Title: "Lunar, Solar"
Rating: R (overall)
Timeline: 3 months after the Itachi/Sasuke fight
Summary: "…because Sasuke would be the moon, Naruto would be the sun, and during an eclipse..." One can expect only trouble from unbidden guests. Naruto obviously forgot it when he saw a certain Uchiha on his doorstep, asking for help. And who knows how this story would have turned out had he refused. Sometimes all you have to do is wait.[Sasuke/Naruto] Please R&R!
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto Masashi. Story title from Pablo Neruda's Drunk With Pines. Lyrics from Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx.
Special thanks: Marilena, Satalex, Dune Master, Helike and Fatelesskitten, and finally Yuko who does a terrific job translating this monster into Russian. You guys totally rock! As does everyone who reviewed, fav'd and waited patiently for my (rather inconsistent) updates.
A/N: So there it is, the epilogue for this story. It's gone a long way from a tiny one-shot it was supposed to be to my longest fanfic to date. I hope the ending doesn't disappoint you.
There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe,
but nothing could be done about it,
and if you can't fix it you've got to stand it.
I don't count days anymore. I used to. I did it in spite of myself even when I didn't want to think about you. I finally stopped. But Naruto… I know he still does.
Forgive me if I'm being annoying with this letter I'll never send. I don't know your whereabouts, I don't even know if you'd want to read a letter from me. But I still feel the urge to write it. Maybe one day if we're killed on a mission you'll come back and someone will give this to you. She wrote it two months after you parted, they'll say. She would have wanted you to read it.
Today I took a walk from Tsunade-sama's office down to the training ground. It's funny how much you can see if you make a little detour.
I saw a multitude of faces. Smiling, sad, angry, calm… just faces of people I know or don't know. Gai-sensei's authoritative voice was floating out of the open window of the hospital. I figured it was something about Tenten-san. Luckily, I never had the time to get nervous because her irritated voice joined his, and the poor doctor that dealt with them was completely overrun.
I smiled. Team Gai had been absent for months now; it was good to know they finally returned. Lee-san and Neji-san were waiting in the yard. I waved hi at them and stopped to talk to Lee-san for a few minutes. Neji-san nodded to me, but didn't ask anything. From Hinata's words I knew he would have wanted to be available when two of our teams had set out to aid us in the Rain Village.
I went on, past the groves and the Yamanaka household. I met Ino and Chouji. It was my turn to make jokes about dates, but I bit my tongue. He's taking me to barbecue, Ino whispered, smiling, and her cheeks suddenly flushed. That was why I refrained from any comments.
It may seem odd but I'm really surprised at how good Sai actually got at making friends. I met him a little farther into the woods. He was sitting on a tree branch, his sketchbook on his knees, a flock of painted butterflies flitting merrily around him. Behind the tree trunk I spotted Shino, the most unlikely friend Sai could ever make. Somehow I find it very proper in a way. They don't talk much and mostly pretend not to notice each other. I warned Sai that Shino probably wouldn't get his 'penis jokes'.
But then again, you and Naruto never had much to talk about either, am I right?
I watched those little painted butterflies mix with the real ones (courtesy of Shino, I suppose) and kept going. They saw me off till I got back on the road and left the woods. I wondered briefly what Sai was drawing this time. His sketchbook is full of faces too. Those drawings are like photographs, they grasp the tiniest details. Captain Yamato looking quizzically over his shoulder – you expect him to turn around completely any minute and smile in his usual warm, polite way. Konohamaru perfecting Naruto's Sexy no Jutsu. He can perform a threesome now (ask Naruto for details). Tsunade-sama, her eyes filled with sorrow she would never show if she knew anyone was watching. Sai wasn't, as a matter of fact. He simply knew it was there.
And Naruto. He draws a lot of Naruto these days and proclaims each piece a failure because there's something about Naruto that is just too hard to capture.
I thought I heard Shikamaru's voice as I walked on, but I didn't stop to find out. As I approached the fork road I heard female laughter and shrill yelping. I saw Hinata sitting on the grass lawn and a small puppy making its way towards her. Kiba was watching, his sharp canines bared in a huge grin. I thought Hinata couldn't blush any harder… Oh, well.
I can't say we have changed for the past two months. Some of us have, others haven't. Me, I've come to terms with all my issues. I must have learnt something, understood something. I didn't give up… but I stopped counting days.
And Naruto (I know I've already mentioned it, but it's important) hasn't.
He was there by the river as I turned towards the training ground. I didn't see him (a little too far away), but he's always there. For some reason he spends more time there than at Ichiraku's, or opposite the Uchiha Compound, or any other training ground. No, he trains by the Memorial, the same place where we tried to get the bells from Kakashi-sensei years ago (remember?), and then he sits by the river and watches it flow. It never stops.
