It has been a while. I am fine.
“Sasuke hasn’t changed at all,” Naruto sighs, his forehead slamming onto the table. “I send him a long, heartfelt message begging him to come home and I get this back. It’s a damn crime.”
“At least he replied you,” Sakura turns the letter over in her hands. “You know what I get? Nothing. He likes you.”
“Pah. As if,” Naruto whines. “If he liked me he wouldn’t be such an ass.”
What are you going to do after you find Itachi? You know I would protect you if you decide to come home. You can always come home. Itachi is not important anymore. Take it from me, I know too much of wanting to seek vengeance. Kurama does not make it easy. And yet, I do not. Because the Uzumaki clan will never die as long as I live. The Uchiha clan will live in you. Come home.
“I feel like I’m always sending the same things to Sasuke,” Naruto grumbles. “It never changes. It’s always don’t seek revenge, Sasuke, or come home, Sasuke . Maybe I should stop doing that.”
“Then what are you going to say?”
Are your adventures awesome? Where are you now? Send me something cool. I have a new mantlepiece that is empty!! UNFORGIVABLE, SASUKE. I need something amazing. Jiraiya is taking me on a training journey soon. I’ll send you something cool too. Like a ramen noodle.
“Are you for real? That’s stupid.”
“I’m stupid,” Naruto stuck his tongue out at her. “And I’ll bring him home, just you wait.”
The note sits accusingly on Sasuke’s pillow. Orochimaru had intercepted the messenger hawk. He was considering consuming it as a snack, but that hawk was tied to both Naruto’s and his chakra, and he could not afford for his letters to go missing along the way. If Konoha found out about their correspondence, it would be the end of Hokage dreams for Naruto. Yet he risks it all, all for him, borne on some twisted assumption Sasuke would give up the chase for Itachi and come home. As if he had not killed Itachi already.
This letter is different from the other ones. It speaks nothing of an end to revenge, or of coming home. It requests “something cool”. What a typical Naruto thing to send. To ask someone he had not been on good terms with for something cool from his travels. To suggest he’d send a ramen noodle as a gift.
Sasuke feels himself tense with annoyance. Naruto got on his nerves.
I do not want something cool. Please refrain from sending any ramen noodles to me. I will throw it back at your face when I see you again.
“Yeeess!” Naruto shouts, bursting unannounced through the door to Sakura’s room. “Look! He sent me something cool!”
Sakura grabs the object out of his hands. It is a shell, one that catches the light and glimmers. “I’m impressed.”
“I knew I’d get through to him! What should I send back?”
“What did he say?”
Naruto grins. “He also said he’d throw ramen noodles back at me when he sees me again. When, Sakura! I’m telling you, he’s not gone. He was never gone. Just you wait, I’m going to bring Sasuke home!”
Is that a challenge? The shell is very cool. It sits nicely on my mantlepiece. You’re the best, Sasuke. Keep sending me cool things!! Rock Lee has told me to send you this rock. Actually, he hasn’t, but he said “If Sasuke was here I’d throw this rock at his face and tell him he’s stupid!” so I’ve helped him out a little.
You are stupid, though.
P.S This is my favourite type of ramen noodles, please eat them!
The ramen noodles have been sealed into the letter. It takes a while, but eventually Sasuke holds the packet of ramen noodles in one hand and the rock in the other. He throws the rock into a nearby stream. He considers the packet of ramen. He keeps it.
Why do you insist upon these letters? If you are caught it will only lead to trouble for yourself. Stop asking for cool things. There is nothing cool about grass.
“He’s caring about me now, Sakura! He’s worrying about what happens if I get caught. I told you!”
“I told you . Sasuke always cared about you,” Sakura placed a flower petal into the letter. “Like he’d ever stop.”
You just have to see the cool in grass. It’s different everywhere you go! The trees in Konoha are blooming, by the way. It’s beautiful. I wish you were here.
