Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: Let's make this a thread separate from the canon. Sasuke killed Danzou and picked up his team and skipped town for a vacation as suggested by Madara, as opposed to sticking around for a team showdown.
In the biting cold of the foggy mountains, three teenagers sat on a ledge. It was a wedge of rock jutting out high up on the peak. Rigid evergreens stood cold and immovable in the damp air.
The ledge overlooked row after row of similar mountain ranges; far on the horizon stretched fertile valleys of rice and rape grass. But the three teens couldn't see much past the first row of mountains: the god hung thickly to their clothes, it blocked their eyes.
A breeze stirred Sakura's hair. She was on Sasuke's left, looking determinedly at the sodden sky. Her legs were dangling over the ledge, her hands braced against the rock under her bum.
Sasuke's legs were drawn up to his chest. His arms were crossed across his knees, his face buried up to his nose in his sleeves. His eyes were closed.
Naruto sat on his right, facing him, cross-legged. His hands formed a rasengan. It spun silently, fiercely until he let it die away. He started it up again, staring at Sasuke.
The wind picked up, howling for someone to say something.
Naruto spoke. "Did it help to kill your brother?"
Sakura's eyes flicked to her teammates and back to the sky. Sasuke didn't look at either of them. "I didn't kill him. A…cough did, apparently."
Naruto blew out his cheeks. "Your turn, Sakura-chan."
She twirled a strand of hair between her fingers. "Are you dating that girl Karin?"
"Good. She's a whore."
"That's what you said about Ino."
"Well, she's a whore too."
Sasuke lifted his head clear of his arms. "So basically every girl that likes me…is a whore."
Sakura let her hair be. Her interest in the sky waned; she met Sasuke's gaze. "I'm not a whore."
Sasuke turned to his right. "Your turn again, Naruto."
"Actually, it's your turn."
Sasuke thought. "Have you told him," he asked Sakura "About Hinata."
Sakura shook her head. "No. Hinata did."
"What'd he say?"
"He ignored her."
Sasuke laughed softly, gleefully, looking at Naruto. "You moron."
"It was in the middle of a battle!" he defended himself, "Hinata-chan had crap timing!"
"You're not fighting right now," Sasuke pointed out.
"She's not here right now!"
True that. Fair point. Moving on.
"We started growing old," Naruto said, "Waiting for you. If I stopped moving for five minutes…if I sat down to rest…I could feet you getting away. And I'd say to myself, 'not in a million years' and get up again."
Naruto kept going. "This next part I'm saying to you 'cause I promised myself I would. You're an ass, Uchiha."
Sasuke listened intently.
"Not for leaving. Not even for not turning for a last glance at me when I called your name. But for not coming back, you're an ass. For hiding after your brother died, for thinking you could live alone. Nobody's an island, man."
Sasuke dropped his head back to his sleeves. His eyes scoured Naruto's face.
"I was trying to do the right thing," he said to the blond, "And it got really hard to tell after a while…I didn't want your help."
"No one ever tries to do the wrong thing," Sakura told him.
An unexcused smile hung itself on Sasuke's lips and died a miserable death. Sakura dredged up all her lovely feelings for him and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Did you not want our help because it seemed like a weak thing to want?"
They knew him too well to not know how he was about these things. He shrugged and nodded.
"What did you do," Naruto was very quiet about it, "When it got hard to tell apart the right and the wrong."
Sasuke paused. Shame wanted him to lie. But Sakura's green eyes and Naruto's blue ones watched him like two filters of truth, ready to strangle him with their disappointment if they heard a falsehood.
And the truth shall set you free…
"I ran further away," he conceded, "The more I realized I'd made a mistake, the more determined I was not to let you figure out the same thing. But you knew all along, didn't you? You knew I messed up…"
"Yeah," Sakura said, "The trail of tragedy you left gave us a hint."
"Misery was dripping off you, man," Naruto agreed.
"Why do you want me back? How does it matter? You found a replacement."
Sakura snorted. "Sai's not a replacement. He's a six-foot hunk of liability with a filthy mouth."
"He's not six-foot anything," Naruto said, "He's an inch taller than me is all." The blond looked at the brunet. "He's definitely not you, Sasuke. You're irreplaceable."
"We want you back because you fill gaps in our lives we didn't know existed." Sakura was looking at the sky again, her hand was off his shoulder. "We want you back because we make you happy."
"We make you human," Naruto added.
Sasuke seemed surprised. "You're a 'we' now?"
Naruto looked kinda hurt, so Sakura said it again, slower.
