Authoress' Notes : Thank you to everyone who supports this piece of fanfiction. After I finish this, I'd be able to concentrate on my other multi-chaptered stories :) There is a POLL at the end of the notes after this chapter. Please take a moment to answer it, would you:) Much thanks again. Read and enjoy! XD

Disclaimer : Naruto doesn't belong to me : ) This story is inspired by The Engine Driver's Ashes, Ashes

Warnings : Contains SasuNaru YAOI and shounen-ai. Nothing explicit, but this story is rated M for a reason. Expect mild spoilers/mentions about the whole series and manga, since this is a 'continuation' of the current timeline. Character death –I think you could all guess who- and some mild violence and slight language.

Title Credits : From Noir soundtrack, sang by Ali Project.

Sasuke-kun… he's dead?

Sakura's vision filled with tears, before she felt her world spinning into hazy darkness, and growing into an abrupt stop.

Chapter Three : Copellia's Coffin

She dreamed about Prince Charming, knights in shining armor, white horses, luxurious castles, flowing gowns, enchanting balls… she dreamed about the fairy-tale life.

When she first saw him, she thought, Kyaa, this person looks so cute! Her admiration for that person increased ten-folds when she saw how well he did in all their lessons and exercises. Her competitive spirit was spurred on with how that boy steals all the others' attention, including the one girl that stayed by her the whole time.

Her head felt light, as though she was bloated with air. She tried opening her eyes so many times before, but she just couldn't. The fleeting thought that she's dead crossed her mind so many times, but the constant beeping and fluttering of noise around her confirmed that she's still alive, just unconscious.

After all, it was a shock to learn about her teammate's sudden disappearance and another teammate's sudden death. She considered the two guys as two of her closest friends; in the same level as her childhood friendship with Yamanaka Ino and her romantic attachment with Rock Lee. She couldn't claim Naruto as one of her best buddies, even if she knows that if asked, Naruto would gladly give everything to save her. Because lately, Naruto hasn't been socializing with any of them; Naruto has been locking himself inside his apartment, turning down all offers of going out with friends.

Sasuke-kun, on the other hand… she didn't give up on him. She still thinks that there is some hope left for her dark ex-teammate. She had been hoping that after Itachi's death, Sasuke would see how lonely and hollow life is without anyone. She had been hoping –I'm sorry, Lee- that when Sasuke comes back, he'd see the devotion and belief that Sakura kept in her heart all these years. Of course, she believes that Naruto's determination would also help, no, is the key to Sasuke's return. She just doesn't think it's enough to let Sasuke be pardoned and that it isn't enough to make the villages believe that Sasuke wouldn't leave the village anymore.

What better way to ensure that, aside from giving him an heir, a new Clan to start, as a proof of his loyalty?

That's what Sakura thinks. She relieves her dreams, the handsome face of her ex-teammate, and she believes that everything is just a sick joke. After training so hard under Tsunade's tutelage, she pushed all fantasies to the back of her mind. She now remembers the fluttering of her heart whenever Sasuke would glance at her and she is unmindful of Naruto who is standing right beside her, staring with equal passion at the avenger.

She dreams, because that's all she could do to prevent herself from becoming hurt with the harsh reality.

She dreams, because in this cycle between Sasuke and Naruto, she has always been the one separate; she has always, always been the one getting in the way of the two.

She dreams, because that's all that's left to her.

She dreams, because that's all that she could do.

He stumbled upon the familiar trees. His breathing is ragged, and he tries his best to let enough air to enter his punctured lungs. Kyuubi has started healing him since hours ago, but the damage was too much to be remedied quickly. The monster hissed at him, to go back to Konoha and ask the Godaime to heal you, but he ignored it. He knows that this would happen, and for once in his life, Naruto is prepared – more than prepared.

After all, he considered that going on exile would need all sorts of things: medical supplies, food, shelter, illusion techniques for hiding, and artillery for fighting. He prepared those things quickly, and he didn't forget to buy books about chakra control and healing. Unlike popular belief, he did pay attention to the sensations and processes Sakura and baa-chan did to him whenever he's heavily injured.

Wiping out Sound has been tiresome; the village is made up of extremes. It's either his opponent is very dumb and weak, or that the opponent is hellishly-strong. He finished wiping out the whole village within a night, but he is very, very tired. He just wishes to be able to enter their home in one piece, and fast. Sasuke might be awake already, and he doesn't want his lover to know anything.

Killing Itachi –one of the best members of Akatsuki- had been taxing, not only on his strength, but also on his guilt. The crimson-colored eyes stared at him, understanding what he wants to do, and Itachi tried to stop him, from doing the technique forbidden by all laws in nature.

