Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.

Warnings: established NaruSasu, fatalism, and tense changes.


Some things can't be ignored.

Long after Naruto falls asleep--sprawled out over more than half the bed and kicking him in the leg, the idiot--Sasuke keeps a hand over the place on Naruto's stomach where the seal is.

He knows that the seal is still firmly in place. Everyone knows the seal is still firmly in place; Tsunade made sure of that when the whole mess began. And it's not like it's even visible unless Naruto is using the fox demon's chakra. It's a stupid gesture, and Sasuke doesn't like doing stupid things.

He does it anyway.

He was the first one to notice that the scars were getting deeper. He ran his fingertips over them sometimes, while the other teenager was sleeping, partly because it felt like a sappy thing to do and partly because he didn't want Naruto to know, and he'd felt that the lines were more indented and slightly wider than they'd been before. Just slightly, not enough to be noticeable from far away or enough to be worried about, but still undeniably there.

He hadn't mentioned it. Not to Tsunade, nor Kakashi, nor anyone else who probably had the right to know. He assumed that Naruto was already aware.

Only he'd been wrong. They had come back from another tough mission, and once Naruto had washed off the grime and dried his face, Sasuke saw that the six lines had at some point become twelve.

Sasuke had been in the bathroom as well at the time, brushing his teeth and wondering if his great fireball technique was dissolving the enamel since there was no reason for them to be this sensitive, and he saw the look on Naruto's face in the mirror.

He pretended to still be looking down at the sink when Naruto glanced over at him. Sasuke watched from the corner of his eye as the blond started to lift a hand to the scars, but then changed his mind, and ruffled his hair instead, and said he had first dibs on the hot water and Sasuke could either join him or take a cold shower.

Sasuke had rolled his eyes and continued brushing his teeth, and had been mildly pissed when Naruto really did use up all the hot water.

It was the lines that stood out the most, obviously, so it was the lines that finally betrayed Naruto to the village. The other changes were more subtle; but Sasuke still noticed them. He didn't say anything, except once when he told Naruto to either stop scratching him or to do it in less obvious places, because it was getting annoying to have to dig out his old arm warmers just to cover the marks. And Kakashi kept raising an eyebrow whenever Sasuke showed up late to training.

Naruto had ignored the first part of his complaint and replied that Sasuke should claim Kakashi's tardiness had infected his old team. Sasuke asked how they were supposed to explain Sakura still being punctual. Naruto said it had to be the result of the hag's counter-training. Sasuke had realized that the conversation was going to disintegrate into nonsense and gave up, adding only that Naruto had the option of either watching his hands or sleeping on the damn couch.

Kakashi was the one that had the discussion with him, since he knew that Sasuke wouldn't have listened to anyone else, not even the Hokage. The conversation had been relatively brief, brought up while Kakashi was working on Sasuke's physical/chakra therapy.

(Sasuke's left arm had never worked quite as well since he'd used the chidori three times in one day. Kabuto had fixed it almost completely so that chakra was able to move through it again; but Sasuke had never been able to use the chidori since without severe pain, and his aim with his right hand was much worse. Sasuke had refused to show chidori to Orochimaru, so it wasn't until Naruto and Sakura brought him back to Konoha that he could explain what had happened to Kakashi. The man was currently trying to help him improve his aim with his right hand, because Tsunade had said that despite Kabuto's efforts, she didn't think his arm would be able to sustain that much chakra again.

Kakashi was also helping Sasuke work his left arm up to being able to use it despite her warning, because he knew that Sasuke would try to do so anyway, and he preferred to be there rather than let the teenager permanently damage himself from a lack of supervision.)

During one of the sessions, Kakashi had mentioned that Naruto's scars were growing somewhat. Sasuke said he'd noticed. Kakashi remarked that the Yondaime's skills had been unparalleled. Sasuke agreed. That was the end of it.

Late at night, Sasuke lays awake with his hand over Naruto's stomach where the seal is, and wonders if they're expecting him to be the one to kill Naruto when it becomes undeniably obvious that the fox demon is taking over. He wonders whether if he does it, he'll attain the mangekyou sharingan. He wonders if he could even win.

He wonders if it will be easier if he loses Naruto to the fox demon first, or harder.

The twelve lines had become eighteen recently, when Naruto had returned from another mission--just triple long scars where they used to be singular, near together and not really noticeable unless you got close to Naruto's face.

Sasuke had been asleep the night when Naruto returned, and the blond had collapsed on the bed and hadn't gotten up until after Sasuke had already started to make breakfast. When Naruto hadn't answered his repeated and growingly irritated calls to come eat, Sasuke had left the kitchen and found him in the bathroom, staring blankly at the mirror. That was when he noticed that the lines had multiplied again.

Sasuke had stared for a minute, then looked away and said, "Come eat, idiot, or I'm throwing your food in the trash and you can cook your own breakfast." When Naruto hadn't answered and just kept staring, Sasuke waved a hand in front of his face.

Naruto's arm jerked up so quickly that the sharingan activated automatically, but by that point the blond had already slammed his wrist against the mirror and pinned it there, with a hold tight enough that the bones creaked slightly. Sasuke winced and pulled, but couldn't break the grip.

