Story notes - this story was previously called 'Collision'. I'm trying to pick it up again.

not beta'd, which I'm sure shows

Dead Ringer


Sasuke, of course, knew who Naruto was.

A long time ago, – before the whole world went to hell – they were friends. Well, they were friends as much as you can be friends with someone when you're eight and your parents make you spend an evening a week with each other while they – played cards, drank, talked – what ever is was that they were doing.

It was always on Fridays – one week Naruto would come to Sasuke's house and they would watch television or sneak to Itachi's room, and the other Sasuke would go to Naruto's house and they would play video games. This was happening for so long that Sasuke couldn't even remember when it started. He knew when it ended, though.

He's parents died. It was in a car accident and Sasuke was there, on the back seat, small and helpless, watching from the weird angle and through blurry eyes the blood slowly drying on his mother's stiff face.

After that, everything changed.

Kakashi had no answers, Itachi was never there and Fridays were long and boring.

Naruto was now going to the same school as Sasuke, but they were not friends. They were barely even acknowledging each other in the hallways. Naruto was not a very good student, he was loud and a prankster, and he got into fights all the time. Sasuke was a very good student, teachers loved him and he also got into fights all the time.

They never fought each other, though. It was like unwritten rule or something. Like even that much interacting was too much.

But Sasuke knew who Naruto was. They were just not friends any longer.

He would be, therefore, very confused when he ran into Naruto on the street one morning and Naruto looked relived when he saw him.


"You're going to be late." Itachi said. Instead of responding, Sasuke hid his mouth behind his glass. "Really late."

He wasn't going to be late at all, he was long since released from History, that was supposed to be his first class that day. Winning international competition had its merits, obviously. Sasuke just didn't tell Itachi about it. Itachi was very annoying when he was trying to act all proud of Sasuke's accomplishments.

"I know how to read a clock," he said when it became obvious Itachi would not stop looking at him until he answered.

"Do you want a ride?" Itachi asked, ignoring Sasuke's rudeness.


"Fine then," Itachi said, and finished his coffee. "Later."

Sasuke didn't answer. Mornings were always hard; sitting in the kitchen that was his mother's territory with Itachi, trying to have a normal conversation over coffee or breakfast, and then going out and leaving the house empty. It was like listening to the echo of the previous life, when you know that voices that are returning belong to those long gone. Sasuke didn't want to move out though, and he made that very clear when Itachi asked him about it once. This is their home, this is where all the memories were. It felt a little hollow from time to time – and especially in the mornings - but that was a small price to pay.

He needed to get out anyway. It was one thing to listen to the ghosts when Itachi was around, but it was a completely different matter being all alone in the house. So Sasuke took his things and decided to walk to school. He had just enough time for that.

He saw Naruto sitting on the sidewalk three streets away, close to his house, with the head in his hands. He was late, Sasuke thought. He wondered if he should ask if there is anything wrong. He shook off the urge to do so; it was none of his business.

He kept one eye on Naruto while waking by, nonetheless. He despised Naruto's fondness for orange on a good day, but this awful mismatch was a bit too much, even for him. Sasuke scowled, and it seemed like Naruto finally heard someone walking along the otherwise quiet and empty street, because he jerked his head, and looked up.

Naruto got on his feet in the instant with a little uncertain smile on his face. Sasuke almost let his mouth fall open, but he caught himself, and asked instead, "What is that on your face?"

Naruto looked annoyed as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. This time, Sasuke let his mouth open for a second. Naruto had some odd things – like scares, old scars – on his face and he was wiping his mouth? Did he look in the mirror this morning?

No, seeing what he had on him and how uncombed his hair was, he probably didn't look in the mirror.

Before he had time to ask again, Naruto said, "Sasuke? Where are we?"

That made him pause. Not the question itself – even though it was strange – but the bewilderment in his voice. He was at a little bit of loss, but Naruto spoke again before he was forced to think something to say to that.

"Are you doing this? Is it some kind of genjutsu?"

