Erebus on the Cusp of Dawn

by Hic Iacet Mori

The yellow sun rises, its flaming arms breaking through the infinite night skies. It spreads light where it touches, spreads warmth where it passes—it stretches above, a golden cat, warm and bright, cheery as it waits for you to rise and smile up your sky.

Sasuke raised his gun and fired.

"You seem happy to see me," Kakashi commented mildly, glancing at the wall he stood before a second ago—there was now an aperture on the wallpaper, the perfect size for the bullet lodged inside. Kakashi lowered his orange book long enough to give it a lazy, appraising stare, assuming the air of an art critic. "I assume you've been busy?" he asked, voice polite, before turning to the young Uchiha sitting on the bed, mismatched eyes amiable.

Sasuke replied with another shot.

The intruder made a clucking sound, waving a hand wrapped in fingerless black glove. "Maa, maa, don't waste bullets. Inheritance doesn't last forever."

Sasuke slowly swung his legs down his bed, his aim unwavering. He blinked rapidly—dry eyes were a disadvantage when he needed to see for as much as he could, wrapped in this darkness threatening to devour him, body and soul—long strands of black hair gleaming blue against the moon falling down to hide this motion, glossy raven's wings hiding his eyes from clear sight. Silk blue sheets slid down from his body, a serpent shedding its skin, and his feet landed lightly on the dark blue carpet. He was only in his boxers but it was inconsequential, his half-naked state—he didn't need to dress up to nail a bullet between this bastard's revolting eyes, to watch life leak out drop by every drop of blood by the whim of his hands. Something in his mind snickered that his boxers, black silk, were appropriate enough. This man didn't deserve the purity of white.

Hatake Kakashi straightened up, looking at his pocketbook longingly before closing it and swiping it down his back pocket. His head casually tilted to the left as another bullet sliced the air, his action seemingly coincidental, as if he had remembered a thought and he was merely leaning back to see it a bit clearer. Kakashi then looked at the stone-faced young man—near inhuman, this figure, sculpted of white marble and black vengeance, looking back at him with cold eyes, dark and dead.

Black eyes condemned the ANBU, bottomless pools of poison, their darkness more powerful than any words Sasuke could utter. He didn't trust himself to open his mouth—he would begin yelling and screaming, raging against the heavens, against the Fates, against humanity, against life, and he didn't think Hatake Kakashi deserved the acknowledgment of his words. No one, least of all this bastard standing so infuriatingly inside his room, deserved it.

His reasons to speak weren't with him anymore.

Without thought, Sasuke pulled the trigger again. The silencer on the barrel minimized the sound of the gunpowder igniting behind the bullet, and the sound of the shell casing ejected by his pistol was dulled by the carpet.

Kakashi took an almost languid step to the right, silver hovering in empty air before fluttering back to the shadows. Sasuke watched him place his hands inside his pockets, his shoulders slouching, as if Hatake Kakashi could protect himself with just his body. Throughout these actions, the damned eyes wouldn't leave his face.

The bastard was mocking him.

"You just have two rounds left," Kakashi pointed out, having immediately ascertained the limits of the silver semi-automatic. Sasuke's hold never wavered, though for the first time since this man he despised made his presence known inside his room, he finally reacted with a keen narrowing of his eyes, forming into an intense glower conveying the loathing that made up the red of his blood, the white of his bones, the black of his rage.

The ANBU took a step forward. Sasuke followed the movement with a rapid fire from his gun.


His glare intensified, slits of glowing crimson against a face white with wrath, utterly white against the gray shadows, the blue silk, the black strands, the red fury. His nakedness did nothing to detract from his fearsome appearance—he was a canvas of lurid streaks, of red blood and silver tears, of black hatred and white grief, wild edges of violence contained in a solid frame of tight control. Crafted of fine glass, thick and dark, ready to shatter—at the wind's whim—into millions of fragments for the least chance to cut a finger, the slightest chance to blind an eye.

He desired to do so much more.

Uchiha Sasuke, with the frozen expression of the dead despising his murderer to the last, was a blazing sight of an avenger returned from his grave.

Kakashi's eyes had an odd haze as he sighed, as if he had to focus within himself, or on a distance far beyond, to stand in the presence of someone so radiant with fierce emotions it was wrong, so utterly wrong to behold it, to see it come alive and breathe, to feel it thread around the very air between them and live. The ANBU raised a gloved hand to his spiky silver hair, ruffling it with a strangely frustrated expression on his face—suddenly human, suddenly tired, suddenly appearing older beyond his time.

