AN: Sorry this is so late. Especially since this is now complete. I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed and stuck through all the previous chapters with me. And I'd like to thank my readers who didn't review for reading all this way as well. Enjoy the last chapter.

Chapter 24

Sun and Moon, Earth and Heaven

Shikamaru was trying to think. But he didn't have the luxury of using the pose as he had been wont to do in the past. Madara had Naruto strung up on that statue. And it was sucking the chakra from his friend. Sasuke was being held by Madara himself now, as well. But Madara's hold didn't last. Sasuke took the time to draw out a few shuriken and throw them at Madara from over his shoulder.

Madara, instead of morphing out of the way using the spatial justu he was now known for, sidestepped them and rose into the air a little. Shikamaru took the opening and froze him with shadows and Kakashi threw another volley of shuriken. The one that hit sliced through the mask and the skin under it. Suddenly, Shikamaru had an idea. He called out to the others to get them together.

"Everybody, re-group," he yelled.

Sasuke materialized at his right shoulder. Yamato came up from behind him and Kakashi was now standing in front and slightly to the left so most of them could catch Madara's next move should he make one.

"I've found an opening," Shikamaru said.

He then explained his theory. It seemed that Madara could only use the technique to morph out of the way of objects or people while on the ground. Perhaps it was some form of nature chakra like the kind that Naruto used. Whatever the reason, they decided to try to test the theory once more. Naruto, meanwhile, had begun to free himself.

Sasuke had managed to cut enough rock off of his hand that Naruto could burst through the rest. With one hand free, he went into a better stance to accumulate nature chakra himself. Once he'd felt enough of it running through his body and collecting in his stomach just like normal chakra, Naruto broke the rest of his body free from the statue.

That done, Naruto could now make out the scene under him as he called up wind chakra to float above their heads. Sasuke had signed to him the information that Shikamaru had gotten from watching their little battle and Naruto had his own ideas. But he hung back, waiting. He wouldn't use it unless there was another way. Shikamaru tried to grasp Madara in the clutches of his shadows again. Yamato tried to help with the wood techniques he was able to use. Kakashi came at him from under ground in that famous earth technique he'd tried on Sasuke so many years ago. None of it had any affect.

Madara had already broken Shikamaru's shadows once with the Sharingan and simply did so again. Sasuke's own Sharingan, even with the extra power he'd gotten from Itachi, was no longer viable. He was too low on chakra to get it to work for more than a few moments. Suddenly, Madara turned to look upward at Naruto, the red in his eyes blazing and the black specks turning wildly. And the whole world changed.

The sky became brighter and the ground under him seemed a living breathing thing. Naruto could see every vein of metal and quartz under their feet. He could also see Madara's next movement. He was going left and then up, to meet Naruto's downward spiral. But Naruto was ready for it. He came down and clasped Madara around the arms and his middle while sending a clone out to use Nature chakra to blow the statue up once more.

"It won't work, you realize. I've already got what I want and I'm not giving it up, not for anything," Madara gritted out in his arms.

Naruto smiled. Madara hadn't seen the second clone because Naruto couldn't see it. Somehow, he knew he would have if he hadn't done it right. He also knew that he had a tiny portion of the Sharingan, probably thanks to his meeting with Itachi in the forest. And perhaps it was more than a small gift. He could see Madara's pulse point in his neck and it throbbed with the effort he was exerting to get free. Before he could get very far, Naruto saw his other clone behind Madara and smiled wider.

"Hey, Madara," he said humorously, "say hello to my Dad for me."

The clone drove the sword he'd collected from Sasuke's back through Madara. But he had misjudged the timing or the space in between them because it went straight through and into Naruto himself. Sasuke gaped openly for a few seconds before letting loose.

"What the hell are you doing, you idiot?! Do you realize you could have killed yourself with that?!" he railed.

But Naruto wasn't finished. His clone signed to Sasuke who reeled back and shook his head. He signed again and Sasuke again shook his head. The clone made a few more signs and glared at him. Naruto fought to keep his hold on the blade that ran all the way through him. Madara can not see suffering or doesn't care and, for that reason, I have to do this. Help me, Sasuke, and maybe everything will be alright, he signed.

Naruto could feel that the blade had pierced his back, the edge relentlessly pushing against muscle and possibly the bone of his sternum. Sasuke, now a few steps behind him, gasped and drew in quick, sharp breathes.

