A/N: Okay... I'll be honest: I hate where this fanfic has gone. I liked it in the beginning when I started writing, but that was in 2003 and now it's started to seem more than slightly ridiculous. It was started at a time when I knew very little of the Naruto plotline (probably because Naruto hadn't even gotten that far by then), which is why the plot makes absolutely no sense next to the actual story. For the sake of tidiness, I'm going to say this takes place somewhere before Sasuke leaves and then just says "Screw you" to the actual storyline and takes off in its own little direction. I'm only finishing this because I don't believe in giving up, I suppose. (And can we also ignore that fact that Sasuke's practically kicking Itachi's ass? I'm following my original chapter outlines... which probably wasn't the greatest idea).
This is the last chapter, but sometime in the next month or so, I'll start posting chapters of my ItaSakuSasu AU, Like Nicotine, which I can promise is much, much better, as is the rest of my Naruto work.
For any of you who are Ayumi Hamasaki fans and have the song "Moments (Acoustic Piano Version)", I really suggest that you play it during this chapter.
The words spread through Sasuke like a wildfire, leaving a burning energy through his body that he'd never thought himself capable of. It was not a feeling of chakra increasing. It was something he had only felt once before - the moment in the chuunin exam when the curse seal had first awakened at the need to avenge Sakura's beating at the hands of the sound ninja Zaku.
But he knew the curse had not reawakened.
It didn't matter how he'd gained the power he felt flowing through him. What mattered was that Uchiha Sasuke was pissed and ready to take out some long-collected aggression.
"You're dead." The movement happened so quickly that Itachi, having underestimated his younger brother by not yet activating the sharingan, could not see it.
Sasuke disappeared, and almost immediately, reappeared behind the older shinobi, targeting his shoulder with a kunai- a move that would have temporarily taken down any other ninja. To Uchiha Itachi, however, it was an amateur move, even if shockingly quick, and he managed to just block it before Sasuke disappeared again.
"You're going to regret the day you came back to this village."
Naruto had never been as intuitive as many of his fellow shinobi, but deep down he had the feeling that something was wrong.
He knew Sasuke hadn't left.
That night had been surprisingly fun. He'd never expected to enjoy going out with Hinata, but once she stopped stuttering, conversation between them had actually picked up.
Still, he had had a hard time forcing Sasuke and Sakura out of his mind.
After taking Hinata home, he'd gone to Sasuke's, only to find the door unlocked and partially open. The first sign that something had gone awry with Sasuke's plans was the backpack set against the wall, ready to go.
Then he saw something that made his heart stop completely: In the middle of the empty room was the exact red dress that Sakura had worn almost every day for the past few years. At first he wondered if maybe Sakura and Sasuke had gotten around to... well... working on their "teamwork", but he realized the absurdity of that thought after scanning the room again. It was empty of all life- even assuming that Sakura had had some reason to strip down in Sasuke's home, there was no plausible reason for her to leave her clothes there and just walk away.
Shit... What's going on?
Somehow... Somehow he was dying. Or dead. Or incapacitated.
Sasuke couldn't tell. He was fighting to keep his vision from fading, desperately trying to cling to consciousness. He had already bled out much more than was safe, but was also healthy, young, and trained to survive.
In front of him, Itachi was lying on the ground. A kunai was lodged in his throat, blood continuously leaking out around the metal.
Sasuke had simply gotten lucky- it was the only hit he'd been able to land on the older boy. If he hadn't somehow managed the fatal wound, he would undoubtedly have been dead by now. He was losing blood quickly, and it was possible that somewhere along his body, there was a weapon or two embedded in his flesh. His left arm must have been dislocated- he couldn't move it anymore, and the pain was so great that he had no desire to truly try.
He also had something much more important to think about.
Half-crawling, half dragging himself, he made his way to where Sakura was still propped up against the bridge railing. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he painstakingly lifted her up with his one still-working arm and began to make his way toward the village.
