Pairing: Sasuke/Naruto
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Angst, shounen-ai hints

It looked like it was going to be another slow night and the bartender was all too glad about it. The past week had been a hectic one as several teams – all being sent out for one mission or another – had come streaming in for last beers and drunken soirees. He had had nights when friendly fights had escalated into something worse. Some of his property had been destroyed in the brawls and he had had to repair his door alone more than twice in one week.

Sighing softly to himself at the amount of money such a task had cost, he reached for another large glass and began to wipe it slowly with a white piece of cloth as dark gray eyes glanced around the small and almost empty bar. It was about eleven at night – a time when last minute stragglers came strolling in for a late drink. It was a time for lonely bachelors, husbands kicked out by their wives, disgruntled workers or men with nothing better to do with their time decided to make his humble business, a haven. He didn’t mind really. Just as long as no one started any trouble, he was all up for welcoming any and everyone to his bar.

At the moment, only three customers were in here. Two of them he knew as frequent patrons as they had made themselves comfortable in a very cozy looking part of the room. The other, he had never seen before – or perhaps he had but could not quite place his face at the moment.

The young man was dressed completely in black – it was a robe that seemed to cover his entire body including his neck. His hair was jet black and about shoulder length. It hid his face from view and although the bartender had served him several times tonight, the older man had been unable to even see the younger one’s features.

For almost an hour, the mysterious customer had not said a word – the last being ‘Bring me the strongest thing you’ve got’. Glass after glass after glass had been consumed at an alarming rate and yet the man had not swayed or passed out yet. There was no doubt he was a jounin or even an ANBU but he did not seem to have the familiar uniform of either group on. There was also no doubt he was from the village of the Leaf as well – the headgear showed that he belonged to these parts.

The bartender raised a brow as he noticed the man lift his hand a little – again. It was another signal that he wanted his glass refilled and not one to ask questions, the bar owner reached for the strong and fiery bottle of tequila. However, instead of filling the glass as he had been doing, he walked towards the silent man and placed the entire bottle upon the table and before his face with a mild slam.

“I don’t have limits in my bar,” he began quietly but firmly. “But you’ve finished about three bottles of this stuff and I don’t think I have anyone who would be willing to carry your corpse out of here.”

The man did not lift his head although the bartender could see that he had gotten his attention. The stiffening of the other’s shoulders was more than enough evidence.

“It looks like you’ve got something on your mind, son. Now, I’m no shrink and I’m not your father neither do I want to be any of those things, but if you want to talk about it, then let it out instead of thinking you can drown your worries in a bottle.”

For a moment, the bartender was sure he was going to be attacked or ignored and he braced himself for both. He had no idea why he was even volunteering to listen to some drunk’s story but there was just something about this man that called out to him. Maybe it was because he was reminded of a son he had lost to another village in a battle. He had never been a real father to him – so busy working hard to make his bar successful, he had forgotten what it was like to have a son. He had spent the rest of his life regretting his actions and now…perhaps fate had sent him this young man as a sign…

“Old man,” the ninja began in a low and lazy drawl. The words had a slight slur that showed he wasn’t as clear-headed as he appeared to be. “I didn’t come here for a lecture. So why don’t you just give me the bottle and I’ll be on my way. How much is it? I’m willing to pay anything.”

The bartender’s brow furrowed at the slightly haughty tone before replying a bit coldly. “You cannot afford this bottle, son.”

But to his surprise, the young man began to chuckle – a chuckle that became giggles and finally full-blown laughter, which had the undeniable tinge of bitterness within it. The couple at the corner lifted their heads to stare at the guffawing customer but decided not to think too much about it.

The laughter finally died down to a light snort and the man began to tap his fingers upon the table – long, lean and strong they drummed a rather nonsensical rhythm upon the counter.

“I can afford anything I want,” the man continued, his voice now surprisingly stronger – a deep baritone that could send weaker men cowering in fear. The bartender had caught a glimpse of the young man’s eyes and he knew without a doubt that he was speaking to one of the more respected ninjas of the Leaf.

“I can afford any damn thing I want. Now give me the bottle.”

“No. I don’t think I will, son.”

A flash of red and then the man laughed again, now much softer and full of regret. He placed a finger within the empty glass before him and began to trace the rim gently. “You sure are stubborn, old man.”

“Takes one to know one, son.”

“I can buy anything I want,” the man continued as if the bartender hadn’t said anything. “I can own anything I want. I am the only one left of my clan so I can do any damn thing I want.”

The bartender kept silent. He knew now that the young man was ready to speak. His job now was to listen.

“I killed him,” the man said quietly with a bitter snort. “I finally killed him after all these years. I sold my soul to the very devil to achieve that.” He rubbed his mouth with a hand that trembled slightly and seeing that as a cue, the bartender opened up the bottle and poured a little of the drink into the glass. He watched as the younger man reached for it quickly – watched in amazement as it was downed in the blink of an eye and the satisfied belch it elicited afterwards.

“I killed him – killed my own brother.” He lifted his head and the bartender could see the lines of fatigue upon the young face. Those blood red sharingan eyes slowly faded into a dull black as the man’s lips tried to curve into a semblance of a smile. “I chased after him, old man. That was all that mattered to me. To become strong…strong enough to destroy the man who tortured me all my life.”

He eyed the empty glass longingly and the bartender sighed softly before refilling it again. In mere moments, the glass stood empty and as the young man spoke, his slur became more pronounced.