The dried flower petal lands on Sasuke’s palm, and just as quickly is blown away by the strong mountain winds. He grabs at the air to get it back, but it is gone before he can even stop it. He watches it fall gently over a ravine. Bending down, he plucks a blade of grass and places it in his pocket.
If you think grass is so cool, here is a blade of grass from a mountain I was on. Thank you for the petal. It blew away before I could hold it.
“He actually sent me grass. I’m getting through to him, aren’t I, Sakura? He’s sending me dumb things. It’s-”
“Domestic,” she smiles. “You may do it yet, Naruto.”
Thanks for the grass! It is a darker green than what we have here in Konoha. It’s been so long since you were home, did you know they’ve almost completely rebuilt? It’s so different. Do you still remember how I look like, Sasuke? I’ve drawn a picture for you. Keep sending me stuff, though. I don’t feel like you’re so far away when you do.
The picture is badly drawn. A stick figure with a mass of yellow hair on the top, and in bold, shoddy handwriting is Naruto, the next Hokage. His name as big as can be.
How could Sasuke forget what Naruto looked like? Naruto looked like the light. Even in darkness, a man would never forget what that looked like. Blinding. Never-ending. Utterly good. Naruto looked like the flower he walked by and a sapling that’s growing. Naruto looked like hope.
As if I could forget what your stupid face looks like. Your drawing is awful, by the way. How long did you spend on it? You should stick to becoming a Hokage. I think you’d have a better chance at that. I’ve sent you a postcard from a village I passed. They had good ramen. You might like it.
“He’s sending me ramen recommendations! I feel like getting Sasuke home might be a bigger accomplishment than becoming Hokage,” Naruto rubs his head softly and files the letter away. “He’s so stubborn.”
“At least his letters are getting longer. He asks about you now, too,” Sakura cannot help but feel a pain of sadness, looking at the way Naruto holds his file of letters from Sasuke. “You love him, don’t you?”
“Of course I love him,” Naruto lies down on his bed. “Well, I love and hate him. It’s complicated.”
“I mean, love , Naruto.”
“I just said that, didn’t I?” Naruto looks perplexed.
Sakura can feel her eye twitching. “Are you going to go to the village? You might be able to track him down.”
“No,” Naruto hugs the file close to him. “He’ll come back by himself, or not at all.”
There is a long silence before Sakura says, “What do you hope to achieve through the letters? Are you trying to change him?”
“You cannot love someone out of darkness,” Naruto says seriously, so seriously, it surprises her. “You can only love someone in spite of it, and hope they change on their own.”
Happy birthday. Did you think I’d forget? As if. Remember when I threw you a surprise birthday one day and you blew up the cake? It totally backfired on you. You had cake in your hair for days, you were so angry I thought you’d awaken your Sharingan right there. I hope you like your present! I had it specially made for you.
Sasuke can feel his body hurt when he scanned the end greeting and saw love . Does Naruto know what that can imply? Containing it within the same message as a happy birthday? Does Naruto- does he mean it? Does he want to mean what he says?
In his palm, he holds a kunai , engraved with the Uchiha clan symbol on the hilt. Of fine make, it was not made in the Leaf village. Naruto had gone out with the intent to make this for Sasuke. He can feel his eyes burn.
Naruto made you feel like you deserved the world and nothing at all. He made you feel like you deserved him and you did not. Who could deserve a boy this good? Who could deserve a boy this unrelenting?
No one could. Least of all Sasuke.
"Is that from Naruto?” Orochimaru asks when he sees Sasuke fight with the kunai a week later. “You should throw that. Nothing good comes of the past.”
“I killed Itachi because of the past,” Sasuke narrows his eyes. “Like hell I’d give up a good kunai.”
Thank you for the kunai. It is very well made. Who was the one who made it? No one in the Leaf would have made a kunai with my clan’s symbol.
