This here (gatty) wrote in gattypedia,
This here
gatty
gattypedia

words without thoughts never to heaven go

Title: words without thoughts never to heaven go
Author: Gatty
Pairing: SasuNaruSasu
Rating: PG (13 for darkness?)
Summary: We all come undone.
Warning: Angst. Dark themes. Do not read when miserable.
Notes: Written as a gift for fireun over at oh_shit_santa as part of the winter fest! Go check it out for lots of amazing art and fic! Beta'd by myrafur, thank you so much, you deserve all the love ever.



five

The first thing that went was his sense of smell.

It took Sasuke a while to realise it, but when Naruto burst through the cell door one day, his clothes torn and muddy, blood and grass stains eroding the colour, it was unavoidable. The strong coppery smell of blood was missing – as was the almost-sweet scent of crushed grass, combined with the thick, dull smell of mud, which he remembered so clearly from his days training as a Genin. It was unnerving, but only for a moment. He assessed this development, and processed it into his picture of the world. He could tell Naruto was fresh back from a tough mission by more than just his scent. Anyway, he hardly doubted it would detract from the already non-existent flavour of the prison food.

"What the sodding hell, Sasuke?" yelled Naruto with his usual grace and bearing.

Sasuke shrugged. "Would a context be to much to ask for this rude interruption?"

The truth was Naruto was hardly interrupting anything; Sasuke was rereading the one book he had been allowed since the beginning of his incarceration for the millionth time. But the words still came from his mouth without any thought. It was such an easy sort of conversation to have with Naruto, even after all these years.

Naruto glared, then took a breath, running one dirty hand through dirtier hair. Gaining a little composure, he dragged the small metal stool in the corner of the room to a position vaguely central in the oblong cell, where he could look Sasuke in the eye, on the same level. This was something new, though, as Sasuke had noted on the first visit he had received a few months ago. Naruto had learned to calm down - not entirely, but his ability to control his temper had improved. No doubt, Sasuke thought, from the preparation Tsunade had been putting him through, before. From what information he had been able to gather, there had been a genuine hope Naruto would at least be nominated as a candidate for the next Hokage.

Sasuke marked the page in his book, and placed it on the covers next to him, where he sat on the bed.

"The context is your sudden attack of crap memory. I out right asked you what they had been using, and you said you couldn't remember! I've spoke to Sakura - I'd heard the rumours but I didn't believe it, and I can't believe you sodding lied to me!" Naruto's tone was tense, voice sharp with a trace of strain around his mouth.

Sasuke shrugged again. "Does it really matter? There have always been less than savoury ways to keep ninja in captivity. This just happens to be one of them."

He was surprised by how calm his voice seemed. He had spent many hours considering the matter - he had plenty of time, too - and he had decided to accept his fate. He had never spoken about it to anyone else, though. He had wondered if the speaking of it would make it suddenly more real, and strip him of his usual assurance. It had not been the case, though. Maybe he really had accepted it.

"God, Sasuke, stop being such a prick," Naruto half-sighed. He unzipped his jounin jacket, leaving it on the floor by his feet. The cells were not well ventilated, and small as they were, with two people, the air became stifling rapidly. "You don't deserve this; no one does. It's been banned for thirty years - just because Tsunade's gone, doesn't mean we can just ignore everything that we've achieved."

Naruto's eyes were far too earnest. Sasuke looked at the wall opposite, with its small and interestingly shaped patch of damp.

"The old order has gone, Naruto. It's a new world now."

Sasuke heard Naruto's feet shuffle on the lino floor. "But, this isn't right."

Sasuke let a silence fall. He didn't even believe Naruto's idealism anymore. He seemed just to act that way, as it was the only thing he knew how to do. The Konoha outside the prison gates was not the town he had grown up in. It wasn't his home anymore, for more reasons than one. Naruto's blind refusal to accept this rankled with him, though he knew he would not be able to change it. Useless optimism was what Naruto did best.

"I'm on death row, already," he said, trying to make his voice a little softer. He thought this must be affecting Naruto more than it did him. "Does it matter how it happens?"

"It's not right," repeated Naruto.

"I know," replied Sasuke, and it was the truth. "But, it's reality."

