A/N: I wrote this in one day, and it distracted me from my very, very important revision. I mean that. It's really important.

I hope you enjoy it. Naturally, I don't own anything from the Naruto franchise.

One last thing; present tense, is, well, the present. And past tense, is, well, the past. I'm not putting anything in italics because it'd just be annoying. I'm quite proud of this, so I hope you enjoy it.

Uchiha Sasuke

And the tale that succeeds his captivity. ONESHOT

A long time ago, something happened. But Sasuke doesn't think about it.

Today, Kakashi knocks on his door. Sasuke ignores it for the longest time he can.

"You know, I wouldn't be here unless I had to be, Sasuke."

Sasuke begrudgingly unlocks it, and does not make eye contact with his old teacher when he goes and returns to his seat. He resists the urge to fiddle with the seals stuck on his ankles and wrists, and especially resists touching the ones by his eyes.

Kakashi sits down, perfectly comfortable, and opens his book to a page with a folded corner.

"Has Sakura come today?"

Sasuke does not answer. She hadn't come yet, and for that, Sasuke was nothing but thankful.

His teacher's hair is the same shade of grey, and his face has not really aged at all. This annoys Sasuke a little bit, but he doesn't care. He doesn't care about Kakashi, not even enough to dislike him.

Sasuke wonders how Kakashi feels about his duty to come here each day, but he doesn't really, because he doesn't care about Kakashi, the same way he doesn't care about anything in Konoha.

They sit in silence, and he doesn't really know whether it is uncomfortable or not. Sasuke just stares out of the window. He misses his apartment a little bit. The compound is too big and empty for Sasuke's complete comfort, but it is his, now, and Tsunade had been unwilling to allocate him anything else. Not that Sasuke had asked, or even pushed the subject.

Sasuke said nothing to that woman.

He's thankful for how Kakashi makes little effort to speak with him. Less than Sakura, who always talks about-

Something happened a long time ago. But Sasuke doesn't think about it.

"Something on your mind, Sasuke?" Kakashi says, and Sasuke wants to spit in his face and kick him out of his house. Instead, he doesn't, but he's sure Kakashi notices as his knuckles turn white.

Kakashi turns the page, and they sit in silence for ten minutes, until Sasuke stands up. His ex-teacher raises an eyebrow, and Sasuke speaks to him. It feels less like speech, and more like air being pushed through a mechanical jaw.

"I want to go outside," Sasuke says. That was how it had to be, according to Tsunade's orders, but Sasuke refused to stoop so low as to make it a request to the guard.

"Sure," Kakashi says. He doesn't even look up, but he snaps his book shut as he stands up and walks behind Sasuke into the garden.

Sasuke feels a little uncomfortable at how well Kakashi melds his footsteps with Sasuke's. If Kakashi notices Sasuke's discomfort, he does not show it.

Today, the sun is bright, and Sasuke's guarden is unkempt. He often means to see to it, but something about it is too homely to cut away. It is the only part of the Uchiha compound that truly lived on afterwards.

Sasuke sits down on a stone bench, and Kakashi sits on a wooden bench. It is a warm day, and he relishes the feeling of the sun burning into the back of his neck.

"There's no shame in it," Kakashi says, and Sasuke's hackles raise. His eyes flash a momentary red at Kakashi, before the seals suck away the chakra instantaneously. Kakashi's expression is impervious.

Sasuke knows what he is talking about, and wants nothing more than to break his jaw. Kakashi probably knows that too.

The walls of Otogakure did very little to stop Sasuke when he had left, and now, as he approached once again, they did little once more.

Except now, Sasuke had left Otogakure without anything. He had released all the experiments, he had killed their leader – but the people of the Land of Rice Fields had lived years without a ninja village. It wasn't as though the absence of Orochimaru was particularly crippling to their welfare.

Even if Sasuke had considered that beforehand, he had his doubts that it would've altered the result at all.

Sasuke had returned for some things, and he had returned alone. He hadn't thought much of it, and that had been the first of his many mistakes.

For the Land of Rice Fields shares a border with the Land of Fire.

Sasuke needed something from Orochimaru's main base – which was easier said than done, he realised with a grimace. He'd needed, in particular, Orochimaru's notes on his Sharingan; and that would have been easy, had the base been intact. Someone had not blown it to pieces, as such, but blown some part of the structure that had sent the network of tunnels collapsing.

