Title: 'After the End - Final Fall, Safe Catch?'
Author: MissYamapiKara
Type: One-shot
Base: 'Naruto' by Masashi Kishimoto
Pairing: Naruto x Sasuke
Genre: Drama, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Intended light shounen-ai; mentions of killing & suicide
Rating: T
Soundtrack: Various- Angela Aki & Yuna Ito
Summary: It's time for him to let go – to just stop – to find an end. "Sasuke ... Time to fall." Will it end as he had planned? Might this offer him a new beginning?

So Basically: Sasuke has killed Itachi in the presence of Naruto (and a further party of ninja). He was then apprehended by the group and taken back to Konoha. In light of the fact that Sasuke never intended harm against Konoha, he spent time under surveillance in order to confirm that he was not a threat. Now, after the completion of this order, Naruto wants to re-build his friendship with Sasuke, and ask a particular question...

Author's Note: I can't wait for this to be read! I'm squirming in my seat... Please, enjoy it! The only thing that annoyed me about this whole process was getting it all to look right in the word processing program that's recommended on this site.. and then I still had to change things before submitting it. But I got over it!
(A.T.: I will be including some notes at the bottom of the page about what I wanted to portray in the characters/get across to you, the audience. They aren't necessary to read, but might help you understand what I'm thinking in this snippet-story – I know I'm often not very clear in my meaning.)

2009.02 – In manner of revision: I've decided not to revise my first posted fanfiction. It'll serve as a representation of my earlier writing once I've had more experience.

Disclaimer: I (as the author of this piece of writing, 'After the End - Final Fall, Safe Catch?') do not claim ownership over the manga, anime or other variations of what I know as 'Naruto'.
I appreciate the lenience of Masashi Kishimoto and all those concerned with 'Naruto' to not take any legal actions against myself, as I have not purposely intended to offend them, nor have I intended to steal their material, earnings or imagination. I am gaining no profit from this piece other than my own enjoyment and perhaps expressed delight or amusement from unfamiliar readers.
All material other than the characters, setting and root storyline of 'Naruto' is claimed as the sole property of myself.

I thank Masashi Kishimoto every day since coming across 'Naruto' for sharing his story – THANKYOU!

Heads Up: If necessary, action will be taken to protect my own writing as I am proud of it and hold it very dear to myself. It would be greatly appreciated if fellow avid-writers, all readers or general persons would respect the content of this document and not copy it without permission from myself, the author. If it is desired by anyone to use any part of the text on the page, large or small, I would bid him or her to contact me and it shall be discussed.

I believe it is one of the greatest things in this world to be able to create things from your own mind, heart, soul and fabric. Be proud of your own creations – they could only ever come from you.

MissYamapiKara

Proceeding...


After the End

-

Final Fall, Safe Catch?

-

Naruto followed Sasuke's example and lowered himself onto the edge of the bridge. He inched forward and wrapped his arms around the timber poles of the railing, so that each hand grasped the opposite wrist. He leaned forward between the two poles to look left at Sasuke, who had let his legs hang limply over the edge, feet almost touching the surface of the calm water. Naruto watched Sasuke's hand grip the wooden plank beside his leg before slowly uncurling to rest against the base of another timber support. His eyes travelled up to Sasuke's face, then turned back to the river reaching out in front and away from him.

'Huh,' Naruto mused to himself, 'Away from me… I kinda don't like that omen.'

Before Naruto could glance left again to make sure that Sasuke was still within arm's reach, his mouth activated itself, "What did you think would happen after you did it?"

Naruto managed to click his jaw shut quite nicely once he'd 'stuffed up enough for one night… damn it!'

Sasuke blinked. He turned his head slowly to the right. And blinked again. Perhaps it was the glow of the full moon in the night sky above them – perhaps it was the way the cool breeze was carrying leaves gently through the air – whatever it was, something, at that moment, made Sasuke realise… that Naruto was an idiot. He had no comprehension of atmospheric effect or etiquette whatsoever. Nevertheless, his face remained expressionless while Naruto's contorted into a frowning mess of internal struggle.

