Author's note: I will dedicate this story to the wonderful people who took the time to review my first one-shot. Thank you guys… you gave me the extra boost in confidence to give this multi-chapter a go.
Disclaimer: Don't own… wish I did… but don't. ::picks up and daisy and starts plucking:: Do, don't, do, don't…. Heh
Tides and Ebbs of Honesty
Tide 1: Blood
A silence like to death itself choked every sound in the forest. Everything bathed in the reds and angry yellows of sunset, awaiting the merciful dive into paler hues and then the thick nightfall that might coat the ugliness of the scene in obscurity. The bodies of three men were splayed on the blood soaked grounds. One further in the distance and two lying across from each other. Though the signs of battle pointed to mayhem and carnage, the scene was eerily serene, lacking any motion that suggested effort or sound that suggested pain.
Heavy panting broke the silent spell as the blonde forced his body to move- in spite of broken bones and deep gushes- to move closer and drop next to the dark-haired man. "Sasuke…?"
Trust Naruto to be loud.
It wasn't his voice that was loud per se. Contrary to the obnoxious volume that seemed to be his natural, his voice was now barely above a whisper, yet echoing with so many questions, it was almost deafening to the raven. 'Are you awake'? 'Are you alive'? 'Can you hear me'? Naruto's voice was thick with desperation and worry. 'Have I failed'? 'Are you really dead, you bastard'? Sasuke could hear all those questions and more. He had once told him that ninjas who are close know each other's thoughts. Maybe it was true.
"Still here, Dobe…" he said, attempting and almost succeeding at hiding the effort it required of him behind his trademark nonchalance.
"Don't call me that, Teme…" Naruto spat back, attempting and failing to cover his relief behind his trademark irritation. He allowed his eyelids to mercifully fall over his eyes as he inched closer to Sasuke. "Lets see you try to run away now…" he muttered into the ground, pretty confident that the other's ears would not catch the challenge.
Sasuke blinked, finding it hard to focus through the exhaustion. His eyes lingered on Naruto, not really studying him or even thinking. The blood-loss was making him sluggish.
"Nice going there, Teme, you almost got us both killed…"
Naruto's tone was sharp and Sasuke couldn't decide if it was the pain, a taunt or if the blonde really meant to chastise him. Maybe he couldn't read his thoughts as well as he liked to think. Maybe he was year behind. "No one asked you to get involved." It was true. "I didn't need your help." Not as true.
"Shut up, bastard." Naruto groaned. "I made a promise-"
"Don't start with your way of the ninja, Naruto." He said in a tone full of exasperation and amusement. "If I'd going to die here, I'd appreciate it if that wasn't the last thing I heard, 'dattebayo'."
As expected the blonde got riled up. "I can't believe you, bastard! You don't want to hear about my 'way of the ninja' at your final moments, but you're fine mocking me?!"
Sasuke tried to smirk. "Isn't that how we're supposed to die?"
"We're not supposed to die, baka." Naruto grumbled.
They were silent for a while, just breathing. Sasuke could tell that Naruto was waiting for help the way his eyes kept darting into the forest. He huffed, mostly at himself, because he realized that, for all his cold declarations, he was not ready to die. Life and afterlife, huh… And for all his big words about severing bonds, a morbid part of him was glad that Naruto was there.
His dark eyes lingered on Itachi's immobile form, far in the distance. It was somehow unfair that his brother looked in a far better shape in death than either of them. For a cruel moment he wished that there were no more Uchihas to mourn or remember or carry on a legacy that was drenched in blood down to the last survivor.
"It's over…" he muttered, to himself more than anyone. He felt strangely empty and lost. Itachi was dead. He thought he'd be relieved or feel vindicated, but all that was there was a vast sense of… nothing. His quest was over and all he could think was that it seemed so pointless in retrospection. "It's over." He repeated more resolutely, tasting the words. It was bile.
Naruto met his eyes with painstaking understanding. "Come back."
Sasuke closed his eyes, refusing to play into that particular one-sided conversation, and frowned. "You could have died here, Dobe. I was not going to hold back for you."
"I know." Naruto said simply, his eyes returning to the forest ahead.
"This was the most important thing to me." He pressed on. More than you.
This time they locked eyes- Sasuke's searching, Naruto's firm. "I know." The blonde repeated levelly. No yells, no hurt. "That's why I'm here."
