Title: Unspoken bonds
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Summary: According to Lord Alfred Tennyson, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Is it really?
Warnings: Yaoi. Manga spoilers.
Author's note: Alright, this is a story which will have five chapters that are interconnected and yet can stand on their own. I ask you to please leave logic behind and read the story because this one is based purely on emotions. Each chapter will have their own set of warnings.
Be prepared for plenty of angst because this is probably the saddest piece I have ever written but sometimes sorrow can be beautiful.
This particular chapter is dedicated to the wonderful Saniwa. Enjoy May-chan and thanks for that little virtual gift on LJ.
Itachi and Naruto
The blinding pain of separation and loss haunted his every step. A bond that they were not aware of tied them together so strongly that without each other they were nothing. One died for someone precious to him and the other was left hollow and incomplete, surviving but not living, not sad but never happy. This was love at its worst.
Itachi and Naruto
He never saw it coming. He was fighting the orange-masked idiot, slowly realizing that there was more to his opponent than he let on. He was engrossed, analyzing his opponent while coordinating an attack with Kiba as a partner.
He never saw it coming. A blinding flash of pain, the likes of which he had never experienced before. It was as though someone had carved out a piece of his heart and destroyed it. The intense, horrifying pain brought him to his knees, his heart throbbing as a scream of utter loss and desperation escaped him.
Everyone jumped, turning to look at him in horror as he cried out brokenly, muttering denials as his body shook with the force of his sobs. He was hardly aware of anything. He did not see his friends and comrades turn toward him in concern; he did not see his opponent looking at him in interest.
All he was aware of was the blinding, numbing pain that had brought him to his knees.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!" He moaned, clutching his head as feeling a sense of intense loss and loneliness consumed his soul. Something horrible had happened.
"Sakura!" the sharp command from Kakashi brought the medic nin out of her horrified stupor. "Take Naruto and leave! Something is wrong." He ordered while the others reluctantly turned their attention towards Tobi, frowns of worry on their tense features.
"What the hell did you do to him, bastard!" Kiba asked loudly, his eyes glowing in rage as Naruto's desperate cries rang in his ears. He had never seen his boisterous friend so completely undone and he never wanted to see that happen ever again.
Tobi simple shrugged, "I did nothing." No one believed him and Kakashi was even more wary. Shino stepped forward to engage the man while Sakura hurried to get away as far as possible.
Finally, she came to a secure alcove of old trees and carefully set Naruto down. Her heart froze in her chest when she saw the pale, broken features of her teammate. "Naruto…" she whispered shakily, cupping his cheek but the other ninja was lost in his own world of despair. "Naruto… what's wrong?" she asked urgently as she checked to see if he was under any GenJutsu.
"Kami-sama…" Naruto moaned quietly, staring unseeingly at the ground, his fingers clasping his hair painfully, "No, please… no…" he whispered and Sakura watched him helplessly. He wasn't under any GenJutsu but his entire body radiated distress. His heartbeat had increased, his pulse was racing, he was sweating and trembling, he so pale that Sakura was certain that he seemed a little blue.
Another hoarse cry brought her out of her thoughts and she instinctively reached forward to pull him into her embrace. "Shh… Naruto…" she murmured helplessly, surprised when she felt the moisture of his tears on her shoulder. She tightened her arms protectively, her eyes narrowed in a glare. That Tobi person had obviously done something to him.
Sakura had never seen Naruto so vulnerable… so broken.
She bit her lip fiercely, her own eyes growing moist as Naruto shook in her arms. She swallowed, feeling her heart in her throat at his cries. She had scanned him and she couldn't find anything.
Suddenly, Kakashi appeared in front of her, looking solemn. "How is he?" he asked, kneeling in front of her. Carefully, removed Naruto's Hitai-ate and pressed his palm against the sweaty forehead.
"Not good." She murmured, combing her fingers soothingly through Naruto's silk-like hair. Her eyes sad as she took note of the vacant gaze of her normally bright and cheerful friend. "I have checked for everything, including Mangekyou's Tsukiyomi…" she shook her head, "I don't know what is wrong, Kakashi-sensei."