Sasuke knew exactly what Naruto meant by that question, but wasn't exactly sure why he had brought it up. Or, more likely, why when he knew that Sasuke 'was trying to avoid that, above all else.'

Then again, being a nuisance was a special talent of the boisterous ninja's.

A long moment of silence passed and Naruto realised that he'd been ignored. Gradually, he began to notice the uneven musical sound of trickling water. His eyes scanned the surroundings – dark green grass, rocks along the banks of the river, random patches of lilac showy milkweed and serenely still trees, save for a gentle wind every now and then; he looked to the hills further in the distance and strained to make out the shape of a night-bird above them – but his eyes came to rest on the image staring back at him from below. Naruto marvelled at how blue his eyes looked reflected in water that itself seemed brilliantly so. He wondered lazily if maybe Sasuke's eyes could sparkle like that in water.

'Hmm, that's weird, Sasuke's reflection just looks all dark… Kinda, like a shadow.'

Sasuke sat unmoving, staring blindly ahead of himself.

'I need to talk, I can't stand all these metaphors screwing with my head anymore.' And so Naruto's jaw slid open once again, "I really want to know, Sasuke. Tell me what you were planning to do after."

This time, Sasuke was willing to speak, "It doesn't matter." He blinked again, slowly, and clutched at the pole momentarily. 'It doesn't matter.'

"Come on, Sasuke! It's the one thing old lady Tsunade won't tell me. I already know what happened up to then – I was there, remember?" Naruto straightened minutely in excitement over his small victory, however still careful to keep his volume in-check and his tone even. It was no easy task to make Uchiha Sasuke, now eighteen and abnormally reticent, speak any amount of words. He watched Sasuke closely; a slight inclination of the head would be all Naruto would ask for, maybe a derisive snort if he was lucky.

Sasuke remained perfectly still and silent.

Naruto unwound his arms from the bridge supports in one large movement and made an exasperated sound, "I'm just curious, you know," he fell down to lie on his back and look up towards the starlit sky, "I just want to know what was going through your head." He scratched his nose thoughtfully.

Sasuke didn't blink this time. He sat, he stared and he breathed.

'Well, can I really complain? Like he ever would've told me anything so serious before. Still, I can't help but want to know… Sasuke, what were you planning to do after you killed Itachi?'

"It didn't matter."

This time, Naruto blinked. He propped himself up on both his elbows, ignoring the sharp pain of a badly situated nail in the board beneath his arm, and looked at Sasuke hopefully. His profile against the backdrop of the silvery woods appeared to swim. Naruto wondered if it was just him trying to get up so quickly that did it. He waited. 'I shouldn't be so greedy.. after being taken back, he hasn't talked to anyone else but the old lady..'

"What?"

At Sasuke's movement, Naruto became glad that he didn't listen to himself very often.

Black eyes were downcast as Sasuke swivelled his upper body just enough to spy Naruto's face in the corner of his vision, "It doesn't matter… and.. it didn't matter."

"Eh?" Naruto raised an eyebrow, "What's that supposed to mean?"

Sasuke looked away again.

"I mean… I'm sorry, I just… Uh, I don't understand what you mean." Naruto tried again. He sat straight, putting one hand on each knee, trying to show Sasuke as clearly as he could that he was paying him full attention. Another few moments passed and Naruto's short attention span got the better of him; he huffed and looked away, 'Yeah, it serves me right for asking so much, really.' An almost undetectable sigh sounded to his left, 'Though I could always push my luck a little.'

Naruto watched as Sasuke lifted his gaze back to the expanse of river and trees before him. The pale boy angled his face up to search out the moon, squinting faintly, as if even the far weaker reflected light of the sun was too much brightness for him to bear. He sighed again, missing the amazement creeping over Naruto's face, 'The moon has nothing to offer without the sun, does it?'

