Title: Absence

Summary Naruto has never spoken to Mr. Uchiha but he knows him better than anyone else

Dedication: To my best friend and the 7000 miles between us.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the poem 'Absences" They belong to Masashi Kishimoto and Victor Questel respectively. All credit must go to them.

Warning: There is ANGST! I'm sorry but I had to get this vitriol out of me before it spread any further. Recently my best friend of, fuck, what, thirteen years?- has moved away from our tiny Island home to the big bad city of Chicago. Its hard to lose someone to distance, especially the one person whose been with you since kindergarten, suffered through the all girls Anglican school with you and knows you better than you know yourself. So here goes, its not the funny stuff you all know me for but its straight from my heart.

This is for you Shinigami.

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0

Absence:

How crumpled your clothes look

soiled and disheveled

Yet suggesting in their lilt

Against the basket – something of you

Your damp intimate essentials

Soiled clothes say more than Words.

It's you there thrown

Aside –

Temporarily disemboweled;

Drooping

Then comes the hanging

From the clothesline,

after Being placed in a wringer.

Frayed, your clothes suggest You are coming to an end.

You have truly suffered.

Let me Put my hand in those spaces – Those holes you have vacated.

Slowly You resurrect every Sunday When your week's washing is dry.

(by Victor Questel.)

0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-

'He's had another fight with his brother' Naruto thought to himself as he carefully collected the clothes from their scattered positions around the room.

The downtown Konoha apartment was small, pale and Spartan and it was the one place that young, voiceless, Uzumaki Naruto knew better than his own body. Eleven months ago the employment agency had directed him to this place, a room rented by the outcast Uchiha son, Sasuke, as a domestic helper.

It was here, in the tiny room so close to the seedier parts of lower Kyoto that the eighteen year old blond male, had come to know so closely the one person on this earth that had seen as much as he had, done as much as he had, and hurt even worse. Uchiha Sasuke.

Everyone in Kyoto knew Sasuke's story.

It was the horror tale told by rich parents to their snobbish children so they didn't fall into the same trap.

Four years ago, when the Uchiha had been sixteen he had fallen in love…with a man.

This was 1936 Japan. A country suffering the effects of the economic depression started and spiraled out of control in America, spread across Europe like a disease and had closed the Orient in a fist of iron. People were scared. Deathly scared. Everyday there was news of death and destruction, world war with the strange German ships and the anti-Semitism of the old world order slithered through peoples minds like dark fog and anything strange was abhorred. Homosexuality was the penultimate sin and the second son of Japan's third riches family had committed it.

The man's name had been Hatake Kakashi, a loyal follower of the clan and personal bodyguard to Fugaku Uchiha himself. The scandal had given Japan something new to whisper about instead of their own diseased lives and the negativity it drew to the Uchiha clan had prompted them to disown and disgrace their own flesh and blood.

Naruto had been a fourteen year old street rat when he'd read about it in the papers. He remembered that he had cried when he'd seen the grainy photograph of the handsome boy's beaten and bloody face staring back up at him because he'd know how it was to be despised for being different. His own strange blond hair was cause enough for torment as people despised anything that reminded him of the problems the Europeans had caused.

And now, four years later Naruto was the one who cleaned the Uchiha's home.

They'd never spoken, and even though Naruto couldn't speak that was besides the point. Naruto knew Sasuke.

He knew him from his furniture and his food and his rumpled bedspreads and his soiled clothes. Especially his clothes. He remembered how his caretaker Iruka used to tell him back before he died that soiled clothes say more than words. Those damp intimate essentials. Iruka had called them and now Naruto found out that it was true.

He knew when Sasuke had had a hard days work from the ingrained soil worked into the knees of his trousers.

Naruto knew when Sasuke had been ill from the air of sickness permeating the bedclothes.

Naruto knew how Sasuke hated floral scents because he avoided anything washed with flowery soap

Naruto knew how Sasuke was running out of time and his sanity by the frayed edges to his clothes.

Naruto knew the nights Sasuke had to work as a male prostitute from the soiled underwear.

And Naruto knew the days Sasuke came home bloody and beaten from the tormenters Fugaku and Itachi- his brother- sent after him.

Last night had been one of those nights.

And now, carefully, reverently Naruto picked up the bloodied clothes and took them to the annex washroom to softly scrub the fluid out.

There were holes in the clothes.

Some were gaping tears, some tiny rips but each one was mirrored in Naruto's very being and he ached to fill the holes in Sasuke's heart. To tell him that he wasn't alone and to put his hands in the spaces Sasuke had vacated.

Time after time over the last eight months Naruto had done everything in his power to bring a little cheer to the dark young man.

He chuckled for a bit as he remembered how they used to be received at first.

The first time he'd placed a bouquet of scentless white lilies on the table he'd come back to find them torn and in the trash.

It had happened the second time too but Naruto was nothing if not persistent. So he'd continued, getting another kind of flower day after day after day to fill the tiny room. He remembered being so pissed once that the raven haired man kept rejecting the tiny gift of kindness that he'd spent an entire paycheck to get enough huge brilliant yellow-orange sunflowers to fill every crevice of the room.