"Naruto," he whispered.

"Do it," Naruto murmured softly, glancing back to overwhelm Sasuke, the determination in his eyes hard and strong.

Naruto caught Madara's reaching hand from his place behind him in a grip that cracked bone. He could feel the pieces shifting a little beneath his fingers. His other hand now wrapped around the blade of Sasuke's sword. He could feel it painfully cutting into the flesh. Madara grunted and tried to pull his hand, and the sword it was now wrapped around, free. Reaching into his pouch, Naruto drew out his last kunai, shaped and labeled just like Kakashi's gift from the Yondaime, and stabbed at Madara's left side. When Madara merely swatted his hand away and grunted, pulling at the sword handle positioned in front of him while leaning his weight back on his heels, Naruto smiled.

"What?" Sasuke's question rang dully in his ears.

Naruto stabbed again, this time aiming for Madara's face and with enough chakra imbued inside it to force Madara to catch his wrist rather than deflect it. Naruto smiled wider.

"I'll be alright, Sasuke. Just do it," Naruto murmured again, breathing growing heavy as he struggled to keep Madara from moving.

Hitting Madara with ninjutsu or weapons would always fail because he could either see it coming in time to escape or he had enough chakra to dispel or move around it. This time, he was trapped. Because Naruto had gone so far in his sacrifice, Madara would have no chance now. Sasuke could see the end to the long and torturous hunt, but he wished ardently for someone else to have that power. Stepping forward, he grasped Naruto's shoulder from behind and drove the modest length of the sword he could see extending from Naruto's back into his own chest at a somewhat lower angle. Naruto jerked at the feeling it presented him and gasped in surprise.

Sasuke shuddered as he closed the gap, ignoring the shouting from Kakashi and Yamato, their worry and fear beyond what he could handle at the moment.

"What are you doing?" Naruto choked out, panic coloring and rising in his voice.

"I couldn't say it before because I was afraid," Sasuke murmured, pain making the words even more strained.

"I was afraid because I know you'll leave me someday. You'll die and I'll be alone again," he said quietly.

"Sasuke," Naruto whispered, tears making his eyes shine as he bore down on Sasuke's sword. Coughing a little, fear and pain and confusion rising and mixing like milk and water, until the madness he could see out of the corners of Madara's eyes had gone cloudy. Madara gnashed his teeth, a quiet desperation born from insane rage leaking from him.

"I'll kill you, I swear I will."

Anger tainted his words even further and Naruto wanted to draw back from them as well as the man himself. The fact that Sasuke's life now intertwined with his own stabilized the terror welling in his stomach and kept his hand steady.

"I'm not afraid anymore," he heard Sasuke whisper.

Naruto could feel his lover's arm cross over his chest, the other grasping his side just above his hip. Sasuke leaned his head into the side of Naruto's and rubbed it up and down twice before their gazes met, each one incomplete from the angle.

"I love you," Sasuke whispered in his ear, the swirling pain and passion in his eyes driving into Naruto's chest. Suddenly, it became even harder to breathe, the fear of losing something this worthy, his Sasuke, while he was given something so precious . . .

Naruto would never in his life love someone as completely as he did in this moment.

"And I love you," he whispered back.

He felt Sasuke's hand move from his hip and, all of a sudden, he wanted more than anything to have listened and stayed in Gure-pu Sawa with him.

"It's not enough," Naruto said longingly, fear bubbling up and spitting the words out before he could stop them. He could feel Sasuke smile against his cheek, though he couldn't see it. When had he closed his eyes?

"I know," Sasuke said, "but, we'll see each other again."

Then, the pain widened in Naruto's chest, fizzling and sparking outward. Naruto could hear Madara screaming and Sasuke was grunting. Or, maybe, he was the one making those awful sounds. Pretty soon there was nothing to hear. Only the smell of roasted flesh and the feel of Sasuke's strong arm falling away reached him. And then, then, there was nothing.

Sasuke sat in the hospital waiting area wondering what to do. He had already been cleared to return to duty. The stab wound had been healed during surgery and a few days rest was all he had needed to get back to form. But, Naruto . . . Naruto wasn't well. He was suffering from an infection. Actually it was more like two. They'd come from the surgery to heal the wound in his chest. The idiot had said everything would be alright. He'd lied to Sasuke. Everything wasn't alright. And it wouldn't be as long as he was in the hospital fighting for his life.

