Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Feedback: Anything goes. You really won't hurt my feelings by being critical.

Notes: I have often been told that I am too adamant on details and fail to be concise– and this does not only involve writing. So, I tried to write in simple style which was quite challenging for me because I am terribly fond of drawing things out. As to theme of the ficlet, I think I will have to blame Spike and the following quote: "Love isn't brains, children. It's blood screaming inside of you to work its will," for this piece.

When Naruto wakes up in the morning, he's always alone. No, he's not alone in the literal sense because Sasuke is beside him, fast asleep. He's always there. And Naruto can feel his breath against his skin, sending shivers down his spine and producing chilling goose bumps that make him feel electrified. He can also feel a hand curled around his arm and its warmth offers him comfort and familiarity.

It's shocking that Naruto still can't get used to those sensations of intimacy. He's been deprived of human contact for so long that it's nearly like a delirious dream that he'll wake up from very soon. But it's not a dream.

In spite of that warmth, he's alone, surrounded by that all-encompassing solitude because the person is not there. Not really, at least. He used to be there, but he no longer is and never will be. Perhaps, he was never there. Itachi has taken care of that. Itachi has broken him beyond repair…or Sasuke is simply too weak and stubborn to heal. It might be the former, it might the latter, or it might be both. Naruto doesn't know, and he senses that he'll never find out. He's too dumb to understand the complexity of the human psyche. He can only stand by, watch and support Sasuke as much as he can. But he'll never understand why Sasuke is the way he is now.

He understands Sasuke, but he can't understand everything. Not why Sasuke screams every night in his sleep or why he can't move on. He can't grasp why Sasuke is still stuck in the past, unable to get on with his life. He can't understand because Sasuke never bothers to tell him. He's there for Naruto to make love to, and he allows himself to be held and kissed, but he never talks. Surely, it's not as if he is mute because he does open his mouth to express disgust or to insult Naruto. But it's still not real – he never really talks with Naruto.

Not about the important things. Or about anything that involves them. He's never said anything about them being together. They just are. And other than them sleeping together occasionally, it's nearly as if they weren't together at all.

Naruto, however, doesn't care. He's happier with having the crumbs than having nothing. As long as Sasuke is by his side, he'll be content. Even if it means being alone. Strangely, it never strikes Naruto's mind that this is, perhaps, not enough. Or he's just too stubborn to think about that.

Naruto doesn't have anyone to pour his heart out to when he returns home. Instead of sharing his sorrows with Sasuke, he's reduced to talking to Iruka. Sometimes he confides in Sakura too. But it's still not enough. He would also like Sasuke to be part of his life. But Sasuke doesn't want that. So, Naruto remains quiet.

Sasuke is always present when he comes home. Usually, he sits there and just stares listlessly into space, not acknowledging anything at all. It's not as if he is catatonic, he just doesn't want to be with anyone – and that also includes Naruto, of course.

Those are the times when it hurts Naruto the most, but he ignores the pain. He drowns all his feelings of growing frustration and maintains control. Somebody has to do that. Naruto has to be strong. He can't possibly behave like some actor in a tragedy. He must be enduring for both of them. Even if he'd like to slam his fist against a wall, scream and break down once in a while too, but he can't…it would shatter Sasuke to see him break. So, he has to feign strength and endurance, even though he feels like dying inside.

That's his fate.

Making love to Sasuke is the only time when Naruto feels connected with him. It's only when he's buried deep inside him and feels Sasuke moving along with him that he feels like communicating. Unlike their fights in boyhood, their love-making is almost gentle and tender. Naruto is afraid of being rough. Not because Sasuke couldn't handle it. No, Naruto's afraid that he couldn't deal with it. Still, it's nice to be tender and kiss Sasuke gently as if they were lovers. Like that he can pretend.

He just wishes that Sasuke wouldn't keep his eyes closed all the time. And he would also like him to be more assertive because it's harder to pretend when Sasuke just allows him to touch without initiating contact on his own.

But it's still better than not making love with Sasuke at all.

Naruto has often been asked why he cares. He's been asked multiple times why he doesn't just pack his suitcase and leave. Sasuke, obviously, doesn't give a damn about him anyway. Besides, he's a traitor. He's let himself go and is convinced of the fact that Konoha has done him wrong. After all, Sasuke doesn't understand what was inappropriate about avenging his family's death. He can't see why he's an outcast now. He's…still too angry to confront his mistakes. And it doesn't look like he'll change his opinion in the near future.

Even Sakura, who loves both of them in a fierce and protective way, has advised Naruto to let go and let Sasuke be. She knows that this "relationship" of theirs isn't good for either of them -- it's nothing but a train wreck. No, she never says it outright, knowing that Naruto's too obsessed to listen. Iruka is more open in his concern, inviting Naruto for a bowl of ramen and always trying to talk some sense into him.

"He's not good for you, Naruto. He's too traumatised to maintain a healthy relationship and suffers from emotional mortification. He's selfish. Naruto, if you don't finally leave …he'll be the death of you. Don't you understand that?"

Of course, Naruto understands. He's no longer a child. But he doesn't want to be reasonable and always answers in the same way. It's easier than agreeing with Iruka.

"But Iruka-sensei, wouldn't it be cowardly of me to let go, to just run away? What kind of Hokage shall I make, if I can't even be strong enough to be there for Sasuke?"

Iruka can't do anything, but shake his head in response and stare sorrowfully at Naruto. He thinks that Naruto is oblivious. But he's wrong.

Naruto's twenty years old now, and he's no longer blind and oblivious. He's touched by his friends' concern, but he can't let go. He just can't. If he ever let go, it would be his death. Sasuke needs him, even though he's cold and obsessed about things not worth obsessing about. Besides, Naruto's a little selfish and very obsessed himself. It would be his death to let go of Sasuke. He needs Sasuke, too. Even if Sasuke is cracked and being with him means nothing, but living with a ghost --that doesn't matter.

It's that simple.

The bond he has forged with Sasuke is strong. It has always been and shall always remain like that. In many ways, Naruto is sure that he and Sasuke are the same. That Sasuke is as much a part of him as he is of him. He knows that Sasuke is lonely. And even if being with Sasuke is lonely and dreary, he'd rather be lonely with him than without him.

At times, when Naruto's on the verge of waking up, he always feels those warm legs entwined against his own . And he feels that tingle against the small of his back and the gentle pressure of Sasuke's hand holding his hand. That might not be much, but it's sufficient. It's more than he's ever had. And he's content. It's enough, even though it's a big fat lie.