Not Like This.

A/N: The idea of this story hit me like a punch in the face. Okay, not literally. But it was sudden. However, it wasn't painful. Well, it was annoying to write. Actually—not that I would know—but it wasn't anything like a punch in the face. Just disregard everything you just read. Haha.

Jokes aside, this is my first attempt at Naruto fanfiction. This story isn't yaoi, but could be considered implied shounen-ai. Go away if that offends you. But really, it's more a sad friendship ficlet than anything else.

An alternate world: Sasuke came back after killing Itachi, but not in the way Naruto wanted.

Disclaimer: I own Naruto like I own Pop Tarts.

2nd Disclaimer: Great, now I feel the need to put up another disclaimer saying I don't own Pop Tarts. (In case there are any idiots out there, you know?)

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Naruto woke up like he did every morning, ate breakfast like he did on any given day, and got ready for another round at life. But what changed from his nearly constant schedule compared to a year ago was his early morning detour to the Uchiha compound.

Without interest, he walked through the deserted suburbs, the eerie lack of sound reflecting how down Naruto was, the tense set of his shoulders radiating displeasure. The wind blew dry leaves through the streets, disturbing dust that seemed to have settled since the dawn of time. Naruto frowned at the lack of life in this place, feeling the shadow of death hanging around the buildings like some sick aura. Hands thrust deep into his pockets, he kept up a constant pace, hurrying, but not quite racing, to get to where he went every morning.

Every morning at the crack of dawn. To visit his best friend.

Reaching the top of his tree, he finally made it to the place where Sasuke was already waiting. He waited for Naruto every morning; but sometimes it felt like he was imprisoned there. Though he never said it, he still wasn't sure whether Sasuke would've returned to the village in any other circumstance.

Naruto paused, before finally leaning against the tree next to where Sasuke rested. Every time he visited, he hesitated, feeling like he shouldn't do this, shouldn't visit a traitor, but still he came, and every time he lent against the same spot on the same tree.

"It's peaceful here," commented Naruto after some time of reflective silence. If anyone else saw how still and silent Naruto was in those first moments of seeing Sasuke every morning, they'd be shocked at the absolute 180 degree turn in the boy's demeanor. But not Sasuke. He stayed silent.

The lack of response was not unsurprising, yet Naruto continued anyway. "The village did good by you. Well, after a bit of persuading. Originally, they wanted to chop you up, burn you to a crisp and throw away the pieces, treat you like a missing-nin—which, you admittedly were—but after few words from me and a few others, they changed their tunes a bit. Guess my opinion finally matters in something." A small bark of tight laughter left Naruto without permission, but he knew Sasuke understood.

The only response he heard was the wind rustling the dry leaves above his head. Looking up at the sky, the brilliant blue almost matching the hue in his eyes, Naruto took a deep, soothing breath. If someone looked close enough, they would almost be able to perceive the signs of tears welling in Naruto's eyes. Of course, there was no one looking directly into his eyes, so his pain was hidden, for the moment, at least.

"Damn, I remember how hard it was to pry you away from those inspector-nins, so adamant to check out how exactly you were changed from the curse-mark. It makes my blood boil the way they treated your body. If you could, I bet you would've spat on them and kicked them in the gut for merely looking at you in the wrong way." A quiet chuckle of authentic mirth left Naruto, and a smile touched his features. "Yeah, that's the Sasuke I remember."

Somewhere in the distance, a kite was flying, its colours bright and stark against the blue backdrop of the sky, moving constantly in the wind, tugging at its invisible restraints, tail whipping wildly, and its ribbons flapping like tiny little birds. For a while, Naruto watched in silence.

"At least you killed Itachi. I know you wouldn't have liked it at all to have come back without having completed the revenge you thought so important," muttered Naruto bitterly. It was left unsaid at the end of his sentence; more important than Konohagakure, more important than Sakura... something you considered more important than me.

Sliding down the tree, he finally rested on the ground, sitting with one leg straight, the other with one arm slung over his bent knee, hand hanging limply as he thought of something else to say. Somewhere, a crow cawed loudly, the noise sharp in the building silence.

Sharp eyes spotted the small branch of pink flowers—cherry blossoms—poking up from the earth near Sasuke. "Huh. Figures that Sakura visited you. She never did give up on you, and neither did I," Naruto half-heartedly boasted with a shadow of a grin on his face.

The jovial expression dropped suddenly as he whispered, "I knew I'd get you back someday. Back to the village where we'd be Team 7 again." Heavy silence met his words, and though he knew there would never be words to counter them, Naruto wished there was. He wanted to hear Sasuke call him an idiot again, if only it was for one last time.

"All those years, it was my goal to bring you back to the village—I assumed—kicking and screaming and fighting me all the way. Or, if I was lucky, unconscious. I'm not a strategic talker, so I never thought for a second I could talk you back here. That, and you're too stubborn for your own good. My plan had always been to fight you. But I never did get to fight you."

Even though Naruto heard no response but the wind rushing in his ears and the thrum of his pulse in his veins, he could almost perfectly hear what Sasuke was thinking, if he was thinking something while lying down next to Naruto. The disappointment of missing another rematch was there.

"At least I was the first to find you." A pause. "Then again, I could consider that a bad thing." And Naruto, on bad days, did consider his early arrival as misfortune. But he didn't want to change that, for some sick, masochistic reason, he was glad to have gotten to Sasuke first.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Naruto ruffled his spiked hairs, scratching his scalp as his mouth twisted in displeasure. "I sometimes wish you didn't come back; at least, not like this. Not like this. I wanted you back, wished you were back, thought about forcing you back here, but never ever like this."

The tears that he had been holding back, the ones that were threatening to tumble down, finally broke free and cascaded gently down his cheeks, passing the whisker-like marks, falling past his chin and dripping onto his clothes. Naruto made no noise though; he trained himself to cry quietly when he came here every morning to see his best friend. Sasuke hated loud tears.

Naruto finally turned his head towards the simple gravestone and smiled weakly through the pain.

"Eh, Sasuke? I bet if you were here, you'd be pissed and happy that you and Itachi died at the same moment. You call me an idiot, but I never would've let my chakra run out like you did."

Another bitter laugh left Naruto as he looked up again, appearing to anyone who looked from a distance to be a simple-minded cloud gazer with wet cheeks. But there was no one there to watch him except for the dead.

It took a long time for the tears to stop, even with Naruto constantly wiping them away with his sleeve, dampened soon enough from the watery onslaught.

And it took even longer for Naruto to finally leave the Uchiha graveyard, to say another goodbye to Sasuke; who was still his best friend, even in death.

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A/N: Set after Sasuke killed Itachi, but they both died in this alternate ending.

Who guessed that Sasuke died before it was announced? *Ducks thrown objects*. Hey! Don't yell at me for killing him off. Blame the plot monkey. *Points at guilty creature in corner*.

If I moved you in some way, please review! If I didn't, still do it! :-)