Sasuke refused to be distracted. This bastard... This bastard was the man behind everything.

Hatake Kakashi was Japan's latest hero in crime-fighting and justice, his face appearing regularly in the news to the rhythm of adulation from both news anchors and phone-in viewers. He was credited for the fall of the unknown organization of subversives blamed for the series of political assassinations and acts of terrorism for the past three years, defeating the criminals—too tame, a well-respected reporter had screeched on prime time, calling such men criminals—after a top-secret, high-stakes three-year operation that ended in a spectacular shootout, already touted to go down in history as one of the most daring tales of justice prevailing ever known in the country, ridding Japan of all the members of the organization named Akatsuki for good.

It was an odd name for a criminal organization, Akatsuki, that reporters immediately fell upon each other trying to unearth the real reason behind such a name.

Less than a week later, the newly-promoted captain Hatake Kakashi held a media conference, exposing Danzou's connection to the Akatsuki along with the true nature of the secret branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Ne. Coming from Japan's newest hero, the public was outraged and the Prime Minister himself immediately ordered an investigation. Barely a day later, damning evidences found its way on the desk of Japan's Minister of Defense.

It was only the beginning.

Both the Superintendent and the Senior Superintendent were implicated for permitting the existence of Ne, the purpose of which was to accumulate and sell military and political secrets to the highest bidder, the highest bidder turning out to be Akatsuki. Along with the evidences, this became the catalyst that triggered a series of shocking events to scandalize the entire nation, ending with half of the governments posts forcibly vacated on suspicion of collaboration and treason.

The immediate relief of all 50,000 police officers of TMPD was ordered, all except for one. Hatake Kakashi was promoted to Senior Superintendent after Utatane Koharu, Superintendent, Mitokado Homura, Senior Superintendent, and Shimura Danzou, Captain, were found guilty of conspiracy, treason, inciting to sedition, various felonies, and a string of countless murders, the most prominent being the murder of the world-renowned journalist Namikaze Minato. Danzou, who after an exhaustive investigation was revealed to be an expelled member of the Uchiha Ichizoku for reasons unknown, disappeared and was found three days later in his rest house. Reports showed that he committed sepukku and, a day later, both Utatane and Mitokado followed suit.

He waited, and waited. There were no news on Uzumaki Naruto or the Jinchuuriki—it was as if they never existed, as if she never lived, as if no one would care whether they were real or not. It had taken three long weeks—three very long, very slow weeks—of waiting, of controlling himself, before he gave in and punched his television in fury after seeing the face of the bastard who deceived her, deceived his brother, deceived him, for the nth time—in this sordid, convoluted affair that continued to play out in his mind, only the motherfucking bastard emerged the winner.

Not only was Hatake Kakashi alive, he had a fucking shiny rank to boot.

And Sasuke understood. The sick fuck planned everything for power. Now that he had relative control over the entire Tokyo police force, Sasuke knew Kakashi was just beginning.

Did ANBU even exist at all, or was it a lie created to fool them all?

"Sasuke..." Kakashi sighed. His eyes were somber, vortices of inexplicable liquid emotions, rising and ebbing upon themselves in shadows of blood and smoke. It was disgusting. "Is this because of Naruto?" he asked, so softly, so lowly, so kindly, Sasuke couldn't believe this was the same man who had drastically changed his world not once, but twice—first with the sound of his voice, and second with the sound of his bullet.

Just what kind of demon was he facing?

"Don't speak of her name," Sasuke said, equally softly, equally lowly, equally kindly. A fine tremor ran through his body, gone in the same breath yet there, staying, just below his skin, biding its time until it can come out, claws out, fangs out, released to tear into shreds until everything was no more.

Kakashi moved forward and he was prepared, stopping the older man with the barrel of his pistol to the forehead. But the other was prepared as well, crouching down abruptly when Sasuke fired his last bullet, left arm rising up to grab the pale wrist and pinning it to the wall, squeezing at the veins on his wrist to make him release the gun.

Sasuke may often use his right hand but he was a southpaw—using his free left hand, he delivered a punch across the man's face, sneering in satisfaction when it connected to a covered nose and a sickening crack echoed in the room. It was short-lived, however, when Kakashi simply raised his own free hand to fix his nose back into place, as if it was a daily ritual he was in a hurry to finish.