"No. We're a 'we' as in the tatters of team seven."
"I'm the tatter," Sasuke said, "There's still four of you."
"Five," Naruto said, "If you count Yamato-san. But we're tatters, we're leftovers. The one that leaves takes the team with him." Naruto looked dead serious. "We've been with you all this time, Sasuke. You just never figured it out."
"You sound so lame," Sasuke said, "You always had a gift for sounding lame." He turned away, he turned to Sakura. "It's sad that I put you through this," he continued, "But it's nothing compared to what I went thought. Have you ever heard the sound of loneliness spreading over streets? Have you heard the call of longing seeping under your door?"
They looked at him like he was the biggest idiot ever and he was because they did know. His pulse quickened. All those nights he'd lain awake mulling over Itachi and his big bad plan, Naruto had been up mulling over Sasuke's safety. Every time his heart clenched with hatred, Sakura's had throbbed with love.
"How's Kakashi?" Sasuke's voice was soft and low with defeat.
"Kaka-sensei's alright," Naruto said after a silence that conveyed his acquittal of Sasuke's stupidity, "I mean sure you were his favorite but let's face it, it's Kakashi. Give him a copy of Icha, Icha Paradise and he won't remember his own name, let alone his traitorous fuck of a student."
"He used to go around telling people he told you so," Sakura reminisced, "After Naruto left? Yeah. He'd rage about how he told you revenge does nothing for the soul and how one day you'd be glad of Naruto's pigheadedness because that would be what brought you home. He went quiet after a year, though."
Sasuke looked like he was choking. Naruto lifted a hand and let it hover over the boy's cheek in mild concern.
"You okay, man?"
"Home," Sasuke wondered, "He thinks Konoha is my home."
Sakura raised a condescending eyebrow. "So where is your home? Wherever you pitch camp? Wherever that Suigetsu boy catches fish?"
A hand—not white like alabaster but white like lymph should be—rummaged through hair—not black like onyx but black like the inside of a person—while eyes—not red like blood but red like a corpse flower—puzzled.
"Home is where the heart is," Sasuke muttered, "And I have no heart."
Quick as a flasher showing the goods to a five year old, Sakura's hand moved into his shirt, across his bare chest to rest inches left of his sternum.
"What's this thing beating in here," her eyes dared him to talk back, "What the hell is this? Who do you think you're fooling, Uchiha?"
Naruto didn't get it.
"Wait, are you saying his home is in his heart?"
"No I'm trying to be a wiseass like he is," she took her hand back, and cold fog wiped the warmth of her fingers off his skin.
Sasuke was kinda stunned. And also, kinda angry.
"You think you're such a wit, don't you?" he snapped at Sakura, "You don't know what Konoha did—"
"So tell me."
Her clam voice pissed him off. They thought they had all the answers, didn't they? They didn't know what Sasuke knew.
"Yeah, tell us, bastard. What're you holding on to in your heartless chest?"
Oh, they'd asked for it. He told them. About the cruelty of Konoha elders, about the Uchiha massacre, about Itachi and Young Sasuke and sharingan and mangekyou. The ordeal with Orochimaru was recited, the battle with his brother relived, the meeting with Madara retold. Going Akatsuki, and then shedding the cloak. Fearing, hating, fighting, dying…
His throat went hoarse.
"Don't you see? How can you not see? Every last damned soul in that village is living off peace bought by my brother's blood, my mother's blood, my father's blood! And I will take back every drop and more besides! Revenge! Bedlam! Blood!"
So he was, and so he noticed, and so he calmed himself before speaking again.
"It's what Konoha wanted—to be rid of Uchihas. I'll erase the village from the world and wipe my clan free of Leaf memory…and so my people will be reborn."
This was the longest they'd heard him talk, ever. So this was how he felt. Or how he thought he should feel…
Sakura and Naruto exchanged glances that did not go unnoticed by Sasuke.
"What?" he challenged.
Sakura took it upon herself to start. "Sasuke…that's all fine. But I thought there was more to you than just your clan."
Don't be stupid, Sakura, I've been talking about avenging my clan and reviving my clan since we were put in Team Seven together. What have you ever seen of me except my clan?
"What," he said again, defensive this time.
"Yeah, Sakura-chan's right," Naruto recalled, " You always seemed…eager to get it over with. The whole reviving gig. Isn't that why you went off with Orochimaru, so you could finish it sooner?"
"I always figured you wanted to be free of your clan," Sakura nodded, "To live your own life without the stigma of being the last Uchiha."