Killing Sasuke, that one act, plagued his mind for long nights. It still does, actually, and he tries to push the image of a bloodied Sasuke with blank, questioning eyes to the back of his mind.

He considered killing himself, just so that he would be in the same level as his lover, but he doesn't have any living relatives. And he doesn't want to parade around walking as a corpse, thank you very much.

He finally reached their home, and he knocked on it, once, twice, and the door opened, revealing his lover staring at him with kind, black eyes.

"I'm back, Sasuke-teme," Naruto rasped out, his throat hoarse and scratchy. The wound on his shoulder blades hasn't healed yet, but it doesn't matter because Sasuke has a kind smile on his face.

"Welcome home, dobe," Sasuke replies, and Naruto finds his lips quirking into a grin, before he fades away from consciousness.

There are certain things that felt loose and weird, but Sasuke's brooding was stopped when he heard the knocks on the door. He felt Naruto's chakra signature a while ago, and he worried about the other's slowness in traveling. The answer to his worries came in the form of a bloodied, injured and panting Naruto, that immediately fainted and fell to his arms a few seconds after he opened the door.

Sasuke wants to ask Naruto about the presence of medical supplies in their little place, but he decided to just let it rest. He is a ninja, and he if really wanted to, he could find the answer to his questions. There's just this eerie feeling that he wouldn't like the truth, once he managed to get hold of it. That's why he tries to stall his curiosity, and tries to reason everything. It all comes down to one conclusion, but he doesn't want to believe it; he doesn't want to believe that Naruto, of all people, would do it.

Admittedly, he would do it, if it was the other way around.

It was surely heartwarming to learn, however, that Naruto puts him above –way above- his dream of becoming Hokage. For that, Sasuke finds that he couldn't really resent his boyfriend's decision. Plus, he is a rational guy; he knows that the spell couldn't be undone and that time wouldn't go back for them to undo their mistakes.

No, loving Naruto isn't a mistake, he whispers mentally, and he looks at the figure wrapped in bandages, lying down peacefully on their bed. The early morning sunlight plays with the vibrant yellow hair, and creates a sharp contrast with Naruto's darkened skin. Sasuke is reminded of young, innocent child; he still thinks that Naruto is a child, after all. The innocence and light that's pure… that's just one of the many reasons why he craves for Naruto, and for the other's acknowledgement and love.

He finished wrapping up and stitching Naruto's wounds and he wonders where the hell did his lover get all these injuries. He promises himself to question Naruto about this, along with other things.

Naruto is lost. He doesn't know where he's going. To those who knew him before, there's not much surprise in that incident, since Naruto was born with no sense of proper direction. He thought he grew over that particular trait, but this encounter proved him wrong.

Am I asleep? He asks himself, as he wades his way thru his house. It feels weird, as though there's some glob of thick, invisible liquid pooling around him, making it almost impossible to shift and change positions. His legs are moving uncontrollably, and he couldn't rein over his limbs about the direction they're going to.

Finally, his legs stopped moving ceaselessly. It brought him to the secret basement of their little home, and Naruto finds himself unable to breath. His hand opens the door without any consent from him, and he sees the stack of weaponry he stored for emergency purposes. The scrolls that are neatly packed on a bookshelf rest on one side of the crowded room.

Itachi's cloak and straw hat are still on the other corner, waiting to be picked up and thrown away. Some of the articles are accumulating dust already, making the room look dark and abandoned. The coffin that he used to revive Sasuke is still standing on the other side, and he finds himself crossing over to where it's placed. He touches the lid, and he feels the shiver that runs up his bare arms. His instincts tell him to stay away and not lift the lid, but his hands are trembling and not asking him for any orders.

He shivers again, and he tries to keep his hands to himself, to prevent them from opening the coffin, and to conserve his body heat. Too late, he numbly thinks, and he watches blandly as the smoke –the familiar blackish-purple smoke that accompanies evil techniques- wafts from the slight opening. His hands move –after he felt a tremor race up his spine- once more, and completely lifts the lid off, and place offhandedly to the empty space beside them.

His lips part, and he gasps, but no sound comes out. Sasuke is resting on the coffin, eyes closed shut, scrunched as though he is in pain. He is wearing the same navy blue shirt from his Genin days, and the same pristine-white shorts. He is wearing the same hitai-te, without the scratch running across the symbol of the Leaf.

"Sasuke…" Naruto speaks in a broken voice, thinking that he'd be unable to see the old, original, untainted Sasuke. He doesn't care if tears are already forming on his eyes, if he shows this moment of weakness to his rival, best friend, lover, and so much more.