Sasuke leaned his head back until the juncture at his neck hit the back of the chair. He wanted sleep but that would mean leaving the hospital. He didn't want to do that with Naruto still inside. He just knew it would be too quiet, too . . . lonely. No, he wasn't going to think about it. It would be better if he just left and came back another time. That way, more time would pass and he could find some way of filling it up until Naruto woke up. He was comatose now anyway. So, it wasn't like he would know the difference . . . right? Sasuke got up off the chair and dragged his feet all the way out of the hospital without once looking back.

Sasuke had been away from the hospital for over a week. Naruto's condition hadn't changed or else they would have told him at the desk. He never went up to see him though. There wasn't any point. He was still comatose and unable to communicate. Sasuke sighed, wishing he had a mission. Tsunade had taken him off outside missions for three weeks, relegating him to doing the odd D class mission for the town. He wasn't offended though. He knew that she had done it so he could be closer to Naruto, for a while at least. But there really wasn't a need for it.

Tsunade and the others could do nothing for Naruto. They didn't expect him to survive. He was too sick and had been so for too long. None of the antibiotics they'd tried so far were working and they were down to the last two available. Sasuke hadn't been able to sleep at all after hearing that.

Kakashi had come to visit again and they had talked.

'What good will you be to him if you make yourself sick?' he had said.

Sasuke had just glared at him and told him that his one day of shared friendship with his first teammates and Yondaime didn't mean he knew what it was like for Naruto and him. Kakashi left then, but put Sasuke to sleep before going by using the Sharingan. Sasuke hadn't been happy about being caught in its web when he had his own. It made him feel like the last three years of training and getting stronger had done nothing and meant nothing.

Sasuke was preparing to train outside, in the garden, when Kakashi materialized in front of him again, probably to try one more time. But he just sat there, leaning against a tree with that same lazy attitude he'd always had.

"I'm not here to bug you about going. If you don't care enough about your lover to even visit him once, that's on you, Sasuke," Kakashi said finally in that monotone of his. It made Sasuke angry, so angry.

"What the hell do you know about it?! For all that you've lost I've never seen you mourn anyone! You don't care either. You'll probably just go back to lamenting about lost cats and old ladies when he dies!" Sasuke screamed at him, unable to contain his rage any longer.

He fisted his hands and glared at Kakashi who shook his head.

"You really think I'm incapable of mourning someone, Sasuke? Do you even know me at all?" he asked lightly.

But Sasuke could hear the pain in his voice under it and he took in a sharp breath to try to focus. Of course he had seen Kakashi mourn before. They had all gone to the Sandaime's funeral together. He had seemed sad then. And that was despite the rules about shinobi keeping their emotions hidden. He also knew that the trips Kakashi made to the grave marker for all shinobi that had fallen in battle were for his dead teammates and master: Rin, Obito and Yondaime. And then there was Sakura, who he knew was mourned by many, including Kakashi who had seen her as something of a cute little sister. Kakashi sighed and leaned closer to Sasuke so he could ruffle his hair.

Sasuke had noticed him do it to Naruto and had thought it was just for him. Strangely, he felt pride well up inside him. He gazed steadily at Kakashi trying to form an apology without having to actually say it, in his mind.

"I know you care. I know you do. I'm just . . . I think I . . ."

Kakashi nodded and flicked him on the forehead, much as his brother had used to do. Sasuke would have preferred another hair rub but let it slide.

"Don't take this the wrong way, Sasuke, but you've grown well. Now how about you go visit that lover of yours?"

Kakashi couldn't say his name. He couldn't even say his name and Sasuke couldn't visit him. What a pair they made.

"Yeah," Sasuke replied. He couldn't think of anything else to say and didn't know what Kakashi was talking about when he'd said what he did. So he let it go. He let it all go and it felt weightless. Or maybe it was that he was weightless and trying hard to get back down to the ground. Sasuke faltered in his steps toward the house.

"I just need to . . . get clothes," he managed. Kakashi had an arm on his shoulder and guided him to the bench in front of the pond.

"Just sit for a minute. It's okay. The clothes can wait."

They sat there for a long moment staring at each other until Sasuke couldn't take it anymore.

"Let's go then," he said. Kakashi shook his head but stood up when Sasuke did. Sasuke took the lead as they began to walk to the hospital.

"It's finally hit you, Sasuke. So I think I should stick around after we visit Naruto."

Sasuke stopped walking to look back at him.

