A/N: Mwa ha ha ha! It's finally finished! I was working on this one-shot for quite a while. There were some parts that just refused to write themselves. A little bit of SasuNaru for y'all. Not yaoi, but at least it's shounen-ai. It's longer than all my others—nine pages. Have fun!
Summary: "I've seen every possible emotion on the face of that person. Some of them, most of them, I've put there myself." Naruto visits Sasuke in prison, and the Uchiha has an epiphany. SasuNaru oneshot, Shounen-Ai. Slightly dark.
Warning: Takes place after the Five Kage Summit Arc, so if you haven't read that far, there might be spoilers.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Sasuke. Or ice cream. :(
Can You See It?
The steel cell door clangs as it is unlocked. The door swings open, creaking loudly on its hinges. I turn my head to the wall. I will not look at that person. The one who brought me here, the one who keeps me here. I know that more than anything he wants me to meet his eyes. So I don't.
"Hey. It's me."
"What is it this time?" I ask indifferently. I don't actually care. Just going through the motions. That person doesn't reply. I feel a stare boring into my back, feel it, and ignore it. I brush my fingers against all the little pits and chinks in the wall as if I haven't had three months, two weeks, and four days to memorize them.
I wonder what he's feeling right now? He, who was so loud and annoying and unbreakable. He, who remains silent now. What is he feeling?
I want to see his face, I realize. I want to see what he thinking, how he's reacting. I want to see.
I wait. He waits. He, who was so impatient and restless. He waits? He does now, apparently.
"I came to talk." His low voice, hitting my ears and the walls and echoing slightly. Deeper than I remember, even though he came yesterday, and all the days before that, too.
It's like I have a memory of him, fixed in my mind. Like he will always be the same, steady, unwavering, unchanging. Dependable. And then comes his voice—it has changed, just like he has. He's changed. Not the same. Different. Is that good, or bad? I don't know. Don't care.
"Of course you did." Is that bitterness in my voice? Possibly. "It's always talking with you. When are you going to understand that I don't care what you have to say? I never have, never will."
He is quiet. He shifts, foot scraping the stone floor. He sighs, lets out his breath slowly. I imagine him forcing himself to count to ten in his head, but that's not it. It's not an angry sigh. It's more…what is it?
"Sasuke…" That's all he says. His voice is soft, not quite pleading, but close.
…What? Sasuke what? I know what he wants from me. What they all want. What I will not give. Cannot.
He speaks again. "Sasuke, look at me."
I try not to imagine his face. I could, if I wanted to. I've seen every possible emotion on the face of that person. Some of them, most of them, I've put there myself. I could bring up his face in my mind easily, just as if I was staring straight at him. I could, if I wanted to.
I don't move. He does. Footsteps cross the cell. Sandals on rough stone. Loud. In three steps, he is here. Where I sit on floor, and not on that hard mattress so gracefully given. He is here, next to me, where I sit on the floor with one hand resting on the concrete wall.
And still, I don't move.
He places one hand on my shoulder, the other on my cheek. Turns my head to face him. I let him, but I close my eyes. Close my eyes, because I know he wants to see them. I feel his gaze, searching my face. His forehead is probably wrinkled, lips pursed, eyes worried. I want to see.
I keep my eyes shut.
I try not to imagine his face. Try not to. But my mind does anyway. Draws up a perfect sketch of how his face probably looks right now. Golden hair in messy spikes, strewn over his face, brushing his eyelashes. Blue eyes soft, to match his voice.
And now I want more than anything to look, to see if the image of the man in my head is the same as the one outside. I want to see.
Before I can reply, the hand on my cheek pulls me forward. Soft lips, slightly chapped, crush against mine. They taste salty, as if their owner has just come from Ichiraku. They feel insistent, as if unwilling to lose something precious. They seem afraid, as if scared of being pushed away one last time.
I don't resist, don't respond. I wait.