Meanwhile, Naruto couldn't care less if the moon fell right out of the sky; he was too fixated on the sudden loss of tension in Sasuke's hands and the disappearance of all outward signs of guardedness on his best friend. Only at that moment did Naruto honestly appreciate how tired Sasuke looked.

"I said it doesn't matter."

'There! He's talking again!'

"And it didn't matter then, either."

'If only I understood that… I just want to know… Sasuke…' Naruto breathed in deeply, "I still don't get it, Sasuke. What did you think would happen after you killed him?"

And just like that, Sasuke smiled. His lips curved upwards and he smiled. For the first time in a long time, Sasuke felt he was allowed to do it; after all, there was no one left who could take anything away from him. He had nothing left to be taken.

'Nothing. Not even…'

"I didn't plan to come back. I didn't plan to tell my story," Sasuke's smile became a calm neutral expression and his eyes led his head to turn awkwardly askance on his neck, to regard Naruto from a diagonal view, "I planned to kill myself."

All stillness left the atmosphere - there was no atmosphere left. All serenity fled the scene – nothing tranquil existed. Nothing existed. Naruto couldn't even say he felt empty, since he'd forgotten what feeling was.

'Sasuke… wanted.. to…?" He shivered once and sound rushed back to his ears, feeling back into his numb fingers, blood slowly pumped back up to his head and he attempted to salvage his tongue, "But, how can you plan to…?"

It wasn't as though Naruto was a stranger to the idea – he was a ninja, and ninja dealt with incredible things. Many had thought of the possibilities, as was seemingly natural, however the will to continue for one's home and loved ones far overpowered the fear of the next mission. Naruto knew nightmares and he didn't believe that 'pain' was an adequate word. But, Sasuke was Sasuke. To Naruto, Sasuke was unconquerable.

Sasuke's smile returned and became sadly placid. He let his head rock back to watch the sky again, unseeing, "Sometimes I believed that my heart would stop all on its own, in the same moment as Itachi's, just because I have no other purpose than to accomplish that which I have."

'He's talking like he doesn't exist!' All of a sudden, everything began again. The world clicked and whirred back into its rotation. Naruto became tense with frustration and he drew his hands into tight fists, "But you could have planned to come back. Sakura, Kakashi and the others wanted it that way!" He fought to keep his voice under control.

Sasuke laughed, carelessly while at the same time with all the burdens of his past snaking their way through his voice, "And I suppose I wouldn't have been slaughtered on arrival."

"You never acted against Konoha." Naruto reasoned.

"I went freely to Konoha's biggest threat."

"But you never planned to help him," Naruto clenched his teeth, "You were never going to give him anything, you were going to take everything from him that could help you and make him powerless! And you didn't go there so you could hurt us!" He hit his fists soundly against the planks of the bridge once and flinched at the way his legs felt the vibrations in the supports of the railing, 'I have to keep in control. I can't risk forgetting Sasuke's been through enough to kill him; all he knows is fight or flight.'

Sasuke remained silent at Naruto's last retort. Naruto felt a little pacified by this result.

After a minute or two of quiet reflection, Naruto ventured a self-satisfied "See."

"Hearsay." Sasuke suggested.

Naruto's eyes flashed in understanding of the situation, "You knew all that, didn't you? You knew Konoha would accept you again." Sasuke only let his eyes close and repositioned himself so that one leg was pulled up to his chest. He let his chin rest on his knee.

Naruto's eyebrows furrowed. He didn't understand, 'If he knew, then why would he choose death?'

"Sasuke, why would you choose to die when you knew you could have come back?"

Sasuke remained perfectly still and silent.

'Oh, hell no! Not this game again!' Naruto was not one to let go easily. He poked Sasuke sharply in the shoulder.

Surprisingly, Sasuke only sat and breathed.