He could only imagine the biological hazards that had been smashed to pieces amidst the rock.

Perhaps the greatest mistake of the ones he made, was how Sasuke had succumbed to sleep.

It had appeared safe – no, Sasuke had been nearly 100% sure that it was safe, and even then, he had taken precautions. He had set up a small alert barrier at the beginning of Orochimaru's tunnel, and he had slept deep in a half intact hallway. The insects did little to bother him, and the reprieve from weather conditions was welcome. He had no lit no fire, to prevent the smell of smoke; he had let no trail. Sasuke had been very, very certain that he was safe, and so he had slipped into a deeper sleep than he had in weeks.

The alert barrier hadn't been enough to truly jolt Sasuke awake as a consequence, and so he was still in a state of disorientation when he found himself face to face with a familar idiot.

And with each mistake, he had come a little closer to his loss against Naruto.

"Are you still getting paid for this?" Sasuke asks suddenly.

"Paid for what?" Kakashi says, delicately turning the page. He looks up. "Babysitting you?"

Sasuke glares, and Kakashi stares at him with a blank expression, before shrugging his shoulders.

"Maa. A little bit, here and there."

Sasuke almost rolls his eyes, and the afternoon continues in silence, until Sasuke hears the faint noise of Sakura knocking. It is distinct, the way Sakura quickly raps on the door in short bursts. He imagines that if death had a distinct knock, it would probably be the same as Sakura's.

"I'll get it," Sasuke says, and his voice is much softer than he had intended it to be.

Sakura is at the door with her bag and her smile, but Sasuke does not smile back.

Her presence each day is the bane of his existence, but Sasuke can't help but admire her perseverence; her loyalty to a corrupt cause.

"Sasuke-kun," she says, and her smile is wide as she bows slightly. "Good morning."

He gives her an acknowledging nod, before stepping aside to allow her in. She glides in, seeing Kakashi in the garden and heading out into the grass.

Something Sasuke's stomach sinks. He hopes they wouldn't make a joint effort.

Sakura sits down. For a moment, Sasuke thinks she is the brightest thing in the garden, but quickly realises it is the bundle of daffodils. He had planted them years ago; he appreciates their ability to grow again each year.

"Sasuke-kun," Sakura says. "Tsunade-shishou is-"

"Shut up," he says. "I refuse."

Sasuke sees the expression on Sakura's face that melds from crestfallen to angry.

"Listen to me," she says, and Sakura's tone is both quietly furious and upset, "If you don't agree to... to something, you're going to be a locked up civilian your whole life!"

Sasuke turns to her with a cold, hard expression. "That's fine by me."

Sakura makes an angry noise, and he hears the constriction of her leather gloves as she clenches her fists.

"Do you really think this is what he would want?" she whispers, looking at Sasuke with eyes that say a lot more than she does. "For you to live and die like this? Locked away, powerless?"

Every single day, Sakura comes. She will sometimes check his eyes, and his seal, and sometimes she will spend a while using her chakra to mess around with his. The feeling makes his hair stand on end.

When she tries to talk to him like this, Sasuke wishes he'd killed her.

"I'm just trying to think about what he would have wanted-"

"No. You're not." Sasuke's tone is icy, and Sakura's flinch of guilt gives it away to him.

Because of course she's not. The village comes first.

The negotiations for Sasuke's co-operation today are over, and tomorrow morning, Sasuke will expect them again. Sakura submits, and her hands glow with chakra as she sees to him.

She leaves after an hour or so, and Sasuke does not see her off. He isn't sure whether he wishes Kakashi were not here. If he wasn't, Sasuke would surely have an ANBU lurking in the shadows and watching him.

Kakashi is slightly preferable, he decides, and he leans back on the bench and glances upwards.

"Do you care what he wanted, Sasuke?"

Someone died a long time ago. But Sasuke doesn't think about it.

Sasuke doesn't answer.

Naruto didn't look too much like Naruto, when Sasuke woke up to see him, and for a moment, he thought it was just the light of the hallway.

"Oi! Bastard!"

Sasuke stood up – sprung up – and narrowed his eyes at Naruto, poised to strike, and Naruto laughed a little.

They fought, and Sasuke found himself losing when a particular explosion caused the remaining hallway to start collapsing. The exit went first, and Sasuke ran through the hallways with Naruto hot on his tail, praying to find another exit before he – and Naruto, likely – were crushed.

