Well, I know I should be updating my other fanfic...but I had to write this one! It was supposed to be short...and now it's ended up as 7,000 words, eek! Oh well...enjoy!

It's in a weird format, and in lots of different tenses, but it works well I think. Some SasuNaruSasu love for you all! xxx

Disclaimer: If it was mine, you'd all know about it :p

He knew

"We've found Sasuke."

That was when everything changed. Naruto remembers his jaw dropping, his hands falling to his sides and his body just loosing all its energy. He remembers his knees hitting the floor and ignoring the sharp pain that travelled up his thighs.

He remembers smiling, feeling so overjoyed like nothing he has ever experienced, feeling all his anxieties vanish in one single moment. He remembers asking when, who and how and then he remembers wanting to see Sasuke with every fibre of his being.

He remembers running down the stairs of the Hokage Tower to where Tsunade had told him he would be and he remembers seeing Sasuke, bloody, worn out, fuming (because Itachi wasn't dead yet), utterly beautiful Sasuke standing, surrounded by various ANBU, their eyes meeting and Naruto feeling the biggest swell of emotion he's ever felt before.

He remembers instantly calling it love.

Sasuke didn't know.

Sasuke had changed since the last time Naruto had seen him upon that cliff in Orochimaru's hideout one year ago. He was quieter and more detached from reality. Naruto wandered what had happened to him.

Sasuke had yet to be sentenced, but until then, he was in Naruto's custody, his chakra suppressed. This was the first time he had properly seen him since he had been brought back and Naruto had decided that he would bring Sasuke out for some Ramen. He assumed that it would be just like old times; that their almost playful banter would rise out of their time apart. Instead, it was almost awkward.

Sasuke had not uttered a word since Naruto had picked him up from his room in the Hokage tower. Now, as their Ramen was served in front of them, Naruto couldn't take the silence anymore. Sasuke had changed and Naruto wandered what had happened to him.

"Sasuke, what…what happened to you?"

There was a slight pause in Sasuke's fingers, his chopsticks clanking together and those dark eyes were suddenly trained on his own blue orbs. Naruto continued, unperturbed.

"I couldn't believe it when they told me that they'd found you," he said softly, a smile on his face, "I was a little annoyed; I mean, I did say that I was going to drag you back to Konoha. But, I'm glad you're back."

Sasuke remained silent, his dark eyes hard and focused.

Naruto blurted out, "I missed you. I…I missed you a lot, Sasuke."

Those dark eyes suddenly became filled with an unmistakable intensity, one the blond had not seen since The Valley of the End. His pale hand holding his chopsticks dropped onto the counter in almost surrender and Naruto instinctively shuffled his hand towards Sasuke's, their fingertips brushing.

The intensity within Sasuke's dark eyes immediately disappeared, his face once more almost mechanically empty. His pale hand moved away from Naruto's and he dug into his Ramen, poking at the beef, looking away. He said, his voice the same timbre as Naruto remembered it, "Nothing happened to me. I'm fine."

There was tension in Sasuke's body and Naruto could see it clearly. He could also see the urge to just flee and run off after Itachi because his revenge was still not complete. He had been captured before it had even properly begun.

So Naruto smiled, wanting Sasuke to believe that this conversation was over, "Yeah, you're still the same bastard as before."

He grinned and Sasuke looked at him from the corner of his eyes, giving a small sound of acknowledgement that meant that everything was almost back to normal between them.

But inside, unknown to Sasuke, Naruto felt anguish and turmoil. Something terrible had happened to Sasuke. Sasuke was not fine. Naruto had snuck into the hospital room when Sasuke had been put asleep to be medically assessed and his chakra suppressed. He had seen with his very own eyes the scars that lined Sasuke's torso, the burns that the Curse Mark had left behind (and was still leaving behind) and the almost visible psychological wounds. He knew that Sasuke had been in physical and emotional pain; was still feeling that pain and was hiding it from everyone.

And it pained Naruto to know that Sasuke, his first and best friend, the person he knew he loved, suffered this pain. It pained Naruto that Sasuke felt like he couldn't trust him with the details. Naruto would help unconditionally; he would not laugh but would make sure that Sasuke felt better and himself again.

To chase away that suffocating loneliness.

Would Sasuke ever open up to him, the one who cared for him more than he cared for himself? Naruto gave a small frown, knowing that Sasuke would never see what he was thinking.

Sasuke poked his Ramen before twirling his chopsticks in the noodles, bringing them to his mouth methodically.