That was it. "If you had an actual deathwish, Dobe, you could have told me and I'd have finished you off a lot faster. A hell of a lot less painfully." He snapped.
Naruto rolled his eyes and tried to rise on his elbows. "To my recollection, Teme, your Chidori fucking hurts."
Sasuke flinched- only slightly- at the memory. "Aah…" he said, suddenly drained.
Naruto watched him curiously, then smiled with a touch of haughtiness. "I did put a scratch on your forehead."
"Forehead protector." he amended irritably, though he wasn't irritated. It's just how things had always been between then and how – and he would never admit his relief at that- they still were.
"My aim is better now."
"I doubt it." Sasuke deadpanned.
Silence reigned again. Both tried to keep appearances- per habit and because it was easier that way- but they were keenly aware that their wounds were severe and, unless something happened fast, their time was limited.
"If I had killed you, I would have achieved Mangekyu." Sasuke said suddenly as a fact, not a confession.
"Huh?" Naruto blinked his eyes open. He was probably drifting to sleep. A definite no-no in their situation.
"Mangekyu Sharingan." Sasuke began in a way of explaining waiting for blue eyes to fully focus on him. "It's another type of Sharingan that requires… special conditions. Itachi had it…" His voice trailed off.
Naruto frowned a bit. "How come you don't have it then?" he prompted, no doubt to keep Sasuke talking.
His next words were uttered so softly, they were barely intelligible. "I'd have to kill the person most precious to me…"
But Naruto did hear them and his eyes widened as he connected the dots, lighting up with emotions he could almost recognize. Sasuke much doubted that he would have been as talkative if not for the blood-loss induced honesty. And frankly, surprisingly, there was still an honest part left in him that felt he owed Naruto that much. His eyes drifted back to Itachi's lifeless form.
"Mangekyu could have come in handy…" he said absently in a tone so dry it must have hurt his lips as the words came out. He heard a chocked laughter and turned to find the blonde holding his ribs painfully. "What." He demanded, this time irritated.
"S-sorry…" Naruto tried to sound more sober and failed miserably. "It's just your… you sounded so…" he laughed harder, until he started coughing. The copper taste of his own blood took away from his mirth.
Sasuke did not ask if he was okay- he wouldn't- but his eyes were alert and assessing.
"In the end" Naruto started again when his coughing had finally subsided, "we are more alike than we are unlike… and this is fitting."
Sasuke frowned at the smile that greeted his death glare. Was the blood-loss getting to the blonde's already mentally challenged thought process? "What are you talking about, Dobe?" he asked for the sake of arguing, not really expecting a coherent answer. He watched him for a moment, trying to relax his battered body in spite of the shivers. Sasuke estimated that Naruto would be getting cold by now. He knew he was- and he had spent the last three years in Orochimaru's dumpster ideas of hideouts. No heating, but as long as there were doors that could be locked and no second keys, he could get by. What he also knew was that, if he was nothing less than his prissy self when he was so much worse for wear, Naruto would be damned if he didn't rise to the challenge and be a smartass.
And Naruto didn't disappoint him. "For someone so well versed on obsession, you sure are missing the irony in this.
He was not going to justify this one with a comeback. He supposed some things never changed and a Dobe would remain a Dobe, no matter how many years went by or how strong he became.
"You obsessed over killing Itachi, I obsessed over bringing you back… it makes sense that we all ended up here."
Sasuke scoffed at the notion. "I don't see how it makes sense, baka. I'm dying with him and you have a long way to bring me back to Konoha."
"Give me a bit, bastard." Naruto licked his dry lips. "Give me a bit and we'll be there. I'll get you back to Konoha if it's the last thing I do."
Dark eyes widened just a bit, for just a moment as he stared back. "… Usuratonkachi." he muttered, now thoroughly exhausted. Years of effort and dilemmas weighed on his eyelids that were inhumanly heavy. He heard Naruto call his name again and again. "Too loud…" he whispered the complaint. "Always too damn loud…" and he smiled, a barely noticeable tug of the lips.
Just before everything faded to blissful oblivion, he thought he felt strong arms lifting him. Maybe Naruto's team had made it in time, but somehow he doubted it. Sasuke was pretty sure that it was the Dobe himself, again trying too hard again.
His last thought was, Baka…
Okay… so that was Chapter 1. Let me say in advance that there will be NO character deaths. None. Nada. Zilh. I love all the characters and my angsty muse doesn't do deathfics. So Sasuke will be fine, k?
Hope you enjoy.