Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Note: So yeah, it has been awhile, huh? -is shot-

I'm really sorry! Really! I, uh, think I had a lot of things to say but it's 4AM and I have a flight to catch today so... no. I'm sorry for being so useless about updating my stories. -bow- Thank you to those who are still interested in reading this story.

(It's not beta-ed yet, but it'll be as soon as I get back from my trip. I'm sorry about the mistakes too!)


Nero:

The famous Roman emperor who "fiddled while Rome burned"

Also

A Finnish word that translates as 'genius'


--

"People like you tend to regret a lot. Wouldn't it be a shame if you were to regret me?"

--

The front door was banged shut so painfully hard that even the windows in Itachi's room shook a little. Sighing, he closed his book and spun around on his computer chair, considering if he should get up or not.

No matter how cool Sasuke thought he was, that bang and rushing steps had been an obvious cry for attention. Really now, such a stupid child.

When the door of Sasuke's room was shut as roughly as the front door, Itachi decided to get up and go see just what kind of an emotional wreck his brother had become. Usually he'd have left such a task for their mother but unfortunately she wasn't home. Trust Sasuke to become difficult when he was in charge.

The hallway was dim and silent like it always had been. Itachi held down the smirk that threatened to grow on his lips at the thought on how classic it would have been if he'd hear Sasuke's sobbing to the hallway. The beginning of a grin died down however, when he felt his barefoot step on something on their supposedly ever-spotless floor. He frowned at the mud stains. Obviously Sasuke hadn't removed his shoes. Where had that boy been running around anyway?

The room wasn't that far from his, and the older Uchiha heir reached his brother's sanctuary in less than a minute, even after having to dodge all the dirt on the floor. Stopping in front of it, he made sure that the other wasn't crying inside, because then, out of consideration for Sasuke's manliness (he really, really didn't want to deal with such an emotional brother), Itachi would have just turned around and left.

The metal handle of the door was cold and touching it with his warm hand sent slight shivers up his arm, but he ignored it and tightened his grip on it enough to be able to open the door. But it turned out that his clever little brother had locked it, what a shame.

Being polite, Itachi knocked.

"Are you alright, baby brother?"

The eerie silence continued to linger in the hallway, not even bothering to echo the spoken words. It didn't respond to the yet another sigh that left Itachi's lips.

Sometimes the silence was so loud that you could hear the blood rush in your own veins. What a loving home.

His hand slipped into the pocket of his pants and he fished out a key he had grabbed along, assuming he might need it. It fitted the keyhole perfectly and when he turned it and there was a rather loud clicking sound, Itachi hummed approvingly.

"I'm coming in."

Sasuke had gracefully jumped on his bed, curled in foetus position, back facing the door, those dirty, muddy shoes still on. His breathing came in sharp, irregular intakes and it made the older Uchiha wonder if there was something physically wrong with him.

"That's right. Shut yourself in your room and cut your wrists, why don't you?"

"Leave."

The command was instant and quiet. It almost sounded like a plea, but Itachi knew better. His brother didn't turn to look at him, just stayed still and said nothing more. Leaning against the door frame, Itachi opened his mouth again.

"I always thought that you failed as an Uchiha but it seems like today you have failed as a human being. Congratulations."

"Shut up and leave!"

His hands were trembling, fisting the blanket knuckles white, the silent hallway finally answering with a distant hum. This must've been the first time he had seen Sasuke look so pathetic, Itachi thought, as his brother finally turned around to glare at him with angry, desperate eyes.

Looking like a hurt animal did little to raise Itachi's sympathy, though. To him, it was plain obvious how his brother was spoiled enough to just wait for the comfort to come to him and not ask for it.

"You made a mess in the hallway. Is that it, Sasuke? You made a mess and don't know how to clean it up?"

No, Uchiha Mikoto was out of town, which meant the only source of sympathy had left as well.

"I said shut up! Just-"

"Just what?"

"Don't say those things. You don't know what happened. You have no idea-"

"That's right. I know nothing. But I do know you-"

Itachi heaved himself off the door frame, flipping his long ponytail from his shoulders before walking towards Sasuke's computer chair and gracefully sitting on it, spinning around to face his brother.

"And no matter how much you think that you don't need to open up to any of us, you still depend on us being here for you."

