I never expected to write again on this website, but this happened to attack me quite viciously when I was watching a video on youtube.
I cannot be sure, but I think I have succeeded in replicating the weird, bittersweet vibe that was in it. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto.
Here With You, Always
It shouldn't have shocked Naruto that much.
In the back of his mind, he had always known that Sasuke might be the one to kill him one day. When they were children they had thrown all sorts of sharp, dangerous things at each other. When they were at the Valley of the End, Sasuke had aimed for his heart with a fully powered chidori. When they had met again at Orochimaru's hideout, Sasuke had been so much more stronger.
Eventually, the time came that Sasuke finally succeeded.
We suffer because of our bonds.
As Naruto died, his only thought had been that Sasuke had finally severed them.
Naruto didn't know legends. There had been no one to tell them to him as he grew up. The only ones he knew were about the heroes of Konoha. The Hokages were such and his father, as far as he was aware, was the biggest hero of them all. He never became Hokage, but Naruto wondered if he could still be considered a hero.
He also wondered if there was a legend that would explain why he was still here.
Sakura didn't even try to adopt the kind voice that every nurse was supposed to have towards their patients as she stepped into the room. It surprised Naruto. He had been certain that the next time he saw her she would have been at least somewhat more cheerful.
The last time he saw her she had been crying over his casket at his funeral.
Instead, Naruto watched her lips thin as the figure on the bed made no movement. Strangely, Naruto felt something as he watched the scene. It didn't feel right, and his mind told him that it was a mistake coming here. And here he thought that the pain had all ended with that katana in his chest.
It seemed death brought shock after shock, for Sakura strolled stolidly in her heels over to the bed and yanked at the covers harshly. Naruto chewed on his lip, somewhat confused at the action. What had happened to the Sakura that loved everything about the Uchiha heir? After all, Naruto wasn't disillusioned enough to think that his death would change everything.
As Sakura's strength prevailed and Sasuke was revealed to them, Naruto's breath caught and his hand flew to his mouth.
Pain, pain, pain, pain.
"I will not leave, no matter how much I want to!" Sakura shrieked at Sas— him. Her bottom lip trembled and her voice softened. Her emerald green eyes glimmered with a slight wetness. "I'm sick of this, Uchiha," she whispered. "You've already taken him away from me. Are you trying to take away the last thing left of him as well?"
No movement for a moment. Then both Sakura and Naruto watched as Sasuke turned over on the sheets, his once glorious eyes dulled and half open. A cut that Naruto had given him in their final fight was now a large, mottled pink scar down his bare chest. His right leg was in a cast. Naruto could see every rib, the hollows of his eye sockets, the messy and unhealthy lacklustre of what should have been the darkest ebony hair.
"What are they doing to you?" Naruto wanted to scream. His hand made to smash down on the bedside table but went right through it instead. His face contorted in despair as he rebalanced himself. Sakura, hadn't she been feeding Sasuke? A drip, anything?
"Leave," Sasuke hissed again. His voice was scratchy and damaged from disuse. For the briefest of moments, a shadow of the past was visible as he levelled a glare on the pink haired woman. It was Sakura annoying him again and like always, he would reject her advances. Then he tore his gaze away, briefly flickering over the spot where Naruto was next to him. Once more, Sasuke Uchiha was a haggard man torn apart by revenge.
Naruto pulled down his hand that had unconsciously stretched out for him.
"You will come outside today," Sakura said, ignoring his command. Naruto could see her slipping into her professional mode. She began to pull out some wires that he only just noticed with a wince were decorating Sasuke's wrists. She coiled them up and placed them on the table before going to the corner of the room to get the wheelchair. "I will be accompanying you in the back garden and then we will be going to your therapy session."
Sasuke's eyes narrowed as Sakura stopped with the wheelchair next to the bed, an expectant look about her face. A spark entered his eyes, a defiance of this woman whom he had never acknowledged before and wasn't about to start acknowledging.
"You cannot force me," he said threateningly. "You never could." They all knew that the attack was personal and Sakura's grip tightened on the handles of the wheelchair, her teeth clenching behind her lips.
Just go, Sasuke, Naruto thought in anguish. Sasuke's limbs would very well become atrophied if he continued at this rate.
With a sigh, Sakura lifted her forefinger which began to glow a gentle green. Leaning forward, she went to pass it along Sasuke's forehead and calm him but his next words froze both her and Naruto.
"You were never Naruto."