Kakashi sighed, "I have sent Yamato and the others ahead." He informed her, "Sasuke has managed to kill Itachi, it seems."
Sakura looked up at him, startled while Naruto seemed to sag against his teammate, a small whisper of distress escaping him. The jounin looked down at Naruto, "Naruto…" he murmured and blank eyes looked at him, "How do you feel?"
The boy did not answer, turning away, looking at the sky with a lost look in his eyes. He was still shaking, his breaths coming in short pants. Sakura and Kakashi exchanged worried glances. The jounin reached forward, took Naruto securely in his arms, and stood, frowning when the boy stayed limply in his arms.
Something was very wrong.
Silvery blue eyes blinked suddenly, regaining focus and Naruto reached forward, closing the file that sat on the desk in front of him. He gathered what remained of his paper work and numbly set himself to the task of signing each document after reading it thoroughly.
Once he was done, he leaned back in his comfortable chair. Crossing his legs, he looked out of the window at his face that was now on the Hokage Mountain with a sigh. Had it really been that long since that day?
Eighteen years and it still felt like yesterday.
There was a brisk knock on the door and Naruto softly commanded the person to enter, not even glancing at the visitor.
"Hokage-sama," the man started saying, his voice just as deep and smooth as it had always been, "The monthly report of the activities of the Police force." Naruto looked away from the mountain and met the ebony eyes of the Uchiha clan head. "There is nothing special to report." Sasuke stated expressionlessly, "Everything else is in this file." He walked forward and placed the file on the desk.
Naruto inclined his head a little in acceptance but did not say anything.
Sasuke pursed his lips together; the now familiar pained look in his eyes all the more apparent. "Sakura recently gave birth to another son." He stated even though Naruto had not acknowledged him, "We think that he should be introduced to his godfather." He murmured.
Naruto looked at Sasuke intently before nodding. "Congratulations on the birth of your second son." He stated, a very polite but equally fake smile on his lips.
Sasuke swallowed the anger that rose in his throat every time Naruto addressed him with such indifference and nodded in acceptance. "If that is all?" Naruto said and went back to his work in a gesture of dismissal.
Just as the Uchiha was about to walk out of the door, he paused, his hand holding onto the doorknob in a white-knuckled grip. "Sakura misses you." He whispered, "Don't punish her for my sins just because she is my wife." He pleaded softly.
Naruto looked away from the Uchiha, "I am not punishing anyone." He stated.
Sasuke tightened his grip, a silent snarl on his lips, "Yes, that is why you haven't called me by my name for over a decade now." He turned to look at Naruto, "That is why you cannot even look at me in the eye."
Blue eyes looked at him and Sasuke suppressed another snarl at the sheer indifference he found there. "I will come over for dinner tonight." Naruto stated and Sasuke relaxed a little.
He nodded and walked over to the door once again, "Don't forget." Sasuke said before leaving the office.
Naruto stared at the closed door for a while, Sasuke's bitter expression lingering in his mind. It was a reminder of a deep friendship that was lost but never forgotten. The blonde turned away, staring out of the window once again, a pensive expression on his face.
Suddenly, a harsh laugh escaped him and he rested his head on his desk, his eyes glittering in pain. He loved Sasuke, he really did but he hated him as well. It was an inexplicable hatred and it come from deep within him, making him want to kill the one person he considered most precious.
Even now, he would do anything for Sasuke. He stood by Sasuke when he got married. He tried to be the best godfather he could be for Sasuke's first child but that hatred did not diminish.
He never denied anything to his friends, his villagers, and his precious people. When he was twenty-four years old, they wanted him to be the Hokage. By then, he could not have cared less about his childhood dream. He accepted nonetheless and gave it his all, never straying from his duty.
When he was twenty-seven, they wanted him to get married.
He had refused, deliberately denying himself the only thing that he ever wanted but never voiced. The very thought of being married to someone was unacceptable to him. He didn't know why. He did not know why his heart said that he was betraying someone by even thinking about marriage.
Therefore, Naruto stayed single as his friends moved on. He became one of the few most powerful men in the Elemental countries, the Rokudaime Hokage of Konoha and easily the most influential. However, many of his friends asked him the same question whenever they discussed his life.
