Chapter 45

An Unbreakable Bond


I have met my love.

When I compare this present

With feelings of the past,

My passion is now as if

I have never loved before.

-          Fujiwara no Atsutada



Hokkaido, Hokkaido Prefecture




It never fails.


No matter how many times you rehearse and paint the perfect reunion scenarios in your head – and I swear at some point I did imagine seeing blooming flowers, a choir singing, and Sasuke running toward me in super slow motion, where we’d then jump into each other’s arms (still in slo-mo), and then we’d pretty much rip each other’s clothes off and fuck like bunnies until we couldn’t move anymore.


(yeah right)


You can insert the deafening sound of a car screeching to a halt at this point because – as you can well imagine – Reality tends to slap you hard in the face while laughing its ass off at the same time.


Of course I should have known he wouldn’t come flying into my arms. This was Mr. Cool, Calm and Collected, remember? And besides the brief blink-and-you-just-might-miss-it widening of his eyes – at the sight of me – it was quickly replaced with his usual look of irritation. In other words, it was the ‘cut-the-crap-and-get-to-the-point-already’ expression I was all too familiar with.


(ah, how I’ve missed your subtle ways of expressing affection, Sasuke)


It still didn’t lessen the effect of seeing him again after so many months of separation. It was literally like being punched in the gut, you know? But the good kind of punch; the one that leaves you breathless and desperately trying to gulp fresh air, but you can’t because every fiber of  your being is thrumming with an energy that makes you want to fuck decorum and pounce on the bastard and just forget every other person in the universe and –


“…found him walking around the grounds,” someone was saying. It took me almost a full minute to realize it was Haku chattering on in excitement as he squeezed my arm and brought me back to reality. I swear it took a monumental effort to tear my gaze away from Sasuke – and will down the burning feverish sensation that was beginning to form in the pit of my stomach – as I cleared my throat and gave another sheepish smile. Let’s just hope he really didn’t take up my offer of kicking my ass.


“I couldn’t believe it at first,” Haku gushed happily and wrapped his arms around me in a hug. Embarrassed yet ridiculously pleased at his attention and outright affection for me, I returned the favor with an arm around his waist and a hard kiss on the top of his head. He didn’t help matters by choosing to look up then; eyes all shiny and looking as if…


(ah hell)


…the tears did break free anyway. “I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, but when you turned and I noticed those scars…I…I,” So overcome with emotion, he buried his face against my shirt.


“We missed you so, so, so much. Especially Sasuke-sama,” his muffled voice reached my ears, and I looked up to meet Sasuke’s gaze at this ‘confession’; grinning now at the unmistakable flood of color that now stained his cheeks. He sputtered and shook his head, trying to make a show of arranging the documents on his desk; his discomfort at being ‘called-out’ evident.


(ah, be still my heart)


I swear if Haku wasn’t here, I just might have lunged across this damning space between us and kissed the living daylights out of him. To hell with decorum…etiquette…whatever you want to call it.


“Haku,” Sasuke finally managed to say, with a strained cough, as he met my gaze again and just about melted off my clothes. “If you don’t mind excusing us for a min -”


“Sasuke-sama!” came the sudden loud interruption as a group of five men (dressed like construction workers) came stomping up the short flight of steps leading to Sasuke’s office. The leader was a giant of man with a striking similarity to a grizzly bear (if bears could wear human clothing and talk), and with the way he spoke, he sounded like he had no time to waste on anything.


“Sasuke-sama,” he bellowed. “May we have a moment with you? It’s about the foundations for the East Wing of the prisoners’ quarters. You said you’d be there about half-an-hour ago and we really need to get this started -”


“Give me five minutes,” Sasuke cut in sharply with a raised hand to silence the man. Gone was the blush and flustered look to be replaced with his more business-like demeanor (and annoyance if I’m not mistaken). “I’ll be there.”


“Yes, but -”


Five minutes, Tazuna-san.”


Tazuna opened his mouth to bitch again, but decided against it once he noticed the dark look on his boss’s face. With a grunt, he spun on his heels and marched off with his buddies in tow while muttering something under his breath. Oddly enough, this scene is one that I’ve become used to since my ‘coronation’ as the boss of the Senju Syndicate. I’ve had quite a few disgruntled yakuza family heads storm into Jiraiya’s office wanting something or another from either of us, and when they don’t get it, they retreat with muttered threats.


“Busy day, huh?” I asked with some sympathy, though a part of me was annoyed as well. So much for pouncing on him and making out on his office desk – or maybe I should just add that to my list of things to do around here in the near future…


“It has been chaotic,” Sasuke admitted with a heavy sigh. He scratched the back of his head and gave me a wan smile that had the ol’ heart pitter-pattering again, and when he finally broke away from his ‘sanctuary’ (the desk) –


(damn, I’ve almost forgotten how intimidating yet so fucking good he looks in that goddamn uniform)


…the second thing I noticed was the slight limp he was doing a rather good job of masking with his steady steps. I bit my lower lip in worry; wondering just how bad the fight with Orochimaru had gone. Hell, just imagining what that bastard must have done to Sasuke was something that had kept me up a few nights even after I heard the good news of his death. I searched his face (the rest of his body was covered with so many layers of the traditional clothing it was impossible to tell), but there were no visible scars to tell of any longer lasting damage. He must have noticed my concern, because he gave a light shrug and another smile; this one much warmer and with the hint of a promise of what was to come.


(I hope)


“Haku will show you around,” he said as he came to a stop before us and nodded toward his flushed (ex) manservant. “I’m sure you’ll want to catch up with a few old friends…well Karin at least. Ah, speaking of which…whatever happened to Shikamaru and Temari?”


I raised a brow with a quirk of my lips. “I thought Itachi would have filled you in. Since he’s the only one who had the decency to call Jiraiya to find out about my welfare unlike someone else I know-”


“Shut the hell up,” Sasuke grumbled with a dark blush, and smacked me on the arm as he turned to leave, but I caught that hand before he could pull away completely. Call me a sentimental fool, but after months of dreams (both good and bad), it was amazing how just simply touching his hand alone, and not being able to control myself as I raised it to my lips to place a gentle kiss within his palm – brought a hard lump to my throat. I barely heard his gasp, but did feel the immediate reaction as he trembled and tried to pull away as if embarrassed.


I looked up then and wasn’t disappointed; for that beautiful face was doing a very good impression of a tomato, while giving me a tantalizing view of his teeth as he bit hard on his lower lip.


(we have a lot of catching up to do, Sasuke. There’re so many things I want to tell you…share with you…)


“I…I have to go…” came the breathless plea. “They’re waiting-”


“I know,” I whispered with a sigh. I held his hand to my cheek for a moment; perhaps to make certain that this wasn’t actually a dream, before releasing him reluctantly with a gentle squeeze. “Later, right?”


He couldn’t speak and chose to settle for a nod to myself and Haku in acknowledgement, before turning away. We watched him in silence until he made the turn around the corner and was out of sight. The instinct to trot after him and watch him at work was interrupted at the sudden light tug on my arm.


“Let’s go, Naruto-kun,” Haku said with a bright smile. “There’s so much to show you! Karin-chan is going to be so surprised to see you -”




(my apologies, Haku)


I felt bad that I had forgotten about him during those few precious moments with Sasuke, and felt a light pang of guilt at having to showcase my affection for his master in that way. However, Haku didn’t seem all too bothered. Or maybe he’s gotten better at hiding it.


He didn’t let go of my hand as he led me down familiar – yet unfamiliar – paths I once walked while dressed in an outfit that would make a burlap sack look fashionable. Today, however, I had chosen to be in Western clothes, perhaps as homage to how I had arrived here over a year ago.


(how time flies…)


Jiraiya hadn’t wanted me to leave at first, saying there were still a whole lot more things I had to deal with before I decided to take my ‘vacation’ with the ‘boyfriend’. Besides, he insisted that I ought to take it easy for at least two more months before straining myself. I might be relatively healed from my injuries, but I didn’t want to push my luck, did I?