Against my will, or perhaps acting on it, my eyes open as he finally pulls away. He stays close, his face in front of mine. I hear him breathing, feel the light brushing of air against my parted lips. My skin tingles where his thumb rubs my cheek gently, and it bothers me that I can't decide if I enjoy or despise the sensation.
"Sasuke…" he says my name again, less than a whisper, barely audible. "Can you see it? Can you see my face?"
I refuse to answer. I refuse to give into fate. I refuse!
But I don't have to confirm it for him. He already knows, doesn't he? My open eyes, he can see them, can't he? The way they don't stare into his, but rest slightly to the side, unable to focus. The way dulled onyx eyes are squinted, attempting to hide how desperately I am trying to see his eyes. His face. Anything.
"It wasn't this bad yesterday, was it? It's getting worse…" He hesitates, unable to finish. Lets out a frustrated sound. I hear him swallow around the lump in his throat.
His forehead leans against mine, as if it is he that is blind and in need of comforting. I feel something wet, warm, fall from his face onto mine. It travels down my cheek, slowly, tickling, until it drops off my chin. The wetness on my skin feels sticky as it dries.
My hand lifts, reaches, until I feel the fabric of the robes he wears. The ones I know are white and red. I find myself wondering if maybe he's wearing the hat, too. I didn't include the hat or the robes in his image in my head. In that image, he will always be annoying and short and impatient and orange. He will not be changed. His sleeve wrinkles as my fist closes around it. I want to see.
I close my eyes.
And just like that, I am alone again.
The next day comes, and that person doesn't. I wait. Angry at first, annoyed because I don't want him to come again. Then wary, and confused, because he always comes, every day, at the same time, and he's not here. Where is he? Why isn't he here?
I wait all day for him. I wait until the guards slid a tray of food inside my room, signaling the coming of night, and the ending of the day.
I wonder if maybe I hurt him more than I thought, hurt him by ordering him to leave me alone. But I don't think that's it. How it be could something small like that, almost insignificant, compared to all the other times I've hurt him so much more? It's nothing. He should be used to it by now. He, who is so unbreakable and powerful and so damn stubborn.
I sit on the floor, one hand resting on the wall. An anchor, something to steady me in this nothingness. Being blind…it's not like anyone thinks. It's not white, and it's not black. Because how can you see a color when you can't see anything? It's just—nothing. There's a sensation of darkness, I guess, but it's not flat black. It's like being in a cave, deep underground, with no light whatsoever. You can't see the darkness, because it's not really there, but you can feel it pressing into you, into your eyes that don't see, and into your soul that doesn't feel.
I snort, amused. Darkness, huh? How ironic. Maybe being blind…suits me better than I thought.
I wonder if it was really fate that decreed my future, or lack of. Is everything already planned out for us, us humans? Are our futures, our actions, already determined, no matter how much we might struggle against them? That person would say differently, I know. He'd say no, our choices, our beliefs, our dreams, they are what drive us on. They are what push us forward. But I'm not so sure. Because not everyone is like him, able to see with such clarity, and especially not me. Me, who is blind.
Is this how Itachi felt? Is this how he felt as his vision was fading? When he was preparing to die by his little brother's hand?
No. Itachi knew the truth. He was the only one. My fist curls. The pain is still raw, the wound open and festering.
Besides, how is this future the one I've chosen? Doesn't that person know I wouldn't be here if I had a choice? I run my fingers over the bracelets on my wrists. They're heavy, like manacles. I hate them. I'd destroy them, if I could mold the chakra to do it.
That person… My head falls against the back of the hard bed and I stare at the ceiling I can't see. Naruto…
You told me that when we were younger, you were chasing after me because you wanted to be as "strong and cool" as I was. You were the loser, the dead last, the worst at everything you did, and yet…how did you come to be the one of us who is truly strong? It seemed in the days before I left for Orochimaru, it was you who was the golden boy of Konoha. It was you who was child prodigy, the hero of the missions, the one to depend on. It was you, and not I. You said you were always chasing after me, but is that true? How could you chase me if you were already way ahead?