What is the use of all this success if he wasn't happy?
Naruto shook his head and looked at the report Sasuke brought with him. As always, it was meticulous and detailed and it made him grin wryly. No matter how much Sasuke changed after his marriage and the birth of his children, he was still the same perfectionist when it came to his job.
Silently, he went back to work, knowing that time would fly by easily if he kept himself engrossed in his paper work. Absently, he told his secretary to remind him of his dinner plans with the Uchiha if he became too immersed in his work.
Hours passed away silently before there was a knock on his door. Naruto paused in reading the latest report from the ANBU department, looking at the clock. "Come in." he called as he put the file away and stood, putting on his Hokage's robe once again.
"Hokage-sama, you wished for me to remind you about…"
"Yes, thank you Nanami." Naruto interrupted, "I will not be returning to the office tonight. If there is any emergency, you know what to do. I do not have any appointments for the evening so there shouldn't be anyone who wishes to meet me tonight." He stated quietly and handed her two files, "Have these sent to Ibiki by tonight and have someone tell him that I wish to meet him tomorrow afternoon."
"Hai, it will be done, Hokage-sama." She nodded and then smiled, "Have a nice evening, sir."
Naruto nodded and walked out of the room. While he was in no mood to interact with anyone, he did his duty to greet the citizens when they called after him and indulge the children who were looking up at him with wide, awed eyes. He knew he was quite popular. Not only was he young, but also many considered him to be very handsome and charming. It helped to know that Yondaime had been his father and he had been very close to both Sandaime and Godaime.
Shaking his head slightly, he walked towards the Uchiha estate, carefully maintaining the light-hearted grin on his face. Since he hadn't bothered to shield his chakra, he was quite aware that both Sasuke and Sakura would have sensed him by the door before he even knocked.
That explained that black blur that attacked him as soon as the door opened with a loud yell of, "Naruto-jii-chan!"
The Hokage chuckled, looking down at the squirming black bundle in his arms, "Hello Keisuke." He murmured indulgently to his godson, petting the unruly black mop that the child called hair. "Once again, you have caught me unawares."
Keisuke shot him a grin, showing everyone that he was a perfect antithesis of his calm, rarely smiling father.
"Naruto." Sakura called for his attention with a soft, loving smile. "It has been a while." She whispered as she kissed his cheek, a hint of sadness in her voice. Naruto nodded to her, smiling only for the sake of the child that was now blissfully snuggling in his arms.
As he was ushered into the house, he spotted Sasuke holding, what he presumed to be his newest godson, gently in his arms. Sakura silently led him towards her husband, taking Keisuke from his arms with a smile.
"Naruto." Sasuke greeted with a nod but placing the child in his arms, "Say hello to Uchiha Itachi."
Naruto stilled, his heart freezing in his chest, as he looked down at the innocent baby in his arms, careful to keep his touch gentle. "Uchiha Itachi?" he asked, his voice soft, almost breathless.
Sasuke nodded, "I named him after nii-san." He murmured, reaching forward to caress his baby son's cheek, "He has been named after a great man."
Naruto bit the inside of his cheek at the pain that assaulted his heart at the mention of that name. He nodded in understanding, expertly hiding his emotions from the keen eyes of his two best friends. He closed his eyes for a moment before handing the child back to his father with a tight smile. "Congratulations, Sakura." He said softly, "But next time, do try to give me a sweet goddaughter." He said with a cheeky smirk.
Sakura glared at him, "I am not some baby making machine!" she exclaimed with a scowl that was directed both at him and at the smirking Sasuke. "God only knows what would happen if I bring a girl child into this world to be under the guidance of you two brutes. She will be ruined!"
"Well…" Naruto grinned, "Look at it this way. Keisuke is already a lot like me." He looked at the happy boy whose eyes were sparkling in delight, "If this little Uchiha turns of to be like Sasuke then we need a girl to complete a circle." He stated, gesturing towards Itachi.