"You had the option. You could've come back and we would've accepted you, so why?"

Sasuke made no move or sound.

Naruto's right eye twitched, 'And I was going so well, too… Ah, I know! If all else fails, enrage the beast.'

The wisdom of youth.

"Na, Sasuke, you know, Sakura didn't forget about you or anything. She didn't talk about you a lot, 'cause, you know, every time someone did I said I was definitely going to keep my promise and all that. But I bet she still loves you." Here, Naruto glanced to his left, if only to survey his progress.

Sasuke had opened his eyes and was looking down over his hands, folded on his bent knee, into the reflection of Naruto and himself. The light of the moon this time shone down on his hair and seemed to send rivulets of ice shooting through random strands. Naruto was dismayed when he decided that Sasuke looked even more tired now. He turned his head away and scratched his nose again, 'I know Sasuke never actually liked Sakura-chan like that, but this is just stupid! He didn't even roll his eyes, or anything!'

And at that moment, brilliant idea the second was born, "Hey, hey! Why don't we go find Sakura-chan now? I bet she's bored and is just waiting fo–"

"We can never be!"

Naruto froze. He asked himself whether or not that had just been Sasuke's voice cutting through everything around them. Taking a nervous swallow, Naruto turned back to look at Sasuke directly. Nothing had changed. Sasuke sat as he had been before Naruto had begun to speak. Suddenly the air around them wasn't pleasantly cool, the breeze had finally died and all feeling left Naruto for the second time that night. He narrowed his eyes just enough to focus properly on Sasuke's hands again. They were tense. He eyed Sasuke's face and his shoulders. The guardedness was back.

Naruto licked his newly dry lips, "What…?"

Sasuke let his bent leg slowly fall back down towards the river, and his hands down onto the bridge between his knees. He leaned forward onto them, as if relying on the support to keep him sitting straight. Eyes only focussed on the reflection. This time, Sasuke spoke in a whisper, "We can never be."

Somehow, Naruto didn't think it was Sakura that Sasuke was talking about.

Still, nothing else moved.

"I don't understand, Sasuke." Naruto unconsciously begged the feeling back into his arms and legs, coaxed it through his torso and forcefully drew the blood back up to his face.

Sasuke's thoughts were languid, 'If nothing else, he should know. There is nothing left to be taken.'

His voice seemed to wilt and be carried off by a non-existent wind, "I didn't want to come back because I knew that you would never care for me more than any other of the friends in your life," he paused and blinked once tiredly, "I knew that I would never be special again, once you had kept your promise to Sakura."

Naruto shook his head fiercely, "Sasuke… I don't understand! You're my best friend! I was ready to walk through hell to get you back!"

A sad, self-sympathetic smile came to life on Sasuke's lips as he raised his head to follow the river's path with his eyes, "And you'll never say that the way I want you to."

Naruto's face scrunched up in confusion, "Argh! What are you talking about?!" He swung his head in Sasuke's direction and seethed, "You've been the only thing on my mind for almost five years! Now you're off probation, we can finally talk without fifty ANBU recording our breathing rate, and you're giving me this cryptic crap?! Damn it, I–"

"She ran after me!"

Naruto sat stunned. Looking into Sasuke's dark eyes for the first time in far too long a time, he wondered briefly if they had always radiated this searing heat.

Body turned sharply to glare at Naruto, Sasuke had slammed his hands down fully onto the bridge. If the violent twist had hurt him, he hadn't the mind to register it. He leaned forward like a crazed animal and looked up through his limp hair. Naruto knew it was not an actively threatening stance, but that it was all Sasuke could manage to keep himself from either fainting or running.

Sasuke hissed his exhaustion and ire, "Sakura ran after me and you ran after her. Every time she looked in my direction I could see you sadden, and do you know why?"

Naruto stayed silent.

"…Because I was only ever looking at you."

Something shattered soundlessly in Naruto's world, 'At.. me..?' In that moment, he saw what he thought he would never see happen: Sasuke, giving up.