And so for at least a month after my release from the hospital, I did as he asked, moving into my brand spankin’ new home that was already tricked out with everything I could ever possibly need. This place was huge! And to be honest, after living most of my life in either cramped apartments or in prisons/dungeons, having to come to such a mansion - where I wasn’t likely to be shot at by its wealthy owner who might mistake me for a criminal - was hard to get used to. My King-sized bed felt like wallowing in an ocean of loneliness, and I’d find myself trying to kill time by either bugging Jiraiya to death with inane calls or hanging out with my boys (the now six swordsmen who were now personal bodyguards…well they’ve always been my bodyguards, but now it’s a permanent thing). I really missed having Shika by my side, and since he hadn’t given me a phone number to reach him (yet), I couldn’t pester him as much as I would have liked. I contemplated calling Byaku-Shinkyou a few times, but I had no idea what phone number was used. I did ask Jiraiya about it, but all he’d say is that Itachi had a special number that was not publicly accessible. Whatever the hell that meant.


Twice I went on ‘dates’ with Kurotsuchi. She was fun to hang out with, but when I realized she was beginning to get a little too attached to me, I had to nip that relationship in the bud before it got out of hand. Let’s just say she didn’t take it too well with the break-up, and last I checked she wasn’t speaking to me “ever again”. All the same, I sent her a large bouquet of flowers via Akatsuchi, who is at least still speaking to me and doesn’t mind sharing a bowl of ramen at one of my favorite restaurants every once in a while. Grandpa Onoki, meanwhile, is still enjoying his retirement. I had the opportunity to visit his cottage by the sea and spent quite a pleasant afternoon trying to fish with the crusty old man. Between insulting me (fondly) and hating every damn fish in the ocean (though we did finally manage to snag two beautiful carps), his words of wisdom and advice will remain with me for as long as I live.


In addition to those three, my relationship with Gaara was going quite well too. We met a few times over dinner, where I came to learn he wasn’t all about politics and boring the pants off me with talks about reforming the government. He did have plans to visit Byaku-Shinkyou someday and wanted me to put in a good word to Itachi and Sasuke on his behalf. As if I needed to do that. After all he had done for them, those brothers should be rolling out the red carpet and sprinkling him with rose petals when he showed up! As for his personal life, he was not affiliated with anyone (male or female), though the press had a field day trying to hook him up with every other single female celebrity out there. When I teased him about it, all he’d do was laugh and wave a hand in dismissal. “Politics is my life, Naruto,” he said. “Relationships will have to come much later.”


Hey, whatever floats his boat, right?


Anyway, all this was good and well, but eventually I had to bail. I simply couldn’t take it anymore. Yes, I was now wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, could have any woman I wanted, had more social power in my pinky finger than I knew what to do with, but I was still miserable inside and I knew why. It was hard to explain it to Jiraiya, who really couldn’t understand why I’d want to return, but that was only because I was still so shy in telling him the real motive behind it. That the only reason why I was sucking up the queasiness in my stomach (some memories just don’t fade away) was because the one person I’d give all this up for, was waiting for me.


“I have to go,” I remember telling Jiraiya as we shared a cup of sake on the veranda of his home. “Just to…tie up some loose ends…”


“Is that really the reason or are you bullshitting me, you little brat?”


I blushed and lowered my gaze to the ground. “Just for a little while -”


“What do you consider a little while?” the old man asked. “You have new responsibilities here as well, Naruto. I know you wish to go back to Sasuke, and you don’t have to look so flabbergasted, I wasn’t born yesterday you know.” He cackled and shook his head before sobering up to give me an intense look. “I will not live forever and one day, you’ll have to take the reins of the Senju, Naruto. What then? Will you choose to remain up there for him and give this all up?”


He sighed and looked to the heavens where the night sky was an inky as I’ve ever seen. “You’ve started a good thing with the organization so far. Your rehabilitation idea where strays who might have wanted to join the yakuza for the wrong reasons are now made to register for a legitimate trade or school, has yielded some positive results so far. We might be on the right path, but make no mistake, our enemies are still plenty. Other countries that envy us will send in their members to try to ruin things. I will need your leadership when that time comes, and I do not want to have to go searching all over the damn place for you, Naruto. As much as the burden is on me now, eventually it will shift to you when my time comes. I just want you to be mentally and emotionally prepared when it happens.”


I frowned, my fingers tightening around the cup, as his words hit me. He didn’t need to remind me. I was already more than aware of what he was saying as those possibilities had crossed my mind quite a few times. However…


“You’re right,” I finally said aloud. “Things aren’t going to be easy, and I know I cannot rely on you forever. That is why I am keeping an eye on those family heads I can really trust, but most importantly, why our relationship with Byaku-Shinkyou and the Watchdogs in general cannot be shaken. However, unlike our predecessors, I would hope that Sasuke and Itachi would use their new power for good and to protect us against those ‘bad guys’ as you so put it. No underhanded means or bribery need be tolerated.”


I sat back on the chair and stretched out my legs before sighing heavily. “It’s funny…once upon a time I used to dream I’d be a big shot and boss people around like they used to do to me when I was nothing more than an orphan on the streets. Well damn. Now that I’m a ‘big shot’…it’s not as cracked up as I thought it would be.”


Jiraiya gave a light chuckle and raised his cup to me. “Welcome to the high life, Uzumaki Naruto. Where you come to learn that sometimes, it’s extremely lonely at the top.”


“Tell me about it.”


We drank to that and remained in companionable silence for a while, before he asked me quietly.


“…so…Uchiha Sasuke, eh?”


I glanced at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”


A smile curved his lips and he gave me a playful wink; bringing a rush of color to my cheeks as I realized exactly what he meant. “I would like to have a grandchild to play with someday, but considering Sasuke’s not female…unless there’s something he’s not telling us -”


“You’re not my grandfather,” I mumbled in embarrassment. “And besides, he’s definitely male and who said anything about -!”


“Hahaha! Relax, Naruto. I’m just teasing you. Whoever you choose to fall in love and spend the rest of your life with is no concern of mine. Your father made his choice despite the dangers he faced, and though you might not have to deal with the same issues…you have to admit that your relationship with Sasuke is one that might have to remain in the shadows for a long time.”


(no kidding)


I turned away from his pitying look and stared blindly into the lush foliage around us. Fireflies danced in and out like dying fireworks, as Jiraiya’s harsh reality sobered me up completely. Yes. It was all well and good to be in love with Sasuke, to want to be with him for the rest of my life etc. etc., but like Itachi and Shisui, there was no way we could ever make it public to the rest of the world. We would be shunned or mocked or worse, not taken seriously. And in my testosterone-driven world – the yakuza – where homophobia was rampant like a plaque, the very idea that the head of the Senju could be involved with another male was a big no-no.


“Hah,” I muttered with a bitter smile. “Don’t you wish you could just say ‘fuck it’ and go out together hand-in-hand and not give a damn what people think?”


Jiraiya cocked his head with a small smile. “That would be the ideal scenario in an ideal world, wouldn’t it? But we do not live in an ideal world…no matter how much we try to create that in our minds.”


“The real world sucks,” I complained with a pout.


Jiraiya chuckled again and nodded. “I second that, young man. I second that. Oh and by the way…”




He grinned and leaned over to gently touch his cup to mine in a toast. “Happy Twentieth birthday, young man. Here’s to many more.”


I blushed and swallowed the sudden lump in my throat, for the last time anyone had said those two words to me, it was from a pink-haired girl I had once thought the world of.  At least I could take heart in knowing that Jiraiya was more sincere in his sentiments.


He didn’t protest when I called him the next day from a bus station telling him that I was on my way up North. He simply wished me the best of luck and hoped that I’d at least return sometime before the end of the year to keep up with my ‘side-of-things’. With the promise to do so, I bought my tickets and prepared myself for the long trip ahead.


Memories – like a never-ending unraveling spool of thread – returned as I stepped foot into the weathered bus. For a disheartening moment, time was peeled and I was back in that hot stuffy bus with men of all shapes and sizes doomed for a bleak future. The only ray of light would be that beautiful ‘woman’ with the porcelain skin, who had watched us from her lofty throne, and me…hopelessly unaware of how my life would change with my simple ‘mistake’.


“Keep moving, Mister Blondie! You’re holding up the line!”


The shrill voice shattered the illusion, and I quickly apologized to the plump woman who had hit me with her handbag in an attempt to walk past me. Reality presented a much different scene from the horrors in my mind. I wasn’t in a bus filled with men that smelled of sweat and fear, but a variety of individuals; all colorful and vibrant (well to me at least because a few of them looked like they were ready to fall asleep with boredom). I couldn’t help grinning stupidly as I sat beside a pretty brunette and her baby cradled within her arms. For the majority of the trip, we engaged in pleasant conversation, and I even got to play with her little one for a while…until he decided to pee on me. Thankfully, we made a quick pit stop where I changed into cleaner clothes and was apologized to profusely by the embarrassed mother.