Before Sasuke could do anything else, he was pulled forward all of a sudden and roughly pushed down to his bed. He immediately rolled over and sat up, ready to launch a flurry of offense. He looked up and sucked in a surprised breath.

Hatake Kakashi stood before him, a plushie in his hand.

"So this is where she got it from," he murmured, a long finger tracing a line on the dear object. With a deep growl, Sasuke sprang up to snatch it from Kakashi's hand. He stiffened when Kakashi leaned down and placed it on his palm, gently.

"Look underneath the underneath, Sasuke," Kakashi said. Those words, the exact words Hatake Kakashi had said before, jarred him terribly and brought him back to that moment when he first sensed that something was off.

He jolted at a light touch on his bare shoulder. The rough velcro burned against his skin.

"I'm sorry," Kakashi said. The man said it with such awkwardness and uncertainty—as if it was an alien concept, apologizing, and he had just learned it and decided to do it even when he wasn't sure when it must be used. It rang with sincerity, however, and it was this that roused Sasuke from his bewilderment.

Another crack echoed in the room. Sasuke was panting, heaving with righteous fury—there are actions that could never be redeemed by mere words dreamed of in existence, there are actions that could never be absolved by mere strings of letters and mere exposures of feelings. What Hataki Kakashi had done was too despicable to forgive. Too brutal, barbaric.

"You would make a fine ANBU."

The suddenness of the enigmatic statement brought Sasuke to oblivion.

It took seconds for him to realize his eyes were wide open.

His ceiling was an eerie white, he realized. Quite creepy, from where he lay watching it glow in the night, as if there was something hovering over there that shouldn't be there at all. It also seemed to form some—words, or images— gray and red, silver and black—and sorry, sorry, sorry.

He wondered drowsily how he got in bed.


His eyes, sliding close against the silky whispers of his bed, quickly flew open.

"Did you mean it?"

Sasuke sprang upright, dark eyes darting around, assessing as much of his room as he could in flashes of seconds. Were they all just dreams? Kakashi's presence in his room, Naruto's smile by his side? He dropped his hands to the bed, bracing himself to stand, when his left hand landed on something that felt different from the silk smoothness he was unconsciously expecting.

His mouth opened in a soundless gasp.

"So this is where she got it from."

He lifted it to his eyes, awestruck.

"Did you make this yourself, Otouto?"

Itachi's plushie.

"I will treasure it always."

"That bastard... was here..." he whispered to himself, disbelieving. Sasuke could feel fury, smoldering, beginning to come alive under his skin. An image surfaced in his mind, of Hatake Kakashi standing before him, touching the very same plushie he was now holding, a long finger tra—

"So this is where she got it from."

Sasuke's brows furrowed. What did that mean?

He immediately decided that the bastard was playing his mental game once more, only to pause when his finger tangled into the lighter-colored thread that his brother once used to mend a tear. As he untied his finger without thought, he poked something.

A... paper?

His heart beating with an odd anticipation, he gently spread the stomach of the plushie wider until he caught, and removed, a folded white paper wedged among the cotton. Sasuke took a deep breath and blinked a number of times, forcing his sight to clear, told himself not to damn expect anything, and unfolded it.

His scratchy eyes rounded painfully in shock.

In the uneven squiggles of symbols floating on a paper, Sasuke saw his Naruto.

Teme. How the fuck are you gonna catch me if you're playing hooky in life? Damn it, get your pansy ass cracking and start moving already! You have a fox to catch!

He rubbed his eyes with a shaking fist, shivering as he reread the letter. He wasn't imagining this, was he? This wasn't an illusion, was it?

Sasuke pinched himself. He winced slightly but he wasn't sure, he was a realistic dreamer sometimes. He stared down at the paper, his mind frustratingly blank, and stood up. He crossed his room and stopped before his work table. His brain wasn't registering anything. He needed to do... do something.

He closed his eyes and slammed his head on the table.

Shit. That definitely hurt.

Sasuke slowly opened his eyes, his hands shaking. He looked down in trepidation.

The paper was still there. It was still white, crumpled, full of words, her words.

Her words...

His heart stopped.

Sasuke reread the letter for the third time. His hand wouldn't stop shaking. Something inside him was shifting, something strong, something big. He couldn't control his mouth, they were twitching too much. His throat was dry. His eyes wet. He felt unreal.

His mouth was opening, what would he do? Would he yell? Cry? Laugh? What?

"She's alive," he breathed.

