Divergent (6)


The frozen houses on the street, the fading sound of footsteps

A person is being deprived of all of their light

And sepia colored memories that were imprinted on my eyelids

Are now on the other side of the soft light...

-       Gackt (Uncertain Memories)



Home sweet home.


Highway 279 stretched on; rice fields and tiny hamlets now giving way to hazy, cerulean mountains in the horizon and the unmistakable, undeniable and terribly nostalgic smell of seaweed and salt. It was the scent of faded time and childhood innocence; of precious memories spent on his father’s fishing boat, dangling tiny feet over the edge of the treasured vessel as it bobbed and caressed the glistening blue waters of the Mutsu Bay. It was the smell of freshly smoked fish, scallops, lobsters, crabs, shrimps and whatever else the sea had to offer them for sustenance – the raucous laughter of father and his friends, the hushed yet warm conversations of mothers and their children as they sat around flickering fires watching the dusk of another rewarding day.


(where have those moments gone?)


In the mid-afternoon heat, the bay beckoned on his left; several fishing boats – both commercial and private – sat at the docks eager for more trips across the sea. It was the beginning of the weekend, and it wasn’t that surprising to see a few more visitors from the South – as well as foreign tourists - filling the narrow roadways with their vehicles either on a quest to experience fishing in the North, or even better – to experience the breathtaking wonder that was the Sea of Rapeseed blossoms.


Naruto couldn’t help the smile that came to his features as the familiar fields of infinite yellow came into view heralded my majestic windmills that seemed to lord over them with empathic rotations. Though the spring season – when it really was a sight to behold for it literally felt like the entire land was covered in pure gold – was over, it still didn’t deter from the awe-inspiring effect it inspired in those who beheld it for the first time.


Uchiha Sasuke was apparently no different.


His light gasp as he sat up a little higher on his seat made Naruto’s smile widen. There was a surge of pride in his heart at the thought that something like this would make a man like Sasuke react in such a manner. No matter how many times he had seen tourists ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the flowers, there was still nothing quite like witnessing that childlike expression of wonder on their faces.


“Incredible,” Sasuke muttered as they drove past, Naruto deliberately keeping just a little below the speed limit; not that he was in any particular need to rush. He could feel the dampness on his palms already. It was the realization that home was just now a couple of miles away, and that a long week of thinking he would never make it on time…


(I’m finally here)


“The famous nanohana,” Sasuke breathed. “I kept seeing this on television when I was younger, but never really understood the attraction, but now…now I see why. This is unbelievable.”


“And this isn’t even the best time of the year to see it in all its glory,” Naruto replied with a grin. “You should come here during the spring; you’ll really be knocked off your feet.”


There was a pause where Naruto stole a quick glance at Sasuke’s profile. The other man was still gawking out the window like a kid, and Naruto had to kick himself mentally for allowing his heart to stir for a whole other reason now.


“Wanna see it up close and personal?” he finally invited. “I know a couple of the farmers – if they haven’t forgotten me that is – but they wouldn’t mind you snooping around for a bit. Besides, I think they’re still open for tourists.”


“But what about -?”


“It will just take a couple of minutes,” Naruto cajoled.


(I’m stalling. That’s all I’m doing. I’m really stalling because my stomach is in knots. I feel like I can’t fucking breathe. I’m scared, Sasuke. I don’t know what to expect when I get home and I need the time to…to…)


“For ten minutes?” he begged aloud with a tremulous smile. “I need to stretch out my legs anyway.”


Sasuke glanced at his watch. It was almost noon…and he was sure they were almost at Naruto’s home anyway. Still plenty of time for him to make his meeting with Aburame-san. Ten minutes couldn’t hurt. Besides, he was already planning on taking plenty of pictures with his cell phone. This was a site for the memory banks. Too good to pass up.


“All right,” he finally agreed. “Just enough for you to stretch and then we’re back on the road again. Don’t forget -”


“Yeah, yeah, your appointment. Don’t worry about it. Home is just down the road…almost.”


Sasuke gave a non-committal grunt and turned his attention to the fields again. He wasn’t a mind-reader, but he would have been a fool not to have noticed the change in Naruto’s body language. As a salesman, it was one of the ‘classes’ he had to sit through; being able to tell what the client was thinking or doing with subtle body movements, expressions etc. So far Naruto had been an open book, and at this moment, as they finally pulled up to the entrance of the farm and stepped out, the blond’s nervous motions was a clear sign that the homecoming was going to be a rather trying one for him.


“Tazuna-san!” Naruto bellowed as a weathered man wearing a pair of cutoff jeans, slippers and an oversized dirt-stained shirt, came shuffling toward them. He took the straw hat off his head to reveal tendrils of gray hair, and though he squinted – through a thick pair of glasses - at the newcomers, the frown of consternation soon became a welcome grin as Naruto was finally recognized.


“As I live and breathe,” the man said with a shake of his head. “It’s the troublemaker come home, eh?”


Naruto laughed and engulfed the smaller man in a bear hug. “I’ve missed you, old man. Still chasing away the kids with the ol’ pitch fork, are you?”


“Ah, all the brats drive me crazy, especially you back in the day,” came the fond reprimand. “I remember you would run around naked in the fields and with your hair just the same color as the flowers, it would take us hours to find you.”


“Whoa there,” Naruto blushed and waved his hands; his cheeks darkening as he met Sasuke’s amused expression. “Too more information there, old man. Geez! You gotta tell everyone that?”


“Hahaha!” Tazuna looked unapologetic; his laughter loud and long. “Well, I won’t say I don’t miss your hijinks, but it’s good to see you again.” His smile diminished and his expression became sad. “You just upped and left without saying goodbye, Naruto. Now why would you do something like that? Inari was troubled when he heard the news. You know he looked up to you as a big brother.”


Naruto sighed and ran fingers through his hair. “It’s a long story,” he began quietly. “Look…we’ll talk about it all later, all right? Hey, I haven’t even introduced my friend here.”


He reached out to tug Sasuke’s arm, noticing that the bruise on his jaw was now turning a rather worrisome shade of yellow. Hadn’t the salve worked? Although Sasuke didn’t seem to be wincing or grimacing in pain, so that was good…at least.


“This is Uch…eh…Madara Sasuke,” he introduced quickly; ignoring the quick glare Sasuke had thrown at him at his almost blunder. “He’s the one who brought me back home. I hitchhiked.”


“Oh?” Tazuna wiped his hands on a rag, which had been hanging off his shoulder, to shake Sasuke’s firmly. “Well, welcome to our little town. We’re glad you were able to bring the prodigal son back to his rightful place. There are many people who will be in your debt.”


Sasuke shrugged lightly and gave a polite smile. “I doubt it, but thanks for the sentiments.” He waved toward the field behind them. “This all yours, sir?”


Tazuna stepped back with a proud grin. “That’s right, young man. All 200 acres! Of course we farmers seem to have all our lands clustered together, but it’s easy to tell where one ends and the next begins.”




“Isn’t it? Come, come, let me show you around a little bit,” Tazuna implored, just as they noticed the figure of a man – dressed in similar clothing but much younger - approaching at a trot. The trot soon became a full on sprint when the man noticed who the guests were, and before Naruto could get a word in, the handsome young man flung himself into his arms with a choked sob of “Naruto-niichan!” escaping his lips.


“My grandson,” Tazuna explained with a tender smile thrown in the direction of the two men now hugging, laughing and crying at the same time. “Naruto was like a brother to Inari, especially after his father passed away and he really had no one to look up to. That troublemaker would come over and do all he could to cheer my stubborn grandson up, and in the end, they became the best of friends. It was always ‘Naruto-niichan this and Naruto-niichan that’,” he added with a chuckle. “So you can well imagine how sad he was when Naruto left without saying goodbye to anyone. It really crushed Inari and now…perhaps he can get back to being himself again.”




What else could he say really? Sasuke watched as both men seemed to talk over each other; neither one able to get a word in with Inari’s face wet with tears; hands seemingly touching the blond everywhere possible as if to make sure Naruto wouldn’t vanish from his sight again. Sasuke turned away from the scene and forced himself to listen to what Tazuna was now explaining regarding the painstaking process of growing a rapeseed plant. He wondered why there was a sudden hard lump forming in the pit of his stomach. It was akin to a cramp…worse than how he had felt when he knew Naruto was enjoying himself with Sai at the ryokan. It was stupid really, he decided as he stooped to his haunches and ran his fingers through the soil. This was Naruto’s hometown. It was expected that he’d have friends who still cared about him despite his pity story about everyone abandoning him because of his sexual orientation. Either Tazuna and Inari didn’t know about it, or they just didn’t give a shit, and why should they anyway? To them, Naruto was like family, and Sasuke had a feeling that the more locals they encountered, the more of Naruto’s past would be revealed to him.


He looked up at the sea of gold; the tiny petals of each rapeseed blossom swaying gently with the breeze emanating from the ocean. It wasn’t particularly hot – since the remnants of rain was still in the vicinity – but even from the weak rays of sunlight flickering upon the flowers, Sasuke could very well picture a nude Uzumaki Naruto frolicking through the field; his hair and complexion blending in effortlessly with the foliage which would have shielded (protected) him from the prying and judgmental eyes of the world. Sasuke allowed his fingers to caress the flowers, a tiny smile coming to his lips as he wondered if he would have been able to be as bold as Naruto. For starters, his dark hair would have been a beacon for anyone to find him, and secondly, he wasn’t as brave to run around stark naked in broad daylight.


“You two finished yet?” came the bellow to cut into his thoughts.


Naruto was sauntering toward them; an arm around Inari’s shoulder. The teenager was literally blushing up a storm, and every now and then worshipful eyes would be directed at the man he was practically glued to.


“Ah Inari, I haven’t introduced you to my friend there, Sasuke. Sasuke, this is Inari – the little pain in the ass brother I never wanted.”


“Nii-chan!” Inari whined, though still blushing as he reached out to shake Sasuke’s hand and bow politely. “It’s nice to meet you.”


“Likewise,” Sasuke replied with a curt nod and wan smile. He looked to Naruto. “We should be -”


“Ah yes, right.” Naruto withdrew his arm and looked at grandfather and grandson apologetically. “I have to cut the visit short today, but I’ll be back again.”


Inari – who looked like he was about to burst into tears – sagged his shoulders sadly. “You promise?”


“Sure I will. I’m not going anywhere anymore,” Naruto reassured him with a ruffle of his dark hair. “You take care of the old man for me, all right?”


Tazuna snorted. “That will be the day. It’s a pity you couldn’t stop by to try some of my daughter’s delicious doughnuts and cream puffs made from these very plants.”


Naruto moaned as if in pain. “Aww man! I miss Tsunami-chan’s cooking. Tell her to save some for me, all right? I’m gonna eat the entire house when I get there.”


Inari finally laughed. “I can’t wait to tell Mom you’re back. She’s going to be so surprised…as we all are…” He bit his lower lip, the smile fading as tears sprang into his eyes. “We’ve really missed you.”


Naruto had the grace to look chastised and he lowered his gaze to the ground; his voice low and contrite. “I’ve missed you all too, but this time…I think things will be different.” He looked up again and gave them a smile that Sasuke could tell didn’t quite reach his eyes. There was thinly veiled pain in those blue depths, and Sasuke had to excuse himself to make his way to the car.


He didn’t bother taking the driver’s position when Naruto finally returned, and for a while nothing was said as the car made its way back to the main roads. It wasn’t until they drove past a rather impressive school building, did Naruto finally break his silence.


“Yokohama Elementary school,” he said with a soft chuckle. “…and right behind it is the high school…so you kinda just graduated one place and took a couple of steps and you were right in the next stage of your life. You just couldn’t escape seeing the same ol’ faces day in and day out. Urgh.”


Sasuke studied the red brick building with its modern design, where were a few students on the fields either playing soccer or baseball, while others were either engaged in reading or other extracurricular activities. Somehow, seeing the sight of school uniforms and hearing the faint sounds of cheers and laughter sent a pang of nostalgia through him. It wasn’t as if he had actually gone to a typical public school. His private schools had been anything but ordinary anyway -


“I wonder if Sarutobi-sensei is still the principal,” Naruto was musing to himself as the school got further and further away from them. He made a right turn into a more residential area; the homes now your typical two-story buildings clustered together as if competing for space amongst the narrow streets.


“Sarutobi-sensei?” Sasuke prodded as they made yet another turn to lead them away from the clustered houses and into more spacious homes flanked by the bay on their right. The sight of the sea - just across a stretch of a low brick wall - was both breathtaking and slightly worrying; especially if there was the risk of a tsunami hitting them and washing away the homes. However, the residents here didn’t seem to mind for they went about their daily business without missing a beat.


“He was our principal,” Naruto was explaining as he slowed the car to a crawl to let a wagon carrying several crates of fresh fish to cross the intersection. “He was pretty old when I graduated, so I don’t know if he actually retired or not. He was cool…as in he wasn’t too strict and though I gave him a hard time, he was always kind and understanding.”


He paused his lips. “Iruka-sensei on the other hand…pfft!”


Sasuke smirked lightly. “What?”


“Always up my ass about everything,” Naruto grumbled. Yet another turn and they were in a much quieter section of the town, though no less picturesque than the rest. The car had to make an uphill climb of sorts, but it was well worth it for there were only three houses on this stretch of road; protected by an abundance of lush green trees that might have been here for centuries. The homes were more traditional in nature, and as Naruto maneuvered the car into one of the driveways, Sasuke was struck at how quiet it was – except for the almost hypnotic sound of the waves licking the protective wall, the cries of seagulls and the rustle of the afternoon breeze amongst the leaves.


It was hard to believe that someone as ‘wild’ as Naruto had grown up in such a tranquil environment, but then again, from the moment they had met, Sasuke had come to realize that nothing was all as it seemed when it came to Uzumaki Naruto.


“Great place,” he complimented as they stepped out of the car and walked further into the compound.


“Yeah…” Naruto began, though he came to a stop as if held back by an invisible force. He looked up and toward the house; a light frown coming to his features and lips in a firm line as if trying to reconcile what he might have left behind years ago.


The lawn was neatly tended accentuated by two statues of what looked like frogs sitting on either side of the door. The light flapping sound of laundry drying under the sun could be heard from the backyard. However, the windows looked shut and there was a general feeling of ‘emptiness’ that was palpable.


“The van isn’t here,” Naruto finally muttered as he shrugged on his backpack. “I guess they went out, so let’s -”


“Na…Naruto-kun? Is that you?”


They both swiveled around, in unison, at the breathless sing-song voice behind them.


She was beautiful, in an out-of-worldly-type way. For starters, she was dressed in a lovely and well-made pastel kimono; cinched tightly at the waist to reveal a full-figure that was flattering. Her straight hair, which fell to her waist, was as black as night; almost blue beneath the dull glow of the mid-morning sun. However, it was her face – more specifically her eyes – that were simply captivating. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what shade it was; perhaps a cross between really white-washed blue or tepid gray. Either way, they seemed to positively light up when she recognized the blond, and not surprisingly, tears filled them almost immediately.


“Oh God…it…it really is yo-yo-you,” she sobbed, trembling so hard now that she could barely take a step.


Naruto had to take the initiative, dropping the backpack to engulf her in a hug that spoke volumes. It was clear that these two knew each other, and once again, Sasuke found himself having to take a backseat to a reunion that seemed to unlock even more answers to the many questions he had regarding this man.


He listened to them whisper to each other for several minutes; a quick glance at the couple showing Naruto caressing her face and wiping her tears away with a gentleness that triggered something warm within him. It was a reminder of just how tender those fingers had been when they had applied the salve to his bruise, and Sasuke had to stop himself from touching said bruise before making a fool of himself.




“Hmm?” He turned at the sound of his name. Naruto was approaching with the girl; a shy smile on her flushed visage now.


“This is Hyuga Hinata,” Naruto introduced with a warm smile. “She’s my neighbor and we’ve known each other since we were in freakin’ diapers. Hinata, this is Madara Sasuke. He’s the one who helped me get back home or I would have been stuck in some shitty bus or train station by now.”


Hinata blushed and gave a polite curtsey. “Thank you, Madara-san,” she said in that same breathless voice. “You have no idea how much this means to us.”


“I didn’t really do anything -”


“He’s just being modest,” Naruto interjected with a grin; ignoring (though wincing) at the jab he received from Sasuke’s elbow to his side. He nodded toward the house. “It looks quiet. Where’s everyone?”


Hinata shook her head lightly; her clenched hands going to her lips. “They haven’t been home for about two days now.”


Naruto stiffened; the smile fading as his heart rate began to quicken with rising alarm. “What do you mean?”


“Your mother took a turn for the worse,” Hinata explained with eyes shimmering. “Your father had to take her to the hospital. He’s barely been home since then.”


“Fuck,” came the low curse as restless fingers ran through blond tresses in frustration. He looked about him as if unsure of where he was; those blue eyes now frantic. “How…” He licked his lips and paced about before coming to a stop before Hinata again. “Did you see…?”


Hinata nodded. “I went to visit them this morning.”


“How are they? How is she? How…?”


The tears broke free and Naruto got all the answers he needed. There really was no second guessing what he had to do now. He turned to Sasuke without really seeing him.


“Sasuke…,” his voice raw as if struggling to hold back his tears. “Please if you don’t mind…the hospital isn’t that far-”


“It’s okay,” Sasuke interrupted with a firm nod of understanding. “Let’s go.”


“Hinata?” Naruto asked, and even without finishing his unspoken plea, she was already nodding her head in agreement.


“I’ll come with you.”





Naruto wouldn’t consider himself a praying man – well except for the random moments when he really wished for God to either give him better luck at playing Pachinko or winning the lottery (those never happened anyway). However, on the drive to the hospital, he was sure he was bound to give God an earful. It was a miracle the car didn’t crash into anything for his current mental state of mind was in such turmoil, Sasuke had once or twice considered taking over the wheel and just allowing Hinata to tell him the directions.


Fortunately, he got them to their destination in one piece; all the while still muttering a desperate prayer to God to give him enough time to make his peace with a woman who meant the world to him.


As he flew through the sliding doors; hardly caring if Sasuke or Hinata followed, he dashed up to the receptionist desk and slammed his hands on the counter.


“My mother,” he began in a rush. “I want to know where my mother is!”


“Keep your voice down,” the busty nurse reprimanded; though her eyes were still glued to her computer screen. “Besides, you’re going to have to be a little more specific than looking for ‘a mother’. There are many different patients -”


“Mito!” he almost screamed. “Uzumaki Mito!”


The name seemed to sink through because she finally looked up with a low gasp. “Mito-kun is your…oh!” Her eyes widened even more when she noticed who it was. “Naruto-kun? My word! It’s been -”


“Yeah, yeah, years,” Naruto cut in with a wave of his hand. “We’ll catch up later, Suzu-san. Right now -”


“Of course,” she replied hastily as she rose to her feet and motioned toward another nurse who was also gawking at Naruto as if he had grown an extra head.