Sasuke hung his head. Naruto only followed the movement with his eyes. His jaw was firmly shut, but seemed to want to drop.

Sasuke pulled his legs up and pushed off of his hands. He stood to leave.

As Sasuke turned and took his first step, Naruto managed to restart his own heart. He whipped his head up to look at Sasuke, only to find his back glaring mockingly at him, 'I've had it with seeing his back every time I look at him!'

"Hol.. hold on, Sasuke!" Naruto sprang to his feet, narrowly missing the railing with his shoulder, and followed Sasuke the few steps he had gone. He stepped from the bridge onto solid ground, 'He's going to make this make sense or I'm going to throw him in the river, damn it!'

"You can't just walk away after saying something like that! Sit down!" Naruto pushed Sasuke down by his shoulders to fall to the ground below. Sasuke cared not to struggle; he did as he was told. Naruto sat down cross-legged in front of his ex-team mate and folded his arms.

They sat in the middle of the walking trail, one step away from the bridge, a good few hundred from the nearest sign of other human life. Their only onlookers the trees and stars, neither boy felt pressed to keep up appearances: Sasuke showed his exhaustion while Naruto expressed his confusion.

Sitting directly in front of Naruto like that, Sasuke couldn't do anything to avoid him. And so, he stared right into Naruto's eyes once Naruto looked up, wondering lazily if they had always burned with a dying light. He found he had trouble remembering anything about Naruto's eyes except their colour. So long spent telling himself to forget the boy and all he had accomplished was to erase the emotion from the memories of Naruto's eyes.

Naruto's voice broke the first time he tried to speak, 'Why do I feel so useless?' so he cleared his throat to begin again, "You can't walk away from me.. after saying something like that."

Sasuke looked dutifully on through drained eyes.

"You have to tell me what you mean. You can't walk away from something until you finish what you started."

Sasuke exhaled shallowly, never taking his eyes from Naruto's, "After the end… I didn't want to let myself fall again after the end."

Naruto frowned.

Sasuke continued, "But you wouldn't let me stop it from happening."

Naruto flinched, "You were the one who wanted to kill yourself," he wasn't bitter, just sad, "you were going to make that happen."

"That's not what I mean, Naruto."

"…I know." Naruto's voice was quiet. He looked away.

Sasuke tried to make Naruto look at him again by catching his eyes with his own. He failed. His eyes then diverted themselves to the loose dirt under his hands, "Every time… every time I look at you, I fall again."

Naruto loosened his arms from their folded grip, "Why me?"

"You were the only one who wanted me."

"…The others tried to help you…"

Sasuke barked a weak and bitter laugh, eyes still trained on the ground, "They would have given up. You know it."

Naruto didn't know what to say. In the hopes of seeing Sasuke's eyes looking back at him, he raised his gaze. He was disappointed to see that Sasuke was only interested in the few and far-between tufts of grass in the dirt road they were sitting on.

"How many times did Sakura tell you to forget the promise, to just look after yourself?"

Again, Naruto had nothing to say.

Sasuke spoke airily, "Even when we were kids.. back then, I knew you were different." Naruto almost smiled when Sasuke looked up again, but his expression froze when he saw the tears brimming in Sasuke's eyes, "You were alone, but it was a special kind of alone…" he paused to collect his thoughts, "You had a unique few around you who offered to understand, even though they knew they couldn't. You were alone, and you knew I was alone too."

He let the tears swim through his vision, 'I don't want to be alone anymore. And I'm so tired.'

Naruto shook his head slowly, unknowingly, and leaned forward a little with his hands resting on his knees. He spoke softly, sad desperation lacing his words, "You had people, too. You had people who wanted to look after you."

"I had admirers; people who feared me or were awed by me. You had friends; people who laughed with you and genuinely cared for you."

Naruto chuckled faintly at a memory, "People who played pranks with me."