You looked at me and grinned like that, with those squinty eyes and gleaming teeth. You looked at me, grinned, and declared you were glad to have met me. Do you know that's one of the last things I saw before my eyes failed? Do you know that's the expression I remember the most clearly, that truly happy grin of yours?
I remember it. And I hated it.
I wanted to wipe it right off your face. I wanted to shove my fist through your chest, just like last time, and see your eyes widen in shock. I wanted to kill you to scare away the feelings in my chest. To banish the little voice in my mind that sounded suspiciously like you, the one that said Itachi wouldn't have wanted me to destroy Konoha. I wanted to kill you so bad, to erase you from this world so I'd never have to look at your face again. I convinced myself that if I did, if you and all the rest of them who'd ever cared were gone, then I wouldn't feel as bad as I did then.
I didn't want you to grin at me like that, not then, and not now. I wanted to see you angry, furious, betrayed, like the others. Out of all of them, you were the one who never reacted the way I wanted. You are so predictable, so how is it that you always manage to surprise me?
I enjoyed advising you that you only had two choices. Only two: Kill me, and be the hero you always wanted to be, or be killed, and become just another victim. And really, I was only joking—because there was no way I'd let you kill me. I was confident in myself, in my anger and my abilities. Confident I could kill you.
Well I was wrong, wasn't I?
I'm torn straight out of my thoughts as the cell door creaks. I freeze, tilt my head to the side. Listen.
"Hey, it's me."
"Hn." I don't say what took you so long, or why weren't you here earlier, or I thought you weren't coming. Because I don't care.
This time he doesn't hesitate in the doorway. He walks right over to me, sits beside me. His shoulder rests against mine, warming the entire right side of my body. He's stiff, his arms crossed over his chest. The silence is heavy, thick enough to choke on. Did something happen?
"I talked with the council and the other 'kages. They've come to a decision," he finally says. His voice is strained, like his jaw is locked around words he doesn't want to say.
"Get on with it, Dobe," I drawl, feeling a prickle of unease underneath my calm demeanor.
"You're going to be executed."
"What? When? How?"
"They were going to do in public, a week from today. I managed to convince them…to let me do it. I wanted to be the one to do it." I can tell he's looking down, not at me. I imagine him faltering in the middle, maybe fidgeting a bit, then his face going blank. He's uncomfortable talking about this.
"When? How? Tell me!" He ignores my furious demands, continuing softly as if talking to himself.
"'Death by lethal injection. It'll be quick, painless, which is more than he deserves,' that's what they said. Ha! You don't deserve death. It wasn't your fault, not all of it, anyway. "
I try to pull my mask back on, but he's ripped it way out of my reach, and now my emotions are roiling, out of control. I struggle to remain indifferent, but how the hell can I? I don't want to die, not now, not here. It shouldn't end like this! Not after everything I've been through! Uchiha Sasuke, executed in a cell in the village he vowed to demolish by the ex-best friend he vowed to destroy? No.
His warm hand brushes my arm and it's all I can do not to flinch away from his touch. I hate showing this weakness, but fear consumes me until I all can think of is getting away from him. My eyes strain to catch a glimpse of him, my arms held in front of my body as if that would ward him off. I clench my teeth to keep back a scream or a whimper, because no matter what I'm still an Uchiha and I will hold onto my pride.
Everything is quiet. I muffle my breathing so I can hear something, anything, besides the panicked racing of my heart. Then he speaks, and his voice is firmer, determined, resolved, but still filled with a sorrow as deep as mine.
"Sasuke. What did you hope to gain from all of this? What was your dream? And don't give me that crap about destroying Konoha. I know it's not true."