Naruto sighed more audibly this time. Sasuke counted the cracks in the plaster work, and wondered if he should pick up his book, again. After a few minutes, Naruto stood, and Sasuke waited for the solid clunk of the door shutting, but it never came. Naruto appeared in his view a few moments later, holding a marked board that was hinged to fold in half, and a bag of small square pieces of plastic. He tossed Sasuke the bag.

"Shikamaru lent me his shogi set, but I still can't remember the rules," he said.

Lifting his face to see Naruto's hopeful expression, Sasuke rolled his eyes, and shifted over on the hard bed.

"One game," he conceded.

Naruto beamed, and sat down next to him. "Bet I beat you, anyway."

He began to set up the board between them, and Sasuke shifted position so he could play more easily. The grass and mud stains were on his undershirt, too. He reached out, and pulled a few flakes of dried mud off, crumbling between his finger tips. It still powdered as he remembered, and it was the same earthy brown. But, there was nothing more.

four

After that, Naruto came every day, when he could. Often in the afternoon, around two o'clock. It would be too easy to simply label it as Naruto trying to see him as much as possible while he still was able, so Sasuke ignored the thought. He decided he didn't mind the daily intrusions, as it meant he could drag out this rereading of his book for longer.

Sometimes, they played shogi, at which Naruto was hopeless, or Naruto would tell him what everyone from the Rookie Nine was up to now. Once, he brought Sasuke a new book. Naruto even told him a little about the missions he had been on recently, but was obviously uncomfortable, and kept glancing at the door nervously, as if someone could hear him. Fair enough, there probably was someone monitoring their conversation from outside.

One day, which Sasuke calculated to be 10 days after that rather awkward conversation, Naruto brought him dango. It was a Tuesday. There were two small skewers packed in a supermarket styrofoam tray; the sweet soy glaze brown and sticky all over the dumplings. Naruto handed it to him, almost seeming a little embarrassed, and apologetic that he was only allowed to bring in something so small. Sasuke took the packet without thanking him, but ate it all while they made a hash of shogi. Naruto was so busy trying to remember which move he had been planning to make that he didn't notice the slightly down-turned corners of Sasuke's mouth, or the hurried way in which he finished the last few bites.

Naruto left, promising to bring something more the next time he could. Sasuke nodded, and forgot to tell Naruto he was stupid to worry about his food, as he quickly shut the door behind him.

Sasuke was moved to solitary confinement - well, a room smaller and boxier and with less facilities than the practical solitary confinement he lived in already - three hours later.

The dango had been perfect. He had almost thought he could smell the sauce as he had bit into that first dumpling. He hadn't told Naruto how much he missed real food after the grey slop he forced down every day.

It tasted of nothing.

He had finished the first skewer, hoping it was the lack of a sense of smell. That was supposed to affect the taste of things, he'd read. Or maybe they were just bad dango.

They weren't.

He destroyed the styrofoam tray that had been left in his room after the wooden skewers were confiscated. He shredded it into little pieces, then stood up and dragged all the sheets of his bed. He stuffed them into the small metal toilet in the corner of his cell, far down until they clogged the u-bend, then flushed it a few times for good measure. Then, he tore his few toiletries, and possessions from the shelf. If anything, it made him feel worse. He knew that with every dose of the drug, he grew weaker - and what would be the point in a powerful sedative to control errant ninja if it still left him with enough strength to cause any serious damage? He flung the metal stool at the walls, trying to crack as much of the plaster off as he could, before his arms begun to ache, and his head followed suit.

Solitary confinement was manageable. He was tired from his exertions, so he lay down on the hard floor and fell asleep.

The next morning he had his weekly medical check-up. He had calmed himself down. There was no point in wasting what energy he had. Two armed guards, who looked at him with schooled contempt, lead him along the familiar route to the medical wing of the prison block. His hands were bound behind him; the chakra of the cuffs cracking unsettlingly against his skin. They sat him in the patient’s chair, opposite the pink-haired doctor behind her neat desk.

Sasuke waited, impassively, as a blood sample was taken. It disappeared through a little hatch in the wall, and Sakura made a few brief notes on her clipboard before sitting down again; her hands clasped before her on the desk.

They had a routine for these meetings. They would both pretend that the past 20 years had not happened, and everything went smoothly. Sasuke wondered when she'd gotten as good as he at lying to herself.

