Divergent (7)


From the day that you first wished you could reach the end
We started walking together on this never-ending road

When it looked like you were going to stop
I grabbed your hand and refused to let go...

-          Gackt (Road)


Subject: Pictures

From: “King of the Sea” <uzunaruRX-78-2@post.expart.ne.jp>

To: “The Great(est) Salesman” < sasU0906@anet.ne.jp >


Hey Sasuke!

Here are the pictures of the funeral services as promised. Beautiful day all around and many folks showed up – more than we expected. Guess Mom was pretty popular. I kept having to listen to everyone try to tell me one story or another about something good she did for them. I swear she was the town’s resident godmother or something. Pops’ been holding up okay. He doesn’t sleep much though, and at night I hear him pacing about or crying when he thinks I’m asleep. Hinata and her family have been godsend. She and her kid sister (Hanabi) help us with cooking and cleaning and all that. She misses you and keeps asking about you; wondering when you’ll come visit. Hard to believe it’s been almost three weeks since I last saw you, eh? Anyway, hope you’re doing okay and you’re finally back home getting some rest. I’ll catch up with you later. I think I hear my Pops hollering for me and I have to get off the computer. Bye!


P.S: See the dude with the long black hair and weird eyes like Hinata? That’s her cousin I was telling you about – Neji. He just came back for the funeral to pay his respects, but he’s gone back to school again.  




Re: Pictures

From: “The Great(est) Salesman” < sasU1093@anet.ne.jp >

To: “King of the Sea” <uzunaruRX-78-2@post.expart.ne.jp>


Nice to hear from you again, Naruto, and thanks for the pictures. It does seem like it was a beautiful ceremony. I’m sorry to hear about your father’s situation and hope that in due time he’ll be able to find some peace in his heart. You don’t look all that great yourself –at least from the photos – have you lost weight? I know you’re grieving, but you must not ignore your health as well. I doubt your Mom would approve if you’ve been starving yourself.

I’m currently in Niigata, sitting in a shitty hotel room that cost a fortune (though company’s paying). I should be done with this particular job in a week and then the looooooong trip back home. Urgh. Send my regards to Hinata, and keep me abreast on how the fishing business is going.


P.S: When the hell are you going to get a damn cell phone?!


P.P.S: Sending you pictures of some sights around Niigata. Wish you were, huh?




Subject: Pfft

From: “King of the Sea”

To: “The Great(est) Salesman”


Sweet! Those pictures are awesome. Especially the one with you posing next to Ten-Ken cliff. You look like you’re about to fall off! Haha! And is that really the infamous Tsubame-Sanjō ramen?!!! Holy shit! Why the hell didn’t we get to pass that city during our road trip? I’m jealous, man. J-E-A-L-O-U-S.

(and knowing you, I bet you didn’t even finish the damn thing. Man, good food is wasted on you).


Dude, do not rush me about the phone. I’ll get it when I’m good and ready. I should be lucky our damn computer’s even working for me to be able to respond to your emails, and we’ve been so busy trying to organize Mom’s things. Dad’s already taking me out to work, so it’s been kinda hard to think of anything else. Internet connection up here gets kinda shady sometimes. Speaking of fishing, it’s a good thing you’re not near me because I stink to high heaven. I can almost picture you telling me to go take a shower in that haughty tone of yours. I swear I can’t get the smell of fish and seaweed out of me, and it’s only been a week! By the time you stop by again (if you ever do), you probably won’t even recognize me…or want to stand next to me (LOL!) Are you still in Niigata?


P.S: I am not losing weight. Wearing black always makes me look skinnier than I really am. I think I’ve added more muscle weight with all the heavy lifting (and I’ve even gotten a tan!). I’ll send a pic next time.




Re: Pfft

From: “The Great(est) Salesman”

To: “King of the Sea”


Txting from phone in restaurant. On the road again. Heading to Kyoto. Should be there in a couple of days give or take. Called your home but no one was there or are phone lines down too? When is best time to call anyway? And you with a tan and more muscle weight? This I’ve got to see.




Re: Lots of Stuff!

From: “King of the Sea”

To: “The Great(est) Salesman”


Guess where I’m typing from? An internet café in town. There was a big storm the other day, so most of the power’s out (and this includes ‘net connection and phone lines). Sucks, but they say it should be back up and running sometime later tonight. I hope. The weather’s getting way too cold up here and Pops and I have to wear almost three layers of clothing in the house. Brr! Anyway, because me and Pops have been so busy at work – this is the only time I’ve had to come down here to use a computer. I’m sorry it’s taking so long to communicate, but at least you should be in Kyoto, right? I’ll go cell phone shopping with Hinata this weekend, so you can stop nagging me to death about it.


(which phone and service do you recommend anyway? And I mean something NOT outrageously expensive!)


I’ve attached pictures of me and Pops (and some with Hinata and her little sis) hanging around the docks. Pops renamed the main trawler – Princess Mito – for obvious reasons. We even re-painted the main hull maroon to match Mom’s hair. As you can see, Pops has about five commercial boats in all (and almost twenty employees on payroll), and every day we have to make sure they’re all sea-worthy.


We get up at about four or five in the morning – depending on the weather forecast – and go about oiling the equipment, washing and scrubbing the galleys and decks, preparing the baits, fixing up broken bits and pieces from prior fishing trips, stocking up supplies, mending the nets, and making sure all the crates are solid enough to be thrown into sea for our catches. All of this has to be completed by seven by the way. When that’s done, you’ve then got meetings with the fish mongers or food and packaging companies who buy from you and you all decide how the catch for the day’s going to be divided up. Some mongers sell only specific products like say crabs and lobsters while others go for pure fish (mackerel, salmon etc. etc.). Anyway, by the time you actually cast off to sea, it’s almost nine in the morning! Pops says I’m still too slow, and I’m holding everyone else up because I screw up some things. According to him, they’re usually done with prep by SIX! Makes me wonder if they get any sleep at all. Sheesh.


There are some slow days, when nothing really bites (and then you’ve got other fishermen you’re competing with, so it’s kinda tough having to navigate around the sea and not get into any one’s territory…so to speak), but on days when it’s really jumping…man! Wish you could be here to see it, Sasuke. It’s crazy on the boats. Everyone’s running around dragging the nets which can weigh up to a ton or more, and there’s all sorts of weird things we catch (I swear I think I caught an alien from outer space in the shape of a fish – see picture attached). Then comes the hard task of separating the good from the bad, making sure we don’t put in already dead fish (you know…those that many sharks or other fish have bitten or thrown up), seaweed, and other creepy crawlies we don’t need. By the time we’re done, it’s close to nine in the evening…an entire day gone just like that!


And if you think our job’s over, think again, buddy! Once we get back on land, there are those damn fishmongers hovering around waiting for their share of the goodies. Pops handles the business side of things, while me and the rest of the boys have to struggle with loading up crates and containers with our hard earned catches. We usually get home around eleven, and thank God for Hinata or we’d starve to death. She always leaves us some food and there are never any leftovers. Haha! I get to sleep for a couple of hours and then the entire day happens again – like clockwork. I swear this gives me a better appreciation of all the stuff my Pops went through without me there to help him. I feel kinda bad about it, but at the same time, it feels good now, you know? We get to spend more time together, and I get to learn so much more about my family history and what he’s really all about. He still misses Mom, obviously, but at least he’s trying to make an effort to be more cheerful.