I open my mouth to snarl it's none of his business, especially not when he's here to kill me. But then it hits me that I'm actually going to die here, that these minutes could be my last ones. And that shakes me harder than the blind panic, because I'm going to die and for what? What good have I done with my life? Revenge was my dream, and it drove me, but in the end I've accomplished nothing. I killed Itachi, believing him to be my greatest enemy, when he was in fact the best brother I could ask for. I killed Danzo, but what did that change? The Uchiha clan is still dead. I tried to kill Naruto, and look where that got me.
Blind. So very blind. Even now. Up until now, I've followed my instincts, putting all of my rage and power behind my goals, even when I didn't know the truth. I saw what others wanted me to see, and I believed it all. I believed in those lies, and they spurred me on. Take away the lies I threw myself behind, and what I am I in the end? Nothing but a pawn in Madara's game.
What if this is my last chance? I've blown it all, screwed up my whole life and blamed everyone else but myself. All the power I've gained, the hate I've grown…it all amounts to nothing.
I'm going to die, become nothing but a nightmare in the dreams of the ones that feared me. A memory in the minds of the few people that still loved me.
Weirdly enough, that conclusion steadies me. My fists gradually loosen and the frantic heaving of my chest begins to slow. Maybe I knew it all along. Of course they wouldn't let a traitor and criminal and murderer live after everything he's done. The only future for me, the only logical outcome, is death. My life was forfeited the minute my eyes went blind and I was captured.
No, it was before that, wasn't it? This downward spiral I'm in, it began a lot earlier than that.
I hear an angry growl rumbling in the throat of the man next to me, born from desperation and helplessness. Fabric rustles and concrete chafes and suddenly he's there, his knees on either side of my legs. I reel backwards, disoriented by the sudden movement and unsure of how to react. He grabs my shoulders, hard. Hands dig into my arms, nails pinching skin through thin fabric.
"Sasuke! Answer me!" he demands. Shakes my motionless body until my head slams back into the metal bar of the bed and I can't help but wince in pain. Immediately he releases me, and one of his hands, so rough just seconds before, gently probes my scalp to see if I'm bleeding. Fingers thread through my hair, massaging the skin.
"I'm sorry Sasuke…I'm so sorry…I just…I can't…" he stutters. I know it's not just my head he's trying to apologize for.
My lip curls and I knock his hand away. "Don't touch me, idiot."
After all, how many times have I tried to kill you? I don't even remember—that's how many times. But I never did succeed, did I? When you compare that to the countless number of men I've murdered without breaking a sweat, you have to wonder if maybe I didn't actually want you to die.
My shoulders slump. "Naruto…I…" I falter, then I stop because I don't know what I was going to say next. I blink, look down, worrying my lip between my teeth in a show of confusion, as I've never done. I don't care anymore. Bravado and arrogance have slipped away, leaving nothing but rampant emotion and unchecked fear and regret.
"After everything that's happened, I can't believe it's just going to end like this. I don't think I can ever forgive you for some of the things you've done, but you're my teammate and my friend, my best friend. I didn't want this… I never thought…I-I'm sorry Sasuke." His voice, so sad, so heart wrenching, cracks with emotion. He trails off into nothing once more, as if the words are all tangled and scrambled inside his head.
I lift my hand towards him. He catches it in his, his fingers intertwining with mine, and raises it to press against his face. I don't ask him to continue. I don't have to. I know exactly what he means.
We remain like this for a while, my eyes locked on what I hope is his, until my arm starts to tingle with the beginning of numbness and he lets it drop from his face. The unnatural warm of his body disappears with him as he stands and moves towards the door.
"I'll be right back," he says as if to reassure me—but I don't know what he's trying to reassure me of. I already know he'll come back. He always does.
His scent lingers behind him. Musky, a unique combination of rain and sunshine and weapons oil and that earthy scent, the one that comes from damp, crushed leaves. I catch whiffs of it on my clothes, in my hair, whenever I move. And when I realize that I just took a deep breath in order to smell it, smell him, my face darkens. Turn my head back to the wall. Ignore it.