He didn't know.

Their first proper kiss happened when Naruto least expected it.

Sasuke was sleeping on Naruto's couch, spread-eagled and looking as if he hadn't had a good sleep in a long while. And Naruto couldn't stop looking at him.

It was hard not to, of course, with the way in which Sasuke had totally sunk into the softness of the chair, his dark hair pillowed around his face, light breaths creating a small arc in his dark clothed body on each breath. The afternoon had been spent with the ANBU interrogation squad, which had taken its exhausting toll physically on his body. He had fallen into a deep and dreamless sleep the moment his body had met the couch.

It was a sleep that Naruto knew his best friend had not had in a long time. Due to his clumsiness, he had succeeded in making quite a lot of noise in his kitchen while Sasuke had been asleep, but the dark haired Adonis had not stirred. It seemed unreal to Naruto, who would have been used to seeing Sasuke bolt awake, perhaps a kunai in hand. It made Naruto look at Sasuke even more than he already was.

Like at the moment. The blond was on his hands and knees over Sasuke, the spacious couch sinking under both their weight. His bright blond spokes fell into his eyes as he leaned downwards, catching the faint scent of something bitter yet earthly. He blinked, seeing traces of purple veins beneath Sasuke's pale skin. It pained Naruto how much Sasuke was suffering, and it pained how much Sasuke seemed to be turning away from his efforts to help him. He just didn't see how much the blond cared for him.

Sasuke's lips quivered for a split second, but it didn't escape Naruto's eyes. He found his blue orbs focusing on those pink lips and an unbidden thought crossed his mind before his eyes widened and he leaned back and away from temptation. He couldn't, he simply couldn't.

You can.

And the more he told himself he couldn't, the closer he found himself to Sasuke, feeling warm breath against his nose as his lips caressed the pale cheek beneath him. There was no movement on Sasuke's part, and it brought immense confidence to Naruto, whose fingers dug into the fabric of his couch as his eyes darted from Sasuke's lips to Sasuke's closed eyes, back and forth until their lips connected in a chaste kiss, lasting no more than a couple of seconds as Naruto dared not hold on any longer.

His lips tingled pleasantly from the small contact and he found that he wanted more.

Just one more, he told himself, a small twinge of guilt tugging at his insides.

Leaning down one more time, his breathing slightly more erratic and his eyes closed, he connected his lips to Sasuke's once more, hesitantly moving them in a soft motion. It was a longer moment than before and when he parted his lips from Sasuke's he breathed deeply and leaned back. His eyes opened and his breath caught in his throat as his blue orbs met with onyx black.

Panic welled in Naruto's veins, but he was frozen; he physically couldn't move. Those dark eyes, they were open.

Crap, Sasuke's awake, he felt it, he woke up, oh god, I'm done for, what'll I do now?

His thoughts tapered off, those dark eyes entrained on his as if he had not been sleeping moments before. And suddenly, pale hands shot up, one grabbing a hold of his collar, the other digging into his hair, pulling him down in a harsh, wordless gesture that still spoke volumes. Lips met his in a bruising kiss, immense heat soaring between the relished contact. It was an almost rough kiss, as if designed to draw as much of each other out as possible.

They broke apart, and Naruto felt his heart soaring. Sasuke had reciprocated and his dark eyes were now at half mast, almost sleepy again and filled with a certain light which was unreadable, but to the blond, that meant something. Endless future possibilities opened up in Naruto's mind.

But Sasuke closed his eyes and pushed Naruto lightly but firmly off of him, not completely relaxing until the blond was completely off the couch. Naruto frowned, but shrugged it off to one of Sasuke's weird quirks. He still found himself forcing a smile on his face though. And the smile fell completely from his face the moment he tried to gently rustle Sasuke's hair in a sign of affection and Sasuke grabbed his wrist in a tight grip when he was a hairsbreadth away, eyes still closed, making it clear that he did not want to be touched.

And Naruto entered his kitchen hurt, confused and lonely. A seizure of panic began to overwhelm him, but he fisted his fingers in his jacket above his heart, willing it to drain away in an almost blissful numbness. It was okay, he reasoned, there was something there between them; it didn't matter if Sasuke pushed him away.

How dreadful: the feeling of the unknown.

I love him…I wonder if he's aware of that…

Sasuke stirred in his sleep, as if his demons were back to haunt him once more.

He didn't know.

Sasuke continued acting as he had done since he had been brought back to Konoha: cold, almost awkward.

