It must have been beautiful once.
Naruto played with the bandage on his eye as he hesitated in the doorway. Since jumping over the wall separating the Uchiha district from the rest of Konoha, he had not been able to shake the feeling that he was intruding. While outside it was loud and boisterous, in here, a heavy silence blanketed everything. An adamantine bell jar, easy to enter, difficult to leave. It was like stepping through a veil. Like stepping into a graveyard.
The house in front of him was Sasuke's. How he was so certain he wasn't sure. But the statement tasted right in his mouth and he just knew. Inhaling deeply, he plunged inside.
The lighting was muted, sparse rays filtering through the filthy windows. The wooden boards under his feet groaned as he shifted his weight. Dark splotches had swelled the wood. Cobwebs lined the corners of the ceiling. Whispers and secrets soaked into the structure. And yet, Naruto could tell this house must have been remarkably beautiful once. Despite the damage wreaked by time and humidity and neglect, the old house still stood. The wood still fought to retain a pale, handsome colour. The walls were still erect and strong against the wind and rain. It still breathed an air ripe with promise.
Maybe he could fulfil this promise.
The first thing that greets Sasuke is the smell. The sharp stench of old laundry, the cloying sweet of rotting food, and the mustiness of something preserved for far too long. It is almost a blow as he steps into the small apartment.
"Wow." Naruto makes a face. "I think something died in here."
Sasuke shoots him a pointed look.
"Well, don't look at me like that, bastard!" Naruto shoves him. "I haven't been home in over two months. Remember?"
Naruto turns on his heel and disappears into the kitchen where he proceeds to chuck anything with an odd colour or smell out the window.
Sasuke explores the little apartment. This is different from all he knew. Even when he lived alone, everything was kept meticulously in its place. Cleanliness is a virtue he was taught.
Thus, this chaos is more than a little surprising. Nevertheless, it matches Naruto. The socks on the couch, the hairbrush in the ramen on the closet floor, the toothbrush under the bed.
But it's not what he is used to. And it will change.
Starting with the bathroom mirror.
Sasuke's room. This was Sasuke's room. Lucky him that the first door he slid open revealed Sasuke's bedroom.
Naruto fingered the forgotten toys, the faded sheets, the yellowed drawings. Unlike the rest of the house, this room was almost untouched. Only the finest layer of gray dust lay over it. He wondered if Sasuke had ever returned, pretending his family was alive. Pretending that his brother had never betrayed them. Pretending that his life wasn't shit.
Taking off his jacket and laying over the sheets, he dropped into the bed. They exhaled a cloud of bitter memories. Naruto hid his face against the pillow and tried not to think about the child Sasuke must have been, trying to hide under the covers from monsters that had already come for him.
He awoke several hours later. The sun had burnt him as he climbed the wall. Now, the moon reclaimed the position that was hers. He didn't want to get out of bed. He smoothed a wrinkle on the thin sheets and allowed the cooling temperature to embrace him.
This house was still alive. He could feel it. He could bring it back to life. He would have done anything for Sasuke. If he couldn't even restore Sasuke's old home, he didn't deserve anything.
Naruto's apartment becomes an interesting dichotomy. An antithesis of sorts. In every room, there is a marked division. Every day is a battle between two opposing forces.
One expends energy maintaining order. Everything is meticulously kept in its place; all is kept clean. The other conserves energy by allowing everything to fall into disarray. Things can be washed later; what falls to the floor can be picked up when it is needed. And in many instances, it seems like chaos is winning. The law of entropy at its finest.
Sasuke and Naruto come to a head more than once over the state of Naruto's apartment. The Uchiha prince demands order. The Jinchuuriki pauper could care less.
There is only one time the roles are reserved. Sasuke cannot stand reflective surfaces. Mirrors, windows, even too polished metal surfaces all find themselves shattered, destroyed or reduced to a molten, glowing mass. No matter how much Naruto tries to convince him otherwise, Sasuke cannot be persuaded to stop.