I miss her too and it gets worse at night when I have to listen to Pops talking to her picture in the living room shrine and telling her all the things I did, and how much I’m growing and becoming a man and shit like that. It’s kinda embarrassing, but it’s nice to know that your own Pops doesn’t hate you as much as you thought he did.


Phew. My fingers hurt from all that typing, but I figured I needed to get it all out now just in case I don’t get a chance to email you anytime soon. But hopefully I should have the phone by this weekend, so I’ll call you. Just wait for my number to show up on your caller ID, okay? Or if it shows up as ‘unknown’, you can just listen to the voicemail I leave and call me back. I can’t wait to hear your annoying voice again. Hah! :p


Talk to you (for real this time) later!


P.S: I think I’m gonna change my name from “King of the Sea” to “Ruler of the Motherfucking Ocean”. How does that sound?





Like you’re an idiot, Sasuke mused with a faint smile.


He checked his other messages for anything not business-related; perhaps hoping Naruto had sent another lengthy email to keep him entertained. Unfortunately, there was nothing new since yesterday morning, so he contented himself with scrolling through the images Naruto had attached for the thousandth time.


You really weren’t kidding when you said you’ve changed, Sasuke thought with reluctant admiration.


The photographs told the story. Most showed Naruto clad in either sleeveless shirts or topless (and not without some ridiculous handkerchief or cloth of some sort wrapped around his head to keep his growing hair out his eyes); the effects of the sun evident on the now caramel tone of his skin. It did more to make those piercing blue eyes pop especially when he grinned…


(all fucking teeth)


…while holding up a large fish or crab to pose for the camera.  Compared to the lanky guy he had traveled with almost a month ago, the tedious work schedule at sea had definitely done some good for the blond. His shoulders, arms and back seemed more defined with the so-called ‘muscle-weight’ he had added. His water-glistened abs were like washboards, causing Sasuke to absently caress his in slight dismay. He wasn’t heavy by any means, neither did he have any love handles to make him cringe, but with Naruto looking this good with just a few weeks of catching fish, it was a sign that he needed to hit the gym more often to keep up. If he was planning to visit Naruto again, he’d have to look his best.


But until then -


He sighed and tucked the phone back into the pocket of his black trench coat; keeping his hands within the warmth they offered for the chill of the evening air was now beginning to seep into his bones.


It was another beautiful evening in Kyoto, and from this vantage point, it was rather breathtaking to view the infinite twinkling lights of downtown below. The wind picked up a little to rustle his hair, nearly blinding him and sending tufts into his mouth. Swirls of fallen sepia leaves – from the many trees that cocooned him – followed his quiet steps upon slightly damp grass, and with every subtle gust, they seemed to dance and sigh in response; perhaps desperate to deliver the last whispered words of his silent companions.


And what silent companions they were.


The gravestones or markers made for a rather morbid setting, but it was the impressive granite tomb of Uchiha Madara - about as big as a miniature house – which signaled to anyone daring to walk the grounds that they were in the presence of someone (or family) close to royalty. The private Uchiha burial site obviously housed each and every member of the clan – or so Sasuke was made to believe – and it was rather sobering to think that there was already a plot reserved for him in this place.


And I know exactly where it’s going to be, he thought morosely as he picked up the small wooden bucket and spoon obtained from the temple nearby. Right next to you, niisan.


It wasn’t difficult to spot Itachi’s grave, for the black marbled headstone was still ‘new’ compared to the others. Etched on it were the simple words:


Uchiha Itachi

June 9th 19xx - March 15th 20xx

Beloved son and brother

May his soul rest in peace


Short and simple. After all, the Uchihas’ weren’t exactly known for long-winded speeches or eloquent poetic phrases. It was a miracle someone had even added the last line. It was a rather cozy nook, all things considered; right beneath one of the largest oak trees on the grounds where its branches seemed to want to wrap themselves around the headstone in added protection. There were several fresh vases of beautiful flowers, and it didn’t take a genius to know that his mother was probably responsible for them. However, some needed to be changed or tossed away, and in silence, Sasuke stooped to his haunches to pay his homage. As he pulled off dead stems and brushed away fallen leaves, memories – like a cascading waterfall – raced through his mind whether he wanted them to or not. Every moment spent with his big brother, every smile, every frown, every pout, every laugh, and every conversation was re-lived. The last had been a phone call, one he might have ignored if something hadn’t compelled him to finally listen to his brother’s last words (though Sasuke hadn’t known that at the time).


“We were going to tell you,” he had said in that quiet voice of his that was now filled with sorrow. “We never meant to hurt you, Sasuke, and it definitely wasn’t something we had planned on happening. It just…did. I wish I could explain to you just how much I fought against giving in to what my heart cried for. I didn’t want to be with her because I knew you two were getting married, but I fell for her all the same. Imagine my surprise when she told me the feeling was mutual, but she was torn as well for she really likes you and knows you’ll be hurt once the affair is revealed. If you’re going to hate anyone, hate me, Sasuke. Hate me for not being strong enough to back away, and for finally coercing her into an illicit affair. Hate me for being a coward and not opening up to you when I had a chance. My only hope is that someday you’ll come to forgive us both for our sins to you. We both love you so very much and would want nothing more than your blessing eventually.”


My blessing, huh? Sasuke scooped some water and poured it over the gravestone; watching blindly as it trickled over the marble. What did I say to all of that, niisan? I can’t really remember much of the conversation…or rather what I said, but I think I might have forgiven you two…at least my lips might have said that even though my heart still ached at the betrayal. And when you said you were leaving the country for a while…did I ever wish you a safe journey? No. I don’t think I did. It’s probably why I’ve been dealing with the guilt for so long; that deep down inside, I might have really wished for something terrible to happen to both of you. What does that make me, niisan? 


With the gravestone washed, he rose to his feet to admire his handiwork. He could feel the growth of that damned lump forming in his throat, even as trembling fingers reached out to trace out his brother’s name slowly.


“I’m going back home,” he whispered hoarsely. “I don’t want to, but I can’t keep running away forever. A certain man taught me that, and no it wasn’t Dad. His name is Uzumaki Naruto, and I’m sure you would have liked him if you two met. He’s an idiot sometimes, but he can reveal bits of wisdom that’s surprising. He had a dream to become the next great musician, but it turns out maybe following in his father’s footsteps was his destiny after all. I thought being on the road and becoming my own man was my fate, and perhaps it still is, but I have to make sure. I have to go back and slay all those demons before I can really say I’m free to be who I really want to be.” He paused and looked to the heavens, swallowing hard to get rid of the lump. His eyes burned. “Wish me luck, niisan. God knows I’m going to need it.”


He turned to leave, but stilled his steps and took a deep breath.


“Ah, and before I forget,” he added quietly. “I forgive you. Too little too late, but I truly forgive you all the same. I hope you get to see her up there and finally be together as you always wanted. Farewell, my dearest brother.”


I’ll never stop loving you…




Pass through the crowd, to the place where the light leads you
As the soundless scenery is flowing past you


Somewhere in the thick cobwebs of sleep, Gackt’s serenade seeped through as if coming from the depths of a catacomb.