Sasuke almost grinned when he saw a streak of light, but the happiness was short lived as a the ceiling came down onto his leg. The pain was indescribable, and Sasuke cried out as he hit the floor. He attempted to pull his leg; pain seared up his body, and the rock moved none.


Of course, Naruto would never leave Sasuke to die in peace.

Today, it is not Kakashi who turns up, but Hinata. Sasuke does not know what to make of this surprise, but is grateful to be free of Kakashi's passive-aggressive pestering.

He sits and stares out the window, and he lets a hand wander to the seals beside his eyes. They're papery and thin, but Sasuke does not waste his energy tugging at them.

"Tea, Sasuke-kun?" Hinata asks, and he looks at her for a moment, before giving her a small nod. The clinking of porcelain is a distant noise. The only noise.

Hinata brings two cups of tea, setting them down either side of the table. She kneels down, and her every movement is elegant and practised. It is clear she comes from a traditional family in that moment. Sasuke crosses his legs, sipping the tea as well.

It is well-made.

"Kakashi-san is back onto proper missions," Hinata says. "He won't be here so much."

"And you?"

Hinata starts, looking at him. Sasuke's voice is abrupt and powerful in the calm of the house.

"Why aren't you on missions?" Sasuke asks. It is more like a demand.

Hinata looks down at her lap, and though her stutter is gone, Sasuke catches a glimpse of her nervous habits.

"I'm pregnant, so any missions outside of the village aren't permitted by my clan," she says. "I refused to go off missions so early, and this is low strain."

"Presuming I don't decide to kill you," Sasuke says, and Hinata's breath hitches.

He sips his tea, and her breathing returns to normal. Hinata wonders whether it was Sasuke's attempt at a joke.

"Do you sit here everyday?" Hinata asks.

'Do I?' Sasuke asks himself. After a moment's thought, he nods slowly, and Hinata frowns.

"Do you enjoy shoji?"

Sasuke shakes his head.

"Neither do I," Hinata says, smiling, and then she laughs.

Sasuke was not awake when Naruto brought him home, instead an unconscious dead weight laying on his back.

Naruto had returned smiling widely, and although there were a few people at the gate for him, Sakura ran forward first, and her eyes were filled with tears. Her words were unexpected.

"Naruto," she said, tears rolling down her cheeks. "Oh, Naruto...!"

Naruto had laughed at her, stumbling on his feet. "Yo, Sakura-chan," he said. "I'm home."

And then he'd fallen onto his front, Sasuke unharmed on his back.

Sakura had carefully peeled away Sasuke's damaged body to reveal Naruto's. She had seen to him first.

Sasuke had awoken hours later, but Naruto had not.

His leg was sore, incredibly so, but the bone had been resealed into its original position. He awkwardly tried to shift it, and bent his leg as he tried to climb out of bed – his muscles screamed as he did – and he stumbled into the hall.

His head was painful, but he knew one thing. He could not stay in Konoha.

"Your leg isn't going to heal at this rate, you know."

Sasuke turned quickly to see Tsunade, tutting at him. Even as she stood at his height – no, he was taller – she somehow managed to look down on him. He gritted his teeth, and grabbed his wrist, and his hand crackled with lightning-

And disappeared just as quick. He angrily tried again, only to find the chakra loss send him swaying.

The Hokage shook her head, tapping her foot. "You are an idiot, Uchiha. Do you really think I would allow an S-rank missing nin into my village without taking precautions?"

Sasuke's face twisted into an expression of pure rage, and he ran for her-

-only to topple over onto the floor. The collision with the floor sent a sharp pain through his leg, and Tsunade lifted him by his collar.

"And here's me thinking," she said, "that you might be grateful for me fixing that leg of yours. I was rather lax on the side of security, too, as Naruto would've asked. If he were awake to ask, that is." Her expression was bitter.

Sasuke glared at her, but she wasn't fazed. Tsunade scoffed at him, dropping him like a ragdoll.

"Get back into your room. Don't even try and make a run for it, or I'll kill you without a second thought."

Sasuke had no doubt that she would carry out that threat. He was pretty sure that everyone wanted him dead, now.

Tsunade turned and walked, entering a room at the end of the corridor. Sasuke found himself following her-

"Please follow Godaime-sama's orders."

The words were not what convinced Sasuke, but the edge of cold steel against the back of his neck.