Sasuke had started to swear at the other teenager, but then he saw that Naruto's eyes were still blank and focused inwardly. Then he knew that Naruto wasn't hearing his voice.

Sasuke thought for a moment, then moved back as far as he could and kicked Naruto hard in the upper thigh, knocking him away. The grip on his wrist was tight enough that Naruto wound up taking Sasuke down with him, and he grunted when his knees slammed the floor at an awkward angle.

"Owww, jerk," Naruto muttered, alternately rubbing his thigh and elbow, which he'd cut on the side of the counter on the trip down. "What the hell was that for!"

Sasuke stood up and inspected his wrist with a glance, flexing it once. "Breakfast, dead last. Go eat already." He left before Naruto could ask about his wrist, or why his eyes were still red.

The bruise was dark, lingered for over a week, and had clearly shaped fingerprints. Sasuke had to dig out the arm warmers again, and it was a pain in the ass, because Kakashi had just looked at them before moving on to his training, and that man had a way of saying nothing that said everything.

It wasn't the only time Naruto had slipped, it was just the first time that he had slipped so much.

There had been other times. There were nights when Naruto's lips would be moving across his throat, his stomach, and Sasuke would feel a sudden tension in the blond's arms, just before Naruto would pull away and shift up to kiss him again. He hadn't understood the first time, but the second time that it happened, Sasuke realized that Naruto was fighting down the urge to bite him.

There were only two other times that Sasuke had felt as vulnerable as he did in the moment he realized that, and those times he had been trapped in the mangekyou sharingan's illusions.

He hadn't realized he was shaking until Naruto had stopped and asked what was wrong, looking down at him with concern in those eyes that were starting to have a reddish tinge in certain lights.

Sasuke had pulled away from him, had practically run into the bathroom, and had locked himself in and stayed there until the nauseous, bile-in-his-throat feeling of fear receded.

Naruto had banged on the door and asked what was wrong, his voice slowly moving from concern to an irritation covering deep panic. When Sasuke managed to talk long enough to tell Naruto to shut up before he woke the neighbors, the blond had kicked the door a few times, yelled come choice insults, and then paced outside for a while before finally slumping against the wall beside the door and sitting on the floor.

When two hours had passed, Sasuke unlocked the door and found Naruto curled up against the wall, asleep.

His instinct had said to leave, to leave immediately, even if it was the middle of the night and there was nowhere to go, because it this was never going to improve. He and Naruto didn't talk about the changes, but if he picked up his stuff and left tonight, then the blond would understand. He'd be pissed, he and Sasuke would yell at each other constantly, and there would be plenty of times where they would avoid looking at each other in public, but Naruto wouldn't try to make him come back.

Sasuke had stared down at the other teenager for several long minutes, still standing in the doorway of the bathroom. Then he folded his arms and said loudly, "Hey, idiot."

Naruto had jerked awake at that. "Uh?"

Sasuke was faintly amused that he had answered to the insult, but he doubted that Naruto had really heard what he said. "You're going to get sick, sleeping in the hallway naked."

Naruto glared at him. "Shut up! You don't have room to talk, you're naked too, y'know."

"I wasn't sleeping in the hall."

Naruto muttered something that Sasuke couldn't make out, and rubbed his eyes. Sasuke looked away then, before walking back to the bedroom, picking up the blanket that had wound up on the floor, and going back to bed. Naruto had come in a few minutes later, still moving carefully in a way that just wasn't normal, and for a minute Sasuke wanted to say something.

He kept a tight hold on the blanket when Naruto tried to tug away more than half of it, ignored the blond's grumblings about the cold and weirdoes, and didn't fall asleep until after dawn.

It had been awkward for a couple days afterwards, but within a week things between them had become normal again; and by two weeks Sasuke no longer shook when he felt that faint tension in Naruto's movements.

He still doesn't sleep as much, and sometimes he wonders if he should have left that night, anyway. Just to make the inevitable easier on both of them.

But other times he thinks it wouldn't have been worth it, because he would miss this more than he can comfortably admit. He'll miss all of it, from the sex to the arguments to the way the neighbors complain whenever the arguments become yelling matches to the smell of ramen that has permeated his clothes and which no amount of washing can get rid of to the feel of Naruto's stomach rising and falling slowly beneath his palm on the nights when Sasuke stays awake and thinks too much.

But some things can't be ignored.

Sasuke watches the other teenager sleeping sprawled out beside him and abruptly decides that if he does have to be the one to kill Naruto, and he does somehow gain the mangekyou sharingan from it, he'll gouge out his eyes.

Only that's a stupid thought, and Sasuke dismisses it almost as soon as it's finished. He's going to have a hard enough time killing Itachi with a damaged left arm--how would he possibly be able do it without the sharingan?

But . . . still. . . .

Then Naruto yawns and stretches, taking up even more of the bed, and throws an arm over Sasuke's chest as he shifts to a new sleeping position. Sasuke makes an annoyed noise and shoves the arm down to his stomach so he doesn't feel so constricted, making Naruto grumble in his sleep.

A few minutes later, Sasuke yawns as well. Then he rolls over to his other side, stretching out his left arm so that it won't feel cramped later, and falls asleep for another night.