Unable to prevent his madness, Naruto encourages it. He covers the windows with thick curtains, hides all reflective objects and gives away all that cannot be hidden.
When you look at a mirror, the mirror looks back.
If Uchiha Sasuke cannot tolerate his reflection anymore, Naruto will protect him from it.
He started with Sasuke's room. It was the easiest to clean and he would need somewhere to sleep. He stripped the bed bare and took the sheets outside. There had been a small jetty projecting into the river's cool surface and Naruto salvaged a few pieces of wood. With them, he made a cheery fire that provided enough light to see by as he dropped the sheets into the water.
He scrubbed them as well as he was able without any soap. When he judged them clean enough, he stretched them out on the ninja wire he tied between two pillars of the house. They were close enough to the flame to receive their warmth, but not close enough to burn.
While he waited for them to dry, he turned his attention to the room. Finding some rags under the kitchen sink, he quickly washed them out. Commandeering a bucket he found stowed in a small side room, he gathered all of the objects from the floor and tossed them onto the bed. Then, he tackled the walls.
As he had seen, there was little dirt accumulated here. The walls gleamed in the moon's soft light. Using his jacket, he whipped down the cobwebs spun in the corners. Then, he kneeled down to begin scrubbing the floors. Once everything was clean and dry, he reorganized the toys, the papers, the clothing. He set everything in its proper place, an uncharacteristic perfectionism seizing him. Walking outside, he learned the fire had died down, but the sheets had dried enough. They were still slightly damp, but it was good enough. He redressed the bed and then stood back.
It was easy to imagine a child Sasuke bouncing on the bed or playing with the toy shuriken or doodling with his brother. One of the drawings showed a badly drawn Itachi and an accurately rendered Sasuke. Above Itachi's head, written in a large childish writing, was his name. Sasuke's name was written under his feet in a flowing, smooth hand.
The brothers held hands.
Naruto fiddles with his eye patch.
"This is so weird. Kyuubi hasn't healed it yet."
Sasuke scoffs. "You need that fox to fix everything?"
Naruto scowls at him. "You trying to say something to me?"
"I did not try," Sasuke replies delicately. "I did."
"You have problems, you know that?" Naruto snapped.
"I'm not the demonic vessel obsessed with a giant fox."
"And I'm not the one who betrayed the village!"
Sasuke smirks. "You think I care about that?"
"Yes," Naruto continues mercilessly. "Because that betrayal culminated in you killing your brother."
Naruto slams against the wall. Sasuke snarls, one hand cutting off the yellow-haired boy's respiration. "Don't you dare speak to me about Itachi."
"No, I think I will," Naruto manages to gasp. "Since it's because of that that I almost lost my eye!"
"I never asked you to follow after me." Sasuke increases the pressure around Naruto's neck.
"But your brother all but made sure I'd fucking save you!"
Abruptly, the hand restraining Naruto is gone. He falls, wheezing. He massages his neck.
Sasuke's eyes are burning. He leaves.
The following day dawned on Naruto trying to make the kitchen habitable. He had stayed up fighting with the plumbing. After infuriating mistakes and multiple delays, he had restored flowing water. He turned on the faucet and allowed it to run for several minutes. At first it had been a rusty colour. Soon the water flowed clear. When he leaned in to drink some, it was warm and tasted of iron.
He chased away a family of rats that had made a nest in the cabinets and tore down more cobwebs. It was as he was finishing with the floor that he noticed he wasn't alone.
A man with black hair was calmly eating breakfast at the table. He had the same lines on his face that Itachi had.
"You're Sasuke's father."
The man paused. He glanced over Naruto once and dismissed him. "Of course, I am," he said gruffly.
"What are you doing here?"
Again, the man stared at him as if he was a strange insect.
"This is my house."
But you're dead, Naruto wanted to argue. Then again, if there was a dead man calmly eating breakfast, Naruto could only guess two reactions to the news that he was dead: aggression or apathy. The former he wanted to avoid and the latter wouldn't care if he voiced the statement or not. He chose to remain quiet.