With a withering glare, Sasuke allowed himself to be lead into his room once again. He had little doubt about the presence of the ANBU guard.

The next day, Sakura came to see him. She had no flowers, and she did not peel him an apple to eat.

"Sasuke-kun," she said, nodding at him.

He stared at her.

"Must be boring in this room," Sakura said, and Sasuke would have agreed, if he hadn't wanted to kill her and everyone else in this village.

Sasuke did not speak to her that day. She left after a while. Her words, whatever they had been, had been completely ineffectual.

The next week passed the same, with Sasuke not speaking to anyone. His leg was still unusable, and if he needed the bathroom, he had to use an assigned pair of crutches.

And so, the week had passed in silence, until Kakashi came.

The door had opened, with Kakashi fully engrossed in a book, and he had come and sat by the bed.

They were keeping a bedside vigil, except he wasn't dying, and he wasn't planning on staying in Konoha. He was planning on killing all of them. Each time they came to him, Sasuke almost laughed in their faces.

He had come to a decision, after an hour of Kakashi's presence.

"I want to see Naruto," Sasuke said, and Kakashi raised an eyebrow.

"Maa, Sasuke... he's not awake yet," Kakashi said, turning a page. "Maybe he's dead. It'd be your fault, you know."

"If you think I care, you're mistaken." Sasuke's tone was chilling.

"You asked," his ex-teacher said, and the man shrugged, snapping his book shut. "Since you asked, I'll see the Hokage about it. But, Sasuke..."

Kakashi stopped, hand on the doorknob, and Sasuke looked at him.

"Don't leave Konoha. At least, not yet." Kakashi left, and called back through the door as it shut.

"You'll regret it."

Sasuke hated it when Kakashi told him what to do.

But, Sasuke didn't try to leave that day. Because it was futile. Not because Kakashi's words meant anything to him.

No, they didn't mean anything at all.

"You can see him," Kakashi said, and Sasuke started, looking up at him. Wordlessly, Sasuke climbed out of bed, grabbing his crutches reluctantly and tucking them beneath each arm.

Kakashi lead him forward, through the corridor, and Sasuke could feel the anxious presence of the ANBU behind them. They walked in silence, until reaching the room that Tsunade had entered last week.

The resounding noise of the heart monitor irritated Sasuke the moment he stepped in. Naruto was in the bed, and Sasuke saw, for the first time, the extent of his change.

"The seals," he said, not looking at Kakashi but clearly addressing him. "What are they for?"

The seals had been easy to brush off in the dark light of the hallway in Orochimaru's lair, and in the panic to escape, Sasuke had not looked at them. But they were there, licking up like black flames to Naruto's right cheekbone, and running all down his arm and down his collarbone.

Kakashi doesn't respond for a moment.

"The Kyuubi has taken its toll on Naruto's body," he said. "The chakra has begun to consume Naruto's. The effort of resisting the Kyuubi's chakra was putting him into a constant state of chakra exhaustion, and eventually, some of it permanently integrated."

Sasuke could see that, by the thickening of the scars on his cheeks. But the change wasn't massive, only slight – and his eyes had been a certain blue when they had fought.

"It wasn't a problem, really," Kakashi said, "But Naruto was determined to use none of it, so we worked on a seal. It only shows when he's summoning chakra, but I guess it's a little big."

Sasuke sat down, putting his crutches to one side. "So why now?"

"I suppose because his chakra is exhausted."

Sasuke frowned slightly.

A week out with chakra exhaustion?

To Sasuke, it seemed more like a coma.

Naruto didn't look different to Sasuke, not really, but it was bizarre to see him without an obnoxious smile.

Sasuke stayed there for a while, and when he left, he asked if he could come back tomorrow. Kakashi said yes.

The next day, Naruto awoke.

"Sasuke," he croaked, and then he coughed painfully. "Kakashi-sensei," he said, and Kakashi acknowledged it with a small wave and a "Yo."

"Let me inform the nurses," Kakashi said, standing up and leaving.

Sasuke didn't say anything.

Naruto sat up, blinking hard at the surroundings, and then he smiled. "Bet you're hating it here, bastard," he said, laughing gleefully. "How long have I been asleep?"

"A week."

Sasuke expected a cry of outrage, or something, but Naruto didn't say anything at all. Naruto's face held an unreadable emotion, and he bit his lip.

