Summary:

There was the tea, the colourless-colourful eyes, the feeling of warm lips, where they should have been cold, and an understanding that drove Naruto. So what if the man he loved was dead, it didn't mean he was gone, it just meant that he would have to join him. ItaNaru

Pairings:

Itachi x Naruto

Warnings:

Well, technically, character death. Even though they're not... A crappy fight-scene, attitude changes (which could, technically, be OOC but it's circumstantial...) and drug usage, but it's more poison... ah you'll see.

Basically, it's weird. Have fun!

Understanding

.

Or

.

I Fell in Love with a Dead Boy

.

Sinking into soft sheets was the easy part of the evening. The pillow dipped as blond tresses sunk into the fabric and a soft sigh escaped the lips of the man. Blue eyes closed slowly, the white ceiling fading into grey, and then black, as eyelashes clouded his vision.

Naruto was finally in bed, finally able to sleep when the world was still snapping at his heels. Everything had been so right, everything had been so wrong and a thousand things should be influencing his sleep pattern by now, not that they weren't, and so he sunk into the pre-sleep state, half awake yet groggy enough for thoughts to become jumbled.

The past few days – weeks, really, it just seemed like days because the time had flown by faster than one of those deer-like animals on the grassy plains of Suna – had been traumatic to any sane person. Naruto, however, wasn't sane, couldn't be sane, nor could any other Shinobi really, but the psychological input was getting to him. Stress and insomnia had plagued him the whole duration of these weeks, his bright and cheerful face falling pale and into shadows.

Naruto had seen the hidden looks his team mates had given him, the whispers they had spoken when they forgot he could hear, thanks to the Kyuubi. They were only wishing him well, scared that he would fall into ruin because of this latest revelation, but it wasn't the only reason why he refused to sleep.

True, the team from Cloud had been the main reason. Thanks to Samui pressurising him to give details on Sasuke's whereabouts, and his abilities, Naruto had been guarding himself more than ever before. He didn't trust the cold look in her eye, and he was sure that if he turned his back, Samui would hold her hand up to Omoi and Karui, signalling for them to take him for torture later.

They just wanted Kirabi back, really, and they were hurting inside. Sasuke had taken away someone they loved and they wanted their teacher back.

Naruto understood what that meant, but some people could never come back. And even if they were able to, someone would have to sacrifice a price worthy of getting them back… and the last time Naruto had been able to get someone back from the Akatsuki, Chiyo had died in Gaara's place.

An eye for an eye, a life for a life. That was the way the world worked, cruel, harsh and twisted immensely.

Naruto could tell they wanted him to do something. Why not? He had managed to save Konoha from the brink of disaster, defeating Pein when no one else had. He was Konoha's Hero, respected throughout the now-wooden village, smiled at…

Yet no one understood as he did. Nagato hadn't been defeated, he had conceded. Nagato had allowed Naruto to give his answer, not killing in cold blood, and had explained his own pain. Through Nagato, Naruto had reached an understanding, a calm point inside of him where everything Jiraiya had mentioned about Peace had clicked and Naruto understood why people did what they did.

Not a single person in the village, even Sakura and Kakashi who were so close to him, understood that. When they saw a man on the streets, ragged and obviously homeless, jobless and a mess, they just assumed he was a renegade from outside of Konoha, hoping to live in the village and possibly help.

Naruto saw the man and saw a villager who had always been in Konoha. He saw a man who had lost his wife to alcohol (his beard was stained with darkened patches of whiskey) and saw a man ready to end it all. He saw a man who didn't want to work because that would give him hope, a hope that he could build a new life and forget his wife.

A life he didn't want.

With each and every understanding, the world of people sickened Naruto a little bit more. He knew it was wrong, and that he still loved every one of his precious people, the whole village, but he was disgusted by the everyday lies, the lack of compassion and understanding to those (everyone in reality) who just assumed.

And Team Samui assumed he would go to rescue Kirabi.

And they didn't even know him.

And they were right. It was what he wanted to do, jump in to save the Jinchuuriki to the Eight-tailed beast… and he also wanted to tuck himself away in a cave somewhere and just cease to exist.

His emotions were being manipulated without thought. Kumogakure hadn't known Naruto would feel this way, they had simply come for more information about Uchiha Sasuke and how to get rid of him… or at least get the information they wanted out of him.

They hadn't realised that they would find someone who was a hero, someone who could help, and their only human reaction was to ask for help.

No, Naruto couldn't judge these people for what they asked of him. They only wanted their pain to cease and Naruto understood what it was that he had to do.