But the kisses kept happening through Sasuke's instigation, becoming more fervent and heated the more they happened. One moment, Naruto would be getting on with his own training and daily life routine, and the next, he would be pushed up against the walls and doors of his own home, warm lips upon his own, hands tugging at his hair…and then he would be pushed away and Sasuke would act distant and isolated. And whenever Naruto tried to instigate kisses and touches of his own, Sasuke turned him away.

It pained Naruto in more ways than one. On a physical level, he was always left hot and flustered, arousal pulsing in his veins, wanting to go further with the dark haired teenager, but on a mental level, it pained Naruto that he was ignored until Sasuke's needs had to be satiated.

Why was this continuing? Because Naruto let it happen, day after day after day. He loved Sasuke, clung onto him so desperately those few moments when they touched, hoping for more. They never talked about it and feelings were never brought out into the open and for a long while, Naruto thought that his feelings stood alone.

Until it happened.

Underneath the coldness and the Sasuke that had become quiet and more withdrawn than before, was a small boy in emotional pain, filled with psychological scarring and hiding it from everyone. In all his confusion over what was transpiring between them, Naruto had almost forgotten all about it.

Sasuke had been allowed to stay in his old home within the Uchiha district since a week ago under the watchful eye of the ANBU. Since then though, Naruto had stayed over in one of the guest rooms. Before, Sasuke would return to a special cell like room within the Hokage Tower every night and Naruto would say goodbye to him, wondering just how he slept before he would meet him in the morning.

He was reminded of Sasuke's inner pain when during the night, eight days into Sasuke being given more freedom, a pain filled shout, the sound of knees hitting the wooden floor and objects being thrown about woke Naruto up in a start. Within moments, he had raced across the hall and had thrown open the door to Sasuke's room, his eyes darting around the room and seeing images he did not wish to see.

Sasuke was on his knees, clothed in only his boxers, literally bent over his own body on the floor, his fingernails digging and dragging so much into the floor boards that there were deep grooves marks left, vivid red blood pooling across his fingertips. Naruto was by his side in a flash, tanned hands grabbing pale wrists and wincing at how searing hot Sasuke's skin was. A heavy sheen of sweat covered his pale back, and suddenly those dark eyes were upon his own.

Naruto shrunk back, almost. Those eyes…so lost, so much like a frightened child. Those dark eyes were tormented with past failures, haunted by past pains and scarred with events that they willed to forget but knew they never would. But most of all, they called out for help. This was a Sasuke that Naruto had not seen in a long time, not since Sasuke had almost died during the fight with Haku on the bridge.

Sasuke's bloody fingers raised up and dug into Naruto's shoulders and he instantly drew Sasuke towards him, arms tightening around his body, their limbs entangled on the cold, hard floor, but all Naruto felt was soft, clammy skin and trembling muscles which he soothed with long strokes of his warm hands, feeling Sasuke's harsh breath against his collarbone, digging his tanned nose into dark hair inhaling a unique scent which could only be Sasuke.

His sensitive hearing picked up almost voiceless whispers of 'no' and 'stop' and he tightened his hold on the one that he loved, vowing to never let go.

After a long while, Sasuke calmed. His skin warmed, his trembling stopped and his breathing returned to a normal state. And then that pale face of his tilted upwards, onyx eyes connecting with deep blue and for the first time, Naruto saw a spark in those eyes; a spark with so much potential, waiting to grow and spread its wings like a newly born butterfly. A spark that glowed with something akin to devotion.

Then, it was gone. The cold, hard Sasuke came back, shrinking out of Naruto's arms – his world turning cold – and backing away; turning away; walking away…back to ignoring that this had ever happened. And it pained Naruto to know that Sasuke, his first and best friend, the person he knew he loved, suffered this pain. It pained Naruto that Sasuke felt like he couldn't trust him with the details. It pained him that Sasuke walked away.

Now, at least, Naruto knew…he knew there was something there, some form of reciprocation. Maybe Sasuke could lead an ordinary life again with Naruto there, by his side. Maybe one day.

But for now, Sasuke stood up looking out of the window, his reflected expression hard in Naruto's eyes. The blond turned swiftly away, knowing that he was suddenly unwelcome, that all that had transpired before was now locked up in its own bubble. Pausing at the doorway, he turned his head to look at the dark haired runaway one more time before sliding the door shut behind him, walking down the hallway towards his own room, a small, hidden smile upon his lips.

Sasuke breathed deeply.

He didn't know.

