shikamaru deduce the possible locations he would be in, excluding higher end residential areas and focusing more on back ways of shopping districts and areas with a large amount of activity during the night. Day attacks were few and far between, people usually waiting till night and saving hateful glares and blatant anger for the day. The red light district and areas alike were disregarded in Shikamaru's scan, as the common rule was to not tell on your neighbour or betray a fellow passerby. This mentality seemed to extend to Naruto so that area was unusually safe for him. He still received dislike there like everywhere else but people were somehow more understanding. Some black market stall owners willingly sold Naruto food and clothing for a reasonable price.

"We'll go for plan R." Shikamaru decided hastily, it had been six minutes since the fail safe seal went off, body flickering to Naruto's apartment had saved a lot of time. It was still flaring signifying that Naruto was still alive, and increase in pace would mean they had meer seconds left. Thank kami it hadn't come to that yet.

Opening the scrolls, Shikamaru looked upon the multitude of seals at his disposal, he was prepared to fight if it meant getting Naruto out. Unsealing several kunai, shuriken and explosive tags, Shikamaru handed the weapons to his friends knowing they hadn't had time to grab their own. Neji was on guard for incoming ANBU there to check up on Naruto per the Hokage's order; this was where Naruto's perfect henge came into good use, hiding his wounds effectively if you weren't looking for it. Currently there were no ANBU trailing Naruto 24/7 as the village was being given and increase in missions with the political tensions rising between villages. Also as Naruto grew up, the attacks towards the boy "drastically decreased" so the ANBU only checked once or twice a day. This of course was not the case, Naruto just got better at hiding it.

Just as they were about to leave, Neji notified his friends of an incoming Hawk and a secondary signature. Sasuke opened the window to let them in.

A brown-feathered bird flew into the room, placing a small-bloodied animal onto the floor. It hopped to the side and looked at it with concern, tilting its head slightly. Taking less then a second, Neji's hands glowed pale green and crouched down beside the creature, scanning its body with his Byakugan and assessing its injuries. A coat of red streaked fur trembled ever so slightly, uneven and painful breaths escaping the animal.

"Jinsoku, report." Sasuke ordered. Jinsoku was one of Sasuke's higher-level summons, having signed the contract around a year ago he had gained the right to call upon Hawks that were above that of a fledgling. However he still had yet to gain the respect he needed to summon many birds of a higher level. Jinsoku was one of the few that had allowed themselves to be summoned.

"I found him in training ground 5. It's seems as though he was not injured in that area, there were light trails of blood suggesting he had moved away from his original location. There were no hostiles nearby."

Sasuke nodded and turned to Neji who was busily healing the small creature.

"Can he talk?" He asked Shikamaru. They were running out of time, every second wasted was a second closer Naruto was to death.

"It's a two tails so it should have the ability to do so. Neji how much longer will it take until he's stable?"

A thin sheen of sweat lined his forehead, brown knitted in concentration.

"Three minutes. Two broken ribs, front right leg has been snapped in half, concussion, multiple small cuts and bruises, one of its kidneys has also been run through with a sharp object. I need to remove it and partly seal the wound, the ribs I can half deal with now but the leg will take too long. The concussion has been dealt with."

Shikamaru went over the situation in his head. Plan R was the best option they had however it would take time. Naruto was clearly not within heavily populated areas. Putting him in a state where death was a possibility especially with his healing prowess, meant that careful planning had been involved and it wasn't a spur of the moment kind of action.

The was a very high chance that they would be going against high-chunin to any level jonin and no matter how advanced the three of them were, they couldn't compete with that. Finding a jonin who would be willing to help Naruto would take too long and going to the Hokage was the most logical option. However it would take 10 minutes with their level of shunshin to get to his office and an unknown further amount of time to find Naruto afterward. Not to mention going to the Hokage would spark a multitude of questions which they did not wish no answer. Not that that mattered when Naruto's life was on the line. Shikamaru could vouch for all three of them to the fact that they would go through hell just to make sure he got out safely. Plan R was faster then that option however more risky; Shikamaru had created battle plans for the three of them should they come across this very situation but if they would work was another matter. They were not as battle tested as they would have liked and experience in the field usually increased your strength more than raw power ever did. He didn't know how much time they had left to find Naruto before…No. Don't think about that. Focus. Shikamaru shook his head. Seven minutes, thirty seconds.