The next day they'd all been gone- he hadn't expected a miracle of course- but the thing that sent him smiling like a loon for the nest three days straight was that, on the tiny windowsill Sasuke had put three of the smallest, dullest orange flowers in a vase.

It had been a beginning, a very tiny one, but a beginning nonetheless.

When Naruto had found Sasuke's cupboards empty one winter night in January Naruto had promptly traipsed back to his own dinky apartment and brought over enough ingredients for a rather filling vegetable stew Iruka had taught him how to make.

Knowing how paranoid the Uchiha was Naruto had left a note beside the simmering pot.

"Don't worry it's not poison."

The next day the container had been empty and washed and Naruto had started to grin maniacally once again but the note on top of the bowl shattered his smile.

"Not poison eh? It sure tasted like it."

Naruto had promptly written back and placed his rather creatively eloquent note "YOU BASTARD!" on top of the now full bowl of steamed vegetables. Naruto wouldn't have minded continuing to cook for Sasuke, because god knows the only thing in that man's cool box were tomatoes- but the Uchiha had put a quick end to it by stocking his cupboards with food and the last note "I don't need your pity moron." The Uzumaki hadn't felt offended, a man like Sasuke had nothing but his pride after all, but that didn't stop him from leaving the occasional crock of homemade ramen when he though Sasuke was sick enough for him to get away with it.

And at times Sasuke had reciprocated. Naruto treasured the rare times when he had found a small carton of groceries wrapped up for him or a new set of bamboo chopsticks the raven had given and most importantly the tiny blue coral comb that he had gotten – quite by coincidence he was sure- on his birthday.

Arm deep in the sudsy water Naruto felt a smile flitter across his face as he remembered. The smile flickered out however when his mind backtracked to the time he'd though Sasuke was in a relationship. The days when he'd come to do the laundry and found female clothes mixed in with Sasuke's.

Naruto had been furious. He'd refused to touch any of the female things, snarling inside his mind that whichever woman the Uchiha was fucking could very well do her own laundry.

It had been much later when he'd come a bit early one day and found Sasuke inside with a …customer…that he'd realized that those disgusting old men forced the Uchiha to dress as a female to fulfill their perverse desires.

Apologetic, the blonde had later come back and carefully washed the ripped, stained kimono style dress and placed it at the bottom of the pile unable to look at it.

There had been good days with Sasuke. Days when there was food in the kitchen, firewood for the chimney place and good clothes, but many more days had been so, so bad.

Like the time Naruto found bloodied bandages on the bathroom floor or empty opium packets in the bed. The opium had scared Naruto half to death and choking on his tearful hysterics he burned the entire lot, both the empty ones and the few full ones he's found, to cinders writing a hysteric sign to the Uchiha asking him if he was insane as well as a bastard. Without meaning to Naruto had written down the story that his parents had been the victims of opium wars between old tribal Yakuza and Naruto would be damned before he let the Uchiha go down the same path.

There had been no reply answer, but there had been no more drugs after that.

….and then there were the times Naruto found Sasuke's pillow soaked with tears and the sheets ripped to small shreds from the force of his nightmares.

It was those times that hurt Naruto the most as he always went away achy and wishing with all his might that he could stay and hold the breaking man close to his heart and take all the pain away.

But he couldn't. There were other rooms on the building to clean.

And so he always left, no matter how much the place began to feel more familiar than his own home. No matter how much the bed looked more inviting because Sasuke would share it and no matter how he could imagine cooking in the kitchen for his lover while the dark haired man took a bath, Naruto always left and took the fantasy homey scenes with him.

That was until the day he had come home and found the package with Sasuke's shiny new army uniform in it.

Naruto had stood still for long moments just staring at the dark cotton, close cut suit and the wooden baton that accompanied it and knew that Sasuke was going to be taken away from him. Every day when Naruto dropped by to was the clothes he would fret, fully examine the uniform for any wounds holes and every night he would go away relieved out of his mind when he found none.

And then for two months Sasuke had gone away.

"Sent him to fight at the borders" Had been the whispers all around him.

Every second of every hour Naruto prayed. He prayed to any deity that would hear him to bring Sasuke back safe and sound. He pored over the Japanese newspapers daily for any news of deaths and took the English ones to his friend Shikamaru for translations. His heart slammed into his throat every time there was a news flash of a bombing on the Japanese borders and cold fingers of dread seeped through his soul when he saw the military jeeps role by with the mutilated bodies of unidentified soldiers.

It had been the hardest moments of his life, those two months but the day it all came crashing down was the one time he turned up at Sasuke's apartment to clean out the cobwebs seventy two days after the raven had left to find a bloody ripped uniform lain with military precision on the bed right beside a folded Japanese flag and a medal.

Naruto had fallen to the floor and witnessed his life die in front of him.

It had possibly been hours or a small eternity later when the blond, with trembling, calloused tan fingers reverently took up the uniform and began to wash away the blood. Naruto didn't know which one wet the fabric more; the soapy water or his own flood of tears. Carefully he hung it to dry and collecting the dry suit sat in the middle of the floor and began to stitch the torn holes.