And suddenly, Uchiha Sasuke was alive, too.

He glanced at the lightening skies. Without another thought, he darted to his closet, grabbing clothes, any clothes, and putting them on with anxious speed, his high-strung nerves causing him to fumble a couple of times and curse like it was his native language. It was taking him too long and it was frustrating, and it was exciting, and it was a Christmas morning except it was the New Year beginning and it was better and why wouldn't the damned buttons go inside the damned holes? What the hell was wrong with his fingers and why couldn't he stop laughing, laughing, laughing?

Sasuke ran to the door as dragged on his sweatpants. He opened the door and slammed it shut, anxious to leave.

A gilt-colored casing rolled around the blue carpet.


Against the light purple skies of an approaching sunrise, Uzumaki Naruto froze, a splash of yellow-gold waves on a beach of black-orange sands. Sasuke stopped, his hands on his knees, panting hard as he struggled to get as much air in his lungs as he could, to get in as much of her as he could see. His eyes stung so much. From the cold wind, from the hot ache, from the sight of her, so beautiful and real, so gorgeous and alive.

It was threatening, again. The urge to laugh.

You're really alive...

"I'm going to fucking kill you, Kakashi!" she yelled, her face to the skies, her fist shaking against it. Sasuke slowly straightened up, wondering at this strange pronouncement, the laughter falling away from his mouth, understanding at the same time that he didn't want to. It caused his heart to clench.


A long silent moment, as if there was no one else but him. And then, she sighed. It evoked a response in him as he found himself walking towards her, his gaze unwavering. Sasuke didn't dare blink. She might disappear, melt into the pockets of shadow that never disappeared in this land.

Because if she did—he wouldn't know what to do anymore.

"Sasuke," she said, sighing once again. He jerked to a stop at his name. He wanted to hear her say it again. His name, always, wrapped warmly in her voice, breathed to life by her lips. Spoken because she was alive.

Like he was.

"You're not 'sposed to be here."

And the euphoria of finding her, alive, standing in front of him right now with her back against him, like the first time they met right here, in this still-darkened cemetery, crashed down upon him like heaps of white snow from a brown rotten twig.

"You're not 'sposed to be here."

Those words again, the words she had last uttered to him before she died before his eyes.

And suddenly the blackness gnawing at his soul, eating inside him until he couldn't sleep, couldn't close his eyes and not see it, what happened next between those moments she said those words and he tried to reach her, overwhelmed him so much he staggered forward, a pain roiling in his heart, horrible, punishing, until he almost fell down to his knees.

"I didn't catch you," he spoke past the tightness in his throat, his voice rough, uneven, raw with acid guilt, bitter regret. "I didn't catch you like you asked me to."


"I didn't catch you," he repeated, eyes wide and black, watching her fall once again, the orange ball of sun fading quietly into the night. It was what hurt him the most, on top of all the pain and grief—he didn't catch her. He had stood, shocked, had watched, bewildered, as she tumbled to the ground, so quiet, so light. Dead. It haunted him, each night. He never caught her.


Sasuke took a step, a hesitant step, a fearful step closer to her. What if she disappeared? What if she hated him? What if this really was just his desperate mind playing on his weakness, what if he was finally insane? What if this was the last time he could see her, real or imagined?

What if he didn't catch her again?

Something was breaking within him. He whispered. It was all he could manage.

"I didn't catch you..."

"You—" His head shot up to see her clench her fists, her whole body stiff. She seemed to be breathing hard, as if speaking to him was taking a toll on her body. He swallowed. She exhaled. He braced himself.

"You're not fucking serious, are you?"

He flinched. Hurt anger rose within him. Sasuke opened his mouth but she wasn't done.

"What part of you're not s'posed to be here didn't you get, huh?" she asked, her voice rising. "Are you just plain stupid? I wasn't talking about the last time when I told you to catch me, you damned asshole! You—" she took a deep breath before continuing and he unconsciously did the same, "—fucking bastard almost ruined everything!"

She was now trembling and he began to close the remaining distance between them, worry for her overriding the response her words triggered in him. The fact that she shouldn't even be alive nibbled at the edges of his mind dozens of times, his consciousness concluding that she shouldn't be outside in this cold winter almost-morning lurking in a cemetery. She's shaking, now, and he was unbuttoning his overcoat to wrap it around her when her words, low and clear, dark and unfamiliar, carried over to him.

"Not another step, yarou."

