Categories > Anime/Manga > Naruto > Echoes of the Mind

Chapter One

by noisee 10 Reviews

Enter Konoha's top psychiatrist!

Category: Naruto - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Itachi, Neji, Sakura, Sasuke - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2005/09/13 - Updated: 2005/09/14 - 2591 words

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Chapter One

"Don't worry, Hokage-sama, you've chosen capable hands."

Hyuuga Neji stood in front of Tsunade's desk, his long, coffee-coloured hair tied back into a neat ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was clad in the traditional Jounin uniform- A green vest over a black long-sleeve shirt, with matching pants. He also donned the metal-plated gloves, and his forehead protector sat proudly on his, well, forehead, emblazoned with the symbol of Konoha- A spiral with a leaf attached to its left.

He nodded to the Fifth before leaving the office, dropping the papers she had handed him into a wastebasket just as the doors closed.

Neji didn't need files. Files were impersonal and disatracting. They seemed to outline and confine whoever they chose, something a jutsu couldn't repel. Besides, all he needed was the Byakugan. After just a year, he had risen to the rank of Konoha's top psychologist, and nobody else better fit the title. Patients raved about how he always looked them in the eye, making him more personable than the other psyche-doctors, and all because he hated to seem impersonal.

That made him farther from anyone.

He never wanted to seem impersonal, but everything was. He could just get his answers from his patients without really needing to communicate, but he did feign a fair amount of conversations. All not to seem impersonal. It got the job done, though, and that's what mattered in the end.

Right?

He slid open the door to his client's room, a special case the Fifth had assigned him. With a frown, he found the the woman was still asleep. His Byakugan began to kick in, and he saw her surrounded by a hazy aura- Tired, was she?- And her chakra was an odd colour, a soft, petal-pink.

"It's up-time, Haruno-san," he called, dropping his Byakugan. Receiving no reply, he folded his arms across his chest, and leant forward a fraction of an inch. "Hoi!" This time his voice boomed over the sleeping form, which grunted and shifted around, but didn't wake. Rolling his eyes, Neji bent down and grabbed the girl's pale forearms, pulling her up, letting the blanket fall in a heap at her feet. She shook her head violently, rose-coloured tresses flying wildly, before gradually opening her eyes.

"Wh... Wha..."

She blinked, eyes focusing, and growing wide.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" she screeched, anger flooding her irises. He smirked, remaining silent, and roughly placed her on one side of the tea table. Kneeling at the other side, he folded his hands and laid them in front of him.

"Let's talk."

`~o0o~`

Haruno Sakura was a girl who took pride in her appearance. She washed and brushed regularly her shoulder-length, bubblegum pink locks, kept her almost-lucid skin as smooth and mar-free as possible, and remembered not to overuse her magnificent emerald eyes. So being awakened off schedule proved to throw her beautifying routine off.

Sakura scowled at the man who had so rudely (and roughly) torn her from her dreams. When she was asleep, it was like closing her eyes and falling into a whole new world away from the mess that was reality. Such tranquility, such joy... And he had just snatched that away from her with his impatience. What's more, she could've been sleeping... indecently! The kunoichi thanked the Gods that she hadn't bothered to change the night before. She wore a variation of her older red dress- this one falling to just midway past her shins, slits on either side up to her thigh; Its collar and fold were Chinese-style, with her signature white piping. She still wore the modest black shorts undearneath, as well as a long-sleeved net top.

"No," she spat, straightening the collar of the red dress she usually wore.

"Hm?"

"I'm not talking with you."

She folded her arms, as if to exaggerate the fact that she was stubborn. Her eyes moved away from Neji's, focusing on some spot in the corner. Inside, Inner Sakura cackled with triumph, watching the annoyance fly through the Hyuuga's eyes.

"The rest of your team already left, you know. On another mission."

She didn't move, flinch, or say anything to acknowledge him.

"They'll do wonderfully without you there."

Again, no signs of her having heard him. But her eyes did falter in their glare.

"How do you feel about that?"

"I said I'm not talking to you, damn it!" she shrieked, slamming her hands on the table and turning to face the man. "Get it through your thick skull!" A moment of silence passed, and then she slouched, turning away once more.

"Uchiha Itachi's been caught by the ANBU."

She whipped around, orbs of vermillion wide with shock and fear, yet still brimming with annoyance. "What? Really!?" Seeing his smirk, and slight reclining, she growled in frustration. He'd won, and he knew it, and was rubbing it in with his smug eyes. Damn him, damn it all!

'Bloody Hyuuga! Screw off!'