Sasuke chuckled and nodded in agreement and Sakura scowled, crossing her arms stubbornly. "Well, if that is the case, why don't you get married to one of your fangirls and added to the second coming of Team Seven with a girl child?" she asked, looking at Naruto piercingly.
Sasuke smirked but Naruto's face turned serious. "Not going to happen, Sakura." He murmured. Sakura frowned and looked at her husband pointedly as she went to the kitchen to bring out dinner, taking the protesting Keisuke along with her.
Sasuke turned towards Naruto with a frown and the Hokage raised a brow. "How long do you plan on staying like this?" he asked out of concern. "You wanted a family more than anything, Naruto… I don't understand this."
Naruto turned away from the Uchiha stiffly, "There is nothing to understand."
Sasuke leaned forward, grasping Naruto's chin, "Both Sakura and I love you." He stated bluntly, having a family had softened him up a bit and with Naruto Sasuke felt that it was necessary to speak things out. Subtlety did not work on the Rokudaime Hokage. Blue eyes narrowed but Sasuke continued, "You don't let us in and you don't let others in… why Naruto? What went so wrong that you give us this…" he gestured towards the kitchen where Keisuke was, "…this fake mask of happiness. Do you even love your godson as much as you pretend to?"
Naruto stayed silent and Sasuke leaned back with a sigh, "You are not going to talk to me, are you?"
The Hokage grit his teeth before looking at Sasuke. "What do you want from me?"
"Is it too much to ask for you to be happy?" Sakura asked softly as she placed the food on the table while the perceptive Keisuke stayed in the kitchen, not interfering in the conversation. She looked at him, her green eyes pained, "If we hadn't forced you to be Keisuke and Itachi's godfather, you would have completely isolated yourself." She bit her lip and glanced at her son who had silently walked out of the room, giving them privacy. "Your sense of duty would never let you neglect your godchildren and that tactic worked."
She sat down beside him and took his hand, "How many months has it been since we had dinner like this? Together, as a family?" she asked softly, "Fine you see Sasuke for work related issues, you see me when I am working in the hospital and you see Keisuke whenever you are looking after him for us but when have we spent time together like this?" She looked at him in the eye, "It has been nearly eight months since you have spoken to us properly."
Naruto sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. "Would it appease you if I say that I do not know what is wrong, myself?"
Sakura pursed her lips together, certain that he was lying but Sasuke raised a hand to silence her and looked at Naruto shrewdly. "Let's say, we believe you." He murmured softly, "Why won't you let us help?" Sasuke asked.
"You rejected Hinata-chan." Sakura whispered, her emerald eyes pained, "The one woman who has loved you all her life." Naruto flinched, turning away from her to look down at the baby he had cradled carefully in his lap. "Had it been anyone else… I would have said that they don't deserve you." She shook her head, "Hinata-chan… she deserves it." She reached forward and cupped Naruto's cheek, "I spoke to her yesterday and she says that it kills her to see you so lifeless." Emerald eyes bored into icy blue, "I agree with her. I understand how she feels because Sasuke and I feel the same." She looked at her husband, smiling a little sadly, "After all, both of us settled for second best, didn't-"
"Don't." Naruto hissed, narrowing his eyes at her, "Don't cheapen your relationship like that." He shook his head, "What you have is very precious. Both of you love and understand each other… don't ruin that." He looked at Sasuke then, resisting the urge to flinch because those dark, dark eyes reminded him of someone else. "Just because I am a half-crazed idiot doesn't mean that you need to spoil your happy family life for me." There was bitterness in his voice that both Sasuke and Sakura couldn't stand.
Sasuke snarled, a curse slipping past his lips loudly enough to startle the baby. He jerked in Naruto's arms, his watery eyes opening. Sakura hurriedly took him and walked out of the room silently, leaving Sasuke and Naruto alone.
"I leave for four years and you were rendered like this." Sasuke whispered, his dark eyes intent on Naruto, "What happened?"
"This will sound ridiculous." Naruto whispered, looking away from Sasuke.