“I figured if I killed him….everything would be okay again. I could come back to this village and start all over again. I would beg for forgiveness or at least try to and maybe…maybe they’d take me back. But I had been gone for too long…”

His voice broke but he continued thickly. “I’ve been gone for way too long. I came back and everything…everyone had changed. They were all strangers to me now. A team I had once considered my only family were no longer together. I went to my sensei’s house first. I figured he would be the one willing to welcome me back first but…but he barely recognized me. He said he had once known someone by my name but that the person had long since died. I tried to tell him that I was still the same person. ‘It’s me!’ I kept crying out, but all he did was shake his head and turn away. He said he had lost a good student and that nothing was ever going to bring that student back to him. Of course I became angry – angry that he was ignoring me and pretending as if he didn’t know me. I decided that I didn’t need him anyway. I was sure there was someone who would want me or at least remember me and so I went to see her.”

A bitter smile came to his lips and he licked them slowly, eyes still downcast as he continued quietly. “But she was different too. She was still beautiful but she was much bigger…if you know what I mean. There was a little girl by her side – who looked just like her. The girl was just as pretty as her mother too. Of course I was surprised. I wouldn’t have thought she would be so willing to give herself to another man so quickly. And to my chagrin, the man she had given herself to was none other than that lotus freak of a man. I had thought she had hated him before. Why were they suddenly a couple? Married? Living in the same house? And as if that wasn’t the worst thing, she actually smiled politely at me and asked who I was. Can you believe it? I was her teammate for over two years and yet she couldn’t remember who I was? She said ‘Oh, I once knew someone by that name but he died a long time ago. He was such a brave ninja too.’ Heh…I don’t think you need me to tell you how angry that made me as well. And so I left…”

The bartender raised a brow as the man suddenly stopped talking. He could see that the ninja was struggling with himself to tell the next part of his story and the unmistakable look of pain and utter hopelessness could now be seen in those piercing black depths.

“There is one more person, isn’t there?” he prodded gently. “Perhaps…he or she meant the most to you?”

The young man seemed to flinch before motioning for his glass to be filled again. The bartender willingly obliged, watching warily as the bitter liquid was taken…a bit slowly this time around. The dark haired man wiped his mouth and took a deep breath before beginning softly.

“And there was one person left…but I couldn’t…couldn’t get myself to go to his home. If the others had forgotten all about me…what would make him any different?” He groaned and buried his face within his hands, his voice becoming muffled now as he spoke. “I had hurt him the most. It was he who had tried to save me from the darkness I had willingly allowed myself to get into and I had pushed him aside. I had told him I didn’t need him back then. I hadn’t needed anyone. I could do it all on my own. I was too…too…”

“Stubborn? Foolish? Proud?”

The young man shrugged at the suggestions and gave a long-suffering sigh. “Perhaps…”

“So? Did you see him?”



He removed his hands from his face and smiled wanly. “And nothing, old man.”

The bartender blinked in surprise. “I’m not sure I understand what you mean, son.”

The younger man’s lips quirked into a rueful smile. “I couldn’t talk to him, old man. I saw him…and I ran away – like a scared little chicken.” Somehow the analogy seemed incredibly funny to him and he began to laugh again – a laughter that held no warmth whatsoever. The bartender watched him carefully aware that within the laughter were unshed tears of sadness. It was a sadness that would never be healed for as long as he lived.

“He was with someone else,’ the man continued through his painful laughter. “He was happy. Smiling and laughing with someone who deserved him. I could only watch him from a distance and even without speaking to him; I knew he had forgotten all about me too. I was ‘dead’ to him as I am to all the others. All they remember or wish to remember is the younger version of me – the one who had been a member of their team. But I had betrayed them, old man. I had left them to die and to be reborn as a different person altogether. To them…to him…I no longer exist."

His laughter subsided into a harsh sob as he whispered to himself. “I no longer… exist…


The bartender and the young man lifted their heads in surprise at the loud cry as they gaped at the panting blond now standing within the doorway. He looked as if he had been running for quite some time as the simple t-shirt he had on seemed to be damp with sweat. His cheeks were flushed from his exertions and after glancing around the bar quickly, those bright blue eyes settled on the person they were searching for.

“You came back,” the lanky young man whispered in awe as he stepped into the bar, his lips quirking into a smile of pleasure and relief. “You came back after all.”

And much to Sasuke’s surprise, his former partner and best friend wrapped his arms tightly around his neck and began to sob quietly into it.

“I waited and waited for you,” the blond mumbled thickly as he clutched the black robes like a lifeline. “Everyday…I waited…I knew you’d come back and I kept you alive…always…in my heart…”


It was all he could say. The words – so many words he longed to say remained stubbornly locked within his throat as he tentatively wrapped his own arms around the trembling man. He closed his eyes and inhaled his teammate’s unique scent – a combination of earth and pure goodness. And for the first time in his adult life, Uchiha Sasuke finally felt his heart stir again.

Naruto had kept him alive – after all these years – it was the blond ninja who had ended up bringing him back to the place he truly belonged.

The bartender smiled softly to himself as he politely stepped away from the intimate scene. He reached for another glass cup and began to wipe it clean with a slow nod of understanding towards the small picture of his dead son.

It looked as if it was going to be a slow night again and for the old man behind the counter, he couldn’t have asked for anything better.


Naruto Fiction

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