By the second day, the bus was considerably lighter with its passenger load. My new friend and her baby had stopped at the previous station, where she promised to visit me whenever she stopped by Kyoto in the future. The weather was now much colder, but I was prepared with the black overcoat I had in my possession. I stared out the window at a familiar stark landscape; my stomach filling with nervous butterflies and another emotion that could only be considered a visceral reaction to the horrifying experiences I once had in that place. However, it was superseded with a more pleasant feeling of nervous excitement, fueled by the fantasy sequences of how meeting Sasuke would be. So lost was I in my dreams, that I almost missed the conductor yelling for us to get out.


(ah, that’s right. The bus doesn’t take you into the grounds like before. Forgot all about that)


With my lone duffel bag, I stepped into a cool mid-morning day and had my first severe bout of déjà vu. However, it was a little different this time. I could already see the changes even before I began the relatively long walk across the bridge leading up to the gates of Byaku-Shinkyou. Once intimidating and protected by armed guards, the grand gates were now wide open for everyone. There were guards still stationed there, however their only duty was to make sure no troublemaker gained entrance. Instead of prisoners and guards marching in and out, normal civilians – many dragging in luggage, wagons or horses with goods – strolled in and out with a sense of excitement and anticipation. Signs of construction were visible from the moment I crossed the threshold. I could see the extensive damage brought about by the fires and battle that must have taken place, and between volunteers, builders and other civilians trying to get to their new homes, the guards had their hands full trying to organize everyone. It was a wonderful chaotic scene and one that brought joy to my heart at what Byaku-Shinkyou must have been before Orochimaru’s reign. That joy was seen in every gaze you met; that the air  - once thick with fear and death – now blossomed with happiness and a hope for the future. You felt the ridiculous urge to grab the next person and hug him or her to death, to ruffle a child’s hair and to tell them that everything was going to be all right from now on.




As if in a daze, I wandered toward familiar haunts. The temple still stood proud and imposing, and it was where most of the visitors went to, either to pray or drop off their offerings. I stopped by the dojo – which was closed off for renovation – allowing a wry smile to come to my features at the memory of the fight I had there with Sasuke. If Asuma hadn’t butt in, I might not be standing here today. With a shake of my head, I made my way to the kitchens which was still fully functioning. Unfortunately, old man Chef was no longer a part of the crew and there were quite a few new faces I did not recognize. Even Chouji was no longer there, and I sincerely hoped he hadn’t been caught in the battle and was back home safe and sound with his family. The shed where I used to have lunch with Shika (and Haku) was still standing, but was now being used to store building materials.


It was during this time  - while wandering toward the East and West Blocks – did I finally meet up with Haku. I probably would have missed the guy if he didn’t suddenly cry out my name. Man, I couldn’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to see him again, so much so I practically lifted him off the ground with my over exuberant hug. He hadn’t changed much…well except for a sort of sadness within his eyes whenever he was quiet. I guess he will never really get over the death of Kimimaro no matter how much of a bastard that guy was to him.


“Christ, Haku! Just what the hell is wrong with you?” I asked out loud with a mock pout. “You seem to get prettier and prettier every passing day, damn it!”


His giggle warmed my heart and brought back memories of the better times we had both here and in Buk-gu. I couldn’t resist placing hard kisses on his cheeks and hugging him again, and if we got weird looks from people, I didn’t give a damn.


“I can’t wait to tell Sasuke-sama you’re here!” he gushed and then began to jog away from me before I could stop him. It wasn’t the way I planned the reunion to go, but Haku was already making his way toward the administrative area, and I had no other choice but to trail after him; desperately trying to come up with suitable excuses to tell Sasuke.


All I could hope is that I didn’t make a fool of myself and start blubbering like a moron.




Heh, at least I didn’t cry, so I’d say the whole process went relatively well.


Haku, who was still holding my hand, and talking at a mile-a-minute about every little thing that was being done to renovate the grounds, finally stopped to take a breather when we noticed a group of guys hard at work repainting the walls in a section that used to be a part of the officers’ mess.


“Sasori-sama!” Haku called out with an enthusiasm that had me raising a brow; this was only compounded when the Sasori guy (who looked as young as Haku, though I’d later learn he was about Shisui’s age) noticed and smiled warmly at my companion.




“What are you doing here, Haku?” Sasori asked as he approached. The guy didn’t even look at me; his whole attention focused squarely on the blushing (huh?) man beside me.


“I was just showing Naruto-kun around,” Haku explained breathlessly, and at the sound of my name, Sasori (as well as the other guys) finally took notice. Needless to say; the instant change in their body language was slightly embarrassing. I wasn’t sure what they’d heard about me, but there was no denying the respect in their eyes - though the guy with the silverish hair had a shit-eating smirk on his face.


“So you’re the famous Uzumaki Naruto, eh? Can’t believe someone like you is actually now the head of the Senju Syndicate. You’ve got a pretty dumb-looking fa -”


“Suigetsu-san!” Haku hissed; reminding everyone of how fiercely loyal he could be to those he cared about. “You will speak to Naruto-kun with respect.”


Suigetsu huffed and rolled his eyes before jumping off his perch on the wall to stroll off. Geez. What was his problem anyway?


“Sasori,” came the quiet greeting as the redhead held out his hand to me to shake. “I have heard great things about you, Uzumaki Naruto. We all have.”


“Yeah,” said the long-haired blond man who had actually been painting the familiar Uchiha clan symbol on the wall. He dropped his paint brush long enough to give me a sweaty-palmed handshake. “Great job with those bastards. I’m Deidara by the way.”


“Eh…thanks…and nice to meet you,” I replied shyly; not sure what to make of this.


“I am Aburame Shino,” the dude with the dark glasses and wrapped in a hoodie, said solemnly as he shook my hand as well. “And the one coming is Rock Lee.”


Rock…Lee? Yikes! Talk about bushy-eyebrows and what was with that bowl haircut anyway?


“Uzumaki Naruto?” he cried out enthusiastically as he dropped the large box of building materials he had been carrying to pump my hand in a firm handshake. He grinned and stood back to scrutinize me unabashedly. “So we finally get to see the face behind it all. You’re definitely a man of mystery, aren’t you?”


“Ah well -”


“We must share a cup of sake one of these days, Naruto,” Lee yakked on happily, completely oblivious to the rolled eyes this elicited from the other men. ”I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the latest world affairs especially with your power in the underwor -”


“Lee. What’s taking you so long?” came the firm but low voice that had us all turning to notice the tall pale-eyed man wearing the watchdog uniform. His long dark hair fluttered gently in the breeze, and when our eyes met, I felt a light (not unpleasant) chill go down my spine. Who the hell was this guy? There was something about his eyes that made you believe he could look right through you and see every dark and hidden secret you might have. I don’t believe I ever saw him when I was here, and it made me wonder if he was a long lost cousin of Sasuke or maybe a distant relative of the Uchiha clan in general. Those damn eyes…


“That’s Hyūga Neji,” Haku whispered into my ear as Lee – looking flustered as if reprimanded – picked up his box to trot after Neji who hadn’t even waited to be introduced. Kinda reminded me of Sasuke with his attitude in some way…


“Neji?” I asked aloud. “Is he an officer?”


“Sasuke just promoted him to one,” Haku explained with a smile. “He’s quite nice when you get to know him. He can be aloof on the onset, so don’t take it to heart.”


“We were all members of Akatsuki,” Sasori said with a light nod. “Itachi and Shisui led us for many years and we remain loyal to their cause, which is why we are here helping to rebuild.” He stole a quick but meaningful glance at Haku, which I would have missed if Haku hadn’t chosen to squeeze my hand a little and look down with that damned blush.


(curiouser and curiouser)


It wasn’t until we had excused ourselves from the other guys did I finally blurt out what’s been bugging me all this time.


“Hakuuuuu?” I called out slowly as we approached the clinic, but forced him to stop just before we got there. “Is there something you want to tell me?”


He kept his head lowered and shook it hard as if he was a kid caught stealing from the cookie jar. I pretended to tap my foot impatiently. “If you don’t start talking, then we’re not going anywhere. Spill, man. You and Sasori are an item now, eh?”


He looked up with widened eyes, his entire face a picture of embarrassment and an adorable innocence  that had me laughing. He slapped his cheeks as if hoping they’d stop turning so red and tried to look annoyed. “It’s not funny, Naruto-kun,” he muttered shyly. “Sasori-sama and I are just really good friends, that’s all.”