Without his consent, Sasuke's eyes slid downwards again, "..You see."

Naruto grimaced as though watching something painful and empathising with the victim. He wanted so much to tell Sasuke that he wasn't alone but, then again, he could not truthfully say that. A cloud rested over the face of the moon.

'I want to help him.. I always wanted to help Sasuke.. Even when I wanted to be better than him, I wanted to better him too.'

The cloud passed and Naruto knew that, no, he really could not truthfully say that Sasuke wasn't alone. And Naruto also knew that he had been alone all this time too, just like Sasuke, because 'we were always kinda special like that.'

Naruto grinned a fraction, "But, we're both still alone, aren't we?"

Sasuke did not answer. His hair covered his eyes and Naruto pondered the illusion of the silver strands again.

"Can we.. can we be alone together, maybe?" Naruto's voice was soft and hopeful.

Sasuke's shoulders stiffened. Of all the things Naruto could have said, Sasuke did not expect that and could only hope that he meant it honestly.

Sasuke looked up. He suddenly remembered the emotion in Naruto's eyes, "Naruto…"

"I'm sorry, Sasuke. I think that maybe I didn't want to fall myself," he smiled, now beginning to feel tired himself, "but now I know I won't, so let me catch you, 'kay?"

Naruto reached out a hand to rest on Sasuke's cheek, dimly aware of the elation he felt: the limitless relief flooding through him overshadowed it. He realised now that he had fought to get Sasuke back not because of a promise made, but because 'I really have loved him for a long time.'

Sasuke let his eyes close, if only to open them again to see the kind look on Naruto's face a second time. He leaned onto the hand holding his cheek and let his heart break. After all, it was tiring to hold broken remnants together all on his own.

Naruto gently removed his hand and opened his arms, "Time to fall."

Sasuke edged forward and did so gladly. He laid his head on Naruto's shoulder and let the few tears that had been balancing on his nerves slide down his face, 'I can really forget them now; I can let Itachi lie. Naruto wants me here, so I can belong with him now.'

Naruto thought back to Sasuke's reflection in the water under the bridge. It was dark, a shadow, nothing like what Sasuke should really be. He knew that Sasuke would let that change now.

"I'm tired, Naruto."

"You can rest now, Sasuke."


Character Notes (as mentioned in Author's Notes):

Sasuke: I wanted Sasuke to be child-minded – he is still eight years old to me in many ways. By saying, "I knew that I would never be special again, once you had kept your promise to Sakura." he shows the demanding mind-set of a child: 'I want to be the most important thing in your world!' It is conceivable that a demanding child is hiding real feelings of panic, that he or she will become ignored or forgotten. The "end" that Sasuke refers to, is him reaching his goal of killing Itachi. After this was accomplished, he didn't want to have the chance of ever being hurt (to fall/fail/fault) again. He saw his compassion for Naruto as opportunity for this to happen, but the fact that it was also because of Naruto that Sasuke decided against suicide made him want to believe it wouldn't be like that.
I wanted him to be indecisive of making his feelings known.

Naruto: I wanted Naruto to be infallibly dedicated to Sasuke, and not have recognised it yet for what it really was: "What are you talking about … You've been the only thing on my mind for almost five years!" is an example of this dedication. When Naruto realised his feelings, I wanted him to also realise that he'd unconsciously worked hard not to name it for five years. I wanted him to then offer to help Sasuke in the way he knows Sasuke wants to be helped. Neither Naruto nor Sasuke have the answers here; I wanted them to agree to find the answers together, and in each other, and for Naruto to be the one to offer it.
I wanted him to be indecisive of his feelings.

Ah, done and done. Thankyou so much for reading my first 'Naruto' fanfiction!! I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are VERY much appreciated, as are flames (just to let all know: if you have the energy to 'flame' me, I'll see it as a success – I've been able to reach you in some way). I'm looking forward to writing more fanfiction, especially after getting feedback!