One of Naruto's more eventful hospital visits to Sasuke.
Note: This takes place 2 YEARS after the timeskip.
Naruto was uncharacteristically quiet as he opened the door to the white hospital ward and closed it again behind him. It was the time for the daily visit he had sworn to himself that he would perform—when he wasn’t away on a mission, that was. And he kept his promises or died trying!
Typically he had something in mind to talk about, but today he was drawing a blank. What could he say now that he hadn’t already said before? He couldn’t think of anything of importance, and he supposed he could just fall back on ranting about the weather or something if this blankness persisted, because he couldn’t bring himself to not say anything at all. He hated those silences. They were always so damned awkward.
As he walked past the short row of empty beds, he tried to make as much noise as possible so as not to surprise him. Naruto noticed that there was a small bouquet of flowers on the tiny side-table beside the bed. That wasn’t a very common occurrence nowadays.
The bed was located beside the window, presenting a nice view of the busy road and buildings outside of the hospital, and a brief glimpse of the ancient forest that lay just beyond the village gates. The bed’s occupant was propped up against a small mountain of pillows, occupying himself by staring out of said window with unseeing, red-tinted eyes. His hands were folded lifelessly in his lap, and one of them adorned with a simple, red ring.
It had been almost a year since Sasuke had practically crawled in through the village gates, clutching to that very ring as if his very life depended on never letting it out of his grasp. It had been his brother’s.
Sasuke had been more dead than alive, and all judgment for the punishment for his treason four years back was postponed in favor of keeping the last breathing Uchiha alive. After about three days, the doctors had finally gotten his condition to stabilize and after that his recovery had been both successful and rapid.
The only things that the medics couldn’t understand were the facts that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t deactivate his Sharingan, and that he refused to speak, even though his voice box and vocal cords were just fine. In fact, he seemed to have retreated into himself and didn’t even bother to scoff at the life that went on around him in his usual higher-than-thou attitude. He just… didn’t do anything. He said nothing, he focused on nothing, he did nothing. Eventually, the medics deemed it a psychological condition that would be remedied extremely slowly, if at all.
The village’s psychologist had examined him and said that indeed, he had retreated into himself and it was probable that he would never go back to being the way he used to be. But he had hinted that a person whom Sasuke considered extremely important had possibilities of coaxing a reaction out of him for a limited time, and maybe if they kept at it, there was a miniscule chance that he would eventually get better. Maybe.
At first, Sasuke was visited by a fair amount of people almost daily (fair amount for a traitor, that is; which is to say that the only people that ever visited in were the Rookie Nine group and the occasional hardcore fangirl). All of his visitors had either wanted to know if they could help out or if he was really doing okay. Then, as they were faced with his complete and utter nonchalance, their numbers began to dwindle and they began to move on without his presence in their lives.
Now Naruto was the only person that went to see Sasuke anymore, because he was the only one who couldn’t accept the fact that he was a hopeless case and that he needed to move on without him. How could he when the person he had given up so much of his life to help and be acknowledged by was right there, and all he needed to do was come and visit?
Iruka-sensei, Kakashi-sensei, and Sakura-chan had told him countless times that he should just accept that Sasuke was incurable and move on, but he couldn’t. He can’t. He flat-out refused—refuses—to. Truth be told, Naruto honestly wasn’t sure that he had the ability to move on anymore.
Besides, while he hadn’t mentioned it more than once or twice to Sasuke’s doctor (who thought that he was hallucinating, so he had eventually just stopped talking to him altogether), Naruto had witnessed a slight glimmer in Sasuke’s normally dead-looking eyes that told him that he was still there, and not completely out of reach. He had seen it several times. Naruto was always doing something different when it happened, so he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was he did to inspire it, and it was always so brief that he would always do a double take and wonder if he had really seen it at all, but it was enough to keep him trying. Maybe Sasuke considered him important, too?