Then I hesitate, shrug, and bring my sleeve up to my nose to draw the scent into my lungs and hold it there as long as I can. Hold it until he comes back a few minutes later. Until his scent is all around me again, not just on my clothes, and I can breathe it in freely.
It doesn't take long. Everything was prepared in advance. He tells me that Sakura showed him how to do this, that she wanted to be here too, but the council refused it. They sent her on an A-rank mission, apparently, just to make sure she wouldn't sneak in. I can tell he's stalling, but I don't say anything. It's all the same to me, in the end. Whatever makes it easier for him, that's all that matters now.
His voice breaks again as he asks if I have any last words or requests. I almost snap no, just get on with it, why won't you? But his heavy, expectant silence makes me pause and think until I say, yeah, I do.
I assure him that he'll probably be the worst Hokage in history, because honestly what kind of loudmouth idiot becomes the leader of a village, but everyone will love him anyway because that's just how he is.
I tell him to say good-bye to Sakura, tell her I'm sorry and give her a kiss on the cheek from me.
I tell him to let Kakashi know he was right about everything—he always was—and that just because one out of the three apples turn out to be rotten doesn't mean the tree is.
I ask him to put flowers on my family's graves every year, please, since I won't be able to and can I please be buried next to them (even if I know I don't deserve it)?
I inform him that if he looks in the main hall of the Naka shrine, beneath the seventh tatami mat from the far right, he'll find the secret meeting place of the Uchiha clan. There is a tablet containing the clan's secrets that Kakashi should be able to read with his Sharingan. I don't how much good it'll do, but anything that can be used against Madara is worth sharing. It's not like the clan elders are around to throw a fit anyway. Madara doesn't count. I am the last of the real Uchiha, the only heir, and the clan dies with me.
I make him promise me that he'll kick Madara's ass, because neither Itachi nor I lived long enough to do it. If anyone can kill that immortal bastard, it will be Naruto. I also make him promise to make the council retire permanently and to think of the Uchiha clan when he does.
And just because I know Naruto, I pull his face down to mine and make him swear on Ichiraku's ramen that he will live as long as he possibly can, and that as long as he does, he will never forget me.
By the time I'm done talking, I feel calmer, surer; as resolute as I can be in the face of my death. All my uncertainties have been packed into a little ball of suppressed emotion that I can ignore. I'm left with a serene, almost peaceful feeling.
The man sitting next to me, he seems to gather courage from my strength as well. He brushes my arm with something wet and cold and soft, and the harsh tang of alcohol invades the air. I here the click of metal and plastic, try not to tense as he poises something sharp over the vein in my arm. The sting of the needle fades quickly, the pain so insignificant compared to all the others I've felt in my life, physical and mental.
Neither of us talks about how much time I have left now. Instead I keep my gaze on him and will him to do the same.
Can you see it, Naruto? I imagine those knowing blue eyes, the ones that see everything, the ones that were never blind.
Can you see it, Naruto? Can you see it in my eyes?
It's pain. It's bitterness. It's anger. Accusation. Envy. Longing. Tenderness. Gratitude. Friendship. Forgiveness. Regret.
I think it might be love.
He murmurs stories of the old days, whispers them close. His lips brush against ear, as reassuring as his low voice as he recounts memories I have been trying to forget for years. I let images in my head spill over, watch the scenes conjured by his words. I find myself leaning against him, eagerly accepting the small comfort.
The academy days, innocent as they ever were. Staring out over the water, walking by the dock. Exchanging glares and secret smiles. A tomato on the Uchiha doorstep that somehow results in a coupon for free ramen being slipped under an apartment door. Whoopee-cushions on empty seats, electric buzzers strapped to palms, paint slathered on mountains, and chalk erasers on unsuspecting silver heads. A simpering girl tagging along after a boy that ignores her as he readily argues with the sun, who, coincidentally, thinks he's in love with the girl.