He paused. Red-hot vicegrip was squeezing his heart. Sasuke closed his eyes. Released a shuddering breath. Opened his eyes once more, narrowing, showing to no one the pain under the frustration.

"How?" she asked. Demanded.

Sasuke placed his hands in his pockets. He was beginning to get honestly angry. The need to clobber the idiot for that tone was making his fingers itch. Couldn't she at least pretend to be happy that he was there?

Dammit, dobe

"The plushie," he replied evenly. "There was—a faint scent of flowers. Jasmines."

There was silence, strange and cold, for a fraction of a moment. And then he heard it.

Naruto was laughing.

It was strange, that laugh. Thin, breathless, rich in secrets, heavy, heavy, heavy. White clouds full of water. Full of stories from shadowed lands.

"The first time," she said, after a very short moment, a moment to herald what Sasuke would come to remember for a long long time, "me and Itachi met, was after a mission." He tensed, unsure if he wanted to hear this, if he could stop her from continuing—but he was sure, though, that she needed to say this, to speak of his brother even in this way. "We kinda stared at each other for some time, I was annoyed because I'm dirty, there's blood on my hair, my hands, I wanted to take a bath but he's blocking my way and he's not moving and I'm not in the mood to hurt anyone 'coz I just want to soak in a tub, y'know? Then he was suddenly in my face and I was taking out my gun and he said—"

"You smelllike a flower."

She laughed again, that laughter that hurt to hear. "My mouth's like, hanging open and I think I dropped my gun, I don't remember. None of us was paying attention. I was shocked 'coz no one got near enough to actually smell me, and then I was pissed that this jackass blocking me was sniffing me. I went—"

"Are you fucking twelve?"

"What is it with you Uchiha, huh?" Naruto asked, voice shaky with her odd laugh. "You got a thing for smelling flowers or something? What's it, anyway, some lame pick-up line to make girls fall all over you? 'Coz I think it's beginning to work, even if it's so damned creepy and dog-like."

His heart skipped a beat.

"And what is it with you Uchiha, really?" she continued. Any trace of humor was gone. "Do you have any fucking idea how you screwed my head with a motherfucking load of worry when I saw you in the warehouse, you asshat?" she asked calmly. "You're not supposed to be there but you just have to butt in everything, huh? And what's the shit about being all fucking worried about me?"

Her voice was beginning to rise once again. "You, you stupid bastard, are supposed to feel all sunshine and shit that I'm getting my ass handed over. You fucking jerk are supposed to cackle evilly or go ku-ku-ku or fu-fu-fu or what-fucking-ever cackle you have that your brother's murderer is in the middle of her murdering acquaintances about to get a taste of her own shitty medicine. You are not supposed to be afraid for me, or mad at them, or—or damned happy that I came out of them alive, and you're not supposed to fucking waste away like shit in a fucking sewer because you saw me get shot and die, you damned annoying impossible fucking bastard!"

Stunned, Sasuke stuttered, "I—I—"

"Just what the fucking hell is wrong with you?" Naruto screamed. "You're not supposed to make me want to liveand you're not supposed to want to die!"

Want toWant to live?

"Hadn't anything I said got into that little space between your ears? I murdered Itachi! So what the hell is up with you withering away like some dead cockroach because I was dead?"

"I fucking love you, okay?" Sasuke yelled. This, this wasn't supposed to go this way. What the hell happened? How did he get from being dazed with indescribable joy to being furious with this girl he loved who apparently wasn't dead even after she practically confessed he made her want to live again?

"It's not okay!" she shouted back. She was trembling so hard, so much, and Sasuke felt his anger leaving him. He didn't understand what was happening with her but somehow, beneath her anger and frustration, he could sense she was confused and not a little—

"It's not..."


And his heart answered this fear, wanting to banish it away.

"I just love you," he said sincerely, sighing. "I don't care about what's okay and not. I just do."

She sighed, again. There was so much in every little sound she made. So much that struck inside him.

"Can you even forgive me for killing him?" Naruto asked softly.

Sasuke, caught unawares, blinked in surprise. He opened his mouth to utter a strong yes but nothing would come out. Frowning, he opened his mouth again. His words kept getting caught in his throat. In his mind.

"You can't even answer, ne?" she pointed out. "It's hard. You don't forgive things like that. And I don't expect you to. Hell, I can't even forgive myself."