"A week, huh," Naruto said.

Sasuke didn't say anything to that.

"How's your leg? You left the hospital yet?"

The Uchiha scoffed, and Naruto blinked.

"Hey, don't laugh at me, you ass."

"Your Hokage has me under ANBU guard," Sasuke said, with a disdainful emphasis on 'Hokage'. "This is the furthest I've been from my bed."

Naruto's expression was annoyed. "Stupid Tsunade-obaa-chan..." he said. "Well, I think I'm fine. Let's go talk to her now."

"I can't leave."

"Sure you can. Come on, let's go. The Hokage tower is like, next door."

It wasn't, and strangest of all, the ANBU did not slaughter Sasuke the moment he left.

They headed to the tower, and Naruto spoke to the Godaime, and through a strange series of events, Sasuke found himself under Naruto's guard in his own home.

The next day, Hinata comes again, and she is carrying a small bag. When Sasuke lets her in, she sits down and reveals two pairs of knitting needles, and many colours of wool. Sasuke looks at her in disbelief.

"You don't have to," Hinata says, "But this house is cold. I thought knitting would be something you can do, even when I'm not here."

Sasuke scoffs, and does not take hold of the knitting needles.

Hinata patiently goes through how to knit, describing each step fluidly, and at the end of the day she leaves the needles and wool on the table in neat bundles.

When late night comes, Sasuke turns on the light.

He faintly wonders about Karin, Suigetsu and Juugo.

He knits a scarf of light blue, cold red, and orange.

"This place is so big. Why don't you live in a different house? Hell, I could have a house of my own here!"

Sasuke didn't say anything. His house was dustier than he remembered it, but that was only natural, after years of absence.

The first day, Sasuke cleaned his house. It was a methodical process, and Naruto felt there was a deeper purpose beyond the obvious one. He didn't participate in the cleaning, and Sasuke didn't ask him to.

Naruto stayed in the garden, instead. When Sasuke finished, he went straight to bed, and Naruto had no idea what room he was in. He chose to sleep on the couch, rather than invade the rooms upstairs.

When they didn't have a kettle, Naruto left for an hour – ('How stupid can he get?') – and came back with a kettle from his house.

When they made tea, the kettle cooled far too quickly, and Sasuke noticed.

"Well, bastard, if you want nicer tea, go buy a kettle yourself!"

Sasuke was quiet for a moment, a cup of tea in hand, before he tipped the tea out into the sink and left the cup there.

"I don't plan on staying."

The next day, Hinata comes over, and at first, Sasuke does nothing.

She notices how things have been displaced, and the lesser amounts of wool, and suppresses a smile.

Later in the day, Sasuke submits.

"A tea cozy," he says, and she looks up.


"How would I knit one?"

Hinata gently guides him through the process, and quietly notices that the wool he has picked is a bright and vibrant orange.

Later, he tucks the teapot into the tea cozy, and when Hinata makes tea next, it is warmer.

Sasuke didn't know what to do, and Naruto knew it.

"Whatcha waiting for? Konoha to just blow up, or something?" he asked.

Sasuke had been hoping for something similar, but he scowled anyway.

Naruto shrugged, leaning on his elbow. "You aren't doing much, is all. You're way more boring than I remember."

Sasuke snorted. "Idiot."

"You're the one who decided to take a nap in enemy territory and got caught!"

Sasuke lunged for Naruto, fury in his eyes. He landed the first punch, cleanly on Naruto's jaw, and it escalated quickly, until an ANBU officer pressed a kunai against Sasuke's neck.

He was seconds away from attacking the ANBU too until Naruto spoke.

"Oi, oi, oi," Naruto said, laughing awkwardly. "It's not like that, okay? You don't need to interfere in a fight between us. We're just..."

We're just friends.

"We're just sparring," Naruto said.

"I'm sure Hokage-sama would not be happy to see Uchiha Sasuke training."

"Yeah, but this isn't for Sasuke, it's for me," Naruto said. "He's got seals on him anyway, he can't use chakra. It's no good for him. If I'm gonna be with this guy for a while, I don't wanna have to sit around."

The ANBU looked from Naruto, to Sasuke, and to Naruto again in a split second, and Sasuke could imagine his sceptical expression.

Instead, he nodded, and vanished.

Naruto and Sasuke stopped fighting, and Naruto left to go get food later.

Sasuke did not eat.