So Sasuke remembered him. Naruto had thought that when he died, he would just become one of the countless, faceless people that Sasuke had murdered. Sasuke had even said it himself once. It was one of the reasons why he was so against getting killed by Sasuke, among several other obvious reasons. It had hurt like a bitch for one thing.
Naruto knew that Sasuke had murdered in cold blood before. By the time they had all hit eighteen, Sasuke was extremely infamous across the shinobi nations. Naruto had still – of course - been following his case, and so he had known first hand of all the incidents that he had been involved in. Every month or so, a report would come in from an ally or enemy calling for or threatening Sasuke's assassination.
Naruto burned them all before they ever reached Tsunade.
Some part of him thought that maybe he was being ridiculous. His friends definitely thought so, and many a day would find them dragging the Jounin away from his duties. Whether it be helping Ino prune the flowers in her shop or joining Hinata and Neji for a friendly spar in the Hyuuga district, Naruto found that his schedule was suddenly full. The only person who still shared at least some of his desire to bring Sasuke back was Sakura.
These plants need trimming. Naruto sighed when his outstretched fingers failed to stroke the delicate petals of a flower bud and he continued to follow his teammates down the path in the garden. In front of him, Sakura's back was definitely stiffer than was normal as she pushed Sasuke's wheelchair.
A minor kafuffle, a sneak attack by Sakura's glowing left hand followed by Sakura putting her brutal strength to good use now saw Sasuke scowling under the sunlight. Naruto knew that Sasuke's pride had probably taken an extreme beating. He smiled in a satisfied kind of way as he watched the two. Despite Sasuke's less than perfect condition at the moment, they still looked good together.
On that thought, he paused on the path and a small child ran through him to a nurse on a bench.
He didn't belong here –in this world – anymore. He was intruding. Again, why was he here?
Sakura said something to Sasuke and Naruto watched as the Uchiha's eyes widened just the slightest bit before he started replying reluctantly. They were having a conversation and Naruto was no longer a part of it. He would never be a part of it again.
He turned and walked back down the path.
Once upon a time, Naruto had told Sasuke that they would die together. He had kept his promise to Sakura but he had broken his promise to Sasuke. Naruto was eternally glad that it wasn't the other way around.
He didn't know how long he would be trapped in this state, but perhaps it would be long enough to see Sasuke and Sakura get together. Although he didn't really fancy the idea of intruding on them for the rest of eternity (or however long they lived), he found himself wanting to see their happiness. He wished that he could stay to see their love. He wished that he could see Sasuke restore his clan, be happy, grow old and die content.
Yet at the same time, he wished that he didn't have to stay and be left behind.
What kind of torture was this, he thought as he sat across from Shikamaru. He had followed Shikamaru and his team into their favourite barbeque restaurant. He had realised awhile ago that he could somehow still smell. Unfortunately, he could also still salivate transparent saliva. He gulped on air as Chouji gulped down three pieces of pork. Ino smacked him with the end of her chopsticks and Naruto laughed. If he could still enjoy their company then perhaps he could find something good about this arrangement yet.
Shikamaru waved the waitress over suddenly and ordered a bottle of fine sake. Naruto was surprised. First he took up smoking, and now Shikamaru was becoming an alcoholic too? How much had happened in …umm.
"It's been a year," Shikamaru said quietly. Chouji and Ino both paused. Naruto thought he could feel his stomach plummet when they put their chopsticks down. Shikamaru opened the sake bottle and began pouring the clear liquid into the four small cups the waitress had set down on the edge of the bench.
"I miss him," Ino said softly as Shikamaru passed her one. She downed it in one go and to Naruto's horror, he saw tears brimming in her eyes when she lowered her head again. "I can't believe we've lived for one year without him."
"He was an annoying kid," Shikamaru said. Naruto glared at him before smiling sadly at his next words. "But he became the most important person in this village." The fourth glass was poured onto the earth in tribute to Naruto. Naruto vaguely pondered that he wasn't magically tasting any sake.
Ino suddenly burst into tears. "What did I ever see in him? That bastard! Why is he still alive?"
Naruto's throat clenched. Chouji put an arm around Ino's shoulder and comforted her with gentle pats.
"It's what Naruto would have wanted. For Sasuke to live and be happy."
Yes, Naruto thought at Chouji's words. He never wanted Sasuke dead and he did always want the Uchiha to be happy. A sudden urge struck him. It was his one year death anniversary. He deserved to celebrate or at least do something special, right?
He wanted to see Sasuke.
As he left to find him, he missed Shikamaru's grim reply.
"Sasuke will never be happy for as long as he lives."
Naruto tried the hospital first and berated himself for his stupidity when Sasuke's old room revealed an old man instead of his best friend. Of course Sasuke would have recovered by now. Sakura was an amazing medical ninja.
His next stop was the Uchiha district. Night had fallen. After dawdling at the intimidating main gates for awhile (he had no sense of time since his death) and praying that no vengeful Uchiha spirits would tear him apart for invading their territory, he hesitantly entered the main street. It took him awhile to find the main house and when he finally did, it was to see that not a single light was lit. Sasuke wasn't here either. His eyes caught the crack in the Uchiha fan on the wall as he left. He didn't want to stay here.
He was ashamed to say that his stop at Sakura's house relieved him. There was no Sasuke there. He wasn't completely sure why he felt that way, but he told himself that it was because no one wanted to walk in on their two closest friends doing certain activities.
He wandered around a bit absently after that, not really sure where Sasuke could be. Unconsciously, he ended up back at his old apartment building.
Lights were glowing through the curtains.
Naruto hastily ran up the steps to his apartment, stacking it at one point and completely not understanding why he could touch some things and not others. Maybe this was all just one, big dream.
Couldn't have been.
When Sasuke stabbed him it had hurt too much.
Panting, he stepped through the door of his apartment.
For a moment, dancing yellow lights were burned into his eyes. When he adjusted he realised that the only source of light in the room was coming from lit candles that had been placed on the many surfaces of his joint kitchen and living room. When he had become a Jounin he had finally saved enough money to renovate his place a bit, with the result that it was larger and newer looking than it had been when he first moved in. He took a step towards the table, which was covered with at least a dozen white candles.
"So beautiful", he murmured to himself.
A muffled noise suddenly came from the bathroom and Naruto stood up to appraise the dark, closed door. Light streamed from beneath the crack at the base and he began walking towards it. He called out a hesitant "hello?" before he could stop himself. What sounded like a hitching of breath reached his ears.
Naruto's mouth dropped open. Sasuke? Did he somehow miraculously hear him? Naruto didn't think about the fact that this was a bathroom he was barging into and eagerly stepped through the doorway. He froze.
How…was he supposed to describe what he saw? At first glance he was extremely happy that Sasuke appeared to have gotten back into shape. His body was once more muscled and strong, his frame even larger than when naruto had been alive. His hair was also a bit longer than Naruto remembered it and the familiar pain that came from being left behind as everyone else grew hit Naruto again. His sadness intensified when he took in how Sasuke was bent over the counter, one hand bracing himself upon it. Some shock graced Naruto's features when he saw the tears flowing down Sasuke's cheeks to drip silently from his chin and into the sink.
But what caught Naruto's eyes last threw him for a loop, and he took a step back. Sasuke's other hand was down below his navel. His unbuttoned shirt hid the sight from Naruto but the vigorous back and forth movements of his arm made it seem like Sasuke was…
Naruto watched in astonishment as the muscles in Sasuke's entire body seemed to tense and tighten. White splattered onto the –his— tiles as Sasuke panted heavily. Naruto watched Sasuke straighten and silently put his hand under the running faucet.
"God damn you Naruto," the Uchiha whispered, his eyes trained on the mirror in the cabinet. Naruto could see Sasuke's face in the reflection. His eyes. "God damn you."
He took another step back before he turned and ran for it.
I never knew.
Naruto tried to stay away. Words could not describe how mortified he was. Yes, he was unbelievably happy that Sasuke had far from forgotten him. But how did he feel about this new development? Here was someone who he had cared for and certainly loved for a good portion of his life, pleasuring himself to the memory of the man that he had killed.
Naruto didn't know if his love for Sasuke was the kind of love that would accept that.
Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe Sasauke was just lusting and Naruto wouldn't have to worry about the Uchiha making any confessions of love.
Oh wait. Naruto was dead. He didn't have to worry about that anyway.
We suffer because of our bonds. That's why I'll severe that bond.
Naruto had been so sure Sasuke had successfully severed their bond with his death. The thought had devastated him. To think that Sasuke did not care the tiniest bit about him to even muse on his death was an idea that burnt like acid.
Nowadays, Naruto spent quite a bit of his ghostly (or whatever it was) life following Sasuke around instead of stalking the other rookies and villagers. Because of that, he came to realise that Sasuke and Sakura barely ever saw each other anymore. Sasuke truly had made a full recovery except for that one scar, and the two kept well away from each other. Naruto once saw them walk straight past each other when he tagged along with Sasuke to the convenience store.
In fact, Sasuke didn't interact with anyone other than the Hokage, during those times when he was being given missions. Kakashi had been promoted and Naruto had yet to decide whether a porn-reading Hokage was much better than a gambling alcoholic.
When Naruto first saw the mask in Sasuke's bedroom in the Uchiha district, his immediate instinct was to run to Kakashi and scream rage at him before pummeling him. An ANBU mask? What was he thinking, giving Sasuke an ANBU mask? Sasuke's heart wasn't in Konoha, and Naruto knew from a long time ago that shinobi were strongest only when they had something to protect.
Sasuke, alone, without a goal, without a future…may very well be taken down on a mission for Konoha.
Naruto couldn't bear to go with Sasuke on his missions. He was so fucking scared that he would see Sasuke die at the hands of enemy shinobi or mercenaries, and be helpless to do anything the entire time. What if they even tortured him beforehand? Heaven knew the Uchiha had enemies from every nation, and if they ever were to find out that the shinobi under the bird mask was the last of that cursed clan…
But thankfully, Naruto's fears never came to pass, and Sasuke always came back.
Two years passed.
Sasuke began to start some semblance of a social life again.
Naruto stood cheering soundlessly at the back of the room they were all in as Hinata entered through the doorway with her new baby. She had married a man who taught with her at the Academy and had given birth to a baby boy shortly after. Sasuke and Naruto were both surprised when Sasuke was invited to the baby shower.
"What are you going to call him?" the crowd asked.
Hinata smiled with her husband by her side and her baby in her arms. Her eyes caught Sasuke's for a moment.
"Naruto. He is called Naruto."
Naruto knew that Hinata wasn't trying to be cruel. He was sure that Sasuke knew it too, but at the same time there must have been a part of Hinata that couldn't forget Naruto and how he died. Naruto bit his lip and ran after Sasuke as the Uchiha disappeared out the balcony. He watched him closely until he reached his home and slipped under the covers of his bed.
Five years after Naruto died, Sasuke didn't buy candles like he always did to light up at Naruto's home. The first few times of his anniversary Naruto had wondered why his apartment hadn't yet been rented out to someone else. It turned out that Sasuke had at first tried to buy the apartment from the landlord but had been rejected. The landlord didn't end up renting out the apartment anyway.
This year, Naruto followed Sasuke up the hilly slopes overlooking the West side of Konoha. It was near sunset when they were at the top and Sasuke waited solemnly until the last orange stain against the skyline had disappeared. The entire time, his obsidian eyes had been trained on the brilliantly glowing clouds on the horizon. Naruto wondered if the colour reminded Sasuke of him.
He watched as his best friend that had turned into his entire afterlife now put down a rucksack that he had packed earlier in the night. To be honest, Naruto had at first been terrified that Sasuke was pulling another stunt to leave Konoha. But when he saw Sasuke pack the framed photo of them as Team 7, he somehow thought that that wasn't the case.
Now Sasuke was pulling the frame out again. The moon and stars were bright enough to vaguely light up the landscape and the picture. Below, Konoha's lights were winking in whites, greens, yellows, oranges, enough to be an acceptable reflection of the nightscape above.
Since the first anniversary of his death, Naruto had not seen Sasuke cry. It seemed that tonight was going to be an exception though, because the telltale signs of stiffening shoulders and the slightest of tremors were racking Sasuke's solid shoulders and back. His hair had grown long now, and was tied back behind him like Itachi's had been. Naruto could see Sasuke's fingers tightly grip the framed photo.
God, how Naruto wanted to reach out and hold Sasuke. How he wished that Sasuke could hold him instead of that photo that acted as a weak excuse of him. The tears finally fell. Naruto didn't know that his own were falling too, as focused as he always was on Sasuke. Always, always Sasuke.
Yeah, Sasuke had killed him. Naruto was now sure that Sasuke would never forget that moment that Naruto's chakra disappeared. Five years ago, he wouldn't have been so sure.
He would have still thought that Sasuke could be happy.
I didn't know, Sasuke.
Seeing Sasuke now, he knew that Itachi was right. He had been dreaming. It had taken Naruto's death for Sasuke to release Konoha from his rage. But in doing so, Sasuke lost something else, something more.
Itachi, the clever bastard.
We suffer because of our bonds.
I didn't know, Sasuke, that you hadn't severed our bond.
Sasuke's grief was louder now, louder than when he had been in the village in Naruto's home.
I'm so sorry, Sasuke.
Naruto wanted to die again, he didn't know if he could take seeing this year after year after year.
But if Sasuke hadn't broken that bond, then Naruto knew he would never break it either.
Review pretty please with a lemon on top?