"You should fix that bandage of yours," Sasuke's father pointed out, "or you'll lose that eye."
Naruto nodded. "Yes, sir."
The man pointed down the hall. "Bathroom's that way. You're already done here. You can clean the bathroom too while you're at it."
Naruto bowed and turned to leave.
"Oh, and boy?"
Sasuke's father nodded at him. "You did as well as can be expected."
Taking the bucket and rags with him, he left Sasuke's father in the kitchen. He trooped to the bathroom. The first thing he cleaned was the mirror. Then, he began fiddling with the bandage over his right eye. It was drooping and one end wasn't sticking to his skin anymore. When he took it off, he found the edges had frayed. He threw it away. In annoyance, he huffed into the mirror.
While the left eye was a familiar clear blue, the right had darkened. Naruto raised a hand to his reflection and lifted his chin, allowing the light drifting through the window to fall across his face.
The mirror cracked under the light pressure of his fingers. The fractures lengthened, widened and drew a cobweb over the smooth surface. Before he could save it, the mirror shattered.
Dinner is a tense affair. Neither speaks. While Sasuke barely makes a noise as he eats, Naruto wields his chopsticks like blades and slurps down everything.
After several nights of this, it no longer annoys Sasuke as it did.
Unsurprisingly, Naruto is the first to finish. He sets his plate down, practically licked clean. Surprisingly, he apologizes.
"I'm sorry, Sasuke," he says, staring at the table. "I shouldn't have said those things."
Sasuke doesn't speak. His eyes are still bothering him. Naruto's apology only intensifies the discomfort.
"Sasuke, can you at least look at me?"
Sasuke obliges and, like magic, the hurt lessens. He stares into the only uncovered eye Naruto has and is surprised by the understanding there.
He is horrified by the blurry reflection of himself he can see.
"Don't look at me," Sasuke snarls. He doesn't see the flash of sudden hurt that twists Naruto's features before they grow impassive.
"Fine." This time, it is Naruto who leaves. Sasuke wills him to stay away.
He had a choice between the other bedrooms, the sitting room or the garden. He still felt uncomfortable about entering Sasuke's parents' bedroom; the idea of setting foot inside Itachi's room terrified him. He had caught a glimpse of the sitting room and the dark stain he saw made him slam the door shut. That left the garden.
He had always found gardening soothing. It had started when he was a child and he saw a pot with a tiny plant in a store window. The owner did not water it and the plant was suffering. However, it bravely retained its green dress, even as it had to sacrifice leaf after leaf in order to stay alive.
He stole it and took it home.
It took a week. One week of scrabbling for rich soil, finding a bigger pot and watering it carefully. New leaves budded, curling open to absorb the yellow rays of the sun. The stem straightened; the green darkened.
It took a month before he realized he had saved the plant. He didn't know why it impacted him as strongly as it did. But he could barely contain his joy. The plant had been alone and no one had cared for it, but he had saved it. And it was now healthy and pretty and alive.
And it was all because he cared for it.
Naruto smiled sadly. He picked up some of the soil, letting the clods fall between his fingers. He would have loved having a garden like this as a child. Unlike the house, the garden had thrived. The plants had turned wild and only made it seem more alive. Vines crawled across the wall. Bushes had grown tall, their wide leaves a smooth green. Flowers dotted the scene. A small pool was carpeted with water plants.
"You should have seen it before. It was beautiful."
A woman knelt beside him, running a hand over a wide green leaf. In her pale and delicate face, Naruto recognized many of Sasuke's features.
"It was my pride," she said softly. "I put everything into it. I liked the feeling it brought. That I was helping the plants thrive. That I could protect them. It was soothing, knowing I could keep something safe. Especially when everything else just seemed to keep breaking."
Naruto didn't speak. Couldn't.
Sasuke's mother smiled at him. "I think it can be restored. Could you help?"
Not trusting his voice, Naruto nodded. She grasped his hand and he was surprised by how warm her palm felt. She seemed so very real.
"Just imagine," she whispered. "Imagine what you want it to look like. Sometimes the illusion comes true."
