It comes to an end, because it had to come to an end of some sort. Sasuke anticipated that. He planned it all along. He planned on that end being his fist piecing through Itachi's fucking heart, mind you. But he planned on an end. He planned this. He was not wrong!

So in the end, Sasuke has to come back to Konoha. Here he is now. Back in his old genin apartment. The one that he had subsidized through some dreary village administrative bureau, since he was a useless frightened seven year old, and he had no place to live. He stayed there. Why not? Where the hell else was he going to go?

It's still very clean. He finds the dust rags under the sink, exactly where he left them. He dusts off the desk, cleans the floors, shakes out the linen sheets and sets the futon out on the balcony to air out. It's as if he's never left.

He knew he'd have to come back eventually. Even though for a while he told himself he would not. That he would cut his own throat after Itachi was dead, and he would return to his family's side.. and that was how he constructed something vaguely like a life. He had to keep himself going somehow.

A bit later on, after Itachi started to slip so far out of his grasp that it was becoming obvious, he thought that he would throw himself into exile. He would feel some bitter satisfaction from willfully depriving himself of his home. Or whatever it had been. He'd never been happy as a child in his father's house. He hadn't really been happy in the academy, in team seven.. anywhere. But it was all he had, so denying it meant something.

But in the end it made no sense. He was through with Orochimaru.

Or rather, the truth was closer to Orochimaru being through with him.

...and he doesn't want to dwell on the details. They're depressing to him, and that idiot medic the Hokage makes him see as a condition of his probation is always telling him garbage about depression, how Sasuke is at risk. Sasuke would like very much to just not have to care about this useless man and his nonsense. But the fucking Fifth won't let him go on missions again until he cooperates with his parole, so he has to grit his teeth and nod. And listen.

It's ridiculous. He's not depressed.

He's just a fucking failure. Sasuke does not have time or space or patience for any kind of illusions, not anymore. He's had his fill of illusions from his drab little career as Orochimaru's playtoy. Now all he wants is facts.

Facts like, for instance, that he will never kill Itachi.

He will never kill Itachi.

Because he can't.

And that also he's back here now, because there's nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go, and he's too much of a coward and a sentimental idiot to just end his life like he should.

"Suicide watch." the medic says, dopey with concern. Sasuke fantasizes quietly about rearranging the man's face.

If all this wasn't bad enough, Naruto won't leave him alone.

The conditions of his return are like the conditions of his probation, Sasuke doesn't want to talk about it. Naruto couldn't keep his grubby hands to himself, as usual. Naruto comes over daily to butt into Sasuke's business.

"Sasuke-chan!" Naruto gibbers in that irritating cheerful singsong of his.

"Get the hell out." Sasuke growls at him. Then he's even angrier, because he said four words where one would have sufficed. "Out." he snaps, and gestures. Naruto is such an idiot that he needs all the repetition he can get.

Naruto is ostensibly older and wiser now. He has the support of the whole goddamn village, so allegedly he's a better ninja now. Sasuke, of course, still sneers. "Dead last." he mutters at Naruto, when Naruto looks over his stupid orange shoulder. When Naruto's just pulled off some too-flashy wind jutsu and looks at Sasuke for approval.

"You're still a fucking idiot." Sasuke snaps at him, as they leave the training grounds.

"Welcome back." Naruto smirks at him. Naruto knows it irritates him. He's back in the village, but he likes to cultivate a certain lack of active awareness of this fact. He can pretend, for instance, that it's really not his fault, or his doing, that he's here at all. He can pretend that Naruto just nagged and nagged and nagged him until finally he threw up his hands. This is better then the alternative. Everything Sasuke says these days, everything he does, all of it is just to show stupid fucking Naruto that Sasuke was not wrong. And Naruto certainly was not right.

But Naruto just can't take a hint, so Sasuke has to start really hurting him. Really hurting him. Anything for a moment's peace. This is the justification. And it makes sense, truly...

..until one terrible evening when he accuses Naruto of secretly wanting him dead, because that would have made it easier for him and his wife- his wife- Sakura.

