sne_mod: (Naruto vs Sasuke)
sne_mod ([personal profile] sne_mod) wrote in [community profile] sn_exchange2009-08-28 09:12 pm

For: [profile] rinjin07

For: [profile] rinjin07
Title: Feels Like Walking on Water
Rating: NC-17
Summary: Naruto doesn't take Sasuke's plans as well as a friend should've.
Warnings: Explicit sexual situations
A/N: Hello there [profile] rinjin07! Erm, I apologise for how this turned into a friggin monster—it truly was, unintentional! I hope you still enjoy it and that I have done your prompts justice : ) Also thank you to Miss beta-person <3 it was very very appreciated. And erm… that's it!
Mod note: Reminder for the author/artist of this submission, please do not reply to comments signed in, if you want to reply anon commenting is enabled.



Sasuke's eyes were quick to take measure of the couple sitting in front of him.

The man's eyes were small and skin that seemed to be permanently rippled swept from his nose outwards. His eyebrows were a thick grey as was the long silver hair that was neatly wrapped into a bun at his nape. His arms were folded and his hands tucked into the sleeves of his kimono. His back was straight and the look he gave Sasuke from his black eyes held a calm that came only with age.

His wife sat beside him, her plump figure dressed in a pale yellow that was decorated with little flowers that had been carefully sewn onto the expensive material that spoke of their status. Her hair unlike her husband's was pitch black and any threads of grey were small, dusting the hairline around her temples. Her face was carefully made up and her brown eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled at Sasuke.

Sasuke sat back on his heels, the small cushion they'd provided for him unnecessary but welcome. He'd also dressed his best today. He wasn't trying to impress. But given the occasion he had made the effort.

The Uchiha fan was marked on the back of his dark blue kimono and his back was as straight as the man's. His eyes locked with the man's, coolness emanating from the black depths.

"We're very pleased you agreed to this meeting Uchiha-san, our daughter has been looking forward to this day for a very long time now." The woman's voice was smooth, hoarsened by age although that didn't diminish the charm of the rounded sound.

As expected from the sister of one of the council Elders, Suzume Michiko was well into her sixties and it was clear that she was ageing well for a woman who had lived through the great ninja war, been married once before and produced children from both marriages. One boy from her first marriage and four girls from the man who sat beside her now. They both looked fine with giving away the hand of their youngest daughter.

Sasuke gave a small bow of his head in acknowledgment and respect. "Thank you for receiving me and likewise."

Suzume Fumio nodded, his eyes closing. "This is good. You come from a well respected family and have a good life ahead of you. This is a perfect age for considering a family and the future."

It had been a long time since the events that had left Sasuke's past far behind had happened. But Sasuke was glad that he was able to control the instinctive clench of his hands at the mention of his family. The smile he would've shown the man would've been a bitter one.

Respectable family. Yes.

Michiko inclined her head, a regal movement perfected through years of practice. "Yes. Kohana is a lovely young woman," her eyes as she began speaking of her daughter seemed to mellow even more, a fond pride tingeing the woman's smile as she looked at Sasuke, "We've often said she has a soothing spirit. A way that calms anyone she is around. A trait that would no doubt be welcomed by someone in your line of work."

He'd thought so too. He'd wanted someone like that. Not so much for himself but for the children he wanted.

After finding out about his family and his brother, at that time Sasuke had closed out thoughts of continuing his line. It hadn't occurred to him in the middle of the wars and avenging that he might still want to. Everything had been too bitter at that point. But then—as had been done with Kyuubi's secret, the council's actions and what the Uchiha's had planned had been hushed. His family had maintained their respectability.

His brother had remained the genius Uchiha who had murdered his clan.

"—san? Uchiha-san?"

Sasuke stiffened and his eyes flicked back up to the couple who were now looking at him with puzzled expressions.

He'd spaced out in the middle of a marriage interview.

As he apologised and asked if Michiko could please repeat what she'd said, he couldn't help thinking that Naruto would've joked about how Sasuke had looked like an idiot in front of his future in-laws.

But for that to happen, Sasuke knew he'd first have to tell Naruto that he was going to have in-laws.

"That's all right. But Kohane-chan has arrived."

The sound of rice doors being slid open drew Sasuke's attention and he glanced to his right.

It was odd that as his eyes met with nervous brown ones Sasuke didn't feel were anything out of the ordinary.

He rose to his feet as Suzume Kohana stepped into the room, a delicate woman wrapped in soft lilac contrasting perfectly with the cascade of thick gleaming black hair that fell down her back. Her eyes fell from his too quickly and focused on the floor even as she obeyed her mother's gentle request for her to greet him.

As Kohana bowed, Sasuke lowered his head in return.

~


Iruka glanced up from the crumpled report that Naruto had just handed him. There was a tear on the bottom left corner, a little doodle of a ramen cup with a smiley face. The writing was even worse than what Iruka remembered from Naruto's assignments during his time at the academy.

Iruka bent his head over the report, and took a few deep breaths before looking up.

"Er...Iruka-sensei?" Naruto stared at the man as he stayed with his head bent low over the report he'd just given in. Naruto thought that he saw Iruka's hands shake a bit as they clamped down harder on the already mistreated paper.

Naruto glanced back at the paper and when he saw the little torn bit and the smudge of dirt on the back, he winced and scratched at the back of his neck.

"Erm... I guess I should've been more careful?" He offered, a sheepish smile on his face as Iruka seemed to get a hold on himself and looked up. But by the look on Iruka's face, the man clearly didn't see the amusing side of this.

Especially not when he smiled. Because it was an evil smile. Tight lipped, eyes closed—it was the smile Iruka had used when Naruto had still been in the academy when he'd been about to tell them that they had to do another lap around training grounds.

"Naruto..."

Yeah, even the tone was scary.

Naruto dropped his hand to his side and shifted on the spot, forehead pinching as he gave Iruka a wary look. "Yeah...?"

Iruka set down the report and linked his fingers together over it. That smile was still on his face. "If you hand in one more report which is A, ripped in any place, B, with immature doodles or C with the kind of writing I expect from my first graders," Iruka's eyes opened and his smile dropped, "I'll make sure you'll be stuck with D ranked missions for a month. Not to mention this is only your most recent report—you're late with over ten of them. I want them here by the end of the week, if not, the same threat will be applied."

Naruto gaped and took an instinctive step back as his expression turned to one of horror. "Wh-whaaa?" His volume drew looks from the other ninja filling the mission room but Naruto didn't pay any attention to that, he was too busy focusing on the images of himself chasing after fat cats and pulling out weeds.

Iruka's face brightened. "Good! I'm glad we understand each other. Now, we don't have anything else for you at the moment so go and take a rest—or work on your late mission reports. I believe Sakura-chan was looking for you earlier and said for you to meet her at Sasuke's home as soon as you arrived."

Naruto lost his wounded look at that and looked up from where he'd been kicking at the floor. "Ah? Huh? Why? Kiba owes me ramen today." His lip very nearly quivered as he saw his ramen going down the drain.

Iruka leveled a glare up at him. "I have more important things to do with my time, Naruto, than taking messages from your friends and reprimanding you on the crap presentation of your reports. Now get out of the mission room, other people want to hand in their reports."

Naruto shoved his hands into his pockets and snorted. "Fine, fine. Man," he turned around and moved away from the queue of peeved ninjas aiming glares at his back for having taken so long and made his way to the door, "It's probably 'cause Iruka-sensei's getting old," he muttered.

He had one foot out of the door when something whistled too close to his ear and embedded itself in the door frame.

He froze and glanced over his shoulder.

Iruka was already talking to the next person.

~


Naruto was still grumbling about how close that kunai had been when he landed in Konoha's Uchiha district. It didn't help that he was hungry and his stomach felt like it was drilling itself into his spine.

He strode past the gates and slid his hands inside his pockets as he followed the path which even in all those years hadn't faded or lost its way despite the overgrown weeds and flowers that lined it. It'd been worse when Sasuke had moved in but he'd gotten Naruto and Sakura to at least help him out in cleaning up a bit.

In Naruto's opinion this hadn't changed much about the place.

He thought now, as he always did when he came over to this place that it was as if he were walking into a desert. No, not quite a desert because a desert still felt like it was alive.

This felt like it was a part of Konoha. The silence was absolute. Not even crickets could be heard as his steps crunched down on the little grains of dirt. The heat which had arrived in Konoha earlier in the week was more intense, coupled by a humidity that with the silence felt oppressive.

Trust Sasuke to decide that this was where he would live.

He'd refused to find a place elsewhere even though staying at the Uchiha compound made sure that he took as many missions as possible just so he could keep it.

Stupid Sasuke.

Naruto tugged off his jounin's vest and pulled at the collar of his t-shirt. The sun was already gone. He walked a little faster, knowing that inside Sasuke's house it would be cooler. And that in the house there would also be food which after his mission he felt he really deserved. They were lucky he was even heading straight over there instead of stopping by the ramen stand first.

When he reached the main area where the houses began, he moved quickly through the twists and turns of the path, ignoring the way his hairs stood on end at all the empty windows and dusty doors that faced him on either side.

Sasuke's house remained the one he'd lived in when he was younger.

Naruto wasn't sure he would've been able to do the same.

When he'd asked Sasuke why he wouldn't just stay in another house within the Uchiha district, Sasuke had said it was fine because he understood what had happened and he refused to let what he'd thought then ruin his image of his family.

Naruto rolled his eyes. When it came to it, family pride still remained very high in Sasuke's list of priorities. But then his mouth softened into a small smile and his eyes fell back to the ground.

Hopefully it would always be that way.

"Oi! Narutooo! Hurry up! You're walking like an old man!"

At the sound of Sakura's voice, he looked up. Sakura stood in the way of an open door, hands on her hips as she motioned with her head for him to hurry up and get inside.

Hanging his head low in misery—because really, no one seemed to care about his poor tired body which had just arrived from a mission and remained unfed—he sighed before he put in small burst of chakra and in one leap appeared in front of Sakura.

She didn't even flinch. Instead she remained where she was, an unimpressed look on her face as she looked him up and down. And then she wrinkled her nose and stepped back from him. "You shouldn't be showing off when you're clearly in need of a decent shower Naruto," she said, disapproving.

For a second he stared at her, disbelieving. "What? You guys are the ones that asked me to come here!"

Sakura shrugged. "Actually it was Sasuke. Are you coming in or not? You know how he gets when you're late. The two of you always end up arguing and then you storm off and he's moody for days and I have to deal with both of your attitudes. So hurry your ass up and get inside." And with that said, she turned around and walked inside.

Naruto stared at the spot in which she'd stood. "Why's everyone being mean to me today?"

"Naruto. I don't see you behind me!"

At that Naruto blinked then grinned. Grabbing at the edge of the door he leaned against it and poked his head around it. "Aww Sakura-chan if that's what you wanted you could've just as—" his words were cut off mid-sentence when Sakura stopped and looked over her shoulder.

Those were definitely knuckles Naruto heard being cracked.

When he didn't say anything else, she smirked. "Good. Now for the last time, just hurry up."

"Fine fine," he mumbled as he dropped his vest on the floor inside the door and toed off his sandals, "Everyone's pissy today jeez." Then he followed her in.

It made him feel a bit better though when he stepped in and his face was bathed by cool air, almost making him melt into a puddle of relief at the brief reprieve from the stuffy heat.

Taking his time, he walked down the hallway not feeling as creeped out by this house as he had been by the others. Maybe because this one actually had some sort of life inside it. Not to mention it was the only one which had been restored to its previous state. It had taken Naruto, Sakura and Sai an entire month to do it, squashed in between their own missions. They'd taken the opportunity since Sasuke had been out of the village on a two month mission with his team of freaks.

Kakashi had of course shown up from time to time to help out. However Kakashi's idea of helping out had been to settle down in a corner, point out how much work was left before pulling out an old copy of Icha Icha. Although Iruka-sensei hadn't helped with the actual workload, he'd at least stopped by with food. None of it had been ramen so Naruto hadn't been too happy about that either but it had been an improvement on Kakashi-sensei.

In the end the most useful of anyone who had mentored them had been Yamato-sensei who Kakashi had charmed into using his more unusual talents to fix a huge hole in the ceiling.

There was a soft glow coming from the open doors which Sakura had disappeared into. The flight flickered now and then against the wall opposite and it threw its glow over Naruto's face as he stepped inside.

His stomach rumbled in what Naruto interpreted as relief at seeing small low table all set up and with small dishes out, heat coming off of covered bowls in pale twists of steam. There was a bottle of sake set on the floor next to the table and three cushions on the floor, one of which was already occupied by Sakura.

"Wow, is this for me?"

Sakura gave him a droll stare. "Sure Naruto, I got off my shift at work and thought to myself, why not cook Naruto some dinner all the way over at Sasuke's house because clearly I'm not tired at all—"

He waved a hand at her. "Okay, okay—no need to stamp my dreams down with sarcasm Sakura-chan." Then with a heartfelt sigh Naruto dragged his feet all the way to one of the cushions and plopped down on it with a lack of finesses that only he was able to achieve.

Sakura smiled at the down turn of his lips and reached over to give his shoulder a small shake. "Well, it's good that we could get together, we've all been kind of busy lately and haven't eaten together in a long while."

Naruto eased back, bracing his hands a little behind him so he could lean away from the table. That way the smell of food wouldn't tantalize him and Sakura wouldn't slap him on the head for not waiting for Sasuke. As she'd been known to do it before. "I guess, but you know you guys could've at least given me time to stop off at home first."

"You wouldn't have gone home Naruto," Sakura pointed out, her tone dry. "You would've stuffed your face at Ichiraku instead of saving your money. Like you always do."

At the mention of Ichiraku Naruto rubbed at his chest because it really did feel to him as if he'd been deprived of something special.

"Besides," Sakura went on, ignoring Naruto and sitting up a bit straighter, "It was Sasuke's idea. I didn't plan on helping anyone cook today, thanks, even had a date with Ino but Sasuke made it sound like this was important so I cancelled."

Naruto let his hand dropped as he stared at Sakura. "A date with Ino? What? All those years spent chasing after you—Sakura-chan you're so cruel, you could've at least t—OW!" He rubbed at his temple right where Sakura's hand had smacked without remorse. "What's with the violence today?"

"You have a talent for bringing it out in people. Anyway. That's not what I meant—well not that kind of date anyway, idiot. When I said date I just meant—"

"Yeah yeah, girl time or something," Naruto was still rubbing at his head as he shrugged. "Where's Sasuke anyway?"

"Well he went to shower while I was finishing up, he should be done soo—"

"I’m done."

Naruto and Sakura both looked over their shoulders as Sasuke walked into the room. He was still rubbing at his hair with a white towel as he walked across the room to the other pillow. Dressing in a t-shirt and black sweats really did nothing to diminish the untouchable air that had oozed from Sasuke pretty much since they were kids.