They had spent weeks attempting to track down the Akatsuki, Sasuke, Kirabi himself, but to no avail. Naruto knew it was because Akatsuki only wanted him, and they wouldn't allow themselves to be found unless it was just Naruto, but the others didn't understand it.

They never did.

The task was abandoned two days ago, Naruto's hazed mind reminded him, and when he woke he would be leaving Konoha upon official leave. Danzou had finally agreed, after Naruto appealed to most members of the council after the initial rejection, and so in their faith that he couldn't be touched by anyone after his 'defeat' of the Akatsuki's Leader, they thought it was a perfect time to regain popularity in Kumo and get rid of the nuisance that Akatsuki was.

Turning over as the last tendrils of sleep gripped at him, Naruto felt his mind wander, darkness cloaking him until he dreamt he was in a room, a wooden table and hearth the only things of real importance.

And even though he was full asleep, even though this was a dream, it wasn't at the same time. He knew why, understood why even, and hated every moment he did sleep.

"Welcome back, Naruto-kun."

Naruto refused to meet the piercing eyes, squashing the curiosity to find out what colour they were today. With no other option (knowing very well that he needed sleep and so would have to put up with being here), Naruto sat down on the chair opposite the voice, taking the cup of tea that had been poured for him.

"I was wondering how long it would take, after all not everyone can keep destroying themselves as well as you try to."

The voice paused, before setting their cup down gently on the table and leaning forwards until the table was pushed slightly from the force of the opposing body.

"Does it hurt, Naruto-kun? Understanding every single thing and screaming inside that no one else can see what you see?"

The body moved back and Naruto couldn't help it, his eyes snapped to meet bright yellow irises and he bit back an uncharacteristic sneer. Yellow, a joyful colour of happiness that contrasted to the mood of the conversation they were having, if it could be called that.

"I know it hurts. I've felt it too, you see, and it was easy to see that you were going to understand. We're different, Naruto-kun, and not just because of circumstances forced upon us."

Biting back a retort, Naruto forced himself to take a sip of the green tea as his companion did.

"All those people back there walk around and I find it hard to believe that they are all children of the various heroes they claim."

Naruto shook his head, but what he was denying he couldn't say. His partner seemed to pick up on this and chuckled, humourlessly.

"They're all grey, Naruto. You friends can claim easily that one person is good, or one person is bad, but you see it. You see the choices the person has made, the pasts that the 'bad' person made which drove their beliefs to such a degree. You see a 'good' person making terrible choices, to kill or not to kill, thinking that it won't matter…"

"Because they're good," Naruto finished scathingly, a look of pure hatred on his features. The figure opposite him nodded, sipping his drink and then sighing lightly.

"They're all grey, every single person in the world, you… me… none of our choices matter. When we born we are all grey because we have the potential to be labelled good or bad, and we die grey. Even the most evil of humans is grey, because they could redeem themselves, and they can be understood."

Naruto knew he was close to consciousness, he could feel the room pulsing with chakra, magic, energy, life, and whatever it lived on. And yet he knew that his companion would still continue, making a point as Naruto left.

"And we understand. We are the judges and the executioners, Naruto-kun, but it is not them we neither judge nor execute. It is ourselves, every single time we see an eye of a different making."

Naruto shot the yellow-eyed man a scathing look as he woke, curling his top lip as the man raised his cup in a salute to him, mocking him in every single way.

Because he understood.


I ask you, what is your name
- You offer no reply


Naruto could pinpoint the exact moment his life had turned to hell. It was after Nagato had died that he noticed things more, but the understanding hadn't clicked properly until the following Tuesday when Naruto and a team had been sent out to look at a small disturbance a little way outside of Konoha, close to where Uchiha Itachi had been killed by his brother's hand.

Sakura, the medic, had thrown up after stepping back out of the room, being in there for ten seconds had proved too much for her. Sai lasted five minutes, enough time to take in everything but not enough to conclude exactly what had happened.

Because no one could talk about it, and Kakashi was back at the village helping to watch over Tsunade now that Danzou was warming up his seat as Hokage, and no one wanted to be careless, Naruto had stepped in himself.

It had been a nightmare. He was amazed, later, when Sakura told him he had been in there for nearly an hour, when it felt like a few minutes.

The room had been derelict, a wall crumbling down and tree roots poking through the concrete everywhere. Ignoring the hazards of walking into a room that was obviously falling down, Naruto had stepped up to the body that was strung up like a piece of meat, wrists tied together so tightly that the skin had chafed away where the corpse had swung in the breeze.

The stench in the room was disgusting. It was evident the body had been there for weeks, at least, but was semi-preserved… somehow. Parts of the flesh were rotting, that much could be seen from the torn clothing, but the neck upwards was perfectly preserved.

