title: this clarity clouds my mind

summary: He moves within a dream, and in a way, he is – Sasuke, 616.

notes: Les. challenge fucking accepted, brah.

this clarity clouds my mind

He moves as if within a dream, and in a way, he is. Sasuke has dreamt this too many times in the years that he's been gone for it to be anything less than a melancholic imagining, moon sliver-silver bright and whole, trees rustling with the softest of winds. He always wakes up before he reaches the gates.

But Konoha, that village tainted with blood and ash, comes into view beyond towering walls, and this time he does not start awake in a cold sweat, heart racing with something he called horror, but felt closer to longing.

Behind him, Suigetsu whistles appreciatively. "So this is the shit hole you left behind, huh, Sasuke? It doesn't look so crappy to me."

Not so long ago, rage would have threatened to drown him. Now he tries to see Konoha through Suigetsu's eyes, to see what he sees because his own vision is too stained with red for him to notice anything else.

Lights spill out through the gates, warm and inviting – and in the distance, he can make out the craggy features of the Hokage mountain, a face carved into the rock which was not there when he left.

Orochimaru sees it too, and snorts. "Poor old Tsunade-chan," he murmurs, but Sasuke is barely aware.

The gates are looming closer and closer and they're through and he is home. Or would be, if he was still the stubborn, half-frightened child who left three years ago, slipping away like one of the ghosts he carried around in the black space of his ribcage. He's come back changed, only to find the landscape has changed, too, shifted and transformed while he was looking the other way, and it feels like another betrayal in a lifetime full of betrayals.

But that's hardly fair, is it? Time stands still for no man, and Sasuke – oh, Sasuke has found that out the hard way.

(Against his will, he remembers a bridge and the intention to kill; a delicate throat beneath his hand, a kunai poised at his back.)

"Let's go, then," Suigetsu says, jumpy and erratic, excitement in his every movement and he remembers when Naruto was like that, twelve and so moronic, so eager but there's something a little twisted in the mist-nin that was never there in the idiot.

(Let's burn the world down, he thinks. Let's light it up and watch the sky ignite.)

He doesn't, not yet. There's a crack in his conviction he needs to fix, and he hates the sick feeling in his bones at coming back, when he cannot come back for good.

The pulse of chakra, hundreds of miles away, he ignores.

The bench, though, tucked to the side – innocuous and insignificant – that makes Sasuke pause. He remembers tears and moonlight and a steady pulse against his wrist as he carried her limp body.

I love you I love you I love you –

And if his throat tightens, if his chest seizes with some emotion he's forgotten how to name, there's no one to tell the difference.

The last time they met her eyes met his over the blond's shoulder, empty and resolute. Another promise, he thinks. He knows Sakura well, after all, and even three-quarters blind, he'd understood what that look meant.

"Take me with you," she'd said, once upon a time when it all fell apart in his hands. He didn't, but she continues to follow him into the dark.

notes2: churned this out in about fifteen minutes. How'd I do, Mars?

notes3: bitches be bold and review.