I remember that cake blowing up. But I also remember it was not me who caused the cake to explode, but the firework you had inside. You have not changed, have you, Naruto?
I’ve sent you a gift as thanks for the kunai. It has saved my life many times.
“He said dear !! He said dear!!!!! Sakuraaaa, I’ve made it into his heart! He sent me a present, look,” Naruto holds out his hand. In it, is a necklace with a small tag that read for luck. “It’s a good luck charm, can you believe it? He’s gonna come home.”
“I hope so,” Sakura holds the necklace in her hands and helps to fasten it around Naruto’s neck. “Maybe you should ask him to for your birthday.”
“He will come back when he comes back. I will wait however long it takes.”
I made it in the Hidden Sand village with the help of Gaara. You are right that no one in the Leaf would’ve made it. Sorry about that, but don’t worry! When I become the Hokage, I’ll make sure to redeem the Uchiha!
The necklace is so pretty!! Thank you so much, Sasuke! I’ll wear it everyday, I promise.
As for changing, haha, that’s pretty obvious, right, Sasuke? What do you think?
A small piece of rock falls out of the package. It has the Uzumaki symbol on one end, the Uchiha sign on the other. Clearly hand made, it is heavy in Sasuke’s palm. He tucks the letter away into his bag that is quickly running out of space. He makes as if to throw the rock away, but his hand stops in midair.
Why do you keep sending me letters? Is updates all you want from me?
There is no present this time. Naruto has expected this. Whenever Sasuke felt like he was getting too close to a person, he would instantly detach and run away. This was Sasuke detaching, which meant he was this close to breaking him. Naruto clutched the letter in his hands and smiled. Sasuke would be here soon.
“Naruto?” Sakura asks softly. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Yeah, sure. What’s up?”
“Why weren’t you affected by Konohamaru’s sexy jutsu this morning? Everyone else was- visibly affected, but you- you didn’t even flinch.”
Naruto tenses up. “Is that wrong?”
“Of course not,” Sakura scolds him. “I’m just asking.”
“I-” Naruto starts. How does he explain? The only time he’s ever felt visibly affected was that time he caught Sasuke bathing in a lake while they were on a long mission. He felt- like everything was on fire. Even Kurama told him to get a grip on himself. Is that too much information?
Sakura presses the letter Naruto has in his palm towards his heart. “I think I know your answer. It’s okay. Sasuke will come back for-”
“If he does,” Sakura resigns herself. “It will be for you.”
It might be a while before I send you anymore letters. The Akatsuki have kidnapped Gaara. You realise what this means, right? They’re making their move on the jinchuriki. Be safe, Sasuke.
Sasuke is worry made tangible. Naruto, going after the Akatsuki? He assumes he’s with Team 7, but this is no less than an S-ranked mission, and it might actually kill him not to be there. When did Naruto crawl back into his heart? He made sure it died when Itachi did.
Don’t tell me to stay safe. Worry about yourself. Keep me informed of the Akatsuki. Keep wearing the necklace.
Naruto sits on a hospital bed banged up and bruised, but smiling. In his hands, he holds the latest letter from Sasuke, nearly crumpled by the tightness he was clutching it with. “He’s worrying about me. Actually worrying about me, Sakura. I think I’ve done it yet.”
Sakura cleans his bandages. “Focus on getting better, Naruto. You took a beating.”
“This is nothing,” he shrugs, and then winces as his shoulders move.
Sakura smacks him with the bandages.
Our latest mission failed. We could not catch the spy- there was something bigger in wait. I thought I could feel your chakra there, but I guess I must have been wrong. I’m worried about Konoha. Something is coming, and I don’t think we’re prepared.
The unusually serious tone in which the letter is written sends chills down Sasuke’s spine. He was there. He did sense Naruto’s chakra, the goodness, all around him, but he could not pin down its exact location. He thought he was imagining it, like it was a sick dream borne out of longing for something he could never have, especially when he was this close to Konoha.
