Disclaimer: Not mine, apart from the parts that are. (i.e., plot idea – I think – and various characters that will turn up over the story). So, basically, anything you don't recognise.
Warnings: Some bad language. Emo-angst on Sasuke's part.
A/N: I probably shouldn't be starting a new story, but this got in my head and refused to leave me alone. Updates will be sporadic, I'm afraid to say, as I have several other stories I'm working on. Reviews and constructive criticism are always appreciated.
Now that it is all over, Sasuke repents – and is given his second chance. Time-travel; Sasuke adopts Naruto.
Even here, over a year after the final invasion of Konoha, Sasuke could smell the blood. He thought that it would last forever, the only reminder that this place had been the most powerful of the Hidden Villages; a sickly, sweet smell reminiscent of death, mingling in the air with iron blood that had sunk into the ground and stained the soils red. Once, he would have been unbothered by the stench.
Now, it made him sick.
It reminded him of everything he had done. Taunted him with memories and visions and flashes of what he had done wrong. Of how vengeance was not as sweet as he had thought. Of how telling Naruto that he had failed did not make him feel strong. Of how killing Sakura because she was in the way did not make him feel happy. Of how Kakashi being forced to kneel to him did not make him feel triumphant. Of how he'd do anything, oh God, anything, to get his best friend back.
"Such a sight," Kabuto murmured with soft glee, from where he stood behind Sasuke, jerking him out of his thoughts. "Would you not agree, Sasuke-sama? Konoha, ruined, burnt to the ground... I don't think I could ever tire of seeing it."
"Mockery does not suit you, Kabuto," Sasuke said, his voice the soft monotone it always was, a hint of warning in the tone. Even after Orochimaru had died, Kabuto had stayed faithful – but Sasuke did not know why, and that bothered him more than he was willing to admit. To show that kind of loyalty, only to render it useless with constant snide comments hidden underneath a veil of politeness... Kabuto was neither sane, nor a coward. Sasuke suspected that Kabuto was more than a little in love with death, to be truthful; just as Naruto had been, just as Kakashi had been, just as the very best of ninjas all were.
Naruto had been wonderful in his recklessness and golden, vicious joy though, chasing after his own death with laughter and shouts and wild, wild, determination. Kabuto was simply there, teetering on the edge of insanity, with nowhere else to go; it wasn't an addiction for him, but an obsession, morbid and uncontrollable, sinking into him and sapping his strength like some grotesque parasite. Sasuke suspected he despised Kabuto for this, although he wasn't entirely sure anymore. He found sometimes that it was- very difficult to understand his own emotions, what he felt for others. It was easier to bury the troublesome thoughts away and ignore them. He found that he was burying a lot of things recently.
-Naruto stares at him, his blue eyes wide and glassy, with blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. He is not breathing-
Sasuke breathed out, slowly. A breeze rippled past him, making his coat billow out in what he knew to be a dramatic fashion – and he could not help but imagine how the scene would look. A tall man, dark hair cropped within an inch of his skull, standing atop of the Hokages' heads, the sun low in the sky, casting long shadows, while his trench coat whipped around him; the man had a grim expression on his face, but that would be overshadowed by the crisp white bandages that covered his eyes, a stark contrast to all the shifting colours...
He let out a noise, halfway between amusement and self-mockery, and heard Kabuto shuffle behind him. He wondered what the man was thinking briefly-
-Jiraiya is dying, has crawled away from Orochimaru's limp body, the blood pooling around him. He sees Sasuke and laughs-
-and then decided that he didn't care. Kabuto was a nothing, his subordinate who'd sworn away undying loyalty to someone now dead. He was useful, from time to time, and he didn't question Sasuke when it really mattered – had removed Sasuke's one remaining eye less than a month ago, unbothered by the seemingly self-destructive command. Sasuke was assured that it was a very neat job; nothing like the scarred mess that the other one was.
Sasuke was not bothered by the aesthetics of the matters, though. His eye had served its purpose-
-"Is it worth it?" Jiraiya says, in between short gasps, trying to keep from laughing once more. "Is- all this worth your mangekyou sharingan? If you ever get your revenge, will it make all this okay?" There is a wild grin on his face-
-and once he had completed his (not a dream, an ambition), all it served to do was bring up things he would prefer not to think of.
Was he a coward? he wondered. He never ran from a battle, always flung himself into it with an arrogant confidence that took his breath away now that he thought back on it. He never ran from anyone, refused to bend knee even to Orochimaru when he had been alive. For all he never ran, though, he hid from himself. He refused to face the facts, ignored the burning sensation that would have once accompanied the desire to cry, had his tear ducts not been destroyed.
He was afraid of himself.
To think; he was the culmination of years of breeding. He was the result of the once-strong Uchiha clan; the strongest shinobi to ever come from that line, now that he had killed that man. He was what came of destroying the dreams of others, to push his own forward. He was who he was, because Naruto (Oh God, Naruto) had been unable to kill him; not once but twice. Had watched as Sasuke shoved his arm through his chest, blue eyes so accepting, showing nothing of the ninja who had fought so brilliantly bare minutes before.
Because he knew that he wouldn't, couldn't, hurt his friend, and he knew Sasuke would no longer stop at anything when it came to his revenge.
"My entire life," Sasuke murmured in such a quiet voice that Kabuto had to strain to hear him. "My entire life was wasted, chasing after that man, and I destroyed their lives in the process." He raised a hand to the bandages covering his empty eye sockets and shook his head once, to clear the thoughts. "Leave Kabuto."
"But Sasuke-sama," the man began, and his voice was like oil.
"Leave," Sasuke repeated, and he didn't move until he heard Kabuto retreating across the rocks and away from the edge where Sasuke stood so precariously.
Sakura, he thought. He didn't care much for her, for all that she had offered to betray everything for him. Her eyes, so desperate at the beginning – but at the end, so cold, so determined that Sasuke meant nothing to her, that Sasuke found he couldn't feel that much guilt for her. He had not enjoyed it, but...
Kakashi, he thought. A mentor, but one who had focused so much on him that he neglected his other students; forced them into finding their own paths. Sasuke resented him; resented him for his own sake – that Kakashi had been so certain that Sasuke would be the one to succeed him, indulging in the tendencies that an idiot twelve-year-old boy had lived his life around – and resented him for Naruto's sake. There had been a certain vindication in becoming better than the one who had trained him, but no triumph. It had not been worth it.
Naruto, he thought. And that was where all the pain stemmed from, wasn't it? Someone who hadn't wanted anything from him, always challenging him, making an idiot of himself. Naruto had never expected with his eyes, had never clung, but had sacrificed everything he ever had or wanted, because of Sasuke's self-importance, and, for all that, could never bring himself to kill the one he considered a friend.
He had never faltered.
I wish I could change things for him, Sasuke thought with regret, as with calm confidence he stepped forward. It was time he stopped running from himself. He didn't know where the edge was, but after one step, two steps, three steps, he could feel the empty air with one foot.
He didn't think they'd accept him into the afterlife with them. He knew that they would turn away from him. Maybe Naruto, though, Naruto who knew what it was like to be shunned, Naruto who had never given up...
Maybe Naruto would let him in, and maybe they would talk and understand one another, and maybe everything would be alright in the end, like it all was in the beginning.
He took the final step and let himself fall, the air whistling past him as he tumbled, automatically moving into a free-fall position. I wish I could change things, he thought again. For him. Because he deserves it.
He never remembered hitting the ground.