"And seeing that Itachi planned to throw this great shit on your shoulders," Naruto frowned in concentration, "I would've thunk you'd be even more sick of your people."
"What." What, was he stuck on repeat? Sasuke's head was hurting. How the hell were these two talking about feelings he hadn't admitted to himself? Had he been wearing his heart on his sleeve? Or did they just care that much?
He brushed past it, clinging to the one truth that made him want to believe that he was doing exactly what he wanted to do.
"When I killed Danzou," he said proudly, "It was a high like nothing I'd ever felt before. I want to avenge Itachi. My nii-san is happy about it."
"Wait, rewind," Naruto was always stupid that way, "Why would he be happy about it? He wanted you to make Konoha love the Uchihas again and what you did ensured that that would never happen. How do you know that when you're looking up and thinking, 'one down, nii-san,' Itachi isn't looking down and thinking, 'strike one, otouto'?"
It was a good question.
You had to admit, it was a perfectly good question.
"I hate Konohagakure."
"I don't blame you," Sakura said without skipping a beat, "I don't see why you had to leave us for that, though. Orochimaru hated the village and he didn't try to take it down, he just went and formed his own damn village."
He did try to take down the village, you idiot. How do you think the Sandaime died? Like your brain cells, by spending too much time with Naruto? Orochimaru killed him!
"Yeah," Naruto was laughing (that bastard!) "The three of us should make our own ninja village. SaSuNagakure. Nice, Sakura-chan."
"Hey, I think that's even worse than Otogakure. Naruto, you aren't allowed to name anything, ever."
Sakura was still talking. "But maybe I should just be grateful you didn't want to call it Hidden Ramen Village."
"SaSuNagakure?" Sasuke said at last, and this time the other two heard it. They heard it. A ninja village run by the three of them. Run by Naruto's idealistic bullshit and Sakura's motivational bitching and Sasuke's tunnel-visioned assholery.
A world blossomed before their eyes, an alternate universe where crap made sense and friendships weren't torn asunder. Half-formed thoughts pulsated around them, too delicate to touch. Alien ideas wafted through the lusty minds of the three young people…
Naruto took advantage of it. "Hey," he caught Sasuke's attention and pinned it down, "When you were gone…all this time…did you ever miss me?"
"The intellect of dinner conversations did leave something to be desired."
"Talk straight, shithead."
Sasuke appraised Naruto's face. Its rises, its falls. Those stupid markings on his cheeks. The fluidity of his eyes, the impatience that flitted familiarly across his forehead.
"Yes," he whispered, "I missed you."
Sakura shrieked in alarm as Naruto leapt for Sasuke's throat; the brunet fell hard on her. Naruto's long arms encircled Sasuke's neck and his face found a spot on his own orange sleeve.
"Then why didn't you come back! Tell yourself 'screw this shit' and come back! I cried, asshole! She cried! He cried!"
Sasuke saw it. Naruto on a lonesome training ground, Sakura collapsing on top of her sheets, Kakashi crawling into a corner of a ramen house. Dazzling tears, breathtaking in both scope and emotion, being shed for this one boy they'd known and maybe loved, probably wanted in their lives. They wouldn't die without him, but they sure as hell didn't want to do without him.
Was he a luxury or a necessity?
What did it matter?
What color had their tears been? When he'd cried for his brother the day Hebi became Taka, the setting sun had turned his tears gold with angst and devastation. Had the moonbeams silvered Naruto's tears? Had the black sky dripping into them? Sakura's tears would've been as transparent as her desperation for him. Unless she'd had a lamp on…a pink one, to tinge her sorrow with feelings as soft as melting ice cream. And Kakashi's? As he had no doubt stuck his face against the table top his tears would've burned brown-black stains of angered authority into his mask. Or maybe they'd been indigo, like the mask itself.
Ribbons of shades fluttering all around, and Sasuke in the middle of them.
Sakura's arms joined Naruto's and Sasuke found himself a home.
Between these two hearts, he found his own. Between these two bodies, he found himself.
Suddenly he could feel his blood romping in his veins. He could feel his tingly nerves and the tears (colorless in that they could be any color they wished) pricking his eyes: from spiky hair to piggy toes he was whole, safe, and vibrantly alive.
"Yo, Uchiha! You up here?"
"Sasuke! Sasuke we gotta go it's getting dark…"
"The little bird tells me he's over there."
Three faces peered down and three faces peered up. Suigetsu slurped at a water bottle. "Who's the chick? Karin's competition? You can't hold a candle to her," he told Karin, "Look how hot she is."