Settling down, he gave Naruto a brief look—no doubt this was what he counted as a 'Hello, long time no see' kind of greeting but Naruto was used to it so he just frowned.

"What? Took your time making sure your hair looked pretty?" He snorted. "It's just me and Sakura you know."

The sigh was so quiet Naruto almost didn't catch it as Sasuke looked the other way. "You just arrived and you're already acting like an idiot."

"Shut up—don't start bastard. Making me come here when I'm all hungry and crap," he muttered, "Are we gonna eat or not?"

Sasuke arched a brow at him and then gave a soft snort, looking away and continued to rub the moisture from his hair. "Knock yourself out."

Naruto couldn't resist curling his lip at him before trying to roll his sleeves up further. Sakura shook her head but she didn't wait for Sasuke to finish either, instead scooting forward and reaching for the lid on the biggest dish and lifting it.

"So why'd we have to come here for dinner anyway?" Naruto asked, already handling his chop sticks with more speed than was necessary at a dinner table, to moving the grilled meat that clearly hadn't been waiting long onto his plate—easily avoiding the salad bowl despite Sakura's sharp glance—while his other hand grabbed for the bread that was kept on the side.

Sakura frowned and settled down. "Naruto—for god's sake get some salad on your plate and stop grabbing at the food like that!"

Naruto considered asking when Sakura had become so mother hen-like but decided he'd need his head if he was going to eat all the meat he'd piled onto his plate. So instead he stuffed said meat into his mouth and then grinned at her.

It earned him another slap to the temple because of the food in his mouth—which Sakura hissed out that she didn't want to see.

Sending her a dark glance, Naruto finished chewing food and turned back to Sasuke who was pulling the towel from his shoulders, the material tugging at his t-shirt, baring Sasuke's collar bones for a brief second.

Naruto's gaze flicked back up and he didn't quite understand why but when he met Sasuke's eyes he felt uncomfortable. He looked back down at his plate, missing the touch of bemusement on Sasuke's face.

Sakura sighed. "Well I'd also like to know why you called us here Sasuke," she looked at him, forehead wrinkling a little as the worry she'd felt at his unusual request came back, "Is everything all right?"

Sasuke pushed the plate forward and set his crossed arms on the table. His expression turned to one of disapproval as more meat was shoveled into Naruto's mouth and bread torn with a little more force than necessary.

"I had a meeting today."

Naruto looked up from his plate and Sakura eased back where she sat. "Yeah? So?"

Sasuke's eyes narrowed on him. "Did I say I was finished?"

"I don't hav—nnmmffff." The fact that Sakura's hand had slapped onto his mouth made it very difficult for him to carry on speaking so instead Naruto glared at one and then the other, set down his chop sticks, crossed his arms and looked away. He was starting to think that people were trying to make it a miserable day.

Whether Sakura thought he'd keep quiet or simply couldn't be bothered to keep her hand over his mouth, Naruto wasn't sure but she dropped her hand and then turned back to Sasuke with another of her sighs.

"We're listening."

Naruto tipped back his head and looked at the ceiling.

"The meeting was with Suzume Fumio and his wife Suzume Michiko."

At that Naruto turned back to look at Sasuke, eyes locking on the other man instantly. He knew that name although he didn't know the people. But he was well acquainted—to put it nicely—with the council members and knew that these two particular people were wealthy relations of one of the council members, highly respected by all. He flicked a quick look at Sakura to see if she found Sasuke's revelation strange too but she wasn't looking at either Sasuke or Naruto. She was moving food onto her plate with movements with the calm movement of her wrist.

Naruto frowned and looked back at Sasuke. "Why would you be meeting them? Did they want a personal guard or something? I mean, they have to know you're too high rank for that—"

Sasuke snorted. "No. That's not what I went there for."

"Then what?" Naruto paused and then registered what Sasuke had said. "Wait. You went there? As in, to their house?"

Sasuke arched a brow at him. "Isn't that what I just said?"

Naruto leaned forward and placed his hands on the table. "So far I haven't understood anything you've said because you're talking in stupid riddles. Just say whatever it is already, don't know why you're talking like you're about to make some big announcement. I bet it wasn't even that important—"

"What makes you think I'm not?"

Sakura caught a small piece of meat with her chop sticks and ate it, still not looking at either of them.

"If you're going to then just do it bastard. You're wasting our time."

"You're the one wasting time because you won't shut your mouth, Naruto," Sasuke said, voice cool as he straightened. Looking down his nose at Naruto while they were both sitting down and at the same level had seemed to be a very easy skill for Sasuke to develop. It irritated Naruto like nothing else could.

Unless that nothing else was Sasuke. Then it was very probable that it annoyed Naruto just as much.

"I guess then that the rumours are true."

Sakura's calm and quieter voice drew both Naruto and Sasuke's attention. Naruto looking confused and Sasuke's just losing all expression.

"Already?" Sasuke asked.

Sakura shrugged. "The Suzume family are a very old and well respected family," her tone became wry, "Not to mention they have a lot of money Sasuke. Although I don't think that Michiko-san would spread the rumours, I'm pretty sure that it got out mainly through their servants."

Naruto blinked, looking from Sasuke to Sakura. "I don't get it. What rumours?"

Sakura smiled at Sasuke, just a small easing of her mouth and a lightening of her expression before she went back to eat.

For a moment as Naruto remained confused about what the hell the two of them were talking about, the room was silent.

Then—

"I'm getting married."

It was odd. Naruto could swear it got quieter after that. A silence that was quieter than the previous silence and he wondered if that made sense. Maybe it wasn't that it was quieter. It was that he was still straining to hear what Sasuke had just said even though he'd already heard it. As if he were waiting for traces of the words to remain hanging in the room and miraculously repeat themselves without him having to ask Sasuke to do it.

He gave a small laugh. He wasn't sure what he was laughing at. "What?"

Sakura paused in her eating and looked up at Naruto. Her face was still turned away from his but at his tone, she'd looked up.

Naruto had a stupid expression on his face. His lips were curved in a smile. Stretched and lacking in humour, its fixed curve on his face telling the other two in the room how much he was confused and how it carried no amusement what so ever. It didn't help that his eyebrows had lowered over eyes that had narrowed as Naruto tried to understand if Sasuke had thought he'd learned how to be funny and had just tried his first joke on Naruto—if this was it then Sasuke need a lot of work—or if Sasuke had just had some of the sake while Sakura had been getting Naruto at the door. A quick gulp without them looking.

But Sasuke wasn't smiling. His black gaze was just boring into Naruto's forehead and Naruto knew that Sakura was also watching him in that calm and assessing way she did when something that wasn't quite right happened when she was around.

"I said I'm getting married."

The smile began to slip from Naruto's face, his lips slowly closing and pressing in a line as confusion left his face all together and his eyes sharpened for a different reason entirely. "Yeah? When did this happen?"

Sasuke didn't look away, didn't shift, didn't show any sign of discomfort under Naruto's stare. "Today."

"What? Have you been seeing her in secret or something? When did you start dating this person?" Naruto asked. "How come you didn't tell us or something?"

This time Sakura turned her attention to Sasuke. It was something she would like to know the answer too also.

They were his friends also.

Not to mention, they were the closest thing he had to family.

"Because," there was a note of impatience in Sasuke's voice now, "There was nothing to tell."

"Yeah? So like—you'd rather hit us with this out of nowhere instead of letting us know when you're with someone?" Naruto wasn't sure why anger was slowly weaving itself into his tone. He just knew that he didn't like it. Didn't like that Sasuke had been holding things from them. Maybe even now it was something that he still had to work on. Something he'd have to fight not to get paranoid over.

Still. He couldn't get rid of the feeling spreading inside his chest with mere sense.

Sasuke leaned forward. "Listen to what I'm saying. There was nothing to tell. I wasn't in a relationship with anyone. I just told you that it happened today."

Naruto sat back; tension that he hadn't realised had started to build up slowly leaving him again. "I don't get it..."

Sakura shook her head. It was obvious that letting the two of them continue the conversation on their own wouldn't lead them anywhere. So she leaned towards Naruto and placed touched his shoulder, tightening her fingers on it when he didn't look towards her straight away until he did. When he was finally looking at her, she gave him a small smile.

"Sasuke means that it's an arranged marriage."

Naruto stared at her. Then looked back at Sasuke. "An arranged marriage?" He shook his head, still trying to follow this. "Even if it was an arranged marriage why didn't you tell us? We could've I don't know... given you... references or something..." he muttered, "And shouldn't we like—you know check her out for you? All the times you met up with her or with us... even if you weren't actually in a relationship you could've introduced her to us right?" His gaze fell to his hands that he'd dropped to his lap.

"Naruto."

He looked up at Sasuke.

"I couldn't have introduced you to someone I didn't know."

"But... don't you like her? I mean you've met with her before right? So that you could make this kind of decision..." he trailed off when Sasuke's expression didn't change. "You don't like her Sasuke?"

Sasuke looked away and gave an exasperated sigh. "With time I'm sure we'll come to be comfortable in each other's company."

Naruto didn't even feel Sakura's hand slipping away from his shoulder. "If you don't like her what the hell are you marrying her for? You're talking about marrying a stranger. Someone you don't know. Someone you've met with what—once?"

Sasuke didn't seem affected by what Naruto was saying. He remained as he was; face expressionless as he watched as Naruto seemed to become even more agitated.

"What are you marrying her for then Sasuke? What about her-- does she even like you? You're just going to agree to it without finding out? What's this for?" Naruto wasn't even aware that his hands had fisted on the table. Those fists just tightened when something occurred to him. "Is this just so you can restart your clan?"

"And what if it is?"

Naruto's mouth stiffened. His hand flattened on the table and he pushed to his feet. "Then I don't think you've learned anything at all. Thanks for the food." He turned around and walked the short distance to the door.

As he walked down the corridor there was no sound from the other room. Not even as he slipped his vest and his shoes back on.

Once again as he stepped out of the restored house, the only thing that surrounded him was the oppressive silence of the Uchiha district.

But this time, Naruto didn't notice it.

~


Sasuke tsked and looked away from the spot where Naruto had been as he heard Naruto leave the house.

He hadn't expected Naruto to react that way. Mainly because it was an over reaction. But then that made even less sense because Naruto always over reacted so maybe he should have been expecting it after all.

He shifted on the cushion and brought one knee up, resting his hand in it and reaching to brush back the bangs from his face. He didn't even notice the food in front of him. He hadn't eaten anything since coming back from the marriage meeting with the Suzume family but he hadn't been hungry.

Sasuke wasn't comfortable with admitting it but the prospect of telling Naruto and Sakura about it had left him uneasy.

It was all so—personal. Not to mention an affirmation of something he'd spent a long time denying. That they were important. That they were his family.

"You're not going after him?"

Sakura's voice caught his attention and Sasuke looked up at her. She was watching him, another small smile on her face.

When he didn't say anything she went back to eating, leaning across the table now and then, not pushing Sasuke as she once might have but instead just leaving the silence as it was. Maybe it also had a bit to do with the fact that she was tired. He'd noticed it when she'd arrived. The soft skin under her eyes a little bit puffier, her movements a little slower.

"Hn," he turned away from her, "What for?"

Sakura pushed her plate away and leaned her arms on it. The light touched the rise of her cheeks and her right temple but that just threw shadows onto her eyes, making her seem even more tired. "Because clearly you wanted to tell us because this is important to you. I don't think it will sit well with you if you think he disapproves."

"I wasn't asking for his approval." Sasuke looked away from her and took in the barely touched food on the table. The scent of the grilled meat lingered, salty and heavy. But any hunger he might have had was gone.

Naruto's food was still on his plate. It was something Naruto never did. Knowing that, Sasuke's mouth turned down in irritation.

The stupid idiot didn't know what he was talking about; Sasuke had always made it clear that he had wanted to continue his clan. It had been this way even when he'd been just a Genin. Now was a good time, he had his place as a Jounin, ranked as one of the best and a high success rate for all of his missions. There hadn't been a real threat to the peace between Konoha and the allied countries ever since Danzou had been killed and Tsunade had rightfully reassumed her position as Konohagakure's Hokage.

And Suzume Kohana was everything he needed. She hadn't fawned all over him like the others had, didn't watch every breath he took or squealed at every word he said. She'd been quiet with an air of respectfulness that Sasuke had appreciated more than he had her looks—looks which also suited his taste.

"Sasuke..."

The warm fingers that touched his wrist pulled his attention back to Sakura and Sasuke found that she had moved closer. The smile that had been appearing on her face with a touch of amusement now and then had faded. Her gaze was direct. Sasuke felt her fingers tighten on his wrist but Sasuke didn't pull away. Instead he waited for what she had to say.

"I'm not going to ask why you didn't tell us sooner because... well," she gave him a wry look, "Let's just say you're not the most forthcoming person." She pulled her hand away and leaned forward, resting her arms on the table and letting her gaze slide away from him to rest on the food. "But... this does seem too sudden." She reached for her plate and traced it with her nail. "So I can see where Naruto was coming from a little—of course I also think he over reacted," she shrugged, "But that's just Naruto."

Sasuke sneered. "He was immature Sakura."

Sakura sighed but instead of agreeing with him this time, she just shook her head. "No. He wasn't." She looked up at him again. Her face was serious. Her finger dropped away from the plate as her eyebrows came down over her eyes, the action tensing her chin and firming her mouth. "He's worried that you're acting on a misplaced sense of duty to people who only would've wanted your happiness."

Sasuke frowned but let her carry on.

"You have to remember that whatever Naruto is, he places a high value in relationships. The reasons you just gave us even if you hadn't already agreed to the marriage proposal just deny what he believes in. You described something completely devoid of emotional attachment."

"What I feel for her is none of yours and Naruto's business."

"Then why tell us at all?"

Sasuke could feel the slow grind of his teeth as frustration started to build. He pushed back from the table and in one fluid movement got to his feet.

Sakura just looked up at him. "Because you care about what we think. And if you care about what we think, then the way Naruto reacted just now will also bother you. So maybe you should just go and talk it out with him."

"I don't have time to go chasing him around."

At that Sakura gave an exasperated sigh, throwing her hands up and rolling her eyes heavenwards. "Yes, clearly you are very busy at the moment," she cut a glare at him, "You're both as bad as each other."

The scowl that had been building since the first touch of sarcasm to her words became full blown when she compared him with Naruto.

"Stop sulking and go talk to him. I'll wrap up the food and put the dishes in the sink. So you go and talk to him. You're both idiots anyway. So clearly both of you will understand your idiot speak."

It spoke of how much he'd gotten used to trusting people enough to show his emotions when Sakura was able to see the nerve ticking on his cheek as Sasuke just picked up the towel he'd dropped earlier and started walking away.

"Sasuke."

He snapped round to look at her. "What?"