She took a shaky breath and he could see her, once more, trembling so hard, a stubborn brown leaf against the cruel cold wind. "I see him in my dreams, in my mind. His eyes, they haunt me. His voice. Do you know what his last word was? Love. Through the last he was calling me love, the one who tortured him. Do you know how—how it fucking hurts? To see him in pain for being the stubborn ass he was, waiting for the drugs I mixed in his stupid milk to lose their effect 'coz he wanted to feel me to his last? Remembering him, that bastard—is like—like blunt nails, digging on my jugular, like there were... sharp teeth, gnawing at my vein but blood won't come out and it's stuck and it hurts because it won't stop digging, or gnawing, but my blood's stuck and it's just—it's just—it's just what I want because I can't live without my blood and its just what I deserve because I shouldn't be alive.

"I don't—I don't deserve forgiveness. Not his, not yours, not anyone's—" a choked sound, "—not even my own."

It was hard, speaking. He hadn't felt pain like this, pain from hearing the hoarse ache in someone else's words. There wasn't anything—anything he could think of to say. The pain buried deep within her was smothering in his chest.

And it hurt too, her truth. She was right—such actions, such words, they were nigh unforgivable. Nevertheless, he wanted to deny it.


She shook her head. There was such defeat in the curve of her shoulders. Such heaviness over the burden that had always been there. "There'll always be—a part of you, that'd hate me for what I said and did, and it's not wrong to feel that way, teme. You don't have to think you're—you're less of a person or some shit like that 'coz you can't forgive."

He closed his eyes in pain. He wanted to say yes, I forgive you, but he couldn't lie to her or to himself. But he wanted to, so very much. He wanted to forgive her, right here, right now, so so very much.

Seeing her like this—


It hurt.

"But I will," he said quietly, his resignation breaking the silent interlude. "I can't forgive you now but I know I will. And even if you're right, that there's a part of me that hates you, I still love you and that won't change." He raised his head, urging her in silence to look at him, see his sincerity. "There's a part of you that hates him too, na? What you did," he swallowed, "wasn't something you want to do, but he asked you to do it. You can't forgive him for that, not yet. But—I know you will. In time. And I will forgive you, too, in time, and your hate, mine—they would go away too.

"And while I wait, for that time—I'll love you. And even after that."

"Teme—" He saw her raise a hand to rub on her face—or was it on her eyes? "You—You're just impossible, aren't you." She shook her head, still not turning to him, not answering his silent wish. It was killing him.

"You don't love me."

His heart twisted. "Nar—"

"No," she cut off. "You don't. Do you see yourself, bastard? You're so thin." She was looking down, at her hands, it seemed, as if it could answer the injustice of seeing him lose his weight that much. "You're not eating, you're not drinking, you're not bathing, and you're not sleeping. You're practically killing yourself, teme! And that's not love. That's just need."

"You're wrong—"

She ignored him. "I know you needed me, somewhere inside you. I'm the closest to your brother after you. You can believe he's still—alive, when I'm with you. For a long time you've wondered if you're really alive, and it's in me that you can be sure. You needed someone to make you feel alive. Make everything around you feel real. Make living more bearable, those times you finally accepted that your brother's dead. When you needed another person's touch, I was there. A punch, a kick, someone to kiss or hug or shit, I was there. Someone to taunt you, someone you can insult, someone you can hang out with, talk about serious and insane mindfuckery, just finally be yourself, I was there. Everything you've needed the past months, I was there.

"If it were someone else, you'd have felt the same way," she concluded, a touch airily. "I'm just—someone who happened to be there. It's not love, what you feel. And even if it is—it's too soon, too much. It would go away, you'll see."

"You're wrong," Sasuke repeated. He knew he was supposed to feel insulted, infuriated, at how she thought less of what he felt, but he could only feel a profound sadness as the words she left unspoken resonated within him. How much had she been ruined by everything that had happened in her life? "I need you, I admit that. As disgusting as it is to say, you've become my world too, but it's only because I love you. Is it so hard to believe for a complete moron like you?"

"I didn't ask you to make me your fucking world, you fucktard!" Naruto yelled. She raised a hand, cutting off anything he might say—and he planned to say a lot too, especially for that fucktard comment. "You'd look back, teme, years from now and say that I'm right! You've never been—intimate, with anyone, and I'm there, someone you need. You're just confusing things. What you think you feel—it would be gone in a few."

You're wrong.

Sasuke snorted. "You're an utter idiot. Don't take me for you."

I'll prove it too.