Karin spun and punched his nose and kept spinning to glare at Sakura, shoving her glasses firmly up her nose.
"If you losers even think about hurting Sasuke—"
"I don't think they're gonna hurt him." Juugo's voice was a stagnant pool. Calm and murky with dirty things under the surface. "They look like they're hugging."
Suigetsu rallied himself. "Don't be a dumbfuck, Juugo. Sasuke doesn't hug."
"On the contrary," Karin said quietly, "That really is what he's doing. Look."
They did, all six of them, and sure enough Sasuke's arms were wrapped around his best friend. Naruto extricated himself and stood up, followed swiftly by the other two. His cerulean eyes were like bolts of lightning. His tones were like thunder. A perfect storm of sunshine.
"Sasuke's coming with us."
Suigetsu's face darkened. "Fuck you, blondie."
Sakura stepped up. Actually, she leapt up—so catlike, Sasuke's posse stepped back. She raised a fist and glared Suigetsu in the eye.
"I punch much harder than she does. You do not want to try me."
Karin stopped being intimidated. "Don't talk to big, skank. We'd kill you in about five seconds."
Naruto was at Sakura's side in an instant. "Take one more step," he growled, "And I won't even hold back."
Juugo put himself between the two groups. Actually, he put himself past the two groups and beckoned to Sasuke.
"This looks like a fight for you to stop."
So there Sasuke was, one hand on Naruto's chest and the other holding Suigetsu at bay. Sakura and Karin restrained themselves. Barely.
"Naruto, I can't come back."
Triumph flared in Suigetsu's face.
"Suigetsu, if you swear at him again I'll rip out your tongue."
Smugness skittered across Naruto's features.
"Karin, Sakura isn't competition because if she was option A and you were option B I'd pick option C."
Both girls looked murderous.
"Juugo, settle down."
"But I wasn't getting excited."
"Force of habit, then. My bad."
Naruto snatched up Sasuke's hand. "Why the hell aren't you coming back?"
"Don't be an idiot. You think the village is going to welcome me with open arms? You think the feudal lord will ever let you become Hokage if you support a missing-nin? You think I could ever live there without an ANBU watching me from the shadows? Forget it. The time to go back has passed."
Naruto was desperate. "I'll come with you."
"Yeah, right. Uzumaki Naruto, the missing-nin? You'd be crying for the ramen stand by midnight."
Naruto saw sense. "But you miss me!"
"And I will continue to do that without your guidance. I just need to figure it all out, okay? I need time."
Sakura took over. "What will you do with your time?"
He cast a nod over his shoulder to the infinitely confused, defiant Taka team. "They're not at all bad company."
Sakura thought fast. "Okay, but…" she threw a smirking glance at Karin and kissed Sasuke's cheek. "Don't forget what we talked about."
Suigetsu felt Karin twitch and grabbed her arm to stop her from taking the hot chick down.
Naruto didn't know how to give up. "But Sasuke…!"
Sasuke made Suigetsu choke by hugging the blond (again! What the fuck) and pulling back with callous eyes.
"Go back to the village, Naruto. I'll come find you soon enough."
Naruto wheeled on Sakura. "Are you just going to let him walk away!"
"Yes, but you won't," she realized. A rabbit punch to the base of his neck had him crumpling to the rocky ground.
Sasuke stared. "Merciless."
"You want a piece of this?"
He grinned. Suigetsu choked more. "I'm all set, thanks." He turned to Suigetsu. "The hell's with you? Stop fooling around."
Juugo threw Suigetsu over his shoulder and started to walk. Karin gave Sakura the stink eye before following. Sasuke went with.
It was fate, he knew, that had called him up to his desolate mountain where Naruto and Sakura had been sent on a survey mission. Fate, because nothing happened without a reason.
(Itachi had had a reason.)
It was luck, Sakura marveled, stupendous, extraordinary luck that had tied the three of them together. Luck had chosen to give them this chance to re-knot the frayed ropes that formed bonds between them.
(Tsunade-sama was a strong believer of luck.)
Naruto thought nothing because when Sakura punched someone's lights out those lights stayed out for a damn long time. But he did have a dream. Team Seven was in it. Everyone was home, happy, and laughing.
He vowed to make it happen.
(Uzumaki Naruto never learned how to give up.)
This was inspired by "Jian Tian", from ISWAK's OST. The summary lines are from the song. And also these: '…have you ever heard the sound of loneliness spreading over streets? D you hear the call of longing…'