And it hit him like a bullet in the chest. He understood why the head was preserved (yet it wasn't actually the head they wanted) and was disgusted by it not knowing whether it was Sasuke who had sanctioned this or some other sick individual from the Akatsuki.

Naruto stepped closer to the decrepit body of Uchiha Itachi, resisting to the urge to run a finger over the ageless cheekbone, to open the eyelid of the Missing Nin just to see if his eyes were still a violent red.

Before he realised what he was doing, Naruto's fingertips were opening the man's eyelids, forcing the stiff skin upwards and ignoring the scratchy feeling of the moisture-less eyelashes, paying no attention to the waxy skin.

Naruto was shocked at what he saw. Itachi eyes weren't a vermillion red, nor were they any shade of brown, blue, black or green.

They were grey. Grey and swirling with a magnitude of impossible colours, blinding Naruto as he stepped away, hurriedly forcing Itachi's eyelids back to cover the grey eyes and stumbling backwards, running from the room as soon as he was able to coordinate properly.

When the three teenagers returned to Konoha, they had reached a silent agreement to inform everyone concerned that it had been a false tip off. The disturbance was nothing but a hungry wolf looking for shelter and everything was left at that, Sakura and Sai eventually turning to think about Sasuke and ROOT respectively.

There was one person who hadn't forgotten, though, and it was because after he had seen the grey eyes he had understood. Understood how grey everything else was and slept easily for the last time that night.

The following night, coloured eyes haunted him as tea was poured and an impossible man sat in front of him, telling Naruto to accept, how he understood and yet the knowledge would drive him mad.

And Naruto understood enough to know that it would. Uchiha Itachi spoke from experience, flashing an amused smirk with his multi-coloured eyes.


I fear you might be dead


Taking off from Konoha had been easy, getting Team Samui to stay behind, however, had not.

"You think just because you're the fucking Hero of Konoha you can do whatever you want?"

Karui had been extremely vocal on the subject, Omoi actually agreeing with her for once. Samui, as usual, had been silent, watching the exchange with cold eyes.

Naruto remained silent.

"Of course he does, Karui. He thinks he can save the day again, regardless to the fact that a man with three times his skill was defeated by Akatsuki. He's so up his own arse that he can't see that he can't play the hero this time. He's a pathetic hero-wannabe who just wants more publicity, and this is the perfect way. So what if he's a Jinchuuriki, Konoha hasn't had the same sacrifices as everyone else and he probably-"

"Stop it."

Three heads turned to the voice in surprise, and Samui walked forward, seeking to end the confrontation before it began.

"Konoha has its own struggles and so has Naruto. Do I need to remind you again that Kumo has an almost individual view on Jinchuurikis and their Bijuu? And do I really need to stress that that is simply because of the Raikage?"

Karui and Omoi managed to look like submissive children subjected to a beating and both offered a grudging apology, an apology only for the harsh way they had spoken and not for the words themselves.

Oh no, that was all they were apologising for. And, Naruto chuckled at this thought, it was because he understood.

"Now, Naruto, you'll be leading us to wherever you think you have this lead."

Samui's voice left no room to argue to her team, or anyone back at Kumogakure, yet Naruto was different. He was different because he understood (and he was sick of saying that, even if it was true) and he was different because this had to be done alone. By him.

"I can't. The Akatsuki aren't going to hint to where they are unless I go alone. That means you have to stay here and wait, help Konoha if you're bored or go another direction."

Karui stepped forwards, as if to argue, but her leader's arm stopped her.

"You're a fool, kid. We give you a three day head start, and then we're tracking you."

She turned then, signalling for her subordinates to do the same. And they did, with two glares and a glob of spit left on the floor from Omoi as he left in disgust.

It was only Samui who told him later, much later when he was lying with his head next to the marbled rock that a grey flash in his eyes had been the deal cruncher.


I just lay down beside you,
And held your hand


"Where are you camping, Naruto-kun?"

Naruto ignored the question, an unbidden memory rising in him as he locked eyes with Itachi's red pair. It wasn't a Sharingan red, nor a Kyuubi-red, but a deep, almost purple, red. It was sickening, really, at how beautiful it made Itachi, but Naruto wasn't disturbed by that. He was disturbed by the fact that Itachi had asked him a normal question, unrelated to their supposed task and kinship.

"Ah, I see. You do not wish to explain to me because… well, many reasons really."

Naruto thought it was slightly ironic. For a man who was of little words in life, death had unlocked Itachi's tongue and he could talk for hours.

"Of course it did, Naruto-kun," Itachi said as Naruto relayed his thoughts. "Death simply allows those who experience it to free themselves. Most people end up going to a place, or state of mind, that they believe in."