"I understand you had a difficult day, yesterday," she said, flipping through her notes.

"Bad dango," he replied, looking at a calendar chart posted on the wall behind her. There were little illegible squiggles in red and blue pen beside some dates.

Her eyes flicked up from the chart, and, for a brief moment, there was the trace of some well-buried emotion across her face.

"Many .... people take a longer to note the advancement to stage two," she said after a moment or two. "But this is often attributed to the debilitating effects of Stage One."

Sasuke counted the number of red and blue squiggles, and trying to work out the percentage ratio within all the dates of the calendar.

"Maybe it's because of the food they eat," he replied dryly. You could implement a new dango-eating test, he added to himself. You could name it after me. That way I get to live forever.

Sakura offered a small smile. "Maybe."

She made another note or two. There was a knock from the hatch in the wall, and she rose to collect the results from the blood test.

"Everything seems as to be expected," she said, placing the results carefully in the clipboard. "If there's nothing else, I believe they are ready to move you to a new room."

Sasuke shook his head. The guards were summoned from outside, and he was prodded back down the corridor.

He wanted to ask her about her other patients. Were they all in his position? Did she act the same way with all of them? Did they act the same as him?

*****

Naruto arrived as usual, in the early afternoon.

"Why are you in a new room?"

Sasuke shrugged. "The toilet in the other one got blocked."

Naruto stared at him looking for the lie.

"Right."

He stood by the door, hands shoved in pocket, with the air of one about to continue speaking, but he remained in silence. He seemed to be examining the plaster work in this new cell as closely as Sasuke had in the old one.

Sasuke was in no mood to ease things along.

Eventually Naruto spoke. "Did you like the dango."

Sasuke mentally sighed. Fine, okay, Naruto knew. Why did they have to play this stupid little game.

He was sitting on the windowsill of the new cell. It was higher up in the building, so had slightly larger windows. This one had a wide ledge at just the height Sasuke could sit on. There were several panels of reinforced glass, along with some old metal bars from the prison's past, sandwiched between the second and third pane. No one cleaned the outside window, so the view was muggy.

"Can we not do this?" he said half-heartedly.

"Not do what, Sasuke?" spat Naruto. Sasuke could feel the Naruto's glare boring a hole into his head. "Anything at all? But you're so good at that."

Sasuke decided sarcasm didn't suit Naruto. He picked at some dirt from under his nail.

"Stop it, Naruto."

"No! No, I'm not going to stop it! For fuck’s sake Sasuke, why the hell are you letting this happen?" His voice was twin frustration and fear. Sasuke wouldn't look at him.

"Let doesn't come into it. I would have thought my incarceration was clear evidence of that." He sat very still, and kept his voice plain and low.

"Will you just sodding react! For once!" And then Naruto was at his side, yanking him off the ledge by his arm, pulling him up to stand face to face. Sasuke was confronted by the panic clear in Naruto's eyes, underlined by the painfully tight grip digging fingernails into his arm.

"What do you want me to do?" said Sasuke quietly, not able to stop himself.

For a second, he thought Naruto was just going to head butt him. "I want you to fight," he yelled, and then there was a fist at his jaw, and he was sprawling out across the cell floor.

"Get up," barked Naruto. "Fight."

Sasuke pushed himself up on one arm. He was winded, and nauseous with shock. One blow and he'd crumpled; there was nothing in his legs to hold him up, no reaction to block, no sudden adrenaline urging him to lash out. It was terrifying.

"Get up!" ordered Naruto, growing frantic. "Why won't you fight?" He couldn't seem to find the right balance of bulling, concern, anger and frustration.

Sasuke levered himself up a little further. Those automatic instincts had been stripped away. Fine. He could still decide for himself to kick Naruto's teeth in. He touched the back of his hand to his lip, smearing a little blood. Naruto saw this; suddenly there was a hand on his arm again, this one gentler, trying to take his weight.

"Shit - Sasuke - that wasn't suppose to - why didn't you block - fuck - fuck, what is wrong with you - "

Sasuke pushed him off, and, using the side of the bed, pulled himself to his feet.