The first time they have sex, it is a battle. Violent, fierce and short. Each lies gasping, trying vainly to regain control over their limbs.
The second time, with some knowledge of what to expect from the other, is not any less violent, but it isn't as short. It becomes an indiscernible mass of thrusts and scratches and clenched hands. Of hot mouths lingering over a heaving chest. Of strong legs used to restrain the other. Of gasps and pants and sighs. Of hands closing around pulsing lengths. Of squeezes and tugs and fingers trailing damp trails across a hip. Of increasingly desperate momentum, of tight clamping walls, of heads falling back and shuddering breaths and pounding heartbeats. Of a desperate rush and a blooming heat and a sure belief that you're dying, you're breaking apart, you can't handle this.
There is no third time. Naruto disappears.
He had the bedrooms left. Sasuke's parents' and Itachi's. He finished Sasuke's parents' bedroom in record time. It was early afternoon when he hauled the bucket and rags out of the room, leaving a gleaming, organized area behind.
Itachi's frightened him. Not as much as the sitting room, but enough. Somehow, the idea of intruding in a space that held the essence of what Itachi had been terrified him.
He wasn't sure what he would find. The not knowing made him balk.
It took him an hour to finally dredge up the courage to open the door.
There were no monsters lurking the corners. There were no dangerous creatures hiding under the bed. Cobwebs didn't overrun it and there weren't creeping shadows.
The room was bathed in a warm yellow light that poured in through the dirty windows. It had the same signs of age and neglect as the rest of the house, but nothing to signal that here slept a boy who murdered his clan. For the good of a village, but a boy who killed his family nonetheless.
There was nothing. And that scared Naruto even more. Because it meant a good person could be absolutely atrocious.
As he ripped off the bed sheets and replaced them, he prayed Itachi would not show up.
He wasn't so lucky.
He never was very lucky.
Itachi looked the same. The only difference was the clothing. He wore black pants and a dark gray over shirt. When he turned around, Naruto could see the Uchiha fan embroidered into the back.
"Why are you doing this?" Itachi asked.
Naruto shrugged. "Felt like it."
"There's a reason why this house is like this." Itachi sank gracefully to the floor. He toyed with some old papers. "Do you really think this will help Sasuke?"
"I can try."
"You should stop." Itachi caught his eye. "This is an aberration. This was never supposed to occur."
"But it did."
"Naruto." The boy in question blinked as he found Itachi standing immediately in front of him. He never saw him move. "You cannot coexist with him. This isn't saving him."
"And you're the absolute authority on what saving Sasuke entails. Aren't you, Itachi?"
Itachi regarded him for a long moment before shaking his head. His hand rose to Naruto's face. His finger carefully removed the patch covering Naruto's right eye.
"Get out, Naruto-kun. Get out now."
Naruto is gone. Naruto left. Naruto left him. Something about the statement strikes Sasuke as incongruous.
Naruto cannot leave him. Naruto would have followed him to hell. Naruto would not leave him alone. Naruto is the annoying leech he could not be rid of.
And he is gone. Naruto left Sasuke.
Surely the idiot is only annoyed. He will return soon enough. Sasuke is sure. Naruto will always return for him.
And the days pass.
Finally, Sasuke goes outside to search for him. As much as the tiny apartment annoys him, he despises the outside more. He cannot forget. He cannot forgive. And Konoha continues to thrive with life.
Or it should.
Sasuke blinks, rubs his eyes. The colours seem muted. Everything looks whitewashed. The people seem to be walking too slowly. Their mouths open and they utter sounds, but it is all an incomprehensible buzz to him. Everything crawls and rushes by simultaneously. Details blur. He cannot discern anything anymore.
Sasuke seizes his head, clenches his eyes shut. They are throbbing, fiery nails raking across his cornea. He moans soundlessly. If he ends up bleeding from his eyeballs, he would not be surprised. Grateful, probably. Maybe it can relieve the terrible pressure that continues building.
"Are you all right?"