“Uh huh, and I’m the Easter Bunny.”


“It’s true!” he insisted. “And he’s been nothing but a gentleman and hasn’t gone out of his way to make any overt moves toward me, but he cares about me and that’s why I think I’m going to leave with him as he’s asked!”




I blinked at this and Haku must have realized what he said because he slapped a hand over his mouth aghast.


“What do you mean ‘leave with him as he asked’?” I prodded. “Does Sasuke know about this?”


Haku sighed and sank onto one of the many benches loitered around the grounds. He looked at his hands for a long minute before forcing himself to look at me. “Not yet. I was actually going to tell him about it today and was heading to his office to do so when I noticed you.” He gave a weak smile. “It’s a long story, Naruto-kun, but…I think this is something I have to do…something I must do. Sasuke-sama…and you…have been so very good to me from the start, even though I wasn’t all…good at times,” he ended with a shy mumble that I waved away in dismissal. We were both guilty of not ‘being good’ all the time, so he had nothing to apologize for.


“And when I saw the way you and Sasuke-sama reacted to each other in his office…” He lowered his gaze with a wistful smile on his visage. “A part of me felt a little envious at how in love you two are. There’s no denying it now, so don’t try to convince me otherwise, Naruto-kun.”


Now it was my turn to become crimson as I coughed lightly and suddenly found a clump of bushes interesting. That obvious, huh?


“Sasuke-sama has been so alone all this time even though he’s got so much work to do. Day after day, he is swamped with obligations; even you must have noticed the dark circles around his eyes. He rarely gets any sleep if at all. It’s come to a point where I think he simply goes through the motions and yet... all it took was your name to be mentioned and that fire…that light was back in his eyes again.” Haku sighed with a small smile. “I want that feeling too, Naruto-kun. I want to be able to be with someone who I can come to at the end of a long day and not worry if I can trust him or not. So far Sasori-sama has proven to be that person, and he’s not asking for much in return. I’m not saying it’s him for sure, but…I won’t know if I don’t try…right?” he asked shyly.


(once upon a time you told me the very same thing, Haku. You asked me to give your master a chance and look what happened)


I cupped his chin gently to speak in what I hoped was a sincere tone. “It’s your life, Haku. You have to do what’s best for you. I’m sure Sasuke will be surprised, but he’s a big boy. I doubt he’ll prevent you from seeking your happiness.”


“I know he won’t, but I was hoping you’d be a little jealous,” he said with a light smirk and a teasing glint in his eye. I mock growled and tried to tickle him for being so cheeky. He was right in a way. I had felt a light pang of…jealousy; that or maybe I was just still slightly possessive over him. After all remembering the way I (and Sasuke) had tailed him during his doomed date with Sai, I think my ‘paternal/big brother’ instincts were kicking in again. I didn’t know much about this Sasori character, but I swear to God, if he ever did anything to hurt Haku –


“…the look on his face!” came the sudden familiar feminine voice, coupled with twin giggles, that had us both stopping our playful antics to exchange a look and smile.


Good ol’ Karin!


And sure enough, the red-haired woman soon appeared from around the corner, wearing what looked like hospital scrubs in pastel pink – accompanied by a pretty dark-haired girl dressed in similar clothing with -




…the same weird eyes as that Neji. Christ! How many more of these estranged Uchiha family branch members were now crawling out of the woodwork?


“Karin-chan!” I cried out and tried to lunge for her in a hug. However, old habits (and instincts) do die hard because I found myself almost kissing the ground as she pushed me away with a scream of terror. Haku was busy laughing so hard, he could hardly speak. Way to help me out, man.


“It’s Naruto-kun,” he finally sputtered when he could catch his breath and just as Karin was about to roll up her sleeves to finish me off.


She pushed her glasses a little higher up the bridge of her nose and peered at me as if examining a specimen. When she was finally sure I was human, she blinked and sagged her shoulders in relief. “Damn it, Naruto! Introduce  yourself first before trying to attack me!”


“I was only trying to hug you,” I protested as I struggled to my feet with a pout. “What the hell is wrong with…mmmffh!”


She felt warm, soft yet strong as she suddenly engulfed me in the mother of all hugs. Her shoulders heaved gently, and even without hearing it (her sobs were muffled against my shirt), I hugged her just as tightly. So what if she rebuffed my advances and wouldn’t give me the time of day in that department? She was still a cool chick and had gone out of her way to take care of me when necessary. I caressed her back in soothing circles, simply allowing her to cry as I shared a look with Haku and the shy smile the other woman was giving me. Of course I would be lying if my more superficial side didn’t notice that said woman had quite the rack, but I had no time to ponder bra sizes, because Karin finally pulled back to take off her glasses, while sniffling at the same time.


“Took you long enough to show up,” she said with a mock pout, while wiping the lenses with the bottom of her top. I had the grace to blush and look sheepish.


“Sorry…I’ve been up to my eyeballs with shit…eh…things as well,” I said quickly, but all I got was a light punch on my chest as she blushed and slipped her glasses on again. She seemed to straighten up before reaching out to tug the quiet woman closer.


“This is Hyūga Hinata. She works with me at the clinic. Hinata, this is Uzumaki Naruto. I’m sure you must have heard of him.”


Hinata’s blush deepened as she gave a cute curtsey in greeting. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you face to face, Naruto-sama.”


(Eh? Sama?)


“Just Naruto’s fine,” I said quickly as I bowed a little. I wasn’t sure a hug would be appropriate; though darn carnal instincts begged to feel that full bosom pressed against…


(okay, I really do need to find Sasuke and fast)


“Come help us get some medical supplies,” Karin invited with a smile. “The bus that usually delivers it has just arrived, and I need to do some inventory. We can catch up on the way, eh?”


“Sure!” I might as well keep myself busy for a while. It was also during this time that I gathered a few more details about the battle, the aftermath, and Hinata’s relationship with Neji (cousins). Like the rest of the Akatsuki members, she and Karin planned to stay here for as long as Itachi (and Sasuke) needed them. I couldn’t help asking about the eye thing, and Hinata explained that no, they were in no way related to the Uchiha, though it was once believed that their ocular powers were almost as strong – if not stronger – than Sasuke’s clan. Interesting.


By the time we were done, I was dead on my feet and starving. You mustn’t forget that I had just gotten off a two-day bus ride, hadn’t had the time to take a shower or rest my feet since I arrived. Luckily, Haku finally got the hint and dragged me away from the ladies who wanted me to join them for a lunch that seemed to consist of only salads and fruits (bah! I needed some real food!). We grabbed my duffel bag from Sasuke’s office (he wasn’t back yet), and Haku led me to my quarters for the night.


Compared to the chaos around the rest of the grounds, this section – which was surrounded by a low brick wall with that familiar symbol of the Uchiha clan etched upon it - was quiet and peaceful, heightened by a beautiful well-tended traditional Japanese garden filled with plants that could only blossom in such cold weather. Beside this was a large koi pond accentuated with a miniature waterfall that created a soothing ripple effect if you stared into the pond long enough. Both garden and pond sat in the midst of a set of bungalows forming a quadrangle of sorts.


Many of the doors to each room were closed – at least the left side of the quadrangle – and it didn’t take a scientist to know why there was a sort of ‘ghostly’ atmosphere about it. I shivered at the idea that Sasuke had lived here all these years with said ghosts for company; knowing that once these lawns and verandas had been filled with happy laughter shared by a close-knit was just too cruel to have to relive that day after day, wasn’t it?


Haku – oblivious to my pensive thoughts – pushed open a shoji screen door to reveal a neat room with a few personal items that could only belong to one person. Hell, just that familiar scent that was unique to Sasuke had me trembling a little.   


“…I don’t get my own room?” I finally asked with a smirk as my host set my things down in a corner.


Haku – smart little bastard – grinned and shook his head. “Sasuke-sama would kill me if I put you anywhere else. Besides, you can’t tell me you didn’t want to be here anyway, Naruto-kun.”


“Why I oughta…!”


I pretended to want to throttle him, but he ducked out of the way with a laugh and made his escape, but only to stop once he was on the veranda.


“I’m really glad you came back, Naruto-kun,” he said with such sincerity, damn if that stupid lump didn’t form in my throat. His eyes were too shiny, but he hid it with a deep bow that did not betray the pain he must have been feeling (Karin told me about his wound while Haku was out of earshot). I didn’t want to tell him to ‘go and take a break’ because I was sure the last thing he needed was for me to remind him of his physical disability. So instead, I gave him my warmest smile.


