A/N: The idea got stuck in my head and I wanted to write it.
Warnings: None, worksafe. Self-beta: all screw-ups are my own fault.
Disclaimer: Kishimoto Masashi owns the characters and the world. But these words are all mine.
He was on an agenda. He was always on an agenda and no one could do anything about it. His comings and goings were his own, his reasons for sticking with the Team 7 were also his own. And there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Not his teammates, not his teacher, no one in Konoha.
Avenger. Naruto clenched his fists upon recalling an old memory from the time when they were still on the same team. Avenger. Blindly following a set goal that was pure madness to pursue, even if he were a high-ranking ANBU (which he was not and which he would never become now), he would still be worlds apart from his target. And yet he had kept chasing after a dream, a nightmare, a madness. Avenging what was not avengeable; not the way Naruto saw it. Not the way those who knew him saw it.
But once stepping on that path, Sasuke simply could no longer turn back. His own agenda had been burned into his mind and did not let go. His own agenda was running in the blood in his veins, his nightmares were all revolving around it, and the air he breathed felt suffocating every time he strayed from the path or thought of turning back. There were no paths that he could take in order to return, to come back to the old life he had lead so peacefully.
But the old life did not exist anymore, and the only direction left for him was straight forwards into the madness.
Sasuke's teammates and those bound to him by duty or by choice fought against it with all they had. They did everything in their power to stall him, to bring him back, to convince him that his goal was unreachable, that pursuing it was futile. Granted, they used words only seldom: the preferred weapon was actions. But it did little good.
Sasuke refused to acknowledge them and their attempts.
Naruto could not cope with the thought that Sasuke was leaving, that he had left, in fact. It was hard to understand and even harder to accept that someone could with such an ease tear the ties that had been formed over the course of years with many a trial and error; that someone would willingly give it all up for the sake of an impossible revenge.
And then, somewhere along the way, Naruto himself had gone out on an agenda of his very own; kept going out on it year after year even if it was futile, fruitless and suicidal. He had to avenge the avenger. He had to prove a point.
And in a way, he did. Every time his rescue missions failed, he proved a point. Every time he picked up Sasuke's trail only to lose it again, he proved a point. His friends looked at him in a mixture of pity, wonder and something nameless, and kept proving a point.
So many points had already been proven, and yet many more were still waiting just around the corner, just out of reach, and Naruto had to get to them all. It was, once more, trial and error and unreachable goals worthy of a madman.
But the one who had to see all this, the one who needed to know all this was not there and did not care.
Sometimes, Naruto thought back on the days when they had been younger and still together. Companionable silence after long, drawn-out fights when neither had managed to get the upper hand and they both lay in the grass, catching their breath. Petty little competitions over food, the arrival at a destination first... The list could go on.
Back then, they had been worlds apart in their skill. Now, though their skill had somewhat evened out (or so Naruto thought), they were quite literally worlds apart. Life continued; the world kept turning and revolving; young ones were born and the old ones died, and among them – men at the peak of their potential with their best years still ways ahead of them getting wasted in useless fights and sacrifices. Friends were coming and going, changing, and moving on with their lives. It angered Naruto and saddened him at the same time. It was one more point, though without his helping hand.
The world kept turning, but Sasuke was no longer there to see it all. He was still somewhere out there on his stupid agenda of avenging his clan and himself. Sometimes, Naruto wished he would never get around to avenging; that Sasuke would always stay inferior to Itachi because if they fought and Sasuke was stronger, he would lose his main goal. And if he lost it, he would have to disappear because nothing else kept him alive. Sasuke had said so himself once: his goal was to kill his brother. What he would do after accomplishing it, he did not know. He had never thought about it.
And so, the only logical solution was that Sasuke would simply disappear. He would still last through the moment of his victory, but afterwards... Yes, what would come afterwards?
Those were asinine thoughts that visited Naruto in the early hours of the morning when the first sunrays touched the roofs of Konoha. Sasuke was not coming back. Naruto had to cope and move on, but it was already too late. Just like it was with Sasuke and his revenge, Naruto's agenda was running in his blood, beating in his chest along with every heartbeat and coming to him in his dreams late at night.
Now he, too, was an avenger. He, too, had a goal as asinine as Sasuke's. And just like him, he, too, was ready to throw everything away just to reach it.
It was a race against time, one that could never be won, but he still had to try. For Sasuke, he had to try. If he could, he would kill Itachi himself, but their few encounters had proven that it was still too early. Itachi was still too strong and Naruto still had room to grow and improve. And while it was so, he would go out on his agenda and try to avenge what was not avengeable: all the could-have-beens and what-ifs that Sasuke had taken away on the day he left Konoha to never return again.
No one could turn back time and live their life once more, fixing all the mistakes and preventing the things that had gone awry in the first try. It could not be fixed, but he could still try.
Besides... Naruto grinned to himself. There still are a good few points to prove.