Naruto hovered, shifting his weight from foot to foot. Sasuke kept hold of the table, as he steadied himself, and flung a punch back. It caught Naruto, who was still that little bit shorter than him, on the temple. He staggered, surprised one hand up reflexively to protect his eye. Sasuke quickly followed this up with a sweeping kick that hooked Naruto's legs out from under him. He didn't fall, his unhampered abilities allowing him to regain his balance. It didn't matter. Sasuke had done all he wanted to.

"Who says I'm not fighting," he said with a bite behind his words.

Naruto bared his teeth in a snarl, and threw himself bodily at him. "Stop fucking around!" he yelled, landing a blow to his ribs.

Tensing every muscle, and forcing his sluggish brain to react faster, sharper, he grabbed Naruto's fist, and twisted it up along with his arm, behind Naruto's back.

"You have this mental idea," Sasuke snapped back, louder and more raggedly than he would have liked, "that you know everything about everything." Naruto yanked his arm free and brought his elbow up into Sasuke's jaw. "-shit.

"I know you have some retarded idea that you deserve this," replied Naruto.

Sasuke aimed a low jab, before ducking under Naruto's arm to kick in the backs of his knees. "Says who."

Naruto fell against the table, but used it to twist around, kicking Sasuke square in the chest. He fell back, with an odd wheezing sound. Naruto was up in an instant.

"Then why won't you fight this," he growled, each word a blow of its own.

Sasuke opened and shut his mouth. Then he narrowed his eyes, and charged. Naruto reacted, ducking his blow, and grabbing Sasuke by his prison shirt; slammed him up against the wall. Sasuke winced, and Naruto held him pinned there as they both panted for breath. Naruto's eyes were right there, and Sasuke couldn't look anywhere else. Every part of him ached, but his heart still hammered in his chest, and a cold panic was threading through his veins.

"What do you want me to do, Naruto?" he whispered, barely hearing his own voice.

Naruto's eyes softened for a second, though his arm was still steel holding Sasuke in place. His lips thinned, tight worry lines forming at their edges and his brow.

"I don't want you to die."

Sasuke felt, for a moment, as though he had been kicked in the chest again. He went completely numb, and he wondered if this might not be the third stage of the degeneration caused by the drug. He couldn't stop the down turn tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Well tough."

There was barely a pause, and then Naruto shoved him harder against the wall - and kissed him. Strangely, Sasuke thought, he had barely any reaction to this. Naruto's face was blurry and too close, and no, his feeling was back, he could feel the ache in his arms and back, an the cold plastering of the wall and the hot smudge of Naruto's mouth against his. There were fingernails digging into his arms again, and it was all very angry. He decided he didn't like it.

With a swift, sharp movement, he brought his knee up between Naruto's legs, and, soon, he was free from his confinement against the wall. He moved quickly to the other side of the room, wanting to hop back onto his perch on the windowsill. Naruto leaned against the wall, half bent over; his face hidden. His hair was too long, Sasuke noted. He hadn't cut it since he'd come back from that mission nearly two weeks ago, and it had been ragged then, curling over the back of his collar.

"Get out," he said shortly.

Face flushed, and expression almost confused, he hesitated only briefly before obeying Sasuke's command.

The door shut, and Sasuke heard the bolts being slid back into place. He sat on the window ledge and looked at the cloudy glass.

three

Three days passed before Naruto came back. He had made himself very busy studying the history of the ninja wars in some vague and rather thinly veiled attempt at self-distraction. It was only after Kiba asked him for the twentieth time if something was wrong, because 'dude, I didn't know you could read!' that he shoved all history texts into the back of his cupboard, and made the trek to the edge of the village. The prison was just outside the village walls, but contained by its own series of defences. The guards at the gate knew him well, by now, so he was waved through.

Sasuke had mostly ignored him. They managed to play a game of shogi without him actually ever acknowledging Naruto's presence. Naruto was relieved, and almost didn't notice that Sasuke tried to move one piece in a way that even Naruto realised was incorrect. Naruto pointed out his mistake, and Sasuke stared at him with an unreadable expression for a moment, the only time he really looked at him for the whole visit. Then he took another piece, and moved it to the same spot as the previous piece, winning the game.