Just how well-known is this family? was Sasuke’s strained thought as Suzu began to lead them toward the elevators. Yokohama wasn’t a large town, so it probably wasn’t that uncommon for everyone to know everyone else, but with the way the people have been treating Naruto so far especially the awe in Suzu’s voice at the mention of Mito…


Just what haven’t you been telling me, Naruto? Sasuke thought with a frown as the elevator doors closed to trap them inside. He studied the back of the blond he had once thought nothing more than a poor church rat with a sob story, and began to feel the first stirrings of anger for some inexplicable reason. Had Naruto been feeding him a bunch of lies all this time?


Well besides the illness of his mother hadn’t been a lie as evidence of them being here in the first place, but other than that…


The doors opened before he could finish his thought, and the first thing to hit him was just how quiet this floor was compared to the organized chaos of the main lobby. So it wasn’t as exclusive and posh as the wings usually reserved for any member of the Uchiha who had the misfortune to require extensive hospital care, but it was still comfortable enough for a well-to-do family. The usual antiseptic smell of wasn’t as potent, instead there was the lingering scent of the nanohana blossoms he had experienced earlier in the day.


“In here,” Suzu was saying as she came to a stop before the non-descript door to match the others on the floor. She knocked politely and excused herself. Naruto gave a slight start at the sound as if goosed; his features so pale, Sasuke felt a light twinge of pity now. Perhaps this would have been a good time to give him a smile or pat on the shoulder in reassurance, but that role was taken by Hinata who cradled the blond’s hand within hers and gave him a more beautiful smile.


(what am I doing here? I’m like a damn third wheel to all this)


“Maybe I should wait out here,” Sasuke found himself saying in a voice that sounded distant to him. “I don’t think -”


“I don’t mind,” Naruto cut in with a slightly panicked expression. “I need you…I mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you visiting. It’s going to be all right, you’ll see.”


Are you trying to convince yourself of that? Sasuke thought, though he had to admit that Naruto ‘needing’ him was quite…nice.


“Someone’s here to visit you,” Suzu was saying to the unseen occupants as she ushered them into the dimly-lit room. The curtains had been drawn to block out the sunlight, but it wasn’t enough to distract from several large bouquet of flowers which seemed to take up every space available. In its middle sat the mechanical narrow bed swathed in white on which a pale, frail figure of a woman with shocking red hair lay fast asleep. What struck Sasuke was – despite her state of repose – just how elegant she still appeared to be. There was an aura of quiet strength that seemed to emanate and envelope those within the room.


So this is your mother, Naruto…says a lot, doesn’t it?


However, the moment of awe was shattered – or perhaps enhanced – with the presence of the man who was slowly rising from his position beside the bed. Sasuke hadn’t been sure of what to expect when Naruto had spoken about his stern father, but it definitely hadn’t been this towering figure with long dark hair (though with hints of grey at the temples) that was still full and almost fell to his waist. Dressed in a traditional black yukata and matching hakama pants, his features were handsome yet the lines of strain and hard work were etched upon his skin like a roadmap of his life. His lips were in a perpetual downturn as if unable to smile or as if the task was too painful to do so, but it was clear he was a man who must have once enjoyed the act or found pleasure in making others do so. His dark eyes were merciless in their scrutiny of him before they moved over to study the prodigal son. If there was any warmth of recognition in those eyes, Sasuke found it difficult to locate.


“…Dad…” Naruto began in a voice that sounded small and almost insignificant. Sasuke resisted the sudden urge to tell Naruto so stand up to the man, but immediately imagined himself in his position and having Fugaku staring down at him in the same way.


I’ll probably be as meek, he thought with disgust. Our fathers sure know how to put the fear in us, don’t they, Naruto?




“Leave us,” came the sudden curt command from the man, that for a moment everyone in the room was stumped at this. Did he mean that they all had to get out or…?


“I want to speak to my son alone,” he explained with a frown. He glanced at Sasuke again and if it were even possible, his lips seemed to tighten in disapproval.


What the hell did I do?


Suzu and Hinata were already excusing themselves, and Sasuke would have done the same, when Naruto reached out to slap a hand over his wrist to hold him prisoner.


“Before he leaves,” Naruto began in a much firmer voice. “I wanted to introduce you to the man who brought me back home. His name is -”


“Uchiha Sasuke,” Sasuke interrupted before Naruto could spit out his fake alias. For some reason, he had no reason to lie to this man who looked regal in his own right. In fact, under the right circumstances, he was sure his father and Naruto’s would get along just fine.


However, the hand he held out for a handshake was ignored. Instead the dark eyes continued to scrutinize him as if examining a rare specimen about to attack.


“And are you one of his friends?” came the quiet question though there was no mistaking the emphasis and disgust laced around the word ‘friends’.


“Dad -”


“Has he come to show you off as one of his…partners?”


“Partner…?” Sasuke was honestly confused.


Naruto sighed heavily and released Sasuke’s wrist. “Dad. He’s not my partner. He’s just the one who helped me get here. Without him I wouldn’t have made it on time. He and I are not…in a relationship.”


Oh…that. Damn.


This didn’t seem to appease the older man, but at least he wasn’t shooting daggers at Sasuke anymore.


“On time?” came the bitter accusation. “Your mother has barely hours to…to…” His words seemed lodged in his throat and he had to cough a little, take a deep breath before forcing himself to continue. “She is only hanging on because she believes you’ll be here and now…now…you just waltz in like everything is going to be okay…!”


“Keep your voice down, Hashirama,” came the soft reprimand, which had the men turning toward the bed. “You never did know how to control your temper, my dearest…”


“Mom!” Naruto wailed like a baby; almost flinging himself onto the bed as he openly sobbed in relief and gratitude.


Sasuke shifted restlessly from one foot to the other as he watched the loving reunion; something tightening in his chest as those frail arms lifted to wrap themselves around her son’s shoulders. It was such a simple yet poignant gesture, made even worse when trembling fingers began to caress the blond locks in a way that reminded Sasuke of the times when his mother had done the same as a child. How could he have repressed those memories all in his quest to find reasons to loathe his parents? How could he forget that his mother had actually cared…and besides, hadn’t Naruto said it in the car while he had been pretending to be asleep?


/ I know you feel as if your Pops and Mom don’t give a damn about you, but you might be wrong. I don’t think any parent ever completely hates their own flesh and blood, and you should go back and try to make amends before you have even more regrets. /


(just what the hell am I still doing here?)


He took a tentative step back as if to escape the room and its stifling atmosphere of love and family – in which he did not belong – but Mito must have realized his discomfort because she looked up with a warm smile on her visage.


“Come closer, my dear young man. Do not be afraid. I won’t bite. I promise.”


He felt his cheeks burn at her words, and not daring to look at Hashirama – for fear the man would be glaring at him again – Sasuke did as told and moved to the other side of the bed.


“Ah, come…let me see that beautiful face of yours,” Mito sighed softly, her hand reaching out to motion for Sasuke to lean forward and closer still. “So you are the one who brought my boy back home.”


“He just hitched a ride with me,” Sasuke explained in embarrassment. He shivered and swallowed the sudden thick lump to fill his throat as those slender yet clammy hands caressed his face tenderly. He wasn’t a doctor by any means, but my goodness…it didn’t take a scientist to know that she was literally hanging on by a thread. Had she really held out just to see Naruto one last time? Such resolve was inspiring.


“And I thank you for that,” Mito whispered as her fingers wrapped around Sasuke’s to squeeze them gently. Naruto’s face was still buried against her stomach, his sobs still audible but less fervent. “I prayed he would find an angel on his way back, and I’m glad he did.”


An angel? Me? Sasuke would have laughed out loud at this unlikely analogy, but he settled for simply staring into those graying eyes that seemed to know so much.


“You are a friend of his, correct?”


“I…well…we…” Sasuke struggled for the right words. He wished Naruto would help him out with this, but seeing the blond in such a state, he finally whimpered out the half-lie. “Yes…I…I am.”


Mito seemed to expel a breath of air in relief. “Then you must promise to look after him for me when I am gone. You seem like such a dependable young man. He will need someone like you to keep him in line when he strays. He can be so stubborn like his father.”


“Mito,” Hashirama whined like a child, and in that moment, Sasuke could see just how much love there was between these two. It must be hard having to watch the woman you love die, and even worse to watch your mother die. Sasuke closed his eyes, took a deep breath and rose to his feet.


“I’ll leave you three alone,” he said quietly as he lifted his lashes. “It was a pleasure getting to finally meet such a wonderful woman. Naruto says you’re everything to him.”


The smile she gave just about broke his heart, and would have had him bursting into tears if he didn’t stammer out an excuse before fleeing the room. He couldn’t even look at Hinata, who was still waiting outside, and had to make a beeline for the restroom to compose himself.


For how long he stood there washing his face and hands and refusing to look in the mirror, lest he shudder in repulsion at what he saw, he had no idea. However, a quick glance at his watch told him that he had about two more hours to find a hotel, get cleaned up, and find Aburame-san’s office for the godforsaken meeting.


Shit! I have to get out of here.


Back in the hallway, the door to the room was still closed and Hinata was still waiting on the bench in silence. However, she rose to her feet when she noticed Sasuke approaching, a small smile on her visage.


“Any change?” Sasuke asked.


“No,” came the quiet reply. “I heard them talking, but that’s about it.”


Sasuke nodded and took a deep breath. “Well…I have to go. I have a really important meeting I can’t miss. You wouldn’t mind picking up Naruto’s backpack, will you? I think he still left it in the car.”


“That’s no problem.”


An important meeting I can’t miss, he thought with a heaviness in his heart and stomach throughout the elevator ride and once they were outside. This wasn’t exactly the way he had hoped to say his goodbyes to Naruto, and considering he had somewhat lied to Mito about their relationship, it wouldn’t have hurt to at least exchange phone numbers or something of the sort. It would eventually hit him that Mito must have assumed  - just like Hashirama – that he and Naruto were a ‘couple’, what with her hoping ‘he’d look after Naruto when she was gone.’ People didn’t say that to strangers unless they believed something intimate was taking place between them.


(dear God)


“Will you return?” came the question that had him nearly jumping out his skin. Hinata was doing her best to shoulder the heavy backpack, though her expression gave nothing away about her distress. She was still smiling albeit with concern in her eyes.




“You are Naruto-kun’s friend, correct? You will stay over at his house tonight…or come back to the hospital after your meeting?”


“We…” Sasuke shook his head. “We’re not friends like that. Our arrangement was for me to drop him off at his home, and I go my own way.”


“But you have not said goodbye to him. I think he would be hurt if you left without saying a proper good bye.”


“Listen -”


“And if Mito-sama leaves us tonight…I do not think my presence is what he’ll need. He’ll need someone like you…someone stronger.”


What the hell?! Since when did I sign up to become Naruto’s goddamn babysitter?!


And yet the image of Naruto’s head upon his mother’s death bed was enough to have him groaning and leaning his head upon the roof of his car in dismay. Hinata was right. There was no way he could just take off and leave for Tokyo with a good conscience. He knew it would plague him for the rest of his life and that was one extra thing he could do without.


“Fine,” he finally croaked thickly. “I’ll come back. Just…you can leave the bag in the car. Looks too heavy for you anyway.”


Hinata smiled in gratitude and waved him farewell as he drove out of the parking lot to find the nearest motel.


He couldn’t tell you when he arrived, how he checked in, when he took a quick shower and shave, or how he got dressed. Everything seemed to be on autopilot, and though his bruise was like a damn red flag to everyone he met, his head was so full of what was possibly happening in that hospital room, he didn’t give a damn what anyone really thought.


He arrived at the office with barely five minutes to spare, and was just in time to catch Aburame-san who was on his tenth cup of coffee. He knew that for the man didn’t seem to like recycling as ten antique teacups sat daintily upon the large conference table.


“I was just about ready to give up on you, Madara-san,” he greeted with a firm handshake and wan smile. His dark sunglasses hid his eyes from view, so Sasuke wasn’t quite sure if the smile was genuine or not. “But I’m glad to see you are able to keep up with your promises. Bad day?” he asked with a nod toward the bruise.


“Bumped into something,” Sasuke clipped and opened his briefcase. “May we begin, sir?”


“Of course.”


And putting all his training and focus to good use, Uchiha Sasuke forced himself to become the professional salesman worthy of earning a six-figure payday.





If I stretch out my hand, the smile I reach is fleeting

If I close my eyes, I want to hold

Your vanishing body once more in my arms

Because I can't forget that time, that place where we met.

-Gackt (Emu-For My Dear)




Dusk across Yokohama came quicker than most.


Even as he made the promised return trip, and as the sea seemed to take on beautiful yet muted shades of purple and gold, he knew.


He knew when he parked the car and remained seated for almost five minutes unable to move a muscle. He knew for he had to muster up the courage and to be as ‘strong’ as Hinata had made him out to be. He knew as he picked up his phone, scrolled through the endless list until he came to the familiar digits to a person he had not spoken to in what seemed like an eternity. He knew when his fingers moved on autopilot, when he lifted the device to his ear, when he heard the familiar ringing, and when the soft, feminine voice came on with a breathless “Hello? Hello? Who is this?”


…kaasan…it’s me…


“Hello?” A long pause in which he wept within his heart for the pain made it hard to breathe. “Sas…Sasuke? Is that you? Oh please tell me it’s you. Sasuke…I -”


He hung up and flung the phone away as if it stung. He gripped the steering wheel and banged his head gently against it; telling himself that he could do this, that he could walk into that hospital and look Naruto in the face and tell him that everything was going to be just fine.


He knew, when he finally had the guts to leave his sanctuary, when he was sure his face was a mask of politeness, when he saw the way the nurses seemed to move about like walking zombies, when he met Suzu’s teary gaze though she struggled to maintain her professionalism, when he left the elevator and was met with a sobbing Hinata and a stoic though red-faced Hashirama doing his best to comfort her.


Hashirama sensed the new arrival and looked up slowly. Gone was the expression of anger and exasperation displayed earlier. In its place were the features of a defeated man, a man no longer eager to keep up his fight against the world (or with his son). There seemed to be a silent mutual understanding between them, for Hashirama simply nodded toward the door.


If Sasuke wanted…he could go in and pay his final respects.


Damn it all to hell and back.


He took a deep breath and let himself into the room, where the scene had changed rather drastically from the first time he had seen it. For starters, the windows were now open to let in the cool evening sea breeze. It rustled the bouquet of flowers, sending gossamer yet colorful petals floating around the room like a scene from some anime production. On the bed, Mito’s body had been covered with a simple white cloth; that beautiful though sunken features now no longer visible to the outside world.


Sitting by her beside, with his head bowed over clasped hands, was her adopted son. He had barely flinched or recognized Sasuke’s presence, though his reddened eyes were wide open and still fixated on the immobile figure before him.


(I’m so sorry, Naruto…I really am)


Sasuke swallowed and wondered what he could say. He had never been one to comfort anyone in time of grief, and no one had given him a manual on what to do either.


He looked around him helplessly for a moment, wondering if he ought to leave them alone when Naruto’s strained voice broke through the silence.


“How did your meeting go?”




Sasuke blinked at the line of questioning; somehow not quite sure this was the kind of conversation they ought to be having in the presence of his dead mother. However, when those weary blue eyes met his, Sasuke realized this was what Naruto needed. He gave a weak smile to match Naruto’s and pulled up an extra chair to sit beside him.


“It went well,” he finally replied, several petals from some flower floating onto his hair and nose. He flicked them away absently. Naruto’s hair was already filled with a range of petals, but Sasuke doubted this was the time to start brushing them off.


“Did you get the job?” Naruto asked, his gaze now trained back on his mother’s body.






Sasuke shrugged lightly and stretched out his legs. He looked out the window and into Mutsu Bay where fishing boats heralded each other with horns for a job well done. “I didn’t take the job.”


“Why not?”


He could feel Naruto’s gaze on him and he shrugged again. “I didn’t feel like it was the job for me.”


He didn’t dare tell what the real reason for his decision was.


Naruto seemed to mull this information for a while before asking curiously. “What were you going to sell anyway?”


“Kitchen appliances.”


They looked at each other for a heartbeat before Naruto gave a light snort at the imagery this conjured up. Sasuke smiled softly. “Yeah, yeah, laugh. I have sold kitchenware before.”


“I’m sorry. I just don’t see you selling blenders or knives to women and being that convincing.”


“You’d be surprised at what I’m capable of, Mister.”


They smiled at each other again before looking away as if ashamed of daring to show such camaraderie in spite of the bleak situation.


More petals floated and fell upon the body, and this time, Naruto reached out to brush them away from Mito’s still chest tenderly.


“She passed away about half-an-hour after you left,” he finally said softly. “It was rather…peaceful. She wanted the windows open so she could see the sea and nanohana fields one last time.”


Sasuke nodded; not trusting himself to speak.


“Do you know she was really born in the city, but moved up here with Dad just to be closer to the sea? Dad would have been some big hot shot executive, but he changed professions just for her. I never knew that until today.”


“Your dad told you that?”


Naruto nodded. “Yeah…funny…we actually spoke for over an hour without wanting to kill each other. Guess Mom’s final scolding finally got to him.” He gave a weak chuckle and sniffled softly. “Anyway, he opened up a lot to me…and I learned a whole bunch of stuff. Like how I’m not really ‘adopted’ after all.”


Naruto rubbed a hand across his forehead with a heavy sigh. “Mom…my real Mom – her name was Kushina – was actually her daughter.”


Sasuke frowned and tried to let that digest. “What?”


Naruto gave a wan smile. “Yeah…kinda hard to deal with, but it explained a lot of things. Kushina ran off with my real dad – Minato – when she was like seventeen and gave birth to me. It was when on their way back home…here to see my grandparents- that they had the accident. So since my mother had pretty much washed her hands off my grandparents, the hospital didn’t know who to contact as next of kin and dropped me off at the orphanage. Turns out that Dad…I mean my grandpa…kinda weird to call him that now…was doing some kind of digging of his own and discovered their deaths and my birth. So he and Mo…Grandma arranged it to be as if they were adopting me as parents.”


“…why couldn’t they just tell you the truth?”


“Because they’re old-fashioned like that, I guess,” Naruto replied with a shrug. “I never knew just how much guilt she carried inside of her, and me running off like that must have been déjà vu all over again.” He groaned and buried his head in his hands. “She felt so guilty about driving me away, she drunk herself to this situation. It’s all my fault when I really think about it. If I hadn’t been such a goddamn selfish…!”


The slap was unintentional…well maybe not, since Sasuke had moved before he could control his body. However, the sound of flesh upon flesh was like a shotgun in the relative silence, and meeting Naruto’s shocked eyes as his cheeks reddened with the imprint of Sasuke’s hand, seemed to finally send the message across the grief-stricken man.


“Do you think your mother…grandmother…whoever, would want you thinking like that?” Sasuke asked tightly. “If you sit here and keep blaming yourself for her death, you might as well start making plans to join her pretty soon. You’ve got a Dad out there that needs you now, right? I think the last thing he needs is for his son to begin pulling the self-pity card. He’s spent all this time blaming you, and now you want to take on the burden. For fuck’s sake, Naruto, suck it up and deal with this like the man of the house you’re going to become.”


He realized his voice was rising and he sat back to control himself.


“What…what you said in the car,” he continued when Naruto made no attempt to defend himself and the silence began to get oppressive. “What you said about me and my father…my family…that was the mental slap I needed, and that’s what I hope this physical slap will do for you.”


He took a deep breath and met those blue eyes that were now watching him intently. “I’ve decided to go back. Maybe not to work for my father, but at least to make amends with them…before it’s too late.”


He cleared his throat, his cheeks darkening with embarrassment as tears seemed to fill the blond’s eyes. He looked away and shrugged lightly. “If you can make a fresh start…why not me?”


“Sasuke -”


“Look, don’t think I’m doing this just because you said so anyway. I was going to go back eventually…someday -”


“In the next one hundred years,” Naruto added with a tremulous smile. “And here I thought I was talking to myself in the car. You heard every word I said, didn’t you?”


“You don’t have to look so pleased about it!”


His blush didn’t lessen at the grin his statement received, and just as he was about to reach out to try to cuff the blond, his chair chose that moment to tip to the side, sending him off balance and crashing into Naruto painfully.





The door was immediately flung open; Hashirama hovering within it with fear and concern on his features. His first thought was that probably his wife had fallen off the bed, but at the sight of the two men tangled together – well, both trying to desperately extricate themselves from the rather compromising position – his expression became one of familiar exasperation and irritation.


“What in the world are you two -?”


“We fell,” Naruto explained hastily. “Our chairs -”

“It was my fault,” Sasuke was saying at the same time. “I didn’t see -”


“Out! Both of you!”


“Yes, sir!”


And as they both shuffled out shamefully, they would be just in time to hear Hashirama pleading with his dead wife to forgive the two disrespectful young men who had no sense of obligation or decorum, before they shut the door to give them some privacy.


Naruto groaned and tried to glare at Sasuke, who was still too busy dusting the seat of his pants.


“Not exactly the way I wanted to end this evening,” he grumbled.


“Yeah, well I’m still nursing a bruised jaw and ribcage, remember?”


“You’re the clumsy one, not me.”


“You could have steadied me…”


Hinata’s shy giggle interrupted their argument, and it was now Naruto’s turn to blame her for finding the situation funny.


Sasuke watched their interaction with a pang of regret. At least Naruto was back home where he was loved by friends and the little family he had left. As for him…


(I have to go…)


“I have to go,” he said aloud to break up the childhood friends’ conversation. He sunk his hands into the pockets of his pants and avoided meeting Naruto’s eyes for he could feel them upon him. “I have some work to finish up tonight before hitting the road as early as possible.”


“Why don’t you spend the night with us?” Hinata implored earnestly. “You must be tired and hungry, and I’ve made something special for all of us tonight. Mito-sama told me that we should celebrate her life and not feel too sad about her being…gone…so I -”


“I appreciate the invitation, but I already have a motel room booked for a couple of more hours and I have to get my money’s worth.”


“Oh…I see…” Hinata looked miserable, but she bowed politely. “Then please allow me to say my thanks again for everything you’ve done. I’ll let Hashirama-sama know you’ve left.”


“It was a pleasure meeting you too, Hinata,” Sasuke said with a small smile. “Thank you for your kindness.”


“I’ll walk him out,” Naruto said to Hinata. “I’ll be back in a bit, okay?”


Sasuke would have wished for the farewells to have ended in the hallway, but there was no escaping the blond who was not exactly talkative either as they made the seemingly long journey back to the main floor and out into a cool evening.


“So…” he began carefully as they crossed the pavilion where several members of the hospital staff could be seen having cigarette breaks or enjoying a drink. “Does she know?”




“The girl…Hinata? Does she know you’re…?”




Sasuke glanced at Naruto in surprise. “Really? I was under the impression -”


“Hinata’s like a sister to me,” Naruto admitted with a small smile. “I can talk to her about everything. I had to come out to her when she finally confessed to me during freshman year of high school, and I told her I couldn’t return her feelings.”




Naruto chuckled softly and kicked absently at a pebble. “Yeah. It sucked to have to see her cry, but after not speaking to me for a week, she came around and we worked things out. She’s been my number one supporter…so to speak. Hell, she even tried to hook me and her creepy cousin up, but I bailed.”


“Her creepy cousin?”


“He’s in Todai at the moment. He thinks he’s the shit and looks down on everyone for the most part. At least he’s mellowed out a bit, but when we were kids…man, he pissed me off all the time.”


“And Hinata thinks he might be -”


“I doubt it, though the guy doesn’t exactly give off the vibes for either way. I think he’s probably asexual.”


Sasuke laughed a little at that, while mentally wondering why there was that now nagging sense of relief at the notion that there wasn’t anyone Naruto was really that interested in at the moment. He again tried to pin it on simply wanting to hold on to the knowledge that the blond had revealed more of himself to him than any other person (Hinata excluded), and left it at that. Besides, it was really foolish to assume that Naruto wouldn’t have any more sexual liaisons or eventually find a partner to spend the rest of his life with.


“So…you’re really going to become a fisherman, huh?” he asked aloud; restless…disconcerted and not sure why.


Naruto shrugged and eyed him warily. “You make it sound like it’s a disease. It’s not so bad you know…you’ve got the sea…lazy hours doing nothing…and on a good day, you can catch enough to make you thousands of bucks.”


“And your dream of becoming the next Hyde?”


Naruto made a face and turned to glance at the lit windows of the towering building behind them. “My dream, huh? I think it died in that room with my mother.” He looked back at Sasuke with a sheepish smile. “Sorry…still can’t get used to the idea that she was actually my grandma.”


“I know…it’s all a lot to take in at once.”




Their walk was slower now as if both realized that with every step closer to that vehicle they had considered home for the past week, the closer it became to realizing just how divergent their paths was to become.


Sasuke gave a barely audible sigh, rubbed the nape of his neck and looked up to the heavens, marveling at just how many stars were already out.


“Must be great to live in the countryside. You don’t get to see this often in the city,” he remarked; more to break the tension-filled silence growing between them. Damn it! Why hadn’t Naruto stayed back? He didn’t want to –


“Then you should consider moving to the countryside someday,” Naruto said quietly as they finally came to a stop beside the car. “And I don’t mean one of your many fancy Uchiha country homes scattered all over Japan.”


Sasuke rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll let you know how that goes if I survive the loving reunion waiting for me back home.”