“Thank you, Haku,” I said fondly. “For everything.”


If the eyes are the portals to the soul, I think Haku let me see that beautiful soul one last time that afternoon. I really was glad that someone like him came into my life; that all those months ago, he saw something in me and decided to befriend me instead of walking away. He’s a good kid, and I really wish him all the happiness in the world.


For now - while he goes to get me some food - I just need to find the damn bathroom, take a shower and catch a few winks before meeting up with Sasuke.


Something tells me I’m going to need all the energy I can conserve.




Sasuke  (and Haku):


He tried.


He really did try to be as focused as he ought to be. Unfortunately, every word droned from Tazuna or his companions’ lips assumed the tone of voices trapped in a container; muffled and barely audible. His right hand hasn’t stopped tingling from the warmth of Naruto’s kiss or the sensation of that skin when it was pressed to the blond’s scarred cheek. He hadn’t even been aware of his subconscious way of ‘protecting’ the hand during the tedious meetings; keeping it to his side most often and choosing his left to either point or emphasize something. He refused to shake hands with anyone, choosing to bow lightly or simply acknowledge their existence with the repetition of their names. Sometimes his mind would drift off in the middle of yet another long explanation; thoughts filled with the knowledge that he really was finally here. That somewhere, right now, this very minute on these very grounds, Uzumaki Naruto had returned as he promised.


/Fine then, Sasuke. You hereby have the permission to kick my ass for as long and as much as you want. /


(as if I could even if I wanted to…)


“…specifications, Sasuke-sama?”


Someone tapped his shoulder gently, and he started; fighting the rise of colors to his cheeks as he noticed the mixed expressions of confusion, irritation, and worry on the faces of the men around him. God help him, but what the hell had they been talking about again?


“Tazuna-san was asking if the measurements on the blueprint were the final decisions for the construction of the private homes,” Officer Tsubasa whispered into his ear, saving him from further embarrassment.


“Ah, yes…” he began, but Tazuna was already shaking his head and rolling up the large blueprint.


“Perhaps we ought to wait for Itachi-sama’s return,” the big man growled. “It appears we cannot have a decent conversation on this matter with you today, Sasuke-sama. You’ve been quite distracted and it is not plausible to work in this sort of environment.”


Sasuke bristled at the coated insult, and when he spoke; his voice was icy. “My brother and Shisui-san are away for the week in Tokyo for an important conference. You will be dealing with me in regard to this matter, but if you feel you cannot continue to work for us, by all means turn in your resignation. I have no doubt there are many more contractors willing to take over once your services are terminated.”


Tazuna’s face flushed and he looked at his men for backup. However, most of them were looking away in embarrassment, for they desperately needed the work and Tazuna’s bossy attitude wasn’t going to risk them getting a paycheck to put food on the table for their families.


All the same, Sasuke knew he was partly to blame and giving himself a mental slap to concentrate, he nodded toward the blueprint and tried again. “Perhaps we should start over. I apologize for my absentmindedness. I have quite a lot of things to do, so you can forgive me for…straying a little.”


Tazuna’s ruffled feathers seemed to be appeased at this and with a wan smile, he unrolled the blueprint to begin his speech again.




It wasn’t until about seven in the evening, did Sasuke finally find some time to put his feet up – not literally though that idea had crossed his mind at some point. His limp was now a little more pronounced from all the walking he had done and he sank heavily into his chair; listening to his stomach growl in protest from lack of nourishment. Luckily someone (Haku probably) had been astute enough to leave a simple lunch of sandwiches and some tea for him, which he wolfed down hungrily while reading through the never-ending list of potential families willing to relocate back into Byaku-Shinkyou as soon as the residential homes were re-built. There would be the arduous task of allocating homes to said families, and Itachi had felt it would be a good idea to make it a lottery of sorts. If they simply allowed every Tom, Dick, and Harry to move in, there was the likelihood of some people living on the streets. That could not be allowed.


“…wait a minute. What the hell am I doing?” he whispered in disbelief as he polished off the last of his sandwich and blinked at the paper in his hand. Was he actually working when he could be with someone else right now? How could he have forgotten about Naruto for crying out loud? But one could hardly blame him. The past few weeks had left him so conditioned into this routine, he felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment at his blatant stupidity.


(guess it’s my turn to apologize for keeping you waiting)


He left his office, not bothering to keep to his usual habit of keeping his documents in order. He was careful not to use the more public path to his quarters, choosing instead a ‘back’ route to lessen the chance of being stopped by another officer or civilian needing his input for one thing or another. Every step he took, he seemed to roll back time, and when he finally approached the wall protecting his ‘home’, his limp was long forgotten and his head, heart and everything else in-between, seemed to have taken on a weightless quality. He was sure if anyone touched him now, it was bound to send him floating into the heavens.


So mentally charged was he to see Naruto, he almost missed the quiet figure sitting on the narrow wooden bridge over the pond. He stiffened and narrowed his gaze.


“Haku?” he called out warily, a hand subconsciously touching the handle of his katana just in case it wasn’t the right person. He was not disappointed when the shadow lifted its head before raising a hand to wave shyly.


He relaxed and made to turn; torn between wishing him a goodnight and dashing off for his rendezvous with a certain someone. However, there was something about Haku actually sitting out here that made him change his mind and walk over to meet him.


“Everything all right?” he asked as he sat beside the younger man, who looked as if he was about to stand up. Sasuke waved for him to remain in his position, and Haku obliged though there was a nervous energy about him as he swung his legs slowly back and forth like a child.


Please don’t tell me he’s not given up on Naruto yet, a part of Sasuke wailed in dismay; recollecting this same behavior when Haku had ‘challenged’ him during their stay at Buk-gu. I really don’t want to have another conversation on why –


“I know you are eager to see Naruto-kun,” Haku began quietly without looking at Sasuke. His hands were now clasped tightly on his lap as if hoping to draw some inner strength. “But…I…I wanted to tell you this before I lost my nerve, Sasuke-sama.”


Sasuke sighed and braced himself for it. So much for thoughts of Haku moving on. This was going to be much tougher than he could possibly imagine –


“…already told Naruto-kun about it and he gave me his blessing,” came the words which had Sasuke’s heart and stomach twisting with a pain that made him slightly nauseous. He couldn’t believe Naruto would still entertain the idea of being with Haku after everything! Just what the hell was wrong with that inconsiderate blond bastard?!


He realized that Haku was looking at him with an expression that seemed like a cross between fear and hope, and Sasuke realized he’d have to say something soon. He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.


“Listen…Haku,” he said with what he hoped was understanding in his tone, though  there was a slight hint of irritation in there. “I know you’re still not over Naruto, but…and I hate to say this bluntly…I can’t let  you do this again, all right?”


He met the bemused brown eyes and forced himself to continue. So what if he was going to sound like a bastard? He wasn’t going to give up Naruto without a fight if it came to that, and as much as he loved Haku like a brother, he’d really have to put his foot down. “I can’t let you have him,” he added firmly. “My feelings for him are…well…you should know this by now. We cannot continue to have these little battles of will over his…what? Why are you giggling? What’s so funny?”


“Oh, Sasuke-sama,” Haku giggled and threw his arms around Sasuke’s neck, taking them both by surprise at his daring. However, considering this wasn’t the first time they had shared a hug, Sasuke could only suffer this in silence, though he couldn’t help the blush as Haku placed a tender kiss on his cheek. “So typical of you to have selective hearing when it comes to Naruto-kun.”


“Hey now -”


Haku placed a finger against his former master’s lips and shook his head lightly. “Will you promise not to interrupt me until I’m finished, Sasuke-sama?”


He chuckled at the frown this elicited, but at Sasuke’s reluctant nod, he withdrew his finger and took another deep breath. He reached for those strong lean fingers – which tensed at first at the contact – before eventually relaxing within Haku’s gentle grasp.


Holding onto his former master’s hand, Haku began to speak quietly and earnestly; his words cocooning them in such warmth that seemed to protect them against the chilly night air. He seemed to turn back the clock, taking them back to a time when their future seemed uncertain; when all he could do was watch and admire the young master from afar, never knowing if his fate was to remain Orochimaru’s slave for the rest of his life. He recounted the moment Sasuke chose him and how his life had changed because of it.  


He raised Sasuke’s hand to his lips. “I know I’ve told you this a thousand times, but you’ll never really know just how much it meant to me, Sasuke-sama. Perhaps that was part of the reason why I was so keen on introducing you to Naruto-kun after I met him.” A wistful smile came to his visage. “It’s hard to put into words what it is about that man that makes you never forget him, right Sasuke-sama?”