Silence followed and eventually Sasuke broke the eye contact, not willing to look any longer. Avoiding eye contact didn't mean his brother could avoid the subject, however, and so Itachi leaned against the chair, getting more comfortable.

"Run into financial trouble, little brother?"

A playful smirk crawled onto his lips when the answer was an annoyed 'no'.

"Were you bullied?"

Itachi had expected a mocking snort as a response but Sasuke just remained still instead, his stiffened shoulders a clue that he was perhaps getting a little warmer.

"Your girlfriend left you? A perverted teacher molested you at school?"

Sasuke's head snapped to look at him with eyes that begged for him to take him seriously. Or perhaps it was a look that demanded Itachi to get out of his brother's room immediately. Either way, now that the older Uchiha had regained eye contact...

"Is it about Naruto?"

The way Sasuke's eyes widened at that name truly amused him and he almost let out a laugh when his brother turned to look at anything but Itachi. It hadn't even been that hard to guess that all this was about that blond. Sasuke had been a mess back when Itachi had taken Naruto home with him due to their mother's request. Also, he had run to Naruto when Itachi had told him he had seen the boy in the park earlier that day, too.

"So what happened?"

The younger Uchiha remained quiet, still sulking away, curled on his bed. It looked like he was going through an inner battle with his emotions and Itachi saw no need to interfere, so he just silently sat there and inspected his nails.

He was curious though. About Naruto, that is. What made him special enough to get his brother's attention? Either way, the changes in Sasuke kept on amusing him, and so Itachi kept on observing those changes, hoping to see the day his brother became less of a spoiled brat.

Said brother suddenly mumbled something so quietly that it didn't quite reach Itachi's hearing.

"What did you say?"

"I-"

It seemed like Sasuke was still thinking hard, the words slipping through his lips with half paid attention. His tone of voice was tired and rough.

"I wish I never knew him."

Knowing that it made Sasuke feel uncomfortable, Itachi kept on staring. But his brother didn't back down, his voice only gaining more strength.

"I wish I never even met him! Everything would be better that way."

Itachi blinked in disbelief and then sneered. He had asked Naruto if he was friends with Sasuke. The blond had only laughed. Now he understood.

"Get out of my sight."

It was said in mocking disgust. Sasuke said nothing to it, though, only raising his arms to cover his face. Itachi really couldn't care less what kind of inner turmoil his brother was in.

"Saying that kind of a thing is no different from committing a suicide when life gets a little difficult."

"You don't even know what happened!"

"I don't give a shit what happened."

The tone of his voice was steady and serious, confirming that he meant every word he spoke. Really, he didn't care about teenagers issues. It was his baby brother's attitude that annoyed him.

"And I don't care about Naruto either for that matter."

Sasuke lifted his other hand enough to see Itachi from the corner of his eye. He stared in disbelief of what his older brother had just said. But before the boy could speak angry words meant to defend Naruto, the older Uchiha continued.

"I'm not filled with that kind of hypocrisy that would allow me to care about people I don't even know. It'd be a waste of my time."

He smirked at his brother again, leaning forward to rest his chin on his arms.

"And you are like that too, so don't look at me like that."

Covering his face with his arms again, Sasuke let out a frustrated sigh.

"If you don't care then why are we having this conversation?"

"Because you care."

When the silence threatened to step into their conversation once again, Itachi decided to stand up from the chair and go to hover over his pathetic brother. Just to add a bit superior pressure on him. The voice that suddenly came a lot closer than before startled the younger Uchiha and he removed the hands from his face to peer back at his brother.

"That boy is something special to you and hearing you say you regret it all is just downright annoying."

Itachi's dark eyes kept on gazing at Sasuke, making the other feel uncomfortable in the other's shadow. Sasuke waited for him to say something more, but he didn't, just kept on staring so goddamn calmly.

"But... what should I do?"

He moved to sit on the bed, getting away from Itachi's pressuring shadow.

"I don't think there's anything I can do."

Suddenly his hand was grabbed, sheer force pulling him away from the bed and away from his room, guiding him along the hallway he had dirtied while running to his room. The same shoes were still on his feet, only, the mud had dried and now small, hardened pieces of it fell everywhere, increasing the mess.

For now, Itachi would ignore it all though.

