"Sasuke…"

With one word… in one name. Everything could have been surmised and encompassed in it. Because there were no mere words to illustrate the frustration, the determination- the very damnation that came with that name and those feelings.

With just knowing him.

And it was damnation. A very intricate kind of Hell where the person he cared about the most- loved, respected, revered above all else and others- had been lost to him.

Not merely lost.

He had been lost in darkness, in his vengeful path. Sasuke had turned his back to everything that had meant anything to him. Turned his back to him, leaving him with that unfathomable feeling of abandonment.

Abandoned.

Naruto had been left with words that cut through him with the ease and precision of a scalpel- far deadlier than Sasuke's Chidori could become, curse seal or not. A handful of the people he had come to care about had been left for dead in their struggle to help him preserve his dream.

Sasuke left him for dead- his closest friend- for power. He abandoned him to join a demented freak; a traitor; a murderer.

The one who had placed a curse on his best friend's body and mind, who had killed the Sadaime and almost destroyed their home - that was the Devil in Naruto's little Hell. The Snake that tempted his precious friend out of Eden, to his fall.

And yet the only thing on Naruto's mind, the fear that laced and choked his heart, was that the Devil would claim his due; claim Sasuke's body. The thought made Naruto shiver as a dozen implications hit him full force against his will.

But what made the blood in his veins run cold, was Sasuke's willingness to provide.

For power.

As long as he could succeed in his goal for revenge, the Snake could have "his life and afterlife for that matter". That's what he had said. Those words echoed in Naruto's hell.

"Sasuke…"

He realized- in a place so deep inside he could almost silence- that through his actions Sasuke had become a monster himself.

It was there last time.

Sasuke's dark, charcoal eyes were dim and bottomless, holding very little of what was once so familiar. There was no life there- barely recognition. The same recognition that they'd hold for an insect that neither bothered nor intrigued him with it its existence.

Detached; dispassionate; alien.

Not him.

Sasuke had never been the poster boy for bright moods and sunshiny smiles, but he had always alive. Passionate, with a fiery temper much like the element his family used in those remarkable jutsus.

He had never been like this. The intensity was still there, but instead of making the air around him explode, it was stagnant and calm, emanating in waves that might roll and choke anyone around him.

Naruto's heart skipped a bit as he realized that Sasuke had a lot in common with a snake- not cold, but lacking any sort of heat, predatory, patient… lethal- and he hated it. Because snakes would always remind him of Orochimaru- that freak, that traitor, that murderer- and he liked to pretend that Sasuke was- still- anything but.

And- still- in spite of all he's done to him- and every and any thing Naruto's ever cared about- he went after him, hell-bent on retrieving him and bringing him home. Hell-bent on protecting him from anyone who thinks otherwise. Hell-bent on making the villagers understand and embrace him again as their favored boy-genius that Sasuke had always been to them. All of Sasuke's life. And all of Naruto's life.

And everything would be as it should be; as it used to be.

Another voice inside him- this one, he irreverently ignored- had always laughed at those notions. It mocked his resolve, pointing out that his reason for wanting to bring Sasuke back was not just to save his precious friend. He wanted him back so that Konoha would feel like home again.

He was bringing Sasuke back- not to the village, not to the villagers or the Godaime, not even to Sakura. He was bringing Sasuke back to him.

And that was his Hell.

Chasing after the ghost of Times Past, in a race against Time- against the Odds- for Sasuke. Sasuke, who didn't want to be saved and would rather kill before he allowed anyone to stop him. Chasing after the ghost of a feeling that might very well be the death of him, allowing it to overwhelm any other dream or goal for the sake of that insane need to lie next to his best friend, under the stars on the moist grass, and exchange their patented insults. Give it all up to experience that unique feeling of belonging, just once more.

He sometimes wondered why he didn't simply replace him (as if he could simply replace the "great Uchiha Sasuke"). He had friends- people he cared about immensely. Somehow none of them had managed to tap into that obsessive/compulsive- sick - vein that Sasuke had, with his superior attitude and cool smirk.

Naruto had to chuckle at a new thought that sidetracked his mind. The people who understood him the best had tried to kill him at least once. Neji did; Gaara did. His fights with them forced him to grow. But Sasuke… Sasuke had almost succeeded at the task. And his fight with him has left him beaten and almost- almost- broken. He did another thing no-one else could do… Only Sasuke could come so close to breaking him. Not Neji; not Gaara; not Orochimaru.

And not Itachi. Not Sasuke's Devil in Sasuke's Hell. He wondered just how pissed Sasuke would be to know that.

No, it wasn't that that he couldn't replace Sasuke, if he wanted to. It's that he wouldn't. He didn't want to. He refused to give up on him.

So really, how could he use words to describe this cancerous bond that anyone with half a brain shell would cut and spare themselves the agony? How does he explain hope against all evidence- real, tangible evidence- to the contrary? How did he surrender his dreams to the person who would plummet them?

His only answer was "For Sasuke". And he could explain no more, because to him that single name meant more- enveloped more- than any other word he could use. More than "friendship", more than "betrayal", more than "pain", more than "love"- and all those at once- was "Sasuke".

And that's the only word he could let past his lip, roll in his mouth like velvet and broken glass, when the old ghosts crept up on him. Not "where", not "how", not "why"… But that one words that uttered his question and answer to everything.

Sasuke.