A pale hand struggles to—

Sasuke's hand is already curled on his throat, ready to kill him at any given moment. Naruto doesn't gasp, doesn't speak, and he just regards his lover coolly. He thinks that he could handle this; after all, he has always been stronger than the pale one if hand-to-hand or close combat skills are measured.

He is ready to snap the wrist away, when—

The face changed, though not much. The navy-blue bangs become longer, streaked with white; Sasuke's pale pink lips morph into the thickly-coated purple one, and the pale skin is covered with an ashen-gray hue. Naruto saw this form too many times already, on close encounter, and on his nightmares. The star-like scar fit against Sasuke's nose, and his eyes open to reveal spinning commas.

Naruto is about to drive a kunai straight to the other's forehead, because this is dangerous, and this is just a dream! The face changed again, and the old Sasuke resurfaced, and was replaced almost instantaneously by somebody with grayish-black hair, and long, long bangs. The eyes retained their color and their malicious swirl; along with the facial structure. The ashen color retreated, leaving the creamy, pale skin. The purple from the level-two-curse-seal-Sasuke transferred from his lips to the fingernails and toenails, revealing the older look-alike, Uchiha Itachi.

Itachi retained the eyes, accusing eyes that tell Naruto to stop torturing the two of them, and just surrender to the Leaf. You're being hunted down, Naruto-kun, Itachi's lips form those words, but no sound could be heard. Naruto closes his eyes for a brief second, erasing the image of a forlorn Itachi, because it reminds him so much of the lost and lonely look that Sasuke carries with him.

Stop this madness, Naruto-kun, Itachi says again, without the sound, and Naruto stares, as the coffin is surrounded by the same smoke that almost choked him earlier. The smoke is suffocating him… or is it because of the guilt catching up with him?

I just want us to be happy! Naruto wants to scream, to let everybody understand, I just want us to be happy together! Naruto wants to beg for the others' forgiveness, understanding, to just let them be. He wants to spend the rest of his short life with Sasuke, with his happiness.

I just want, Naruto thinks, as the hands pulling him down to the hell he belongs to pull stronger, I just want to be with him.

Naruto's eyes open dazedly, and after making out the colors, he saw his lover peering at him worriedly, before the other pulls back with an embarrassed huff. Unbidden, a laugh spills out from the younger one's lips, and the other joins as well in a short moment of peace. He could feel it, the others are arriving soon. Might as well enjoy the last happy moments, right?

The tanned one decides that he'd tell his lover everything, since the end is drawing near and he could do nothing to stop it, even with all his preparations and research. "Sasuke, I…"

"I cooked ramen for you," Sasuke tells him, still with that warm expression on his face. The guilt that built up on Naruto increased some more. How could he not feel guilty if he sees Sasuke looking so peaceful and happy? "You don't want ramen? That's weird, even for someone as weird as you, dead-last," Sasuke said, smirking, and Naruto raised an eyebrow before settling into their familiar banter.

"Who are you calling dead-last, bastard!"

"Sasuke, I love you," Naruto says, holding the other's hand as tightly as he could. The pulse there is very faint, as expected of someone revived from the technique. Naruto thinks that even though Itachi is the person that is highly-related to Sasuke, his body couldn't provide some of the vital processes that are needed to be met in order to qualify as a living organism.

Sasuke's smile is bright and warm. "That's the first time you told me that," The Uchiha informed him, and Naruto felt another stab of guilt. Well, if he didn't do the things he did, would he able to tell his beloved those words? Would he be able to see that heart-melting smile?

"Sorry to keep you waiting," Naruto said, blushing slightly, and he hid his pink cheeks on the white sheets, burying his face on the plush pillows. Sasuke's hand brushed against his hair, and cupped his face, forcing him to face the other's dark, dark eyes.

"I love you too, Naruto," Sasuke murmurs, his lips brushing against his lover's temple, and Naruto didn't try to hide the dazzling smile that crossed his own lips, before stealing Sasuke's lips in a passionate kiss.

It has always been you, and only you.

"Are you sure about this, Tsunade?" A gruff voice asked, the person uncharacteristically solemn. On any other circumstances, the Godaime would have questioned her former teammate about the change in attitude, but… this isn't just any other incident. The candidate for the Rokudaime Hokage is nowhere-to-be-found, and judging from the previous incidents about the very recent deaths of two S-Rank Criminals, which both happened to be Uchihas, along with the new discovery that the forbidden scrolls are missing…

"There's no solid proof, but everything could be derived logically from the incidences reported," Tsunade answers, and her eyes are grim. She eyes the other Sannin, noting how the bushy white hair failed to hide the concerned glimmer in the other's eyes. After all, Naruto had been a very close person to their hearts. He reminded her of her lost beloved ones; he reminded him of himself and the Yondaime Hokage.