He brought a book the next time he came, as a peace offering. Sasuke put it by the side of his bed, which Naruto took to be a thank you. The last book he'd brought had been met by Sasuke's suggestion that it might suffice as an alternative to the useless prison loo paper.

There was no book mark in it, though, when Naruto arrived the next day. It didn't seem to have been touched by the day after either. He nearly felt hurt, until he caught Sasuke fumbling for his glass of water and accidentally spilling it across the lino floor. Naruto helped to clean it up to avoid the horrible numbness spreading out in the pit of his stomach. Sasuke didn't ignore unread books. Sasuke didn't mistake the pieces in shogi. Sasuke didn't fumble.

When he went home that night, he took out his calendar and marked on the days when he had given him the dango, and when he had first found out from Sakura what was going on. He'd done his research. He counted the days, marking each calculated way point. Then he tore it into tiny pieces and scattered them from his balcony. Nothing was certain, he told himself.

So he made sure to carefully leave things close to Sasuke's hand when he had to leave him: the glass of water; the chopsticks. He came earlier, and stayed later. He was cheerful; he talked to fill the silence, and said nothing when Sasuke's shirt was buttoned up wrong.

This wasn't the end.

*****

Sasuke hated jenga. Sasuke hated Naruto for making him play jenga. So, he toppled the tower with one hand, and refused to pick up the pieces. He hated that Naruto knew. He hated the all the jenga blocks seemed to be one great lump, and he hated that he was getting a headache from trying to make out Naruto's face in this stupid dim light, and he hated how scared he was.

And then one morning, he woke up. There was no morning.

He knew his cell; he walked the three and a half paces to the windowsill, and pulled himself up onto it, pressing his hands to the plastic glass. He'd done his reading, back in the old days. He knew about the drugs, and he knew what they did, and he had known what was happening from the first day he had gone into the prison.

He had thought he didn't care.

It had taken so long. He'd thought his sight would have gone first. The drug targeted chakra and he remembered how Itachi's face had looked, through Sharingan, all that intense colour curving around his temples and entwining over his brow till nothing could be seen of his eyes at all.

He sat there until there was the familiar and gut-wrenching sound of the door opening. He thought he might be sick.

"Sasuke?" Naruto sounded unsure.

Sasuke pressed his face against the glass. He wished the window would open so he could feel the wind. They would never let him outside. It was so stifling in his cell. He thought he should reply, but he'd left it too long; it would seem strange now.

He could hear foot steps across the lino floor, faintly sticky each time the sole of Naruto's shoe left the floor.

"Sasuke," he asked again, his voice a little higher and tighter.

Sasuke exhaled slowly. He had no words.

He told himself, 'you are a ninja.’ And he listened so very, very carefully. There was the rustle of Naruto's jacket, the hum of the fluorescent light covering everything else. He thought he could hear Naruto breathing. Then, nearly a gun shot of noise after the silence; a short burst of steps, and the dull sound of Naruto sitting.

The plastic was getting warm and slightly wet where his breath was condensing on it. He rolled his shoulders, loosening them, finally, after sleep, and slipped of the sill. He counted the three and a half steps, and kept one hand out to feel for the light switch in the wall that signaled the edge of his bed, by his shins. He lowered himself slowly, reaching out to catch the edge of the mattress, and settling. The dip told him Naruto was close next to him. He thought he was shaking.

"Are you crying?" he asked.

Naruto, ever as Naruto as always; as perfectly obtuse and unsubtle and stupid, sniffed noisily, and wiped his nose on his sleeve with an unpleasant sound.

"No," he sulked.

Sasuke had never quite known what it felt like to be completely and utterly without. He felt his hand along the bed 'til it met Naruto's. Twisting himself, until he thought he should be facing Naruto, he took his hand, and used his arm to measure the distance to his face. He reached out with the other hand, and then he was touching Naruto's ear. He slid it down until he found a cheek, and a cheek bone, wet and hot. He felt along a jaw, and to a nose, and then his mouth. Naruto sighed, a soft sound Sasuke nearly didn't catch. The numbness felt as though it was spreading out from his stomach, making him half want to vomit, and half run. He could feel Naruto's breath on his fingers, though, and the heat where their legs almost touched. It wasn't that, yet.

He knew what Naruto’s face would look like. All those features that made him perfectly Naruto. He remembered.