The words come from far away. Sasuke opens his eyes, but it is a faceless nobody speaking and he can no longer understand what the other says.
He is looking for Naruto. Naruto should be here. He isn't supposed to leave him.
"Dead-last moron." Naruto can do nothing right.
Sasuke realizes he is leaning against a cool surface. He opens his eyes.
He is resting against a shop window. And immediately in front of him is his reflection.
When you look into the mirror, the mirror looks back.
And he is running through a crowd, away from his reflection, away from the glass reduced to a fine powder. How dare Naruto do this to him. He isn't supposed to leave him. He isn't supposed to abandon him. He isn't supposed to let Sasuke see his reflection.
He promised he wouldn't allow it.
"I was wondering when you would show up."
Sasuke leaned against the wall. Naruto tossed the rags into the bucket. He stood smoothly.
"Oh?" Sasuke feigned interest.
"I've seen the rest of your family. You were the only one missing."
"What the hell are you playing at?" Sasuke hissed.
"What do you mean? Ah!" Naruto hissed as Sasuke seized his wrist and used it to twist his arm.
"You told me to," Naruto snapped.
"Because you were being a bitch!"
"You. Left. Me."
Naruto laughed hollowly. "Oh. So I'm yours now? I'm your pet? I can't go anywhere without your permission?"
"Don't mock me." Sasuke tasted fury like bile.
"Or what?" Naruto's nails were digging into his palms. "You'll try to punch me in the heart? Stab me? Kill me? You've already done all that. And guess what? You failed every time."
With a furious cry, Sasuke punched him. Naruto ducked away just in time so it was only a glancing blow. However, it grazed the edge of the tape holding Naruto's bandage in place. A tape that had grown weak from sweat and time.
The white rectangle fluttered slowly to the ground.
And Sasuke could see Naruto's eyes, could see himself in the dark iris, could see the blue that should not be there.
He struck Naruto. He used his speed to knock him down and brought his fist down into his rivals' solar plexus. Naruto gasped, curling reflexively around the abused area. A kunai flashed momentarily before the blade sank through skin and muscle and bone to the beating organ below. Warmth pooled in his chest; his breath strained. His body collapsed and the blood seeped to join the stain his mother's blood and his father's blood left after they died.
And the walls of the house flickered around him and there was sunlight in his face and then there was pain and there was blood on his hands and a knife in his chest and then there was nothing anymore.
Sakura brushed the dark bangs out of the pale face. There had been so much blood when he was brought in, too much blood for him to lose, so much her dreams were scarlet that night. He had been found in the grounds where the Uchiha district had stood. Shikamaru had brought him in. He had found Sasuke stumbling through one of the streets. Sasuke had drawn away from him and collapsed against a window. For no reason, he had lost control and destroyed the glass. Then he had run.
She had refused to treat him at first, she who could not look him in the eye anymore. However, there was no one else who could have saved him. And she made a promise to a boy with yellow hair who judged his worth by promises kept and she couldn't break her word. Not to him. Not now.
So she saved him. Pulled the blade free of the muscle and tissue and organs and bone and smoothed the fractures, repaired the tears, knitted the skin shut. Even though she didn't want to. Even as she battled the need to sink her fist into his heart—stop it, stop beating, stop that damned beating because he was alive and he wasn't—she saved him.
She always was a sap for them. She would have gone to hell for them.
Actually, she did. She was in hell. She had to be atoning for something.
Sakura pulled the covers up to his chin. She doused the lights and opened the door.
A stab of cold radiated down her spine. Her heartbeat jumped; her stomach clenched. The fine hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
"Yes?" It was a gasp, a desperate gamble for air. It was all she could say even as she begged him to fall asleep again, go to sleep, don't open your eyes, please don't because she could not handle this. Not anymore.
"Did I do it, Sakura-chan?"
When you look at a mirror, the mirror looks back.
She turned around slowly, her breath seizing in her lungs.
When the mirror breaks…
A black eye and a blue eye watched her hopefully.
"Did I save him?"