"Ridiculous?" The Uchiha asked softly, "Do you think I care? I want to know why you haven't spoken properly to Hyuuga, Gaara, Nara, Inuzuka, Iruka for years now. I want to know why the only wedding you attended was mine. I want to know why you bought a house so far into the woods that I need a fucking hour to reach it when I visit." He leaned forward, looking furious, "I want to know why you rejected me, Sakura and now Hinata knowing that each one of us would do anything to make you happy. We have been-"
"I was fighting against Madara… Tobi at the time." Naruto began softly, interrupting Sasuke. "Something happened then… all of us suspected that it was some Sharingan induced GenJutsu." The Hokage looked away, sighing softly, "I don't know why… something happened… something changed… the pain…" he whispered in torment, "Have you ever felt a gut-wrenching sense of loss, the kind that makes bile rise in your throat at the mere thought of it? The kind that gives you nightmares for years, leaving behind a hollowness that you never felt before, that shadowed your every move?" he swallowed, looking pale, "I can't even begin to describe it." He whispered, "I…" he paused, looking rather helpless.
"Madara did something to you? Something that left such long-lasting effects behind?" Sasuke asked incredulously. "His Sharingan could not have been so powerful."
Naruto paused, looking at the ceiling as he gathered his thoughts. "I don't know, Sasuke." He whispered, "I don't know what happened…"
The Uchiha was looking at him and for a moment, he feared that Sasuke would not believe him. However, the older man proved him wrong. Those dark eyes looked pained, "Naruto, it has been eighteen years." He whispered, "What could be so bad that you cannot get over it? Even after all these years."
Naruto stood abruptly, walking over to the engawa and looking at Sakura who was swaying gently to put her youngest child to sleep while Keisuke ran circles about her, grinning. "I don't know." He repeated. "I simply don't know."
Sasuke seemed troubled by Naruto's reaction but the blonde wasn't sure. He wasn't able to read Sasuke as well as he used to. All those years of distancing himself from the Uchiha had done no favors to their friendship.
The silence between them was thick and all consuming. Not even Keisuke's loud voice seemed to break it.
Sasuke observed Naruto for a long while, taking note of his posture and the darkness in his eyes. He decided that it would be best to ignore their worries and let Naruto enjoy a pleasant, relaxing evening for once.
That was the first word that left his mouth when he saw those eyes for the first time. If the Sharingan was scary in Sasuke's eyes, it was terrifying in the person standing in front of him.
A chill ran down his spine as his heart started beating faster and faster for every second he stared into those haunting eyes. Something within him recognized the man.
He stood there, stupefied as he stared at the older version of Sasuke. His eyes seemed to scan hungrily all the details of the man's unforgettable features. There was an insane mixture of emotions bubbling in his chest.
Fear was the most prominent. He knew that no one would be able to look at the striking man standing in front of him and not feel fear. The impassive stare spelled danger. The way he held himself told of the man's experience.
Intrigue came next. He looked so much like Sasuke. He had the Sharingan, and according his teammate, the Doujutsu belonged solely to the Uchiha clan, their sensei being the one exception. Moreover, everyone had said that Sasuke was the sole survivor of the Uchiha clan. So, was there someone else who survived the tragedy without anyone's knowledge? Another look at the man told him otherwise. He had a vague inkling this man was the person Sasuke intended to kill.
Dread mingled with curious anticipation caused shivers to race down his spine. He knew this man was dangerous. He also knew that the man was important. Important in ways that Naruto couldn't begin to describe.
His throat suddenly felt dry.
"Uchiha Itachi!" His head snapped towards the loud, angry voice of Sasuke. His eyes wide as he saw rage clouding those usually controlled features of his teammate.
All the while, one name rang in his mind…
"You…" Naruto whispered, inwardly shaken by the unexpected presence of the Uchiha.
Itachi stood in front of him, just as intimidating and intriguing as always. Those intense eyes were staring at him, evaluating him, judging him. It felt, for a moment, that he was the center of Itachi's world, to have all that focus directed solely at him.
That was not a comforting thought.
He swallowed his nervousness, his eyes narrowing in determination.
"I know you are alone…" the Uchiha stated in a soft yet bland voice, "Why don't you run?"