Naruto tilted his head, shamelessly curious as to what the red eyes would explain today.

"If a person in life believed in reincarnation, and had already thought about their animal, they would be that animal. If they wanted to be reincarnated as a human then they would. It's possible that a reincarnation could remember its past life, but no one has wanted that ability.

"As for heaven and hell… they are mere states of mind. Well, I say they are because it's not what I believe in. People who believe there is a heaven and a hell will find themselves upon that path after their death if they truly feel they should be in a paradise of their choice. But if they believe that they are destined for a hell then that is where they shall go. The only devil, so to speak, is their own mind, the way they process information and relay it in connection to their own life."

Itachi sipped his tea and his eyes flashed a light grey for a split second, but a moment enough for Naruto to be bold enough to ask a question of his own. He never did ask any questions.

"And you? How come you are here?"

Itachi was thoughtful for a moment before he sighed, all life seeming to leave him and Naruto was certain that the corpse he had seen now sat before him, even though nothing but his eyes had technically changed.

"I understood, Naruto. I knew I was going to die when I met with Sasuke, and in the unlikely event that Sasuke failed, a disease would have got me. I made preparations, looking for you and parting a gift on you, though it's more of a burden really."

Itachi's eyes locked with Naruto and the blond flinched as he found himself staring into iron grey eyes, dark lashes framing the sclera and highlighting the feature.

"I knew you would be able to understand people, and I'm sorry. So very sorry, Naruto, but if the world is going to live in peace then my gift needed to be passed on."

Something rose in Naruto as Itachi tore his gaze away, a bitter look on the elder's face as he looked to the teapot and cups. In one fluid motion, Itachi had stood up and swept the tea onto the ground, crashing the china and setting Naruto on edge.

"I hate tea," Itachi whispered.

Naruto didn't know if Itachi really did hate the tea or he just hated that he had to drink it. All Naruto did know was that he was waking up, and Itachi loathed nothing more than himself at this moment.


I fell in love with a dead boy.


As Itachi had questioned him on, Naruto was indeed camping. Two hours ago he had seen a hawk and stopped, immediately pitching his tent. As most people were beginning to realise, Naruto wasn't an idiot and Sasuke had named his team after the bird.

Naruto considered it an omen and waited.

Again he wasn't disappointed and rose to greet the shadowed figure as it stepped closer to his campfire. Strangely, it was a woman and she froze, eyes locked on Naruto as if he were a lion.

"Y-you?"

Naruto rose, eyes focused on her glasses before giving her a once over. She was hardly suited to be a Kunoichi and her skin was crying out to be cut in thousands of ways. She was meek, with a bark louder than her bite, and only women – like Samui and Temari – who had buckets of confidence and skill could get away with such a look.

Sasuke's choices had to be limited when he took this one in.

"Yes, me. And what a lovely introduction it had been too. Where is the Akatsuki based?"

Naruto didn't expect her to answer, in fact he expected her to fight him, which was exactly what he wanted. With the understanding came a new style of fighting, one Naruto had kept hidden since he had fully accessed the understanding. He could predict better than the Sharingan (or at least as well as he assumed Itachi's Sharingan had predicted, the talent he had now did come from Itachi after all) and was able to throw off opponents simply through dodging and with a few well placed hits.

That didn't make him invincible or insusceptible to attack, though, and even with the Kyuubi, Naruto knew he could die easily. A crushed windpipe, a punctured lung, and a large wound would end his life in a matter of seconds.

"What are you?"

Naruto was slightly unnerved by the question. Surely, if she was part of the Akatsuki, she had to know that he was a Jinchuuriki.

"The Kyuu-"

"No," she shook her head fiercely, interrupting him. "I know that, Uzumaki Naruto. What I mean is that you have foreign chakra in you… terrible chakra… it's not human. Worse than your demon's even."

Naruto blinked slowly, unsure of exactly what this woman was saying. She seemed unsure of what she was going to do next and bit her lip, drawing a small bead of blood.

"What are you here for?" Her whisper was pointless because they were the only ones around for miles, she was a chakra sensor and if she felt anything they would have moved on.

"Kirabi. Probably better known to you as the Eight Tails."

The woman's face twisted unattractively as she shrugged.

"You won't find him here. He tricked Sasuke-kun and got away from us. I wouldn't lie about that, it's a blow to my ego as well."

She sniffed haughtily and turned her head slightly sideways, placing a hand on one hip.

"Besides, hasn't he gone back home? Run back like a dog with its tail between its legs?" She laughed, the sound echoing through the land around them, and Naruto winced.