"Are you stupid enough to believe I will stay here?" Sasuke asked. It was sudden.

Naruto bit his lip and stared down into his food, resting his chopsticks.

"No. You're not home yet."

Sasuke set up a futon for Naruto, but it was downstairs. Sasuke slept elsewhere.

Sasuke still finds cup ramen in his cupboards. It is always behind something, tucked behind old jam, and he knows that Naruto had tried to hide it because Sasuke had got into the habit of throwing it out. It was processed crap, as far as Sasuke was concerned.

Today, he is looking for spices, when he finds some ramen tucked away in the far corner of his cupboard. He gives the spices to Hinata, and tells her that he will be making other food for himself.

When he leaves the cup ramen for three minutes, he opens it and the bland and salty smell hits him instantly. He eats the ramen, and it is saltier and stodgier than anything he's eaten in months.

After he eats it, Sasuke knits with Hinata. He has begun knitting a navy jumper, and out of the corner of his eye, he notes that she is knitting a mug cozy.

Later on, he throws up the ramen.

Hinata asks him something, this day.

"Sasuke-kun," Hinata says, "Do you have any dreams?"

Sasuke thinks for a moment, as he loops the wool through a hole.

"I don't know," he says.

Because he doesn't. Danzo is dead by his hands, and destroying Konoha isn't so easy, now.

"Sasuke-kun," Hinata says again, "Can I ask you something?"

Sasuke stops knitting for a moment, considers the possibilities, but nods slowly. He knows it is going to be personal.

"Do you miss Naruto-kun?" she whispers.

Someone died a few years ago. But Sasuke doesn't think about it.

"No," Sasuke says.

Hinata looks Sasuke for a long moment before she nods and accepts his response.

Naruto and Sasuke had lived together for a couple of months when one day, Sasuke had fell ill.

"Sasuke? Yo, bastard. You're not still in the bathroom, are you? You take fucking hours in there, I'm sick of your-"

Sasuke was swaying. In fact, no. He wasn't; the world was swaying, and he clasped the door frame tightly, trying to keep hold so he wouldn't fall.

"Naruto," he said, and to him, it had been a yell, but his voice was failing him and so were his legs-

Sasuke collapsed.

"Sasuke? Sasuke?!"

Hinata was surprised when she was called up by the Hokage to see to Uchiha Sasuke.

"I've got my suspicions about his chakra," Tsunade said, as they approached the hospital room. "Just have a look at it, and tell me about any discrepancies."

Hinata nodded. "Yes, Hokage-sama."

"And..." Tsunade said, though her tone was less certain. "If you could just take a look at Naruto, as well. He's in the room as well, I believe. Though, that's a less official order."

"Of course, Hokage-sama."

Hinata reached the room. Sasuke was in the bed, unconscious, and by his side, was Naruto.

"Yo, Hinata!"

"Hello, Naruto-kun," Hinata said, smiling and suppressing a blush, and she activated her Byakugan.

The results horrified her.

"Hokage-sama," she whispered, "It's-"

And it was as though her expression alone gave Tsunade the answer.

Sasuke awoke alone, and immediately knew there was something wrong.

In a scene too familiar, he ripped out his IV and stumbled into the hall, head spinning. He was not in a hospital gown, this time, so he knew he'd not been there for a week, at least. He looked this way and that, but found only Hinata, coming down the hall.

Sasuke ran to her as quick as he could in his disorientated state, and he pinned her with his stare.

"Hinata," he said, "Where's Naruto?"

And then he noticed the thick tears that were rolling down her cheeks. She buried her head in her hands.

"S-Sasuke-kun," she sobbed, and Sasuke felt his heart sink straight to the pit of his stomach.

"What is it? Where is he?!"

"Y-You have to see Hokage-sama," she said through the streams of tears. "P-Please, Sasuke-kun! You're the only one...!"

And Sasuke ran.

Sasuke burst into her office and nearly ripped the door off its hinges. Tsunade looked exhausted, with her head in her hands, and when she lifted them off to acknowledge Sasuke, he saw the black bags beneath her eyes.

"Great," she muttered.

"Where is Naruto?" Sasuke said, and his tone was cold.

Tsunade looked at him, and he could see emotion in her eyes that he had never seen until now. It didn't make the impact of her words any less strong, or any less cruel.