Naruto scoffed, full of false bravado. It wasn't fear that was unsettling him. Curiously, he did not feel any fear, only a sense of familiarity he could now feel clearly unlike the first time he had met the older Uchiha. "I can be one or a thousand!" he proclaimed, "Besides, there is no way I would run! If I capture you, I can see Sasuke."
Those eyes stared at him again and they seemed to know that there was more to Naruto's motives than he let on. He was right in that assumption. Why did he feel the incessant need to be near Itachi?
There was a pause. "Why are you so concerned with my brother? He is a missing-nin."
That word was painful to hear because Naruto knew that he did not have the power to save Sasuke from the repercussions of his actions. He wasn't the Hokage and until he achieved that goal, he wouldn't be able to protect the man he considered his brother and best friend. He looked at Itachi with determined eyes. "Because I think of him as more of a brother than you ever did!"
There was a small, almost imperceptible smile on Itachi's lips. It was as though the smile was mocking him for his naïve beliefs. It enraged him even as he realized that that probably wasn't the case.
Itachi's smile had a trace of genuine softness in it. His eyes were somewhat fond.
Naruto still attacked, rejecting those thoughts. Standing in front of him was a man that was the cause of all of Sasuke's pain. He could not afford to be distracted by the puzzle that was Itachi.
As he ran towards the Uchiha, Itachi remained unfazed. He simply let lose an illusion and a flutter of wings greeted Naruto's sensitive ears. "You are already in my illusion." That deep voice murmured and Naruto grit his teeth, his eyes keen on the figure of Itachi. "I will say it once more… I just want to talk to you."
Naruto narrowed his eyes in disbelief. "You want to bring Sasuke back don't you?" Itachi asked softly, "But what if he doesn't want to go?"
He refused to consider that prospect. "I will do whatever I can to bring him back!"
Itachi looked curious, "By any force necessary eh? If all things go well and if Sasuke goes back quietly, that's one thing." He looked at Naruto keenly, trying to judge his reaction. "But what if it is the opposite?"
The younger ninja stilled, "What do you mean?" he asked cautiously.
Sharingan eyes look piercingly at him. "You said that you thought of Sasuke as a brother. Well, I am asking you, what would you do if Sasuke were to attack Konoha?"
Naruto paused, stunned. Did Sasuke have any reason to attack Konoha? Why would he? When he voiced his thoughts, Itachi offered him a grim smile. "Sasuke is still pure. He could easily be colored by anything." The Uchiha raised a brow, "If that should happen, would you be able to stop him?" Itachi looked at Naruto straight in the eye, "Even if it meant killing him?" Naruto sucked in a sharp breath, those words terrified him more than he would like to admit. "Could you weigh Sasuke's life against Konoha?"
Naruto looked at him before narrowing his eyes in determination. "I'd protect Konoha and find a way to stop Sasuke without killing him!"
Itachi seemed unimpressed, "You are such a child." He said chillingly, those beautifully intimidating eyes keen on him, "You talk of nothing but pipe dreams… there are times when a ninja must make painful choices."
Naruto paused, "Someone said the same thing to me before…" he whispered with a scowl, recalling Jiraiya, "But there is no choice…"
He looked at Itachi straight in the eye, for once, not feeling intimidated at the sight of that deadly Doujutsu, "I won't bend my words." He stated firmly, "That is what being a ninja means to be."
A slow smile formed on Itachi's lips. It was almost imperceptible but Naruto got the distinct feeling that Itachi was pleased with the response.
He looked at the missing-nin with a frown. Many may consider him an idiot but he wasn't one. Itachi's actions and motives were suspicious. Why would be care that Sasuke could attack Konoha? Why would he believe that? Sasuke had no reason to. Even if Orochimaru was Sasuke's mentor for a while, Naruto knew that were was no love lost between them.
Moreover, his words implied that he cared for the well-being of Konoha and Sasuke as well. It made no sense. Why would a man accused of killing his entire clan care about the welfare of his village and his younger brother?
Suddenly, he choked, his eyes wide as one of Itachi's crows was shoved into his mouth. He gagged, falling to his knees, his heart beating thunderously at the sudden assault.