The term was foreign and definitely mildly familiar, but Sasuke had no idea what it meant. He reached the obvious conclusion.

"Are you on drugs?" When Naruto scowled on his tone and refused to answer, Sasuke added, "You're late for school."

"School?" Naruto asked, and Sasuke didn't like the expression on his face at all, or the way he was looking carefully up and down Sasuke's body. It felt like Naruto is trying to figure out what was wrong with him; it made him defensive so he put his hands in his pockets.

The gesture seemed to piss Naruto off, because he put his right hand in the middle of Sasuke's chest, and pushed him back. He never even saw when Naruto put one of his feet behind his leg, so when he tried to step back he ended up flat on his back.

He only had time to think So much for the unwritten rule and then Naruto was sitting on his stomach with knees on his forearms. Sasuke couldn't move at all. He had no idea how did Naruto manage to overpower him so easily. He was hardly a fucking pushover.

"You," Naruto growled then, angry and strong and crazy, "are not Sasuke. Who are you and where am I? Who are those people who said they're my parents?"

He hated to admit it, even to himself, but Sasuke was scared. He was scared of Naruto, who made his arms go weak in fear, and had him pined down in the middle of an empty street.

"Naruto…" he managed, because his only hope was to convince Naruto – of something. "I am Sasuke."

"You look like Sasuke, but you move wrong. You let me sit on your chest." A snort followed that statement. "Sasuke would never do that."

Let him? For fuck sake, he had no time to blink before he was down, when was he supposed to not let Naruto – do what ever he wanted to do?

"I'm Sasuke," he repeated, and then added, for good measure, "Uchiha. I live three streets from here with my brother. You and I… we were friends when we were kids."

Naruto was looking down at him with his mouth open.

"With your brother? Itachi?" When Sasuke nodded, Naruto laughed. It was unpleasant, and the weight on Sasuke's arms doubled. He was losing all feeling in them. "You're not doing a very good job of convincing me not to kill you."

Kill him? Isn't that a bit – too much?

"You look scared, you know," Naruto said, as in wonder.

"I am scared. What's the hell is wrong with you?"

Instead of answering, Naruto glanced at the BMW parked near them.

"It's weird," he said quietly, almost to himself. "I tried everything Jiraiya taught me about genjutsu. I should be able to break out of it, but I can't. It feels… real. And it makes no sense, this all looks like a completely other – world. Why would anyone want me to think I'm in some other place?"

"…You are completely insane," Sasuke told him, after blinking several times while trying to process all that. It was useless. It made no sense at all.

Naruto looked resigned when he stood up. Then he said, as if that had some special meaning, "They said they are my parents."

"Minato and Kushina? They are your parents."

Naruto glared at him. Then he let out a small, desperate whine.

"I don't have any parents. You're supposed to want Itachi dead – he probably is dead by now. And what is that?"

That was an airplane landing on the nearby airport. Sasuke shrugged, thinking, He lost it completely. And if my arms are bruised, I will not visit him once when they put him in an institution.

Something in him felt like being smashed into little pieces on the thought. He had to clear his throat before saying, "Maybe you should just go along with it for now. See how it's like to have parents. Go to school."

Maybe he would get better; maybe he hit his head after a particularly vivid dream. Or Sasuke decided to hope that was it, and that Naruto would get better soon. That didn't really explain the marks on his chicks, but…

Naruto looked like he was thinking through what he said. Then he nodded, and looked on both sides of the street.

"Okay," he agreed. "Where is that school?"

Sasuke considered pros and cons of sending Naruto in the wrong direction. It was tempting. He wouldn't have to worry about all this while in school. Or at all. What ever happened to him, Naruto was dangerous and unstable. It would be better if Sasuke kept keep himself on the safe side.

"Come on, I'm going there as well," Sasuke said in spite of the overwhelming cons. "We have to hurry, you're already late."

He walked down the street, thinking what he should do about this mess.

Naruto followed him.