The snapped retort had her expression hardening. She set her mouth and looked away. "Nothing. Do what you like. It's what you two always do anyway." She got to her knees and started gathering the empty plates. "Stupid stubborn idiots."

Sasuke stayed where he was as he watched her start to put replace the covers over the food and then picking it up.

When she disappeared into the kitchen, Sasuke allowed himself to sigh. He looked back at the place where Naruto had been sitting.

Swearing under his breath Sasuke dropped the towel again and then traced the steps Naruto had taken only a few minutes earlier.

~


Naruto walked back out from the kitchen, the slippery glass of the beer bottle gripped loosely between his fingers as he made his way back to the tiny living room he'd managed to carve out of his small place.

He'd gotten rid of his uniform vest and top in an effort to get rid of the restricting heat of it and returned to the table that was crammed with all the late reports he still hadn't finished.

He'd opened up all the windows, although that wasn't helping out much.

The sound of crickets poured into the room, strangely soothing as it filled his silent room.

Settling down back on the spot, Naruto set down the beer on the floor and turned his attention back to his cup ramen, picking it up again as he leaned back against the cheap sofa. Crossing his legs at the ankles he picked up the chop sticks and started eating again.

His mouth still had the down turn at the corners and his eyebrows were still slashing down over his eyes but as before, Naruto didn't think it was sulking. He didn't sulk. It was manly frustration. He was allowed to feel that way after Sasuke said something that reminded Naruto of how much of a dick he could be.

Sasuke. Married.

"Stupid asshole doesn't even know how to deal with his friends and he wants to get married." He shook his head as he muttered, then shoved more ramen in his mouth and didn't flinch when bits of sauce flipped onto his chin. He wiped at them with the back of his hand and carried on eating.

But then sauce flew onto his reports and that made him pause. If he got them dirty Iruka-sensei would kill him.

Naruto was trying to blot away the little spots with his thumbs when he picked up the trace of a familiar chakra.

Five seconds later, Sasuke was landing inside his room.

Naruto looked over his shoulder at him; Sasuke stood at the window and just looked back at him.

It seemed to Naruto that the night had descended quickly after he'd left Sasuke's house. Now it framed Sasuke as he stood there. Sasuke would've looked as if he had been completely swallowed by the night if it weren't for the yellow light that was painted in one delineating line on the left side of Sasuke's silhouette. The street lights had already been turned on.

Naruto saw the look that Sasuke gave to the untidy pile of scrolls littering the table before he looked back at him.

It was enough to make Naruto's mood darken further. "What? I'm working, see? Get lost." Naruto tuned his back on Sasuke. But instead of scooting forward and carrying on with his reports, he just picked up his ramen and continued eating.

The noise from the crickets filled the room once more, making it seem as if the silence was a huge block between them on which the crickets had chosen to crawl all over.

That silence was disturbed when Naruto heard the distinct sound of shoes being taken off. He didn't hear the steps that followed that but it was like the air in the room couldn't help but react to Sasuke's presence. Tinged with the strength of the energy that belonged only to Sasuke's chakra signature, it coated his skin, feeling like an invisible and pressure-less thickness layering his skin. A layer that became thicker as Sasuke came closer until he was rounding the small table and settling himself opposite Naruto just as he had earlier in Sasuke's home.

Naruto continued slurping at his noodles and kept his gaze and face turned away from Sasuke. It was childish but he was still pissed off.

"You're going to ignore me?"

Naruto shrugged and continued eating.

"What's your problem, Naruto?"

He shrugged again.

Out of the corner of his eye Naruto saw Sasuke clench his jaw. When Sasuke turned away, his bangs fell over his cheek but they weren't enough to hide the ticking nerve there. He'd crossed his arms.

Sakura had probably made him come over.

Which meant that if by the next time she saw them, they weren't talking normally, then Naruto would most likely end up with a bruised area somewhere on his body. And Sasuke would get a scolding.

Naruto still didn't understand why Sasuke got the lighter of the two punishments.

He sank his chopsticks into the cup again; caught the noodles between the sticks and started to lift it to his mouth. "So..." it was a little more than a grumble, but Naruto noticed the way Sasuke stiffened—it was an almost imperceptible thing but Naruto saw it, "What's she like anyway? Is she pretty at least?"

Sasuke answered one mouthful later. "She's fine."

Naruto let the chopsticks fall into the cup and sighed. He set it aside. "Look..." he rubbed at his mouth in a quick motion, his gaze on the floor. His mouth thinned once and he braced his hands on his thighs. He didn't really understand why he couldn't look at Sasuke; he only knew that the situation was already starting to take on an awkward feel, the discomfort crawling from his back to make his stomach feel uneasy. "I'm sorry... But—" he pressed his mouth into an angry line as he tried to find the words he needed, but when he looked back at Sasuke, his gaze was a fierce blue that was narrowed on him, "It's your fault too. We're your friends but—you still," he broke off with a frustrated groan and let his head fall forward, barely feeling anything as his forehead slammed into the edge of the table. "You're an asshole Sasuke."

"Just because we're friends Naruto, doesn't mean I have to tell you about every little thing." Sasuke's voice was quiet, but the non-confrontational tone didn't do him many favours.

Naruto looked up, setting his chin on the edge of the table, he didn't sit up though as he stared at Sasuke, incredulous. "Little?"

Sasuke looked away and leaned back. "It's called generalising idiot. I'm not talking about this."

"So... this isn't a small thing to you?"

"Of course not!"

The snapped words didn't bother Naruto all that much. Neither did the glare that Sasuke was fixing him with. But it did compel him to put aside whatever his own issues were with this other than the obvious fact that Sasuke hadn't confided in them earlier.

Looking at him over the pile of crumpled papers and scrolls, Naruto thought back to when they were Genin. When Kakashi had asked the three of them what their goals were, rebuilding his clan had been one of Sasuke's.

His eyes lowered from Sasuke to the scrolls, not noticing Sasuke's expression morphing into a frown as his own gaze unfocused, the scrolls blurring to seal him into his own thoughts.

Like him, Sasuke had been alone from an early age. Maybe he was looking to find the feeling he'd lost so young, by having a family again. A legally binding and blood tied family as opposed to their family of misfit ninjas that was bound by nothing more strong ties formed by experiences they'd shared over the years.

Nartuto's gaze lowered further. Even if that was what Sasuke wanted—Naruto couldn't help wondering why what he had now wasn't enough.

It was a selfish thought. One that Naruto tucked away as soon as he saw it for what it was.

"I guess..." he took a deep breath, "It'll be kind of cool watching Sakura-chan drool all over Sasuke babies."

"Hn."

Naruto couldn't help smiling as Sasuke kept his face turned away from him. If it had been anyone else, they wouldn't have noticed the way Sasuke's shoulders lowered just a tiny fraction, or the way the fingers that had been tensed against the floor, relaxed.

"Heh, you better introduce her to us soon. Sakura's not gonna let you rest until you do."

Sasuke scoffed. "She can wait a little longer."

"Hmmm." Naruto sat up and glanced at the cup ramen, then at all the reports he still had to go through, finish and fix up—no way would he be stuck doing D-rank missions—then sighed again. "Hate stupid paperwork," he mumbled.

"It's your fault for letting it get this bad," Sasuke got up, "Come on."

Naruto looked up at him. "'Come on' where?"

Sasuke didn't look back at him as he headed back in the direction of the window through which he'd arrived. "You haven't eaten anything properly right? Ichiraku's is still open."

If there had ever been a way to make Naruto light up like it was Christmas day that was it. His eyes practically sparkled as he shot to his feet. "Yeah? Wait wait! Let me just throw a shirt on!" he called as he made a quick dash to his room, picked up a random shirt he'd found on the floor and returned to the living room.

Sasuke already had a foot on the window sill, ready to push out. "Bring money with you."

Naruto slowed down. "Huh? Why?"

"You're paying." And before Naruto could yell about the fact that he hadn't been the one who had done the inviting, Sasuke jumped out.

So Naruto yelled anyway.

He made sure that he yelled loud enough that Sasuke and the rest of the people in the building heard him as he followed.

~


The speed of the rumour mills gave ninjas a run for their money. But having been the centre of attention of rumours quite a few times already, Sasuke wasn't that bothered by them.

It was the women and their constant questions that irritated him. Their pestering almost made him wish for the wide berth that the villagers had given him after he'd come back to the village. Except then he remembered the pain on his friends faces as he was further isolated and remembered that even if he'd been fine with it, they would've just ended up hurt again.

"So... when are we going to meet her?"

Sasuke looked across at Sakura, fixing a glare on her when she just grinned at him around the spoon in her mouth.

"We've been asking him that for a week already," Naruto muttered, shoving another spoon full of ice cream into his mouth.

It was Sakura's lunch break and since the three of them hadn't been able to meet since the dinner the week before apart from little snippets of stolen conversation around their work, they'd ended up deciding on just meeting during Sakura's break.

They sat on the roof of the hospital. Sakura had taken off her white medic's jacket and folded it neatly and placed it on one of the bench where she sat, her legs folded on top of the seat and her hair still pulled back. Her bento had already been cleaned out and placed back in the plastic bag she'd brought up with her.

Naruto sat opposite Sasuke on the floor, one elbow braced on the bench near Sakura's knee as he worked through his ice-cream faster than Sasuke and Sakura together. He was still in his Jounin's attire since he'd been to the mission room to hand in the reports he'd been behind on before joining them.

"What? You want me to just drag her out for no other reason just so you two can meet her?"

"Yes."

The joint answer had Sasuke scowling up at them to find them both staring at him. He gave a soft snort and shook his head, spooning the vanilla and toffee ice cream into his mouth.

The sound of the sheets and blankets flapping in the wind a floor above them stumped out conversations from passersby down below.

"Give it up." He said—hearing Sakura's sigh and Naruto's grumble although he couldn't quite make out what particular words were being grumbled.

"Hey Sasuke," Sakura began.

"What?"

"You know you could just bring her along to the festival? It's something we always do and it wouldn't be very odd for you to bring her along right?"

Sasuke glanced up at her and finished the last of his ice cream. There was a smug look on her face as she crossed her arms and looked down at him. She'd already finished her ice-cream.

"Why don't you just give it up?" He asked.

The rustling of a bag drew both his and Sakura's attention and he turned to see Naruto putting the empty cup of his ice cream back into the bag his lunch had been in, spoon and everything. He picked up the water in front of him, unscrewed it and drank. He didn't look up at them even once. His eyes had the unfocused quality of someone who was looking at nothing in particular but were deep in thought.

It was unusual for Naruto to be the one lagging behind in a conversation when he was always the first one to offer his opinion—a habit that grated on others mostly.

"Oi. Naruto." Sasuke frowned when Naruto's shoulders jerked a little and he looked up, shooting a quick glance at Sasuke and Sakura before settling back on Sasuke with a confused look.

"Sorry what?"

Sasuke didn't reply but instead just stared at him.

It wasn't hard to notice that Naruto wasn't quite meeting his eyes.

"Stop spacing out and pay attention," Sakura said, leaning forward to bop him on the head with a light fist. Although there was a teasing tone to her chastising, Sasuke noticed that her expression wasn't irritated. Her eyebrows were dipped down a little and her lips curling outward.

So she'd noticed it too.

Naruto gave a small laugh and lifted his hand to rub at his neck. "Yeah, sorry sorry. Too many mission reports, I'm still seeing letters in front of me. What were you guys saying anyway?"

He hadn't even accused Sakura of abusing him.

Sasuke wasn't the only one who noticed and Sakura unfolded her legs, setting her feet on the floor and leaning forward a bit more to place her hand on Naruto's shoulder, earning herself another surprised look from him. "Well... you've been doing this all week. Is everything okay?"

Naruto just blinked up at her for a second before he smiled again. Giving her hand a small pat he wrapped his hands around it—gave it a brief squeeze and then moved it off his shoulder. "Nah, I'm good."

The response just seemed to make Sakura more worried but as she went to open her mouth again Sasuke just cut right in.

"Sakura suggested I bring Kohana to the festival."

If Sasuke hadn't been watching Naruto, then he wouldn't have seen it. But he saw it. The way Naruto looked at him, a straight unguarded look from sober eyes. Then long lashes came down and when they lifted again there was a smile on Naruto's face and he was looking elsewhere as he rose to his feet.

"Yeah. That's a good idea. At least there she won't feel like she was brought along just so we could stare at her right?" Naruto stooped to pick up his bag. "Have to go—Iruka-sensei roped me into helping him with the filing—it's my punishment for being late with the stupid reports."

"Ah?" Sakura swiveled in her seat to watch him as he started making his way to the door. "Oi! Naruto—! We were meant to make plans for the festival—"

Naruto just waved a hand in the air. "Yeah okay okay, don't worry!" He called back without turning to look at them again. He disappeared into inside.

Sakura shifted back into place on the bench and looked at Sasuke. "He's been spaced out all week..." her gaze fell to the floor and she braced her arms on her knees as she bent a little lower.

The sun beat on them pressed down on them and the sheets were blown high up on the roof behind her.

Sasuke didn't say anything.

~


Orange paper lanterns lined the streets, their warm glow making the night seem more alive as people walked around laughing and dressed in their best yukata.

The scent of food drifted around the stands, drawing people to them just as the games stands pulled small families to them. The laughter and conversation blended together to coat the festival in a jovial mood.

Naruto frowned down at the yukata he wore. He tugged at it as he walked, expression twisted into a frown as he felt uncomfortable in the unusual attire. This wasn't his favourite choice but it had been a gift from Sakura and she'd threatened him with bodily harm if he didn't actually like it.

At least she'd agreed to let him have the orange one when she'd dragged him with her to make him try it on.

He smoothed his fingers over the lapels, still trying to get comfortable in it as he neatly side stepped another person who was standing in the middle of the pathway talking to another person only to have to dodge even faster as three children with fox masks ran past him at full speed, sandals beating at the ground and making the dust rise in a powdery cloud.

"Naruto!"

At the sound of Sakura's voice, Naruto's head jerked up, eyes searching the crowds of people, some dressed in colours that nearly blinded him—and they said orange was bad—and he spotted her easily. Ino was standing beside her with her back turned to Naruto and—if the sound of her raised voice was anything to go by—having a go at Choji for the amount of food he was stuffing in his mouth.

As he realised that the entire group was there, he blinked a little and wondered if they realised that they were jamming up the streets. Even Neji was there.

However, when Sakura motioned with a quick hand for Naruto to join them, he realised that there was one person missing.

He made his way over, trying to see if he could see Sasuke's familiar frame in the middle of all his friends but by the time he reached Sakura's side there was a frown marring his face and Sasuke was nowhere to be seen.

Naruto looked down when he felt Sakura's hand on his arm, giving a half-hearted wave as some of the others called out his name in greeting.