Sasuke was extremely edgy for the next couple of days, as if somewhat ashamed of how he had been open and almost vulnerable towards him. But there were times when the blond felt eyes upon his form whenever they were together, and he didn't know what to think or do.

It got to the point where Naruto couldn't let it slide by anymore. Sasuke was getting more and more exhausted everyday, the countless interrogations and testing of his chakra sapping his strength, and although there had been no more late night awakenings from bad dreams, he could still see the remnants of something within Sasuke's gaze.

It was late evening, the summer sun just beginning to set, when Naruto grabbed Sasuke's forearm in an almost vicelike grip as he passed, pulling him towards him in a spin, evading the slow evasive movements that Sasuke attempted and sealing their lips together in a plethora of soft kisses.

And this time, Sasuke did not push him away.

Instead, their kisses continued into the night, shut within a heated room away from the harshness of the cold outside. Soft caresses, eager touches, bodies straining, breathless moans took their minds off of everything else and made them focus solely on each other. Naruto saw that special something shining within Sasuke's eyes and he revelled in it, making sure to draw it out, trying to make his own blue eyes shine that very same sentiment, only stronger.

They fell asleep in each other's arms, but by morning, it was the same as before.

"Leave, Naruto."

His blue eyes widened and he sat up, sheets bunched around his waist. He looked towards the other occupant of the bed, whose dark eyes were entrained onto his.


"Go, Naruto. Go home. The ANBU can watch me, not you."

It was a cold reply and Naruto's chest tightened, his breath in his throat. He glared at Sasuke, "I'm not leaving; not now. I know exactly what you're thinking and you can't push me away, not now!"

Sasuke sat up and Naruto had almost forgotten how beautiful Sasuke could be, the morning sunlight streaming through the half curtained window highlighting his pale, chiselled features. His eyes were dark and heavy against his ivory cheekbones. They had lost their smoulder from the night before.

"Go home," Sasuke said, his voice dry but authoritative, "we had sex; it's over now, so leave."

"No, Sasu–"

"It was just a one night thing," spoke Sasuke, harshly, "I don't want to hear about it again."

Naruto swallowed the lump in his throat, filled with disbelief, wondering where he had gone wrong and why he had thought that everything would now be okay, that this was it for the both of them: they could be happy.

"You can't treat me this way, Sasuke!" he replied, his hand grabbing onto Sasuke's bicep, "You can't do this to yourself; why are you making yourself go through unnecessary suffering!"

Sasuke's eyes perceptibly widened, his muscles tensing for a mere second. His hand tore Naruto's grip from his arm, his eyes shaking and voice full of sudden emotion, "Just…just go Naruto!!"

Naruto looked at him for a few long seconds, seeing the restraint in Sasuke's dark eyes, almost tinted red.

He turned away, got out of the bed and began to pick up his scattered clothing from the wooden floor which was cold against his feet. He hastily slipped them on, feeling sordid and worthless. Grabbing his headband, he stole one last glance at Sasuke, who was now curled up in the sheets as if he was a cocoon, back turned to him, dark hair contrasting against a white pillow, almost sheltered and so closed off.

Naruto frowned, his heart suddenly feeling heavy, before he fisted his fingers and resolved to leave, turning towards the door and slamming it shut behind him.

It just hurt so, so much and as he walked down the stairs and out the front door, he thought of how little Sasuke must understand Naruto's deep feelings for him.

But the blond had shown him so much, had told him so much, had taught him so much, but still…


…he didn't know.

"I love him so much," murmured Naruto to Tsunade.

He couldn't bottle it all up inside anymore and when the present Hokage had asked him what was wrong and had looked at him in a way in which a mother would look at her child, he yielded and spilled everything to her. It felt so good to get everything off his chest.

"I know," she replied, offering him some sake which he took without question, "it's natural he would act that way though. He's a socially inept person who has gone through a lot. He doesn't completely understand how to show his emotions; he probably doesn't even realise that he hurts other people."

Naruto shook his head, setting the sake cup down, "No, I think he realises how much he hurts people, but he can't allow himself to acknowledge it. I don't want him to push me away; argh, he's such an infuriating bastard!"

She nodded, reaching over to ruffle Naruto's hair in an affectionate manner, "Have you told him how you feel?"

Naruto sighed, shaking his head, "No. I can't tell him…he'll just close up even more if it's put into words. But damn! You know what? I don't even think he knows how much I care for him and I don't think he ever will. He's too…he's too broken. This pain of no reciprocation…it hurts."

