Disclaimer: Not mine. :3

A/N: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago as my reaction to Naruto manga chapter 482, which left me feeling somewhat hopeless. That has since been cured by 484, but… well, I thought I'd post it anyway? :) The dates are random approximations. They are correct in relation to one another, but do not correlate with Naruto canon. Enjoy!

And So They Fall

Sasuke Uchiha died on August 27th, only thirty-five days after he turned seventeen.

When people looked back on his life, they pitied the tragic story of a boy who broke at seven and fell apart at sixteen, too far gone to ever be brought back. He was Konoha's greatest villain, in the end. More infamous than Orochimaru, or his own brother.

His old friends – well, most of them – tried to rationalize it. The boy they'd known had been taken from them at age thirteen by a poison pill given him by Orochimaru; true to the Snake Sennin's promise, he had been reborn someone else. Because in the maddened, blank-faced man Naruto and the others had faced, there was nothing left of the large-eyed, unwillingly kind boy who had leapt in front of his best friend – thrown away his goals, his revenge, his life – to protect him.

That friend never stopped trying to save him. But for all his indefatigable perseverance, Naruto had never been as important to Sasuke as his brother. Maybe in another life. Maybe if they had met sooner; maybe if things had been different. But it was like trying to patch a window with glass the wrong size; the holes were too big and too jagged.

And while Sasuke always had seemed to understand Naruto instinctively, Naruto had never really gotten Sasuke. Never gotten that Itachi was his world.

Never gotten that it had always been going to end like this, and Sasuke had known it - known exactly what he was getting himself into, ready to throw everything away and become a new person. The innocent child who idolized his family had been gone for a long time now; and for a couple years, a couple precious impossible years, he had been able to pretend. To forget. To be silly and engage in rivalries and the world had been so, so golden -

And he wanted Naruto to remember that they were once best friends, because he wouldn't.

"Remember me like that," he'd tried to say, only the words wouldn't come out. "Because I can't be that anymore. Preserve the friendship, because I won't. But take those times and those memories and the person that I was, and keep them; don't ruin them with who I'm going to become."

Years later, chakra fading, vision blurring and bloody, very bones aching and unable to breathe, Danzo dead, Karin stirring feebly - and Naruto finally arrived. Was staring at him in horror, the last bits of delusion falling from his eyes.

But not the last of his hope, not even now.

Naruto shouted at him, asked him which way Madara had gone, because he was going to kill him - "and then I'm coming back for you and you're not gonna get away this time –"

The idiot was going to get himself killed.

But then, Sasuke himself had felt dead for a long, long time.

So Sasuke had told him – lied to him, he'd always been so good at lying – and when he was gone, dragged himself up for one last fight.

When Uzumaki Naruto got the news that Uchiha Sasuke was dead – lying in a pile of rubble next to the corpse of Uchiha Madara, full force of Mangekyou against Mangekyou having killed them both – all he could remember was the screaming.

Worried people standing by, ready to reign in kyuubi who they feared would break loose any second, as the blond-haired boy screamed his throat sore and his eyes turned red, tears of rage and sorrow streaming down his face. He sat hunched, curled over his best friend, dirty fingers tangled in dark bloody hair, face buried against a still chest, wail of utter anguish issuing from him as he rocked the pale body in his arms.

Uchiha Sasuke died on August 27th, 3 years, eleven months, nineteen days after leaving the village of Konoha.

He died without justification or explanation of his actions, died on the edge of madness and far from rationality.

He died saving his best friend.