“I’m sure it will be all right,” Naruto said with a firm nod. “I think you put too much pressure on yourself…just like I did. See? I thought my Dad was going to chop my head off, but all he did was vent a little and then realize it was all a wasted effort. Anger and bitterness…holding it all in for so long…it really does stress you out and give you ulcers, I think.”


“What?” Sasuke didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, and considering that Naruto actually looked serious saying this, he decided to remain neutral. “Ulcers?”


“I read it somewhere…that stress gives you ulcer.”


“I sometimes wonder where you get your literature from, Naruto.”


“I read books too, you know.”


“I’m sure you do.”


“I’m not as dumb as I look -”


“No, you’re definitely more than meets the eye.”


They shared another smile and this time neither man tried to look away. They studied each other unabashedly; perhaps aware that this might be the last time they’d ever get a chance  to do so. Sasuke could see an endless sea of blue with flecks of gold like the beautiful nanohana, and Naruto could swear those dark eyes reminded him of the lonesome hours spent driving at night with only the radio and Sasuke’s silent presence for company.


He was going to miss that.


(no…him…I’m going to miss him like crazy)


“When…when you told my mother that we were friends,” he began in a husky whisper as if afraid of the answer he’d receive. “Did you mean that or were you just saying it to make her happy?”


Sasuke opened his mouth to give an immediate answer; to perhaps admit that he might have said it to please Mito, but the more he thought about it, the more he came to realize that it hadn’t been just a lie after all. In about a week, he had revealed more of himself to this ‘stranger’ than he ever had in his lifetime to anyone, and to make things worse, he wanted to tell Naruto so much more if that opportunity should ever present itself again.


“I meant it,” he replied hoarsely; his heart stirring with warmth at the smile this elicited from his companion. “After all the shit we’ve been through, I’d have to say “yes” as much as it pains me to admit.”


Naruto laughed and rubbed his eyes. “God. I can’t believe I’m laughing when this is supposed to be a miserable night.”


“I think she’d be happy to see it.”


“You think so?”


“I know so.”


When their gazes met again, neither was sure who gave the barely audible gasp as something potent and unspoken flowed between them. However, Sasuke was the first to look away; a discomfort and uneasiness overwhelming him.


(what the hell was that?)


“So…eh…” Naruto took a deep breath and bent a little to examine the car as if seeing it for the first time. His voice sounded casual and failed to betray the pounding of his heart. “I should get my stuff before you take off with it.”


“Oh…right…your atrocity of a backpack.”


“Shut up. It’s a vintage.”


“A vintage piece of junk,” Sasuke retorted with a smirk as he made his way around the car to retrieve the bag. He heaved it toward Naruto, who barely caught it with a light grunt. He didn’t dare move any closer to the other man for fear…


“I hope things go well for you and your family,” Naruto said quietly. “Maybe I can drop off my email address, since I don’t have a cell phone…yet…and you can write me whenever you want. You know…keep me updated and stuff. If you want that is.”


“That would work.”




Naruto grinned and dug into his bag, pulling out a small worn notepad and a pen (that took several seconds of hard rubbing to get it to produce any ink) to scribble out not just his email, but his home address and phone number as well. He handed the information to Sasuke with a flush on his features, hoping his desperation to remain in contact wasn’t so obvious.


Sasuke chuckled and motioned for the notepad, where he too wrote down his personal home address, which he rarely saw considering how much time he spent on the damn road, his cell phone number and email.


“There…” he said as he gave it back. “Call me anytime you want to talk or email, all right?”


“All right. Thanks.”


There was an awkward pause in which neither man knew what to do with himself, until Sasuke finally cleared his throat and tapped the hood of his car with restless fingers. “I should get going.”


“Yeah…see…see you…and be safe on the road and all that, okay?”


Sasuke nodded and let himself into the car. He started the engine and would have pulled away to avoid any more of the ‘weirdness’ when he suddenly found himself opening the window to blurt out quickly.


“I’m staying at the Otani tonight. It’s just off the intersection. So if you…uh…”


(If you what? Want to come over? And do what?! Just what the hell do you expect him to do when he gets there?)


And yet he couldn’t shut up.


“I know you’re going to be busy getting ready for the funeral and all but… but if you just want to talk before I leave for Tokyo…”  His voice trailed off; his embarrassment so profound, it was all he could do not to drive off and never see this town again for the rest of his life.


“Thank you,” Naruto eventually replied with a smile, so sincere and beautiful, it was enough to have Sasuke questioning more than a few things about his thoughts and where they were leading him. “For everything. I really mean that.”


(but you’re not ready for what I have and could offer you. I can see the fear and doubt in your eyes – should you or shouldn’t you? And though I would love for you to take the risk, I am afraid of how you might feel come morning, Sasuke. So for now…)


He leaned in then; no questioning what he planned to do or why he was doing it. He had held back long enough, and even if he was pushed away or rejected, he was going to take his chances and finally allow his heart to lead the way.


Sasuke could have stopped him if he wanted to. He should have stopped him when he looked back on it, but he couldn’t…and realized he hadn’t wanted to anyway.


It was brief; almost (disappointingly?) chaste, but it was a kiss all the same.


On his lips.


Soft, feather-like…shy…tentative…sweet yet with a hint of salt from tears and sweat shed.


On his lips.


It was a final farewell that would leave him wondering and wishing and –


(longing for…)


“Good bye, Uchiha Sasuke,” came the quiet whisper as their foreheads met gently. “I’m so glad I got to know you.”


“Li…likewise,” Sasuke replied unsteadily; lips still tingling from the experience. I’m glad I got to know you too, Uzumaki Naruto.


He lifted lashes he hadn’t been aware he had closed, just in time to see Naruto turn away quickly with a soft sniffle. He watched the blond hoist that dastardly heavy backpack onto his shoulders and make his way back into the hospital at almost a jog.


Sasuke wouldn’t move even when the doors slid closed and Naruto was no longer in sight, and he believed if he squinted hard enough, he could make out the very room where he was probably now with Hashirama, Hinata and the remains of the beautiful Mito.


(oh God…what am I doing?)


The salesman sighed and closed his eyes. Counted inwardly to ten before putting the car into second gear and lifting his lashes again.


The time for regrets was long gone, and it was time to open up a new chapter of his life. If there was anything he had learned from the hitchhiker with the army jacket and mysterious scars, it was to push onward even if the end result might be painful or not as you expected, and as he pulled out of the parking lot, he vowed he would have a good story to tell Uzumaki Naruto someday.


“Just you wait for me,” he whispered to the lingering presence of his once traveling companion. “Please wait for me.”




Chapter 07

Naruto Home















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