A/N: This story was conceived on the basis of a "rolling image": an image or set of images and phrases that repeats but takes on a different meaning each time. In this case, there are quite a few, which I hope don't confuse each other. It's set within the timeline of the series, though it's not specific, and goes past the point where the series is now, again without specifics. Just an exploration of Naruto and Sasuke's changing relationship, and the fight to stay warm that comes with it.
Pairing: Sasuke x Naruto, light.
Midnight in autumn. Under a clear sky and a full spread of stars, the world tucked its nose under its tail to keep the cold at bay, the silence of hibernation pervasive throughout the forests and fields. The moon was high and the leaves shifted underneath its hands, their voices indignant at the brush of the chilling wind. Not the only indignant voices cursing the passing breeze.
"Ahh… cold, cold, cold! What are we doing out here?"
"Keeping watch, idiot." Sasuke shrugged as he stood up from extinguishing their meager fire, the last speck of warmth on the surface of the frozen ground. Naruto made a face at the embers.
"Stupid Kakashi. Gets to stay in that nice warm house and I'm stuck out here with you. He planned this! He knew it'd be warmer last night. That's dirty!"
"That's ridiculous," Sasuke said, casting a cursory glance back toward the watchful eyes of the village, a jumble of flickering lights in the darkness. Sasuke stretched one foot out to nudge Naruto's backpack, kicking the bag into a lazy roll. "Get your stuff out and go to sleep. I'm waking you up at three no matter how much you whine."
"I'm not gonna whine," Naruto protested.
Sasuke snorted. Then he turned for the trees, the shadows of the forest a mere mockery of his coal-black eyes. Naruto shuffled to his knees.
Sasuke turned back, barely catching the yellow blanket before it collided with his head. He turned it over in his hands, looking at the fabric and then back to Naruto, where the latter shook out his bedroll beside the dead fire.
"And this is?"
"It's a blanket," Naruto said, already tangled in the mesh of his bed. Sasuke rolled his eyes. "An extra one," Naruto added, glancing over his shoulder with eyes that the darkness couldn't touch. "Since it's kinda cold."
Sasuke shook his head. "Moron." Without another word, he and the blanket disappeared into the forest like the shadows they were, leaving Naruto and his protruding tongue far behind.
Naruto slipped into his bed and into the silence, and for three hours, there was nothing but silence. Then the darkness pulled back and it took the silence with it, leaving a figure and a voice by the side of his bed.
"Hey. Moron. Get up."
Naruto rolled over, growling at the foot that pressed into his stomach a second later, evidence of its master that his affinity with the darkness could not erase. Naruto sat up, shaking his head.
"'S three already?"
"Obviously." Sasuke bent to dig in his own pack, and every motion was precise and soundless, soundless like the steps carrying him to the other side of the fire. "Why else would I be here?"
Naruto blinked at the darkness, and the stars, and the sliver of Sasuke's face that the sickle moon had made its mirror, a crescent of light against the forest backdrop—then he squinted at the sky, scratching his stomach.
"Some of us do actually possess the ability to tell time," Sasuke replied, his voice even under the long answer. He rose back to his full height, watching the moonlight tease at Naruto's tousled hair. "Get going already. And don't fall asleep on watch."
"Not gonna, jerk," Naruto said through his yawn, pushing himself to his feet. Sasuke scoffed and climbed into bed.
Naruto bent his body backward and forward, side to side and performed a few jumping jacks, looking around at their camp with eyes already threatening the moon's claim as sole source of light. Then he threw his hands up in the air, smiling into the darkness.
"All right. Uzumaki Naruto, up and at 'em!"
Sasuke rolled his eyes, shifting onto his back. "Could you be any louder if you tried?"
"Would you go to sleep already?"
"I would," Sasuke said. "If you would shut up."
Naruto made a last face at his companion and turned for the trees. Then something smacked him in the back of the head, stealing his balance for a few startled steps. Naruto looked up and pulled the yellow blanket down around his shoulders, glancing back with the moonlight heavy in his eyes.
Sasuke rolled over to present his back, his voice little more than a sigh in the darkness. "You get cold too easily. I don't want to put up with you whining about it."
Naruto considered this in silence. Then he grinned. "You're welcome, Sasuke."
Sasuke snorted. "I didn't thank you for anything."
Naruto looked back at the sky, as though daring the moon to challenge his smile.
"Sure you did."
Midnight in winter. Under a solid roof piled high with snow, two figures lay at opposite ends of a borrowed bed, the tension that followed them everywhere losing its sting as the darkness settled like a blanket over their still forms. The room was soundless. Then one boy shifted to lie on his back, and shifted again, and again, each little motion carrying him closer to his companion.
"What are you doing?"
Naruto, who had gotten a little taller, wrinkled his nose at Sasuke's back. "It's cold."
Sasuke, whose eyes had gotten a little darker, rolled over to look at him, a frown marring his moonlit face. "And?"
"And I'm not getting no sleep tonight for a stupid reason like being cold!"
"Which has what to do with me?" Sasuke asked, his face losing its sharpness under the soft hand of the moon.