An ANBU member suddenly appeared in a puff of smoke in the middle of the room, and he reported in an unaffected tone, "Hokage-sama, the teams are assembled already," The long brown hair whisking over the ANBU member's back is a give-away on the other's identity, but Tsunade thinks that now isn't the right time to tell Neji that.

The Godaime walks out of her office, with the remaining Sannin and Hyuuga Neji trailing after her. Tsunade walks out of her office, without the remorse, loneliness and sense of loss that she is feeling deep inside.

"I'm leaving the village to your hands, Shizune," She tells her apprentice, her best friend, her most trusted person. Based on Gaara's reasoning, Tsunade was convinced that separating Sasuke and Naruto at this stage would be more than impossibly difficult. The Kazekage himself went from the village of Sand just to be able to help an ally country and a friend.

This is dangerous, leaving two powerful villages without their leaders, but Tsunade knows that this is for the best. It is pointless to send weaker ninjas, because it will only increase the death tolls. It is better to just land one attack that would ensure their victory, rather than stretching the event into a longer time, and just increasing the chances of other villages knowing of this predicament.

Plus, Tsunade is still uncertain with the true reason behind Naruto's actions. He isn't the kind of person that would resort to these methods in order to… The current Hokage tightened her lips and bit down, tasting salty blood. She should not show any signs of pity, or any other emotion towards her trainee and supposed-successor.

"Hokage-sama, intelligence reports say that the north-west edge of our territory has some unusual shifts in chakra flow…" An ANBU member said solemnly, head bowed down respectfully as he reported to their leader. After giving the other details of the report, the ninja was heard to mutter the word troublesome, before leaping away and positioning himself with his teammates.

"Dispatch the ANBU Squad One and Two first, followed by the Jounin Squad Alpha; ANBU Squad Three, stay by me; the others, follow formation D behind me," Tsunade ordered, her voice confident and she turned to her teammate since long, long ago. The white-haired Sannin nodded grimly at her, before disappearing in a flash.

Their mission is to capture Uzumaki Naruto and find out what's really happening. And Tsunade wouldn't accept failures.

Even with my retirement coming up, you still give me headaches, brat.

"Ne, Sasuke," He speaks, his voice atypically soft. Sasuke is busy making breakfast for the two of them, and is currently situated on the kitchen, while Naruto is shuffling his feet while leaning on the kitchen door. The black-haired shinobi cocks his head questioningly, his own sign that Naruto could go on with whatever he wants to talk about.

Naruto paused, before fiddling with the hem of his white top. Sasuke finished cooking –rice and eggs with bacon- and arranging the table, but Naruto still hasn't said what he wanted to.

"You want ramen?" Sasuke guessed, not liking the strange expression on his boyfriend's face. In support with Naruto's weird attitude today, the blond didn't even react when his favorite food was mentioned. The coal-eyed male padded slowly towards Naruto, and held the other in a loose, comforting embrace. The pathetic slowness of Sasuke's heartbeat –as Naruto could feel as he hugged his lover- only served to make the blond's sadness grow and be reflected in his bright blue eyes.

"What's wrong, Naruto?" Sasuke asked, his voice breaking slightly; his emotions have always been affected by the blond's, and the effect amplified ever since he woke up in this far-away place.

Naruto looked up at his lover, at the warm and concerned eyes of his lover, and shrugs, smiling brightly, sincerely and hugging Sasuke tight. "…It's nothing."

Five more days passed.

There's something new about the way they woke up. It's as though they both know that something else, something different from the way they spent their days would happen today. Naruto spent an hour checking his weapons, his scrolls, while Sasuke cooked healthy, nutritious, energy-giving breakfast.

There's something different, the way Naruto looks like when he looks at the mirror near the front doorway. He doesn't look like the threatening wild animal he saw before he set out for Sound, but he isn't the normal, cheerful Naruto either. There's something different with the feel of entering his secret room, as though Itachi's cold presence has returned, which is silly, of course.

There's something different with the tasteful arrangement of the plates, as though Sasuke really thought and put effort in making their breakfast look appetizing. There's something different with the way the sunlight entered their windows, spilling in a shattered manner through the dark-colored curtains Sasuke favored ever since his childhood.

There's something different with the way the water from the shower hit his skin, as though slithering towards his every scar, every wound. There's something different with Sasuke's touch as they played in the bathroom, as though the dark-haired shinobi is being very careful with him, as though he'd break under the slightest pressure.