"Where's Sasuke?" he asked, giving the hand Sakura had on his arm a small touch.

Sakura gave a small shrug and looked around, eyes searching the multitude of faces surrounding them. Music was being played in the distance and it accompanied the boisterous voices that filled the village. "I haven't seen him yet, but he said he'd meet us here."

"Yeah...okay." Since the first time that Sasuke had joined them for the festival, he'd always taken to meeting with them first every year after, but now as he scanned the crowds with Sakura he realised that he wasn't there.

"He'll catch up," Sakura said, and then her hand was tugging at Naruto's, "Come on."

From somewhere in the group Naruto heard Kiba complaining about them taking too long and Hinata's barely audible words telling to Kiba to be patient.

Naruto looked at Sakura and saw her looking up at him.

Naruto grinned at her and reached to flick a finger gently against a petal of the flowers she had on her hair. "You look pretty Sakura-chan."

The 'chan' made her face screw up in a different emotion entirely and she punched him—lightly thank God—on his shoulder. "Come on, you idiot."

Keeping the smile on his face as they fell into step with the others, he let himself forget the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach and prepared to immerse himself into the spirit of the festival.

~


They ended up sitting at a small barbecue stand where tables and chairs had been placed at the river's edge for the duration of the festival. Their group alone occupied a third of the places having pushed several chairs together to make a huge one.

It was a good spot and the breeze that seemed to be cooler with the gentle rush of the river kept them from being too hot. The grills were out in the open and the owner would cook the meat right in front of them, an amazing feat when one saw how many grills and different meats the man was managing as he stood there. The heat distorted the air above the grills and the scent tempted the people who had escaped the louder celebration in favour of a quiet walk along the river side. It didn't keep the noise away though.

Naruto was squashed between Sakura and Sai and his eyes were glued to where Kiba was trying to switch Lee's water for a small cup of sake. For a ninja he was casting shame all over his Jounin title because he wasn't doing a very good job of being subtle. Not that Lee was paying attention, he was too busy talking excitedly at Neji who Naruto really couldn't tell whether he was listening or not.

The girls had decided to cluster together and all sat next to each other to Naruto's left—something Chouji seemed relieved at because Ino was too far away to stop him from shoving down more meat.

Naruto's own plated was filled with ribs that had been chewed to the bone. His sleeves had been rolled up to his elbows and he was holding a big piece of belly pork that had been grilled to perfection.

"I don't think I'll be able to move," he muttered before taking another bite.

Sakura broke away from the heated argument she'd been having with Ino to glance at him. She made an expression of vague disgust when she saw the way Naruto was tearing into the meat. "Naruto—what have I said about—" she interrupted herself as her gaze went somewhere beyond Naruto's shoulder and she half rose from her seat, a smile beginning on her mouth. "Sasuke!" She lifted a hand to wave, unaware that Ino was instantly straightening up and breaking off her conversation with Hinata and Tenten to lean back and look around her.

Some things just won't change, Naruto thought wryly, even as his own appetite wavered. He put down the half eaten belly pork and reached for a paper napkin, sucking the tasty saltiness off of one of his fingers as Sakura's smile melted off her face and her mouth formed a small 'o'. Naruto turned to look as well.

"What? Did he turn back and leave again or something..." Naruto drifted off as he saw Sasuke coming towards them.

Only he wasn't alone.

Right there on his arm was a woman Naruto wasn't familiar with but whose identity he knew straight away.

The conversation faded away as everyone turned to see who Sasuke was with, Naruto took in the picture they made together.

They made a ridiculously good looking couple. Sasuke in his royal blue, looking his usually perfect self and then Suzume Kohana, her arm was tucked into Sasuke's as he guided her towards their table. Her skin was really pale and her hair was up, revealing a long perfect column. She looked lovely in the yellow kimono.

They looked good.

Sakura got up and walked to them as Sasuke and Kohana stopped beside their table.

"You could've tried to be a little on time Sasuke," Sakura said, sounding mildly put out, "One Kakashi is enough." Then her tone changed and Naruto saw her turn to the young woman. "You must be Kohana-san," Sakura gave a small curtsy before rising again, "It's nice to finally meet you."

Kohana smiled. It was a pretty, shy smile as she returned Sakura's greeting.

"Naruto—"

Naruto winced as he felt Sakura's hand slap his shoulder.

"Stop being lazy and come say hello," Sakura said. She was speaking through her smile, her teeth tight together as she made a small gesture towards where Kohana stood.

The table was silent, all just watching the peculiar exchange. Even Chouji's eyes were glued to them although he didn't stop eating.

Naruto wiped his hands quickly and got up too, turning his back to the table as he faced them. There was a grin on his face already as he gave the young woman who was looking at him with a nervous expression a wave.

"Heh—it's a shame you didn't meet us earlier, we could've told you what you were getting into with this guy," he said, nodding his head towards Sasuke. "I'm Naruto."

Kohana's smile lost its nervous edge. "It's nice to meet you too Naruto-kun. And you Sakura-chan, Sasuke-san told me you'd all be very nice but I was still a bit nervous about meeting you all."

Sakura stepped in again. "Why don't you sit with us?" Her tone turned dry as she looked over her shoulder. "Our other friends are eavesdropping anyway so we might as well put them out of their misery."

It was then that Naruto felt something ugly. It was like a small pressure low in his stomach which made the smile on his face become fixed. Not that the others could tell the difference.

It bothered him. Not so much because it was there but because of what made Naruto become aware of it to begin with.

Kohana's hand was slipping away from Sasuke's arm as she looked up at him in question. Sasuke nodded at her, a small smile playing around his lips. Her hand lingered on his for a second. Then she was stepping away from him and moved with Sakura back towards the table.

Sakura's voice was loud as she began introductions.

Naruto caught a movement from the corner of his eye and when he looked up he saw that it was Sasuke who had come to stand beside him. They stood back and watched as the group settled around Kohana.

Sasuke crossed his arms. "Happy now?"

For some reason that choked a laugh out of Naruto. His eyes fell to the floor as he let himself laugh—not seeing the sharp look it drew from Sasuke—and shook his head.

"Yeah. Yeah I am."

Liar.

~


Naruto had managed to escape for a bit after they'd left the restaurants and headed back into the happy mess of people rushing around getting ready for the fireworks show. He'd told Sakura he was going to take a leak and earned a stern look for his wording but she'd let him go.

He stood now on the bridge, not so far away from where they'd been eating only a few hours ago.

It was quieter there. His back was to the river and the quiet breeze ruffled the strands at his nape and blew at his yukata.

Although he loved being with his friends and enjoying his free time with them, the feeling that had started to creep over him as they'd begun making their way through the rest of the festival hadn't felt right. His smile had been on his face and he'd talked and joked—had even risked death by Hyuuga when he got cotton candy all over Neji's yukata—but then sometimes he'd catch a glimpse of Sasuke approaching Kohana where she stood with all the other girls and he'd feel weird.

From where he stood he could hear the cheers building and grimaced when he realised that if he arrived late for the fireworks then it wouldn't be a pretty sight when Sakura got her hands on him.

He sighed and turned around, bracing his hands on the rail he hitched himself up until his feet came up off the floor and leaned, swinging forward like he was going to just roll off of the bridge and into the river. The rush of the river became louder and Naruto grinned, feeling like a little kid. The tension that had formed into a ball in the pit of his stomach began to unwind and disappear as for the first time, the sounds of the village as it celebrated became contagious and he glanced around him quickly to see if anyone was coming before vaulting over the bridge.

With a quick adjustment of chakra he landed on the river smoothly, the water splashing only just a little over his feet and ankles. It soaked the hem of his yukata but he didn't mind it as he made his way under the bridge, stepping extra hard to get a rise out of the water as he took up a spot near the curve of the bridge so that he could see the sky from there.

The colours of the village, already muted to dark blues were even darker from beneath the bridge but he didn't mind. And when the first of the fireworks began to fly up the smile on his face softened as bright oranges and yellows spiked the sky with deafening bangs that resonated through the bridge he leaned against. Naruto could hear the cheers getting louder and he wondered if the guys were all at the front watching them from a much closer view.

A fleeting image of Kohana reaching up to pick a small leaf from Sasuke's arm as they'd set out for the firework's area went through his mind and Naruto's smile slipped a little.

He wondered if he'd been the only one who had noticed how Sasuke had stilled at the small contact with the pretty fingers. His face had stiffened and his eyes had narrowed on Kohana's bowed head but when she'd murmured that it was just a leaf he had nodded and said thank you, his words quiet.

It had seemed a reaction borne of surprise rather than one of displeasure.

Naruto leaned his head against the cold concrete of the breeze, feeling the coolness seep into his scalp as his hair was flattened to the surface.

And Naruto hadn't liked it.

Light exploded over the river and lit up the darkness beneath the bridge but this time Naruto's eyes were on the water running under his feet. He could feel the light pulses of it through the soles of his sandals. His chest lifted as he drew in his breath to sigh—

"Oi."

He looked up, head snapping back a little too fast and knocking against the bridge. "Shit!" he hissed, dropping to his haunches as he moved both hands to grab at the back of his head as if that would help him.

"...Nice."

Eyes slitting, Naruto looked up at Sasuke. It was a pretty accusatory glare considering Sasuke hadn't actually done anything but show up in a creepy way. Never mind that as a Jounin Naruto should have at least been able to sense it.

"Yeah—thanks." He said, words more snarled than spoken. He looked away as he rubbed at the back of his head and muttered 'asshole'. But he looked up just as quickly when he heard Sasuke approach him.

As more fireworks went off, the light from it was thrown over Sasuke's face, this time painting it in a pale green that flickered before disappearing and leaving them in the shadow of the bridge again. Sasuke's arms were crossed as he stared down at Naruto, his face a blank as Naruto continued to stare up at him. He didn't say anything.

"What?" Naruto asked, lowering his hand from his head slowly. His tone was defensive but it had been automatic. He hated Sasuke's empty looks. They reminded him too much of when Sasuke hadn't allowed any of them to know what he was thinking and had continued on the run from them always refusing to return.

Sasuke arched a brow at him. "You realise you'll be waking up with a concussion and no memory of tonight if you don't finish watching the fireworks with the others don't you?"

Naruto gave a soft snort and shrugged, dropping his eyes to the running water. If he squinted he could see the pebbles at the bottom. "Nah, more like she'll be yelling at you for leaving your... fiancé alone."

Sasuke smirked. "That's because I came to find you."

There was a silence in which Naruto looked back up at him, eyes having widened in surprise.

Sasuke was staring at him too, he blinked a few times as if registering what he'd just said and then he looked away hands falling away from where they'd been tucked into the crooks of his elbow. "What? It shut her up and she stopped asking me where you were."

Naruto wasn't surprised by the quick cover up although he was sure that Sasuke could've come up with something better. With a low chuckle he started tracing patterns in the water, his finger disrupting the flow for a second before the water just continued around his finger, he could feel the tiny currents against it.

"Just hurry up. Don't know what the hell you're doing, but people are waiting for us," Sasuke said, turning away and beginning to make his way towards the edge of the river.

Like your fiancé?

He hadn't realised that he'd said it out loud until Sasuke stopped and looked over his shoulder. His eyes were narrowed and although Naruto felt compelled to just look away he kept his eyes on Sasuke's face. Sasuke didn't walk back over to him but he did turn. "Is this why you've been acting stupid?"

Naruto just shrugged and looked away. "As far as I know, I'm fine."

Sasuke scoffed. "Yeah. You've always been a shitty liar. Even Sakura noticed and not just today."

Naruto stood up, rolling his shoulders as he felt restless. "No. I'm fine. Just ask everyone else."

At that Sasuke cocked his head to the side, dark eyes unblinking.

The action made his bangs fall against one cheek. The breeze touched it and nudged it into sliding back over the smooth pale skin. Sasuke's skin always seemed to be complimented by the colours that flooded their world at that time of day. But it had never bothered Naruto.

It was the same as the other little things that Naruto had become aware of. Naruto had just figured that maybe he'd never grown out of his need to have his friends close by and that maybe this—Sasuke getting engaged to someone else—that maybe he'd just taken that as some kind of threat of losing his friend again.

Of course it wasn't the same. Naruto knew that. But it was a feeling that he couldn't place. And since he couldn't place it then he couldn't rationalize it either.

Just watching as Sasuke stood there now reminded him of the way Kohana had pulled that leaf away. Such a simple thing and yet it'd stuck in his mind like that and it was pissing him off.

"You two..." Naruto switched his attention to the bridge and scratched his fingers over his throat, "You seem... comfortable with each other and stuff."

Sasuke didn't reply straight away and Naruto didn't bother looking up to catch his expression either. His mind was busy supplying other suggestions for the meaning of comfort and he actually had to swallow against the bitter taste of bile that had climbed up his throat so fast he hadn't even been aware of it.

"Do we?"

Naruto shook his head. "Yeah... yeah. Never mind. Let's just go before the fireworks are done." He said and then he began making his way towards the edge, walking past Sasuke on his way there. He didn't look at him. It felt as if his jaw had been wired shut and he could feel his teeth grinding hard into each other.

"Naruto."

He didn't stop. "What?"

Sasuke didn't say anything else but Naruto thought he heard a low sigh.

Then Naruto heard Sasuke following him.

They didn't say anything else on their way back.

~


They made it there before the final fireworks were up. Sasuke hadn't said anything when Sakura gave Naruto a non-too-gentle scuff when he apologised for wandering off. Kohana had been standing there, relief clear on her face when Sasuke had arrived with Naruto. Even if his friends had been welcoming it didn't mean she would've felt comfortable being alone with them.

"Is everything okay Sasuke-san?" she asked, looking from Naruto to him.

Sasuke nodded as he reached her side, having to push himself into the small gap between Ino and Kohana. "Everything's fine."

Kohana relaxed, smiling again as her shoulders relaxed and she turned to watch the fireworks. "Thank you for inviting me today Sasuke-san," she spoke quietly and Sasuke could hear the quiet pleasure in her voice, "Your friends are very nice."

Sasuke went to reply but just as he was about to, the bursting sound of the fireworks interrupted as light flooded the sky with the biggest ones of the night.

The whole village was practically there, staring up and the conversation had been reduced to murmurs of appreciation as white and gold repeatedly shot up into the air and erupted into huge displays reminiscent of dandelions having their petals blown away.

Beside him he heard several of the girls whisper about how pretty it was as the light flashed over their faces.

Sasuke looked down at Kohana and found that her eyes were glued to the sky, her mouth a little slackened as she watched.

He glanced away from the sight and looked around at the others, finding the majority of them also fascinated by the fireworks display. Even the majority of the guys were looking up. In fact they all were.

The only person who wasn't looking was Naruto.

His gaze was firmly trained on the floor.

~


Sasuke blinked as he came face to face with Sakura outside the door to Kakashi's apartment.