You opened your hands and were about to hold everything within your grasp


Sasuke groaned and burrowed deeper amongst the pillows. Who the fuck could be calling him at this ungodly hour?


At the end of the rusted track
I want to believe that something is there


Relentless, Gackt continued to sing; finally forcing Sasuke’s arm to shoot out from beneath the thick comforter, fingers restlessly searching and in the process knocking down a few things from the bedside table before finding the cause of his anguish. The phone disappeared beneath the comforter where only tufts of ruffled dark hair could be seen. Bleary eyes stared at the large white letters screaming ‘UNKNOWN’, causing his initial reaction to be a muttered expletive and the immediate need to switch the device off completely. However, just as he was about to press the button to disconnect –


/ Just wait for my number to show up on your caller ID, okay? Or if it shows up as ‘unknown’, you can just listen to the voicemail I leave and call me back. /


(Oh hell…Naruto!)


“Hel…Hello?” he croaked though slightly breathless as the comforter was pushed down and he scrambled up quickly. “Naruto?”


“Morning, Sleepy Head!” came the cheerful greeting. “Did I wake you?”


(that voice)


The smile came even before he could control it, fingers running through his tussled locks as he glanced at the clock beside him. 5:45am.


“And good morning to you too,” he replied before clearing his throat. “I see you got your phone at last.”


“Yeah. Thanks for the tips on which one to get or Hinata and I would have spent hours deciding on which to pick. Those salespeople can be pretty convincing in trying to get you to buy the most expensive ones. Oh wait. You should know. I’m talking to the master after all.” He laughed, a familiar sound Sasuke was unaware he had actually missed. He raised his knees to his chest and buried his face against them.


“It’s no problem,” he replied with a chuckle. “Are you off to work?”


There was a dramatic groan at the other end. “Yeah, I am. Just thought I’d give you a call before heading out and drop off my number. Got a pen?”


“You can text it to me you know.”


“Oh…right. Duh. Funny how you can forget those little things, eh? Shit…hang on…”


His voice faded out though he seemed to be talking to someone in the background; something along the lines of ‘I’m coming already! I’ll be right there! Don’t leave without me!’ when he returned, it was with a heavy sigh.


“Gotta get off now. I’ll call you back later, all right?”


“All right…”


“And I’ll text the number to you ASAP.”


“Cool.” A pause. “And Naruto?”




“…it’s good to hear your voice again.”


The pause this time came from the other end, though there was the slight catch of breath that was almost lost in the beginning. “Same here,” Naruto finally replied in a voice that was almost inaudible.


Sasuke sunk his toes into the sheets and cleared his throat again. “Have a good day…fishing.”


There was a relieved chuckle – effectively breaking the slight tension that had crept in for a moment there. “Thanks. You have a good day yourself, okay? Talk to you later. Bye!”


He hung up and fell back to the bed, the smile not leaving his face and those pesky cobwebs of sleep now completely gone. The beep on his device had him looking at the screen where Naruto had done as promised. He immediately added it to his list of personal contacts, smirking as he gave the blond the nickname “Ruler of the Motherfucking Ocean”. In fact, their email monikers had been a running joke between them, where Naruto had been the first to call him “The Great(est) Salesman” and he had reciprocated with “King of the Sea”. Chuckling, he swung his legs off the bed, recalling how aghast Naruto had been at the time, while claiming that the name made him sound like a merman. However, ‘sweet-talking’ Naruto into believing he was a descendent of the famous Greek god Poseidon had done the trick. Heh. Who could resist being compared to a deity after all, right?


Thirty minutes later, he was working up a sweat on his treadmill; going at a personal best 19kph at an uphill setting. The gray tank-top was becoming drenched with his efforts, but he felt he could go for at least another hour before taking a break.


While running, he took the time to ‘admire’ his apartment; a place he had not seen in over six months. It screamed ‘typical bachelor pad’, with its Western-inspired yet Spartan décor of blacks and whites. A long black leather sofa flanked a pristine glass-top coffee table with oak legs and standing white halogen lamps all by the famous interior designer Shiro Kuramata. His entertainment center featured one of the latest Blu-Ray/DVD player, video game console, and one of the largest HD flat-screen TVs available. A polished white oak floor ran throughout the apartment only interrupted by a black-dotted beige and white carpet which covered most of the living and bedroom area. On blemish-free white walls, abstract paintings by Atsuko Tsurumi and Shusaku Arakawa sat in judgmental silence. He couldn’t really tell you why he had chosen those particular pieces, but they did compliment the overall aesthetic of the place. On either side of the entertainment center were two abstract-shaped walnut bookcases containing several works of literature he had acquired over the years.


The sliding glass doors on his right were flanked by two floor-to-ceiling windows giving the illusion that the entire wall was simply made of glass. When the black and white damask curtains were opened, it really was stunning to see the rays of sunlight bathe the entire apartment in shades of gold and orange. Even more beautiful was having them open at night and getting a good view of the city while lounging on your sofa with good wine and a good book to read (or if you were extra lucky, a woman who wasn’t likely to want to marry you after a one-night stand).


…not that he was in any hurry to walk down the aisle…


He ran out of gas an hour and a half-later, and peeling out of his soaked shirt, he ran the towel through his hair, wiped himself as dry as possible before doing some stretching exercises. It was turning out to be a great Sunday morning, and he realized he was anticipating speaking to Naruto again – though he thought it childish to sit around counting down the hours until he received the call. He’d try to get some work done to kill the time. However, as he leapt to his feet to head to the kitchen for something to drink, the sudden chime of his doorbell had him freezing in his tracks.


Huh? I wasn’t expecting any visitors, he thought warily.


The only services he required were those of his maid – who showed up once a month and wasn’t scheduled for today, or the building’s maintenance guy who had to do his monthly inspections. Other than that…


The doorbell chimed again, and cursing beneath his breath, Sasuke made his way to the door.


“Who is it?” he began asking, only to feel his tongue get heavy in his mouth as a quick peek through the peep-hole revealed the least likely of visitors.


Oh my God! What the hell is she doing here?! How did she know I was back?!


Panic, dismay, shock, and the helpless sensation of regressing back to that little boy who always hung on her coattails – overwhelmed him so much, he had to slap a hand over his mouth and staggered backwards on trembling legs.


What do I do? came his frantic thoughts. And I just had to ask ‘who is it’, didn’t I? Now there’s no way she won’t know I’m not here. Shit!


He dove for the coat closet, grabbing the first thing his hand touched (which, luckily, turned out to be an old college sweatshirt), dressed quickly, ran trembling fingers through his hair, took a deep breath, counted inwardly to ten before finally opening the door when he felt composed enough.


“Mother,” he began in a voice that sounded surprisingly steady despite the thudding of his heartbeat. Dressed in a simple tailored black dress suit, Uchiha Mikoto hadn’t changed much over the years, unless you considered the lines of sadness and weariness etched within that beautiful face he never thought he’d see again.


“What a surpri…umph!”


The hug (or lunge) was so unexpected; it nearly knocked him off his feet with the force of it. Her slender yet strong arms tightened around him as if unwilling to let go, her harsh sobs buried against his chest as if wracked from her very soul. He hesitated in returning the affectionate embrace, but damn if his emotions didn’t get the better of him. He hated to see his mother cry, and knowing that he was the reason for it…


(God, I’m so weak)


…he closed his eyes and finally wrapped his arms around her. And as he placed a tender kiss upon her dark hair, he couldn’t help thinking over and over again:


I’m finally home.





Naruto called earlier than expected; not that he was complaining.


“I thought you’d still be stuck out there somewhere,” Sasuke mused as he balanced the phone between his neck and shoulder and eyed the cotton shirt he was considering wearing tomorrow.


“I got a half-day off,” Naruto replied with a chuckle. He sounded like he was busy doing something in the background as well. “There wasn’t much biting anyway.”


“Too bad. Maybe there’ll be better luck tomorrow.”


“I hope so. Shit!”




“Burned my fingers.”


“What the hell are you doing?”


“Trying to make dinner,” came the huffed reply. “Hinata’s out of town and she apparently forgot to leave leftovers for us. I gotta come up with something for Pops to eat when he gets back.”


“What are you cooking?” He tossed the white shirt to the bed and picked the light blue one.


“…ra-ramen,” came the embarrassed mumble, which had Sasuke snickering.


“Why am I not surprised?”


“It’s not the one you have to wait for three-minutes. This one takes time. Pops hates the instant kind.”


“The man has good taste, which can’t be said for his ramen-crazed son.”


There was a childish raspberry blown over the line, as Sasuke discarded the blue shirt and grabbed a black one. He scowled and tried to compare which was best for the occasion.


“Guess who came by to visit today?” he asked.




“My mother.”


“No shit! Really?! Did you tell her you were back?”


“No,” Sasuke replied with a wry smile. “She confessed that she bribed the building’s landlord to keep her abreast of my whereabouts. So once I returned, he called to give her a heads up.”


“Oooh…were you pissed?”


“For a moment, but I could understand where she was coming from. She was worried about me, that’s all.”


“Aww, how sweet.”


“Shut up,” came the low embarrassed mutter accentuated by twin hues of color on Sasuke’s cheeks. “I’m going to send you a picture of her in a second…hold on…”


“Whoa…she’s ho…eh…pretty.”


“Were you about to say my mom’s hot? Shocking, Uzumaki Naruto. I am shocked.” There was a grin in his voice, which had Naruto stuttering in denial.


“But she is though! I mean if no one knew who she was, they might think she’s a cougar.”


“Gross. This is my mother we’re talking about, Naruto. Cut out the sexual innuendos, all right?”


“Yeah, yeah whatever.”


“Anyway, we had a long and productive conversation…”


“You make it sound like it was a business meeting.”


“It might have been at first,” Sasuke admitted. He reached into his closet for another shirt. “But we eventually relaxed in each other’s presence and did our best to get rid of the elephant in the room.”


“Did it work?”


“I think so. She’s obviously missed me and wanted to know all about my job and how things were going, and then the usual motherly things about me eating right and keeping healthy blah, blah, blah.”


Naruto laughed. “Sounds about right. My Mom was the same way even on that day after you left the hospital room. Guess that’s why they are our mothers, right? It’s their job to be worried to death about us…literally.”


“You’re not still beating yourself over it, are you?” Sasuke asked for he had noticed the heaviness in those words.


“No, no, I’m all right. It’s just…” There was a slight pause before Naruto continued softly. “The house seems so much bigger and emptier, you know? I mean it’s not a large house anyway, but you get what I’m saying, right?”


Sasuke nodded. He had a feeling once he returned to his childhood home, every freaking room in that house was going to seem vast and hollow.


“Yes, I do understand,” he replied and finally decided he would go with the white shirt. “But it will get better in time, Naruto. You’re already making such good progress moving on with your life.”


“Hm,” came the lone reply. “And what about you? How’s your progress coming along?”


“One hurdle was cleared with Mom showing up,” Sasuke admitted as he now searched for the right blazer to go with the shirt. “I did plan on calling her to see if I could visit, but she made things so much easier for me.” He pulled out the navy Calvin Klein piece and caressed the fine fabric gently. 


“She did her best to encourage me to see Dad…when he returns in about a week.”


“Oh? Where did he go?”


“He’s in the U.S. on some business trip.”




“Aww what?”


“I bet he traveled around a lot when you were a kid and you never got to spend much time with him, right?”


“What are you trying to be? Some shrink trying to figure out why I’m so messed up in my personal life? That the reason I’m this way is because I got no love from Daddy Dearest?”


“Just call me Uzumaki Naruto MD,” came the amused taunt. “My couch services begin at 500,000yen per hour.”


“Fuck you,” Sasuke said with a light laugh. “Stick to what you do best, Poseidon, and leave the head shrink roles to the therapists my parents pay an arm and leg for every fucking month.”


Naruto whistled in appreciation. “I could use some head cleaning, but seriously though…have you given it any more thought? Will you work for him if he asks you to?”


Sasuke carefully hung up the ensemble, while biting hard on his lower lip. Had he thought about what he would do or say to his father when the time came?


(every other waking minute, Naruto)


Yet, he couldn’t say for sure if he was going to abandon his life on the road for a more complicated schedule being a part of UchihaCORP. He fell back to his king-sized bed and rubbed his forehead wearily.


“I honestly don’t know,” he finally replied as he closed his eyes. “I guess it will depend on how the conversation with him goes. If I see we’re making no headway in understanding each other…then you might see me on the next company car to some obscure town somewhere. If not…”


“You’ll be calling me from your private jet in England or someplace like that, right?”


Sasuke’s lips quirked into a small smile. “Maybe. That’s one of the pitfalls of being a part of such a large cooperation. It’s like being a salesman…but on a much grander scale. While you sail the seas…I’ll be navigating the skies.”

“How poetic.”


Sasuke laughed and rolled onto his stomach. “But enough about me and my poetic skills. Anything new happening to you besides murdering innocent sea creatures?”


“Dude! Don’t make it sound like that!” Naruto wailed though he laughed as well. “Just think. The next time you’re in some fancy restaurant ordering the latest seafood delicacy, you can imagine me sweating it out here catching it for you. Be grateful!”


Sasuke gave a little mock bow. “I’m forever in your debt, and just for that, I’ll make sure I order the finest sushi for dinner tomorrow.”


“Ooh a date?”


“Something like that…”


“What? Whaaaat? Spill, man. Who’s the lucky lady?”


Sasuke spun onto his back again; his gaze now trained on the pristine ceiling. “One of my mom’s best friends. She said they’ve been dying to see me and wanted me to have dinner with them tomorrow night.” He rolled his eyes. “Oddly enough, they’ve got a daughter who is about my age and it’s obvious they want us to get together.”


“Is she cute?”


“She’s all right,” Sasuke mumbled. “Mom showed me her picture, and I’ve got to say she’s definitely changed from the last time I saw her. It’s been years.”


“Hey, who knows…you two might hit it off and find you’re compatible. You should give it a chance and see what happens.”


“I guess…” he replied quietly. He would have been a fool not to have noticed that Naruto sounded a little too eager for him to be paired off with someone else.


“Oh and guess what?”


“What?” Sasuke asked slowly.


“You’re not the only one who’s probably found a soul mate. I met this…uh…guy about a week ago, and we’ve been hanging out a lot. He’s a fisherman too, and he and his family moved in a couple of years ago…”


(stop it)


“…couple of boats next to ours…”


(stop it goddamnit!)


“…and we get to hang out during prep and when we get back from work…”


(I don’t want to know about it. I don’t want to know about him. I don’t…)


“…really like him when you come visit,” Naruto finished breathlessly.


There was a tense silence in which Sasuke’s eyes remained squeezed shut (when he had closed them again, he had no idea), and the rubbing of his forehead had intensified. He could feel a headache coming on.


“Sasuke? You still here?”


“…yes,” he finally replied tersely. “He sounds…great.”


“He sure is,” came the cautious response. “…are you okay?”


“Yes. Why?”

“I don’t know…you sound…different.”


“No, I don’t.”


“Are you upset?”


“Why should I be upset?”

“Because you sound pissed off, that’s why.”


“You’re raising your voice, Naruto.”


“You’ve got that snotty tone again, Sasuke. Sheesh. Knew I shouldn’t have said anything about him.”


“I honestly don’t give a damn about who you decide to date, and I’m happy that you’ve found someone for you. I really am.”


(I’m just going to have to find a way to stop making my stomach react in such a queasy way whenever I picture you in the arms of someone else…that’s all)


“If you say so.”


An awkward pregnant pause ensued in which either man remained preoccupied in their thoughts. It was Naruto who finally broke the silence with a sigh.


“I’ve gotta get off now. My Pops just walked in.”


“I see…I…”


“You know what? Since it seems like whenever we talk about our private lives, we get all worked up about it, how about we don’t do that anymore?”


“Don’t be silly, Naruto. If we’re going to be friends, we might as well talk about everything and anything and that includes whichever man you decide to be with.”


“And you promise to stop acting like you’ve got a serious case of constipation whenever I bring it up?”


Sasuke’s jaw worked for a moment, before replying tightly. “I think I’ll live, Naruto. I’ll be sure to take lots of laxatives before answering any of your phone calls from now on.”


“Fuck you, asshole,” came the insult though it was tinged with amusement. “The same goes for me. Whenever you start rambling on about whichever girl you banged the night before, I’ll be throwing up in the bathroom. Forgive whatever retching sounds you hear.”


Sasuke chuckled. “Deal.”


“Heh. All right, seriously now. I’ve got to get off the phone. Call me when you can…well you know what times to reach me.”


“Sure. Oh and one more thing before I let you go.”


“What’s that?”


“Please tell me you and the new boyfriend haven’t had sex already, have you?”


Naruto burst into laughter. “Are you serious? That’s the first thing we did when we got the chance! You should know by now that when I get horny, there’s no stopping me, Uchiha Sasuke.” There was a blown kiss over the line. “Bye, Mr. Salesman. Sweet dreams!”


You slut, Sasuke thought with a shake of his head, though unable to stop the smile to come to his features as he closed his eyes and allowed the device to slip from his fingers onto the bed. He wasn’t sure if Naruto had been kidding or not, but did it matter really? Wasn’t it one of the more fascinating facets of his eccentric friend? Naruto was anything but ordinary, so how he chose to live his life – no matter how outrageous – was all part of the charm.


“And as for me,” he spoke to the rotating ceiling fan. “Maybe I’ll get lucky tomorrow night once Mommy and Daddy are out of the picture, Hikari-san. It will definitely be a pleasure getting to know all of you.”





Bask in the golden sands and soar into the sky
Become the brilliantly shining sun
Ride the wind... Spread both of your hands
Before you're entirely broken down

-Gackt (Oasis)


Five months.


Five months, three days and some hours to be exact, Naruto thought morosely as now skilled fingers straightened out the fishing nets while searching for any torn sections that needed mending.


So yes, they still talked on the phone or exchanged emails and text messages, but those were becoming far and few between these days. Why, their last conversation alone had been a rushed affair because Sasuke had important meetings to get to.


(guess he made his choice after all)


Not that it should have been surprising. At the back of his mind, Naruto had known the inevitable (perhaps predictable) outcome. There was just no way Sasuke would turn down the opportunity to work with his father even if they didn’t see eye-to-eye all the time.


“The main reason I chose to stay was because of Itachi,” Sasuke had confided in him the night after the long-awaited rendezvous with Uchiha Fugaku. “Father understands and accepts this. So we’ll see how it goes from here.”


Five long months later, “how things had gone from there” was evident in Sasuke’s loaded daily schedule. Phone calls or messages seemed to appear from all over the world now. One time, Sasuke had called from Italy. The next message had come from somewhere in Venezuela. Two days later, he was speaking from the Eiffel Tower in Paris - all in the space of one week!


His coming out to the media was an event in itself as well. Daily the headlines screamed with something related to him. They simply couldn’t get enough of the ‘mysterious’ young man.


Long Lost Uchiha Son Takes the Spotlight

Uchiha Sasuke Ready to Take Control of UchihaCORP

Stocks Rise at Promise of Future Leader of Uchiha Legacy

Most Eligible Bachelor – Uchiha Sasuke

Guess Who’s Dating Now? Uchiha Sasuke and Riko Aiwa! Wedding Bells Ahead?


“God, he looks so different, doesn’t he?” Hinata had observed one night as they watched the news where yet again, Sasuke was front and center though not of his own doing. It was simply cameras following him as he attended an International Economic Summit in Tokyo. Seeing him dressed in such tailored and flattering business suits, while flanked by some of the most powerful men in the world, was a sharp (and almost painful) reminder of just how different their lives really were.


(hard to believe we spent about a week on the road together sharing junk food and making use of public restrooms. It feels like something out of a dream now…)


His movements stilled as he studied his calloused and hardened hands. He flexed them slowly, a wry smile coming to his lips when he remembered how his father had praised him for finally developing the physique and stamina of the perfect fisherman.


“I’ve got nothing more to teach you, Naruto,” Hashirama had said with pride. “It’s now up to you to decide if you wish to remain or go out to seek something else for yourself. The choice is yours.”


My choice, huh?


He lifted his head to gaze out to the sea before him. Dusk bathed the waters in muted sepias and browns; a picturesque sight considering that the spring season was just around the corner. The town would soon be filled with tourist ( indigenous and foreign) for the great Nanohana festival, and already preparations were in full swing for the event. Most of the boats would become tourist attractions themselves, offering to charter passengers across the Bay for an hour of fun and relaxation. Hashirama had already commissioned two of his smaller boats – Kushina and Konoha – for that week, and no one could blame him for doing so. The harsh reality was that no matter how hard they worked, the money wasn’t coming in as much as they’d like or deserved. The much larger commercial fishing companies were beginning to monopolize the industry up here, leaving smaller businesses like his father’s in the dust. The competition was getting stiffer and most of Hashirama’s colleagues had buckled under the pressure by selling their businesses to the blood-thirsty piranhas for the extra cash. Naruto had watched in dismay as he father would try his best to rally and convince them not to give in or be engaged in fierce arguments with shady men in business suits wanting to have private meetings with him.


/ “It’s now up to you to decide if you wish to remain or go out to seek something else for yourself.” /


Is that why Hashirama had said those words to him? Was he giving Naruto a chance to leave before finally caving in to the bullies? Was the pressure now so much that Hashirama felt it necessary to spare his son from the shame of selling the family business? If that was the case –


“There you are,” came the familiar breathless voice belonging to his best girlfriend in the world. “Help me up, Naruto.”


