“You broke your promise.” Sasuke whispered, hoarsely. Hands, clenched into fists….
His pale throat convulsing, barely holding back either sobs or screams of rage, perhaps both.
The blonde shinobi just eyed him with wide blue, crystalline eyes.
Naruto’s knees buckled slightly, something within him breaking….aching.
Visions of him declaring to die by his side, burden his hate, never leave him alone again.
Yes, these broken promises were now sewn on his sleeve, the bandage worn, held that testament in every ripple of its fabric.
Naruto so caught up with his irrational sense of obligation to the very village which scorned and shunned him, to have a family, to be Hokage…
Somewhere on the shoulder of time, the goal of not simply helping Sasuke but changing the system had been swept along with the wind.
Sasuke suddenly headed toward the exit of the kage’s office, no longer patient enough to wait or listen.
Sasuke couldn’t bear to look at him either, the dark rings below his eyes, his hair had begun to take on the shaggy, untamed look it had when they were kids, when things were different. Not that the hair bothered him, he had actually quite liked his unruly, long spikes…
But the blue eyes which watched now him with an intensity that was neither lost or questioned. That, he was familiar with. That feel of Naruto’s eyes trained on him.
“You’re right, Sasuke.”
There was a brief pause, where Naruto paced forward quickly to look in the inky onyx eye of his friend, his bestfriend… His…. His…
Sasuke scowled and said his name softly, a warning in it that this nearness was neither wanted nor would be tolerated.
Suddenly, warm, tan hands wrapped around the firm frame of Sasuke.
His eyes turned to saucers, nothing could compare to this… Warmth. Like something within him was being ignited.
Naruto, burying his face in the crook of his neck, his strong fingers tangling in his black locks.
“Please forgive me.” A muffled voice came from the blonde.
“All I wanted was for you to not be alone again, to be safe… I was so selfish.”
Sasuke, to both their surprise, did not push him away, but let his long, pale fingers rest on broad shoulders.
It’s not as though Sasuke did not understand. Naruto, if anyone knew how deep that suffering went. That …cruel, confused loneliness and sadness.
“I know, Naruto.” Sasuke said
“Where on Earth are you dragging me to, dobe?”
Naruto, who had been, roughly dragging him by his arm, turned and grinned at him. It lit up his entire face, almost to bright to look at, Sasuke turned his gaze away.
“Tch.” He murmured, a ghost of pink trailing his cheekbones.
“Don’t be so… So… You. I promise we are almost there.”
They walked mostly in silence, through a thicket of woods leading towards a familiar meadow, it was not entirely far from the Hokage tower, but it was mostly reserved as a resting place for a few elite ninja.
The gears in Sasuke’s head began churning but Naruto had already lead them towards a massive oak tree.
He released Sasuke hand and walked a few feet before him
“I guess maybe it’s too late or maybe not… Sheesh I don’t know.” Naruto said, nervously.
Looking back at him while he scratched the back of his head.
It wasn’t until Naruto kneeled that Sasuke took notice of the marker there.
A marble cut of a face achingly familiar, the one that had both haunted and meant everything to him.
The slate the figure stood upon had the name - Uchiha Itachi, inscribed. It was as elegant and modest as the man it was made for.
“Shisui and the other members of the clan are also now buried here…”
Sasuke’s chest began to tighten, as he kneeled beside the boy who he had loved since childhood.
He didn’t say a thing, just let his pale fingertips caress the letters of his elder brothers name.
The craftsmanship of his features so delicate it almost hurt to look at but as bittersweet as it was, it felt like a piece of himself had found some salvation once again.
And once again, it was this blonde boy sitting uncharacteristically silent beside him, who had delivered it.
“I should let you have this moment alone.” Naruto said, no pity in his husky, sweet voice, just that gentle compassion.
Sasuke grabbed for his warm hand, letting his thumb caress Naruto’s, who gasped and blushed as the unexpected contact.
Christian Pondella (@christianpondella) began his post-college life as a “ski bum” and mountain climber, with photography as a hobby to document his high-altitude excursions. “I’d go up skiing and climbing with friends, shoot photos and spend hours in the darkroom making prints. It was so much fun,” the Mammoth Lakes, California, resident says. Over two decades later, Christian, who’s 45, makes a living documenting his international adventures, and those of other athletes like kayakers, motorcycle racers and BASE jumpers. He captured one of his favorite shots while visiting a Chilean ski resort in the Andes Mountains, cutting through powder high above a partially frozen lake. “We kept hiking and skiing, but the image I had in mind never presented itself,” says Christian of his photo of renowned skier Chris Davenport. On the last day of the trip, with less than an hour remaining before they needed to board a bus to catch a flight, the light and ice finally synced up. “I fired off a bunch of frames and didn’t even have a chance to look at my camera because we were running so late.”
Keeping pace with elite athletes requires shedding gear. “If I’ve got 25 pounds [11 kilograms] of camera gear, I’m not going to be able to keep up. I have a small camera body, plus one or two lenses, and it’s attached to my hip so I have easy access to it.”
The American Green Berets were seated around a long, plywood table at their base when they spotted the Taliban counterattack on their screens.
The burly Americans were working on computers, drinking coffee and munching on chips and peanut butter cookies. Their team leader answered an ever-ringing phone, giving his superiors updates on an Afghan commando mission in the mountains just north of Afghanistan’s Kandahar Airfield.
The Green Berets could see the progress of the mission on a massive screen on the wall — live video sent by an American drone. The Afghan commandos had opened fire on the Taliban, and they had fired back. An American AH-64 Apache attack helicopter sliced down to shred the defenders. Many scattered.
Then, the American troops here spotted about two dozen men — black-and-white figures on their monitors — carrying rifles and machine guns, moving along a dry riverbed, parallel to the Afghan commandos.
*The Man in the Elite Riot Gear slowly approached the Deathclaw, .45 SMG up and aimed. He didn't want to use it but the deathclaw was in his way*
The Deathclaw quickly caught the scent of the human, spinning around and staring at him, tensing up a bit. It wasn’t attacking, however. It looked back and forth from the human and a nearby city that stood quarter of a mile away. It seemed to be… thinking. The Deathclaw grunted, slowly moving its arm around in front of it, as if trying to wave or something. It grunted again, before turning around and trudging off, doing the waving thing again. What in the hell…