"Brat…" she began but he continued on, his blue eyes darting round the room, his hands clasped as if agitated.

"I just wished I had saved him before all of this had happened! If only I hadn't been so weak at that time… I just want him to live a normal life where he doesn't have to suffer. I don't want him to be broken anymore."

Tsunade looked upon him, the one who had changed so much in the past year in raw strength, power and maturity. She cursed Orochimaru for his damn Curse Seal and she damned Sasuke for ever leaving Naruto to suffer and feel a love that might never be reciprocated. The conditions of Sasuke's defection had enabled her to convince the Council that the death penalty was unnecessary. If the Council had pushed for the death penalty, she would have fought with every fibre in her body, not just because she felt responsible for the actions of her ex-team mate, but because it would destroy Naruto.

The look of utter jubilation on Naruto's face when she had told him that Sasuke had been brought back to the village. It had brought a smile to the face of the boy who had been wondering half in a dreamlike state for the previous month due to his unexpected merger with the Kyuubi. A lot of people had breathed a sigh of relief.

She was the Godaime Hokage. She was responsible for the whole village: every root, every leaf, every insect, every animal, every person and every ninja. In her life, she had learned the hardships that humans had to face. She had been given a second chance to live with a purpose when she was instated as the Hokage. Everyone deserved to be happy and to be given a second chance.

And sometimes, some people deserved a third chance at life.

She leaned back on her chair and with a chakra laden finger, she opened one of the locked drawers of her desk. Reaching to the back of the drawer, she pulled out a small glass vial that contained a clear viscous liquid. Giving it a small shake, she closed her desk drawer, catching Naruto's attention.

"Naruto," she began, holding his gaze strongly, "There is something I can do to help you; to help Sasuke…but it comes with a price."

He blinked, "A price?"

She nodded, "The Council are more ruthless than you think and sometimes, they have the power to override me. They will not be as forgiving towards Sasuke as I would be. That's why, if you so chose, I'll give you this vial, which will save him."

"How?" asked Naruto, taking the vial from her hands and rolling it in his hands, "Is it a sort of remedy?"

"It's a highly concentrated poison which affects the mind. If Sasuke ingests this, he will fall into a death like coma state. And when he wakes up, he will not remember anything that he has been through in his life. All the terrible things he has experienced; he will have forgotten. It will be like a fresh start and a chance for him to live a relatively normal life, just as you wish for him."

Naruto nodded before he frowned, "You mean he won't remember anything that Orochimaru has done to him? He won't remember his family's massacre? But…doesn't that mean that he'll forget everything…even me?"

His voice broke off into a silent whisper, his blue eyes looking imploringly towards Tsunade's own. He looked almost defeated and it tugged at Tsunade's heart.

"Yes, he won't remember anything. Just his memories will be affected; his motor skills and ninja skills which have been drummed into his body will still be all there. Otherwise, he will wake up with a clean slate. He won't remember anything about his family's massacre, but he'll know that they are all deceased. He won't remember any of his childhood except that it did happen. He won't remember you, or Sakura, or Kakashi or anybody from Konoha, but he will recognise you all instinctively and will know you as a very important person to him. That way, you can show your feelings freely."

There was a moment of silence before he shook the contents of the vial, watching as it frothed and then settled, "But won't that mean that he won't be Sasuke anymore? His personality, it will be different."

"In a way," she replied, "In a way it will be, because certain events won't have happened within his mind to shape his personality as it is. But it won't be a complete change. He will wake up with a huge blank, knowing something terrible was there but not knowing what. He'll probably be more calm, bits of his personality from when he was a child before the massacre seeping through. And as I said, he will still instinctively know you and you'll find that he'll adjust and will call you all the names he's always calling you. It's your choice Naruto. This is the only thing I can do to help you."

Naruto nodded, thinking everything he had been told over in his mind. Was this the only way to save him from trial and possible death?

"I just want him to live a normal life where he doesn't have to suffer."

That was right. This wasn't about whether Sasuke was any different: this was about saving Sasuke's life in any way possible; about making sure Sasuke had a new life where he didn't have to suffer. A life where Naruto could get rid of Sasuke's demons for him and then freely love him, pushing his way into his new life once more, making sure he damn well remembered the blond Jinchuriki.

He fisted his fingers, feeling the precious vial of poison within his grasp and he smiled to himself, determination springing forth. There would be no more pain for either of them.