"Uzumaki Naruto," she said, with all the emotion as if she were reading it straight off a document, "has become a danger to public health, and he is due for euthanasia."

And Tsunade had been fully prepared for an explosion, she had been fully prepared for Sasuke to run her through, or destroy her tower, but she was not prepared for this silent rage.

"You can't," he said.

Tsunade rubbed her temples. "There is no option, Uchiha," she said, looking at him with eyes filled with pain. "Naruto had poisoned your system. When his chakra became unstable, those seals should have been enough, but they weren't. The Kyuubi's chakra has begun leaking out, and no sealing expert can stop it."

Sasuke's fists clenched. "There must be solutions. There will be."

Tsunade's shoulders shook, as she put her head in her hands once again. She couldn't meet Sasuke's gaze.

"Sasuke, I know. But there is nothing I can do. If we want to avoid a state of war, we cannot lose the Kyuubi. We cannot show that our Jinchuuriki is useless. The Kyuubi must be extracted and moved, because Naruto cannot carry on leaking that chakra." Tsunade's tone was wobbly. "Naruto doesn't want to hurt anyone. He would rather die."

"I would rather die than let you kill Naruto over fucking politics!" Sasuke roared. "Naruto is worth more than that, and you know it!"

Tsunade's words were a whisper. "I know, Sasuke."

She motioned her ANBU to behind Sasuke, and dread filled him.

"Sasuke," she said, closing her eyes and standing up. "I never liked you. You were a brat. But Naruto always has, and I trust that kid. So I'm sorry for what I have to do."

Sasuke resisted the urge to run as the ANBU behind him tensed.

"As the Godaime Hokage, I must do what is best for the village," Tsunade said. "If greater control over the Kyuubi is a necessary attribute within the new Jinchuuriki..."

'No. No, no, no.'

"I refuse," Sasuke said, and his tone was rising. "I refuse!"

Tsunade was crying, and they were genuine tears.

"I'm sorry Sasuke," she said. "But you don't have a choice."

When Sasuke lunged forwards, he felt a pressure when everything disappeared.

Sasuke awakes in a cold sweat to the sound of Sakura knocking.

He considers ignoring it, but answers the door anyway.

She gives him the regular check up, and asks him, as she always does (in different words each time), if he is willing to co-operate yet.

And then she says something out of the ordinary.

"Apparently," Sakura says, "You and Hinata are getting along."

Sasuke doesn't say anything.

"Don't worry, she didn't talk about it to me, or anything," Sakura says, prodding Sasuke's chakra. "She has to give an official report to the Hokage every so often. It is a mission, after all."

Sasuke says nothing, but then he hears Sakura sniff.

"I'm just glad," she says quietly. "I'm happy for you, Sasuke-kun."

And, Sasuke considers giving her silence, as he always does, but he doesn't.

"Thank you," he says.

Really, he doesn't think it should be something that he should be thanking her for. But he does anyway, because Sakura looks as though she's about to cry.

Hinata comes later on, with more wool, and Sasuke can't think of anything to knit.

After an hour of being sat in silence, Sasuke places his knitting needles down on the table and walks into the garden. Hinata places hers down too, along with the nearly finished mug cozy, and she follows him into the overgrown grass.

"I know what my dream is," Sasuke says.

Hinata nods, and Sasuke walks over to the daffodils that he planted years ago. They have blossomed again this year.

"I want to die."

Sasuke awoke next to Naruto, and the ceiling was a very dull white.

"Yo, Sasuke."

"Naruto," he whispered.

They were both shackled to the floor tightly, and both topless.

"There are some guys out there, fuuinjutsu masters, or whatever. They're gonna start soon," Naruto said, and Sasuke clenched his jaw.

"How can you just accept this?" Sasuke whispered. "How can you, of all people, accept this?"

Naruto was silent for a moment, but looked at Sasuke with a small smile.

"I don't want to die," he said. "I really wanted to become Hokage, but more than anything now, I wanted to stay alive to protect everyone precious to me."

Naruto closed his eyes.

"I'd rather die than... than kill everyone around me. In the end, I'd just end up alone anyway."

"So what?" Sasuke said, and he pulled at the shackles. He couldn't stand the look in Naruto's eyes. "So what?! There would be a way! I would find a way! I'd suppress the Kyuubi, and we'd travel until we found someone!"

Sasuke choked on the lump in his throat, angry tears threatening to spill. "You're being killed for politics, Naruto! Just so Konoha can have the upper hand! Don't you see what's wrong with that?!"