Although she whole-heartedly agreed with her inner psyche, Sakura chose to use less vulgarity. "What do you want from me?"

"Answers, Haruno-san. What happened?"

"Why?"

"The Fifth told me to get them."

"... When?"

"Two days ago."

`~o0o~`

He could see the gloom cloud over her eyes, fear and guilt adding to the mix, making her irises a murky pool of olive green, with a layer of confusion. Just behind that, a spark of... anger, was it?

"I... I don't know," she stuttered, "just... Just something made me want to, but I don't know what."

He nodded, by reflex, urging her to continue.

"Whatever it was took over me, when the rest of myself was against it."

Her eyes were glassy, and unfocused, as she seemed to lose herself in her own words. She rose a pale hand to her chest, above her heart, continuing on. "It's... A scary thing, something inside you that's stronger than the rest. Something you can't... Don't know how to control."

Neji nodded again, knowing that she was telling exactly what she felt. About now was the time when he'd activate Byakugan, and get out of her what he needed, but something stopped him. Told him he shouldn't. Blocked his overused shortcut.

I can't use Byakugan for this... I need her to talk.

"Tell me what led you there."

She seemed to snap out of whatever haze had taken over her, and met his gaze once more. She nodded, tucking a stray lock of hair behind one ear. "We'd been assigned to take down a stray band of Fire nin, and that happened easily. On our way home, however... I saw him. Standing far away, but I saw him. For a fleeting moment, I thought... He beckoned me."

As she continued on with the rest of her story- shifting around, sometimes using her hands to portray a particular event, sometimes looking away- he kept his eyes trained on hers. They were so animated, and seemed to even change shade as various emotions took over her. If he had somehow lost everything but his sense of sight, he'd be able to understand Sakura completely, just through her eyes. It was a concept that amazed him, so much that he lost himself in it.

"Neji-san? I'm done."

The quiet Hyuuga blinked, snapping back into reality. Oh, that's right. He had a job to do here. He stood, left a paper on the table, and nodded to Sakura his goodbye before wordlessly exiting the room, leaving her to her own devices. There were reports to write, checklists to mark, people to talk to, eyes to watch-

What the hell?

Neji would've cursed at himself for getting lost in such childish thoughts, but felt that he wasn't the only one who had fallen to such enticing eyes. His were tools of battle and the trade- Hers were something extraordinary, entertaining and ethereal, all at once. And one couldn't forget the hint of something else behind it all. Only someone devoid of any emotion could ignore eyes such as hers.

Unsurprisingly enough, that didn't seem to calm down the Leaf nin.

He sighed in resignation, turning into a room near the entrance of the hospital- his 'office', of sorts. Mostly just a cubicle-sized space where he crammed his own reports and notes in an unorganized fashion. Taking a seat, Neji picked up a pen and began to write.

'Haruno Sakura- Day One.

Wears her heart on her sleeve- in all senses of the phrase.'


`~o0o~`

'Who the hell does that Hyuuga think he is!?'

A
Hyuuga/, nimrod../

Sakura scoffed at her Inner self, yet she couldn't help but share her alter-ego's sentiments- That guy had just walked off after she came within milimetres of spilling her guts! She knew he was meant to get answers, but he could've said something- The least he could have done was act somewhat conversational!

She screeched in aggravation, her voice probably loud enough to carry off into the far wings of the hospital. Oh well, she didn't care now. She was pissed and would let the world hear it if she wanted to! Sakura pummeled her pillow with punches backed by annoyance, and kicked around the covers. It had been years- over a decade- since she had had a good, old-fashioned tantrum, and right now seemed a perfect time to pick up old habits- starting with the paper Neji had left, a schedule of appointments.

A good scratch and stomp later, she fell into a heap on the futon, breathing heavily, tears threatening to spill down her cheeks.

It's not fair.

It wasn't. She hadn't done anything-

'Yes, you have.'

- or hurt anyone-

'What about Naruto?'

- or lied to anyone-

'What about me?'

Shut UP!

The ninja blinked, surprised that she hadn't been graced with a comeback from her other self. How odd. Was she actually listening to her? If she was, it was about time- Inner Sakura had been with her since before she was ten, and even nine years later, the spirit refused to obey her tangible self's commands. But now?

And when Itachi had-

-No. Quiet. Don't think about that.

Sakura decided to fix herself up- smooth her red dress out here, snap that thread sticking out from her black shorts, straighten her signature red ribbon, since her hitai-ate had been confiscated- anything to take her mind off the past. Stupid Neji. She had barely ever talked to him before, and now that she had, all she was left with was herself- like that helped any!