Steadying himself on Naruto's cheek, he leaned forward until he could press his lips to Naruto's face. He kissed his cheek where his fingers were, and down along 'til he found his mouth. He didn't know if this was how he felt, but he didn't want Naruto to be crying, and he didn't see the harm in it.

He was a dead man. Nothing he did meant anything.

two

Two days later, Naruto went on a mission. It was no longer Tsunade Bachan in the Hokage Tower; he couldn’t whine or charm his way out of it. He, and a Jounin called Michiko, took very little kit, and ran three days to Mist Country where Naruto assassinated a threatening daimyou in a fight that got messy and brutal and took his hands around the man’s neck until he stopped struggling. He burned Michiko’s body and ran the three days back to Konoha, before sleeping for another two. He woke up early, on a Thursday, and took a long shower; washing his hair several times.

He couldn’t stop smelling the smoke.

He dressed, and went to the edge of the village.

The guards let him in, and he walked the corridors quickly, not looking to either side. As he passed the medical wing, Sakura came out of a door to a records room holding several bulky folders. Her mouth made an ‘o’ of surprise. He walked past her. They hadn’t spoken in two months.

“Naruto!” she called out, and he stopped, turning to look at her.

She hovered in the corridor, whirlwind of emotions written across her face.

“What?”

“He’s not there,” she said nervously.

His chest turned to stone; a cold great lump weighing him to the spot.

“What do you mean.”

He hadn’t been away that long, he hadn’t.

“He – he took at turn for the worse,” she said carefully, biting on her bottom lip. Naruto hated her for every word she said. She sounded like a vet talking about a sick animal they would put down for its own good. “We had to move him into a ... better room.”

He nearly felt a rush of gratitude to her, because those had not been the words he had been dreading. Instead he said, “It’s not a hotel.” Of all the things he could have said.

She frowned at him. “I know that.” Adjusting the folders in her arms, she looked down at them defensively. “He wasn’t safe in the other room. He reached stage four. He can’t tell if he’s hurting himself.” She looked up at him quickly, but flicked her gaze aside to the stenciled lettering on the records room door.

Naruto snorted. “I don’t think he has to worry about hurting himself. You’re doing that good enough already.”

“Naruto!” she started, with a noisy exhalation. She held the folders tighter in her arms, and he noticed, then, that it was to stop the shaking in her hands. “It was going to happen one way or another. There’s only one law for traitors, now.” She held her voice steady, though he could see the strain in her face. “And, I thought it was better that it be me, rather than someone who would enjoy making him suffer.”

She managed to hold his gaze, then. A twinge of gilt caught him, but he let it pass.

“Where is he?” he asked flatly.

“Medical wing, third floor, room 8,” she said in a rush of breath.

He brushed past her to enter the medical wing, and, at the last minute, muttered a quiet thanks. As he turned the corner, he thought he could hear her muffled crying.

*****

the day sasuke was moved to his new room, was the day he lost his mind. he had gone to his medical examination and sakura had said to squeeze the padded bar, like always, and he’d waited for her to give him the bar.

“sasuke, squeeze the bar,” she had said, and he had nearly screamed.

he had squeezed down, and he thought his fingers met resistance. with his other hand he took hold of the edge of the chair and told himself he could feel it. it was a plastic bucket chair with a rough surface, and smooth underside. the edge was sharp, with little flecks of the plastic gouged out in fingernail shaped marks.

they took him straight to his new room. he heard the door shut, and he fell to his knees. he spread his hands on the floor, he thought it was squishy. he crawled to the edge of the room, sliding his forearms along the padded floor, wondering if it was soft, or plastic-y, like the rooms he had walked past sometimes. He found the wall with his head, and pressed his arms up it, digging his fingers into the little dents. Those were little darts, he said to himself, to hold the squashy stuff down. And the floor will be rubbery, so they can clean it, and the walls are softer, so he can’t hurt himself.

he leaned his cheek against the wall. cold. he thought it was cold

*****

there was no time any more. he waited. sometimes the fear bubbled up and took him over and he thrashed and smacked and flailed until he was too tired to move, but it was as though he had done nothing at all.

he would talk to hear himself. he talked until he was hoarse. and when naruto came he pressed his ear to his chest and heard a heartbeat. he slept that night.