Sakura stared back at him, the angry snarl that had been on her face as she'd shut the door behind her and turned to go back down the corridor fading. He caught the quick twitch of her fingers on the door handle before she let it go and dropped her hand and rubbed her palm over her skirt.

"Er... good morning Sasuke-kun," she said and then tucked her hair behind her ear.

"Hn." He looked past her at the door, ignoring the colour that was slowly climbing up her cheeks. "Is Kakashi in?"

Sakura nodded and took another step away from the door. "Yeah, he's in." She frowned. "It's kind of early though. Did something happen?"

Sasuke folded his arms. "Yes, it's early. What are you doing here?"

"I had the late shift at the hospital but I wanted to talk to him so I came by on my way home."

Although the hospital part was probably true, Sasuke wondered what their talk could've been about that she had blushed as soon as she'd realised Sasuke was outside the door.

Sakura sighed and put her hands on her hips. The hospital part was definitely true. There were circles under her eyes and her shoulders seemed like they were weighed down. "Anyway you didn't answer my question."

Although he'd rather just avoid the question Sasuke knew enough about Sakura to know she wouldn't just let it go when she wanted to find something out. Too much time spent with Naruto, clearly. "I want to talk to him." He walked past her. "Don't let me keep you. You should get some sleep," he said over his shoulder, "You look like you need it."

"Fine. Be stubborn."

Sasuke didn't turn back as he heard her walking away but he did hear her muttering, "First Naruto and now Sasuke—bunch of assholes."

So he really hadn't been the only one who noticed.

His expression darkening, Sasuke knocked on Kakashi's door, ignoring the smiley sticker that had been stuck to the door just a few inches from the eye hole.

The door opened a few seconds later and as Kakashi came into view, Sasuke saw his eyes crinkle into that indication of a smile.

"Well, isn't this an interesting day? Should I be expecting a visit from Naruto next?"

Sasuke stared.

"Kakashi... why do you have a black eye?"

~


The loud tapping noise was what drew Naruto out of sleep.

He groaned and turned his back on it, trying to stay in the dream even as it began to fade away. The skin had been feeling so nice under his hands and he didn't want it to go away. All smooth and reddening from his mouth. Hmm Sas

Tap, tap, tap.

He tugged the pillow over his head and screwed his eyes shut tighter. "Get lost!" His words were muffled by the pillow and made hoarse from sleep.

"Ah, how great it makes me feel when my student is so happy to see me."

At the sound of Kakashi's voice Naruto just groaned again before shoving the pillow off and sitting up. The glare he gave Kakashi—who was sitting on the window sill of his bedroom window with Icha Icha in hand—was ruined by the blond hair that was falling into face and eyes that could barely open. If looks could kill Kakashi would've been on his way to crashing into the ground outside. "What?" Naruto snarled.

Kakashi looked up from his porn—was that a black eye?— at Naruto. His took Naruto's angry look in stride. But then when his eyes drifted lower and Naruto saw Kakashi's one visible eye blink stupidly he let his irritation slide away and frowned. "Oi. What is it?"

Kakashi made a choking sound which might have been a chuckle. Naruto thought it might've been because when Kakashi looked back up at him, amusement bubbled up in his tone. "Why Naruto, I'm flattered."

Naruto's frown only deepened. Stupid Kakashi. He looked down.

And found himself staring at soiled sheets and a morning erection.

~


"Are you going to tell me why you came to wake me up in my own house to humiliate me this early?" Naruto mumbled around the piece of toast hanging from his mouth as he poured some milk into a mug.

He was leaning against the counter in his small kitchen and Kakashi was seated at the small ramen cup littered table.

Kakashi looked up from where he'd been inspecting the mess and folded his arms. "Well seeing as you're the reason why two of my previous students decided to wake me up at ungodly hours of the morning, I don't think you should complain about the waking up part, don't you think?" The smile he added at the end just made Naruto sink deeper into his sulking.

He moved to the chair on the opposite side and sat down. "Why would they wake you up over me for? And didn't Sakura have a night shift at the hospital, what was she doing at your house in the morning?"

Kakashi tsked. "How interesting that despite having other things to discuss with me, both you and Sasuke choose to focus on that particular detail."

"Huh?"

Kakashi waved an absent hand in his direction and settled into his chair more comfortably. "Allow me to be blunt. Sakura came to me this morning because you haven't been acting normally for some time—or so she put it. And she's worried."

"I told her I'm f—"

The hand Kakashi held up in his direction shut him up. "I haven't finished." Kakashi said. The fact that he was actually giving Naruto a sober look made Naruto close his mouth more than the gesture had. "If that wasn't reason enough to worry, I also get the pleasure of having Sasuke knocking on my door three seconds after Sakura leaves. And surprisingly enough he also raised questions about your change in attitude."

"But—"

"Now given that after a little questioning—which completely shook off my need to sleep I may add—it was clear that the change in your behaviour began from the announcement of Sasuke's engagement, so it's obvious that there is a problem." Kakashi picked up his coffee but didn't drink it. "Which is why I'm here."

"I—"

"Seeing as you clearly weren't happy with the news that your former team mate is now engaged, I was made to wonder why exactly this bothered you. My first choice was that your Sasuke complex was acting up. After the last time Sasuke was...absent from the village, this could all just be a subconscious reaction to you feeling threatened by someone who could," he made bunny quotes in the air, "'take Sasuke away'."

Naruto glared. "I'm telling you it's not like th—"

"But fortunately," Kakashi continued, completely ignoring the way the colour of Naruto's face was changing to a redder colour, "I found that this wasn't the case and that I didn't have to look far to get to the heart of the problem."

"But there is no problem!" Naruto slammed the mug down as he finally managed to get his words in. The milk sloshed onto his fingers and he cursed, skidding back on the chair to turn and reach for a dish towel. "I've told them already that there's no problem, why the hell are they—"

"You're sure there's no problem?"

Naruto did a hasty wipe down of the spilt milk and flashed Kakashi another glare. "Yes!"

Kakashi smiled. "Really? I'd say calling Sasuke's name and talking about his smooth skin in your sleep while sporting a hard on might be a problem for you."

His hand froze and his head jerked up. "What?"

"I apologise for the eavesdropping but you see, I had knocked."

Naruto stared at him. He didn't realise that his fingers were clenching the tea towel or that his entire body had gone from hot to cold in the space of a second. "I—I... you... you don't get it!"

"Oh?"

"Don't give me that 'oh'," Naruto pointed an accusing finger at Kakashi, "I don't need your stupid 'oh's'. It was just a dream—"

"A dream you had twice by the look of your sheets."

Naruto's finger went limp as he wished for a hole to just open up so he could sink into it, taking a couple of ramen bowls with him and just live there for a while.

Since that wasn't going to happen, he did the next best thing.

His head hit the table and he folded his arms around it. "You're an asshole Kakashi-sensei."

"Hmm." Naruto heard the sound of something being sipped and realised that Kakashi had waited until he wasn't looking to drink the thing. "So I've been told."

Naruto didn't say anything. He just stared at the table although his eyes were so close to the wood that he couldn't actually see anything a blur.

"So?" Kakashi asked.

"So what?" His own voice echoed in the little space he'd made with his arms.

"I take it this might have something to do with your having trouble accepting Sasuke's engagement."

Naruto shrugged. "Sasuke can do what he wants."

"How mature," Kakashi said, the words almost sing-song in their pleasantness.

"Wow, you're so helpful sensei." Naruto hadn't expected his words from coming out so sharp but it startled him into jerking his head up and he looked at Kakashi, rubbing a hand over his hair. "Anyway. What good will it do me talking about it? Just feeling this way is weird enough. Talking about it will just make it worse." He grimaced. "Not to mention Sasuke would try to shove a chidori up my ass if he found out."

Kakashi sighed. "And why would you think that?"

"Because," he threw his hands up, not knowing what else to say, "Because it's weird. And awkward. And he's my friend. And its... wrong to have these kinds of feelings and stuff. I like girls, pretty girls. With a nice ass. Not Sasuke." He rubbed his hands over his eyes as he sank down on his chair. "It’s wrong."

"Naruto."

Naruto moved his hands down and with a sigh looked at Kakashi.

"Why is it wrong?"

~


Talking with Kakashi hadn't helped Naruto see anything he hadn't thought about before. Instead it had just made him more aware that his friends were noticing and so he tried a bit harder. Just a little bit harder to smile and act normal even though it was getting harder and harder to keep looking Sasuke in the face after the dreams he'd been having.

But he still managed it.

However as Kohana's name crept up more and more in conversations between the previous members of Team 7, it got harder to stay positive and encouraging. And it reached a point where Naruto eventually began to say he was busy and going so far as to beg Iruka-sensei to let him help with paperwork.

And so this was what it came to.

Two weeks of being locked up in an office and having only a few one day missions to take care of, Naruto found himself in one of the less attractive bars of Konoha—having been dragged out by other bored ninjas. Namely Kiba, Genma, Anko and an enthusiastic Lee.

The stench of alcohol filled the place and against his better judgement Naruto was three beers and three sake cups up on everyone else. He was laughing a lot too at something Kiba was saying which was odd because as Naruto squinted, he could see that Kiba was laying face down on the table.

Genma was chuckling and leaning closer to Anko whose dress had ridden up her thighs quite a bit. Naruto stared at them for a second, feeling like his head was detached from his body and floating around on its own.

"The kids can't take their alcohol...."

Anko turned and looked at them. With the way she seemed to take extra time to focus on them as well, Naruto wondered if she was already as plastered as they were. "I'm not dragging any of their asses home."

Genma blinked at that and then looked from Anko to Naruto and then from Naruto to Kiba's slumped over body.

"Huh." He chewed on his senbon and reached for his beer—what was that? His tenth?— "I think they can get themselves home."

Anko looked at Kiba—who was snoring by then—then back at Genma. "I doubt it."

And that's when Naruto decided he might have passed out as well because the next thing he knew, someone was slapping him with a lot more force than was necessary to wake him up. Naruto frowned and lifted a heavy hand to try to swat the hand away but it just kept coming back.

"Oi. Naruto. Naruto."

"Mmhh-go away..."

The person muttered something under their breath but Naruto was too busy sinking back into his alcohol induced sleep to care much about it.

"Oi. Idiot. Get. Up."

Naruto wasn't sure if it had been the punch that had done the trick or the fact that landing face flat on the floor hurt a lot more when he was semi-unconscious than it did when it happened in the middle of a fight.

He groaned and managed to get his hands under him, flattening against the ground and grimacing when his right one pressed against something sticky and wet. He forced his eyes open and blinked as he found himself staring at the floor of the bar that he'd gone to with Kiba, Genma and Anko.

"Wha..." his head wasn't hurting but it felt fuzzy, like his senses were padded by cotton and everything came from too far away. Even the bitter taste of beer on his tongue seemed dulled.

"Took you long enough. Get up and let's go. I'm taking you home."

Sasuke?

Naruto pushed himself up, finding that he weighed a lot more than usual and that the pulse at his temples seemed to be doing a little tap dance.

When he finally managed to get his bearings enough to turn around, he found that he was standing in a mostly empty bar with Sasuke in front of him. He didn't look pleased as he stood there in a t-shirt and tracks, arms crossed over his chest and a glare fixed on Naruto.

"Er..." Naruto rubbed at his cheek, the throb was just now beginning to make itself known, "Where's Kiba?"

"Genma took him home. Anko left earlier. She sent me a message telling me to come and pick you up." Sasuke's looked away from him to sweep over the bar. Half of the lights had been turned off already and there was someone in the back room—probably the owner finishing setting things up for the next day. "Hurry up. The less I have to smell of this place the better."

Naruto shook his head and began walking towards him. "I can get home by myself." His steps were slower than usual but at least he wasn't zig-zagging all over the place.

"Stop being a stubborn idiot."

Before Naruto could avoid it, Sasuke had tugged one of his arms up and onto his shoulders and then wrapped his other around Naruto's waist just as Naruto tripped. Sasuke steadied the forward pitch of his body pretty fast and stayed still for a second.

"That's rich coming from you." Naruto mumbled. Then he was sighing and leaning his head against the arm he had resting on Sasuke's shoulder. "You know..."

"Know what?"

Naruto didn't protest anymore when Sasuke began guiding them out of the bar. He just followed his lead, feeling too tired to complain about this. "You're hand mandling me."

There was a pause in their conversation and Naruto thought he felt Sasuke's shoulders shake. "Am I?"

"Yeah." He nodded his head but his neck felt rubbery so his head was really just lolling back and forth.

They made it outside and the sudden cold made him shudder and he pressed closer to Sasuke. "S'cold."

"Hmm."

They kept walking along. Naruto was grateful for the lack of noise because he didn't think that would've gone down well with his ears. They didn’t come across anyone else either as they started making their way through the village towards Naruto's place.

"You've been working a lot lately."

Sasuke's words were quiet. Maybe it was the silence around them that compelled him to keep his voice that low but Naruto heard it perfectly.

"Yeah, I guess."

"Do you..."

Because he was pressed so close, he actually heard Sasuke swallow. Naruto lifted his head and looked at Sasuke. "Do I what?"

Sasuke looked away from him. "Do you need money or something? You hate working in the mission room but now you're there every day."

Naruto stared at him. "Why? Would you lend me some?"

Sasuke looked back at him with a frown. "Of course."

"Heh." A stupid grin grew on Naruto's face and he shook his head as he looked down at the floor. He felt a bit disoriented unless he kept his eyes on the ground.

His nose wrinkled as he caught a whiff of himself and wondered if he'd make it to the shower once he got home. Next to him, Sasuke didn't smell bad. Naruto turned his face into Sasuke's shoulder, bending his head a little because of the arm he still had around Sasuke's shoulders. He breathed in the scent from Sasuke's t-shirt.

Yeah. Sasuke smelled nice. All clean and stuff.

Sighing, he pulled away from Sasuke, ignoring the sharp look he received as he stumbled a little Naruto waved Sasuke away as he reached to steady him again.

"What are you doing?" Sasuke asked. "Do you know what time it is? I don't have time to wait around with you while you walk around. Hurry up Naruto."

Naruto just looked at him for a few seconds, thinking that the irritated look suited Sasuke's face well. He found he liked the way Sasuke's eyebrows dipped down menacingly and that when his eyes narrowed just like that, they glittered a little. And he was all tall and slim.

"Hey Sasuke..."

"What?"

"I like you."

Sasuke lifted a hand and rubbed at his eyes with a sigh of his own. "How much did you drink Naruto?"

Naruto didn't smile. He was shaking his head and murmuring 'No, no' under his breath as he reached for Sasuke. His hands curled into the front of Sasuke's t-shirt and jerked him forward. He liked the way Sasuke's eyes widened just a little at the sudden closeness but Naruto didn't feel like making a joke about it.

