I don't own Naruto.
Once again, just to mention: this fic was inspired by a pic created by Orin over on DeviantArt. The pic was called Naruto – Weathered, and I put it up for the cover image of this story.
Without further ado,
I present to you:
Sabaku no Naruto
The heat came in waves, beating relentlessly against him.
But he had long since stopped caring about that.
How long had it been since he had seen anything other than sand?
Too long. Far too long.
But he couldn't go back. Not yet. Not before the seal finished its work. Not before he had finished absorbing the Kyuubi's chakra.
But it was almost time.
Of course, Kurama and he had a plan to preserve the fox demon's spirit. He would stay sealed within Naruto, but Naruto would be able to call him out should he so wish to. He was a valuable partner to Naruto, after all, not to mention friend. Yes, he had befriended his demon. There really was no one else to talk to during the past five years other than the fox.
He had been living alone in the desert for five long years.
Ever since he managed to destroy Uchiha Madara, after four years of war, he had been living in the sands on the edges of Wind country.
He had left everything behind. Everything. Because he didn't want to repeat that incident.
The incident where he almost killed his teacher.
He had lost control of the Kurama's chakra, and it had destroyed the area around him and nearly destroyed the one person who had seen the potential that he had in him from the start.
His master, Jiraiya.
There were others who had eventually seen the potential that he had in him. Others that had seen that he could be a believable ninja. But it took them a while to even begin to see that he had what it took, and even after they did, they still underestimated what he could accomplish.
Oh ye of little faith.
After his self-exile, he had come to Gaara and asked to be allowed to live on the edges of his country. Not permanently, he had assured his friend, just until his seal had finished its work.
Of course, Gaara said yes.
Since then, he had encountered only a few border patrols, and even then, he rarely made contact with them, preferring to watch them pass him by as they made their way.
It was funny because, even with his massive stores of chakra, no one could find him if he didn't want them to. He always suppressed his chakra completely, no matter the situation, with the one exception being when he was fighting.
Not that he fought anybody but himself anymore.
Although, every once in a while, he would go to Sand village. Initially, it was just to fulfill Gaara's request to see him occasionally. But, eventually, that became an excuse that he used just so he could see her again.
The girl he had fallen for before he had even realized what had happened. He had long since gotten over Sakura, years and years ago. Since then, he hadn't really been looking for any kind of relationship with anyone.
Which is most likely why he had fallen for her so badly.
He hadn't been expecting it.
However, other things took priority over his personal feelings, even the ones he felt for the Wind Mistress.
He needed to train.
And so he had trained.
Oh yes, he had trained. Day in, day out, he had trained himself to become stronger than anyone. Than anything.
To protect his precious people. To protect her, even though she didn't know how he felt.
Even though he was too scared to tell her.
There were others to protect besides her, of course. Even though they weren't around him anymore, he would still protect them, by becoming the strongest that he could possibly be.
And beyond even that limit, too.
And now, it was almost time to return to his village.
To his people.
In just a little over a week, he could go home.
Although, he wasn't too fond of the idea of leaving her behind. . .
But he had to return. And he couldn't take her with him, no matter how much he wanted to.
No matter how much he would give to make that happen.
Enough. If he continued along this line of thought, he would only become depressed.
And he was tired of being depressed. He was cynical enough nowadays even without adding to it because he was upset.
Not to mention the sarcasm.
It's not that he hated the world or anything, he just didn't see it as full of sunshine and rainbows anymore.
Not that he ever truly did, but his mask of happiness prevented others from knowing about that. Hell, it prevented himself from knowing that, because after so many years of using it, he couldn't tell the mask from himself anymore.
Wandering alone in the desert with nothing but sand as far as the eye can see for five years, though, tends to make you find and recognize your true self, such as it is.
He wondered how his friends would react when they saw him.
Would they recognize him?
Somehow, he doubted it.
The only thing that was still around that even remotely connected his current self with his past self were the whisker marks on his cheeks, and those were fading fast.
Well, that and Tsunade's necklace.
He looked nothing like he did before. He had a deep tan and his hair was bleached from the sun so that it was almost white. He no longer wore his jumpsuit, instead he just wore some simple brown pants, a white t-shirt, a long coat with some designs on the shoulders of the long sleeves, and a scarf for the desert winds.
. . .Yeah.
They probably wouldn't recognize him.
Not that he really expected them to, but then again, he wasn't complaining. It would be amusing to watch them ask for him when he was right in front of them.
Oh, the comments he could make given the right situations. . .
Suddenly, he wondered whether Temari had any diplomatic missions to Konoha coming up. If she did, he could ask to go with her. The idea made his azure eyes light up.
He glanced up at the sky. The sun was low, night would be coming soon. He would start making his way to Suna in two days. The seal probably would be finished about half-way there, so he wouldn't have to worry about much.
In the meantime, he would work on making sure Kurama's spirit didn't go anywhere. He was planning on keeping Kurama's spirit with him, and, although he would still be sealed in his stomach, it would be possible for Naruto to call him out if he needed him.
He had a seal for that.
He had a seal for almost anything these days. It wasn't like he had any paper or anything, so he just drew the designs in the sand with a stick or something, and thought about testing them out afterwards.
He had a surprisingly good memory when it came to seals, too.
Particularly ones that he had come up with himself.
The light was fading.
It was getting colder out now too.
He supposed that he should go look for shelter now.
There was a cave somewhere behind him that he had passed just today. . .
Yes, he would go there, he decided. It shouldn't be too far.
Even if it was, it wouldn't matter. He had time. He had plenty of time.
He could afford to walk there.
He reached the cave an hour later and just plopped down on the rock and went to sleep, his thoughts on the seal he created to keep Kurama with him.
And of her and how good it would be to see her again.
After all, it had been too long.
Far too long.
Next: Sabaku No Naruto - One
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