Sasuke nodded in agreement; not sure he would have found his voice anyway. Haku was right; right that he had been the one to get them ‘together’ even if it had been in a roundabout way. Right in that Naruto’s aura/charisma/whatever you wished to call it, was unexplainable to anyone who had not witnessed it firsthand. Naruto was simply put – an experience.


“Our time in Buk-gu was a period of learning for me…for all of us, I think,” Haku continued just as something – akin to feather-like kisses - fell onto their skins. They both looked up at the same time, realizing it was nothing more than a few snow flurries; not bad enough to have them running in for shelter just yet. If they were lucky it would only leave a light dusting of snow come morning.


All the same, Sasuke found himself shielding Haku as if to protect him from the weather. It was something the younger man noticed and appreciated as he lay his head upon the stronger shoulder; hands still clasped and held to his chest.


“I know I did some things I’m not proud of,” Haku continued softly. “But I grew up a little because of it, and I’m so glad because I had you, Naruto-kun, Karin-chan, Shikamaru-san and Temari-chan as my mentors and friends. I discovered a side of me I never knew I possessed and as time has gone by, I realize that I wanted that side of me to keep getting stronger.” He paused for a long minute before continuing; his voice even lower as if afraid to speak. “I realize I was raised to be subservient to everyone else, and for years that was all I was made to believe. However, you’ve taught me that I could be more than that, Sasuke-sama, that there is potential for me beyond these constrictions I’ve put on myself, and because of that…I’ve…I’ve…I’ve made the decision to do just that.”


He pulled away then and forcing himself to meet the thoughtful dark eyes before him, Haku finished brokenly. “Sasori-sama has invited me to live with him at his birthplace by the end of the month. He thinks it’s best I get away from all of this…and to discover who I really am. Oh, Sasuke-sama, I’ve struggled with this for the past two days because I didn’t know what to do or how to tell you. I was so happy that Sasori-sama wanted me because of me – not because of what I could do for him. You’ve seen how he is, Sasuke-sama, do you think I’m making the right decision? Do you think I should go with him? You only need to tell me to stay, Sasuke-sama, and I’ll do it. I’ll - ”


“How can you say that after all that talk about hoping to discover your full potential?” came the quiet but strained reply, which sent a rush of color to Haku’s cheeks. He lowered his gaze; dismayed that he might have upset a man who meant the world to him.


“I’m sor…sorry,” Haku whispered. “I don’t -”


He was silenced as Sasuke’s hand cupped his cheek to force his gaze upwards. Within those dark eyes, there was a warmth which seemed to make the weather inconsequential. It was made even more irrelevant when a tender kiss was placed on his forehead, though lingering for a while before Sasuke finally pulled away.


“What does your heart tell you?” came the question that held so much weight, it hung between them like lead.


“My…heart…” Haku stammered; his eyes shimmering with tears. “My heart says…yes. It says “yes”, Sasuke-sama. I want to be with him.” His voice became steadier, stronger as if this confirmation was all he really needed. “I want him…to be with him so very much.”


Sasuke gave a small smile. “Well there you go. I think you’ve already answered your own question. The doors have been opened, Haku, and you have to take that final plunge into the unknown. Just like you pushed me when it came to Naruto, remember? If you hadn’t opened my eyes…where would I be today?”


Haku’s heart leapt at the deep words of sincerity; realizing that this was Sasuke’s way of ‘apologizing’ as well as acknowledging just how influential Haku’s presence had been in his life. He stole a quick glance toward the building where the warm and inviting glow of the lamps within seemed to beckon them…well at least one of them. He turned back to Sasuke and reached for his hands to clasp them again.


(I will miss you both terribly)


“And here I am keeping you away from him,” he said aloud in a voice that trembled with the emotions he tried to hold in check. “How selfish of me.”


“Considering I’m about to lose my close companion and confidant before he showed up…I think it’s a fair trade,” Sasuke drawled.


“You’ll probably forget all about me after a few weeks,” Haku teased, though the tears he had struggled so hard to control finally broke free. Sobbing even harder when Sasuke reached out to brush them away gently. “You’ll…forget about me…”


“Don’t be silly,” Sasuke chided, and pulled the younger man into a hard embrace. His voice was gruff; a clear sign he was having to control himself as well. “You’ll come back here whenever you want. You know these gates and my home will always be open, Haku. Always. Now wipe those tears. Besides, we’ve still got a couple of weeks before  you leave. I’ve got to test Sasori to make sure he’s definitely the man for you before he whisks you away.”


Haku gave a breathless giggle in between sniffles. “Just like Naruto-kun. You two act like you’re my fathers. Promise you won’t hurt Sasori-sama too much.”


Sasuke smirked and shrugged. “We’ll see. Come on…let’s get up before we freeze our asses off out here.” He stood and helped Haku to his feet.


“Will you be okay?” he asked as he reached out to tenderly wipe Haku’s face with the sleeve of his uniform.


Haku nodded and then gently nudged Sasuke toward his room. “Don’t worry about me, Sasuke-sama. I believe someone else needs you more than I do right now.” He stopped and seemed to consider something before surprising them again with another hug that just about took Sasuke’s breath away. This time, he whispered into the older man’s ear; words that had Sasuke blushing up a storm.


“Not in this lifetime,” Sasuke murmured when Haku pulled away with a grin. He shook his head and spun on his heels; face still flaming at what was insinuated. “Get some sleep, Haku. Until Sasori takes you away, you’re still technically my semi-manservant. I expect a hot breakfast…for two in the morning.”


Haku bowed. “As you wish, Sasuke-sama. Have a good…no…a great night! And it’s okay if you wish to take the day off tomorrow, I’ll make some kind of excuse for you.”


For that, he received nothing but an exasperated shake of Sasuke’s head; still smiling as he watched his former master walk across the bridge and toward his bedroom. He watched as Sasuke’s steps appeared slower as he approached the screen door before coming to a complete stop; perhaps frozen by something he was seeing or simply unable to go through with it. Haku was unaware he was silently urging Sasuke to go inside; hoping that Sasuke wouldn’t get cold feet and decide it wasn’t worth dealing with Naruto tonight. However, as if his fervent plea was heard, the screen door was finally pushed open then closed leaving nothing but a silhouette of a man he would never stop admiring. Haku sagged in relief and closed his eyes before lifting his head to the heavens where the snow flurries seemed to shower him with a million feathery kisses.


Be happy, Sasuke-sama… Naruto-kun, he prayed silently with a peaceful smile on his features. Be good to each other, my dearest friends and mentors, for I’ll always love you both until my dying day.















Sasuke and Naruto:


A heart burdened must seek its peace…


He faltered in his steps; not because he was afraid or in doubt of what must be done. He faltered for despite his words of encouragement and consolation to Haku, it began to dawn on him that he had just severed yet another valuable bond in his life. There had been Asuma – a brother, a mentor and a friend - whose death still plagued him from time to time. And now Haku. He was the only other person who had dared to crack the wall he had built around himself all those years, and losing him was going to much harder than he had flippantly assumed earlier.


(but look on the bright side, Sasuke. Your brother has returned. You have new friends in Karin and the members of the Akatsuki willing to be by your side, and the most important of all? There’s a man in that room willing to share a future with you. Think of it as Haku’s eternal gift to you; a realization that you could still find the humanity within)


An eternal gift, huh? He smiled ruefully and finally pushed open the shoji screen door; only for the smile to waver as his heavy heart began to beat in an entirely different rhythm. It was a throbbing ache that soon followed; an ache that seemed to pierce through said heart as if hoping to wrench out every remnant of emotion left within. It sent an almost violent rush of blood to the head; creating a feverish sensation that burned his retinas. There was absolutely nothing strange about the sight before him. Hadn’t he shared a futon with Naruto before? And yet –


(oh be still his heart)


…how could one explain the simple joy experienced at the figure sprawled haphazardly on pristine white sheets? How could he utter into coherent words the guilty pleasure experienced at the sight of long bare legs (all thanks to the yukata riding up his hips with every toss and turn), the tantalizing view of a bare chest with a hint of a rosy nipple as the sleeves of the robe slid off a shoulder that begged to be caressed? And there was the strong neck that was slightly arched, leading to facial features he had memorized and dreamed about far too many times. Pink-tinted lips were parted and inviting; his now shoulder-length blond tresses stuck to his cheeks and forehead, eager to be brushed aside lovingly. How unfortunate he couldn’t see those eyes hidden behind closed lids, but he could wait. He had waited for more than eight months for this reunion, so a few extra minutes couldn’t hurt.