"I already told you what to do."

Only when the front door came to sight, did Sasuke start to struggle. But Itachi was still stronger than him, and he couldn't do anything but stumble along, or maybe grab a doorframe and hold onto it with all he had, but that would've been too pathetic.

The front door was opened and Sasuke felt the cold night air hit his face when he stumbled outside and fell over on the ground from the lack of balance. Cursing loudly, the younger Uchiha tuned to glare at his brother. Itachi just sneered down at him while leaning against the door frame.

"Get out of my sight."

And the door was shut with a loud bang, leaving Sasuke alone in the night without his keys or even a jacket to warm him up.

--

"I've seen this so many times I could close my eyes."

--

His life had never been like a dream. Sometimes he wished it was just a nightmare that would end, but it never did, and so he kept on living with his eyes wide open, accepting the reality that was forced upon him.

Eventually his eyes glazed over, tired of the never changing sight of misery in front of him, and it became harder to remember how to blink. Staying wide awake, he forgot how to close his eyes.

And so, the boy forgot how to dream.

Naruto's cheeks throbbed still, even under the bandages the nurses had covered them with. He tried to keep his hands from touching them, as he kept on clumsily running towards home. Leaving the hospital hadn't been that hard, but Naruto wasn't so sure if getting where he wanted to go would be as easy.

His sight kept on blurring and his steps were clumsy, trying to drag him down to the hard asphalt from time to time. But he kept on struggling to get home. He had to get home.

It was enough already. All of it was enough and he couldn't take it anymore. Home was sanctuary and that's where his feet were taking him right now. It was enough.

He struggled with his keys for awhile, stopping to take a breath before turning the key. There was still time to turn around. Still time to run away for a little while longer. But his legs were so tired already. Almost too tired for him to even stand up anymore.

A light breeze played with his hair and he closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against the wooden texture of his front door, halting his hand that had been about to turn the key.

It was calming, like a gentle touch. It never tried to hurt him and the following wind helped him to run faster. Yeah, he could never get enough of the wind.

The faint smell of oil paint crawled through the cracks on his door, slowly invading his senses. It was inviting and gentle, even more so than the wind, and before Naruto knew it, he had already opened the door. Closing it behind him, he stood in his dark apartment where the air stood still, carrying that drugging scent with it.

The blond walked past the paintings of smiling people and lovely sceneries, stopping in front of his shelf. The poorly folded origami still rested there, but there were far too few to actually cover the golden framed box. He snorted at his own stupidity as he brushed them away, taking his treasure to the kitchen with him.

Expect too much and end up getting disappointed. It was his own fault, really.

Sitting down at table, he laid the box down in front of him and stared at it. How many times had he imagined this moment? How many times had he dreamed of it and woke up screaming? It was all enough already.

His hands trembled when he opened the lid.

And so, the boy who had forgotten how to close his eyes got tired of it all and forced them shut with forbidden methods. The blissful emptiness seduced and embraced him, and so he kept them closed a little while longer.

Just a little bit longer.

Long enough to make him drown in dreams. Enough to make him forget how to wake up.

--

"Getting rid of the problem is the same thing as solving it."

--

Sasuke rubbed his hands together to get warmer. He had already run through a list of friends he could go to and stay for a night. Only to remember that they had mostly turned against him in order to get the power he once held over the other students.

This was the only time he truly needed those bastards but they weren't his to use anymore. The only one he could really think of was Naruto. Though Naruto was even more out of the question than his former friends.

Besides, the blond probably hated his guts right now, if he hadn't done so even before the catastrophe of that evening. It had been the last drop. For the both of them, probably.

Thinking about it made Sasuke drown in self loath even more. But what else could have he had done? Naruto had needed treatment and the nurses demanded him to let go. Besides, the situation had been almost impossible for him to handle to begin with.

The pressuring feeling of having to say the right things at the right moment was unnerving, twisting his stomach every time the silence had stretched between the two of them. He had wanted to say something, anything, but the words hadn't come and he had felt completely useless.

Besides that, he felt the ugly feeling that Naruto had introduced to him grow at the thought that he didn't even want to be there in the first place. He hadn't known what to say or to do.

And even if he had known the perfect words, it still wouldn't have been enough. Because those problems ran too deep for someone like him to handle. Naruto needed help and he couldn't offer that.