"Absolutely nothing," Naruto said, one more shuffle bringing him as close to Sasuke as either of them would allow. "It's just warmer over here, that's all."
"It's not cold," Sasuke replied.
"Ha. Figures you wouldn't feel it. You're a cold bastard anyway." Naruto rolled onto his side, staring into the darkness and away from the black eyes that had caught so securely on his face.
Sasuke didn't speak. He didn't move, either, staring into the yellow hair that the moon had bleached almost white, a tangle of light knotted to his companion's neck. Then he rolled over as well, facing the opposite direction, and as he shifted the planes of their shoulders came to rest together, just the edge of contact persisting through their shirts and the sweep of the sheets.
Naruto smiled and closed his eyes.
Sasuke shifted again, and then the whisper of warmth between them closed his eyes, too.
Midnight in spring. The world stretched out into the tender warmth of the season, soaking up the passing heat that the sun had left in the earth during its sortie across the sky. On a bed made this time of green-growing grass and the softening ground, two figures lay with their backs to each other, each a porcelain pawn in the moonlight. Then Naruto grunted and rolled over, facing the creases of his companion's shirt and the smooth line of his neck.
"Trying to sleep, moron," Sasuke muttered, turning his face into the elbow that served as his pillow. Naruto shuffled closer.
"Me, too. But I was thinking."
"Well, that would be the problem," Sasuke grunted. All the same he turned over, employing his other elbow to cushion his head as he stared back at Naruto's waiting eyes. "Strenuous exercise before bed keeps you awake."
"Go to hell," Naruto said. The rebuke wasn't as hard as it should have been. Sasuke raised an eyebrow, shifting in his companion's direction across the ground.
"So? You were thinking?"
"I was thinking about Kakashi. How d'you think he got the sharingan? I mean, he's not an Uchiha, right?"
Sasuke glanced up at the star-soaked sky, the light from the gibbous moon only making his eyes darker. "I don't know. Maybe someone gave it to him."
"You can do that?" Naruto pulled back half an inch, his own eyes wide and milky blue with surprise as he leveled a finger at Sasuke's chest. "That's the creepiest thing ever. Having somebody else's eyes in your head? That's so weird!"
"Don't say that to me," Sasuke replied, swatting at Naruto's hand. "It's not like I've done it."
Naruto was quiet for a moment, rolling onto his back to exchange glances with the stars. Then he turned back to face his companion, the moon brushing thoughtfulness across his expression. "I'd give you one of my eyes."
Sasuke blinked at him. "What?"
"I mean if something happened to you, or me or something."
Sasuke shook his head. "Why would I want one of your eyes? They don't do anything."
"They see," Naruto replied, looking a little put out. "It'd be better than nothing, right?"
Sasuke watched him in silence for a moment. Then he rolled his eyes.
"It'd be such a waste to give you the sharingan. You never use your head in a fight as it is, unless you're using it as a battering ram."
Naruto laughed. "But you'd give 'em to me anyway, right?"
Sasuke snorted. "I didn't say that."
"Sure you did," Naruto teased, one hand rising to rest on Sasuke's shoulder. "I'm a ninja, remember? I know how to look underneath the underneath."
"Moron." Sasuke brushed the hand away from his shoulder, and it settled between them, heavy and still like a piece of the luminous moon. "You might want to get your brain examined."
"I think it's working just fine, actually," Naruto said through his grin. Sasuke exhaled and it sounded like a sigh—but it wasn't a sigh, it was a passing laugh, and Naruto knew that. He laughed again. "Admit it. You would so give me your eyes."
Sasuke flicked a piece of grass at him, and Naruto flicked it back, and for a moment only their eyes spoke as the silence settled down between them. Naruto kicked his feet.
"It's not as cold tonight, huh, Sasuke?"
Sasuke studied his eyes, bright blue and shining with a light the moon could only claim to accent. Then he smirked. "Yeah. Guess not."
They fell asleep facing each other.
Midnight in summer. Beneath the half moon mounted like a trophy in the solemn sky, two figures lay curled into the long grass, their faces confronting opposite sides of the darkness. Then Naruto rolled over, a season's hesitance resting in his eyes.
Sasuke didn't answer. He didn't turn. He kept his mouth closed and his eyes locked on a stand of distant trees, ignoring the voice at his back.
Naruto scooted closer. "Sasuke. Hey. Come on, jerk. I know you're not asleep yet."
Sasuke said nothing.
Naruto reached out to put a hand on his companion's shoulder. "Sasuke—"
"Would you shut up?" Sasuke spat, jerking out of Naruto's hold. "You are so annoying. Leave me alone."
The words fell like broken glass between them, and Naruto pulled back, his eyes and the moonlight within them stunned by the response. Naruto pulled back and stared at Sasuke's neck, searching for the bruise within the shadows of his collar, the swirling bruise that never seemed to go away. Then Naruto closed his eyes to block out the image of Sasuke's back, wrapping his arms around his middle to keep his body heat in.
It was the coldest summer night in a very long time.