Turning back towards Tsunade and nodding, they began to discuss details, unaware that out the window, on the dusty ground below the Hokage Tower, Sasuke was looking up towards the window with Kakashi flanked behind him. He waited for Naruto to exit the Tower, and when the blond finally did some hours later and Kakashi left Sasuke in Naruto's care, the silence between them was unnerving: one riddled with the choice he had made, the other wondering how to reach out to someone when he didn't even understand himself.

Naruto's fingertips brushed against Sasuke's. The dark haired teenager didn't seem to notice the contact; the wistfulness, the caring, the love.

He didn't know.

Naruto sped through the undergrowth of trees, pushing forwards and feeling the wind in his hair. He snagged his arm on a branch, feeling blood for a small second before it melted away with Kyuubi's healing power. He could feel the clashes of chakra and he pushed on, determined to reach Sasuke before it was too late.

Sasuke had left the village. He had heard that Itachi had been spotted very close by and had left. He had managed to sneak past the ANBU guards around the perimeter and it had been almost an hour before anyone had realised he was gone.

Naruto knew where Sasuke would go the moment he heard he had left. And it frightened him. Itachi was still far too strong for Sasuke to defeat. All the experiments that Orochimaru had subjected upon him and the drugs that had been pumped into his body had taken a toll on his body. It was not as resilient as before, taking longer to recover and it had almost stunted his growth.

Sasuke could not win. Plus, his chakra was sealed! How could he even fight with someone who had full chakra capacity?

An influx of chakra washed over the trees and foliage around Naruto, and he knew he was very close. He pushed on faster, feeling Kakashi and Sakura following him from a distance as he pushed his body to the limit to reach Sasuke faster.

Everything had been sorted out with Tsunade and he had decided to tell Sakura and Kakashi what he planned to do. Kakashi had stayed quiet, but the look in his eyes told Naruto that he believed in him. Sakura wasn't too pleased at first, but eventually relented, knowing that it was all for the better good. After all, she had told Naruto just before they had left to go after Sasuke that they were both the most important people in her life and she would do anything for them too.

This was where everything began and ended at the same time.

Jumping from one branch to another, a clearing opened up and Naruto was suddenly thrust into the middle of a bloody battle. The two brothers were together as if blurred into one, dark clothes merging into a black cloak with red clouds. Sasuke's katana was leaning towards Itachi's throat, shaking from the resistance Itachi was pushing back onto it with his bare hands. There was a flurry of movement and with one hand, Sasuke created a Katon jutsu, the flames spinning in an intricate dance around Itachi, who flung himself backwards away from Sasuke. In handsign movements too fast for Naruto to see, Sasuke was flying across the clearing until the momentum eased and he fell to the floor, dust rising as he rolled a couple of times, finally stopping, coughing and wheezing.

Somehow, Sasuke had broken through the chakra suppression seal that had been placed on him. There was only one way that could have happened, and Naruto saw the evidence of it dance across Sasuke's skin as the curse seal erupted from his shoulder. Sasuke was in agony; Naruto could tell. His entire form was trembling from within, his mouth open in wordless gasps of pain as he struggled to get up and fight against the irreversible damage that Orochimaru had inflicted upon him.

Another quick jutsu from Itachi and bullets of fire rained down upon him, singeing his skin. Naruto's eyes widened and then Sakura and Kakashi were beside him before immediately moving towards Itachi, giving Naruto the opportunity to move Sasuke to safety and most importantly, to make everything okay once more. The sounds of a battle clash erupted as he created hundreds of clones to help his team mate and sensei. He moved towards Sasuke's form.

He skidded along the dirt and Sasuke raised his Sharingan eyes to Naruto. It startled the blond; he had not seen Sasuke's eyes like that in a long time: crimson, shaded and full of a dark intellect that Naruto knew he could never understand fully.

He dropped to his knees, hands reaching out to help Sasuke sit up, but the moment his hands were close, Sasuke viciously batted them away with a heated glare. The Curse Seal began to recede as the pale avenger fought against it, his breathing laboured. He fought alone and Naruto hated it. The blond ignored Sasuke's stare and brought him to his knees, relishing in the fact that Sasuke held onto his jacket as he did so.

As the last vestiges of the Curse Seal faded, Sasuke's body erupted into hundreds of tiny cuts which bled profusely. He gasped before gritting his teeth and Naruto held him all the while, before lowering him gently to the ground, where he struggled for breath. Naruto leaned over him, resting on one arm as he brought his other to caress Sasuke's cheek. But the dark haired teenager tore his face away from Naruto's hand, his Sharingan fading.