Following pure instinct and the light scent of blood revealed by his sharp nose, Naruto moved as quickly as he was able to, making his way through the woods easily.
He had not gone very far before he saw it: Sasuke was stumbling along the path, holding an unconscious Sakura awkwardly at his side with one arm.
"Sasuke!" He rushed forward, catching both of his friends as Sasuke's strength gave out. "What happened?!"
"He's... dead..." The words were choked out, and then the dark-haired boy fell into Naruto, arm falling from Sakura's side.
Sasuke woke to the most annoying beeping-sound he'd ever had to deal with. He recognized it.
Heart monitor... Hospital...
He forced his heavy eyelids open, immediately focusing on a familiar orange-clothed blond.
"Naruto..." The name came out hoarse and quiet. Apparently he really had taken a beating if she could barely even speak. It only took a few seconds to realize that there were tears running down the fox-boy's face, and he didn't seem eager to celebrate his teammate's awakening.
"Sa... kura?" One word was all he could force out, but it was enough.
"She... I'm sorry... I didn't get you both here on time... She's ... She didn't..." The look on his face was agony, and he couldn't continue with the explanation. Instead, he broke into a sob.
It was then, for the first time since he was eight years old, that Sasuke felt a tear fall from his eye, and before he knew it, he was crying.
"Uncle Sasuke! Uncle Sasuke! You promised to take me training today!" The small girl ran ahead of her mother at lightning speed, jumping into the arms of a rather uncomfortable twenty-six-year old Uchiha Sasuke.
"Hana! I've told you not to do that..." Hinata's voice fell quiet as her husband let out a loud laugh.
"Oh let her have fun, Hinata! You remember what it was like to be a kid!" Naruto took Hana from Sasuke's arms and set her back on the ground. "You'll have to wait your turn, kiddo. I've got to talk to Uncle Sasuke first. Go with mommy, okay?" Hana nodded eagerly and ran back to Hinata, who offered a shy smile and walked her daughter to the small garden they had started two years ago.
"Sasuke... How are you?" Dark eyes gave him a bored look.
"It's been ten years, Naruto."
"Yeah... I know... but I just feel so weird with you living alone still and always taking those one-man missions... It makes me feel like you're still mourning."
"I live alone because there's no one I'd like to live with." His eyes shifted from his old teammate and turned toward the sky. "And I take one-man missions because I'm not afraid to die anymore." Naruto sighed and shook his head.
"You shouldn't be ready to throw your life away like that..."
"It's not throwing it away, Naruto. I'm taking missions few others are willing to accept. If I die, I die, and I'm fine with that. If I live, then I live to complete another mission for this village."
"Well... I guess that makes sense."
"Don't worry about me. It pisses me off."
After a few moments of silence, both young men burst out laughing.
Yeah... Sasuke will be okay.
The years had passed seamlessly, but it had finally come.
At the age of fourty-eight, Uchiha Sasuke's completed mission had also led to his death.
His last moments were filled with physical agony, but when the pain abruptly disappeared, he sat up in astonishment.
But he wasn't... his body was smaller and below him... was his adult self. He stood, and looked at his body- the body of a man who'd given his all, then looked down at himself.
I'm a teenager again...?
"Sasuke-kun." Pink hair blew in an invisible wind. Her smile had remained unchanged, her face frozen in the youth she'd possessed just before death. Not a thing had changed.
There was a light behind her; a light that folded out into a long path to a place he was completely unsure of.
But the uncertainties no longer mattered.
Sasuke took Sakura's hand, and they walked forward together.
A/N: There. Finished.
Again, I'm sorry for how this turned out. Especially the end, which lacked a lot. I really do plan on making up for it with my better stories... But thank you to everyone who read this, and also to all the people who left reviews. I appreciated the support throughout this story, and if it weren't for the readers of this, my very first Naruto fanfic, I probably wouldn't have had the courage to write more and keep improving. Thank you all so much.
If you'd like to read more from me, just keep an eye out for Like Nicotine, or go check the few other Naruto fics in my archive. They're way better anyway :)