He smiled and dumped the nets, moving quickly toward the gangway to assist Hinata unto the boat.


“You look gorgeous as always,” he complimented with a kiss on her cheek, while hoping his worries weren’t too evident. Hinata had always been able to read him like a book, and the last thing he wanted was to have her concerned for his welfare.  “Is that a new dress?”


“You like it?” She twirled around for him, blushing as he whistled in appreciation. “I bought it just for you.”


“Well, I approve,” Naruto bowed and grinned. “Please tell me that delicious smell is coming from that basket you’re holding. I’m starved!”


She giggled and nodded. “Yes, indeed. Let’s spread out on the deck and put our feet up.”


For the next half-hour, they engaged in ‘girl-talk’ – as Hinata fondly named it – where they spoke of trivial matters including the new man in her life. Naruto, ever vigilant and protective, had at first frowned at her decision to date the ‘boring’ looking man who worked as a teacher in his former high school. However, two days of hanging with the guy, Tanaka was proving himself to be perfect husband material. He was a geek when it came to his love for teaching Mathematics, but they at least shared a mutual love for classic manga where his knowledge of the Gundam universe was unrivaled in Naruto’s humble opinion. He doted on Hinata and did his best to make her happy whenever they were together. It really was sickening sometimes to watch the lovebirds cooing and sweet-talking each other.


“Man,” Naruto sighed with an added loud belch for emphasis. “That was the best. I don’t think I can move another muscle.”


Hinata smiled and lay her head upon his shoulder with a sigh of content. “I’m glad you liked the food. I made sure to leave some for your father in the fridge for dinner tonight.”


Naruto placed a hard kiss of gratitude on her head. “What would I ever do without you, Hinata-sama?”


She blushed and wrapped her arms around his waist to hold him tightly; giving a light squeeze as his strong arm cradled her shoulder and pulled her closer still. She took a deep breath, almost inhaling his scent greedily. He smelled wonderful; like rich earth and the sea, and though she knew that their relationship was purely platonic, a part of her would always wonder and wish that things could have been different.


She brushed her lips against the faint scar on his shoulder and closed her eyes, before asking quietly.


“Has he called?”


They both knew who ‘he’ referred to, and Naruto- whose lashes had lowered in weariness – was forced to be alert again. He bit his lower lip and shook his head lightly.


“No…but it shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s busy these days, and in due time he’ll forget all about us…”


(about me)


“I don’t think he will,” Hinata replied. “I don’t think he’s the kind of person to abandon his friends so easily.”




“You told me you two talked on the phone constantly for a while there, right?”


“Yeah…like every other day it seemed like, but then they stopped being so frequent. Whenever I called or left a message, he wouldn’t reply for days at a time, and when he did call, he couldn’t stay on for too long because of some business obligation or another.” Naruto made a face. “I’ve learned not to get too excited whenever I see his name on the caller ID these days. I realize it’s going to be yet another perfunctory ten minute conversation before he flies off to the fucking North Pole or something.”


Hinata remained silent for a moment before speaking quietly. “Have you ever considered that it might be hard for him too?”


“What do you mean?”


She sat up to pin a hard gaze on him. “You said he ran away from home because he didn’t want to get involved with his father’s business, right? So can you imagine how much pressure he must be under to perform well now that he’s joined the family again? There’s a lot of stuff he’s going to have to deal with, and I’m sure he’s not exactly having that much fun either.”


“That photo of him draped around the arm of that model the other night at some fancy dinner didn’t look like the face of a guy suffering to me.”


She smacked his arm playfully. “Stop pouting like a big baby, Naruto. Yes, you’re both in different situations right now, but I have a feeling he still treasures your messages and phone calls no matter how short or brief they might be. Give him some time, all right?”


“Pfft! I’m not waiting forever,” Naruto grumbled, ducking when she made to attack him. He ended up lifting her upon his shoulders and threatening to dump her into the ocean. Her loud laughter and breathless pleas for help interjected with his mock growls of menace.


“Help me!” she cried dramatically and waved her arms like windmills. “Somebody help me!”


“Who can resist a damsel in distress?” came the sudden but amused voice that had the playful duo coming to a breathless stop.


(it can’t…be…)


Naruto spun around slowly with Hinata still draped over his shoulder, and eyes widening by the second in disbelief. He tried to blame the fading light for making him see things. He told himself that he was imagining the man currently standing on the pier with one hand buried in the pocket of his dark tailored pants, and the other holding onto a blazer slung over his shoulder.


(five months, three days and some hours…it just…can’t…be)


His mouth opened and shut – the words getting lodged somewhere in his throat. It was Hinata who finally pushed the hair out of her eyes to gasp out the name that was still spinning within his head (and heart).


“Sasuke-kun? Oh my God! It’s really you, Sasuke-kun!”

“Whoa! Hang on there, Hinata! You’re going to fall!” Naruto finally cried out as the woman all but jumped off his shoulders before clambering off the boat. She squealed in delight and wrapped her arms around Sasuke in a warm hug, which he reciprocated with a smile though his gaze was still trained on the flushed man watching them from the vessel.


“I can’t believe you’re here!” Hinata was gushing. She cupped Sasuke’s face and forced his attention on her. “We were just talking about you and…”


Naruto spun away from the sight and stooped to his haunches to drag the nets, he had discarded earlier, closer to him. He hated the way he was still trembling from head to foot; his mind still unable to believe that Sasuke was actually here. Unannounced. No call. No email. No text. Nothing. Who was he to show up when he least expected and surprise the hell out of him? This wasn’t right! Sasuke should have given some kind of hint that he was coming back, that way he was at least emotionally prepared him for the reunion. Damn the inconsiderate bastard!


He cursed as he nicked himself against a sharp piece of a lure. He sucked hard on his bleeding thumb and relished in the pain to keep his mind off the couple behind him.  He winced as he heard their footsteps approach; his anguish even worse when the boat rocked a little at the weight of two more people disturbing his sanctuary. He felt the ridiculous urge to run away and to pretend this wasn’t happening –


“…leave you two boys to catch up,” Hinata was chirping away; oblivious to the tension between the men. “I hope you plan on staying longer than one night this time. I’d really love you to visit our home if you can.”


“Thanks for the invitation,” Sasuke responded with a polite bow. “I hope I’ll be able to stay as well.”


Hinata eyed the back of her friend and gave a small knowing smile. She crossed her fingers and nodded in understanding. “Good luck,” she whispered and gave him a final hug before excusing herself and getting off the boat again.


With Hinata now gone, Naruto desperately wished she would return. Besides the soothing licks of the tide against the hulls of the boats, the faint cries of other fishermen still at work or coming in from the sea…there could have been an icy chasm in the boat at the moment. He continued to thread through the nets, anything to keep himself busy and to –


“Do you plan on ignoring me for the rest of the night?” Sasuke finally asked after a light cough.


Naruto’s shoulders slumped. “What are you doing here? Just what the hell are you doing here, Sasuke? Shouldn’t you be in some fancy party or sharing war stories with your fellow business typhoons?”


He rose to his feet and turned, ready to hurl more accusations at him, but ended up being alarmed and embarrassed to find his eyes were filling with tears. “I thought you had forgotten all about us!”