"Naruto!" His voice was rough and he coughed up splatters of blood, "leave. It's…it's not your fight!"

"It's okay, Sasuke, I'm here. Every…everything's going to be okay now, I promise," Naruto spoke slowly, drinking in the sight of his rival, best friend and lover. Couldn't Sasuke see that he couldn't fight anymore? That going to Orochimaru had made him stronger in the short term but had, in the end, killed him inside?

He looked deeply into Sasuke's onyx eyes, his own body language and facial expressions relaxed yet filled with determination and raw hope. Sasuke blinked and it was as if he saw Naruto clearly for the first time in a long time. Or maybe seeing the raw emotion in his blue eyes shocked him.


And with one intense look within Sasuke's onyx eyes, Naruto brought the vial that was hidden in his pocket to his mouth, ripping the lid off it with his teeth and pouring it into his mouth. In one quick motion, he fused his lips with Sasuke's, whose eyes widened and mouth gasped, enabling Naruto to let the liquid fall into Sasuke's throat, his tongue pushing past Sasuke's lips in a desperate sweep of his mouth for one last kiss, one last caress with lips, one last time to show just how much he cared and loved Sasuke.

One hand squeezed Sasuke's dark hair, pulling his head off the ground and harder into his mouth, trying to get deeper still while the other caressed the plains of his jaw and closed around his throat in a gentle grip, making sure Sasuke involuntarily swallowing the liquid. He did. He broke the kiss with a few chaste ones, realising that Sasuke had reciprocated, his bloody, pale fingers trailing over his whiskered cheeks.

Sasuke was a sight to behold as Naruto pulled back, both their bodies trembling. Frantic, disbelieving dark eyes stared up at him and the blond smiled. Feeling overwhelmed, Naruto crushed his head into Sasuke's neck, feeling his rapid pulse in his cheek and his almost gasping breaths.

He could literally feel Sasuke's body shutting down in his arms.

Naruto felt his tightly closed eyes water and he clung to Sasuke tighter, feeling pale hands tighten in his jacket. Even though he knew that he would see him again, it wouldn't be for a long time and holding Sasuke like this felt so final and unbearable. Would the poison even work? Was this all worth it?

"Naruto…" rasped Sasuke, his grip on his jacket loosening and his pale hands falling to the dusty floor.

Of course it would be worth it. No more pain; no more suffering. Everything would be okay and bright and happy and filled with a bond so deep, nothing could separate them.

Nothing ever would separate them, not even this poison.

"I love you," Naruto breathed into Sasuke ear, finally able to implore to him how much he meant to him within his heart. He lifted his head from his pale neck to look at him, the sounds of battle drowned out from their own little world.

He didn't hear.

The senses shut down first: smell, taste, hearing, sight, touch.

It didn't matter; there would be plenty of time to tell and show all that Sasuke meant to him.

His pale eyelids were beginning to blink more rapidly against unconsciousness: Sasuke was always a fighter and would always be. Naruto smiled and brought both of his palms to cup Sasuke's cheeks, knowing that the dark haired avenger would somehow know that he was there even though he couldn't see or feel or hear him. His rasped breathing evened out and one of his eyes gave birth to a single crystal tear which trailed down his cheek onto Naruto's fingers.

The blond's breath hitched in his throat because Sasuke was finally feeling, was letting go of everything and not bottling it up inside; was accepting; was on the start of his new life.

And then Sasuke's eyes closed and his body was still.

Naruto looked at him one last time, memorising his calm features and his peaceful rest. He promised there and then, his thumb gently caressing Sasuke's warm lips, that he would not fail like so many times before and he would create a better world for the both of them.

Then Sakura was at his side with Kakashi; Itachi had decided to flee and it was all safe for now, but Naruto couldn't stop now. Kyuubi had given him all the power he needed with their merger. There was no time to waste and Kakashi understood with a noticeable nod of his head. Leaving Sasuke within Sakura's capable hands, he stood up, feeling Fire Country's wind in his hair.

With his trademark grin, he took off after Itachi's trail, determined to finish what Sasuke was unable to finish.

He could hear Sakura calling his name after him, Kakashi holding her back. And as Naruto disappeared into the foliage of the trees, he took one quick glance back, seeing Sasuke as pale as a fallen angel within Sakura's lap, oblivious to the world around him and just how far Naruto was going for him; for them.

He didn't know.

After everything he's felt and said and promised, it looks like that he is still weak, still cursed with Kyuubi's existence even after their merger, still spat at and ridiculed…and still unable to do anything right.