"You don't understand." And then as Sasuke continued to stare at him, confused and definitely annoyed. "I mean I like you, like you." Naruto leaned over the rest of the way. "Like this." And he kissed him. Just a small press of his lips against Sasuke's. Naruto let his eyes close because it actually felt a lot nicer than he'd thought it would. Sasuke's mouth was soft and Naruto gave it a gentle nip as pleasure begun to hum low and sweet in his stomach.

When he pulled away and opened his eyes, Sasuke was still staring at him, lips parted a little. But Naruto wasn't sure if that was from the kiss or just surprise.

"See? Like that."

Sasuke was silent. And then he was taking a step back. His lips thinned as he dropped his eyes to the ground between them.

"Naruto."

Huh. It was odd how his head felt clearer at that moment.

Naruto wasn't feeling cold anymore and so he slid his hands into his pockets, waiting for Sasuke to carry on. "Yeah?"

"Sorry—" the words sounded like they were catching in the back of Sasuke's throat and he wasn't looking up at Naruto, "—I don't—"

From where Naruto stood he could see Sasuke's jaw working as he struggled for something to say. But he wasn't made to wait long as Sasuke squared his shoulders and looked up at him. His gaze was direct and there was no hint of uncertainty in them as he looked at Naruto. "I don't feel the same way. You're my friend. My family even. But that's it."

Naruto looked away and scratched at the side of his neck. He gave a quiet laugh. "I thought you'd say something like that," he had to force the words to stay light but he couldn't quite make himself look at Sasuke then, "But you know. If... if you could think about it." Then panic set in as he realised that he might be pushing it and his head snapped up, a hand coming up in a peaceful gesture. "But if like... I know. I mean. This isn't something you expected to hear and well," he gave Sasuke an apologetic smile, "It's not something I thought I'd say but. Yeah. If you could think about it... I'd really appreciate it. And you know," he put his hand back in his pocket, "Even if you don't want to, it's okay. We'll still you know," he dropped his gaze again, "Be friends and stuff."

Sasuke just looked at him and Naruto shifted.

"Anyway. I'll head home. You probably want to head back." Naruto shook his head at Sasuke when he came closer as if to help him again. "No. No. I'm good. I'll see you tomorrow."

As he walked away he took a deep breath.

His head really did feel a lot clearer and suddenly he wished it didn't.

It just made the sense of feeling like shit that much clearer too.

~


It was just shy of six am and Sasuke found himself sitting in the chill of the morning. He'd left the sliding doors open and sat just outside them, his back to the wall as he cradled his cup of tea in his hands. Although he was used to waking up early for training, he hadn't been sleeping well for a while. He'd always end up going to bed feeling like there was something in the back of his mind.

The high song from the early morning birds drew and Sasuke could see them, their little clutches just curving over the edge of the roof. The tea warmed his hands, making them dampen with how hot the liquid inside it was.

Despite his assuring Naruto that friendship was all that he felt for him, Sasuke had found himself doing what Naruto asked.

He'd thought about it.

He'd gone on his missions and he'd thought. He'd come back and he'd thought.

He'd gone to see Kohana.

He'd thought about it then too.

For his part, it was like that in confessing to Sasuke, Naruto had gotten something off of his chest. He no longer avoided their company and had stopped doing the ridiculous work hours in the missions room.

The three of them went back to finding their way around their own busy schedule to meet together once or twice a week and just enjoy being Team 7 for a brief moment before they all had to go back to their separate duties again.

It had only been two weeks since it'd happened and Sasuke had done more than given Naruto what he'd asked for.

Because when he did think about Naruto having feelings that wasn't the only thing he focused on anymore. When he thought about Naruto liking him, he remembered the way Naruto had left his house the day he'd told him about Kohana. He remembered the way Naruto had spaced out and left during their lunch.

He remembered the way Naruto had been the night of the fireworks standing by himself under the bridge with a look of loneliness to his face that Sasuke hadn't seen since Naruto had begged him to stay over and over again years earlier.

And then inevitably his thoughts would always end on the kiss. But that wasn't what bothered him.

The bird leapt off the roof, its wings beating hard and propelling the small round body up and Sasuke watched it until it flew out of view then looked back down. The pale green of the mint tea reflected his face back at him.

What bothered him was that he had begun to wonder what would have happened if he would've just tried kissing Naruto back.

~


Suzume Michiko smiled at Sasuke as they continued to eat in silence.

They had taken to doing things this way. One day a week Sasuke would come and meet with Kohana—meetings that had been encouraged by her parents all the more since he had invited her to attend the festival with him. That had gained him definite points with both Michiko and Fumio. Sasuke had only done it because the hounding on Sakura's side would've begun to grate.

Sasuke sat opposite Michiko and Kohana sat at her side. Fumio sat at the head of the table.

Sasuke nodded a thank you as Fumio poured him a generous cup of sake and then set it down before picking up his own and looking up to meet Sasuke's eyes dead on.

"Given the way that things have been progressing, we thought that perhaps you and Kohana might want to start thinking of a date Uchiha-san."

He heard a sharp intake of breath and a look at Kohana's face assured Sasuke that this hadn't been a pre-planned ting. She was staring at her father with wide eyes and even Michiko had paused in her eating and was looking at her husband with a surprised look on her face.

Slowly Sasuke set the sake down. "Why the rush?"

Fumio straightened in his seat, chest expanding as his mouth curved up in a tight smile. "We were all aware of the purpose of your meeting with us and your courting of Kohana. There's no need to beat about the bush as far as I'm concerned. Allow me to be blunt." Fumio sighed and his expression softened somewhat as he threw a look at his daughter. "I am not getting any younger and neither is my wife. Kohana is very precious to us. We would not push this if we did not approve of you or if we thought you wouldn't make our daughter happy."

Although Sasuke didn't appreciate the man's sudden decision to push them into picking a date, he could respect what Fumio was saying. "Go on."

"If you'd like a few more weeks to make up your mind that's fine. Spend some more time with each other if you need to, we won't stand in your way. But we'd like to see this going somewhere."

Sasuke looked back towards Kohana and this time she looked back. Her eyebrows were drawn together in what might've been an apologetic look but there was also a hint of hope there. The hand with which she was holding the chopsticks was trembling lightly.

Hey Sasuke...

Sasuke's eyes fell to the food in front of him. I like you.

Sasuke picked up the sake and drank from it wanting to avoid any traces of sensation that might've followed the memory of those words.

He set the sake back down and this time looked back up at Fumio. He inclined his head. "I'll keep your words in mind Fumio-san."

~


It was a few days later when after managing to find some free time in all of their schedules, the former Team 7 decided to meet where they had had their final test with Kakashi-sensei years ago.

The sun had barely risen so the sky was a peculiar sight of layers, first yellow, some orange, pink and purple clouds drifting in to add another layer of colour and finally, a lightening blue. Even the trees were still quiet, their leaves sliding against each other in silence as the birds began to awake and tweet out their first morning song.

Naruto heard only the sound of his own steps as he walked. The bag on his back wasn't all that heavy. All it carried was some water and food, a small medic's pouch just in case he annoyed Sakura and she refused to treat him for doing whatever it was that he might accidentally do. He found there were many things that irritated Sakura which he did not know could have such harsh reactions. Kakashi had told him once that those harmful things only irritated Sakura when she was PMS-ing. When he'd asked Kakashi how he'd known that Kakashi had just shrugged and brought out his copy of Icha Icha.

When Naruto got to their meeting point he stopped when he saw Sasuke already there. As usual he was leaning against a stump. His pack was next to his crossed feet and he was staring out at the forest that surrounded them.

Naruto was sure Sasuke knew he was there long before he actually turned to look at him.

"Sakura's going to be late."

Naruto continued walking until he was standing in front of Sasuke. Then he stopped and pulled his own bag from his back, dropping it between. "Why?"

Sasuke shrugged one shoulder and Naruto's eyes flicked down over his long form before he looked away again.

By the way Sasuke's eyes sharpened, he hadn't missed Naruto's look either. He didn't comment on it though. It made Naruto feel a twinge of disappointment along with the relief.

"Emergency at the hospital."

Naruto nodded. "Okay." He reached to pull off the hoodie he was wearing, knowing he wouldn't be able to have a decent fight in it and tugged it up over his head. By the time he'd gotten it off and was able to look up again he thought he saw Sasuke glance away quickly. He couldn't be sure because when he'd tugged the hoodie off it'd dragged his hair onto his face. He was wondering what Sasuke would've been looking at anyway when he glanced down and saw that his t-shirt had been pulled up as well and his skin was on show from his right hip to his ribs.

It made a tiny lick of hope slide up his spine and Naruto swallowed and looked away, feeling uncomfortable. He picked up his bag and went to put both against the middle stump.

"Shall we get started?" He asked, busying himself with checking his weapons pouch and tightening it.

"Yes."

~



Naruto broke the surface, water running down his face and plastering his hair to his forehead as he treaded water for a bit. He'd already gotten used to the cold temperature of the water that had shocked him as he'd entered it. Pushing his hair he continued to kick against the current as he looked at Sasuke who was sitting at the edge. He'd rolled up his trousers and his feet were in the water. His shirt had been taken off—although it wasn't much of a shirt anymore—and he was eating an apple, an open bottle of water set next to him.

Turning on his back the water surrounded his face, taking and giving back his hearing with the rhythm of the river's waves. The sun had gotten hot and Naruto could feel it beating down on his front as he just floated for a bit.

The nasty line of a kunai that Sasuke had managed to graze his ribs with had stung at the first touch of the salt water but it had already become just a small sensation in the back of Naruto's mind. The worst damage that had come out of the training had been the bruises from Sasuke's tai-jutsu. It grated on Naruto to admit that he still hadn't managed to improve much in that area—at least not enough to be able to successfully avoid or parry a large amount of the attacks with tai-jutsu alone.

But it didn't bother Naruto as much as it used to. He liked watching the way Sasuke moved into attacks or defence. His movements were so fast but there was no clumsiness to them. They were all fluid and precise, as if he'd been moving with that kind of ease from a much earlier age. Despite the two of them having grown up, when Naruto saw it, he still felt that determination lazily burning away under his skin which told him how much he respected those skills and just how much he wanted to match up to them.

He'd finally managed to do the job though. He tipped his head up to get a look at Sasuke and found Sasuke staring back at him as he continued eating.

There were scratches on the tops of his shoulders from where Naruto had gotten a little over excited and his nails had sharpened into small points. Not quite touching on Kyuubi but just a tiny tap into his chakra to elicit the small changes. There was nasty purpling bruise on Sasuke's stomach where Naruto had landed a solid kick, more in knee-jerk reaction than planned attack but it had worked enough. High on Sasuke's cheek bone the skin there had been rubbed raw from when they'd crashed to the floor and been dragged over the rough surface of the ground.

Sasuke looked up at him and stopped chewing. "What?"

Naruto shrugged and let his head fall back again, the water soaking back into his hair and feeling colder when it touched his scalp just because of that little bit of time where it had been outside of it.

Spinning in the water he swam the brief distance to the ledge and hoisted himself up a small distance away from Sasuke where he'd left his own pack and he reached for it, looking up at the sky as he reached inside and brought out a small bag of chips and looked over at Sasuke.

Up close the scraped wound on Sasuke's face was a lot redder and Naruto felt a touch of regret that the skin there wasn't its normal smooth paleness.

Already feeling heat starting to climb up his neck for what he was about to do next, Naruto reached into his bag again and rummaged around for the little antiseptic cream Sakura had shoved onto him along with a whole bunch of other medical stuff. Without looking he tossed at Sasuke, unsurprised when Sasuke caught it one handed and sent him a questioning look.

Naruto shrugged and made a vague gesture towards the wound on his face. "If you show up with that in front of Sakura-chan she'll just yell."

Sasuke scoffed but unscrewed the small lid before dipping his fingers into it and beginning to rub the cream onto his face.

Naruto heard a small hiss and resisted the urge to smile because Sasuke was shooting a dark glare at him as he would. That antiseptic stung like hell before it got to soothing anything.

"Naruto."

Naruto opened the chips bag. "Yeah?"

"They want to set a date."

Naruto paused in the act of pulling out a chip. The salt was already on his thumb and the grease rubbed off on it. Then he looked at Sasuke and found that Sasuke was looking right back at him. He hadn't applied the antiseptic cream yet but the small little tub sat on his hand with its lid already off.

"Yeah?" That was all he could seem to say and Naruto was surprised it didn't come out strangled from the way his throat had tightened.

Sasuke set the cream between them but didn't seem like he was going to add any other information.

Naruto stared at him. “Did you agree?"

Black eyes flicked back up. Naruto wondered if the way his insides felt like they were twisting was showing on his face. Then he decided he wouldn't be surprised if it was.

"Not yet."

Naruto swallowed and nodded, dropping his gaze back to the chips. He pulled his hand out from the packet but he didn't take any of them out. He didn't feel like eating anymore and thought that if he actually tried to swallow anything at that it'd just get stuck in his throat. "Are you thinking about it then?"

Sasuke gave a slow nod. Naruto could still see that he was watching him out of the corner of his eye but he didn't look back at him. Instead he clasped his hands together and started kicking his feet back and forth in the water. "That's... that's good I guess. At least you're telling one of your friends about it this time."

"And that's enough for you?"

Naruto threw him a sharp look. He was silent for a bit. "What are you doing, Sasuke?"

"I'm asking you a question."

Naruto sighed and then looked at the trees on the other side of the river. "Yeah." He made a small gesture towards the small tub of antiseptic that Sasuke had set aside. "You should just put that on." He stayed quiet after that.

It took a while before Sasuke finally reached for it again. During that time Sasuke's eyes didn't leave Naruto's face once and when he did the silence between them had changed. As if something had been closed off.

Naruto's hands curled into fists at his side.

Sasuke started applying the cream. Nothing else was said.

Jaw locked, Naruto muttered that he was going back in the water. As he dove back, the feeling that he had just missed some kind of opportunity beat violently in his chest.

When he hit the water, Naruto was sure that Sasuke's eyes were on him.

~


Sasuke was brooding and although the majority of the people that knew him wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between a brooding Sasuke and a normal Sasuke, unfortunately for him, Sakura was not one of those people.

And unfortunately for him she seemed to be paying more attention than everyone else.

They were at their lunch—Sakura's treat because she'd missed out on their training session—a couple of days later.

Sakura was sitting between him and Naruto and even the other customers were throwing them curious looks.

The former Team 7 didn't seem to be on speaking terms that lunch time.

It didn't bother Sasuke. He had nothing he felt he needed to say and the less Naruto said at the moment the better.

Not that this was centred around anything Naruto had said. Or not said.