About a month ago we were on a small mission that led us to the Wave Country. You remember it? They have a bridge named after Naruto. You almost died there. It was the first time I cried so hard it seemed I'd cry my eyes out. The second time was when Naruto died.
We met Inari, too. I don't suppose you remember him. He's grown up a lot and he has become as respected by the citizens as his father. As soon as he learnt 'Naruto-nii-chan' was back, he rushed out to meet us. He asked about you, too. Well, more like he glanced at Sai suspiciously and muttered: This is the wrong guy.
On our way back we stopped by Haku's grave. For some reason Naruto stood stock-still for minutes, gazing at Zabuza's sword rising from behind his tomb. I can't believe it, he whispered and reached out to feel the hilt. There was a miniature scroll attached to it.
'I have a better one now,' it said. 'Don't think I really need all seven. Maybe I do have my own code of respect.'
Naruto's eyes sparkled when he read the note. I never got to ask him what all this meant (don't you know by chance?) but I was glad to see it made him happy.
Lost deep in thought about everything that had transpired in the past months, I finally made it to the Memorial. Kakashi-sensei (senpai? God, I'm still so awkward with this!) was standing before it like he always does, staring at the names running down the black surface.
I remember the day I was waiting for you to return as clearly as I remember every day of our last mission. There was a man… another man, a patient of mine. I'd just finished treating his wounds when Kakashi's voice reached me. I sprang on my feet and couldn't make myself move further. I just stood next to the patient, eyeing Kakashi over the crowd – and suddenly I rushed to him and threw my arms around him. His clothes were wet; there were bruises on his skin.
I looked away and saw Naruto sprawled on the low table cleared of everything. Kakashi told me he had found him in the Valley of the End soaking under the rain just like years ago. Only this time he sat next to him, waiting for the rain to end, before he did anything. His own wounds were to severe. There was no sign of you.
The innkeeper made his way towards Kakashi through the gathered crowd. I could tell he wasn't content with battered, bleeding ninja invading his tavern. I sat next to Naruto while Kakashi paid for the room; he was barely breathing. His skin was cold to touch, and I had wasted a lot of my chakra on the previous patient. When they finally carried Naruto upstairs, I lay on the bed next to him until his body temperature rose and he breathed normally. Then I gathered what strength I had left and stabilized the chakra flow in his channels.
"What do we do now?" I asked Kakashi after a while. "We could send a message to the village and ask them to dispatch a search party–."
He looked so tired. I moved closer, covered his hand with my palm and waited for him to continue. I couldn't understand if he was giving up on you or if it was something else.
"He can't hurt himself any more than he already has," the sensei went on. "Nor is he a danger to us. It is hardly his objective to cooperate with whatever enemies of Konoha still remain. Just let him go."
That didn't really convince me. For all I knew, the Elders would still demand your return.
"We could say that he died in battle," I suggested insecurely.
Kakashi shook his head. "No need. Leave it be, Sakura. No one will look for him. He is but a ghost now."
To my surprise, he was right. No one mentioned you after we came back and presented our reports to Tsunade-sama. Maybe that's exactly what you wanted. If that's the case, I hope you're happy now.
As Kakashi and I stood by the Memorial two months after that final battle, I made up my mind not to regret anything. Whatever happened, it made me strong. It made me who I am.
I took him by the hand (something I wouldn't have dared do before) and led him away from the monument. And for that, I thank you.
There was a place by the river beyond the training grounds where the grass grew so tall that it reached Naruto's chin as he sat there watching the current. His knees pulled up to his chin, arms wrapped around his legs, he stared solemnly at the water, all but its gentle purl completely lost to him.
He was half-sleeping.
The calmness of this place soothed him. He didn't have to face anyone here, not even himself.
Days were getting colder. Streaks of gray and yellow shimmered in the faded grass, so pallid and frail they looked like bits of a ghostly realm merged with reality.
Naruto yawned lazily. Clouds of various shapes and sizes paraded through the sky above him. He squinted up and when the sun wasn't in his eyes he saw one cloud that almost looked like a ramen bowl. Naruto sighed. He was turning into Shikamaru minus the IQ – and that was vexing.
In his drowsiness, it wasn't at once that he sensed someone approaching. The person wasn't an enemy; otherwise he wouldn't have been so deliberately slow. Naruto groaned quietly. He didn't really feel like talking to anyone.
His eyes grew wider. That chakra. It couldn't be!
The footsteps grew louder and then died down, the person standing right behind Naruto. The grass swayed softly as he lowered himself on the ground, back to back with Naruto. His fingers dropped hesitantly near Naruto's hand that lay lax on the ground.
Naruto tensed. Little by little the sheer astonishment on his face gave way to a huge smile. Slowly he began to turn around, waiting to hear the familiar: