Posting coz I'm not dead and because angst :'D

(Ugh I want another multichap but =A= Reasons.)


Antebellum

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In the low light, the two stayed by the open sliding door, staring out at the garden. The sun was setting and the still water in the pond held ribbons of peaches and pinks suspended on the water's surface as flits of shiny orange made their way leisurely from one side to the other. Somewhere in their village there would still activity; a warm hum of hustle and bustle and general going-ons. But not near this area. It was quiet here.

A warm breeze passed by and tousled midnight hair, playing an overgrown fringe across one man's distant eyes. The other, kneeling at the side of a low armchair watched him blink slow and breathe even, his own eyes dark with a worry that he tried to keep from his voice when he spoke.

"Naa, Sasuke… You've been here all day, wanna head to bed, you gotta be tired, right? You only finished up at the hospital today so..."

There was silence as the blonde man kneeling waited for the answer to a question he wasn't sure Sasuke had heard. He just kept staring out at the garden. Naruto didn't know what at; there were no flowers this time of year and a hard fence blocking the view, but the Uchiha had been here since he and Naruto had come home late that morning. Originally Naruto had seated him there for some fresh air while he made some lunch but afterwards, the raven hadn't moved. Hadn't spoken.

Naruto lifted a nearly steady hand and laid it on Sasuke's left knee, shaking gently, eyes watching the pale face above. He looked almost grey, shadows under his eyes, a stare that had been so sharp and quick now faraway, obscured by long eyelashes as the man's eyelids held at half mast.

"Oi, Sasuke?"

Naruto swallowed thickly when the other stirred, blinking again and then slowly lowering his chin so that black met blue. Naruto smiled a little but something didn't click. Their gazes didn't catch properly and Sasuke's face looked… empty.

A flash memory of blood and rain nearly made him slip but Naruto held his smile.

"Wanna… sleep?" The suggestion fell from the blonde's lips soft and watery. He could feel his expression stupidly open, hopeful even when Sasuke's was so closed. Naruto was certain the raven knew how careful Naruto was being with him and was sure that Sasuke probably hated it. Hated him being so cheerful about all this. Blue eyes kept looking up at Sasuke even as his dark orbs drifting down to his right leg and then back up.

A silent question.

'You have nothing to say about this?'

The blonde offered another tight smile.

'I won't say anything right now.'

A sigh popped Sasuke's dry lips open, and Naruto felt guilty for being happy that Sasuke had actually moved, even as the raven closed his eyes and held them shut for a moment, forehead creasing into a frown. He looked exhausted. Taking it as encouragement, Naruto rose to his feet and looked down on Sasuke.

"To your room then." He reached out a hand to Sasuke's shoulder but fell short when the Uchiha flinched away.

"No."

"What? You gotta be tired Sasuke, you have to rest." Another grab for his shoulder together with an empty laugh but this time Sasuke's own hand rose up and caught Naruto's wrist, squeezing until the blonde man grunted in pain. Even like this he was so strong. When Naruto looked down Sasuke's eyes were clearer but he wasn't looking up at the blonde, his gaze skirted off to the side, the edges of his mouth tight, jaw clenched.

It took a moment to relax and Naruto slowly withdrew, coming to cradle his wrist with his other hand when Sasuke's released it.

"I'm not going anywhere, Naruto. This is where I'm staying. I'm finished here," Sasuke told him, voice bitter, fists clenched at his sides. Naruto wasn't sure which Sasuke he liked better now. As he looked down on the other man's form, sitting low in the arm chair Naruto had moved for him, he felt something in his chest open up and begin to ache.

Uchiha Sasuke should never make a face like this, be hurt like this… It just wasn't right and honestly, despite his brave face and hopeful smiles, it was almost too much for Naruto to bear. Especially hearing someone as talented and as strong as Sasuke say something like that.

'I'm finished.'

Brilliant blue eyes closed tight under troubled eyebrows as fingers grappled into the material over his heart, fingernails pushing through and into the skin. With his eyes closed his mind kept showing him the night Sasuke had become like this. But he had to ignore it. What had happened couldn't be undone now. What Sasuke had lost…

Naruto breathed deeply through his nose and rose up and then down on the balls of his feet, steadying himself.

He had to stay strong. This was much more difficult for Sasuke after all. He'd take whatever Sasuke threw at him; stick with him through however he wanted to deal with this. But that one reaction was the exception. He wouldn't let Sasuke do this.

"Sasuke." Naruto called him once and at first the other didn't respond. He heard though, Naruto saw him curl his toes. He called again and again. Once more and this time Sasuke turned. Hot anger spiked in the air and the blonde watched the raven's mouth open into the start of an outraged 'WHAT?'. But before he had the chance Naruto bent over and grabbed his face, pressing his lips to Sasuke's in a hard kiss, countering the protest. And he held them there, forced together even as Sasuke's fingers bit into Naruto's arms as he held the man still, his own fingers tangling into silky, ebony hair and pulling out so that no matter which way Sasuke tried to pull away, he was trapped by the risk of tearing his own hair out.

Naruto knew he was being mean, that Sasuke was tired and upset and in more pain than Naruto could imagine. He knew that Sasuke didn't want to, that even without this situation, Sasuke was still unsure about this kind of thing. But he didn't care. Because Sasuke was trying to give up and Naruto wouldn't let him.

When they finally broke apart Naruto kept them close, noses touching. Sasuke closed his eyes as Naruto's warm breath flooded over his eyelids, his cheeks, lips and the blonde took in how the darkened skin beneath Sasuke's eyes was beginning to flush pink. He could almost feel the twitch that began at the man's lower lip against his own and Naruto knew Sasuke was fighting off tears. Tears of anger, of pain, of anguish.

"I'm finished," murmured Sasuke, less viciously this time; quiet and sad in the fading light, swelling lips touching Naruto's briefly when the blonde leaned forward slightly and then shook his head as he pressed his brow to Sasuke's. The fingers that Sasuke had dug so brutally into Naruto's arms fell away and he sat limply, kept afloat only by Naruto's hands holding his head up.

"I'm done, Naruto." More steady now. "Just stop and look at me for a second. Look at what I am now, I…"

But Naruto wouldn't. Instead, he nudged his lips against Sasuke's again. Softer.

Out of what Naruto thought was probably instinct; Sasuke kissed back. He made a low noise against Naruto's mouth and using that as some sort of sign, the blonde led Sasuke to lift his face upward as he began to straighten. He let Sasuke's face go in favor of slipping his arms around the man, at first to embrace, and then to support, one arm running the length of Sasuke's spine, a hand pressing fingers to the back of his head. The raven began to follow him up, straining his neck to keep contact and Naruto felt the same ache in his chest at the man's obedience.

At first Sasuke had been quiet, then defiant- he'd wanted to fight, and now he just seemed lost, and that was what Naruto hated the most. It was making it easier to deal with Sasuke at the moment but ultimately, Naruto knew that this was the worst frame of mind for the raven. Because even after something as terrible as his family's murder, Sasuke had never been lost like this. Never willingly followed anyone like he was now. The blonde wasn't sure why Sasuke was following him, maybe he was searching for something in the kiss. Escape? Naruto didn't think Sasuke would find such a thing inside this body. Because he was the one forcing the Uchiha to face his situation realistically.

Not 'I'm finished'.

Not 'I'm done'.

Certainly not 'I'm alright, don't worry' but…

Naruto tightened his arms and brought Sasuke up.

As soon as Sasuke left the chair he tore away with a strangled sob and lurched forward into Naruto, arms scrambling to find a hold around Naruto's neck, his chest suddenly heaving. The spell of the kiss was broken and Sasuke hung his weight back with a whimper, trying to make Naruto set him back into his chair but the blonde didn't move. Sasuke struggled to sit but Naruto kept a hold of him and the other was forced to stay upright.

"Ah- S-shit! Fuck!" The dark haired man ground out as he pushed his body onto Naruto again who stepped one foot back to take the weight of Sasuke's convulsing body, bracing his shoulders for the taller man to lean on. They waited for a moment until Sasuke's sobbing breathing evened out, the dwindling evening light lapping at their soft shadows that stretched out the door and across the porch. Naruto held Sasuke close with one arm wrapped snug around the other man's waist, the other by their sides while Sasuke clung to tense shoulders.

When Sasuke relaxed a little, Naruto swung his hand forward and touched the outside of Sasuke's thigh, making the other man hiss warningly from where his cheek was pressed hot and sweaty against Naruto's temple.

"Stop it." Fingers dragging through the light material of the light pants the Uchiha wore. Almost curious and Sasuke growled.

"Stop what?"

"Don't touch it."

"Why?"

"What do you mean, 'Why?'" Sasuke bit back a whine that half slipped through his teeth and Naruto moved his hand upward in vague apology but didn't break the contact.

"Why did you make me stand?"

"You stood on your own," said the blonde man, making loops next to Sasuke's hip bone.

A dark chuckle.

"How can that be?" Sasuke lowered a hand of his own, shaky and slow, that came to cover Naruto's, stopping his circles and then dragging them both down, sliding lower than Naruto's arm could reach making the blonde stoop and Sasuke groan at the shift. What came to lie beneath intertwined fingers was rough bandaging and the round end of Sasuke's thigh.

What was left of his leg.

Another flash of blood and rain and the echo of a piercing scream. The thundering of Naruto's own heartbeat as he slid to his knees in the mud, trembling hands grabbing for Sasuke's severed limb. The panicked calls of those who raced to cover him.

A shiver rose goosebumps on Naruto's skin and the other huffed a sarcastic 'ahhh' of realization on the blonde's behalf near the downy hair behind his ear.

"You forget, I can't stand on my own anymore, Idiot."

Two quick blinks and a lick of the lips.

After a long moment:

"But you're not finished... This doesn't change anything, we'll fix this. There are things that can be done. We'll get through this, I promise," Naruto ignoring the way Sasuke rubbed their hands over the stump as he spoke.

"I don't need that promise..." Bitter again. The sunlight was almost gone.

"I'll make it anyway."