Itachi is dead. His pale, bloody body is lying on the floor, face sunk in mud. It was a long battle of more than just strength, but Naruto prevailed…just. The heavy injuries he's carrying are proof of this. Itachi's final blow had been to seal his merger with Kyuubi within his body in such a way that he can't access any of Kyuubi's abilities. He bleeds excessively.

Death stares at him in the face like so many times before but he knows that this time, he'll be the one that falls. Akatsuki surround him. They no longer want the Kyuubi, they want him dead.

Kunai and shuriken are exchanged amongst the blows of death. The wind is salty, reminding him first about Ramen but most of all, it reminds him about the last kiss he shared with Sasuke, where the weak raven's dry lips had opened up for his, their taste reminiscent of the ramen they had eaten only that morning before it had all happened. The kiss where Sasuke had held fiercely onto Naruto's golden strands and where Naruto had promised to end everything for them.

He continues to dodge, to fight on, for Sasuke, Sasuke, Sasuke and for everything they could have once this is all over. This is Naruto's journey to free Sasuke from his burdens and to stop the pain. He can't give up: he will never give up! But there are too many of them. Even great shinobi fall.

Then he feels the pain. He has been struck deep in the abdomen, the sealed Kyuubi unable to heal him at all. Another stab, another bone breakage and the blood bleeds into his eyes. He sinks to the ground, clawing at the grass around him, never giving up. It smells good and it feels soft; nature tries to drag him into the world of sleep. But it is not as soft as Sasuke's hands and he can't let it drag him down, not now.

He tries to get up but something, someone, holds him down. They are too strong. This battle has to end eventually; he's fought for months on end, waiting and searching and chasing and now that he finally arrives at his destination, he feels like he is failing. Again.

He starts to see only darkness and there's a sharp pain in his chest. He pushes it aside, but he can't stop the blood that bubbles out of his mouth and he can't help but listen to the laughs of the Akatsuki around him. He reaches out to the sky, tears of regret of what could've been falling from his eyes.

He's never told Sasuke that he loves him where Sasuke can understand and one day, say it back. He won't be able to. He…No! He has to…

"Sa…suke…" he chokes, blood rasping his speech and dripping from his lips before he smiles his last smile and falls into the world of eternal slumber that is the quiet earth.

I push my pink hair from my eyes, dropping into a fighting stance as Sasuke comes towards me with intent.

He's so much better now. Sure, he doesn't remember us; we are almost complete strangers to him, but this is a fresh start and Naruto's gift to him. Orochimaru messed Sasuke up so, so much. He was so different, so damaged and unrepairable. Naruto realised that in the end, so he stopped his suffering in the only way possible. I've built a relationship of trust and deep friendship with Sasuke and when Naruto returns, he can give all of his love for him.

Right now, Sasuke is so…pure and almost untouched. Unlike before when he rejected love and emotion because it had been ripped away from him at such an early age, he now doesn't really understand the emotion called love, and Naruto can help him in this respect and give him love unconditionally when he returns. Then, I'm sure the Sasuke we all knew back then in Team 7 will start to show through.

And suddenly, he stops his training with me. He slows down and it looks as if all his energy has left him. I stop, watching him closely. He is only a couple of steps away from me. His eyes are wide and unfocused as his fist falls to his side and he slowly lifts his shaking hands to his face so that he can look at them as if burned.

My heart breaks as he lifts his gaze to me, a single tear escaping his right eye and trailing down his cheek as his voice cracks as he speaks, "I…I don't know why, but suddenly I feel really sad."

I watch as he scrubs the tear away, because even now, he dislikes showing weakness in front of others; but his eyes quickly fill up with water once more.

He says, "It feels like…I've lost a part of myself…"

And he stares at his shaking hands again as I realise what's happened to that blond character of sunshine who instilled so much hope and brightness into our heart and gave Sasuke another chance at life.

Sasuke now feels that pain and sadness that Naruto felt for so long: the love that Naruto always wanted him to understand. He feels Naruto's unquestionable, insatiable love.

Looking at Sasuke with my own tears now running down my face, looking at the utter grief he is displaying: I know that deep down, now that the only one who can take that grief and pain away is gone…it's just so ironic.

For the first time…

…he knew.

I think we dream so we don't have to be apart so long. If we're in each others dreams, we can be together all the time

So what did you think? Let me know!

It's unbeta'd so I apologise for any spelling mistakes etc. I'll fix them, hehe!

Review? Much loves xxxxx