Naruto tries to fix Sasuke after the Fall, but it's not that easy.
He's getting better, Naruto thinks, and crunches the sand between his toes, digs into the warm dryness until his feet are half-buried in it.
A little ways down the shoreline, Sasuke is crouched ankle-deep in the water, arms open, fingers spread, as if to catch the water streaming through them. Naruto watches the idle grace of Sasuke's hands in the water and knows that they are capable of piercing through flesh and blood and bone in the same effortless movement. He brushes the thought away and it's much easier to concentrate on the sting of salt in his throat and the warm pressure of the sun on his head.
He hadn't been certain that this was a good idea, but the flicker of interest in Sasuke's ever-red eyes as they gaze out at the sea tells Naruto that he's made the right decision.
He just needs to get out of this room, Naruto told Kakashi that morning as he hooked an arm around Sasuke's midsection and pulled him out of bed.
He waited a few seconds, for Sasuke to jam a knee into his gut, or place his hands on Naruto's chest and shove him away. When those didn't come, Naruto set Sasuke carefully on his feet and pushed him towards the bathroom with an armful of clothes.
Kakashi watched and said nothing at all, but his silence sounded so much like doubt that Naruto was tempted to pick a fight with him over it. Instead, he busied himself with stuffing random items from Sasuke's dresser into his pack, as if there would be a desperate need for pencils and hand lotion later in the day.
"Where are you taking him?" Kakashi finally asked, after Sasuke emerged from the bathroom, dressed but unwashed and sweaty from too many days lying in bed.
Naruto grabbed Sasuke by the wrist and started walking him to the door. "We're going to the beach," he called over his shoulder, "so that I can totally beat Sasuke-/chan/ in a water fight!"
Naruto grinned, but Sasuke's expression wouldn't change. His eyes never focused on Naruto's face.
Naruto's grin turned into a grimace and he squeezed his fingers hard around Sasuke's wrist. He stopped when he felt the grind of bone beneath his thumbs, and released him with an apologetic brush against the bruises already smudged in a ring against Sasuke's pale skin.
Kakashi was still watching them. Naruto bared his teeth.
"Sakura-chan's coming with us," he lied.
Kakashi's eyebrows rose, but he stopped staring so intently at the place where Naruto had gripped Sasuke's arm and gave a small nod.
"Be careful," was all the jounin said, or it was all the Naruto was willing to listen to because he was out the door, Sasuke trailing after him with that same, blank expression. Those bloody dead eyes.
Naruto shuffles down the sand bank until he reaches the water, letting the waves lap wetly over his toes, washing the dirt away. He sits with his knees folded up against his chest--arms looped casually around his legs--and stares.
Sasuke is standing now, knee deep in the water, chin tilted up towards the sky.
Naruto follows his gaze and counts clouds...sea gulls...one, two, three.
The sun dips low behind one of the clouds, burning the edges a brilliant red colour, and it reminds Naruto of the cloak Sasuke came home with-the torn and blood-soaked red clouds, the ripped sleeves. Itachi's cloak.
He looks nervously at Sasuke, but the Uchiha's lips are gently quirked. The long pale fingers threading through the waves aren't twitching or digging into scarred skin.
He's getting better, Naruto thinks again, letting a bit of relief show in his smile. I told Sakura-chan it would be fine, that'd I'd get him back.
A wave slaps lightly against Sasuke's thighs, soaking his shorts and plastering them to his hips. Naruto frowns at the bony protrusions of those hips and thinks that he should have brought a lunch with them.
'Ramen,' he decides. 'When we get back. Sasuke needs to eat more.'
But at the moment it's nice to watch the line of Sasuke's back, when it isn't propped against pillows in a hospital bed. It's nice to watch Sasuke's eyes stare at something besides the ceiling, even if they are still tainted with the sharingan.
And Sasuke's smiling. He's smiling.
The laugh bubbles up from Naruto's throat and he hides it in his arms and chest, ducking his head down so that no one will be able to hear how much laughter sounds like crying.
"See Sakura-chan," Naruto whispers into his knees as he rubs the salt from his cheeks. "I kept my promise. I did."
The sun is warm on his face and Naruto closes his eyes just for a second.
When he opens them, Sasuke's gone.
In a second he's diving into the water, grasping through the waves for Sasuke's hand, his shirt. He catches hold of some hair and yanks upwards with all his might. The strands slip through his fingers like seaweed and he curses and tries again.
The second time, Sasuke's head breaches the surface and Naruto drags him coughing and writhing to the shore.
For a few moments it's like those three years never happened, as Sasuke struggles and kicks and swears underneath Naruto's hold. A solid punch lands on Naruto's jaw and he tastes blood in his mouth, salt stinging at the corners of his lips.
"God dammit, /Sasuke!/"
Naruto presses Sasuke into the soft sand, hands pinning him at the wrists, and shouts, but it's already over. Sasuke grows still beneath him and the fury in his eyes fades as he slips out of reach again.
"Let go," Sasuke says, voice calm, face serene and Naruto just wants to hurt him until he can't make that face anymore.
Instead, he hauls Sasuke up into a sitting position-his hands still clamped tight around Sasuke's wrists-and presses his mouth hard to Sasuke's in a touch that's more bite than kiss.
There is no resistance to the tongue Naruto thrusts past Sasuke's lips. He gnaws viciously on Sasuke's lower lip then pulls away, snarling. Sasuke stares past him at the sand, as if to say 'What did you expect?'
They stay in that position until the sun is well below the horizon, and it starts to get cold. Then Naruto pulls Sasuke to his feet and proceeds to walk him home.
They take their time.
Naruto is in no hurry to see Kakashi once more and hear another silent lecture on all the things he isn't supposed to do.