He hated the fact that he understood why she did this; all she felt she was good for was healing. She was useless in an actual battle, scared shitless when everyone around her was so calm. She had saved Sasuke's life, yes, but was a good waste of space. That was it. All she felt she deserved in life was cruelty and harsh words.

Naruto understood.

"It's acceptable to be scared, you wouldn't be human if you weren't."

Everything was still as the woman stopped laughing, and she looked at him with red eyes. They weren't threatening, more of a pink-brown than anything, but it was easy to spot the surprise in them.

"So I suppose you're feeling fine then, not even a hint of fear, considering what you are."

Naruto shook his head, standing to pack his travelling gear away. He only spoke when he was sure the silence had been enough, and even then it was quietly.

"I'm just a human, like you, like any other human. I just understand a little more than others and I need you to tell me where I can find the leader of the Akatsuki."

She hesitated for a split second before the air rushed out of her lungs and her glasses slipped down the bridge of her nose.

"See the rock formation about three miles south bound? There." She paused and regarded Naruto, "Don't tell anyone it was me."

Naruto shook his head, "Wouldn't dream of it."

And he meant it.


I wish you could have met him.


Itachi wasn't touching the tea when he arrived, yet the customary cups were out and filled, steam rolling off of the liquid.

"You're going against Akatsuki so early then? I was impressed with your display earlier."

Naruto shrugged, already used to the fact that Itachi knew everything about his life anyway.

"It's high time the Akatsuki were gone and if I have to do it… then so be it."

Itachi made as if to pick up his cup but let his hand swipe on thin air with a sigh. He looked at Naruto and his eyes were steely once more, no influence of understanding in them at all.

"It's the tea, Naruto. When I drink it, I become focused fully on converting you to the same fate as I… and I can't do that to your world. They need you, and that's why you should turn around and go home now. Tell the team from Kumo what you have learnt about the Eight Tails and leave the Akatsuki alone for now."

Naruto didn't need to ask why Itachi was telling him this. It was a topic they had never breached, but both were gratingly aware of.

"Or what, Itachi? I can't live like this anymore. You know how it was, you felt it too. You look around and the whole bloody world makes you feel sick. You look at people and know their secrets, things they want hidden and try so damn hard to keep hidden…"

Naruto was standing and panting heavily at this outburst, and he bit his lip to stop himself from crying.

"I know I've felt it, Naruto. I know I was the one who passed it onto you but… they need you. They need you to understand and eventually rid them of the Akatsuki. Charging in now will only speed up the inevitable and-"

"I know I'm going to die, Itachi. I was going to die anyway."

For once, Itachi was silent and his eyes lightened a little, no input from chakra, just pure emotion.

"No one has caught onto the fact that, with the Kyuubi, I can only live so long. Every time one of my cells has to regenerate, they get closer to their full life span. It's only a matter of time before enough of a vital organ is damaged. I'm hopeful for ten more years at the most if I carry on how I do now."

Itachi was speechless, looking at Naruto with a calculating eye for a full minute, before picking up the tray that held the teapot and cups with a murmured, "I see."

Itachi looked over his shoulder as Naruto watched him; exiting through a nearby door and placing the china down, if the clinks were any indication of his actions. He returned a few moments later with a scroll and a small jar.

"This scroll contains knowledge that will bind Susanoo to you. Let him be your final defence, it is all I can give you." Itachi handed over the scroll and Naruto instantly tucked it away, unafraid that he wouldn't have it when he woke up.

"This jar contains a poison that, if administered correctly, will burn a pathway through a victim's body, damaging the spinal cord through the drug it contains. In an hour, they will develop hyperreflexia and lose their control of reflexive responses. Eventually the combination of drugs will damage the nervous system enough to cause brain damage and full body paralysis."

Naruto caught the hidden meaning to Itachi's words; give them the poison and it doesn't matter if you die. They still will.

"Thank you," Naruto said softly, taking the jar and drifting into consciousness.


No one's gonna take you away from me.


Naruto couldn't pin point a moment that he could say he actually realised that he had fallen for Itachi, but it was definitely before he was dead. He admired Itachi for being a magnificent Shinobi and, somehow during the lonely travelling days with Jiraiya, he had simply fallen into a comfortable acceptance with him.

Itachi hadn't known until Naruto slipped up one day and they had come face to face for the first time since Naruto had left Konoha. Itachi had raised an eyebrow as the fifteen year old skidded to a halt, and they stared at each other.

It had been the first time Naruto had kissed anyone, and it wasn't even a proper kiss. It had been too brutal, too needy and too desperate. A simple relief for both parties as they stroked each other to completion, the Uchiha eventually venturing down and using his mouth.