"I have given you some of my power." Itachi explained, "I hope… the day never comes when you have to use it."
Naruto coughed and panted, looking at Itachi with watery blue eyes, "You are after me, aren't you?" he asked hoarsely, "Then why not take me now?"
The Uchiha looked at him, his eyes solemn. There was a sense of peace around the man, yet it was mingled with sorrow and grim determination.
"I am going now." Itachi whispered, "I have something more important to do."
Naruto frowned and Itachi turned to walk away.
The look in his eyes…
Itachi was a man willingly walking towards his death…
"You care for him…" Naruto whispered, his eyes focused on Itachi's back, "You care for Sasuke… love him and yet you care for the village as well…" there was a hint of bafflement in his voice, "You are torn between Konoha and Sasuke…"
Itachi paused in mid-step, his lips curving mockingly, "I should have known…" He whispered but Naruto heard every word. "I am sorry, Naruto-kun…"
"You are going to let him kill you…" Naruto whispered and there was an edge of panic in his voice. He could feel an odd emotion bubbling in his chest and he looked at Itachi's back, "You are going to let him kill you." He repeated in horror.
What was wrong with him…?
Suddenly, Itachi appeared before him, kneeling down and looking him in the eye. It was instinct, Naruto had no idea why he moved but he did, his hands reached out to grasp Itachi's cloak desperately. He swallowed convulsively. The dread and panic was choking him.
Why? Why was this happening? Why was he feeling so terrified?
"Naruto…" Itachi whispered, his hand grasping the one that was holding on to his cloak.
Naruto whimpered, leaning forward to press his forehead against Itachi's chest. He wanted the horrible, suffocating feeling to go away. He wanted to escape the hollow, all consuming dread that suddenly assaulted him. "You are going to let him kill you." He whispered again hoarsely.
Itachi stilled for a moment before his hands grabbed Naruto by his shoulders and pulled him into a tender kiss.
Naruto didn't flinch, he didn't pull away, he did not reject the unexpected touch.
With a soft whisper of Itachi's name, he brought his hand up to cup the Uchiha's face, holding him in place. There was no room for thought. He didn't have the time to understand the confusing rush of unfamiliar emotions that had invaded his heart.
Itachi had utterly incapacitated him with that one kiss.
"No…" he whispered shakily against Itachi's lips, "Why are you… why would you?"
Itachi didn't answer as he removed Naruto's hitai-ate and pressed his lips firmly against his forehead. Naruto closed his eyes, his palm resting on Itachi's chest as he understood the meaning of the Uchiha's actions.
He was saying goodbye.
Itachi pulled away, cupping Naruto's face as his eyes roamed over his features almost reverently. It was as though the Uchiha was committing Naruto's face in his memory. The blond couldn't look away, staring into those eyes, trying to understand the dizzying flashes of emotion in them.
"I must do what I have to do." Itachi whispered, his thumb caressing Naruto's cheek tenderly, "I am sorry."
Naruto's fingers grasped Itachi's cloak feebly as he silently allowed himself to be pulled into the missing-nin's arms.
Naruto found a token of heaven in Itachi's embrace, a taste of things that could have been, but were not. It was an alien sensation, somehow more meaningful than the kiss they shared. He still could not understand why he felt the way he did. He could not figure out why he allowed himself to be touched by a murder and a missing-nin. However, he chose to ignore the nagging voice in this head that was asking him to pull away.
Naruto closed his eyes, giving in for a moment, for a single moment of knowing what it was like to be embraced by someone so strongly. He could feel Itachi's fingers combing through his hair and gave into the urge to question him. "You are walking to your death." He whispered.
"Why?" Naruto asked softly.
"It is best if you do not know." Itachi voice was calm and gentle.
"You did not kill them. You lied to Sasuke, didn't you?"
Itachi paused, his movements stilling. "Unfortunately, you are wrong, Naruto."
Even after that confession, Naruto stayed in Itachi's embrace, placid. "There is more to this mess than you are letting on."
The Uchiha looked down at him before nodding gracefully, "There is."
"Won't you tell me the truth?" Soft blue eyes met deep ebony as Naruto pleaded. "I will tell no one."