And so, he had wished that all that wouldn't have ever happened. That the source of all those feelings he had went away. That Naruto would just disappear.

Sasuke shook his head, trying to get rid of those thoughts. He really disgusted himself. It was already too late. They had met and he had gotten too deeply involved. But he had gone with the blond to see his mother despite not wanting to. He wasn't rotten to the core.

Even if he wasn't able to, he still wanted to help. Whether it was to make himself feel better by making the other feel better or just simply wanting to make Naruto happy, he wasn't sure anymore.

Naruto was special to him. Even Itachi had said so. Then maybe he really just wanted to make the other smile by helping him carry that heavy load. He didn't know. When it came to Naruto, he really didn't know.

Sasuke stopped walking when he noticed that he had accidentally walked to Naruto's apartment while deep in thought. He stood on the yard, gazing up longingly at the lit windows. It was probably warm inside.

He was about to turn around and go home back to see if Itachi had gotten over whatever issues he had and would let him inside, but stopped when he saw faint light come from the window he remembered belonging to Naruto's room.

He felt hope and anticipation rise in him, excited at the thought that the boy might actually be home. He could go there and apologize again. That is, if the blond let him in.

He took a few steps towards the building but then stopped as a dreadful feeling suddenly consumed him. Naruto was supposed be in the hospital, still. Then why was there a light in his apartment? Surely, the boy couldn't have left there.

Surely he wouldn't think of doing anything stupid.

With hastened steps, the Uchiha approached the apartment, thoughts of what he should say or do long forgotten. Naruto had just suffered a serious trauma. Well, now that he thought about it, most of his life probably was just one big trauma, but the one that happened in the mental hospital had been witnessed by professionals and Sasuke knew enough that they wouldn't just bandage the boy up and send him home right after that.

It wasn't right.

Knocking on the door, he shifted his weight from his leg to another and then back again, trying to control the impatience and worry that filled him. No one answered his knocks though, and he looked around helplessly, trying to figure out what to do.

Finally he got frustrated and just tried the handle, only to find out that the door had been open all this time. Opening the door, he stepped inside soundlessly, wary of what he would find inside. It might've not been Naruto at all, but a burglar. Though, what a burglar would want from an apartment that was just filled with eerie oil paintings, he didn't know.

He closed the door behind him and stated walking towards where a light came from. The dim light made the paintings look even creepier than they were in daylight. A tanned, blond man that seemed to be in most of the paintings kept watching his every move with a smile on his face. Or so the Uchiha felt, not liking the level his paranoia grew in that house.

"Naruto?"

Sasuke called out as he stepped inside the kitchen. The blond was there, looking like had fell asleep against the kitchen table. Walking closer, Sasuke's gaze shifted from the apparently slumbering blond to the box on the table. He recognized it as the one he had been curious about before.

It was open now. Emptied by Naruto. The boy's still body kept on leaning against the table, head resting against his left arm, the fingers of his right hand slightly touching a jar containing pills. Sasuke's eyes widened.

"Naruto!"

He rushed at the other's side, shaking his body, hoping, praying that he would wake up. Panic hit him full force and for a moment he thought that Naruto wouldn't wake up. But the boy did wake up, his body jolting from the sudden shaking.

Sasuke took a few steps back, his feet almost failing him from the rush of relief that ran through him. Naruto turned to look at him, his eyes cloudy and a smile on his lips.

"Hello, Sasuke."

His tone was airy and carefree, too fake, and it made Sasuke recover from his relief. The blond was alive, but there was still something horribly wrong.

"What the hell are those?"

Naruto's oddly slow reflexes weren't enough to stop Sasuke from taking the jar from the table and look closely at it. The name of whatever was inside it didn't say anything to him, but he didn't need to know what it was to know what it had done to Naruto.

"How many did you take?"

The blond continued smiling and shrugged, his voice a bit slurred.

"One? Two... Five..?"

And the smiling continued even when Sasuke grabbed him by the collar, brining their faces close and glared at the blond with furious disgust. Naruto would have probably smiled in a situation like this anyway, but it was so hollow now. Sasuke couldn't stand it.

"Why would you take something like this!? What if you had taken too much?"