Midnight in winter. The world was silent. The snow was falling so there was no moon, all of the white light the world could accommodate already piling up on the ground. Naruto got out of bed to look at the snow, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, bare feet hissing on the cold floor.
Very, very far away, Sasuke did the same.
They watched the snow and then they got back into their beds, pulling the blankets as tight as they would go around their frozen bodies. They weren't enough. It was just so cold.
Three years of midnights later, Naruto stood in front of the prison cell, empty arms crossed over his chest. Behind the bars, Sasuke looked back at him with eyes too dark to read, holding a yellow blanket in his hands.
"Why?" he asked.
Naruto turned back the way he had come. "Because it's kind of cold," he said, as the darkness carried him away.
Midnight in winter. Not that winter. The bare flakes of snow scuttling across the sky stung Naruto's cheeks as he stood in sentinel on the top of Konoha's gate, a heavy cloak the only warmth around him. Footsteps on the ground below caught his attention—footsteps he recognized, whose progress toward the gate pulled his eyes wide in the face that time had aged but not broken.
Naruto dropped to the ground, and the footsteps stopped, as did the figure to whom they belonged. Naruto straightened warily, his back to the open gate.
Sasuke looked at his companion, measuring the apprehension in those bright blue eyes as Naruto glanced at the darkness behind him with an urgency they both understood. Then Sasuke moved forward again, toward Naruto instead of the passage out.
Naruto blinked as Sasuke raised an arm, and blinked again as a cup was pushed into his hands, the sweet smell of chocolate rising in steam to caress his face. Naruto tipped his head to one side.
"Sasuke? What's this for?"
Sasuke looked at the hot chocolate, and at Naruto, with eyes so dark the snow did not reflect in them. His expression was not quite so set.
"It's…" Sasuke shrugged. "I know you get cold."
Naruto pulled the cup closer to his face, breathing in the steam as Sasuke turned to walk away, his shoulders tight under the storm. Naruto smiled.
Sasuke's silhouette shrugged. Naruto watched him go. To both of them, the snow had lost its sting.
Midnight in spring. Not that spring. Under the watchful eye of the moon, two figures lay at opposite ends of a borrowed bed, sharing the space as they had not since they were children. The room was the same but they were not; the bed was the right size for Naruto now, and too short for Sasuke, whose feet threatened to slip off the end. Their older bodies took up more space, and so there was less space between them, but the distance was the same.
Naruto rolled onto his back and the night held its breath, then let it out slowly as he scooted forward across the wasteland of the sheets, inching toward his companion's back.
Sasuke lifted his head, listening but not turning. "What are you doing?"
Naruto paused. The moon studied his considering face, watching the eyes that were watching a back much broader than it had been, a body coated in new scars. Then he started to move again, resolutely closing the space between them.
"It's cold," Naruto said, as he came to a stop just a breath away from Sasuke's back.
Sasuke exhaled through his mouth, shadows shielding his face from the moonlight. A face that was sharper but had lost its sting. "And?"
"And it's warmer over here," Naruto finished. He lifted one hand and set it against the planes of his companion's back, his heart beating in time to Sasuke's as the moonlight bent his lips in a smile. "Not that you could tell the difference. You're a cold bastard anyway."
The silence settled over them, cementing them together, two halves of the same puzzle, of the ivory moon hung in the sky above them. Sasuke shifted.
"Actually, I…" Sasuke pressed his lips together, turning his face into the pillow. "It feels kind of cold to me, too."
Naruto stared at the back of Sasuke's head, at his hair that was longer and his skin that was just as pale and the bruise that would never go away. Then he laid his forehead between Sasuke's shoulders and closed his eyes, one hand tightening into the fabric of that deep black shirt.
Midnight. A knock in the darkness. Naruto opened the door to find Sasuke standing on his porch, his features disappearing under the moonless sky. Naruto blinked.
Sasuke stepped forward and pulled Naruto into his arms, crushing his companion and that orange nightshirt against his chest.
"It's cold," he said into Naruto's hair. "It's so cold."
Midnight in summer. The fireflies were awake in the waving fields, and so were Sasuke and Naruto, seated side by side on the curve of the hill. Naruto turned to his companion with a smile, a smile which, alone of his features, time seemed to have left alone.
Sasuke nodded, his eyes alive with the light of the fireflies. Naruto nodded, too. Then he leaned over to rest his head on Sasuke's shoulder, closing his eyes to the night and the moon making light of the sky above them.
Sasuke brushed a hand through the golden hair, eyes that were older and a little wiser following the fireflies. "How do you stay so warm?" he asked.
Naruto's eyes blinked open. "Huh? Me?"
"Yeah." Sasuke looked up to the field of stars, his face losing its harshness under their generous glow. "How are you always so warm?"
Naruto pushed his face into the crook of Sasuke's shoulder, the right height now for their bodies to meet halfway, for the puzzle pieces to fit together. "I'm not always warm," he said. "I'm just warm when I'm with you."
Sasuke closed his eyes. "Then please stay with me."
Naruto smiled against the skin of Sasuke's neck. "Planning on it."
Summer was warm again.