"What's finally hit me?"

Kakashi stared at him a moment and, for once, Sasuke thought he would remain silent. But his mask did that weird thing whenever he was about to say something, almost opening but not revealing anything.

"The fact that Naruto may not be coming back from this," he said quietly.

Sasuke felt his fists curl up again but squared his shoulders and turned back to walking. He knew it was a little unsteady but Kakashi said nothing and neither did anyone else they saw on the way. Once they'd gotten to the hospital, they both leapt to the rooftop and walked down the wall to the tenth floor room and slid inside through the window.

Naruto didn't make a sound as they entered. The steady hum of oxygen being delivered through a tube that sat just inside his nose was the only sound. Sasuke hadn't known that he'd been taken off the ventilator. That was something new and also something good, at least as far as he knew about hospitals.

"They took him off of the ventilator," he said. Kakashi nodded.

"It happened this morning. I wanted to say something but there's nothing else other than that he's breathing on his own, so . . ." Kakashi trailed off.

Sasuke understood. It wasn't really great news if the infections hadn't been handled. He was still dying. Sasuke took a deep breath and leaned over the side of the bed to see Naruto's face better. There hadn't been a change except for the color. His lover's skin was now more of a yellowish tint rather than the golden tan that he was used to. Sasuke looked closer, trying to see past the closed lids. But there was nothing. Naruto wasn't there. Suddenly, Sasuke was really, really angry with him.

"Wake up, you idiot!" he called. Before Kakashi could do anything, he reached a hand out and tapped Naruto's cheek with the flat of it . . . hard.

"Fine! If you're too weak to get better on your own, than you're wasting my time."

Sasuke slid his hand away from Naruto's and down onto the coverlet and turned away, trying to leave. Just as a nurse came in to see what the commotion was about, Sasuke had turned in her direction. So he saw her face even before he felt the touch. It was light and almost gentle. But Sasuke knew what it was; a finger. Someone was touching him with a finger on the back of his hand. Sasuke looked over to Kakashi, feeling his chest trying to push his heart out through the front of it. And all the while the nurse's face had changed. She was crying now.

"Naruto," he whispered and looked back finally. Finally, he saw them. Those bright blue eyes were open and looking around the room dazedly. Sasuke leaned over the bed, turning to grasp at the fingers over his hand.

"Naruto?" he asked. Naruto homed in on him and seemed to see him for just a moment. Then his gaze slid away and his eyes closed. But the nurse rushed forward to reassure him.

"His body's worn out from fighting off the infections. He'll be fine in a few days I'm sure. At least, he'll be able to respond better by then," she corrected herself hurriedly. She wasn't a doctor, after all, and didn't want to give any false hope. The chance of recovery after such infections as Naruto had had was very small. But that meant that any milestone was worthy of celebration. Sasuke breathed in a huge, quick sigh at her words and let it out slowly. He was crying now. He knew it, he could feel the hot streaks of water flowing down his cheeks. But he didn't care. His Naruto, his lover, had come back. So he didn't care who saw it. He was happy for the fist time in over a week.

The doctor had come in then and after a few minutes of checking Naruto's vital signs, they took the oxygen away. Sasuke sighed with a big hitching breath and tried to get himself under control. Kakashi had ushered them out without a sound. But he turned back to look over at the bed one last time.

"Welcome back, Naruto," he whispered softly, his voice breaking. Sasuke wanted to say something to him in that moment, apologize again maybe for how he'd acted before. But the moment was gone now. Kakashi had already closed the door behind him. Sasuke shifted the chair in the room closer to the bed and sat down to wait for the next time Naruto would wake up. The doctor had said he would probably float in and out of consciousness due to the drugs and Sasuke didn't want to miss it.

A few days later, Sasuke woke up in the hospital room with a start. Something was wrong. Rain pelted the window to his right and he looked out at it. The door leading to the balcony was open and that wasn't a good sign. He realized with sudden dread that Naruto was no longer in the room and he panicked. Had he slept through his death? Or had Naruto been taken away by rival or enemy ninja? He couldn't breathe, but he could feel the wind pick up through the open balcony doors and Naruto's chakra suddenly enveloped him.

He looked out through the doors and saw him there, smiling softly while watching the rain.

"Naruto," he whispered, barely able to hear himself above the growing storm.

Naruto turned and said, "Hello. Isn't it beautiful?"

