Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

A/N: Inspired by the Linkin Park version of the song by the same name.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

At the end of my path lies my grave.

Well, yes. At the end of everyone's path lies a grave. But unlike everyone else—unlike Madara or Orochimaru—my path doesn't feebly meander in a graceless attempt to postpone death. I tread deliberately alone, and I seek not to immortalize myself.

As if I haven't suffered enough. I need to extend my life in order to bear further pain? Hmm. I think I'll pass.

Naruto.

What do you think of yourself?

I won't ask what you think of me. You repeat it like an especially stupid mockingbird every time we meet. You're my friend, you're my friend, you're my motherfucking friend.

You say that word like it's my name, like I'm a badly behaved pet you're trying to leash. You don't seem to remember that I can think for myself. I used to think you could, too. I used to think of you as a kindred spirit. I thought we both could see through Konohagakure—no, the entire ninja world's bureaucratic hypocrisy. Their system creates gaping holes in the net that holds their citizens. People slip through. You slipped through. my whole clan slipped through. Why aren't you angry? How did you fall for their patriotic bull? How did you forgive them?

Did I overestimate you?

I don't understand you.

Like I said, I thought I did. Ramen, Sakura, Sasuke, Hokage. Those were the nouns, proper and otherwise, that appeared to make up your entire being. Appeared, I say, because I thought different. You were a human, as in 3-dimensional. There had to be more to you. At your core, you were bound to be like me. You were bound to hate the root of your misery…I imagined I found it, at one point. When my brother tried to kidnap you, at that point—I cared about you. You were the only person who seemed to understand. I fought for you, and when you fought for me I didn't see a trace of your stupid smile. You were anger and strength. Like I was. Like I wanted to be. Like nii-san wanted me to be.

Having been away from you all these years, I know even less of what goes on in your musty head. I had a good look around when talking to your tenant, though. You think my every move is for the Uchiha clan, don't you?

Hw could you.

You don't know my brother's story yet, do you?

I have been haunted by the name 'Uchiha' all. My. Life. As a child I was the son of Uchiha Fugaku, and expected to grow up as prodigious as Uchiha Itachi. Shortly thereafter I was the last Konoha-Uchiha, and destined to avenge my clan. Now I am missing-nin Uchiha, and unforgivable. Konohagakure would kill the sharingan, see it extinct before setting it free. And my brother…he would rather abandon me than dishonor his village.

My nii-san…

Never having a family, you can't be expected to know. Madara told me Itachi-nii had valued my life above that of the village, but I think he made the worst mistake of his life when he 'spared' me death. I have died millions upon millions of times from that day on, and fail to comprehend how a brother who can love me would confuse having 'life' with having 'happiness'. And I am so angry at him for continuing to set such high standards for him, and I want to apologize to him so badly, and I want to have him watching over me but I'm so sick of his shadow eating me up…

Naruto.

I feel like he's not dead at all, just that he turned into a flock of blackbirds to follow me. To do as he's done all my life, to watch my progress without my knowledge. Without ever revealing himself. Without ever considering that I want nothing but his assurance that he'll never leave me…that he'll be a brother, here, by my side.

Naruto…

You're just as bad as he is.

It's all my fault, of course. I never let you in far enough so that you can understand me fully, and I'm getting back what I gave. I won't lament it. A plague like you was on the cards.

Naruto!
It's been so long!
When will you give up!

I will concede to this—you still have some purchase over my heart. And for that you shall pay with your life, because I cannot afford to have anchors holding me back. Your name is my safe word. I say it like it's an elixir of strength. More than what you are, it's my idea of what you can be that emboldens me. But how can you so shamelessly pretend that the tentative bonds of our pre-adolescent days have lasted all these years? As if they survived everything I have done, and everything you failed to do. You cling to me like a dying drunk to his last drink. And, despite myself, I think I know why. Despite everything—in insolent spite of everything—your fundamental functioning as I remember from the old days hasn't changed.

Naruto, the bold. Naruto, the adamant. Naruto, the indomitable who overcame everything. Naruto, who in the end is only human, and in the end fears like any mortal.

Naruto, who feels the obsessive need to triumph in every endeavor!

You want me back, but why? Do I really mean something to you, or do you want to prove that everything obeys your golden whim in the end? Will you put my name on your curriculum vitae when you campaign for the position of Hokage? Do you, like my brother, think of the village and yourself when you think of me?

I don't know.

I try not to care.

You disappointed me.

In your lack of independent thought and your refusal to live up to my expectations, in having power but not the will to use it. In your infinite ability to forgive, you have put yourself past my forgiveness. The fact that you can still laugh as though unaware of what a grim affair life is disgusts me. You are a ninja, have a sense of reality. Confidence and charm cures not all ills. A dishonest display of naiveté. In any case.

I have nothing more to say to you.

x.x.x.x.x.x.x

I had to work at this. Every sentence was a battle and I'm not sure I won them all. Hope it looks good now at the end; my authorial eyes can't tell.