It's cold. You walk purposefully, as if you had somewhere important to be. For you, anywhere but the Uchiha manor is somewhere important. Anywhere but home is welcome.
Suddenly, you're on the ground, the wind is knocked out of your lungs. It's Naruto. That idiot.
You can't breathe. His brilliant blue eyes are locked with yours, his warm breath mingling with yours, his chest solid against yours. And suddenly, you're terrified- terrified of the pounding in your chest, terrified of what could be-what might be- if only you reached out.
If only you reached out…
But you can't. Because you, Uchiha Sasuke, are a coward, remember? And cowards run, run, and cling to life. Or don't you remember? Have you forgotten your vow? Are you willing to throw that ambition away for an uncertain, undefined hope?
Of course not.
And so you push him off, push him away. You jump up, dust yourself off, utter a haughty "watch where you're going, idiot." You ignore the hurt and confusion in his blue eyes, and push through the crowd that has gathered to jeer at him. But you can't stop the pound-pound-pounding of your heart, or the vague sense of nausea balling up in the pit of your stomach.
You almost look back, but you stop yourself in time. You know that if you had looked back, you would have found your feet taking you back towards Naruto.
Back home, you sit at your kitchen table, nursing a cup of tea. The empty chair facing you grins. You want to kick it, but refrain.
Naruto's strong. He didn't need your help. You try not to remember his helplessness as the crowd laughed and pushed him down every time he tried to get up. Not that you went back to search for him. Because you didn't. You can't help but wonder, though, if he made it home safely. Not that it matters to you. Because it doesn't. But he's your teammate, and you're supposed to train together tomorrow. That idiot- he'd better remember. Knowing him, he's already forgotten.
You sigh. You'd better go remind him, or you'll be waiting at the meeting place for hours tomorrow. That idiot.
Naruto lives on the far side of Konoha. Here, the apartments are small and rickety, the alleyways are dark and narrow. There's a sickening not-quite-there scent of neglect and decay. You wonder what Naruto feels like, coming home to this every day.
You're not nervous. You're not. But maybe it was pointless coming here. Maybe he's not even home. He might be visiting friends. You know he doesn't have any. You also know that Naruto will remember. He always does. You don't move away from his front door, though. You're not worried. You're not. But you can't help but think of him lying on the ground, dusty and bruised, refusing to cry out even as he allows the villagers to push him around. Even as he allows you, Sasuke Uchiha, push him around.
You knock. The sound is muted and hollow. The door is hot and sticky against your knuckles. There's no answer. You knock again, and again, and again. No answer.
Your heart pounds hard in your chest. It's not from anxiety, not from fear. It's from the exertion of knocking on Naruto's front door.
You're impatient- not anxious, not scared- when you break down the door and storm into the apartment. It's surprisingly clean, though small. The front door opens directly into the kitchen. Naruto's sitting at the kitchen table, facing away from the door, staring at the chair opposite him. He has a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He doesn't react at your rather unorthodox entrance, but you know he knows you're there.
You walk carefully around the table to look him in the face. Still, there's no reaction. But you notice something. There are two cups of tea on the table. Naruto holds one, but the other is in front of the chair facing him. It's steaming hot, freshly made.
You know the tea is for you. You slide into the empty chair without speaking, and slip your hands around the cup, mirroring Naruto's position. The two of you sit, sipping tea quietly. You notice dark bruising and fresh cuts on Naruto's arms and face, but neither of you says anything. The tea has gone cold by the time you're done. You finish every last drop anyways.
Not a word is spoken the entire time, but when you leave, you're…happy. You know Naruto will remember. He always does.