It was unprecedented, random and disturbing…

And Naruto had loved every second of it.

Of course, when they next met, they were on opposite sides again. Itachi had been deliberating their progress to get to Gaara and they had no time for a lover's reunion. Naruto always had meant every word of hatred he had sparked at Itachi, but that didn't mean it was just hate he felt for the man.

Most nights, even before he understood, Naruto would dream of Itachi and his hands, or Itachi and his mouth… and more than a comfortable amount of times simply Itachi and his company. After the fifth latter dream, Naruto had concluded he had fallen hard for the dangerous man.

But he hadn't regretted it. All he had done was simply smile knowingly at Sakura as if all of his problems had been worked out easily, and carried on with the mission with a sense of calm in his heart.

And even now, with Itachi technically six foot under (but probably most likely hanging up in the room, or at least his head preserved nicely on a pile of bones) Naruto was still in love with the guy.

Naruto ran his hand through sweat-soaked hair and patted the tub of poison gently. At least he would be going down with his dead love, and a grim smile plastered onto his face at the morbid thought.


I fell in love with a dead boy,


"I love you."

Shimmering silver eyes looked up at Naruto and the owner smiled, sipping his tea.

"Of course you do, Naruto-kun."

Naruto shut his eyes slowly, wondering why he always did this to himself. Most nights when Itachi lost himself in the tea, in the addictive drug it contained, Naruto would tell the truth and announce his love for Itachi.

And, as usual, Itachi would simply nod, as if he'd known all along and smile lopsidedly. This wasn't Itachi, it was a cheap, crappy imitation and Naruto felt anger boil in his skin.

As he walked to Itachi's side of the table, the man still smiling at the empty chair before him, Naruto felt almost as if he was crossing some invisible line. Never before, in all the time he had been here, had he moved around like this. It was normally just sit down, wait 'till you woke up, and hope Itachi wasn't drugged up enough.

"Stop it," he ordered, taking Itachi's head in his hands, trying to tear the elder man's gaze away from the empty seat. When he received no response, Naruto sighed and released him, taking the tea away instead.

Naruto looked to the door he assumed entered the kitchen and opened it one handedly, balancing the tray in the other hand. The kitchen was small, cramped, and he dumped the whole tray in the large bin, raiding the cupboards for tea leaves and herbs he knew Itachi put in without second thought, unaware of the drug addiction.

When he returned, Itachi's eyes were back to their dark colour and he stood, a grateful look in his eyes.

"Thank you, Naruto," he whispered, just before placing a kiss to Naruto's lips.

They were wrong, was the last thing Naruto thought before he woke up, dead men's lips aren't cold at all.


Oh, such a beautiful boy.


Naruto faced the rock formation the woman had pointed him to with a determined face. It was the third day by now, and Samui's team would be joining him soon. There was no doubt they had placed some form of tracker on him, and would find him easily, which meant he had little time to actually administer the poison and get himself killed.

Naruto wasn't suicidal, far from it. The ability was driving him mad, and he would crack if he didn't do something. Itachi made it clear that he would always have the ability, having had it from birth himself, and had mentioned that he wouldn't think any less of Naruto if he chose to end it. Not everyone could take understanding one person, let alone every single one in the world.

One rock caught Naruto's eye and he smiled at the marble formation, running a hand over the smooth stone as he did so. It was pretty, black and yellow mixing together in playful swirls that reminded him painfully of a future that would never be – he would never live to see the age of eighteen, he would never live here with Itachi.

At least Akatsuki wouldn't hurt anyone else.


I fell in love with you,


As it was, Naruto didn't have to wait long to locate the entrance. It appeared that, after Nagato's death, the Akatsuki had relocated themselves to a barren landscape, unsure whether they had the weeping city's good wishes anymore.

By his account, there were three or four members left, discounting Sasuke's team, because they weren't in the Akatsuki. Sasuke didn't have the power, nor the disposition, to be in Akatsuki fully.

He snorted; even now Naruto was defending Sasuke subconsciously.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

Naruto turned to face Kisame with a determined look on his face and merely offered his hand out.

"How loyal are you?"

By the look on Kisame's face, the man knew what he meant.

"Ah, it's as Itachi said. I never thought he would actually choose a successor to his curse, nor that it would be you of all people… but if I'm to die then I'll go down fighting. There's no doubt you have the poison so I think I'll be helping you just before I slip my own."

Kisame held up his hand to reveal a small bag of crushed herbs, similar to those in Itachi's lethal tea.

"Where did you…?"