He knows it's a cruelty too far the second after he's said it. No, even before that. When he's halfway through the sentence.

But of course he doesn't actually stop himself from saying it. And he doesn't change his hostile posture or his hard glare or show any flicker of regret. It goes without saying that he doesn't apologize...

And Naruto storms out, as he has many times before. But now something is broken, and really, Sasuke had no idea how to fix it. He holds the glare and the crossed arms and the indifference and the whole bullshit put-on until Naruto's stomped down the hallway and the heavy outer door has slammed shut. And then he forces himself not to pace, and not to worry... and not to think and worry and wonder, should he do something? Should he try to fix it? Should he just not care? Pretend he doesn't care? It brings on the goddamn panic attacks again and he thought he was beyond that, he thought he had recovered.

A horrible night. Rainy, cold, miserable late november. Sasuke is all alone, just as he wanted. He fears and dreads- and needs- Naruto to come back, bang on his door, demand to be let in.

But Naruto doesn't come.

Sakura doesn't come either, but that's a given now.

Sasuke can't sleep, and he'll be exhausted and even more bedraggled then usual for his meeting with his case officer tomorrow. As the wet night fades into a dreary grey morning, he tells himself that of course he doesn't have to do anything about it. Would he ever do anything? Ever? Of course not.

His terms of probation say nothing about his friends, or his team. He is not required to become their friend again.

And as it stands, he's not permitted to be their teammate.

So at seven in the morning, he forces coffee down his throat and showers for the meeting, scrapes the stubble off his face and rubs cold water into his bleary eyes. It's beyond him. That bond between them, that stupid fucking bond that Naruto never shut his stupid mouth about. The one that would last forever.

It's broken.

While the case officer talks... and talks, and talks, and talks, Sasuke repeats to himself, like a mantra I was not wrong, I was not wrong, I was not wrong. In rhythm and measure, beat by beat.

It's hypnotic and meditative, and he wants it to sink into his subconscious. He wants to burn it into his superego or whatever crap the medic is always going on about. His fucking inner child or whatever... He was not wrong.

And it was right. If the bond is broken, then it's right.

If Naruto doesn't come today, like he did not come yesterday.. and if he doesn't come tomorrow.. or the next day, or the day after. If Naruto never comes. If Naruto never.. It's all right. It's right. Sasuke was right.


Pick a reason.

Because Naruto always gets whatever he wants. Everything he wants. The girl he wanted. The recognition he wanted. The power he wanted, the skill he wanted.. everything he wanted! The way things are going he will become Hokage. It's not fair. But Sasuke will not let Naruto have this. Naruto has to let him have something.

So it was right to ruin this homecoming then, because if he didn't then Naruto would get what he wanted, Sasuke would have come home, they would be a team and friends and almost-brothers- and Naruto would win.

You've won everything else he tells Naruto silently, as Naruto continues to not be there. Let me have this.

Still, he could argue that the team seven that was involved him spitting on Naruto and turning his back on Naruto, and just sort of uncomfortably shutting Sakura out. So this is a return to form. Doesn't Naruto want it to be the way it was? Isn't that what Naruto wants? If Naruto were here, he would say this.

He'd say this to Sakura, since he's not sure how he feels about her either, frankly. But Sakura is now twenty and no longer puts up with any shit from him. Make no mistake of that. It's Naruto.. Naruto who will take Sasuke's nasty little chickenshit attitude. Naruto who will both get in his face and let him get away with all kinds of horrible things.

Let me be right.

Another sleepless night.

Naruto will still do this. Naruto will come and get in Sasuke's face, they'll go and fight in the courtyard. They'll smash one another's faces in. They'll hobble to the infirmary together to get bandaged up. They'll have the same fucked-up useless pointless relationship they always had. It will be like nothing happened... nothing will have changed. Nothing Sasuke could do could ever make Naruto leave him alone. Naruto would never leave him alone. Naruto would always come to save him.

Naruto will come tomorrow. Sasuke has to believe this.