Naruto's laughter rang out, loud and husky. It was her laughter, the one he loved so much. In spite of how it went, their meeting, Sasuke had a feeling that everything would be okay.

Her laughter said so.

"And you're still a bastard."

He felt his mouth tugging at the corners, his head shaking with fondness. It was odd, truly. Everything that happened between them, from the first time they met, had a surreal sense of oddity that it was as if they never happened at all, that he just yearned so much that he brought them to reality, to life. And yet everything had an odd sense of destiny, of things-meant-to-be, as if there was no way else that things could happen except the way they had, that they all happened and no amount of dreaming could make them go away.


And it was odd, really, that when she was around, everything around him faded. That what was important, necessary, became unreal against the reality of her.

"Che. Who's the one not eating like some broken-hearted chick?"

And yes, there were a lot of things to thresh out but he sensed that this wasn't the time. This time, now, was for her. Not his, not theirs.

"Broken-hearted chicks lather themselves with ice cream."

Everything has its season, Sasuke believed—and theirs was yet to come.

"Whatever, yarou."

He believed it.


She laughed. He chuckled. The brief silence that followed was calm, accepting. And then, to his left, he glimpsed a most breathtaking sight.

"Hey, Sasuke?"

The sun breaking between the mountains.

"Be a super cop, ne?"

Sasuke nodded, his eyes closing briefly, letting his silence answer for him. He had known, since he saw her, with her hair in a waterfall of gold past her shoulders to her waist, her back to the headstone where a fresh green cabbage sat tied with red laces, that she would leave—she was beginning to put her ghost to rest and she was ending what they began on a lonely night, three months ago. But if she thought he'd let her do the latter, she was sorely mistaken.

"Usuratonkachi." He waited for her to tilt her head to his. "The sun's rising."

"I know."

He drew nearer, quietly. Three more steps. "Let's watch it."

"… I don't deserve it," she murmured.

Two more steps. "Then you'll have to stay here."

A disbelieving chuckle. "Is that a threat?"

One more. "Maybe."

Sweet silence. His arms opened.

"I can feel you right behind me, teme."

Sasuke smirked. He felt wickedly good right now.

So, so good.

"Then you know what happens next, dobe."

The distance between them gone, he wrapped his arms around her and felt his chest swell with so much love, his eyes burn with so much fervor. She muttered curses under her breath—"You're so thin, you fucking asshole"—but Sasuke didn't care—she was leaning on him and her warm softness was real, was molding with his, and he was steering them to the east and he could feel the sun's rays touching his face, and he could feel her heart beating in time with his with the rhythm of one alive. He buried his nose on her hair and breathed deeply, taking in the crisp morning air, the wet grasses of the snowed earth, the jasmines teasing his senses, the precious life in his arms, the first dawn of the new year, the miracle of everything being right in one perfect moment that he'd never forget.

He would never forget this moment.

"Close your eyes, Sasuke."

His eyes drifted shut. In his arms, she turned. He felt her hands on his face. Her breath on his cheek. Her lips on his. Slow. Deep.

And he saw it, the sunrise. The most beautiful dawn he had ever seen, orange and yellow and pink beneath the shadows of his closed eyes. He raised his hands to touch it.

Warm, soft. Flowing in his fingers, tendrils of hot liquid. Hot and sweet, aching with a yearning so deep it hurt, a fierce sweet ache. Gentle. Fiery. Brilliant.

It was so bright he could see.

She was drawing back. He wanted to follow. She was leaving.

He stayed.

His eyes slowly opened. Blue. Yellow. Tan. The sun on the sky. The sea on the sand.

The perfect day.

"Catch me."

In the pockets of sunshine, she vanished.

Sasuke stood in the cemetery, gazing up at the winter morning sky. It was a cloudless morning, the sun ascending, gold, in a wide throne of blue. The shadows behind him. The dawn behind his eyes. Beside him the ghost of one once his world, completely at peace. Round green on his feet, threads of red around white. White dancing before black, snow falling before his eyes.

You deserve the dawn, Naruto.

A soft smile on his face.

And you'll watch it, someday, and our eyes will be open.

And perfect peace in his heart.

That's a promise.

He stood in the cemetery, watching the edges of dawn remove the shadows where they had been.

Uchiha Sasuke was living.

Watch the sun rise with farseeing eyes, and the light that you see will warm you through the coldest of nights. In the light of faith is the warmth of hope, and with love, the greatest, you will always prevail.