The rends in the cloth were gaping and Naruto slipped his palm over them trying desperately to cover the holes from his sight.

It was inside a hidden inner pocket, right above the heart that he found it. A folded creased, heavy duty paper like the ones they used for calligraphy and inside, protected by the many layers of stiff parchment was a dried, pressed sunflower.

He choked on his own air.

Time and meaning slipped out of his mind.

And the days slipped by....and by...and by.

No word, no sight, no glimpse. Nothing.

And the raven began to fade out of the existence of the minds of the neighbours.

But not Naruto. He firmly refused to let his memories of Sasuke pass into nothing and every week for six months without fail Naruto turned up at Sasuke's apartment to keep it clean and habitable for the day he just knew the Uchiha would come back because the Sasuke he knew was a damn stubborn bastard and wouldn't let something as trivial as a war kill him. Believe it!

Some asshole had once said time heals all wounds but Naruto could promptly tell you that that was a load of steaming bull shit.

It got worse as time passed, not better.

Eventually he'd had to move into Sasuke's apartment as the economy got worse and worse and he was unable to pay rent on both Sasuke's and his rooms. He hadn't taken much with him, just his own clothes and a few toys Iruka had given him as a child. Everything else he tossed straight into the trash.

He slept on the left side of the bed, the one closer to the door and window because he knew damn well that the paranoid bastard preferred to keep his back to a wall. In case of an attak moron. Naruto could imagine Sasuke's voice drawling in exasperation. You should never get caught with your back to the entrance your enemy could come through.

He had faith, he prayed, and he combed the hospitals and asylums but in the end something had to give and one stormy March night Naruto broke down into tears in the bed clutching the sheets. His sobs rent him in two, coiled around his heart and crushed him. Sasuke had been gone for almost a year now and Naruto thought that maybe it was time to listen to Shikamaru. Maybe the Uchiha was dead and he should just acept it. Maybe Sasuke hadn't or wouldn't even want him in the first place even if he had been alive, maybe, maybe-

"You shouldn't jump to conclusions moron."

It took a while before Naruto realized the voice wasn't in his head.

Spinning around Naruto was floored to find himself caged in strong arms. Straining against the grip the blue eyed-teen stared up at the man holding him. In the glinting moonlight stood the one person in the world that Naruto wanted to see. Sasuke.

Uchiha Sasuke sat there on the edge of the bed, a bit thinner than Naruto remembered and sporting plain clothes. What drew his attention the most though was the crisp white bandage wrapped around and under the Uchiha's bangs.

As if in a dream Naruto reached up and traced his index finger along the bandage. Sasuke smirked.

"I was in a coma. What; you really though some stupid war would kill me? It seems you don't know me that well usratonk-" Sasuke didn't have time to finish his sentence seeing as his breath flow was interrupted by Naruto's fist in his ribs.

The raven slammed back unto the bed grimacing.

"What the fuck moron? A little sympathy for the healing here!"

Naruto ignored him and scrambled on top of the prone body wrapping his legs around the thin waist and snuggling his head into Sasuke's moonlight pale neck.

And they lay in silence.

Naruto felt each and every one of his prayers return to him full force and by god he held on even tighter to the man below him because he damn well wasn't ungrateful enough to not realize that so many more people's loved ones hadn't returned.

Sasuke smirked into the mess of blond hair that he glimpsed over and over during the year that the blond had rather forcibly inserted himself into Sasuke's life. The younger man had been that one annoying itch in the middle of his back that he wasn't flexible enough to reach; nagging and shoving and pushing his way right into the old space of his heart that he'd thought died when he'd been forced to watch his father behead Kakashi all those years ago.

But now, right here in the darkness of the tiny rundown apartment on an East Kyoto ghetto street in the middle of a spring rainstorm with an overtly cheerfull blond moron snuggling him to death Uchiha Sasuke realized that there was no place that he'd rather be and that the large spaces of emotional absences in his life had been filled.

Rearing up and balancing himself on his elbow Sasuke tugged up the head of the blond and stared deep into the exhausted, relieved, sky coloured eyes and lowered his head to take the first kiss of the beginning of a lifetime, and Naruto gladly accepted it.

For once neither were alone, and they intended to keep it that way.

0-0-0-0-Owari0-0-0-0-0

A/N: I am well aware that I have depressed some people but as a writer I greatly admire says, 'I write for myself' and right now I needed to get this stuff off my chest or I will never be able to finish 'The Llama' or the other one shot I have coming up "Three Little Words" .

I have beta'd this to the best of my ability but rereading this is a serious emotional chore for me so if there are any overlooked horrid mistakes I sincerely apologize.

Also I fully intend to update this fic with drabbles featuring the building of their relationships and little insights into their lives because I sincerely love the plot, hey who knows I might even work a lemon in there somewhere XDDD

ps. Hey Shini! How's the windy city? XD Don't worry, one day you will open your door and find me on your doorstep. You can't get rid of me that easily damnit! XDDD

So, ja minna.

Cereal.

Proud member of the yaoi rebellion but sincerely missing her own personal minion.