Naruto just looked to his side, the expression on his face never changing.

"I'd be happy forever."

A shiver ran down Sasuke's spine at those words. He didn't want that. He would never want something like that.

The hold he had on Naruto's collar loosened but he didn't pull away. Desperation was crawling back to him, teasing him for being so helpless in a situation like this. In every situation that had something to do with Naruto, really.

"Why'd you wish for something like that?"

The blond was still looking past him, gaze unfocused.

"I could never be him."

He suddenly said, making Sasuke lift his gaze from the floor and look at the boy. Turning around to look at the direction the other was looking around; he saw a lot of the paintings with a blond man that looked a lot like Naruto.

"I guess I-"

His voice cracked a little as he spoke.

"I guess I just wasn't enough."

Maybe there had been a crack in that smile too, but Sasuke turned his head too late to see. Naruto continued to speak, eyes still cloudy.

"I guess I'll never be enough."

The perfect words to make everything all right again wouldn't come. The right things to do didn't exist.

"Then why didn't you just swallow the whole jar?"

"I don't-"

The voice cracked even more than before, the forced emptiness on the boy's face changing a bit. His blue eyes turned to actually look into Sasuke's, getting more focused.

"I don't want to die..."

There was a heavy lump in his throat, demanding to be swallowed down or to be cried out. Brutal honesty was pushing through from wherever it was buried in Naruto. It seemed like the blond himself understood the situation even while still being under the influence of whatever the drugs were that he had taken.

The forced smile stayed on his lips, but his eyes couldn't lie anymore. Sasuke watched helplessly as tears started to drop out.

"I don't want to die."

The blond repeated, looking right into his eyes, as if pleading him to agree with him. Begging him to agree that Naruto had the right to live too.

Feeling like it was the only thing he could do for the blond, Sasuke spread his arms and captured the boy in a hug. He pressed Naruto's body tightly against his and let the boy lean his head against his shoulder and just cry with that still smiling face of his.

The right thing to do, the right thing to say. Sasuke tried to think but his mind was empty.

All he could do was to stare at those hateful paintings that filled the apartment, always reminding Naruto about things shouldn't think about. Naruto's mother had created them, she lived through them. A twisted smirk grew on Sasuke's face.

"I can help you, Naruto. Do you want me to?"

Naruto's hands rose to take a hold of his shirt and there was a low voice at the base of his neck, as the blond hummed his answer against his skin.

Sasuke gently pried the hands away, letting go of the blond as he started to look around him.

"Stand there."

The boy obeyed, his blue eyes observing his movements around the apartment as he kept searching for something usable. He found them from the kitchen drawers and smiled approvingly, as he lit them and set them on Naruto's window, just beneath the curtains.

Naruto kept on watching, not moving or doing anything to stop him. It was like he was in s trance as he watched the light hang onto his curtains, greedily eating them and spreading further, not satisfied until it had consumed everything in its range.

Sasuke stared too, letting the pleasant heat warm up his skin for awhile until it got too hot and he decided it was time to go. He took Naruto by the wrist and tried to pull the unmoving boy along with him, but the other wouldn't budge.

"Come on, Naruto. We have to leave."

Slowly, Naruto turned to look at him, eyes widened a bit as if he had just realised what was happening.

"Fire. My house is on fire, Sasuke!"

The boy started to babble all sort of things, most of which made no sense whatsoever, mostly because he was still so out of it. It took all his strength to force the other to move from the burning house, but the Uchiha did get both of them outside.

The fire alarm had gone off a bit after Sasuke had set the curtains on fire and there were already other people from the building gathered outside, whispering among each other.

Sasuke dragged them further away, trying to kill the smirk on his face. The right thing to do was to get rid of the problem. She had been the problem. Perhaps he was as mad as a sobbing Naruto on drugs, but Sasuke did feel like he had done the right thing.

Let her burn.


To Be Continued...

I haven't written in so long that I almost forgot what I was doing. Did it satisfy you? This chapter made me think of ways to burn down a house without getting caught AND to make it seem like an accident to fool the insurance company. But I think it was wrong of me to admit that aloud.

Comment and Criticize!

(Her mother would look weirdly at her when she talked about princes who arrived too late and heroes with destructing methods of rescuing. Little did her mother know, that she was in love with reality.)