There's something different with the way Sasuke's long navy-blue bangs framed his face; it held the porcelain face tenderly, but there is an undercurrent cruelty and strength in the edges it failed to conceal. There's something different with the way his clothes clung to his muscled frame, emphasizing Sasuke's superior height, as well as his lean form.

There's something different with Naruto's seal on his stomach, and the wavy lines are more blurred and hissing dangerously every time his fingertips brush against his skin. There's something different with the way the gentle morning breeze settles in their home, as though lingering for the last time, saying its farewell to them.

There's something different with the sound of the ticking clock, as though each tick is as heavy as lead, as though it doesn't want to continue working. There's something different with how Naruto's hair flops haphazardly on all directions, but there's that bit of droop on them, as though bowing to some unknown force, asking for forgiveness.

There's something different—

"Naruto…" The voice sounds cracked, like the crack that suddenly appeared in the vase that Naruto kept on their coffee table. The Rokudaime Hokage to-be looks up hurriedly, and he stifles the pained gasp –pained with everything he has- that threatens to spill out.

"…What's happening…?" Sasuke continued to ask, and Naruto wants to tear his eyes away from the sight in front of him. His lover held out his hand, and Naruto held it, despite the nature of the hand he is holding.

I'm sorry, Sasuke, Naruto thinks, and he wants to say those words out loud, but he couldn't; he just held his boyfriend that's so lost, confused and worried about himself and Naruto.

I just want to be with him, Naruto wants to scream, is it too much to ask?

Naruto looks at his lover's current state, and his mind whispers, tantalizingly soft, mocking his efforts for their future, apparently yes.

For Uchiha Sasuke's –NO, Uchiha Itachi's- body is decaying, dripping its skin on the ground –much like the molting of Orochimaru's snakes- and the hand that Naruto is holding is becoming ice-cold, skin flaking terribly.

"Sasuke, don't leave me," Naruto whispers, tears streaming down his cheeks, and he clutched at his beloved's body, decaying and all. Please don't leave me, Naruto pleads mentally, as he pressed his lips over Sasuke's flaking ones, tasting the stench of earth and decay, but Naruto doesn't mind because this is Sasuke, and he loves Sasuke, and he'll accept this, until he finds another way.

"I'll save you, Sasuke,"Naruto promises, and Sasuke doesn't reply because Sasuke's already melting, his body crumbling down slowly to the ground where it truly belongs.

With these hands, with these fumbling hands, I will hold that unique love that protects us.


Whoa, Sakura-angst XD Nee, isn't Sasuke such a love-struck-romantic? And another bout of obsessed-Naruto :D I hope the chapter is long enough XD At this point, Naruto starts to realize that reviving the dead has some gruesome prices, as shown by Itachi's body giving up and starting to decay at an alarming rate.

Teaser For Next Installment:

"Stay away from me," Sakura whispers fearfully, her voice unable to project loudly. She wills her body to stop trembling and think of a way to stop her teammate, who is currently grinning evilly at her, the katana that the ANBU uses gleaming under the moonlight.

"Goodbye, Sakura-chan," Naruto whispers equally as soft, and the blade moves in arc, creating a halo-like thing on the blond's side, awing Sakura. She closed her eyes, unable to see what would happen to her, and she welcomed the darkness that claimed her.

Please be happy, Naruto, Sasuke-kun.


Naruto killed Sasuke so that he could use the Reviving Technique. Why do that? Because Sasuke was already spiraling out of control, driven by his hatred and avenger-mode-of-mind; Sasuke doesn't want to return to Konoha, and instead became Otokage, while Naruto is going to become the Rokudaime soon. The Reviving Technique has the advantage of controlling the revived one's soul/will, and Naruto used that to his advantage, to make Sasuke stay with him.

However, the technique would summon a corpse, and I don't like zombie-sex :( So, I made Naruto find another technique –not sure if there's really something like this- that could use another body, that's related to the one being summoned, to summon the dead (The original technique uses random dead bodies) in order to get rid of the corpse-nature.

He used Itachi's body –because he is the uber sexy brother- and revived Sasuke in Itachi. And, Naruto exiled himself with Sasuke on some deserted area. And now, the Konoha ninjas discover that the scrolls for the forbidden techniques are missing; Tsunade and Jiraiya realize that this is the reason why Naruto is missing. And so, they try to hunt Naruto down.

And, Sasuke is already figuring out 90 percent of the stuff that happened :P

POLL: Should I kill Sakura to increase Naruto's guilt, or not? Please reply in your reviews:)

Flames will be ignored and Reviews are much-loved.

PS: If you have any questions about the Japanese terminology I used, feel free to ask me:P