(just give me a little more time)


It was with an effort that he tore his gaze away and walked into the next room; his steps so silent, his companion did not stir. Carefully, he began to undress and when he was completely nude, he made his way into the bathroom for his ‘final purification’ rites. It wasn’t so much a washing away of his sins, for he was sure the Great One had already complied a large book filled with his iniquities over the years – no amount of purification rites could absolve them. This was purely symbolic; a realization that he was going to wash away the remnants of Orochimaru’s influence and to prepare himself for a new life with Naruto.


Just who do you think you are? came the taunting voice. His blushing bride?


He struggled against the flood of color to fill his cheeks as he scrubbed even harder. A bride? How…stupid. He wasn’t naive and was more than aware that just as Itachi and Shisui had to hide their relationship from the public, he and Naruto would have to do the same. The irony was that he could put himself in the shoes of those who considered such a partnership as disgusting; after all, once upon a time, he had thought the very same, hadn’t he? However, it was not his job to try to convince others that he was happy with the way he was now, but eventually he knew that the rumors would begin; that the rest of the world will begin to wonder why either Uchiha brother had not picked a wife to extend the family tree. What then? Would he gave in to public pressure and select a bride for the hell of it and choose to be with Naruto in ‘secret’? Could he really live the rest of his life as a lie just to please others?


He sighed and doused himself with lukewarm water to rinse off. Slowly, he lowered the basin to the floor and stared glumly at it for a long minute.


“To live a lie,” he whispered. “Haven’t I been doing that for so long now? What do I do, Naruto? What can we do?”


With a deep breath, he rose to his feet; ignoring the tub he had filled with water to soak in at least for a few extra minutes. He didn’t even bother reaching for a towel to dry himself. His wet footprints stained the tatami mats as he padded back into the bedroom; his body glistening with water like jeweled dew drops. He came to a stop beside the futon to stare at the sleeping figure in solemn silence. He knew he ought to let the weary man sleep; after all it was a relatively long journey from Kyoto, but…


(not tonight)


“Naruto?” he called out in a voice that was barely above a whisper. He stuck out a foot and nudged the blond’s side gently. All he received was a low groan and Naruto turning away to bury his face into a pillow.


Sasuke rolled his eyes; aware of the dark stains he was now leaving on the sheet as he nudged Naruto again. This time, he used his big toe to press against the scarred cheek; smirking lightly as a hand reached out to swipe it away absently. Not giving in, Sasuke poked again – harder still – raising his foot when Naruto made another attempt to smack it. One more poke – a muttered curse and finally –




…heavy eyelids were lifted slowly to reveal eyes that never ceased to leave him breathless. They were still slightly unfocused, but when Sasuke’s toe (and foot) came into view again, one could only imagine what Naruto was thinking –


(dreams about Big Foot?)


…until his teeth suddenly clamped gently but firmly around the naughty toe; the cobwebs of sleep gradually being erased as he looked up to meet the dark and hooded gaze trained on him. Sasuke swallowed a groan as the teeth eased its pressure, only for his toe to be swallowed within the warmth of that talented mouth. He shivered, with delight, at the sensation of Naruto’s tongue caressing his flesh, biting hard on his lip as his knees began to weaken with the effort it was taking to remain standing. Unashamedly, his erection became more evident with every suckle; growing in length and teasing the man below to take what was now rightfully his.


Naruto noticed and eventually released the toe with a hard kiss before sitting up; though he was now holding the foot as prisoner within his hands.


“Nice way to wake me up,” he drawled; his voice still husky from sleep.


Sasuke gave a small smile and reached out to sink his fingers into the tousled blond hair; fingertips seeking the scalp to massage it in a way that had Naruto closing his eyes to moan in pleasure. For his part, his hands began to move up Sasuke’s damp legs – blindly touching…feeling every hard joint or smooth curve of his ankles, shin, knees and thighs. His fingertips caressed the scars left from his battles; and even without opening his eyes; he could feel the most recent wound inflicted by Orochimaru (he was sure) not much further from the original stab wound he had caused. Blindly, he moved closer; fingertips making way for lips that worshipped the scars with affectionate kisses. He felt Sasuke tremble above him, the fingers in his hair tightening as he sought to steady himself. He would never know how close his actions were to making Sasuke cry; how the sharp memory of Orochimaru piercing him would be erased with this selfless action by the one he loved. 


When something wet and sticky fell onto his cheek, Naruto forced his lashes open to notice what it was. Unable to stop a smile, he licked his lips and dared to dart a tongue beneath the throbbing length that teased ever so wickedly.


Someone moaned.


“That bad, huh?” Naruto asked huskily as more drops of Sasuke’s pre-cum fell upon his nose and lips.


Blushing, embarrassed and yet not about to apologize for his body’s betrayal, Sasuke cocked his head and dared his lover to proceed. “Why don’t you  do something about it?”  


To emphasize this, he pushed aside Naruto’s yukata with a foot to reveal the pair of blue boxers that could barely contain the stiff arousal begging to be released. With an almost cruel smirk, he allowed his toes to torture Naruto; pressing against the hard length, stroking up and down ever so slowly until Naruto’s trembling hands gripped Sasuke’s hips so tight, there would be faint bruises come morning. He hissed back a groan and met the challenge posed in those dark eyes, and as his lips captured the tip of Sasuke’s cock –


(oh God yes)


…Sasuke returned the favor with a much harder press of his foot against Naruto, gasping just as he was promptly swallowed whole and his toes felt the damp wetness of pre-cum against the boxers. Pity he had to give that up quickly, for Naruto seemed hell bent on driving him insane with his expertise. He had no idea how many ‘lessons’ the blond had learned since the last time they shared a futon, but goodness! How adept this man had become to knowing just when to pause, swallow, take as deep as possible, tease, fondle, and leave him wanting more. He clung onto Naruto’s shoulders; fingers burrowed deeply into his shoulders as he struggled to remain standing. His head spun like an uncontrollable top; his eyes squeezed tightly as his breath- shallow and ragged – mingled with Naruto’s name hung upon his lips in a fevered mantra.  Sasuke knew he wasn’t going to last another moment, and it was with a monumental effort that he pushed himself away from his lover, but only to sag onto his knees before Naruto with a choked sob.


“…Sas…Sasuke?” Naruto panted breathlessly; an obvious sign that he too was exhibiting a lot of self-control. “What…what’s wrong? Did I do something wrong? Do you want us to sto…stop?”


Sasuke shook his head, his arms wrapping around Naruto’s neck as he seemed to want to melt into the man before him. He buried his face against the blond’s neck and inhaled his scent like a man deprived. The hot sting of unshed tears burned within eyes that had once and will always see the true beauty within Naruto. Perhaps it was now finally hitting him that this was no longer a dream; that for now…Naruto was here with him – in this room  where he had spent so many lonely nights…it was almost too much to take in at once.


His lips tasted the slightly salty flesh, trembling as Naruto’s arms encircled his waist to pull him closer still. He hated the fact that the blasted yukata was still a hindrance between their bodies completely fusing as one, but at this moment – as he licked and bit tenderly – he would savor this for as long as he could.


“Sasuke…?” came the quiet question filled with worry.


He finally pulled away, but just far enough to stare into those blue eyes that were filled with an emotion any blind man could  see. It didn’t need his ‘special abilities’ to know that he was loved, and that was a feeling no words could ever describe. None would be suitable anyway.


“Absolve me,” he began in a trembling whisper as his lips moved toward Naruto’s ear. The blond’s shiver brought a smile to his visage.


“Teach me…purify me,” Sasuke continued in that same whisper, his lips now trailing down the scarred cheek; a tongue tracing each etched mysterious mark as if hoping to unlock its secret.


“Strengthen me…” This time he lowered his arms, but only to finally tug away the sash barely holding the robe together. Onyx eyes held blue prisoner; neither man unable to look away even if they wanted to. Naruto was hardly aware of raising his hips to allow Sasuke access to his boxers, which were lowered roughly and impatiently.


“Sasuke,” came the guttural groan of desire as Naruto felt those strong fingers wrap around his throbbing cock to stroke tenderly…then faster…harder. “I want...” he began, but only to be silenced as Sasuke’s lips pressed against his gently.


“Take me to thyself,” he moaned as he sat up a little higher and positioned himself above the organ he had so lovingly prepared. “That I may be thine…and thine only, Uzumaki Naruto.”


