Title: Cold
Author: Ugly.Beautiful
Genre: Angst
Rating: T
Pairing: Naruto-centric
Spoilers: Some minor Valley Of The End battle spoilers
Summary: It's better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees.
Word Count: 706
Warnings: Character death.

Disclaimer: Naruto is still not mine. And Google told me to summery is a quote by some guy named Emiliano Zapata.

It didn't hurt as much as he thought it would. He figured there'd be blinding pain, not this numbing cold. Maybe it was because he had come to terms with everything. That last time, at the Valley Of The End, when Sasuke's arm had gone through his chest, he had never felt such pain. Maybe because he knew he had failed so many times. But now, now he'd done something right.

"Why…" Sasuke asked, trailing off as he stared at his ex-teammate through wide eyes.

"Because," Naruto coughed, vaguely wondering at the blood pooling from his mouth, "because," he started again, "I don't want you to… waste your life."

"But you…" He licked his lips. "I don't understand."

Naruto sighed, glancing at the rubble surrounding the pair. He wondered where everyone was; surely they weren't that far behind him. In an almost mirror scene of that day, the same group of people had been sent to bring back Sasuke once and for all. But this time they weren't fighting Orochimaru's underlings, but Akatsuki's. But they were five years wiser and five years stronger, and Naruto didn't think it would have taken this long for them to catch up to him. He sighed again. It didn't matter anymore. It was all over now.

When he had seen Sasuke and Itachi fighting, like demons, he had just, reacted. Sasuke had spent the last five years as a traitor, away from his home, his teachers, his friends. And Naruto had promised Sakura, he'd promised himself, that he'd bring Sasuke back. And he'd be damned if he didn't keep his promise.

If he didn't keep his promise, in his eyes, he was no better than Sasuke. For what was a liar, if not someone who turned traitor against his own words? Which is how he wound up here.

Itachi was nothing if not cunning. And his softly spoken words had made Sasuke think. "Kill me," Itachi said, "and get your revenge. Kill me," he said," and take my place in Akatsuki. Take my place and rule the world."

And when Sasuke took a hesitant step forward, Naruto had snapped. Sasuke knew only power and strength. And it was true that Akatsuki could give him that. But the outward appearance of nonchalance most of its members exuded was a ruse. They were tools under the Akatsuki leader, trained to follow orders. Sasuke could not live like that. Naruto would not let Sasuke live like that.

"You would have been… their pawn…" Blood trickled from his mouth as he broke off in a cough. "It was the only way… to keep my promise…"

Cerulean eyes wandered to the lifeless form of the eldest Uchiha brother. Naruto had not thought about what he was doing really, only that he wanted to keep his promise. It was of no surprise to him that Itachi's Sharingan had copied Sasuke's Chidori. And when the two Uchiha's, Chidori's flashing, had charged each other, Naruto could see what would happen. Sasuke's attach would hit Itachi in a vital area. And, while injured, Sasuke would live. He would live and he would leave. And Naruto would break his promise.

He could still see their surprised faces as he stepped between them, Sasuke's Chidori in his back and Itachi's in his front. One of his own hands, through Itachi's chest, Rasengan quickly fading, the other hand gripping the Akatsuki ring he had shattered.

"But… I don't…"

"What don't you… understand teme? Now you can't… join them… you can… live free of those who would control you… You can… go home…" He could still see the confusion in those onyx eyes and Naruto blinked, trying to stay conscious. "I'd rather… die like this… then break my promise… A liar is no better than… a traitor. And a… traitor is just… a pawn…"

He could vaguely hear shouting and realized the others must have finally caught up to him. Someone dragged Sasuke away from him and he allowed his eyes to drift closed. It was so cold.

Someone grabbed the shoulders, shook him, told him to open his eyes, but he coughed instead. "Kept… my promise…" He gasped out, the rest of his breath wheezing out of him.

It was so cold…

A/N: No excuses, I swear. ::rolls eyes::