Naruto continued to try because he wanted to see if he could inspire that look again, to see if he really wasn’t hallucinating, and that it was real. He needed it to be real, because he couldn’t imagine what his life would be like without even that little bit of Sasuke in it. He didn’t want to imagine what his life would be like without Sasuke, because… he… He needed Sasuke. As disgusted as he was at the thought—especially admitting it. Even if it was only to himself, he didn’t want to need anyone, and he certainly didn’t need it—Naruto realized that Sasuke was someone that he had needed all along, just never realized it before now, when he was faced with the very real chance of losing him for good. And to an empty shell of what and who Sasuke used to be, no less!
But why? queried a small voice at the back of his mind. Why would you need him?
At one point in time, he would have considered that a very good question, but now was not then, and though Naruto had certainly never openly admitted it to himself, he couldn’t say that the answer that had finally bubbled up surprised him at all.
Naruto loved him.
It was as simple as that. Did he know why he loved Sasuke? No. Did he want to love Sasuke? No. Did he need to love Sasuke? He didn’t think so, but it wasn’t like he was going to find that out any time soon, now was it? The point was that it was there, and Naruto didn’t think that it would ever change.
So he kept trying, because he wasn’t about to give up someone he needed. Not when this person was the one he had the strongest bond with, and for the longest amount of time, to and certainly not someone he loved, even though Sasuke was someone he needed and loved without wanting to. He was Uzumaki Naruto, future Rokudaime, and he didn’t give up, dattebayo!
When Sasuke made no indication of having heard him come in, Naruto cleared his throat noisily. He said as rudely as possible, “hey bastard, you in there or what?”
Sasuke didn’t even dignify that statement with a twitch, giving Naruto the sign to try plan B. He sauntered noisily up to the edge of the bed and leaned over so that his mouth was just about touching Sasuke’s ear. He took a breath and half-shouted:
“Answer me, damnit! You do not ignore Uzumaki Naruto under any circumstances!”
Again, no response. Okay… time for plan C. Naruto blew into Sasuke’s ear as hard as he could and began to poke his bicep, hard. “God fucking damnit, at least look at me, you stupid fish brain!” he practically screamed. Then he waited.
Not even a venomous glance or an attempt to murder him for the poking. At this rate, Naruto was fairly certain that Sasuke’s arm would begin to bruise if he didn’t stop poking it sometime soon. He growled in frustration and stopped poking, only to grab Sasuke by the shoulders with bruising force, twist him around to face him, and proceed to shake him vigorously.
“Look, you fucking bastard, this has gone on long enough! Stop doing this or else I’m gonna beat a response outta you!”
Still nothing. Sasuke’s head jerked up and down as limply as a rag doll’s, and he made no move to stop the molestation from continuing. Truth be told, Naruto was beginning to get used to Sasuke not responding to his pestering…
Damnit! He wasn’t supposed to be getting used to not be acknowledged! He was supposed to coax a response out of him, that’s why he was here all of the friggin’ time, wasn’t it?
Fearing that he was going to snap Sasuke’s neck if he continued this shaking business, Naruto stopped his assault and when Sasuke’s head had stopped lolling around on his shoulders, he cocked his head to the side and chanced looking into the eyes that he normally avoided making contact with.
Those damned lifeless eyes. They really creeped him out. Normally, you saw some kind of an expression in someone’s eyes, be it cool indifference or every emotion you were feeling at the time to anywhere in between, but in Sasuke’s, there was just… nothing. They were, for lack of a better word, dead. His expression was dead, and if not for the fact that he had a steady, healthy pulse and was faintly warm to the touch, Naruto would have mistaken him to be completely dead.
Not only that, but he had been seeing that slight active response in Sasuke’s eyes less and less lately, and it was really starting to worry him. Was he retreating even deeper into himself? If he was, why would he? Did he dislike Naruto so much that he was just getting worse by him simply being there? If so, then why the hell would he have gotten a response in the first place? Maybe he really had been hallucinating…?