Kisame grinned, "Itachi had some left. He'd been poisoning himself for years; I only caught on a few weeks before he fought Sasuke. I assume it was part of the grand scheme of things, and had been a habit. It's not a drug here, it merely inhibits the chakra system and, via it, the nervous system. Nasty if a potent amount is delivered, but otherwise fine."

Naruto nodded, having worked out that was what Itachi was trying to tell him when he met with him in their private world.

Kisame opened his mouth, tipping the bag upside down and chewing to form a paste. Kisame obviously knew he was a marked man, but at least he had the social graces to turn tail at the first sign of power.

"It's not the most honourable way to go… but in an autopsy it'll look as though I went the same way as the rest of them. I can't let you become a double-crosser in your death now can I?"

Itachi had mentioned once that Hoshigaki Kisame was an unreadable man, placing his loyalties to number one and number one only. It just so happened that Itachi had commanded enough respect in the man for him to prefer Itachi to the real leader of the Akatsuki, and he was tired of life by now. What was a man like him really doing, killing and stealing like a petty thief?

His days had been over since the glory of the Swordsmen, and the Akatsuki had taken every creature comfort away.

It was with Kisame's help that Naruto managed to get into the chamber and lace food with the poison. It wasn't an honorary victory, but Naruto didn't care at this point. He was tired and homesick, longing for his house and the world with Itachi, dreaming forever until life simply faded.

"Naruto," drawled a voice and Naruto spun round, shoving the poison in his pocket. His heartbeat sped up rapidly as he caught the dark eyes, and disappointment welled inside of him as Sasuke stepped forward.

"Hello Sasuke," he said calmly, stepping away from the area he had been in to face his former friend.

Sasuke stood with one hand on the hilt of his sword, casually gracing his fingertips along the metal, and his Sharingan was active, a blaring red focused solely on Naruto.

"Konoha sent you, then?"

Naruto shook his head, smiling dumbly. When he spoke it was careful, sly and full of suggestion.

"No, not Konoha, Lightning actually. They want their Master back and I decided to help…" The blond turned to the table of food, no doubt laid for a feast later. Itachi had mentioned once that the Akatsuki's leader liked the wealth of food and it was obvious from this table.

"An apple, Sasuke?"

Naruto held out the shining fruit, light gleaming off of the red tint, a mocking shade of the Sharingan. Sasuke's eyes focused on the apple before he moved forwards at an unworldly speed, Kusanagi drawn.

When he finally came to a halt, behind Naruto and closer to the chicken at the head of the table, the red apple Naruto had offered was sliced into two in a neat, horizontal cut. The top half slid down to the ground as Naruto's fingers gripped the lower half, revealing the love-heart pattern the central core carved in the fruit.

"See, not only people have hearts." Naruto chuckled at his own joke before letting the apple fall to the floor, crushing the useless food to the ground and wiping his hand on his thigh.

"You might want to leave here. Kumo are hunting for you and you're a marked man now with Danzou as Hokage. Lie low for a while then take your chance for revenge when Tsunade's recovered, that will be your best bet." Naruto paused to glance at Sasuke's shocked face.

"Oh and be careful of ROOT. I think that covers it, have a nice life."

Sasuke's frown was waved off by Naruto's smile as he stepped backwards, concealing his right ride in shadows.

"Even though we've hardly seen each other in years and you can be a complete bastard at times, you've always been my best friend. And I know, even with your lack of bonding, that I'm still your friend… and I'll really miss you."

Naruto waved a hand as he turned to leave the room,

"Oh, and you never saw me."


Now you're my one...


The weight Naruto had been carrying with him since he had begun to understand everything was almost crushing now, and he wondered how Itachi had stood it this long. It was painful, a constant drumming in his head that was screaming to be freed.

Along with the Kyuubi, Naruto would take this 'gift' down with him when he died. All he had to do now was ensure the leader had reason to celebrate.

"Uzumaki Naruto, Kyuubi no Kitsune, Jinchuuriki," A voice drawled from the rocks nearby, Naruto having stepped back to where he had entered, the marble rock closest to the man speaking.

"You must be the leader," Naruto retorted, stating the obvious for purely entertainment purposes.

"My reputation precedes me, apparently… but what are you doing here?"

Naruto touched the poison in his pocket, through the fabric of his trousers, and smiled wearily. He would miss Konoha, miss Tsunade and Sakura, miss Kakashi, Yamato, Sai, Kiba, Hinata, Shikamaru… all the people who had helped him in the years.

It was his turn to help them.

Their fight wasn't all that explosive, being that Tobi's body was, for whatever reason, untouchable. Naruto managed to disrupt the energy holding the technique, form, body, together and the leader occasionally faltered, allowing Naruto to drain his energy a little more.