Itachi raised a brow, "Not even Sasuke?"
Naruto hesitated before nodding. "Not even Sasuke."
Itachi observed him for a long while before leaning forward and kissing him softly. "Forgive me, Naruto." He whispered against the younger boy's lips, "My secrets are dangerous and I do not want to put your life at risk because of them." He looked into Naruto's eyes, caressing his lower lip gently, "I can give you nothing but a moment." He whispered, "I am being selfish but I am afraid you have always and will always be mine and this moment is all you will ever know of being in love."
Itachi kissed him again then and it was blinding, passionate, full of emotions that Naruto could never hope to describe. Naruto couldn't even think of questioning his words as he closed his eyes.
He knew what was coming; he had seen it in Itachi's expression.
Then there was nothing.
"A moment." Naruto whispered, standing in front of the Memorial stone, his soft blue eyes scanning the list of names craved on it. "A moment together and a lifetime of loneliness." There was a wry smile on his lips, "You did warn me." He caressed the name that had been added to the stone when he became the Hokage.
He remembered that day… that day when he met Itachi for the last time. That memory haunted him everyday. There was no way to explain it, no way to explain his actions or Itachi's actions.
He could count on the fingers of one hand the number of hours he had spent with Itachi. He couldn't claim that he knew the man, he couldn't claim that he understood him.
How could he claim to love him?
It didn't make any sense. It was just one meeting, a meeting between a criminal and a loyal Gennin who grew up to be the Hokage. Yet, every time he heard Itachi's name, it was like a knife twisting in his gut. The sense of loss overwhelmed him sometimes. He would recall the time when he had looked into Itachi's eyes and seen so much. He remembered that embrace, that strong, meaningful embrace that provided him with a lifetime's worth of warmth in a single instant.
Sometimes he would become delusional. He would feel phantom fingers combing through his hair, he would feel Itachi's warm breath on his neck and he would feel those lips kissing him again…
Every morning seemed bleak. Every night felt inordinately cold. It was as though someone had taken away all the color from his life and left behind a black and white canvas.
How could he begin to describe his feelings? How could he begin to explain the connection that he himself didn't understand? It was impossible, it was unrealistic, it was maddening…
But it still existed. A bond that tied him to Itachi in such a way that he couldn't move forward. He was trapped in that moment, the moment he shared with Itachi and his entire life had changed when Itachi died. The pain, the sorrow and the sheer hollowness that followed Itachi's death was something he was barely able to cope with.
He felt foolish. He had ignored those feelings when Itachi was still alive, he had let the Uchiha go to fight Sasuke knowing that he was walking towards his death…
How could he have known the repercussions of Itachi's sacrifice? How could we even begin to understand?
He looked down at the name once again.
"You chose duty over me." Naruto whispered with a sad smile, "And I understand." He chuckled heavily, "After all, my father did the same thing… I am used to it. I just wish…" he sighed, combing his fingers through his hair, "I wish that just once… I wasn't the one left behind."
He sat down, leaning against the stone and looking up at the night sky. "I must have messed up pretty badly in my previous life… this is karma coming back and biting me in the ass, isn't it?" he asked with a bland smile, "Hinata… the kindest woman in Konoha, loves me… and here I am, pinning after a dead man."
He glared at the sky, his eyes shimmering moistly, "The irony is blistering." He whispered.
He raised his fingers, caressing a single name on the stone, feeling those familiar characters.
Fate really liked playing games with him.
"Uchiha Itachi…" he whispered, looking at the sky with a grim smile, "Uchiha Itachi and Uzumaki Naruto…"
Naruto's hoarse laughter echoed in the silence of midnight.
AN: Okay, this is an announcement for those who don't already know. Starofyaoi, Yum2, Saniwa and I have together planned to start an Itachi/Naruto fanfiction contest and I would request all my Ita/Naru readers to please participate. For further details about the contest, please visit my profile. The details are provided at the bottom of my profile page. I also request you that you do not respond to this message by the review option for this story. If you wish to contact me or comment on this, I implore you to visit the LJ community for the awards. Links are provided in my profile. You should find all the information about the award there.