The door to her room slid open, revealing an attendant with a clipboard.

"Haruno-san, you have some visitors."

Curiously, she stood on tip-toe to see past the attendant and found Team 7- Kakashi waving meekly behind an excitedly fidgeting Naruto, with a sulking Sasuke in the background. It was such a nostalgic scene, and she couldn't have loved it more.

`~o0o~`

Neji stopped his scrawlings, the walls of the hospital penetrated by a woman's shriek. Sure, it might've been a common noise to the regular employees of this wing, but he knew it was different- It was from his patient.

Dropping his pen, he strode calmly but surely through the halls, finally reaching Sakura's door. Hearing unidentified voices, he froze, then decided to turn a corner, lest he be found. Byakugan activated, he saw that Team 7 was paying Sakura a visit. Naruto, Kakashi, and Sakura were gathered around the tea table, Sasuke leaning against the wall furthest from Sakura.

"Saku-ai! Are you all right? Are you insane still?"

Naruto was an eccentric man, with a mop of blond atop his head, and sparkling azure eyes. Even at the age of nineteen, he still hadn't abandoned his signature orange- Now he proudly wore the Jounin uniform, but had it modified so his vest was bright orange, as were his metal-plated gloves. His hitai-ate seemed to never leave his forehead- sometimes Neji wondered if it would leave an imprint.

Kakashi's visible eye twitched, more worried for the Kyuubi-holder than the girl. "Naruto..."

Their former teacher, and current team leader, hadn't changed at all- He still had unruly silver hair, and wore the unaltered Jounin uniform. The only difference was that his hitai-ate was angled to cover his left eye- his sharingan.

Sakura scowled at her hyperactive teammate. "I told you not to call me that, Naruto-kun!"

So they were all the same, as far as he could tell. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but... Sasuke did seem more like a loner than usual. He, too, had made the ranks of Jounin, and chose to follow Kakashi in not changing any aspect of his uniform, but he rarely wore his hitai-ate on his forehead- It was usually wrapped around his left upper arm. His black hair was spiked more in the back than the front.

"Saku-ai! I can't help it!" Naruto whined.

"Pet names aside," Kakashi interjected, halting Sakura's fist to Naruto's face, "we actually have some important topics to discuss, Sakura-chan."

All occupants of the room visibly perked up at this statement, along with the eavesdropper. When Kakashi seemed more serious than bored, something was happening.

"Tsunada-sama has assigned Team 7, excluding you," he added the last bit with an apologetic look, "to a mission supporting a daimyo of the Grass Country."

"A daimyo needs Konoha?" Sakura blinked. "That'd bring a lot of wealth here, right?"

"Yes, but... The mission... Will span over a good six years, maybe seven."

Neji rose a brow; Sakura looked completely taken aback by the prospect of her team disappearing for such a long period of time. Naruto had his eyes cast to the tatami mats, looking sadder then he'd ever seen him. Kakashi looked... Well... It was rather difficult to tell how Kakashi looked, with his mask and hitai-ate and all.

Sasuke hasn't faltered in his stone-faced facade... Neji thought. ... Seems out of place to me- after over six years of working together, you'd think they'd be closer...

"Will you be okay without us, Saku-ai?" Naruto asked, so softly it surprised the group.

"I..." A brief look of despair passed through her features as her eyes darted to Sasuke's for a fleeting moment. Sakura masked it all in a moment, snapping her gaze back to Kakashi and Naruto, wearing a feigned but believeable smile. "... I'll be fine! You guys go do your job for Konoha!"

Hugs were exchanged between the former member, the Kyuubi-holder, and their teacher, before each of them left. Naruto yelled a "I'll come visit- We're leaving in two weeks!" just before the attendant slid the door shut, leaving Sakura more alone then she'd ever been.

Neji kept Byakugan activated, focusing on his patient intsead of her departing guests. She knelt at one end of the tea table, the smile from her face completely dissolved by the steady trail of tears that flowed down her cheeks. Her eyes, those captivating orbs were now a dulled shade of a murky-looking green.

She was /sad/.

"So the Hyuuga prodigy's become a peeper?"

He narrowed his eyes, catching sight of who had just joined him in the hall. "And the Uchiha is as cold as his father's body," he replied, not bothering to face Sasuke. Noting his change in appearance, Neji smirked. He had hit a nerve, and was satisfied enough- The day would come when he and Sasuke would get to pit it out against the other.

Neji walked to his office, leaving Sasuke to his own devices.









noisee: Thanks muchly for reading! I'm working on a chappie two. =)
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