Creepy bugs that chase barking dogs, watched by a blushing, meekly amused kuniochi. Watching clouds and munching snacks, tuning out the gossip that becomes more loved than shogi or free barbecue. Blustering green proclaiming the beauty of youth, just barely tolerated by a weapons-twirling girl and a haughty, loyal boy who will never admit how much spandex and brilliant smiles mean to them.
Long days and longer nights, border patrol and guard duty. The joy of completing a mission, the satisfaction of winning a hard-fought battle. An old man with a wise beard and laughing eyes, flowers on a monument. A woman with a body that would kill you for staring, a pervert who'd risk death for an extra glimpse. Years spent training, a boy and girl ready to take on their world. Their world, the one that is lost to all but those two. A future they dream of making reality.
He pulls me closer, until my back is tugged tight against his chest and I rest between his legs. I don't mind the closeness, not now, when masks and false fronts and lies mean nothing at all. His arms wrap around me, one across my chest and shoulders, the other on my stomach. He clutches me to him, as if I'm the only thing that matters to him. Something loved. I haven't been held like this in a long time, not since my mother was alive. I picture us in my mind. Gold and black, pure and tainted. Dead last and child prodigy, cherished Hokage and hated traitor. What a pair we must make.
I wish I could see us right now, bodies resting together. I wish I could see his eyes, instead of simply feeling his heavy gaze on my face. I want to see that untamed bright hair that so accurately represents his spirit, dark slashes across tan cheeks; I want to see the eyes that I have hated and feared and loved, all at once. I want to see.
His scent, his voice, the feeling of fingers tracing my cheeks…I close my eyes and revel in them. Even though I know what's going to happen, even though I can feel the icy burn of the drug spreading through my body, I try to deny my fate. My grip on the man cradling me increases, until it must be painful for him, but he only clutches me harder until I'm enfolded entirely in his arms. Safe, but not really. I relax in his embrace, but then his mouth meets mine unexpectedly. My breath catches in surprise, and my hand tightens around his as I return the kiss for the first time, lips moving together. It strikes me suddenly that my execution must be a mistake, that it's wrong, because I want to stay here with him. I try to hold on, to anchor my body to the present, to his kiss, as I realize I've finally found what I've been missing.
But then my concentration slips and suddenly I can't keep my sightless eyes open. I want to force them apart, I want see him—that boy-now-man who is impatient but always there, even now—but I'm suddenly so tired.
He's crying, I realize with a fuzzy awareness, but nonetheless he continues to whisper in my ear. I hear him dimly, muffled and soft as though he's speaking from under a blanket. The pitch of his voice changes, gets louder as if he's yelling now but it all sounds the same to me, like it's fading. I want to reassure him that I'm listening, that I've always listened and I always will. I want to tell him what my pride has never let me; all those little things about him that made me want to smile. I want to, but my brain seems to be unattached from my mouth, because nothing comes out when I try to form the words.
My fingers spasm and I can't control them as they loosen and begin to fall.
I don't feel him catch my slack hand and squeeze it, don't feel anything but cold, worming its way through my body until it's burning, icy hot and freezing. A bitter chill that takes away my shuddering breath and wracks my body with shivers.
I try to scream, shriek at the pain of being burned alive—surely that's what's happening, except there's no fire and it's cold, so cold. I thought he said painless but I guess I deserve this. Maybe the pain is all in my head anyway, or maybe everything was just my imagination and none of it ever happened but it doesn't matter because I'm coldcoldcoldcoldcold and I think I know what's happening but it hurts please make it stop god why won't it stop where did Naruto go is he still here is he still holding me now why can't I feel anything am I dying am I dead is this hell I think it is
A/N: Poor Sasuke. I feel so bad for killing him off, but it was fun to write (and hopefully to read). ^.^ So…success? Or fail?