Sasuke continued eating although he was mostly frowning down at his food. His rice seemed dry and the meat was too salty. They'd put too much sauce on his food. But since he wasn't the one paying he didn't feel he should comment on it. Sakura seemed to be enjoying her food just fine. Sasuke paused in the process of having another bit of rice and looked across Sakura at Naruto.

His eyes were on the food in front of him and he was shoving noodles into his mouth like he was afraid it'd be the last meal he'd have in his life. Naruto's mouth was slick from the sauce because he didn't even bother wiping it as he continued to slurp the noodles. Sasuke was giving him the most disgusted look he could dredge up—ignoring the confusion on Sakura's face as she caught it—and would've sneered as well if at that moment Naruto's tongue hadn't come out to lick at his lips taking the sheen with it and leaving his mouth clean and full.

Sasuke stared.

"...Did something happen between you guys again?"

Naruto stopped eating; chop sticks halfway to his mouth and few loose noodles dangling from it. Sasuke snorted then and turned back to his own food.

He heard Sakura's annoyed huff but ignored it. Naruto continued eating.

Neither of them answered Sakura.

However they were back to paying attention to her when she cleared her throat and smiled. She set her chopsticks over her bowl of food with careful fingers, the sticks perfectly aligned and neat before she put her hands on her lap. Her eyes closed and the smile remained on her face on what most people would consider to be a serene expression.

The aura emanating from her just made both Naruto and Sasuke attempt to scoot a little away from her, both of them deciding to stop ignoring her in favour of the food in case the smile got any nicer.

"You're telling me. That I went to Kakashi asking him to sort things out and ended up being fel—" Sakura took a deep breath. And the smile got nicer. "You assholes should consider looking at each other right now. And talking about whatever new thing has sent you two into the male version of PMS." Her smile dropped and she stared straight ahead. "Am I making myself clear?"

Naruto murmured something under his breath which Sasuke didn't catch but from what he could get of the tone of it, he wouldn't have liked it anyway. Looking across Sakura at Naruto again, he found that Naruto had turned his face away and was poking at his noodles with his chopsticks.

"What was that?" Sakura asked, voice sharp. For good measure she placed her hand on Naruto's shoulder and Sasuke saw the way Naruto barely contained a flinch. It had the result Sakura had wanted however when Naruto turned towards them a little more and spoke again. This time Sasuke did hear it.

"Not my fault he's sulking."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Why would you say that." His voice was calm.

Naruto shrugged. "You've been pissy since training."

Sasuke felt the same discomfort he'd felt in his chest that day by the river but he was careful to make sure his face was a blank. "And you've barely looked at me once since then so how would you know?"

Naruto set down his chopsticks and turned to glare at Sasuke. "What? You want me looking at you now, Sasuke?"

Sasuke's mouth thinned. "Don't put words in my mouth. Just because that's what you want doesn't mean I'll feel the same way." Something in him was telling him not to do it, was telling Sasuke not to let that smirk creep into his face. But that feeling from the river—something which he'd come to realise had been a feeling of rejection—felt like it was stinging at his pride. At the fact that he'd been affected and Naruto hadn't said—hadn't said whatever it was that he'd been supposed to say when Sasuke had asked him if telling him had been enough for him. So the smirk was there, slipping onto his face. "Or didn't we cover that already?"

Naruto's cheeks mottled with red so fast that Sasuke was surprised he didn't knock his stool back when he stood up and came around Sakura who didn't seem as keen on getting them to talk anymore. Sasuke stayed seated but he swivelled round to look at Naruto, leaning back against the counter.

The whole place had gone silent now and the customers were making no secret of watching what was going on with the shinobi.

"You think that's funny? You asshole." Naruto's voice shook slightly. It wasn't from tears or anything of the sort. His hands had fisted at his side.

From the way he was looking at Sasuke, Sasuke wondered if it was from keeping himself from wrapping his hands around his neck. "I wasn't aware that I was laughing."

All of a sudden Naruto's shoulders seemed to relax and his hands unclenched. His face went blank which was a disconcerting look on his face. "Why don't you just go and set the date already? Aren't your future in-laws waiting? Instead of pissing people off why don't you stop putting it off and go then?"

Sasuke's smirk dropped off his face.

Sakura had turned to look at him with an incredulous look, clearly not understanding what was going on.

"I thought you were the one who asked me to think about it?" Sasuke shot back, not willing to let Naruto have the last say.

Naruto glared now. "I thought we'd covered that ground already," Naruto said, throwing his words back at him. "So why do you need to think about it? Believe me. You don't have to. Not on my account."

The both of them remained where they were, staring at each other. Around them the customers were trying to make sense of what they'd just witnessed, some of them already planning the story in their head for when they got home and had their afternoon talk with their neighbour.

Before either of them could think to say anything else to break the silence, Sakura moved off of her stool. Her head was lowered as she reached into her purse and tugged out some money. She left it on the counter and without looking at either of them made her way past them. "I don't know what's gotten into you two but sort it out," she said quietly as she passed them.

She didn't look back even after she'd stepped outside.

Slowly the murmur of hushed voices began to rise around them and Sasuke looked away from the spot that Sakura had disappeared in to look back at Naruto. He was standing there looking at the floor and the high colour that had been on his cheeks had begun to fade.

A bitter taste in his mouth Sasuke got off his stool and made his way out.

And four hours later the news that Uchiha Sasuke and Suzume Kohana were going to set a date for the wedding had already made its rounds.

So had the rumour that Uzumaki Naruto was not happy about it.

~


Despite the tension that hid just under the amiable conversation, their friends showed just how capable they were of pretending there was nothing going on between Sasuke and Naruto.

They'd been well aware that Sasuke and Naruto (and Sakura who had reached the limits of her patience) were avoiding each other.

Which was why they'd made sure that when they'd gotten the two of them to the bar, they'd made sure that the two were sitting next to each other. At least if they attempted to kill each other, there was no need for anyone else to get caught in the line of fire. So really the fact that they were turned slightly away from each other and nursing their single beer didn't bother them.

Occasionally Naruto would join in and laugh at something or argue about something. Sasuke however just gave out monosyllabic responses. But since 'normal' Sasuke was very similar to 'moody' Sasuke, it made little difference to the flow of the conversation.

Sakura had chosen to sit away from both of them, having settled instead in a spot between Ino and Kakashi.

Like at the festival they were taking half of the free space in the bar, some in chairs, some even having copped a seat on the tables (namely Kiba and Shikamaru). Hinata was sitting with Tenten a little further away from the group and Neji—also someone who one couldn't tell if he was in a bad mood or in a regular mood—was standing beside Genma, clearly unimpressed by what the man was saying to him if the twist of his mouth was anything to go by.

It had been just another after work hang out session where they all ended up drinking a bit too much and then zig zagged their way home.

Unfortunately a side effect of alcohol was that it loosened tongues. This was why when Ino leaned across the table and addressed Sasuke, the sharp edge of tension hiding in the conversation reared its ugly head.

"So Sasuke-kun, we hear you're about to set a date," there was a whining note to her tone that made Sasuke frown at her straight away, especially when she reached across the table and caught one of his hands with both of hers, "You won't be single anymore Sasuke." Her head fell onto the table with a solid thunk, her blonde fringe fanning out around her head as her ponytail slid down to curl around her neck.

Shikamaru muttered something under his breath before lying back down and Sasuke was pretty sure he heard someone else snort.

Sasuke looked around the room and wasn't surprised to find that the majority of the shinobi there had their eyes trained on him.

All but the one sitting next to him who was still staring into his beer with a face that was too blank to make people believe that Naruto wasn't interested in the subject.

"Now, now Ino," Kakashi was the one who intervened, reaching over to pat her on the back as she began to sob into the table, "That's Sasuke's personal business hmm? Why not have some water and then get some sleep."

She sobbed again and shook her head on the table.

From somewhere behind him, Sasuke heard someone mutter 'pathetic' in a voice which sounded a lot like the Hyuuga's voice. Ino's head snapped up and she glared at him. "Shut up. We're losing our Sasuke-kun, do you realise how much this hurts?" Ino then turned to Sakura who was looking mortified on her friend's behalf. "Doesn't it hurt Sakura-chan?"

Sakura gave her a small smile and a pat on the head that was similar to Kakashi's but the smile faded when Kakashi shifted back in his own seat and draped his arm over the back of her chair. "Is that right?"

"No," she said, glaring at him and scooting away a little.

Sasuke resisted the urge to rub at his temples and sighed. Setting down his beer he looked around at the rest of them. "What I do is none of your business." Then getting up he turned round and reached for Naruto's hand.

Unfortunately it happened to be the one with the beer and Sasuke had the small satisfaction of watching as the beverage sloshed out of the huge glass and onto the front of Naruto's Jounin's vest. Naruto skidded back in his chair straight away, cursing. "Shit Sasuke—what the hell did you do that for?"

Sasuke just turned his back on him and began making his way to the door. "Let's go."

"What? But I haven't finished my—"

"Stop whining Naruto." Sasuke tightened his fingers when he felt Naruto tugging to get his wrist back and made sure he didn't let go even after they'd left the staring shinobi inside the bar and reached the fresh and thankfully, cleaner air of outside. Sasuke wasn't one for bars anyway.

"Oi."

Sasuke kept walking.

"Oi."

Sasuke leapt onto a building and Naruto was left with no other choice but to follow unless he wanted a full body encounter with the wall of a building.

Three minutes of leap-tugging-leap Sasuke was pulling Naruto in through Naruto's own living room window—at which point Naruto planted his feet and shoved him away.

Catching his balance before he fell, Sasuke turned to look at him with a glare. Even though the lights inside Naruto's apartment were off, the street lights poured their own light in through the windows and since Naruto hadn't moved away from it he could see Naruto rubbing at the wrist that Sasuke had pulled him by while glaring at him.

"What the hell was that and why are we at my place?"

Sasuke sighed, feeling frustrated and wondering why he hadn't just gotten up and walked away on his own.

Except he knew the answer to that.

He didn't like not talking to Naruto.

It had grated on him all week. The stupid banter and the company.

And the fact that what had happened when they'd gone to lunch at Sakura hadn't been what he'd meant to happen. Sasuke was unused to making so many mistakes in one go. Not that they were his fault alone.

That instance at the river—Sasuke still felt that it had been Naruto's lack of persistence that had pissed him off. If Naruto wanted him something he always kept at it until he achieved it or until he wore whatever the obstacle was down and won anyway.

He hadn't done that.

Ever since Sasuke had begun to question his plans for his life and considering Naruto in a way that friends did not consider each other, he had accepted that because it was Naruto it would be for something worthwhile.

But Naruto hadn't said a thing.

And now he stood there across from him looking like it was Sasuke that had started the entire mess in the first place and that pissed Sasuke off even more. If Naruto had just kept his mouth shut to begin with this wouldn't be happening.

So Sasuke swallowed the words that had briefly flashed in his mind and kept his mouth closed.

"You're not going to say anything?" Naruto's voice was deeper and quieter this time, practically muttered into his own chest as he looked down, his foot kicking at the floor again and again.

Sasuke opened his mouth to say something but didn't.

Naruto nodded.

The energy that had at least fuelled their irritation and confusion seeped out until the atmosphere seemed to wind down. Touched with just a little bit of sadness.

Without saying anything else Naruto turned away and walked out of the living room. His steps weren't hurried but he didn't look back at Sasuke as he disappeared into his bedroom.

From where he stood Sasuke heard the protest of a bed's springs.

He wasn't sure how long he stood there, staring at the window they'd come in through and wondering if he should just go back now and leave this.

Fifteen minutes later Sasuke found himself leaning against the door frame leading into Naruto's bedroom.

Naruto was lying on the bed with his back to him. His breathing sounded deep and even.

Sasuke sighed and murmured under his breath.

"I think I like you too."

~


Naruto's eyes snapped open.

He'd been in bed for a little while since he'd left Sasuke in his living room and he hadn't heard any noise from the other room. He'd begun to think that Sasuke had left and had closed his eyes, hoping for a little bit of sleep to take his mind off of the ache in his chest.

Then he'd heard it.

I think you like it too.

Naruto controlled his breathing and continued to stare at the wall of his bedroom. Had he just been a little too close to sleep and his mind had supplied him with the words in Sasuke's voice?

The creak he heard though made him turn to look around at the door and right there he found Sasuke turning away and walking out.

Naruto sat up fast, swinging his feet to the floor. "Did you mean it?"

Sasuke stopped where he was. Naruto hadn't turned the lights on the way to his bedroom and he could just see the pale line of Sasuke's jaw from where he was. His own hands were wrapped around the sheets of his bed as he waited for Sasuke to turn around or at least say something.

"Sasuke?"

Getting up Naruto was about to walk to him before he really did just leave but he'd taken no more than a step forward when Sasuke turned around, his eyes not meeting his and came back into the room. His hands were down at his sides now and he didn't look like he planned on looking up at Naruto any time soon.

Naruto continued walking towards him, reaching out his hand to catch at Sasuke's sleeve. "Sasuke... did you mean it?"

It was funny how Naruto could still be so surprised by how fast Sasuke could be. But he didn't have the time to think about it as he was slammed back into the wall.

He didn't know how to react from it. He didn't need time anyway because Sasuke's hands were framing his face. They were cold on his skin but Naruto didn't complain. He was too busy staring at Sasuke. His hands came up instinctively, his fingers curling into Sasuke's sleeves as Sasuke's face came so close to his. Sasuke was standing so close; their bodies were almost pressed together. Almost. But he hadn't closed the distance yet.

Sasuke's hair brushed against Naruto's face as he came closer. His breath was warm on Naruto's mouth and Naruto had to resist the way his body shuddered as it hit him. It was Sasuke. Sasuke was standing this close. Sasuke touching his face.

Tightening his hold on Sasuke, Naruto tugged him closer until the warmth and weight of his body was pressed lightly against his.

"I thought you really weren't going to think about it."

Sasuke gave a small shrug and his lashes fell low over his eyes. "Hard not to think about it when you're staring at me."

Naruto frowned. "I wasn't—and anyway, how would you know I was unless you were staring back?"

The soft sigh that spilled from Sasuke's mouth was breathed right onto Naruto's and his eyes felt heavier.

His eyes were closed when Sasuke finally kissed him. Even though Naruto had already kissed Sasuke before, this felt new. Maybe because he wasn't the one making the first move and maybe because this time he was actually sober when doing it.

Naruto let go of Sasuke's arms to wrap one hand around the back of his neck and clamped his other on Sasuke's hip, pulling him close.

He didn't want to push it because he could feel the tentativeness of Sasuke's mouth on his. His lips were pressing against Naruto's but it wasn't the type of kiss that Naruto had expected from Sasuke. It was if he wasn’t sure and Naruto didn't want to do this unless Sasuke really wanted to do it with him.