The two-tailed creature was clearly one of Naruto's fox summons, its injured state was most likely caused by the same people who hurt Naruto. If they could get the summon stable and conscious, then they would find Naruto faster. Even if it didn't know where he was exactly, they would still be able to use its tracking skills to find him. However three minutes was a long time, far too long and the time they would save would not necessarily make up for those minutes lost. They couldn't wait. They needed to go.

"Neji we can't wait that long. It can return to Mount Fuji where the natural energy will heal its injuries better. We need to go." Neji nodded and stopped healing his ribs; they were still fragile and in danger of puncturing his lungs, something Neji wasn't too confident to fix on an animal. Sasuke ordered his Hawk to take back to the skies and continue searching. Just as they began to gather chakra to shunshin away the fox stirred.

"Na..." Its breaths quickened and its body was wracked with painful shivers.

Neji looked at the fox again, it doesn't make sense that its so weak, the worst injuries have been healed, it shouldn't be struggling like this. Then he noticed a purple tinge to its ears. Poison.

"Poison." Neji voiced.

"Shit." Swore Shikamaru. 7 minutes 50 seconds. They didn't have time for this. But Naruto would never forgive them if they let someone die just to save him.

Neji administered the antidote swiftly, luckily it was a common plant based poison and he recognised the signs quickly. 8 minutes 20 seconds. Shit. The fox struggled to regain compredable thought, desperate to relay its message.

"…seve..een..w...ter..fa...ll" The fox, unable to say any more returned to Mount Fuji.

Blue, white and black sped through the darkness.

The night was growing old and the wind swirled through the air, carrying stray leaves with it. The moon shone full in the night sky. A hole in the rippling curtain of black. Clouds moved to hide the stars, growing in their strength as they gathered to release the rain. A rain that would mark the beginning of a storm that would sweep the nations and wash away all that concealed the truth.

Where the water washes away the veils of misconception and lies; a fire lights the hearts of three children. Burning until it blazes bright enough to pull a sunlit child, tainted by the dark poison of thoughtless words, from the comfortless darkness. Three fires to rekindle the true beauty of the sunlit child's heart. Three fires to burn away all that is left by the rain and give forth a chance for new light to grow.

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 begun to fall apart. The Beginning of the Rain had arrived.

Thank you for waiting for this update! I was so surprised when I saw how quickly people found this. Thank you all who have read this and all who have followed and favorited this! All of you have done wonders for my confidence. This Chapter was a bit weak towards the end in my opinion. I was honestly having trouble writing the bridge between Naruto's SOS and them actually finding him.

Again if you spot any inconsistencies or spelling mistakes please don't feel shy to point them out. Also (really embarrassing) I had a friend read my last chapter and they pointed out that I was spelling Shikamaru's name wrong in the beginning and Hanabi's as well. Sasuke also got one incorrect spelling. Seriously how did I get the characters names wrong?!

Special thanks to the following people:

naturefox64: Thank you for your support! You're the very first review I have ever been given! :D

RunningLittlePepper: Thanks for giving this story a chance. I will strive to not disappoint. Sorry but they're not from the future however they will have a past which is slightly different from cannon. Maybe i'll write a time travel after I've finished this one?

SarcasmNChocolate: I'm really happy! Sasuke, as you can see is the third person. In this chapter he didn't have as much of a mention as I wanted him to have but i promise he'll have more time in the future.

Guest x2: Thanks :D

Jasmine: Definitely

Weebguy69: Just wait! More is coming!

Aekidna: I'm glad you think so :D

In the next chapter they will find Naruto and the winds of change sweep through the hidden leaf! Until next time! Bye :D