The feel of hot flesh surrounding and in between his fingers didn't quite reach him, the pain in his chest not allowing him to think further than the cause for his sorrow. Tears ran down his cheeks. The smirking man standing in his sightline blurred as his mind provided to him the image of Sasuke, lying on the ground, bleeding, behind him.

Naruto pulled his hand free from Madara's chest with a sickly squelching sound and let the man fall to the ground, dead before he hit it. He didn't know why the man took his smirk to the grave with him, nor did he care. He closed his eyes and turned around. He hid in the darkness behind his eyelids, trying to lie to himself, to tell himself that his best friend, his only rival, wasn't dead, wasn't laying there, not an arms-length away from him. He tried to tell himself that Sasuke was still alive. But when he opened his eyes again, Sasuke still lay there, right in front of him.

He dropped to his knees and moved his hand, which shook violently, to his friend's chest, to just below the blood-crusted hole over the raven's heart. The man lay in a wide, dark puddle of blood, and as Naruto knelt, the blood soaked through his pants and made him shiver. He was glad now that Sakura and Kakashi hadn't come with them, and that they wouldn't have to see this.

The pale raven was paler than he could ever have been in life. He was still, oh so heart-achingly still, but he was still warm. The life warmth that had accompanied Sasuke was only just beginning to seep away and one could have mistaken him for being alive devoid of the fact that he was not. It was terribly easy to tell when someone had stopped breathing. Stopped walking. Stopped talking.

Naruto had always known that he'd die when Sasuke did, and he'd been right. His goal had been to rescue Sasuke for so long that his mind was fighting against what he saw, trying to reject the reality he knew was true. In the midst of this, his mind was breaking. He somewhat resembled a mirror, cracking slowly from an unknown pressure, breaking his reflection apart slowly and painfully. His tears flowed freely, trying their best to pull his pain along with them, only failing miserably.

Slowly, through the fog and haze that was beginning to cloud his thoughts, an idea came to his mind, one that promised him a possible relief from the pain that was breaking his mind and heart into pieces. He would seal away his pain, the cause of it: the feelings that were produced in relation to Sasuke. Naruto wouldn't forget him, only the pain it gave him to remember. Sasuke had been the first peer to recognize him truly, to become his rival. He hadn't looked at him like a monster, hadn't shunned him for no reason. No. He couldn't forget Sasuke.

He pushed his pain into the back of his mind, knowing that if this seal failed, the memories and feelings that had been washing over him in a torrent would drown him, the feelings blocked up behind the temporary wall he'd built rushing over him all at one time. But he would never feel them again if it did work and, however harsh it may sound to any outsider, Naruto himself knew that he wouldn't be able to keep on living if it didn't.

He pushed himself numbly to his feet and pulled off his orange and black jacket to reveal a short-sleeved black shirt which followed the jacket to land in a pile on the ground. The only thing left on his bare chest was the crystal necklace from Tsunade. Taking an inkwell and brush from one of the pouches at his waist, he dipped the brush into the ink and scrawled the symbols for the seal smoothly along his left arm, starting from his wrist. He took the brush into his other hand, having painted his left arm with the script all the way up past his shoulder and wrote a mirror image of it on his right arm.

Pulling out a mirror, he wrote in similar symbols up the sides of his neck and continued it to his temples, at which point it split, going to his forehead and running along his cheekbones and down to the corners of his mouth, making his face look masked. The jutsu was one of his own making, one he'd discovered by accident, though he'd never thought he'd have a use for it.

He knelt next to Sasuke once again. After dipping his fingers into the crimson pool below the man, he pressed the same fingers to his chest, leaving four bloody finger prints resting over his heart.

Turning his attention back to the raven himself, he placed his hand against the man's cheek, running his thumb softly along Sasuke's jaw line. He sat back on his heels and looked down at him sadly, wistfully. A small smile formed on his lips, but it was empty. His hands moved to form a seal and felt the Kyuubi shift inside him as he gathered his chakra. She accepted his wishes. She would lend him all the chakra he needed.

A final, single tear, that somehow missed the seal's markings, dropped and landed on Sasuke's hand.

"I'm sorry." the whisper came as Naruto pushed his chakra up through his skin, activating the seal and surrounding him in a reddish aura. Naruto closed his eyes and waited for his seal to push unconsciousness onto him as he knew it would. He sighed as the darkness surrounded him and his body slumped forward, landing on Sasuke's shoulder. One could have mistaken them for being asleep devoid of the fact that they were not.