Naruto pulled his head back, breaking the soft contact but he didn't let go of Sasuke. Instead his fingers drifted up, pushing through the black hair until the pads of his fingers were massaging against Sasuke's scalp. "Sasuke... did you mean it?" Naruto screwed his eyes shut and leaned his head back against the wall, swallowing as he tried not to feel self-conscious about the hardness between his legs. He'd started reacting just from having Sasuke so close. Even like this, face looking up he could still smell him. Sasuke smelt nothing like the bar they'd been in just like the last time.

Naruto was trying to control himself. He'd promised they'd stay friends and if he let himself just lose it and tossed Sasuke on the floor and threw himself down on top of him, he had a feeling that would be a bit harder than if the whole thing just broke off right now. But despite what Naruto was trying to do, the fingers of the hand that he'd clamped down on Sasuke's hip were digging into the bone there over Sauske's clothes.

"Sasuk—"

This time when Sasuke kissed him it was different. Naruto almost choked when he felt Sasuke's tongue slide into his mouth. It was with ease that Sasuke just shut him up. If this had been another time then it would've pissed Naruto off but—it was good. Sasuke was good. And so Naruto groaned into the kiss and opened his mouth wider.

The taste of beer lingered on Sasuke's tongue—or was it in his own? Naruto couldn't be sure and he didn't care as Sasuke shoved into him, lower body rocking against him. Naruto dropped his other hand low and moulded both of them to Sasuke's ass. His fingers dug into the tight muscle he could feel there and he groaned as he ground against his cock.

"So—this is a yes right?" Naruto gasped out as he tore his mouth away again and this time went for Sasuke's neck. His mouth closed over Sasuke's collarbone, sucking on the fine skin there that was stretched taut over bone.

"What do you think?" Sasuke hissed, making quick work of tugging the vest off of Naruto.

The zip caught in Naruto's hair and he swore, but by the time he looked up at Sasuke, the rest was already off and on the floor. Smug black eyes met his and Naruto glared at him. "You could've just unzipped that like a normal person, you realise that right?"

"Just shut up, Naruto." Then Sasuke was locking their mouths together as his hands started working their way under Naruto's t-shirt. He pulled away again to tug at it but when Naruto took the opportunity to shove him towards the bed, it must've caught him off balance because he stumbled back in a very non-Sasuke way.

Breathing faster than normal Naruto tried to stay focused for just a little longer. Just a little longer. "What about Kohana?"

Sasuke didn't reply right away. But then he looked away from Naruto and began tugging his own t-shirt off. As the black material was pulled off, more and more skin was revealed—nipples a pale pink that had Naruto staring with his mouth hanging open.

Sasuke wasn't what you'd say ripped but his slim body was firm and toned, his stomach just a flat plane that Naruto could picture licking a path over on his way to one of those nipples. The shirt came off and Sasuke let it drop. His hair was sticking up in more places than just the back now and it gave him an oddly rumpled look that if someone had suggested Sasuke try earlier than Naruto would've just laughed in their face because he could've sworn Sasuke and rumpled did not go well together.

But his mouth was dry.

"I won't be engaged or getting married when I'm interested in someone else, idiot."

Naruto nodded, his eyes still sliding all over Sasuke's bared skin. Of course he'd seen Sasuke half naked before—he'd even gotten glimpses of all over nakedness. It had just never been in this kind of situation. And as Sasuke stood there looking peeved, it just seemed all more erotic.

Great. His shitty personality turns me on.

"Is that enough for you?"

At that Naruto's head jerked up, his eyes losing the leering quality that they'd had as he'd looked Sasuke over. Instead they were serious now as he replayed Sasuke's previous and very similar question from before.

And that's enough for you?

Naruto couldn't help the smile that curved his mouth. More like a grin really. It made the marks on his cheeks shorten and his expression lighten. "For now."

Sasuke smirked and shook his head. Then he began pulling off his trousers.

Naruto's mouth did fall open but there wasn't much protest coming out of it. Because as Sasuke continued dragging them down his mouth just got drier and drier.

"Hey Sasuke," Naruto managed, briefly wetting his lips so they wouldn't split when he talked.

In the process of kicking his trousers away Sasuke looked up. "What?"

"Your—your," Naruto's eyes stayed glued to Sasuke's legs, "Your thighs are really pretty," he blurted.

Sasuke blinked at him.

Then he scowled. "What's wrong with you?"

Naruto crossed his arms over his chest and looked away, defensive. "Shut up. It's true. They're all pale and stuff and like..." he stole another glance and swallowed, "and toned and... real pretty..."

Sasuke gave him a dry stare as he straightened; the black briefs the only thing he was wearing now. Mimicking Naruto's stance, he folded his arms and gave Naruto an expectant look. "Are you taking it off?"

"Oh," Naruto glanced down at himself and felt himself flush when he saw his erection poking at the front of his pants, "Er yeah—yeah." He made quick work of taking them off, staring for a second at his loose boxers before deciding that he'd wait for a bit before taking those off too.

Then they both stood there.

Sasuke was the first to break the silence. "What now?"

Naruto scratched at his head. He had a fairly good idea about what he wanted to be doing. But. "I... don't know."

Sasuke shrugged. "Fine. It's not like we have to do everything to—"

"Huh? Why not?" Naruto's eyes were instantly all over Sasuke's body as if the thought of not being able to do all the things he wanted to made him eager to memorize every detail. After all when would he get the chance again. This was Sasuke.

Sasuke shrugged and this time he was the one looking uncomfortable. "We just... maybe we need to," he glanced away, jaw working as he clearly forced himself to say the words, "Ease into things or something."

Naruto stared. "What are you? A girl?"

Sasuke flashed him a glare. "No. It just doesn't seem like you know what you're doing."

"What? I'd know exactly what to do!"

Sasuke snorted. "Then why aren't you doing it?"

Naruto frowned. "Why aren't you?"

Sasuke shifted, patience beginning to wear thin. "Look—"

Naruto held out a hand to shut him up and stalked over to him. "Fine, fine."

Startled Naruto caught the slight twitch of Sasuke's foot, as if he'd been startled into stepping back but just managed to control himself. But Naruto—he really didn't know how to go about it—was busy getting his hands on Sasuke's briefs and tugging them down before doing a quick job of his own.

"Naruto—wh—"

Before Sasuke could say anything else, Naruto caught him by the hips and tugged him close till their erections were rubbing against each other.

Naruto's breath caught in his throat and this time he did shudder. Sasuke reached up to grab Naruto's arms and his eyes fluttered shut as his entire body stiffened.

"Idiot." He bit out.

Naruto managed to make his eyes open again. "What?"

Sasuke let out a shaky breath. "This is stupid."

"Why?" Naruto steeled himself and looked down at where their erections were touching each other's stomachs. He gave an experimental thrust of his hips and Sasuke's fingers bit harder into his arms.

"Better." Sasuke hissed. "But still stupid."

Naruto gave a frustrated groan. "Why?"

"We're standing in your room with underwear around our ankles and just... standing against each other. We. Look. Stupid. This. Feels. Stupid. Get it now, moron?"

"Sasuke. Why don't you ever shut up?"

Sasuke jerked back from him. He actually looked stunned. "Me?"

Naruto just gave up and forgetting that his own boxers were still around his ankles and attempted to tackle Sasuke into the bed.

It didn't work very well. The boxers drew him up short so while Sasuke fell back comfortably onto the bed, Naruto landed with his face next to Sasuke's hip, one knee on the bed and the other scraped against the wooden frame of the bed as it missed the mattress.

"Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit." He groaned into the pillow. At this point in time Naruto was just stunned his erection hadn't just died. Embarrassment, insults, pain. Clearly his hard on had a strong will if it was hanging on with that much determination.

"Oi."

Naruto felt something poke his head. "What?" He didn't bother to lift his face off of the mattress.

"Only you could fail at getting someone into bed this spectacularly."

Gritting his teeth Naruto got onto his knees on the bed, ignoring Sasuke's comment. Expression hard, he pushed Sasuke's legs apart and settled himself between them. This time he got a good look at Sasuke's erection and felt his stomach tighten. It was an odd feeling staring at someone else's dick.

Anticipation beating on the back of his throat, Naruto glanced up at Sasuke and found Sasuke watching him with slitted his eyes as he crawled his way over him until they were aligned. Naruto's own erection felt heavy and when it brushed against the inside of Sasuke's thigh he almost moaned. His tooth dug into his bottom lip and keeping his eyes on Sasuke's face, he reached down and wrapping his hand around his cock, he pressed it to Sasuke's.

That elegant neck arched a little more but Sasuke's eyes didn't close. Naruto let go and braced his arms on either side of Sasuke's head and with a shuddering breath, he started rocking his hips against Sasuke's. Slow, steady—hard.

The pressure was good. So good that Naruto had to keep his teeth buried in his bottom lip to avoid calling out from it.

He nearly yelped though when two hands landed on his ass out of the blue. He flinched and managed to rise above the haze of pleasure that had dulled his more practical senses. But before he could yell at Sasuke to warn him before grabbing his ass, Sasuke was pulling him back against him hard. A little moan escaped him and Naruto gave up on trying to keep eye contact.

His head fell forward settling against Sasuke's shoulder. His back was becoming damp as he worked his hips against Sasuke's again and again. Sasuke was meeting him with thrusts that were just as hard, his fingers clawing into Naruto's buttocks as he spread his thighs wider and pushed up faster against Naruto.

"Better?" Naruto managed to gasp against toned muscle.

Sasuke didn't answer but Naruto felt his chin brush against the top of his head a couple of times in quick succession and then seconds later Sasuke brought one of his hands up and cupped Naruto's head with it. Fingers which had been cold earlier on were warm and damp now as they drifted over the skin of Naruto's nape and then up to brush at the strands there.

The air around them felt stuffy and when Naruto breathed it in it came to him smelling like Sasuke and sex.

Naruto moved harder, groaning because he could feel that familiar tightening in his balls and his hips were slapping against Sasuke's harder, with less control. He didn't want to be the one to come first—he really hadn't wanted to but—Sasuke's stomach brushing against his own with every push, their cocks rubbing against each other, Sasuke's skin under his mouth—Sasuke's hand on his ass, Sasuke's fingers threading trough his hair.

It was all Sasuke.

Overwhelmed Naruto locked his teeth on the pale skin, not hearing the little noise of pain that Sasuke made as he rubbed hard one last time and came with violent shudders, spilling over onto Sasuke's lower stomach and cock as the movements of his hips gentled despite the hard grip Sasuke still had on his ass and Sasuke's bucking hips beneath him.

"Sasuke..." he murmured, his mind feeling like it'd been flooded and everything was too slow to form actual thoughts.

His full weight settled on Sasuke and Naruto was grateful that his ear was so close to Sasuke's mouth because the low noise Sasuke made as his hips gave little jerks and he finally came too, would sustain his alone time with his right hand for a long time to come.

Naruto couldn't even bring himself to make at crack at how Sasuke had gotten his stuff all over Naruto's stomach. The reasons being that one; Naruto had done it too, and two; his tongue felt too dead to actually do any exercise.

They lay panting for a while.

Sasuke's hand was still curved around Naruto's head. His other hand had loosened its hold on Naruto's ass, it had just slid a little lower and the fingertips of Sasuke's hand brushed against his ass every time their body shifted with their breathing. It was kind of ticklish but Naruto didn't say anything.

Until it hit him.

"I can't believe I came first."

And Sasuke rapped him on the head.

~


Sasuke was closed the door to Kakashi's house only to find himself face to face with Sakura.

They both froze.

"Hey."

Sakura wet her lips and tried for a smile. "Er... hey..."

Sasuke's eyes narrowed on her. "I thought you were going to skip lunch with me and Naruto because you had an emergency shift at the hospital?"

"Er," Sakura flicked a look over his shoulder and then it came back to his face, "I—I do have to go back but I need to speak to Kakashi. It's important and related to the case I'll be working on in the hospital."

Sasuke stared at her. "Really?" Was this why Kakashi had been in a hurry to get rid of him?

Sakura nodded. She wasn't quite meeting Sasuke's eyes though. "What about you?"

Now it was Sasuke who straightened, irritated by the touch of embarrassment that almost managed to show itself on his face. "Talk. I had to talk to him too. Anyway. I have to go."

Sakura nodded again, this time eager. "Yeah, yeah me too, I need to hurry up or Tsunade will kill me for being late."

"Right. Later."

"Sure. See you."

They walked past each other without anymore eye contact and Sasuke made sure his hand was in his pocket.

He wasn't paranoid but he wouldn't want the lube falling out for all to see. Not after the mortification he'd endured just to get it from Kakashi.

Although he had a feeling it'd be worth it.

He did a quick job of leaping onto the opposite building. Despite telling himself to calm down, Sasuke could feel something like child-like anticipation for what he and Naruto were going to attempt this lunch time.

Sakura deciding not to come had been convenient really.

Flicking a look up at the sky, Sasuke judged the time and slowed down as he realised he was going to be early. Naruto was always a little late anyway.

It had been two weeks since Sasuke and Naruto had paid a visit to the Suzume household. They'd gone the morning after they'd—made their feelings perfectly clear with each other. Naruto had insisted on going with him, saying that he felt guilty at ruining Kohana's chances even if he was glad Sasuke had chosen to give their relationship a try over her and Sasuke's possible future family with her.

It had made Sasuke proud though when Naruto had knelt and bowed to the three people they'd done the most harm to along with Sasuke.

Sasuke couldn't help the small smile on his face when he remembered. Naruto had always been sincere to a fault and the day they'd apologised hadn't been an exception.

He'd explained everything word for word. By the end of it all Sasuke had had to do was add his own regrets.

Kohana had taken it better than both of her parents. Suzume Michiko had been shocked and had stared at him and Naruto like they were unknown creatures from a different planet. And Fumio had just asked them both to leave.

Sasuke hadn’t expected any less.

He didn't regret it though.

Even after he'd slowed down, Sasuke still made it to the bridge where he was supposed to meet Naruto in record time. And halted when he saw Naruto was already there.

As if he'd sensed it, Naruto looked in his direction.

When he saw Sasuke, he broke into a grin and started making his way over, blue eyes emanating a mixture of mischief and anticipation. "Did you get it?"

Sasuke smirked. "Is that why you're actually early this time?"

If it were possible Naruto's grin got even bigger. "Yeah."

Shaking his head Sasuke waited for Naruto to reach his side and together they started making their way towards Naruto's place.

"I met Sakura on the way here."

Naruto glanced over at him, confused. "I thought Sakura was at the hospital."

Sasuke sneered. "Yeah. I think Sakura's new idea of working at the hospital has changed lately."

Naruto just stared. "Huh?"

Sasuke sighed and sped up his step. "Never mind, hurry up."

"What? Hey, hey wait. What does that mean?"

"Figure it out by yourself."

"Oi—stop walking—is Sakura treating Kakashi-sensei for something?"

"Naruto. You're an idiot."


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