Naruto's gaze was strong, steady and completely collected. His hands ( which had been shaking the entire way over) resided comfortably and calmly in his pockets. His heart was hammering a mile a minute against his chest, but he attributed that to his running. He wasn't scared. He should have been, but he wasn't.

He had long since accepted his fate. He knew that he would have to kill Sasuke. That he would have to give up becoming Hokage; give up life itself. It had terrified him once; the prospect of dying so young. But he was a shinobi, and an amazing one at that. He had always known that his life was in constant danger. He just didn't expect to walk so willingly into death.

The sound of the waterfall to his right hardly caught his attention. He had come here so many times in the past years that he knew the sound and the terrain like the back of his hand. He didn't have to glance around or pace restlessly, either. He was comfortable, leaning against one of the large statues, waiting.

Not long after, another figure appeared. Naruto had known he would come. How he knew was beyond him. There was no set date; no plan for them to die together. And yet something had compelled him to come to the Valley of the End today and he knew that whatever that was, it had compelled Sasuke as well.

"Teme," He greeted, not bothering to straighten his posture. The Uchiha looked over at him. He still wore the clothes he had been given by Orochimaru, Naruto noticed with a certain amount of disgust, but his trademark sword was not visible.

Sasuke crossed the water with a certain amount of grace that was simply built into his nature. He had always been elegant and beautiful, even in such simple movements. "Why are you here?"

"It's time, Sasuke. The final battle. Let's see who's been right all these years, shall we?"

Naruto pushed off of the statue and stood to face his rival, his enemy, his closest friend. Their gazes locked for what felt like eternity.

"Are you prepared to die?"

Naruto's blue eyes didn't waver. "Yes."

For a moment, Sasuke looked surprised. He looked… unnerved. However, he quickly recomposed himself. "You're not going to try to talk me out of this?"

"The time for words has passed. I've told you everything I could and you haven't changed your mind. Your problem isn't here," Naruto raised a hand and touched two fingers gently to Sasuke's temple before lowering them and pressing them gently against his heart, "It's here."

"So that's it then? You're going to let me go?"

"Let you go? And you always thought I was the dense one, Teme." Naruto shook his head, a smile catching the corners of his lips. "I'm not going to let you go. I couldn't—not even if I tried. If I can't take you down with me then I will have to give words one more shot. But I will not let you go."

Sasuke glanced between Naruto's eyes. They were the beautiful sort of blue that one only saw on the warmest of summer days. They reminded Sasuke of innocence and hope. If he were honest with himself, it was the only color he really saw anymore. Everything else was black, white or grey.

"I see you haven't gotten any less stubborn."

"I wouldn't have gotten this far if I had."

For a moment, Sasuke was genuinely baffled. Naruto was still smiling at him, completely at ease. He wasn't standing defensively or throwing insults at Sasuke like they had done for years. He was an open book waiting for Sasuke to read and understand him. There were no more pretenses, no more secrets. There was only them and a shared history; futures intertwined.

"Why are you here? Why are you doing this?"

Naruto shook his head, his blue eyes glittering in the setting sun. He placed his palm flat against Sasuke's chest. "All the answers are here, Sasuke. You already know."

Without thinking, Sasuke raised a hand and placed it over Naruto's. His heart? What did Naruto know about his heart? What did he know about—and then it hit him; the things he had always been denying.

Naruto knew what being alone was like. He knew what being unwanted was like, and Sasuke didn't. Naruto knew what it was like to lose everything that mattered to him and to stop at nothing to get it back—after all, isn't that why he never gave up chasing Sasuke?

"You understand, don't you?" Naruto was smiling up at him.

And he did. He understood it all. It was like the fog of darkness that had constantly clouded his heart and mind had disappeared with Naruto's help. He finally saw what he had never understood before. Now he knew why he had never killed Naruto, not even with ample opportunities.

He couldn't lose Naruto. He had lost his family, his older brother and his honor. He couldn't let go of the one other important thing to him. His life had been nothing but lies and resentment in regards to everything except Naruto. Because when it came to the blonde, it was nothing but happiness and contentment. He had lost everything else important to him unwillingly; there was no way he would let go of the one last thing that mattered to him.

"I would go to the end of the earth to protect you." The words slipped out of Sasuke's mouth unbidden, but they were true. "And yet, I've always been the greatest danger to you."

Naruto shook his head again, placing his other hand on top of Sasuke's, pressing against his heart, "You were never a danger to me, Sasuke."

"How long have you known?"

"Years." Naruto replied, his eyes resting on their hands, "I just haven't known how to show you."

Without thinking; without asking any of the questions that were burning their way through his mind, Sasuke reached out with his free hand and tilted Naruto's head back, leaning down to capture his lips. He could feel a sort of warmth explode from his heart and fill his veins.

He saw red. It was the first color he had seen in years that didn't make him think immediately of Naruto.

Sasuke pulled away hesitantly. He glanced down at Naruto who was smiling broadly up at him. Their hands fell from his heart and back to their individual sides. Silence wrapped around them for a moment while Sasuke's mind fought to process everything that had happened.

"How did you—?"

Sasuke never got a chance to finish his question. Naruto leaned up and captured his lips a second time, cutting his words off. Once he pulled away again, he simply smiled warmly at his most precious person. "I told you, the time for words has passed."