He fought back a low cry as he impaled himself upon Naruto; gasping when his hips were restrained and his lips seized in a kiss that said all that was left to be unsaid. Hearts pounded and throbbed as one; a steady rhythm eventually established as they rocked  and strained into each other as if desperate to reach a peak of nirvana yet unheard of.


It was Naruto who broke down first for the enormity of what was happening was so much better than what his fantasies could construct. He buried his flushed features against the heaving chest; no longer able to look into those eyes that could read him so easily. He sobbed silently as he felt the familiar surge of adrenaline beginning from the tip of his toes to the part of them which had become one; forcing his thrusts to go even harder, deeper and faster than before. He sobbed harder still as he heard Sasuke’s heartbeat against his ear; knowing damn well that once he had been so close to death; not sure if he’d ever get to hear such a beautiful sound. He sobbed when Sasuke moaned his name, and when he felt Sasuke stiffen and jerk at his impending orgasm; he finally forced himself to look up and into that sweaty visage. He lifted a trembling hand to push away the long strands of damp black hair that clung to his cheeks, and in a voice that was steady yet filled with emotion, Naruto finally said what he had known for far too long.


“I love you, Uchiha Sasuke.”


Timed perfectly, for the widening dark eyes – now just a little too bright – glazed over as a more carnal reaction followed. He exploded with a breathless cry; his body a perfect arch of ecstasy that was further heightened with those three words he had longed to hear. Under ordinary circumstances, the very idea of crying at this moment would have made him want to kick himself for being so weak, but damn the consequences.


He flung himself upon Naruto, sending them toppling back to the futon though more than aware that his lover was yet to reach his completion. He sat up a little; hands placed on either side of Naruto’s head and slowly…cruelly…tortuously…


“Christ,” Naruto whimpered as he threw back his head in delight. “Sasuke…don’t…”


…rotated his hips – once, twice…three times…each time swallowing a little more of that thick, hard cock until…


“Naruto?” he called out softly.


“Hmm…oh God…”


“Look at me.”




Glazed blue eyes met warm black ones again.




“Say it again.”


“Say…say what again?”


“What you said earlier…”


“…ah…oh…that…I said…fuck! Sasuke…I’m gonna come…”


Sasuke grinned and shook his head. “Wrong words.” He moved and made as if to withdraw, when his hips were trapped again and Naruto strained to repeat his confession.






“I love you.”


“…ah…ah…again…” This time it was a breathless request for he felt Naruto’s peaking point within him. Swollen. Thicker. Stretching him until he felt he’d go mad with the sensation.


(oh Naruto)


“I love you, Sasuke. Always…always…always!”


He came with a much louder cry; his teeth sinking into Sasuke’s shoulder as if on reflex, breaking skin without meaning to until the taste of something warm and metallic filled his mouth. He would later apologize profusely for the bite – not that Sasuke seemed to mind much, for this only seemed to trigger yet another orgasm for him; perhaps the last vestibules of a certain man’s sadistic and masochistic nature still buried within.


(I will never stop loving you…)





In the aftermath, they lay cocooned in an embrace as if afraid that the other would vanish if they weren’t any closer. Outside, the flurries continued to descend; bathing Byaku-Shinkyou with a thin layer of Nature’s white blanket. It would make for a beautiful sight come morning, but for now, the couple were content to bask in the glow of their lovemaking; once racing hearts finally settling into a normal and steady rhythm.


Naruto continued to trace shapeless forms upon Sasuke’s back; the even breathing a clear sign that his exhausted lover had finally fallen asleep. As much as he would have loved to talk ‘til dawn, he had to be considerate of the kind of day Sasuke had been through. So tired that his usual need for them to get clean after such intimate activity, had not even been discussed. Haku had been right about the dark circles of weariness around Sasuke’s eyes, but at least tonight they had looked less obvious; perhaps due to their ‘other activities’. He couldn’t help the faint blush that came to his cheeks as he re-called how wanton they (especially Sasuke) had behaved, and the climax – in his humble opinion – coming when Sasuke had finally whispered a sleepy but sincere “I love you so much more, Uzumaki Naruto” into his ear.


He looked down to the thick head of dark hair upon his chest, and felt his heart stir with that gut-wrenching emotion he couldn’t describe. The overwhelming need to protect this guy (even though he was sure Sasuke needed no such ‘protection’) was so intense he couldn’t stand it. He knew he had promised to return to Kyoto before the end of the year, but how could he leave after this? How could he bear to walk away from this man even if it was just for a few days or weeks?


I can’t do it. I won’t be able to do it. It will probably kill me to be apart from him again.


He tightened his lips as he came to a decision, and with a tender kiss upon Sasuke’s head, he carefully slid away from the embrace – which brought about a frown on Sasuke’s face though he only flopped onto his back and kept on sleeping – slipped into his yukata and went in search of a telephone. Unfortunately, it took him poking around into a few more rooms before he could find the damn device. He’d really have to do something about furnishings around here. Most of the rooms were empty or dusty.


Sitting on the floor, he dialed the familiar numbers with trembling fingers; aware that it was quite early in the morning and Jiraiya was more than likely to –


“You had better be captured and tortured to death to be calling me by this time, Naruto,” came the groggy but familiar voice that brought  a smile to his face.


“And I love you too, old man,” he teased quietly. “Sorry to wake you up this early, but…” He took a deep breath and ran fingers through his hair.




“…I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back…at least not by the end of the year,” he finally blurted out with his heart in his throat. At Jiraiya’s stony silence, Naruto pressed on earnestly. “It’s almost the end of the year anyway. I mean November then December and then we’re in January. All I’m asking is that I spend these next few months with him before I return. That’s not too much to ask, is it?”


He sighed heavily; his voice now thick with emotion. “You don’t understand. I can’t leave him now. I just can’t. I want to spend some more time with him, and I know I have my obligations too, but…but…I love him all right? And I just want to be with the one I really care about for as long as I can. So please…make up some excuse for me, cover for me until I get back. I beg of you.”


(if he insists…I swear if he insists, I’ll go rogue! I swear I’ll…!)


“Fine, fine,” Jiraiya eventually said with a sigh of resignation. “At least you’ve finally stopped beating around the goddamn bush and finally admitted your feelings for the man.” He grumbled beneath his breath about having to make up some excuse to the family heads at the next meeting, but returned in a much firmer and kinder voice. “Enjoy your time with him then, Naruto, and be sure to invite him to Kyoto one of these days so we can share another cup of sake, eh?”


Naruto blushed at the invitation for he knew this was a blessing of sorts. He bowed his head in gratitude though the older man couldn’t see it. “Thank you,” he croaked for he was sure he’d burst into tears if he spoke any louder. “Thank you so much…for everything.”


“I have done nothing, Naruto. I should be the one thanking you for showing me just how wonderful life can be if you look on the bright side of things. Something your father would be proud of I’m sure. Now please go and get some sleep and do not call me again unless you’re on fire…literally. Good night and be happy.”


He hung up before Naruto could get another word in, but that was okay with him. He all but ran back to the bedroom, his intention to blurt out the good news to Sasuke, when he remembered that his lover was still passed out in exhaustion. His heart full, he knelt beside the futon to study the peaceful features in repose.


(Uchiha…Sasuke…you really are something special)


To think that of all the people in the world he’d want to spend the rest of his life with…it would have to be this man. A man he fell in love with on a hot stuffy day in a bus leading him straight to Hell – so what if the gender was all mixed up at first – the attraction had been there from the moment they met, hadn’t it? He chuckled and shook his head. Amazing all the shit they had gone through and to come out of it alive and still capable of choosing to love and live. Why it was like something out of a movie script or it would make for one great novel if he was that good of a writer.


(but then again…why not?)


On his hands and knees, his body trembling with excitement at the idea that suddenly hit him, he crawled to his duffel bag and pulled out his notebook and pen. He snuggled back into the futon to lay on his stomach, Sasuke immediately sensing his return and rolling back to press himself closer to the warmth of his partner.


Naruto smiled, leaned close to place a tender kiss on his lover’s forehead, before opening the first blank page.


(how to begin…how to begin…how the hell does one begin? To go back to the past and to relieve it all over again…oh how to begin?)


Well, from the start would be nice, wouldn’t it? And taking a deep breath, Uzumaki Naruto allowed his pen to do all the talking.




Chapter One:

Porcelain Skin


It was impossible to miss her…







Naruto Home































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