*****

Naruto found the door easily. He had navigated this building enough to have learned the layout well enough. He had also learned the way to talk to the guards that they would let him in straight away. It may be the new order, but people still knew him. If he’d known before, he could have said something; done someth –

Sasuke was in the corner of the room. His knees were pulled up to his chest, and he leaned against the wall, as much of his body pressed against it as he could.

At the sound of the door, he looked reflexively towards the noise. Naruto stood just inside the threshold for a moment, resisting the urge to destroy the whole room.

“I’m sorry I was away so long. Difficult mission,” he summarised.

“It’s okay,” said Sasuke calmly. His voice was scratchy and dry.

Naruto walked slowly across the room, and knelt next to him. He moved to put on hand on Sasuke’s arm, but hesitated.

“I’m sitting next to you,” he said, pathetically.

He looked at his outstretched hand, then put it back in his lap.

“I know,” said Sasuke in the same voice.

He was looking unseeingly at a point somewhere above Naruto’s left shoulder. Naruto reconsidered, and put his hand on Sasuke’s arm.

“Now, I’m touching your arm.”

There was a pause. Naruto thought he could feel Sasuke trembling under his hand.

“Oh.”

Slowly, Sasuke moved his other arm from where it was pressed against the wall, and judderingly, brought it over until it collided with Naruto’s shoulder. Naruto felt his throat tighten. Keeping a pressure on the side of Naruto’s body, he moved his arm up, until it slid into the hollow of his neck.

“Where am I touching you?” he asked.

“My neck.”

“Are you cold?”

On an impulse, Naruto moved the hand he had on Sasuke’s arm to push his dark hair out of his face. Feeling almost guilty, he touched Sasuke’s hair a little more, feeling the coarseness of it between his fingers, and the smoothness of his cheekbones compared to the rougher skin of his chin where he’d been shaven badly.

“No. It’s cold outside, but I’m warm.”

Sasuke made an odd noise, that Naruto realised later, had been a half sob caught in his throat. He was trembling harder.

“Kiss me,” he said.

Naruto leaned forward and kissed him softly. His throat was sore as though he’d been yelling, or crying. He could feel his eyes growing wet, but he held it back, because that wasn’t important now. He kissed Sasuke, again; feeling his breath against his mouth. He sat back.

Sasuke had shut his eyes, screwed tight.

“I don’t feel it,” he said, in that horrible low voice. “I don’t feel it.”

*****

Naruto took all the leave he had owed to him, and barely left the prison grounds. He sat in the cell and gave Sasuke his meals and read him his books and held him while he slept.

One night, Sasuke whispered to him, “I don’t want to die.”

Naruto stroked his hair, something he didn’t think Sasuke would let him do, if he knew it. His other hand was tight around Sasuke’s wrists, so it left bruises in the morning.

He had to speak louder, soon, and slower. The books became a chore, as each chapter took so long.

A week later, they were eating lunch of rice and soup and Sasuke cried for half an hour. Naruto had never been so scared in his life.

“Please don’t leave,” Sasuke had babbled into his shoulder. “Please don’t stop talking. I have to keep talking. If I am talking, then I am still alive, and if you’re still talking, then I’m not alone, so, please, keep talking.”

Naruto had talked. He told Sasuke everything: about growing up in Konoha; about the times when Sasuke was gone; about Jiraiya, and everyone else who had died. He told Sasuke what Sakura had told him in the corridor. And Sasuke spoke: of his family, of team seven. He told him he was scared.

“I thought I didn’t care, but I do,” he said. “Now I have to say it out loud. If I don’t, then it will have never existed. It won’t be true.”

one

it was dark he thought it might be cold
he hoped he wasn’t alone the last thing he remembered hearing was naruto telling him about the perfect way to make cup ramen had he said it he'd meant to say it
he hoped naruto knew
he was supposed to be ready now he was supposed not to be scared
he wondered if screaming would do any good
would he know would he feel it coming if he did would that make it better or worse
he wondered how long it would take
he thought his breath was difficult to find was that crying was that death
it passed
he spoke he thought he spoke he made the movements that he couldn't feel the muscle memory and he said everything as he thought it maybe it meant he wasn't alone
maybe someone found him
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