Now he sits here, holed up in this tree, sick to death with shame, because he knows if he had wanted to he could have found Naruto. What had happened that made Sasuke so afraid to confront his first friend, his greatest enemy?
Please keep me up to date. I could sense your chakra too. I did not know you were there. I thought I was dreaming.
“Fuck!” Naruto swears, throwing the letter against a tree. Sakura jumps, alarmed. Naruto never swears. Well- at least, not to that extent.
“What?” She demands, but Naruto just performs a Rasengan and destroys the tree the letter landed on, breathing heavily.
“Sasuke was there,” he breathes. “He was there, and I knew it- and I didn’t go to him? I didn’t-”
“You only sensed his chakra, it’s hardly anything to base a definite answer off,” Sakura uncrosses her arms and starts to heal the nearly decimated tree.
“No,” Naruto all but collapses onto the ground, staring at the sky. “I knew he was there. I was just scared.”
The village will be under attack in a day. Kurama has warned me, and I sense it too, a wall of evil chakra headed towards us. I’m leading a team, we’re confronting them in the woods head on to avoid hurting the villagers. Stay safe, Sasuke!
The letter is so hastily written the words are almost indecipherable, but the panic comes through either way. The fear is contagious, spreading from the harried words to Sasuke’s heart, breaking through the ice. Sasuke thinks of the necklace.
He crumples the letter and throws it away, as if it would make his fear any less real.
Are you okay?
The silence hurt. Normally, it took only two days for Naruto to reply to his letters, but it had been a week- and the hawk had returned to him each time, as if he physically could not go to Naruto.
Sasuke is holding the latest returned letter tightly in his hand, his Mangekyō Sharingan burning in the dark night. He is making preparations to start heading to Konoha when the stone around his neck explodes into heat, burning his skin.
He clutches it tightly.
He does not stop to wake Orochimaru.
The city outside is on fire, and how it burns. There is something beautiful in its destruction, Sasuke notes, in the way everything crumbled in the flames.
There is nothing that can be saved, everything is charred and black and still burning. He can sense Naruto’s failing chakra in the midst of all the heat, and fiery, hurting chakra that spoke of loss.
Taking off into the fire, he weaves past kunai and takes down several shinobi on the way, and slowly he can hear the cry of “Sasuke?”
He lands in the middle of a group of children being cornered by several shinobi from the Hidden Rain. He can tell they do not know who he is. He can tell they are not afraid, and therefore, they are dead in less than a minute.
“Sasuke,” a voice says, and it stirs up so many memories Sasuke almost chokes on them. “What are you doing here?”
“I was told there was a war,” Sasuke snarls and looks at Kakashi, his mask tattered and almost falling off. Behind Kakashi, his classmates- ex-classmates, gather around them in a semicircle. “I was told Naruto was being an idiot.”
“We should kill you,” Shikamaru says coldly, his hands crossed, his eyes judgemental. “You turned your back on the village.”
“I turned my back on myself,” Sasuke holds out his sword, pointing it directly at Kakashi. “Don’t believe me, fine. Chase me out of the village later. I can’t give a shit,” his dark eyes speak of storms from lands they do not understand. “But Naruto is dying and I am going to him.”
“Sasuke,” another voice calls from the crowd. Sakura, ah, yes, good, sweet Sakura. How she has changed. She has seen war. She has seen loss. She wears it all on her face. “He’s in the square.”
Naruto is sure this is the blow that kills him when he sees the giant summoning beast carve downwards with his paw. A week of non-stop fighting depletes even his immense chakra, and taking the time to protect all of the villagers does not make it any easier.
He thinks about closing his eyes as it happens. It is not so bad to die protecting your village. If only-
The giant beast howls and snatches its paw back. A dark shadow falls from the sky, swirling with a bright blade.
Naruto stares at the back of a dark-haired man- and the symbol of the Uchiha clan on his back.