It was Naruto, though, who was worse for wear, refusing to use the Kyuubi's chakra or his Sage Chakra. His techniques mainly consisted of low-level attacks, a handful of Rasengans and multiple usage of the Kage Bunshin. Nothing more, nothing less, and it was driving his opponent mad.

When the leader stumbled, Naruto jumped backwards with a smile. If he continued like this, the blond knew that the leader would win, knocking him into unconsciousness. Naruto was sure by now that the man wouldn't realise he was dead until it was too late; the poison would deal with killing the Kyuubi first, before eating away at Naruto. This process could take a few hours, even before it got to Naruto, and so Tobi wouldn't have a clue that he was dying until he actually was dead.

His death would be unexpected, just like Itachi's had been, and would draw a victory away from the other participant.

Naruto was unable to block a blow and fell backwards, hands catching the poison as it slipped from his pocket, uncapping the top and swallowing a small amount. There was a small scuffle a little way away, probably Samui arriving with her team, it had been three days after all, but Naruto smiled, hardly aware of anything except the pain in the back of his head where it had hit the marble rock on the way down to the ground.

"N… Naru… Naruto," a voice was calling him and Naruto turned unfocused eyes to the speaker, the blonde haired Samui.

"You're dying aren't you?" Her voice was to the point and Naruto, for once, was glad that none of his friends were here. They would be crying, clutching him tightly, demanding that he promise them he would stay.

Naruto could make no such promise, and Samui knew this. She was almost clinical in her delivery, but exact, expecting nothing but the truth.

"The remaining members of the Akatsuki will be dead in a few hours. I sent Sasuke away for the time being; hopefully he'll take my word. Kirabi is alive, he may come back now that they're gone."

Samui looked into Naruto's eyes, reflecting no expression until a tear dripped down her cheek, landing on Naruto's cheekbone.

"Thank you, Uzumaki Naruto. I knew you would pull through, it was the look in your eyes. I've never seen anyone with grey eyes before, but yours were silvery-grey… disturbing but commanding. And I'm looking at them now, but all I can see is a magnitude of colours, all of them and none of them suited to you."

Naruto chuckled, remembering the way he had looked at Itachi's eyes. It fitted perfectly.

"I shall take your body back to Konoha for a hero's return. Death is just an obstacle for the living, Naruto."

Naruto smiled as his mind wondered, and he felt his mouth moving, words spewing out,

"Who says I'm dying?"


...only one.


When Naruto opened his eyes, light hit the pupils and he quickly scrunched his face back up, annoyed by the sudden announcement of morning.

When they reopened, the blond instinctively looked to the side of his bed, to the little table there, and picked up the mug of tea, smelling it and smiling at the absence of the herbs Itachi had been so fond of brewing.

The liquid in his cup steamed gently as he took a sip, waiting for something to happen. By all rights, Naruto knew he was dead and yet the thought didn't disturb him at all.

"I understood, and it led me here," he articulated to the room, toasting the mug of tea to the air. "I was one of the people who believed in the grey of the world and here I am. This could be heaven, it could be hell… or it could just be my own existence…" He broke off in a chuckle, eyes focusing on the corner of the room.

"I'm talking aloud to myself, you've rubbed off on me, Itachi."

Itachi stepped forwards, his hand cradling a hot drink, chocolate if Naruto's nose was functioning properly, and slipped under the bedcovers to join Naruto.

"Hmm, and we have a whole eternity to sit here with our drinks, toasting to all that could have been."

Itachi slipped an arm around Naruto's shoulders and the blond drew closer, settling himself in his lover's warmth.

"Who knows, maybe others will join us, you don't necessarily have to have a gift to realise things. It simply helped in our time, a time when everyone was supposedly a clear villain or hero."

Naruto nodded, leaving Itachi's embrace for a moment as he placed both of their mugs on the table.

"You can philosophise about the world later. When you died you left me without a lover and I subsequently became rather horny. What would the world back there think if they knew the main reason Uzumaki Naruto defeated the Akatsuki wasn't just sheer luck, or planning, but months of sexual tension and the prospect of returning to his lover's arms eh?"

Itachi chuckled, kissing Naruto on the mouth and wrapping his arms around the younger's frame.

It was just as Samui had said; death was just another obstacle to the living, and it had granted the pair a blessing, in its own special way.


- I Fell In Love With A Dead Boy, Antony and the Johnsons.


Notes:

This basically came from listening to Antony and the Johnsons over and over again. I really recommend them, by the way.

The original plot I had to fit that song... well it was nothing like this. This just kind of evolved by itself and I like it, in a strange love-hate kind of way.

So, just let me know what you think and I'd be grateful!