Sasuke closed his eyes, biting his lip.

"So what, if I'm dying for politics?" Naruto said, and his tone was soft and accepting and everything Sasuke wished it wasn't. "If it means Konoha will know peace... then I don't care if I die. It doesn't matter to me, Sasuke. Your brother..."

Sasuke's lip began to bleed.

"I knew about your brother, Sasuke," Naruto said. "He saw war, and he suffered the pain of killing everyone precious to him to prevent war. I... I think I understand him, now. And I'm sorry, Sasuke."

"Why do you care about Konoha?" Sasuke said, looking at the dusty ceiling. "Why does everyone care about Konoha?"

Naruto shook his head. "You don't get it, Sasuke. It's not Konoha. It's the people in it."

'If you're not in Konoha, then what is there for me now?'

"I'm sorry for dragging you into this. I didn't know you'd end up being the Jinchuuriki... tied to Konoha. That's the last thing you would want." Naruto's voice was quieter now. "I'm sorry."

Sasuke was quiet.

He wished that Naruto was not Naruto. He wished that Naruto was selfish. Sasuke wished, more than anything in the world, that Naruto cared more about being alive than he cared about Sasuke.

"Being tied to Konoha... being tied to that hateful village..." Sasuke said, and his voice threatened to crack.

"I would rather be tied to Konoha than let you die here," Sasuke said.

Naruto smiled at him, and it was the kind of smile that forced Sasuke to smile back.

The seals masters began laying pre-prepared pieces of paper upon their stomachs and legs and arms, and a decrepit old man began chanting.

"Sasuke," Naruto whispered. "I'm sorry for everything."

"Shut up," Sasuke said. "You were always such an idiot."

'But you were the best kind of idiot there was.'

Naruto grinned at him. "Bastard."


Naruto stuck his tongue out at him.

"Naruto," he said, "I'm sorry."

"It's cool," Naruto said. "You did what you thought you had to do. You're still an ass, though."

"And you're still a dead last."

The chanting got louder.



"Can you do me a favour?"

Sasuke nodded slowly, and his stomach twisted.

"Find peace," Naruto said.

Blood trickled down his chin.

"It's not easy. And I'm sure you've been searching for years now. But find peace."

"Hakke Fuuin!"

Simply, emptily, Naruto died beside him.

"Naruto," Sasuke whispered.

The pain of having a bijuu sealed into his stomach did nothing to distract from the agony of seeing Naruto's limp corpse being carried away.

A week or so later, Hinata comes later on in the day with a gift for Sasuke.

It is a tiny vial, and Sasuke knows what it is before she tells him.

"It is made of things you could have conceivably gotten your hands on," Hinata says. "I will not be implicated. Take it when I have already left."

Sasuke has no words for her, and hugs her tightly. She hears his breathing hitch.

"Thank you, Hinata."

Sasuke makes his way through the greener parts of the village, and makes it to Naruto's memorial, from Hinata's directions.

The stone is in a clearing of the woods, and would be inconspicuous if it were not for the halo of bright orange marigolds circling the stone.

Sasuke sits above the grave, and drinks the small vial. He throws it back like a cup of sake.

He and Naruto had never reached an age where they could share a cup of sake together.

Sasuke reflects on his life.

After the sealing, Sasuke had assaulted the Godaime with the Kyuubi's power, and since that day, it had been sealed from him. And everyday, Sakura would come in her stead, and negotiate for Sasuke to use the Kyuubi for the good of the Leaf.

Sasuke has had the good of heart not to lie to her. He could have lied to her, allowed her to take the chakra seals off, before murdering each and every one of them. The shinobi art of deception; simple and effective.

But he couldn't. He has considered it, but every time, he remembers Naruto. He remembers Naruto, how he had died to ensure the safety of Konoha, and in that memory, Sasuke cannot do it.

Today, Sasuke has tired of it. He will find peace. He will not find peace for his deceased loved ones, but finally, for himself. And in life, Sasuke has found nothing.

Sasuke knows that after his death, Sakura will cry, and Kakashi will hold her shoulder. No-one else will really care, but it will be a sad story someone will recount to their children one day, because his death wasn't nearly as pitiful as his life.

Naruto died April 7th, 4 years and 17 days ago.

It is the last thing Sasuke thinks about.