“Stop being a bitch and fight, Naruto,” Sasuke snarls. “Or are you too weak?"
Naruto sees Sasuke pull out his kunai and destroy a group of shinobi that comes at them out of nowhere. So he kept it, and he uses it, and oh, how much Naruto loves.
They are at their wits end, though. Naruto struggles to summon the next Rasengan, all out of chakra. Sasuke had gotten injured, the blood seeps through his clothes.
“Thank you for coming back,” Naruto says as he hastily stitches Sasuke back together. “Why did you?"
“Had to make sure you weren’t being an idiot,” Sasuke tries his best not to wince and fails. “Turns out, I was right.”
The house next to them explodes, and another demon bursts through the concrete and snarls at them. Sasuke feels his whole body relax when he decides on his next move.
“Go, Naruto,” he makes a shooing motion with his hands. “You mean more to the village. You need to have them re-group.”
“As if,” Naruto stands over him, eyes full of anger. “Like I’d give you up.”
“Why do you stay here? What have I done for you? What do you want from me ,” Sasuke begs him, because he needs an answer, he needs to know why why why Naruto never gave up on him and why why why Naruto wants him to come home so much and why, why , Naruto stands over him even now, as bright as the sun. “I’ve never pretended not to hate you!”
“I’ll shoulder your hatred,” Naruto’s Rasengan builds in his hand. “And I’ll die with you.”
The Rasengan builds and builds and it decimates the demon- and almost Naruto, as he cannot control the recoil.
“Because you are my friend, Sasuke,” Naruto turns back to him. He is sad. Naruto- Naruto should not be sad , Naruto is overwhelmingly good and he deserved everything good this world could give and more in return. “It would be an honour to die with a friend.”
Get well soon.
Sasuke is waiting for him in his tent when Naruto is well enough to walk again. When he sees Sasuke, his heart drops, his vision blurs- “I thought you’d left!”
“I had to speak with you,” Sasuke looks abnormally shy. He is not wearing his usual clothes, but stuff donated from the Hidden Sand. He looks so small. “After- after the fight.”
“Talk about what?” Naruto sits next to him. He still has bandages on his wrists and head. “You fought well. I’ll make sure the village accepts you if you choose to stay.”
“If I choose to stay, it won’t be for the village,” Sasuke looks at him seriously.
Naruto feels like everything he has been with Sasuke has culminated in this moment of breathtaking clarity. He sees it now like a blinding flash of understanding, in the way Sasuke looks at him now, softly, in the way Sasuke writes yours truly.
“I-” Naruto takes Sasuke’s hands and says, firmly. “I want you to stay.”
“You know why,” Naruto huffs. Sasuke’s hands are cold in his. “As if I’ve ever pretended to not love you.”
“You hated me when we were children.”
Naruto’s eye twitches.
Sasuke smiles slightly.
“I’ll stay,” Sasuke breathes, unusually honest. “I’ll stay with you.”
“Because somehow you broke me, you asshole,” Sasuke hits him once on the head. “And now I can’t stop worrying about you.”
“Don’t blame me!”
“Of course I blame you!”
The two bicker back and forth for awhile until Sasuke bites back on a retort and laughs instead. “Maybe we haven’t changed.”
“Of course we have,” Naruto gives him a thumbs up. “Just for the better.”
“Whatever,” Sasuke rolls his eyes, and kisses him anyway.
When the two meet, there is a swell of their chakra and- they snap into place like cords being linked. The connection of their chakra feels like nothing Naruto has ever felt. It blossoms and bursts within him, and somehow he knows that Sasuke is content here with him.
He loves now, he loves so much and he sends it all through their connection, throwing it at him, making sure that whatever it is Sasuke knows that he is loved.
Naruto holds onto him tightly and loves him endlessly and feels a rush of satisfaction when Sasuke tosses a little back. It makes him feel like he's has achieved and will achieve all his dreams.