But, if he had been hallucinating all along (he had to admit that is was possible. After all, nobody else had seen what he had), then it meant that Sasuke really didn’t care at all about anyone or anything. And if he didn’t, then why the fuck had he come back to Konoha at all? Ugh! Naruto didn’t know the answers to any of those questions and all of the possible answers and yet more questions were starting to surface and proceed to make his head spin.
He was also… kind of unnerved about Sasuke’s condition in general. If he never got better, Naruto didn’t think that he’d ever be able to get over the fact that he once knew Sasuke. He knew him better than anyone, and Sasuke vice versa. They had worked together, fought together, fought each other, bickered more than an old married couple, had become the worst kind of enemies, acted as if they hated each other, and accidentally shared their first kiss (if it could even be called that) with each other on their first official day as genins.
They had had a twisted like/dislike relationship that even Naruto and Sasuke themselves had never been able to fully define or knew of, which meant that theirs would be the one that crashed the hardest once it was broken.
And yet, Naruto didn’t think that it was. Unbalanced? Yes, but broken? No, he didn’t think it was that. Maybe it was something else entirely? Yeah, that had possibilities…
At any rate, knowing what kind of relationship he and Sasuke had or what state it was in didn’t change that fact that Naruto didn’t know what to do or think now that a person he had known so well was so far out of his reach like this. He wasn’t really sure how he was supposed to deal with the knowledge that someone he had known might never be anything more than the empty shell of a person again.
He had heard of other people developing this type of condition, but never anyone he had personally known, and only now that he was being forced to deal with it did he understand how truly terrifying the experience could be. Oh yes, Naruto could admit that he was scared. More than he had ever been in his life. Did Sasuke even hear him? Did he actually want to respond, but couldn’t? What was he feeling? Did he feel at all? Was this something that Sasuke had done to himself, or something that he couldn’t control? What was it that caused him to seem like himself for those short amounts of time? Was he even aware that he did it? Was he aware of anything at all?
What would Naruto do with himself if he never got better?
Stop thinking like that! he told himself fiercely, going so far as to literally shake his head to clear the thoughts away. He was shaken from his musings when he noticed that Sasuke had returned his attention to looking blankly out the window, effectively shutting him out once more.
Naruto didn’t know what button that action pushed, specifically, but it definitely pushed something, because the next thing he knew was that he was shouting louder than he had before and forcefully ordering himself not to go and strangle the living daylights out of Sasuke.
“Sasuke, this isn’t funny! Just wake up you stupid fucking bastard! I still need to kick your sorry ass all the way to Suna for running away in the first place!”
Naruto ground his teeth together so hard his jaw ached. He was running out of options as to what to say, or how to insult him, and get a response out of him without doing something drastically violent. Or terribly embarrassing…
“I’m serious! Do you think that I like seeing you like this? I mean, I know that you’re a boring prick, but this is just ridiculous!”
“I know you’re in there, you sadistic son of a bitch, now answer me already!” With that, Naruto brought his fist back and plowed it through Sasuke’s face, feeling a kind of desperate satisfaction at seeing him almost tumble out of the hospital bed entirely. At the next second, a part of him began to wonder why he hadn’t yet been thrown out of the hospital for doing all of this to one of their psychiatric patients. Another other part was busy contemplating the possibility of having finally gone over the deep end, and the third was focused solely on Sasuke. Would getting punched be enough to entice a reaction out of him?
Apparently not, because Sasuke stayed splayed out were he was, still with that bloody dead expression on his face, even with a mixture of blood and saliva dribbling out of the corner of his mouth. It was almost as if he were saying: what can you do? even as he stared serenely at the off-white wall. By now Naruto had to work extra hard to fight off the urge to leap onto the unresponsive bastard and proceed to beat the shit out of him until he finally did something.
Except, he was beginning to doubt even that would work anymore. Try as he might, Sasuke’s recent insouciance towards the world at large was really chipping away at his hope for his eventual recovery. It hurt, and Naruto really, really didn’t want to believe it, but it was something he was grimly beginning to accept and become accustomed to. It was like Sasuke’s betrayal all over again, only worse. So much worse.