He slapped a hand over his mouth, kicking himself inwardly for becoming too emotional over something as stupid as…as…


“Damn it!” he cursed and looked away again.


“I’m sorry, Naruto,” Sasuke said hoarsely with a tentative step forward. “I should have called -”


“Damn right you should have!”


“But I wanted it to be a surprise -”


“Well congratulations on achieving that. I mean what the hell! I’m not even…”


He looked down at himself, never realizing how plain his tattered shorts and dingy sleeveless t-shirt looked compared to the well-dressed man before him. He shyly tugged down the hem of the shirt and took a step back.


“I stink,” he stuttered; his face turning bright red in embarrassment. “Didn’t I tell you, you wouldn’t want to stand next to me?”


Sasuke shrugged and gave a small smile. He tossed his blazer over several stacked crates and rolled up the sleeves of his dress-shirt. “So? If Hinata can deal with your stench, I can stomach it too. Besides, after hanging around lots of overpowering colognes and perfumes…” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, before lifting his lashes again. “I think the fresh sea air will do me some good.” He nodded toward the nets. “Need some help?”


“Huh?” Naruto blinked and eyed the equipment before looking back at the man who had – just a week ago – shaken hands with the Prime Minister of the fucking country! “What are you talking…?”


“The nets,” Sasuke said as he walked closer before stooping to his haunches. “Teach me what to do and I’ll help out. Were you mending them?”


“You…these…I…you can’t do that!” he wailed in disbelief. “You’re not trained for -”


“Then teach me,” Sasuke insisted, those dark eyes leaving no room for compromise.


Naruto felt the heat suffuse his features for this was an added component to the Uchiha Sasuke he once knew. He had always thought the salesman to be pushy and stubborn, but damn if these few months being in Daddy’s World hadn’t made him even more of a tough nut to crack.


“…well don’t blame me if you hurt yourself,” he grumbled as he knelt beside Sasuke and began showing him the ropes. In less than a half-hour, both men were sitting side-by-side, stitching and tightening pieces of the large net. Every now and then, Sasuke would ask questions about his progress and Naruto had to reluctantly admire just how fast the other man had gotten the basic gist of the task. He would steal a glance at Sasuke, still wondering if he ought to pinch himself as he studied those lean fingers threading in and out of the net. He didn’t seem to mind that he was probably ruining a suit and shirt that must have cost thousands, for all his concentration was trained on doing a good job.


“I still can’t fucking believe it,” Naruto mused with a shake of his head. “I have a good mind of punching you in the face just to make sure you’re actually here.”


“It’s going to hurt, you bastard,” Sasuke mumbled; head still lowered as he worked on his section. “I’m not as tough as you yet. Fuck!”




“Think I nicked myself,” Sasuke hissed and would have stuck his finger into his mouth when Naruto slapped a hand over it to prevent him from doing so.


“Wouldn’t do that if I was you. You’re still new to all this, so sticking your finger in your mouth is likely to cause you some kind of sickness I doubt you’ll want to deal with. I’m used to it by now, so no worries.”


“What are you…?”


Whatever else he might have asked was lost in a surprised gasp as his finger disappeared into Naruto’s mouth. Whether it was the immediate warmth around his flesh, or the wet slightly abrasive sensation of his tongue against the wound, Sasuke’s features burned at the intimate gesture. His stomach muscles clenched tightly as he felt the blood being sucked and licked away. It might have lasted an eternity to him, but it was over just as quickly as it had started. Naruto released his finger with a light smack and pulled back to eye his brand of first aid.


“There. That should stop the bleeding.” He pursed his lips. “Or maybe I should have just gotten a band aid -”


“Damn it, Naruto!” Sasuke growled and yanked his hand away from the blond’s grasp; literally melting in embarrassment as he noticed the smirk on the other’s visage. The damned bastard had done it on purpose!


“I was just messing with you,” Naruto said with a laugh. “Payback for showing up when I least expected.”


“Fuck you.” He dragged the net closer to him and began to work in earnest; hating how his insides still churned at just what had transpired. “Next time I’ll make sure I call, send an email, text, have my personal secretary repeat the process and make a television and internet announcement about me coming to Yokohama, happy?”


Naruto grinned. “Works for me.”


“Wonder what your boyfriend would think if he saw us doing…that.”


Naruto eyed the lowered head and teased. “Boyfriend? What boyfriend?”


He barely caught the slight stiffening of Sasuke’s movements. “What happened to the guy you were so gung-ho over?”


“I’ve told you a thousand times. His name is Kenji, and yes, we’re still together,” Naruto replied with a light shrug. “But he’s away for a while. He’s in Okinawa for some family business.”


“Oh…I see…”


“And which rich airhead are you dating now?”


“Haven’t you been keeping up with the tabloids? Last time I checked, I was dating two Japanese movie stars and one French model all at the same time. I’m such a cad.”


Naruto cackled in delight. “And the womanizer strikes again!”


“It’s not funny,” Sasuke muttered and held up the net to see what he had accomplished. “My mom’s freaking out over me finding a woman to settle down with, and I keep having to remind her that I’m still only in my early twenties for fuck’s sake. What’s the rush?”


“Well she’s not getting any younger. The woman’s got to have her grandkids, Sasuke. Don’t be a meanie and go get some chick pregnant ASAP.”


He received a painful jab of Sasuke’s elbow against his ribs for that one.


“Ouch!” Naruto whined and rubbed his side. “How’s Daddy Dearest taking it anyway?”


Sasuke snorted. “How else? As he always does.” He lowered his voice an octave and put on a scowl. “Just as long as you find a woman who is suitable for the family, Sasuke, I do not care what you choose to do in your personal life.”


“He really said that?”


“Believe it or not…yes.” Sasuke lowered the net to stare out to the sea in thought. “He’s changed since I met him. He’s been less…strict. I think Itachi’s death softened him a little.”


Naruto nodded slowly. “Death of a loved one does have the ability to do that. It gives you a better perspective on life, you know? What’s the point of living it with so much bitterness and pain when you could be enjoying it to the fullest? It’s why I wake up every morning and thank my lucky stars that I’m alive to see another day. It doesn’t matter if I end up having a shitty one, but if I can look back and see that I’ve done at least one productive thing or made someone happy…it’s all worth it.”


A lengthy pause accompanied this little speech, and he blushed as he felt the weight of Sasuke’s gaze on him.


“Just when I think you can’t surprise me any more with your random bouts of wisdom,” Sasuke muttered. “You really find ways to amaze me.”


“And that’s not a bad thing, is it?”


Sasuke snickered. “No, it’s not Uzumaki Naruto.”


He eyed the rest of the nets. “How many more do we have to do?”


“Don’t worry, pretty boy,” Naruto taunted as he rose to his feet and stretched aching muscles. “The fun is just beginning.”


“What the…?”


“Grab onto that anchor there, and let’s get moving! I’ll show you just how much fun we have on the sea.”





By the time they were through, Sasuke felt as if he had worked for a lifetime on the boat. Naruto had always somehow made the chores involved seem less hectic than they really were, but after three hours lifting and scrubbing and oiling and fixing things, he was ready to call it a day.


He could hear Naruto humming down in the galley, as he trudged up the steps wearily to get back on deck. How that man still had all the energy to burn was perplexing, but Sasuke figured it was the advantage of being a fisherman for some time now. Naruto was used to it already.


He leaned upon the weathered rail, allowing the cool evening breathe to bathe his still heated flesh. Once or twice he had been tempted to take of his shirt, but decided it wasn’t worth it. He was already grimy and his entire ensemble would be discarded eventually anyway.


(what a reunion…)


He smiled; recalling his last minute decision to make a U-turn in coming to Yokohama. The week had been a long and exhausting one, and it simply all came to a head when he found himself on the private plane to Hong Kong for a conference meeting with some potential investors.


(I’m going insane)


He had eyed the piles of paperwork before him, where every character on the pages seemed to jump off the pages to mock him. On his left sat a waiting pile of RSVPs he had to respond to as soon as possible. On his right sat a half-finished endive salad and a glass of white wine. He had lifted his gaze to the chattering beautiful woman sitting across him. His private secretary was too busy reeling off a list of all the meetings he had to attend in the next few days, and as she spoke, the constant buzz of his BlackBerry made things even worse. There was just so much going on, he literally began to feel himself mentally checking out from his current environment.


(I need…I can’t…I have to get away from this before I go mad…)


“Cancel…” he began in a voice that sounded distant…distracted…irritated even.


“What was that, Sasuke-sama?” his secretary chirped.


“Cancel my meetings …all of them.”


She blinked in confusion. “All of them? Even the one with the Prime -?”


“Yes,” Sasuke cut in quickly. He wrestled with his tie and flung it away as if getting rid of something bound to choke him. “Tell the pilot we’re making a detour to Yokohama.”




“In Aomori,” Sasuke clarified. “Tell anyone that asks that I’m taking a break due to an unforeseen illness. Make up something dreadful enough. I should be back in commission on Monday.”


And that was that. He knew his father would be pissed. He knew he’d have investors and business partners befuddled. He knew the media would have a frenzy wondering where he had vanished to or which bimbo he was hooking up with now. Unfortunately, all of that would have to take a backseat for the simple pleasure of just being here meant more to him words could ever express.


He really should have called Naruto to tell him he was coming, but where was the fun in that? Just seeing that face light up in shock and to see those blue eyes filling with tears…


He sighed and rubbed his arms gently.


That was well worth the impromptu drop-in.


While working around the ‘Princess Mito’, they had caught up with each other’s lives where he came to learn more about Hinata’s new relationship, Naruto’s on-again-off-again boyfriend (apparently they had argued quite a few times) as well as Sasuke’s shaky relationships with women who meant nothing to him. It felt good to speak of things other than mergers and acquisitions, and the past few hours had lifted the tremendous weight of responsibility he had been shouldering since he made the fateful decision to join his father.


They spoke of trivial matters; sports, movies, music and otaku subjects. Naruto even went as far as showing Sasuke his hidden stash of manga he kept in the boat whenever things got too slow at work. For the most part, conversation and banter was light and carefree. However, there was one particular line of conversation that still resonated with him. It was Naruto’s reluctant admission on the true current state of his father’s fishing business.


He frowned lightly and looked out to the other boats, now finally noting the much larger vessels taking up residence. He could see why Hashirama and Naruto were worried about their livelihood. If these companies were so intent on buying out the others, it was definitely not a good sign. He had to smirk a little at the irony of it all, for he and his father were not exactly guilt-free from what the big businesses were doing. Just in the last month alone, they had acquired a chain of electronic companies for a sum that still had tongues wagging. It was a multi-billion (American) dollar deal, and even as he stood here watching the sea at night; he figured he was currently making at least a million or more per hour without having to lift a finger. It was mind numbing to say the least, and he doubted revealing something like that to Naruto would be conducive at this time. All the same –


“Here you go,” Naruto offered as he climbed on deck with two cold bottles of beer in his hands. “A reward for doing such a great job. God knows I’d still be here if you weren’t around to help.”


Sasuke accepted with a smile and raised his bottle for a toast before drinking thirstily. “I thought you said your father had other employees to help.”


“Even employees need a vacation,” Naruto replied with a chuckle. He sat on the deck and allowed his feet to dangle over the side of the boat. He patted the space next to him. “Relax, Mister. You look like you’re about to collapse on your feet anyway. All that office work’s made you soft.”


“Well sorry for not being as tanned and muscle-bound as you,” came the tease as he watched Naruto remove the piece of cloth he had wrapped around his head to allow the now shoulder-length blond hair to fall to his shoulders and face. Ever resourceful, a rubber band was whipped out from the pair of shorts he was wearing to hold up the front part of his hair. The end result was Naruto looking like a porcupine with a bad hair day.


Sasuke could feel it bubbling from the pit of his stomach, and for several seconds, he really did try to control his laughter, but eventually gave up the fight. It spilled out of him; a carefree, joyous sound that would have made those who knew him well stunned at its genuine nature.


Naruto included.


He had no idea what the hell was so funny, and though a part of him screamed to take advantage of this moment to steal a kiss from those lips, he shook his head and settled for swallowing some more of his beer. However, he nearly choked on it when there was the sudden sensation of a head falling upon his shoulder.


“Sas-Sasuke?” he stuttered in mild panic.


“Can I?” came the low mumble once the laughter had subsided to low chuckles. “Your boyfriend won’t be upset if I stay like this, would he?”


“He’s not here,” Naruto muttered shyly.


“Good for me then.”


“What does that mean?”


“Whatever you want it to mean,” Sasuke drawled and helped himself to the rest of his beverage. Maybe it was the combination of the alcohol and the weariness of the day, but right now, all he wanted to do was remain in this position and not move a muscle –


(for the rest of my life)


He closed his eyes and allowed himself to drift off again. The lull of the boat bobbing gently, the cool evening breeze, the strong shoulder beneath his head, the smell of Naruto – warm, earthy, real – hard to explain really. But for all those hours, days and weeks he had spent in the confines of political correctness and dutiful responsibilities, this was a freedom he wouldn’t mind experiencing for a while.


“I want…” he began softly.


Naruto stopped humming and swinging his legs to eye the man still slumped against him. “You what?”


Nanohana…” Sasuke whispered.


“The flowers?”


Sasuke nodded slowly. “Uh huh…I want to see them with you…again…”


Naruto smiled tenderly. “Sure. We’ll go tomorrow if you like.” He paused and then asked quietly. “Does this mean you’re going to spend the night with us?”


“If you want…can I stay?”


Naruto took a deep breath and gave in to at least one thing. He wrapped his arm around Sasuke’s waist to hold him close.


“As if you needed to ask,” he murmured into the dark hair. “You can stay for as long as you like, whenever you like, and wherever you like. I’ll always be here for you, my friend.”


His response came in the form of a barely audible snore and the clang of the empty bottle slipping from Sasuke’s limp fingers. The poor guy was so tired, he had already fallen asleep.


“Man…so soft. I might have to toughen  you  up before you leave this place,” Naruto teased and leaned against the crates stacked to get them more comfortable.


It was all right if they fell asleep here, he mused as he looked to the heavens and began to count the stars as best he could.


Come morning, Sasuke would still be here. For though he knew that their lives would be diverged once the weekend was over, Naruto hoped and prayed there would eventually come a day of convergence – one that could never be broken by what society expected of them.





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