"What are you doing?" Sasuke asked after clearing his throat of the lump he'd found there.

"Watching the rain. It's washing the world clean," Naruto said simply.

Sasuke gasped and walked over to him.

"I thought . . . I thought you left," Sasuke said thickly, curling his knuckles against Naruto's cheek. They both ignored the water spattering all around and on top of them.

"I missed you," Naruto murmured, closing his eyes and leaning into the touch.

They kissed then. The kissing turned to heavy petting through their clothes and then to heated sex with Sasuke taking it, on top of the balcony wall while still mostly clothed and both of them getting soaked. Sasuke groaned into Naruto's ear as he wrapped his leg around Naruto's hips when it had fallen once again. It was hard to find a purchase with all the rain but he made do. And it was worth it. Naruto was sliding in and out of him beautifully and he was there and he was real. It was worth it. He had no idea that he had missed it that much until they were doing it. Sasuke didn't even care that they were in full view of anyone at the other building, the Ninja Research Library.

All he cared about was Naruto. And the fact that he was awake, speaking and lucent. Naruto hummed into his ear a little at each thrust. He drove his cock into Sasuke again roughly. Sasuke moaned out loud. He was so close. Naruto whispered something that got caught and carried away by the wind. But Sasuke knew what it was. He called out the same thing as he came.

"I love you," he said.

Sasuke heard Naruto's grunting as he thrust into him one last time and finally pulled out to come into the cold, wet air. After they had finished and put their clothes back together, Sasuke was smiling. It was still raining heavily.

Naruto, mischief sparkling in his eyes, suddenly said, "Catch me, Sasuke."

He leaped off the balcony, taking Sasuke with him to the ground while buffeted by the wind. Naruto rose back up alone and Sasuke yelled at him to get down.

Naruto yelled back, not in the least willing to listen, "Come and get me. Or come and make me, Sasuke!"

Sasuke smirked and used the building's walls and roofs to leap close to Naruto. Naruto called up the wind to grab and repel Sasuke, pushing him away, only to follow in ever-enclosing circles.

Sasuke smiled wider and they danced together in the sky, kissing occasionally.

Kakashi arrived suddenly and called up to Naruto.

"So, it was you! You brought the rain."

He was smiling with his eyes and called up again for them to come down. Sasuke looked down at him contritely, avoiding his gaze but watching out of the corner of his eye. He drew Naruto close with an arm around his middle and leaned his head on Naruto's shoulder, sighing. Naruto shook his head and laughed. Sasuke loved hearing it again after so much silence.

Kakashi called up again. "I have a gift for you!"

It was hard to hear it over the storm but they had both managed because they turned to roll their eyes at each other at the same moment. Sasuke laughed.

"What is it, stupid pervert?! I'm tired and Sasuke and I are going to bed!" Naruto yelled.

Then, Kakashi reached up and in one swift move removed his mask. All sound seemed to die away as the storm petered out and their collective breathing was all that Naruto could hear. His mouth opened up and his eyes widened as a stray beam of sunlight fought through the cloud cover to wash over Kakashi's face.

It was perfection, his face. A well defined chin, mismatched eyes, a full mouth and the lone scar over his eye, so beautiful and perfect. Kakashi smiled at them. For the first time ever, he smiled so they could see it.

Then, Sasuke elbowed Naruto in the ribs, a mischievous glint to his eyes. Kakashi threw his mask up at them. Naruto caught it and the two of them began to fight for it, dancing and twisting until they were on the ground, in the mud and Sasuke was underneath him while holding the mask. Naruto smirked and crawled tauntingly slow up his body.

"Well, this seems familiar."

Sasuke kissed Naruto, passion and happiness chasing all the shadows around until they'd all been caught up in their teeth and worried to death.

Getting up and dragging Sasuke with him, Naruto began to spar and play again. Laughing, Naruto grabbed the mask and dodged Sasuke. Sasuke began laughing as well as the storm quieted down further to a steady, straight rain.

Kakashi watched as they moved further away from him, a bit sad and yet grateful. Reaching back into his pouch and up to his face to secure another mask, he smiled brightly, once again hidden, and walked jauntily in the other direction.

"Congratulations . . . Rokudaime," he murmured to the wind.

Kakashi's last parting shot was met with nothing but laughter on the wind and he smiled as he walked away.

AN: So there you have it. There may well be an epilogue depending on what people think about the ending. So, Tell me honestly what you all thought, please.