Instead of letting any of these emotions show or take over, Naruto took a shaky breath and said in a quiet, dangerously quivery voice, “God fucking damnit, you really need me to say it, don’t you? You’re too fricken’ stupid to figure it out on your own, aren’t you?”
He didn’t get an answer, but then again, it wasn’t like he was expecting it anymore. His eyes were scrunched shut and he was too busy trying to control his voice, his emotions, and his actions. A small part of him registered how incredibly stupid he must look, standing there with his eyes closed and talking to someone who neither cared, listened, nor responded to him. At this point, however, Naruto didn’t think that he cared anymore; he just needed to get this off of his chest.
“Fine. But just this once. After that, you’re on your own because there’s no friggin’ way in hell that I’m saying this again.” Naruto swallowed; hating and inwardly cursing himself and Sasuke for making him feel and act this way. He was so weak, it infuriated him! The bastard wasn’t paying attention to him, he probably wasn’t even in there any more, and he still managed to have this kind of an effect on him, and that just made him look really pathetic.
But he would spit it out all the same. “I miss you, okay? You and your stupid, awkward, bastard ways. How I always have to cover up for your awkwardness and your mistakes. Hell, I even miss how we used to beat the crap out of each other over stupid things like who gets the seat by the wall at Ichiraku’s …Oh fuck it, I don’t even care if we’re enemies again! I just want you to come back to where I can reach you again and you can be a bastard with a stick up his ass and call me dobe and usuratonkachi and—argh! It doesn’t matter what you do or how we’ll be anymore! You can hate my guts, be my friend, my rival, my enemy—I don’t care! Just fucking wake up so that I can stop missing you and needing you like some prissy little girl—which I hate you for making me feel, you attention whore. You’re such a fucking asshole. Always have to ha—”
“Fuck… Shut up… Naruto.”
Naruto froze mid-rant. Had… had he just heard what he thought he heard?
Naruto was so shell-shocked by what he thought he heard that all he could bring himself to do was ogle at Sasuke’s still-sprawled form in a distinctly fish-like way. The words had been spoken so softly and with such hoarseness that the sound was almost non-existent, but if his senses served him right—and he was seriously thinking they hadn’t—then Sasuke had just spoken his first sentence in over a year.
Honestly beginning to believe that he had just hallucinated the entire thing, and yet wanting to believe that he had just been told to shut the fuck up with all his being, Naruto roughly seized Sasuke’s chin and forced himself to look into those dead, Sharingan-tinted eyes once more…
…Only to find them not as dead as they should be.
It was faint, and it flickered in and out like a candle that had been lit in a wind tunnel, but there was no mistaking it. That little bit of his friend—his rival, his enemy, his… whatever Sasuke was—that he had been glimpsing all along, it was right there, and—
Now it was gone. He was left looking into nothing. Again. It was just like all of those other times when he looked at the last living Uchiha, and saw the eyes of someone who was worse than dead.
Except that it wasn’t. He had tried it before, and found that he couldn’t duplicate that look for anything. That look of cool anger that was so purely Sasuke that it made him feel as if he could single-handedly take on the entire Akatsuki organization and walk away with only minor injuries. Just because that one look had been one he knew that he hadn’t imagined and the fact it’d been there as long as it had gave him a sliver of hope that was a little brighter than the one that had been steadily fading over the past couple of weeks.
It wasn’t much, but it was something, and Naruto was one to take advantage of something while he could. Maybe there was more of a chance that Sasuke would get better than everyone originally thought there was—hell, while he was dreaming, he might as well go and dare to hope that maybe there was a chance, even a small one, of Sasuke actually caring about him, too.
It was a slim possibility, but Naruto didn’t care. It was enough for him.
As he makes his way out of the hospital ward that day, Naruto feels the unspoken promise that’s really more of a threat hang in the air almost palpably. Somehow, although he can’t explain it, he knows that Sasuke feels it too, and he can’t help but feel relieved that it is a statement he never has to utter.
I can and will wait a lifetime, because I love you.